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Title: When the Cock Crows
Author: Baily, Waldron, 1871-
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
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 "When the Cock Crows" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



History and Fiction Digital Library.)



                        WHEN THE COCK CROWS

                         By WALDRON BAILY

_Author of "Heart of the Blue Ridge," "The Homeward Trail," etc._


ILLUSTRATED BY
G. W. GAGE

NEW YORK
BEDFORD PUBLISHING CO.
1918

Copyright 1918, by
BEDFORD PUBLISHING CO.

PRESS OF
BRAUNWORTH & CO.
BOOK MANUFACTURERS
BROOKLYN, N. Y.


    TO
    Hon. Josephus Daniels
    As a token of the author's admiration and respect,
    for one who in the greatest crisis in
    history has demonstrated to the public
    those qualities of courage, determination
    and achievement that his
    friends have always
    known him to
    possess.



[Illustration: He bore her with what haste he could to the landing and
gently placed her within the blankets.]



CONTENTS


       I. ICHABOD'S ISLAND

      II. AMONG THE BREAKERS

     III. A NEW CALAMITY

      IV. UNDER THE AFTER AWNING

       V. A PRISONER OF MORPHIA

      VI. HUNTING A CLUE

     VII. STORMBOUND

    VIII. THE EFFICIENCY OF CLAM-BROTH

      IX. ONCE IN A LIFETIME

       X. EYES FROM THE DEEP

      XI. THE AWAKENING OF ICHABOD

     XII. TOWARD THE UNKNOWN

    XIII. AMONG THE FISHERFOLK

     XIV. GARNET THE HERO

      XV. ADRIFT WITH A MADMAN

     XVI. THE COMING-OUT PARTY

    XVII. STRANGERS AT ICHABOD'S ISLAND

   XVIII. THE CALL OF THE DARK

     XIX. BOTTLED UP

      XX. THE TRUTH UNALLOYED

     XXI. SEALED ORDERS

    XXII. THE PARTING CROW

   XXIII. THE SEARCH UP THE SHORE

    XXIV. A GENTLEMAN'S PROMISE

     XXV. DOING HIS BIT



List of Illustrations


He bore her with what haste he could to the landing and gently placed
her within the blankets.

She sat down and stared eagerly.

Van Dusen unpinned the note, opened it, and read aloud.



WHEN THE COCK CROWS



CHAPTER I

ICHABOD'S ISLAND


The tide was at ebb. The noisily rushing spume-spotted waters of the sea
were pounding the hard-sand shore of the easterly side of a beautiful
island, nestling as a jewel in its setting just within the Capes, which
form the shores on either side of Beaufort Inlet, but so exposed that
when the winds blow from the sea the full force of the breakers is felt
at this point. As this small bit of land is low-lying, more than once
when a southeaster has raged, the tiny isle has become entirely
submerged.

Man has placed but one habitation upon this toy of the great waters, and
that a fisherman's shack, surrounded with the usual net-drying racks and
other crude tools of the fisherfolk. One would rightly guess that the
occupant of an abode built upon such a tiny bit of old mother earth must
be a hardy customer, who understood the ways of the winds and sea and
who dared combat them.

It is sunrise. The door of the hut swings on its heavy hinges. A
sturdy-looking old fellow with grizzled beard and flowing locks steps
out of the shack, and, as has been his wont for years, he scans the
horizon for a sail or perchance for other more modern craft of the sea.

In his arms, he is tenderly carrying a large Dominick rooster, which,
judging from his length of spurs, and scaly legs, has lingered many
summers. Satisfying himself that there is no boat in sight, to break the
monotony of the view, Captain Ichabod places his only living
companion--as he expresses it, his poultry alarm clock--upon the ground,
and from a pocket produces a handful of corn, which the old cock
greedily devours.

These two have been companions for a long time. Captain Ichabod found
him one morning perched upon the top of a floating crate, washed from
the deck of a schooner that had gone upon the beach in a booming
southeaster. The Captain had proved a life-saver indeed to the proud old
bird. Ichabod, when he first spied Shrimp, as he afterward named this
bit of flotsam, was wildly anxious to save the creature so it might have
a life on shore suited to its nature and desires. Then it flashed upon
him that his antiquated and well-worn alarm clock had ceased to work. It
occurred to him that the rooster's crowing would suffice to advise him
of the hour, and that there would be no need to buy another clock.

The Captain was a woman-hater. This fact accounted for his choosing to
live as a hermit on the bit of sand, which he had grown to love. But
that loneliness was a trial to Shrimp, who naturally desired a harem of
his own. Many times, when the wind was from the mainland, Captain
Ichabod had heard the far-away crow of a barnyard fowl, and had gravely
and criticizingly listened as Shrimp returned the salute in lusty
manner. He had seen the bird swell in rage, and his comb turn red in
jealous envy of the other rooster on the mainland.

Captain Ichabod had now come to busying himself with fishing by hook and
line for blue fish and sheepshead. In addition he set a line of gill
nets in the cove for mullet or any other fish that might become
entangled within their meshes. On all his excursions Shrimp accompanied
his master. He would perch himself proudly upon the center-board box.
More than once, before becoming a seasoned sailor, he had failed to
dodge the boom to which the little leg o' mutton sail was attached, and
had been knocked from his perch when Uncle Ichabod for a joke let the
boat jibe in a flaw of the wind. But Shrimp learned. He learned to dodge
the boom. He became, under stress of circumstances, an expert
sailor--and was never seasick.

When Shrimp had finished his meal, Ichabod addressed the mangy-looking
bird very gravely:

"Shrimp, thar hain't nary sail nor steamer smoke in sight off the Capes
and I 'low thar has a dozen skippers seen that-thar same mare's tail as
did I last night, and has had the good common sense to haul to in the
hook o' the Cape ter ride out the blow that is sure ter come. May the
sarpants o' Davy Jones' have mercy on him or her as don't take kivver;
me an' you, rooster, 'll have ter do our hook an' linin' in the Spar
Channel on this ebb fer so soon as she hauls a leetle more to the
south'ard thar is goin' ter be hell kicked up in the Inlet an' me and
yo', ole feathers an' comb, had better do our anglin' clost enough that
we can shoot inter this home harbor without loosin' o' our rag."

Captain Ichabod busied himself with getting his leads and lines in
shape. He cut up a half-dozen mullets for bait. Then he picked up the
mast, around which was wrapped a patchwork of canvas, very snugly. It
felt at home there for it had been thus rolled around the mast time and
again through many years. Captain Ichabod now walked to the red skiff.
At his heels Shrimp stalked with great dignity. The Captain stepped the
mast, arranged the halyards, and pushed off. The sail caught the wind
and Captain Ichabod at the tiller was off for the Spar Channel fishing
grounds.

When he had arrived and thrown his anchor overboard, the Captain
addressed Shrimp with much solemnity.

"Shrimp, ye air a heap o' company to the ole man, but ye wa'n't built by
God A'mighty fer a sailin' mate, all he fixed ye fer was to peck an'
scratch an' fight--oh, yes, an' I like ter forgot the crow."

Then nonchalantly he remarked:

"An' thar would be a heap more peace in the world to-day if he had o'
built all kinds o' _Hens_ without thar tarnation cackle."

When Captain Icky mentioned the word cackle he thought he could detect a
dejected look upon the countenance of his feathered friend, and in a
sympathetic voice to ease the rooster's feelings, said:

"Wall, rooster, I must say that yo'r women folks was made with the only
kind of cackle that has done men folks any good, but gosh darned if it
hain't a right-smart bit since I's et an aig!"

Then, having thus relieved himself, Ichabod tossed his heavily sinkered
lines into the swift tide. The fish were hungry, and he was kept busy
hauling them in.

The swell began to increase. The small craft began to rock
uncomfortably. The sun was hidden by a red cloud that banked in the
eastern sky. Captain Ichabod knew the signs. He pulled in his line and
hooks, made sail, and beat across to the point where nestled the
life-saving station. There he would read the barometer, have a chat and
a meal with the men, and afterward make a quick run home before the
wind.

At the life-saving station, he found the barometer indicated storm, as
he had feared.

After a hearty dinner, and a pipe with yarns, Captain Ichabod set sail
for the Island, and made it safely, in spite of the rising storm.

The Captain realized that a gale was brewing. He gathered up his nets
from their racks. He made them snug in the shack, and stowed away
everything movable. He was weather-wise. He would not be caught
unawares. A high tide had more than once taught him the lesson of that
beach. He had the red skiff hauled well up out of harm's way. There was,
too, an extra anchor tied to the painter. Captain Ichabod and the
rooster entered their cottage, for refuge from the wind that was now
blowing dangerously.

The storm reached such proportions that from his window to seaward it
was no longer possible to make out through the rain and spray the broad
crêpe-like bands of black and white painted upon the great, towering
lighthouse, at the extreme point of Cape Lookout, a few miles to the
eastward. The shack was fairly shaking in the West India hurricane--for
such it proved to be.... And great was the devastation wrought that
night by both wind and wave.

About midnight, Captain Ichabod, feeling that it was not quite safe to
retire, stood in the open doorway. He little minded the pelting of the
rain as it drove against his weathered cheek. He had donned his
oilskins, hat and slicker, and was peering intently seaward. He had been
to his skiff and had dragged it a couple of rods further up on the sand
as a measure of safety. A yellow flash showed dimly on the black storm
clouds that banked the horizon to the north of the Cape--wherein nestled
a tiny harbor of refuge. Those who knew took advantage of this retreat
in times of tempest.... Woe unto the hapless seafarer, unknowing the
way.

It did not take a second flash for the practised eye of the lone man in
oilskins to recognize that this was the thing he had expected--even
while praying God that it might not be. It was the rocket signal of a
boat in distress. Within sound of the breakers, that could not be seen
in the pitch black, was somewhere a mass of timber and iron, burdened
with cargo and human freight. And that mass, which was a ship, dragged
its anchor, as if that anchor were a toy--foot by foot to sure
destruction on a beach that has known a hundred wrecks.

The rockets continued to flare. Closer and closer to the outer shoals of
the beach they beamed. The ship was swiftly and surely going to its
doom.

Turning his face to the clouded heavens, and raising his voice in a
final appeal, Uncle Ichabod prayed:

"God help the boys in such a surf."

At the point where the ship was making the distress signals, the coast
offered only a narrow strip of sand, running from the Cape to Ocracoke
Inlet--many miles to the northeast.

The old fisherman's face was ashen. There was nothing that he could do
except stand and helplessly watch the final disaster. He realized that
the craft was doomed. He was powerless to interfere, although in despair
over this catastrophe before his very eyes. He turned away, and entered
his little house, and tried to sleep. But he was wakeful, and found
himself murmuring prayers for those who went down to the sea in ships.



CHAPTER II

AMONG THE BREAKERS


Ordinarily, Captain Ichabod Jones enjoyed being crooned to sleep by the
weird sounds of the winds as they beat about the corners of his cottage.
Now, his mind was filled with a memory of last frantic cries uttered by
men, women and children as their clinging hold was loosed from the
derelict, the sturdy frame of which he had heard strike on the rocks, as
she went to her grave in the sea. Now, he heard the clamors of despair,
voiced in the shrieking of the gale. He tossed uneasily upon his bed,
offering ever and anon a prayer to the God that rules mad waters to have
mercy upon those even then fighting a last grim battle with death.

The first gray gleam of dawn showed a tinge of storm red, radiant and
calm above the wildly tossing surges of the sea.

Uncle Icky got out of his bunk, built a fire in the stove and set his
coffee to boil. Then, of a sudden, he forgot his preparations for
breakfast. His sharp ears had caught the far-away chug-chug of a
naphtha-driven craft. He listened, and knew that the boat was making its
way toward the Island.

"Well, I'll be blowed," said the Captain to himself--and the rooster.
"What fool skipper would come down this shore, even on the inside, in
such a kick-up as is goin' on? He shore must be plumb daffy, or arter an
M.D. for a mighty sick human. I'll try an' hail him as he passes; but
the Lord knows he can't pass to the wind'ard o' this-here Island till
she ca'ms a heap, an' if he tries to go to lee'ard he'll shore as
shootin' take up on the oyster rocks, an' stove her through to her
vitals."

Captain Ichabod was right. No land lubber, unacquainted with the
dangerous currents and powerful surf breaking over the bar at the Inlet,
could pilot a craft safely past the little Island in good weather--let
alone the doing of it in this tail-end of a gale. Uncle Icky rushed from
the cottage, lantern in hand. He tried to wave a warning to the
foolhardy adventurer who was thus darting down at breakneck speed on the
mill-race of the ebb tide to certain destruction.

Captain Ichabod ran with his lantern to the far point of land, and waved
it frantically in warning. The wind-driven spray of the surf soaked and
chilled him to the bone. But he swung his light in desperate
earnestness, though his efforts seemed of no avail, for the launch swept
on toward its doom. Ichabod now could see that it was a palatial yacht,
of trim build, with a prow that cut the waves like a razor. But, too, he
knew that, after rounding the point, the tiny vessel would meet the full
fury of the sea, and must be destroyed.

Day broke. In the increased light, the old man cast his lantern aside as
useless and swung his arms as a semaphore. The yacht, buffeted by the
tumbling seas, swept within hailing distance. Captain Ichabod yelled to
the man who was at the tiller to keep her off. In answer, there came
three shrill, pitifully wavering blasts of the whistle--a salute that
was derisive, the absurd response of a madman. And the man at the wheel
waved his hand in pleasant salutation and grinned in a most amiable
manner. Captain Ichabod stared aghast. Then, he realized that the man at
the helm must be a maniac.

The yacht was in the breakers. The first wave spilled clear over her.
Ichabod, watching from the shore, shuddered. He believed her already
lost in the coil of waters. But, to the Captain's amazement, the yacht
eddied and tossed, dived and floated again. Then, at last, it was swept
on the rocks. The hull broke in two under the impact, and the racing
waves swept over the wreck.

Out of the ruin of the yacht, the surge bore a mattress, on which rested
the seemingly lifeless body of a beautiful young woman. Captain Ichabod
saw the strange raft sweep toward the strand. He rushed to seize it, and
pulled it beyond the power of the tide to snatch it back into the maw of
the ocean. Thereafter, he worked over the girl to save her from death by
drowning.

It was a long time before she showed signs of life. But, after a time,
the breast began to rise and fall in the perfect rhythm of health.
Captain Ichabod, wild with anxiety, could hear the breathing of this
woman whom he had saved from the sea. He was glad. He stood working over
her in desperate haste. And then, presently, the lashes of the girl
unclosed, and she stared wonderingly into the face of this old man, who
stood over her with so much tenderness in his expression. The girl,
suddenly arousing to consciousness, spoke anxiously:

"Doctor, tell me, where am I?"

Ichabod felt himself embarrassed. He spoke emphatically.

"No, Miss, I hain't no doctor--that is, I hain't no medical M.D., but
folks says I'm a right smart o' a water doctor fer fever an' sich, but
in yo'r case, I's a-takin' o' the water out instead o' puttin' it in or
rubbin' it on, an' you lacks a heap o' havin' a fever, but arter I gits
ye ter the shack I'll warm up yer little cold frame an' vitals with a
swig o' brandy. That is, if ye has come to 'nough ter swaller."

The young woman was now breathing normally. The Captain raised her in
his arms and bore her to the shack--across the threshold of which
hitherto no woman's foot had stepped. The room was warm with the heat
from the cook-stove, which had been left with the drafts open. He laid
the girl on his bed, and then brought to her a glass of old brandy,
salvaged years before from a wreck, and held intact by him during all
this time as if for just such an emergency.

It was with difficulty that he aroused the victim of the wreck
sufficiently to swallow the liquor, but in the end he was successful.
Then he removed her outer garments, and wrapped her in woolen blankets.

Yet, even after it was plain that the heart was working normally once
again, since there was a delicate flush showing in the girl's cheeks,
the Captain was puzzled by the mental vagueness. She did not show any
revival of intelligence, although she seemed to recover all her physical
powers. He came to believe that she must have been injured on the head,
by a blow from some bit of wreckage. But, though he went over her skull
with deft fingers, he could find no trace of a bruise. He finally
decided that her mental condition must be merely the result of the
strain undergone by her, and that it would be remedied by an interval of
sleep. So, he tucked the blankets snugly about her, and then left her
alone, that he might see what could be done toward bringing the marooned
skipper from his perilous place on the wrecked boat.

While Captain Ichabod was busy with the rescue of the girl, there had
come a lull in the storm. The wind had hauled around to the southwest,
and was now blowing a stiff breeze off shore, which, taken together with
the fast-running tide still on the ebb, had caused the seas to lessen in
the Inlet. Under these improved conditions, the Captain decided to make
a try at relieving the castaway from his sorry plight.

He launched the red skiff, and set out to row toward the wreck. He was
encouraged in the difficult task by the frantic gestures with which the
victim of the storm called for succor. Captain Ichabod reflected grimly
that this fellow who had disregarded his warnings must be plainly a
maniac. Yet he was sufficiently sane to have a normal desire to be saved
from death. He guessed that perhaps the yachtsman had been temporarily
unbalanced in his mind when in the grip of the raging waters--then,
afterward, had regained his self-control, and with it a wholesome desire
to live.

Captain Ichabod managed to bring the skiff up under the lee of the
wreck. He threw a rope to the man, and bade him make it fast. The order
was obeyed. Ichabod then directed the yachtsman to collect his valuables
and come aboard the skiff. The castaway lost no time in obeying.
Presently, carrying a small black bag, he seated himself in the skiff,
and Ichabod turned the boat's nose toward the shore, and bent to the
oars, in haste to get back to his patient, and so to complete his list
of rescues for that eventful day.

During the short interval of time consumed in going from the wreck to
the Island, the stranger made anxious inquiries as to the fate of the
girl. He had thought that she was dead. When he heard from Captain
Ichabod that the girl still lived he was obviously startled and
surprised, but, too, he showed every symptom of intense pleasure. He
displayed anxiety as to what the girl might have said. Then, when he
learned that she had said nothing at all, he appeared greatly relieved.
He seemed pleased to learn that she was still unconscious.

Ichabod, wonderingly, thought that he heard the stranger say:

"Thank God!"

The boat was no sooner beached than the man who had been rescued leaped
ashore, still carrying in his hand the small physician's bag. He raced
toward the cabin, as if he felt that life or death depended on his
haste.

Captain Ichabod suddenly felt very old and worn. He had used too much
energy in this work of rescue, and now the reaction set in. He dawdled
over the securing of the skiff. Then he made his way with lagging steps
toward the cabin. He pushed open the door, and was startled to behold
the man he had rescued kneeling beside the couch of the girl. At the
noise of the opening door, the man sprang to his feet.... Ichabod
wondered as he glimpsed an object that shone like silver, and then was
slipped cautiously into the man's coat pocket.

Captain Ichabod approached the bed upon which the girl lay motionless.
He noticed on the forearm a tiny drop of blood. He wondered also over
this, then solved the puzzle to his satisfaction by thinking that a
mosquito had left this trace of its attack. He was confirmed in the
opinion by the fact that there was a white blotch beneath the touch of
crimson.

Captain Ichabod tried to question the man he had saved, but found every
answer baffling and unsatisfactory. The yachtsman refused any sort of
information. His reticence angered the old man, and he at last spoke his
mind freely, with something of suspicion engendered by a new thought
concerning that curious drop of blood on the girl's arm.

"She acts ter me like a woman chuck-er-block with Bateman Drops or
opium. A heap o' that kind o' truck is used by the women about
these-here islands o' the Sound, an' I've seed a heap o' the effects o'
it in the years past, but the good Lord knows it's a spell since Captain
Icky has seed a _woman_ a-hitten dope, as new-fangled folks calls it."

The man who had been rescued by Ichabod started violently as he heard
the word "dope." He cast a probing glance on the old man, but spoke
never a word.

"Thar is one thing fer sartin," continued the fisherman, "if it hain't
dope that is a'lin' o' her, it's somethin' that calls fer an M.D., an'
if she hain't come to her senses in an hour, I'll put the rag on the
skiff an' run up to Beaufort an' bring back Dr. Hudson to pass on the
case. Thar has never been a death o' a human in Ichabod Jones' shack,
an' Lord have mercy, the first passin' sha'n't be a woman!"

The condition of the girl continued such that Ichabod felt it necessary
to summon the physician. He must make the trip in his sailboat to
Beaufort, the nearest town along the coast. The yachtsman now approved
the idea.

When Captain Ichabod went to make ready his boat for the trip to town,
the yachtsman followed him, and then presently, walking down to where
the wreckage had come ashore, proceeded to right and clear of débris a
little cedar motor boat, which had come ashore from the wrecked yacht,
practically unharmed, except that the batteries were wet.

In the absence of Captain Ichabod, the stranger removed all the wire
connections in this small boat, and placed the batteries over the stove
to dry. When they were in fact thoroughly dried, he waited patiently for
the departure of Captain Ichabod in search of a physician. Presently,
the old man set out on his errand of mercy. The stranger yachtsman
grinned derisively as he saw the boat slip into the smother of
storm-tossed waters.



CHAPTER III

A NEW CALAMITY


Perhaps there is no point upon the Carolina coast where there is more
interest shown in weather conditions than at Beaufort, the present
terminus of the great inland water-route from Boston to the Gulf. There
are vital reasons for this. First: a fleet of small fishing vessels
makes this their home port. Hardly a family in the town that has not one
or more of its members going to sea in the little craft. To be caught
off shore in one of the West India hurricanes, which, at irregular
intervals, touch this point, means almost certain destruction. Again:
there is always danger to the low-lying town from a tidal wave. The town
is built on flat ground almost level with the surface of the water.
There is no sea wall to keep off the angry waves. The dwellers in the
town have learned their danger through dear experience in times past
when the waves have swept over it, bringing desolation and death.

Luckily, the storm that brought the strangers to Captain Ichabod Jones
did not blow long enough from the southeast to cause severe damage to
the town. Nor was there loss of life at sea. The masters of the fishing
boats had seen the weather flags--angry red, with sullen black
centers--flying from the signal mast. They had taken warning and
remained in port through the time of tempest.

When Uncle Icky rounded the point of marsh land, and headed his skiff
for Beaufort, the eyes of the storm-bound fishermen and the other
lounging natives gathered at the market wharf quickly espied the
familiar patched rag of sail and were filled with wonder as to what
could have tempted the old man from his snug Island out into the teeth
of the gale. When he sped into the slip, there were many hands ready to
grasp the hawser tossed to them by Captain Ichabod, and make it fast to
a "punchin."

If the loungers had expected to hear something startling, they were
doomed to disappointment. He had no time then to stop and gossip with
friends. He hurried on, with an air of unaccustomed self-importance on
account of the serious nature of his mission. He was in quest of Dr.
Hudson, a great-hearted man, who had spent the best years of his life in
ministering to the ills of these fisherfolk. They, in their turn, looked
upon him with a feeling of grateful fondness, tinctured with awe--so
miraculous to them seemed many of his cures. And, too, they honored him
for the manner in which he did his duty toward them. Never a night too
black, never a storm too high, for him to fare forth for the relief of
suffering. Latterly, however, he had felt the weight of work over much,
had felt perhaps as well the burden of advancing years. He had so
contrived that a young medical graduate opened up a practise in the
neighborhood. He had adroitly used the influence of suggestion so
diplomatically that most of the chronic cases--those that took comfort
in telling of their maladies, in detailing their symptoms to unwilling
listeners--had gladly availed themselves of the new treatment offered by
the young physician. In this way, the old Doctor was spared a tedious
and unnecessary routine of labor, yet was left free for such urgent
calls as might come to him.

Ichabod found the physician at home, and declared:

"Thar's sick folks at my shack what needs ye an' needs ye bad."

The doctor was aware that Ichabod's sole companion in the shack was the
rooster. Knowing also the Captain's fondness for the Dominick, he was
inclined to be suspicious that this call for his services was as a
veterinary.

"I suppose," he said, "your Shrimp has the pip." Then, of a sudden, he
guessed something of the truth. He spoke anxiously. "There hasn't been a
wreck, has there?"

"Right ye air, Doctor, there has been a fool shipwreck on my oyster
rocks. The captain of the ship an' his mate air at the shack this very
minute. He's batty as a toad arter swallerin' shot. An' she's outter her
haid--leastways she ain't got sense 'nough left ter talk."

In answer to questions, Ichabod gave a full narrative of what had
occurred, telling all the events in his own quaint fashion, to all of
which Doctor Hudson listened with the closest attention.

His comment was crisp.

"It sounds like whisky--more likely, morphia. I reckon it's my duty to
go." As a matter of fact, the physician's curiosity had been aroused. He
was professionally anxious to get at a solution of the mystery. He
hurriedly changed his clothes in preparation for the rough voyage to
Ichabod's Island, and equipped himself with the old, worn leather bag
stocked with medicines, which, for years, had been a familiar sight
throughout the whole region in every household where disease came to
terrify and destroy.

"Hurry, Ichabod," the Doctor cried. "We'll shake a leg, or the tide'll
be running against us."

Ichabod's skiff was tailed to the physician's little launch. The motor
power made the voyage to the Island swift, although it was rough, even
to the point of danger on account of the storm-driven waters. When they
had made fast at the landing, the two hurried to the shack. The door was
swinging wide. But to their amazement and dismay not even Shrimp was
there to give them welcome. The place was utterly deserted. The visitors
so strangely cast up from the sea had vanished as mysteriously as they
had come. There was the bed on which the girl had been lying--now it was
empty. Not even a vestige of her clothing remained to prove that she was
more than the figment of a crazed brain. Ichabod stared about him with
distended eyes. He could make no guess as to the meaning of the strange
thing that had befallen. Then, abruptly, his dazed mind was aroused to a
new calamity.... Shrimp, too, was gone!

Presently, Ichabod looked for the yacht's tender, and found it likewise
gone. He was able to understand in some measure what had occurred. The
batteries had been dried by the hot stove in the shack, and--the little
craft thus restored to running condition--the man had undoubtedly fled
with the girl. And with them Shrimp had voyaged. A sudden overwhelming
desolation fell on the old man. He had been through much that day. He
had been strained to the utmost resources of his energies. And he was an
old man. He had small reserves of force with which to meet the
unexpected. Now, he felt himself bewildered over all the strange
happenings. And there was something more. The one constant companion of
his lonely life was Shrimp--and Shrimp, too, had fled from him.

The Doctor, very much puzzled over this absence of an expected patient,
started to leave the shack. He halted at the head of the steps, and
looked down in a bewilderment touched with pity.

For Ichabod was on his knees before the steps of his own house, and his
form was shaken with the sobbings of despair.



CHAPTER IV

UNDER THE AFTER AWNING


Sidewalks along Fifth Avenue were packed with persons of all
nationalities, representatives of every variety of industrial activity
in the life of the City. There was a reviewing stand erected in front of
the massive library that displayed its lines of architectural beauty in
place of the sloping, age-gray walls of the old reservoir at Bryant
Square. City officials and families of officers in the troops soon to
pass were assembled there to witness this march of soldiers on their way
to entrain for the Mexican border. They were filled with the zeal of
patriots, because their comrades had been foully killed on that same
border by a treacherous foe, and they were being sent to avenge that
insult against the life and dignity of their nation.

Came the rhythmic beat of feet on the pavement; came the blare of the
band. The two swung together into a harmony of marching. These boys,
ordered to the front, were going, steadfastly, as in duty bound. They
loved this "send-off." They marched with vigor in their steps, because
ten thousand handkerchiefs waved from the windows along the line of
march.

On the sidewalks was assembled a strange crowd. There were the
stenographers taking their noonday outing. Many were carefully
over-powdered and perfumed. They were dressed after the latest
fashion--a long way after it!

But the Midinettes were a very small proportion of those wild to see the
real soldiers.

All New York had heard the troops were to march that day. And all New
York turned out to see the regiments.

There are a myriad phases of metropolitan life. Those phases were
illustrated that day in the crowds along the line of march. The bulk of
those clustering at the curb were of a sort eager for a free show. In
the countless loft buildings bordering the avenue were hordes of men and
women too busy in earning a pitiful wage to think of anything so
frivolous as a procession, with banners waving and bands playing. But
while these had no thought of marching troops, there were innumerable
others. For New York is a city gigantic. Within it are hosts. Some of
these always are idle. Some, always eager for the free show of the
streets.

So, to-day, when the troops are to march by with shrill of fife and
blatant noise of band, the multitude comes scurrying, curious to see,
patriotic with the emotional patriotism of one just become a citizen of
a free country, where before he was the unrecognized and unhonored
subject of despotism, from which he fled in search of liberty.

New York is a city of millions. It is the biggest city on earth. It is
the melting pot of nations. The crowd that lines the curb is of one
sort. There is another sort marching the length of the avenue. And this
is a mixture to bewilder any beholder. A countryman from New Jersey,
with his wife and children comes to-day for this splendid free show of
the troops that are to march; the countrymen from the reaches of New
York along the Hudson, with the same purpose; his fellows from Long
Island, from Connecticut. With these alien figures, treading the
principal city street of the world, are others. Those who walk there
daily walk there again to-day. The clubman, coated, hatted, gloved to
perfection, takes his accustomed stroll on the avenue, and looks with
contemptuous disgust on the crowd that forces him to walk gingerly where
usually he struts as a master. He, too, is a patriot and he means to see
the march of the troops, and to applaud it--but from his club window, if
ever he is able to make his way there through the perspiring congestion
of the motley crowd.

There is a crew of money-makers, busy along the avenue on an occasion
such as this. These are hordes of itinerant merchants moving up and down
with things to sell to the crowd. They offer canes and instruments of
noise that by a twist of the wrist make a horrible din. Especially, they
offer American flags--bigger or smaller according to the purchaser's
taste and purse. These are bought with eagerness by the crowd, and the
fakers reap a harvest from the enthusiasm of those assembled to witness
the marching soldiers.

The boy with a box is dominant. Wherever a short, but eager watcher
stands to look, the boy comes, with his offer of a box to stand on, a
box to sit on, as the purchaser may please, for the nominal cost of ten
cents. Always, one finds at hand this boy, with the box that he offers
for your sitting or for your feet, as you will. One box bought, he shows
another, offering it for sale. Whence he comes with boxes so
multitudinous none may guess. But he goes away with nickles and dimes
enough perhaps to provide an income that will continue over until
another day of parade.

In the reviewing stand, there was seated a girl who watched the marching
troops with an intentness that had in it something of desperation,
something of despair. Yet, as the soldiers passed, she gave them little
heed. She was always looking toward those advancing, as if in search for
something that meant more to her than this moving mass of troops.

A band passed. Behind it, at the head of his men, rode Colonel Marion.
As he came opposite the reviewing stand, his eyes swept over the crowd
seated on the tiers of benches. They rested on the face of the girl, who
had been so anxiously watching. He smiled and saluted. The girl--his
daughter Ethel--waved her handkerchief eagerly in response. Then she
turned, and spoke to the young man who sat beside her. There was love,
touched with reverence, in her voice.

"Isn't Daddy splendid!"

Her companion, Roy Morton, answered with sincerity, in which was a
tincture of irrepressible bitterness.

"He's every inch a soldier."

The bitterness came from the fact that a broken tendon--received during
his last football fight for Yale--disqualified him for military service,
for which he longed more than ever in this hour when he saw the girl
beside him so thrilled by the pomp of war, when he saw her pride and
exultation in the military bearing of the father she revered. He felt
that he must seem a slacker in her eyes, even though she knew that no
fault of his own kept him at home, while others marched away to serve
their country.

For Roy loved Ethel and his chief desire always was to show perfect in
her eyes. For that matter, he was successful enough, since the girl
loved him. Their troth was plighted, and in due time they would be
married with the full approval of Colonel Marion, who both liked and
respected his prospective son-in-law. So, in preparation for his own
absence from home on military service, he strictly charged Roy to watch
over Ethel and guard her from any possible peril. It was only a father's
instinctive act in protection of his child. As a matter of fact, what
danger could by any possibility threaten the well-being of this Ethel,
who would remain living quietly in her father's New York house, along
with the elderly cousin who acted as chaperon to the motherless girl,
and the staff of old and faithful servants?

During the summer weeks that followed the departure of her father, Ethel
lived happily enough, content with a routine of life that included
entertainments of the usual social sort and especially the almost
constant company of her lover.

One of her favorite diversions was a visit to her father's yacht, which
lay at its moorings off Eighty-fourth Street in the North River. There
was only a caretaker left on board during the Colonel's absence, but
Ethel was fond of spending an afternoon in solitary enjoyment on the
yacht. Under the after awning she would sit at ease in the low wicker
chair, by turns reading, watching the ceaseless traffic of the river,
musing on love and happiness--which meant, always, Roy.

Came a day when Roy was summoned home by the illness of his mother.
Ethel went with him to the station and saw him off. It was long after
noon when she had given the last word of farewell and the last kiss of
tenderness to her lover. Ethel thought that she would like to seek the
repose of the yacht for a period of tranquil meditation in the luxurious
depths of her favorite chair under the after awning.

She rode to the dock in a taxicab, and the yacht's tender took her to
the vessel. It was just then that a great steamer passed, and as she
would have mounted the stairs to the yacht's deck an unexpected swell
from the passing steamer smote the stairs so violently that Ethel was
thrown back into the boat she had just left, with an ankle crushed under
her own weight.

The girl realized that it was badly sprained. She gave orders that she
should be carried on board the yacht forthwith. She decided then that
she would send home for whatever might be needed--and, too, for the
family physician.

With the assistance of the caretaker she managed to reach her cabin, and
then sent the fellow to bring the physician in all haste. She pulled off
her outer garments and donned a kimono, and crawled into her berth, to
await the Doctor's coming.

It was within the hour that the little tender came back toward the
yacht, carrying a passenger.

This was Doctor Gifford Garnet, the family physician. He hurried up the
companion way, and went at once to his patient's stateroom. A very short
examination sufficed. He saw the girl was suffering excruciating pain
from the injury to her ankle.

The physician himself was a victim of morphia. And, too, he was a man of
imagination--a most dangerous quality in one of his profession. Now, as
he regarded the girl, he realized the intense suffering caused to her by
the wrenched tendons in the ankle. That thought of suffering sickened
his sensitive nature, so that he felt an emotion almost of nausea from
the pain he knew her to be enduring.... And he was a coward. Pain had
come to him often. Because he was a coward, he had fled from
it--interposing morphia as a shield against its attack. So, now, in
sympathy for the anguish endured by the girl he turned to the drug to
give her relief from suffering. He made an injection into Ethel's
arm.... The girl watched his movement with listless eyes. Then she
sighed and smiled as she felt the gentle sting of the needle. At once
she sank into an untroubled sleep.

Dr. Garnet regarded her for a moment with a curiously contemplative
stare. Then he grinned grimly, pulled up his coat and shirt-sleeve, and
pressed the piston of the hypodermic, driving a heavier charge of the
drug into his own blood.

One minute he spent in deft examination of the injured ankle, then
bandaged it. Afterward, he left the girl, and went up on deck, where he
stood staring through long minutes toward the fleecy masses of cumulus
clouds that lay along the New Jersey horizon.



CHAPTER V

A PRISONER OF MORPHIA


It was mid-forenoon of the following day when Ethel awoke from the
profound sleep superinduced by the drug. It was with a vast astonishment
that her startled eyes took in the surroundings of the stateroom. There
was a blank wall straight opposite her widely gazing eyes, where should
have stood a dressing table of Circassian walnut, topped by the long
oval mirror always ready to show her the reflected loveliness of her
face. And there should have been also lying exposed on the polished
surface of the table an orderly and beautiful array of those things that
make for a woman's beauty--the creams that cleanse a skin too delicate
for the harsh water poured from city mains; in a gold-topped bottle a
lotion for the hair, delicate and effective; in dainty phials essences
of perfume, subtle, yet curiously pervasive, with the fragrance of
joyous springtime. Indeed, a medley of the arts evolved through the ages
for the perfecting of that beauty, which, after all, is God-given--a
thing not to be attained by the processes of even the most skilled
beauty-doctors....

But Ethel possessed the thing itself. To her the accessories were but
absurdities--unnecessary and wanton, means whereby to emphasize a
natural loveliness.

There should have been a glimmer of pure white light from the back of a
hair brush, lying on the dressing table. Ethel had loved the purity of
that ivory surface. She had loved it so much that she refused to have it
broken by the superimposition upon it of initials wrought cleverly in
silver or gold or platinum. That brush meant so much to her! Night by
night, she toiled with it. After she had undone the masses of her
bronze-gold hair, she worked over them, with a sybaritical, meticulous
care.

She was used to sitting in negligée and having her maid brush the
strands. That brushing made the hair resplendent.... Now, Ethel
looked--there was no dressing table--no mirror--nothing, of the sort
that she was accustomed to see when she awoke in the morning.

She thought again of her own bedroom at home. She was minded to take her
bath, which must be drawn and waiting.... And then, suddenly, that blank
wall there before her eyes hammered upon her consciousness.

She was stricken with a curious sense of horror in this instant of
realization that she was in some unknown place--absolutely apart from
the dear, familiar things of home.

For a few horrid instants that shock of a vague terror pressed upon her
like a destroying incubus.

A moment later, recollection thronged upon her. She remembered
everything--the coming to the yacht, the fall, the wrenched ankle, the
arrival of the physician, the almost dainty pain of the needle thrust
into her flesh. And then Ethel began to think that it would be pleasant
to be an invalid on board the yacht for a long time. It would need only
a judicious selection of guests to make a voyage the most agreeable of
diversions.

Just then she was startled into a new emotion. She realized the rhythmic
beating of the engines.... The yacht was already under way.

For a little, Ethel was too stunned by the shock of surprise to take
action. To her, it was inconceivable that the yacht should be thus
voyaging. It should be still lying at anchor in the North River. Her
father could have given no orders for its sailing. She had not. There
was no one else with authority to command the movements of the craft. It
should be lying at anchor in its berth.... But it was not. There was the
pulse from the engines, the gentle swing of the hull to prove that a
journey was begun. A journey--whither or wherefore she could not even
guess.

Ethel put her feet out of the berth, and winced with pain from the
movement of the injured ankle. But she set her teeth in grim
determination, and stood up, putting her weight on the sound foot. Then
she hobbled to the port, and looked out. She saw the highlands of New
Jersey slipping gently past. She recognized the lightship. There was no
longer room for doubt. The yacht had put to sea.

Ethel remained staring out of the port-hole for a long hour, during
which the New Jersey coast unrolled a panorama of varied loveliness. And
throughout all that hour, the girl was in a maze of wonder over this
thing that had befallen. She could make no guess as to the meaning of it
all. She found herself dazed by the unexpected situation. Yet, a certain
instinct warned her of danger. She did not in the least understand the
nature of the peril, the cause of it, the effect. But somehow a
subconscious intelligence guided her to the realization that this
inexplicable situation was fraught with portents of evil. Her fear
sharpened when she found that the door of the stateroom was locked from
the outside.

Moving with care that she might not cause herself more pain by strain in
the injured ankle, she looked for and found a pencil and a sheet of
paper, on which she scribbled a note to her lover.

     "Mr. Roy Morton,
     "Birchwood Camp,
     "Nahassane, N. Y.

     "DEAREST ROY:

     "I fell and injured my ankle and concluded to stay aboard _The
     Isabel_ under the care of Dr. Garnet. I awoke this morning and
     to my surprise, found the yacht headed down the New Jersey
     coast. I tried to go on deck. I found I had been locked in my
     stateroom.... Boat still headed south. Come to my rescue!

     "I am going to place this note in a face-powder can. I see ahead a
     fisherman's boat. It is near enough for me to attract its
     attention. I shall throw the can near the boat, with the hope that
     the fisherman will open it and find this note. We are heading
     toward the Delaware Capes.

     "Love to you and father,
     "ETHEL MARION."

She folded the note and scrawled a few words on the outside very
hurriedly, for they were now almost abreast the fleet of fishing yawls.

"Mr. Fisherman, I am a prisoner on my own yacht. Please help me and
telegraph this letter to Mr. Morton's address." She crammed the bit of
paper into the can from which she had emptied the powder. She thrust her
head out of the port and uttered a shrill cry to attract the attention
of the fisherman. Then she threw the can with all force toward the
nearest boat.

Ethel watched in a mood of half hope, half despair. She saw the can fall
into the sea. But one of the fishermen also observed the container of
her message as it was thrown into the water. Ethel, watching with
strained eyes, perceived the figure of a man in oilskins who suddenly
thrust a boat-hook overboard, fished with it for a moment, then drew
alongside the tin can, bent over, and picked it out of the water.... The
girl thrilled with relief over the success of her attempt to send news
of the trouble come upon her.

Nevertheless, there was, there could be, no immediate effect of the
message. The engine of the yacht throbbed steadily, carrying her moment
by moment further from home and lover and father and friends, to a
destination unknown--a destination fraught by imagination with unguessed
horrors.

Suddenly, Ethel forgot all the difficulties of this strange situation in
a realization of the fact that she was hungry--atrociously hungry! It
dawned upon her that she had not eaten a single morsel of food since the
luncheon of the previous day. She realized then that she was entirely
dependent upon her unknown captor, even for food to keep her body alive.

The distraught girl thought of the locked stateroom door, and was made
frantic by the fact that she was thus shut in, a prisoner. She stared
longingly at the small, round port-hole. She regarded that swinging
window of heavy plate glass with an anxiety of desire that thrilled
through every atom of her blood. She wondered: Could she by any chance
thrust her slender body through that narrow aperture? She even went so
far as to measure the width of the disc--comparing the space to her own
slender breadth of shoulders.

She thought that it might be possible for her to thrust her lithe form
through the meager opening. She believed that she could push her body
through the port-hole. She dared to hope that she might thus escape.
Down below was the runway used by the sailors. It seemed to her that the
matter of escape would be simple.

Her hunger urged Ethel to make the desperate attempt. She was sure that
could she once reach the runway she would be safe from detection on the
part of the one directing the course of the craft from the pilot-house.
She had heard no noise from the galley, which was near her room. She was
certain that it was unoccupied, and that she could slip into it
unnoticed, there to satisfy her longing for food from the abundant
supply of canned goods. Then, after relieving her hunger, she could
determine her future conduct. She might decide to act the brave part by
showing herself and demanding to know the cause of her confinement; or
she might return in the way by which she had come to the stateroom, with
a supply of food, and thus await developments.

The distracted girl took a full hour for consideration of the matter.
Betimes, she was bold to the point of desperation; betimes, she was
flaccid with despair, helpless before the mysterious horrors of her
situation. But at last courage rose in her, became dominant. She
resolved to make the attempt at a descent through the opening. Now, she
was not in the least intimidated by the very real danger of being unable
to secure safe footing upon the narrow runway. The deck below was
without a solid rail. It had only the light hand rail with an open space
beneath, through which her body might easily plunge into the sea.
Moreover, the peril of the exploit was increased for her by the fact of
her injured ankle, which must make her footing awkward and unsteady at
the best.

Ethel found some comfort on a final examination of the injured ankle.
The swelling from the sprain had lessened very perceptibly. She
discovered, too, that now she could bend the joint a little without
experiencing the excruciating pain which such movement had produced
before she lost consciousness from the effect of the opiate. The fact
that the injury was not so severe as she had thought and that she could
at least depend upon the hurt member for some support, painful though it
might be, heartened her anew. Without further pause for reasonings pro
and con, she began to force her body through the opening.

The berth was so located that by placing her sound foot upon the edge of
it she was able to thrust the upper part of her body out of the
port-hole. But this aid would not serve for the remainder of the
progress. To get her hips through, she would have to depend on being
able to seize the hand rail and thus pull herself outward and downward.
She had no fear of being caught midway and held fast, for her
measurements had proved that her shoulders were a trifle broader than
her hips. The danger would lie in getting a firm grip with her hands on
the rail and in the subsequent swinging down of her body to the tiny
width of the runway. Now, as she lunged forward, she held her hands
outstretched, as if she were about to dive into the sea. In this moment
of stress she thanked God for the strictness with which her father had
insisted on athletic training. She knew that her eye was keen and
accurate, that her muscles were strong, ready with instant response to
the commands of will.

But, to her dismay, Ethel found that, notwithstanding measurements, her
shoulders would not pass through the opening. She writhed in fruitless
endeavor until she was exhausted by the strain. Finally, she gave up the
attempt and drew back into the cabin, utterly downcast by her failure.
Then, when she was somewhat refreshed, she tested the accuracy of her
measurements. To her astonishment she found that she had made no
mistake. The port-hole was in fact a little wider than her shoulders.
For a time she was puzzled by the mystery of it all. Then, suddenly,
understanding came to her. She realized that the outstretching of her
arms had caused a lifting and consequent broadening of the shoulders.
Once again hope filled her. She repeated her attempt, but now with arms
dropped close to her sides. She thrilled with delight as her shoulders
slid easily through the opening.

Then, in the next instant, the joy vanished. In its place came stark
terror. For she found herself held motionless, when half way through the
port-hole, with her arms bound fast by the pressure. She struggled
violently, but to no avail. She was caught prisoner with a ruthless
firmness that could not be escaped. Her frantic strivings did not budge
her body the fraction of an inch either forward or backward. Indeed, it
seemed that her futile endeavors to free herself only succeeded in
wedging her more securely. She fancied that her own physical violence
was causing her body to swell so that it should be gripped more fiercely
by the unyielding circumference of the window. There flashed on her a
memory of how once she had tried on a friend's ring, had tried it on a
finger too large; of how she had pushed it down easily enough over the
joint; of how she could not push it back again. She remembered how the
finger had swiftly swollen until the ring was deep sunken in the
reddened flesh. Now, she imagined her body, caught within the metal rim
of the port-hole, was thus reddened and swollen. Her plight filled her
with anguish. The dread of it made her forget in this new, overmastering
fear all that she had so greatly dreaded hitherto.... Her voice broke in
a scream:

"Help! Oh, help! Help!"

Almost instantly, as her voice ceased, Ethel heard the sound of hurrying
feet on the deck above. She twisted her neck to look upward, and saw the
pleasantly smiling face of Doctor Gifford Garnet, as he peered over the
hurricane rail. In that moment of relief, the girl welcomed the familiar
countenance of the family physician. She had no thought for the cunning
smile that answered to her anguished appeal. She realized only that here
was one to succor her in her extremity. She called out to him
imploringly:

"Oh, Doctor, help me please. I am caught here. My body is swelling, I
think. You must get me out at once or I shall die. Oh, hurry!"

The Doctor grinned at her with sardonic enjoyment of her predicament.
But his bland words soothed her alarm:

"I come to your rescue with all speed, Miss Ethel. Never fear, little
one, you will soon be quite safe. I hasten to relieve your suffering."

He vanished. Then, a few seconds later, she saw him making his way along
the runway. She did not see the hypodermic syringe he carried in his
left hand. She did not understand even when he came to her, and put his
two hands to her shoulders as if to help her. She felt the sting of pain
in her right arm, but thought it no more than the twinge of a strained
muscle. Doctor Garnet deftly slipped the hypodermic syringe into his
pocket without the girl's observing it. He spoke to her gently,
encouragingly, awaiting the action of the drug. Then, a few moments
later, Ethel's lids drooped, her form grew limp, her head lolled to the
slight swaying of the yacht. She was held now in a clutch more terrible
and more relentless than that of the metal band about her body. She was
the hapless prisoner of morphia. Dr. Garnet stared into the face of the
unconscious girl for a long half minute, with a curious gloating in his
gaze. Then, abruptly, he strode away, and as he went he chuckled softly,
with infinite relish over some evil jest known only to himself.



CHAPTER VI

HUNTING A CLUE


The Morton camp was not unlike other Adirondack camps owned by the
wealthy New Yorker. It consisted of vast acres of wonderful forests,
where conifers and hard wood intermingled. Through the tract wandered a
pellucid trout stream. At a glance, one would know that those waters
were teeming with wonderful trout, that many a big fellow of the finny
tribe inhabited the depths that waited for the angler's lure.

The comfortable camp, built of rough-hewn logs with low sloping roof
overhanging broad verandas, was built upon a bluff immediately above and
overlooking the home of the most elusive, the most splendid speckled
beauties--the trout that are the most savory on the table and the gamest
in the water.

This morning, Roy Morton was well content with the world. It was late
summer, and something of the languor of the season coursed in his blood.
He sat on the porch, watching idly the dimpling waters below in a pool.
He had an eager eye for the occasional leap of a trout to the surface in
search of prey. He watched appreciatively the glint of rainbow tints on
the iridescent sides as the fish rose and the sunlight showed all its
splendor. While he gazed, at intervals, Roy worked on his fisherman's
tackle. As the trout leaped, he studied that for which they leaped--with
an idea of fashioning flies to suit their capricious taste. He finally
determined just the fly that he should use for a cast at this hour of
the day in order to entice the appetite of the trout. He had that
particular fly upon his leader in readiness for a cast, and had started
toward the stream to test his judgment in playing on the appetite of a
fish, when his attention was distracted by the approach of an ungainly
boy, evidently a native.

The boy held in his hand a telegram. Roy dropped his tackle, and held
out his hand for the message. Mechanically, he tossed a coin to the lad.
Then he ripped open the envelope and read the message.... And he read
there Ethel's frantic appeal for help.

Roy was equally amazed and alarmed as he read and its meaning penetrated
his brain. Usually, he was a young man distinguished for his coolness,
resourcefulness and courage. Now, however, for the time being his brain
was dazed; his heart leaped with fear. Through long minutes he stood
motionless, staring with unseeing eyes, as if striving in vain to
penetrate the veil of this terrible mystery that hung between him and
the girl he loved. His thoughts were a miserable whirl of confusion; his
will was powerless to marshal them in order. He did not note the going
of the messenger boy, who sauntered casually back over the way he had
come, whistling in happy unconsciousness as to the suffering of which he
had been the harbinger.

Then, presently, Roy's mind cleared; his heart grew brave again; he felt
a frantic desire for instant action. He looked about for the messenger
boy, and uttered an exclamation of anger as he saw that the fellow was
gone. He was desirous of sending on that very instant a telegram to the
police authorities in New York, asking them to begin an investigation at
once. He shouted for the boy, but there was no answer, and he realized
that the messenger was gone beyond recall.

Roy wheeled, and rushed into the house. He ordered a horse saddled, and
within five minutes was galloping at breakneck speed for the station. He
knew that the next regular train was not due for three hours, but he had
decided without any hesitation that he would order a special. He felt
that no haste could equal the necessity now when Ethel was momently
being carried further and further away from him, when perhaps her life,
her honor, were imperilled by the scoundrels who had her in their
keeping.

On his arrival at the station, Roy issued his orders with a crisp air of
authority that won instant obedience from the man who served as station
master and telegraph operator. The telegraph key sounded busily for a
few minutes, and the matter was arranged. A special would be ready for
him within an hour. This would get him to Albany in time to make
connection with the limited express for New York.

That accomplished, Roy cantered leisurely back to the camp. As he rode,
his mind was concentrated on plans for his future course. He resolved to
keep the matter secret from his elderly mother, who was by no means in
good health. Instead, he would merely tell her that a friend of his was
in trouble, and that he must go immediately to New York, in order to
straighten out the affair. His mother accepted his explanation without
any suspicion that he had told her only a half-truth. She merely mourned
over this interruption of his visit, and made him promise to return at
the earliest possible moment. Roy felt shame over the subterfuge with
which he had deceived his mother, but he knew that it was necessary for
her own sake, while her knowledge of Ethel's plight could do no good.

Roy hastily, but methodically, packed his traveling bag, and then, after
an affectionate farewell to his mother, stepped into the town wagon, and
was driven to the station.

After reaching the station, Roy occupied the short interval of waiting
for the special by writing out two messages, which he had put on the
wire to New York. The first of these was addressed to the Collector of
the Port, asking whether or not clearance papers had been taken out for
_The Isabel_. The other telegram was to the most noted detective agency
in the city, which contained a request that their best operative should
meet him at the arrival of his train in the Grand Central Terminal. He
directed that the replies, in each instance, should be sent to him at
Albany, in care of the limited train with which he would make connection
there.

The second message was barely completed and delivered to the telegrapher
when the special roared to a standstill by the station platform. Roy
sprang quickly up the steps, and almost before he had entered the car
the locomotive was again snorting on its way.

The loungers about the station watched greedily this unexpected
interruption of the day's routine. And, too, there was bitter envy in
their hearts directed toward this handsome, young aristocrat, who could
thus summon a train for his private pleasure. They could not guess
anything of the black misery that marked the mood of the young man whom
they deemed so favored of fate.

Roy's impatience was such that he could not sit for a minute at a time.
Instead, he strode to and fro with the feverish intensity of a leopard
padding swiftly backward and forward in its cage. So he moved
restlessly, though walking in the car was none too easy. There was need
of haste if the special would catch the limited express at Albany. It
was evident that the engineer and fireman had no mind to fail in the
task set for them. The fireman gave steam a plenty, and the engineer
made use of it with seemingly reckless prodigality. The car swayed and
leaped with the excessive speed. On the curves, sometimes, it appeared
as if it must be thrown off the track, and Roy was compelled to cling
fast to his seat in order to avoid falling. But he felt no distress over
the rocking, lurching progress. Rather, he found a grim joy in it, since
it was haste, and always more haste, for which he longed.... And then,
at last, the special thundered into the Albany station and clanged to a
standstill. Roy breathed a sigh of relief. The limited express had not
yet pulled in.

He had time to make inquiry concerning telegrams, and found one awaiting
him from the Collector of the Port of New York. This simply stated that
no papers had been issued for the clearing of the yacht _Isabel_. The
message added that if the vessel had sailed it must have been stolen.
Just as he finished the reading of this dispatch, the operator handed
him a second telegram--one from the detective agency. It announced that
their best operative would meet him in the terminal at the gate on the
arrival of the limited express in New York. There was a direction added
to the effect that the operative might be recognized by his standing
apart from the crowd and wearing two white carnations in the lapel of
his coat.

Arriving at the Grand Central terminal, Roy walked rapidly to the exit
gate. His eyes roamed for a moment over the passing throng in search of
the man with the boutonnière of white carnations, and presently picked
him out where he stood a little apart. Roy hurried to him, and made
himself known. At once then the two men left the station and crossed
over to the Biltmore, where they took seats in the lobby for a
conference.

Jack Scott, the detective, had won fame for his agency by his masterly
work in solving the problems of many skilful jewel robberies among the
wealthy residents of the metropolis. He yet lacked some years of thirty,
but his reputation was already of the highest among those who knew what
his occupation was. For, as a matter of fact, the young man was of old
Knickerbocker stock, and the inheritor of wealth. He had a genius for
detective work and a love of the calling that compelled him to make it
his vocation. But his employment in this wise was known only to the head
of the agency with which he had associated himself, and to a few trusted
intimates. The better to guard his secret he adopted the plebeian alias
of Jack Scott for professional purposes instead of his own aristocratic
name.

He had first won the admiring attention of the detective agency's chief
by an exploit when he was only eighteen years of age. At that time his
mother was robbed of a fabulously valuable pearl necklace. Extraordinary
rewards were offered for its recovery, and detectives big and small
hunted high and low for the gems. They failed utterly in their search.
But the lad worked out a theory as to the theft, gained evidence to
prove it the truth--in short, within a fortnight, he had recovered the
pearls, and the thieves were safely lodged in jail.

Already at this early age, the boy was profoundly interested in uplift
work among criminals. When his mother smilingly turned over to him the
reward she had offered for the recovery of her necklace, he devoted the
whole sum to this charitable work. And ever since he had made a like
disposal of the proceeds from his professional services. Now, Roy
recognized in the detective assigned to him by the agency, an
acquaintance of his own, Arthur Van Dusen. He expressed his astonishment
at this revelation concerning one whom he had regarded merely as a
social butterfly. But explanations were soon made, and Roy could not
doubt Van Dusen's ability since it was guaranteed by the agency.

He immediately made known his need of help.

"I'm afraid," he began with a tremor of anxiety in his voice, "that you
have been assigned to a case which will prove hard to solve. The woman I
love--the woman I had expected to marry soon--has been taken from me in
a most mysterious way. Somehow she's been kidnapped, and taken to sea a
prisoner on her father's yacht."

"Her name?" Van Dusen demanded crisply as the speaker paused.

"It's Ethel Marion," Roy answered huskily. "The daughter of Colonel
Stephen Marion, who, at present, is with his regiment on the Mexican
Border." He drew Ethel's message from his pocket and extended it to the
detective.

"The only clue I have," he continued, "is this letter from her. She
managed somehow to toss it near enough to a fisherman's dory so that
they picked it up, and forwarded it to my mother's camp in the
Adirondacks. I wired the Collector of the Port for information about the
yacht's clearance papers. I had a reply from him at Albany on the way
down here. He said that the yacht has not been cleared, and that if it's
not in port, it has been stolen."

Roy fairly groaned, and made a gesture of despair.

"That's all I know of the affair," he added drearily. "I am distracted
for fear something dreadful may have happened already. You understand
now how badly I require your help. I can think of nothing--do nothing.
You are not to think of expense. Just rescue Ethel Marion and run down
and jail those guilty of this crime against her." His voice suddenly
became pleading. "And you must let me enlist as a lieutenant to serve
under you. Inactivity under such stress would drive me mad, I know. I
was stunned at first, but now I have my faculties again, and I believe
that I may be able to be of use in the case under your guidance."

Van Dusen stretched out his hand and clasped that of Roy warmly.
Something in the firm contact comforted the distraught lover. It was as
if strength and courage flowed into him from the other man.

"Rely upon me," Van Dusen said quietly, but with a note of confidence in
his voice that still further served to hearten his hearer. "And I shall
certainly make use of you--and at once. First off, I'll ask you to get
in touch immediately with Captain Halstead, the master of my yacht.
Arrange to have it properly equipped and provisioned, so that we may
sail at a moment's notice. Luckily," he added musingly to himself, "the
new wireless outfit is already installed on _The Hialdo_. We'll need
it."

Van Dusen stood up abruptly, and again spoke to Roy, almost curtly.

"After you've attended to the matter of the yacht, report to me at the
agency. You should be there well within an hour. If you arrive first,
wait for me."

"But you----?" Roy began eagerly.

Van Dusen replied to the unfinished question.

"I'm off now to seek a clue from Miss Marion's maid." His voice grew
gentle as he spoke again after a moment's silence. "It's a curious case;
curious and--difficult. But, please God, we'll win."

Roy's answer came brokenly.

"Heaven bless you, Van Dusen! And," he added with fierce intensity, "we
will win--we must!"



CHAPTER VII

STORMBOUND


Van Dusen hurried to the Marion address, where he found Ethel's maid
thoroughly enjoying the vacation that had resulted for her from Doctor
Garnet's action. Using his alias of Jack Scott, Van Dusen explained to
the girl the situation that had developed, which was so perilous to her
young mistress. When the maid had recovered from her first dismay, she
told freely all that she knew, and this was sufficient easily to give
Van Dusen the suspicion that the family physician might be in fact the
guilty man, who was responsible for Ethel's disappearance.

The detective's next visit was to the office of Doctor Garnet. There he
found the physician's secretary much worried over the prolonged and
unexplained absence of his employer. He declared that the last time he
had seen Doctor Garnet was several days before when he had left in
answer to a hurry call from the victim of an accident. The secretary
added that he had made careful inquiries in every possible direction,
but had been unable to find any trace whatsoever of the missing man.

Van Dusen gave only vague answers to the anxious questions put by the
secretary. He stated merely that a client of his was anxious to get in
touch with the physician. Then, without more ado, he hastened to keep
his appointment with Roy. His own face, now he was alone without any
necessity for the mask of indifference, was deeply perturbed.
Consternation was written in his expression. His deductions brought him
face to face with the fact that Garnet was actively concerned in the
mystery. Either the physician was actually guilty of abducting his girl
patient for some evil purpose of his own, or else he himself was also a
victim of the kidnappers along with Ethel. Or, finally, the man had
suddenly become deranged from nerve strain and overwork, and in this
irresponsible condition had stolen away the girl, with what crazy design
none might guess. This possibility was even more dreadful than the
others since there could be no certainty as to what the madman might
intend. Van Dusen realized, with a shudder of horror, that in haste must
lie the only chance of rescuing the girl from some horrible fate. It
seemed to him that the single feasible plan would be to follow down the
coast according to the directions given in Ethel's letter to Roy. While
doing this the wireless on his yacht would keep constantly in touch with
all Southern ports and with the coastwise steamers for news of _The
Isabel_. Then whenever the stolen yacht should be located, if fortune so
favored, it would be pursued with all speed in the hope of effecting a
rescue.

Van Dusen found Roy pacing uneasily to and fro in an outer room at the
agency. He had performed the duties entrusted to him by the detective
and was now wild with impatience for further action. His first glance
into Van Dusen's face stirred him to new excitement.

"Oh, Arthur!" he exclaimed, "I can see by your expression that you have
obtained important information. Tell me!" he insisted. "Tell me! I must
know--even if it's the worst. In these hours of suspense and despair,
I've braced myself to stand any shock. Tell me!"

Van Dusen answered soothingly.

"Roy, old man, the mystery will be solved, I think, and that before
long. That is to say, it will be cleared up unless _The Isabel_ founders
at sea before we can reach it. I have discovered that in all human
probability Miss Marion has been carried away in the yacht by Doctor
Garnet."

"Are you positive about that?" Roy demanded fiercely.

"I am positive this far," came the quiet reply. "Doctor Garnet has not
returned to his office since the time when he answered the call to
attend Miss Marion on the yacht. It is fairly to be deduced from her
message to you that he appeared on board in answer to her summons. I am
of the opinion that Doctor Garnet is the one responsible for this
outrage. He is either the victim of a sudden fit of insanity, or he has
become a man-beast, sacrificing position and honor and every decent
instinct in order to gratify a heretofore smoldering lust, which has
suddenly flamed forth and got beyond his control."

"Your deductings are doubtless right--at least in part," Roy admitted,
though with obvious reluctance in his tone. "But I find it hard to
believe the possibility of Doctor Garnet's being the brute you suggest.
He is universally esteemed not only for his ability, but also for his
manliness and his many deeds of kindness and charity. If he has done
this thing it must have been as you also suggest because he has gone
crazy."

Roy mused for a moment, and then spoke with a new note of excitement in
his voice.

"How do we know that the Doctor was not murdered while on board the
yacht, and that the murderer or murderers then made off with the vessel
and Marion? Or, perhaps, the tender was capsized and he was drowned
along with the caretaker. Afterward the kidnapping may have been done by
others who knew nothing whatever of Doctor Garnet." Roy shook his head
with decision. "Anyhow," he added, "I cannot believe that Doctor Garnet,
in his right mind, could ever have been guilty of such a foul crime."

Van Dusen regarded the young man tolerantly, but his smile was a little
cynical as he replied:

"When you have studied crime as thoroughly as I have during the past few
years, Roy, you will not be so confident of finding nothing but good in
any particular man, no matter how high his reputation may be. I cannot
say with certainty that Doctor Garnet is vile; neither can I say that he
is incapable of vileness. But in the work I have to do, I must entertain
all possibilities if I would solve the problem."

"Well, Arthur," came Roy's reply after a moment of reflection, "I admit
that I am amazed by what you have told me. I do not in the least
understand the turn of affairs by which Doctor Garnet is implicated. But
you are in charge of the case, and I am absolutely in your hands. I mean
not to hamper you in any way--not even by throwing doubts on your
judgment. So, now, just tell me what you mean to do next."

Van Dusen answered authoritatively:

"We must leave at once. On my way here, I sent out wires to Norfolk and
other near-by coast points. These will be sufficient to keep the port
officers on the lookout for _The Isabel_, as well as the coast-guard
crews. I have a wardrobe on board my yacht. Whatever you may need beyond
what's in your bag, I can supply you with. Let's be off."

Van Dusen's yacht was moored near the spot where _The Isabel_ had been
lying. The detective made diligent inquiry at the landing stage in the
hope of picking up some bit of information concerning Doctor Garnet's
presence there, but the effort was fruitless. No one seemed to have
known anything concerning the physician's visit.

Forthwith, then, the two young men went aboard Van Dusen's yacht, and a
few minutes later the vessel was under way, with instructions to the
master to hug the New Jersey shore while keeping a sharp lookout for
_The Isabel_.

The detective operated his own wireless outfit and for several hours at
the outset of the voyage he kept busy, interrogating the different ships
bound up and down the coast, and the shore stations as well, for any
information concerning the stolen yacht. Finally, a tramp steamer
answered that she had passed _The Isabel_ the day before, and that the
yacht at that time was headed down the coast, going slowly, in the
direction of Hampton Roads. At once, on receiving this news, Van Dusen
directed that the yacht's course should be set for Cape Charles and the
Roads.

As a matter of fact, without this information, the yacht must have taken
this same direction for the sake of safety, since the weather soon
became so threatening that none but the most foolhardy would have
ventured to navigate in the open sea a vessel of _The Hialdo_ type.

_The Hialdo_ pushed her nose through the waters of Hampton Roads in the
early morning. Both Roy and Van Dusen were on the bridge, surveying with
their glasses every detail visible of the bays and creeks. They dared
hope to catch somewhere a glimpse of _The Isabel_, for they believed
that she must be secreted somewhere hereabouts in some out-of-the-way
place. They were justified in this by the fact that they had received no
word of the yacht's arrival from the harbor authorities of Norfolk. Yet,
now, their roving scrutiny was of no avail. Nowhere could they find a
trace of aught that could possibly be mistaken for _The Isabel_.... With
the approach of night the violence of the gale became such that perforce
Van Dusen gave orders for the tying up of the _The Hialdo_ at the
Norfolk port, there to await the passing of this southeaster of
hurricane force.

The hours during which the tempest raged were fraught with horror for
Roy Morton. He was in despair now, for he could not believe that _The
Isabel_ would be able to ride out the gale. His imagination pictured for
him with frightful vividness the wreck of the yacht and its carrying
down to death the girl he loved. The young man's agony of spirit was so
evident that Van Dusen became alarmed lest he should break down. The
detective thought to distract Roy from his morbid thoughts by suggesting
that they take a trip into the town to lessen the tedium of waiting
until the storm should wear itself out. His persistence at last won a
reluctant consent, and the two set forth.... In after years, Roy was to
think often with shuddering of what must have been the dreadful result,
had he indeed refused to accompany the detective on that excursion into
the town.



CHAPTER VIII

THE EFFICIENCY OF CLAM BROTH


The mere act of rapid walking had a beneficial effect upon Roy. His
circulation was equalized by the exercise and something of his natural
buoyancy of spirit was restored to him. The detective, too, found
pleasure in the tramp, and the young men walked along many miles of the
Norfolk streets, aimless, but well entertained. They swung at last into
the square where a huge monument commemorates the Lost Cause and heroic
dead. Suddenly Van Dusen's attention was attracted to a huge gilt sign
over the door of a saloon. The outer aspect of the place was attractive
enough, with something of distinctiveness about it. He turned to Roy and
spoke with a tone of amused interest.

"That seems a bit different from other saloons. And I fancy the sign
tells the truth." With the words, he pointed to the gilt lettering over
the door.

Roy turned and looked in the direction of the detective's pointing
finger. "Clam Broth King," he read, and smiled appreciatively.

"Well, old man," he remarked, "it's a straightforward way of advertising
a food, as well as a novel one. And from the labels on the bottles in
the window, it might prove a good place for us to visit before we start
on the return journey to the yacht."

"I really know the place," Van Dusen declared, "and it is excellent.
About a year ago, I was in this city on an important case. It was
through the assistance of The King that I was able to locate a most
valuable witness. And the probability is that but for the sign I would
have missed it. I've always been a perfect fiend for clam broth. After
seeing the sign, I knew, of course, there must be something particular
in that line inside, and so I wandered in. Well, I was served by The
King. When I first entered, I reconnoitered by stepping up to the bar
and ordering a drink. Before I had a chance to question the man who was
serving me, a gentlemanly appearing fellow touched me on the arm, and
asked me pleasantly if I wouldn't like a cup of clam broth. He said that
The King had just made a fresh batch, and that it was fine. I
scrutinized the fellow closely. He had a kindly, youthful face, and his
bearing was agreeable. I answered him promptly that good clam broth was
just what I wished to have. 'But,' I demanded, 'who the devil is The
King? It's a new one on me, to have a king for a chef.'

"The man laughed and then replied:

"'Oh, The King! Why, he's only _me_!'

"To cut it short, a few minutes later the broth was served to me, along
with some dainty wafers, and while I drank it The King and I made
friends."

Van Dusen's tone changed abruptly.

"But let's not loiter here on the outside any longer. Let us go into the
presence of The King."

So it came about that Roy was duly presented to The King, and he was not
disappointed in either that culinary monarch or the throne room. Perhaps
his enthusiasm was the greater since he was sorely in need of food to
nourish a mind and body exhausted by suffering.

The clam-broth King catered largely to the officers of ocean-going
vessels. There's hardly a master sailing the main who has touched at
Norfolk or anchored in Hampton Roads during recent years that has not
known Harry the clam-broth King, and has called him friend. To-day the
usual number of storm-bound seafaring men of the better class were
gathered around the miniature tables in the place. The King was very
busy indeed, passing from group to group to see that none of his friends
were neglected. He greeted Van Dusen with obvious pleasure and had a
welcoming smile for the newcomer when he was introduced to Roy. A moment
later Van Dusen and Roy were seated at one of the tables, each with a
bowl of piping-hot clam broth before him.

But before the contents of the bowls had been wholly swallowed both Roy
and the detective paused to listen with avid interest to the words of a
mariner seated at an adjoining table. And this is what they heard:

"Yes, boys, it was some blow and believe me it is still a-kicking up
good and plenty outside the Capes. I missed the worst of it. My
barometer had indicated that there was going to be some big doings long
before the clouds begun to loom. I was half a mind to haul to in the
hook o' the Cape at Lookout, but the sky seemed so clear and I was so
near Hatteras that I made up my mind that we could get into the Roads by
crowding the boilers a little. I'd a heap rather be laying up close to
the King's clam broth than at that sorry, lonely, Lookout Bight. Don't
understand me that I have got anything against that snug little harbor.
I have every reason in the world not to have for she has saved my vessel
and my carcass many's the time. The only thing is that it is such a
desert place on land, not a house, not a human, with the exception of
the light-keeper and his crew. When a skipper makes harbor he likes it
to be where there are some shore pleasures on tap. I will venture that
there was not less than half a dozen skippers put in there to get away
from this blow and every last one whilst they knew the fact of that
little nook o' safety being there had saved him and his ship, was just
a-raring because he had not taken a chance rounding Hatteras and putting
into Hampton Roads where he could run in here and gossip and inhale the
fumes of King Harry's clam broth and feel the effects of his Scotch,
while this-here West India hurricane wore herself out.

"You know, boys, I wish that I was a yachtsman with a good roll to back
it up. Why, do you know them fellers take lots of chances and it's very
seldom that they lose their craft? Of course, I have navigated over more
of the sea than you, having been coasters all your lives. And do you
know there is hardly a port in the world where I haven't seen a pretty,
trim American yacht lying at anchor or haven't passed them on the seven
seas? And never have I found one in great distress--except for being out
o' some particular kind of liquor. With we fellers it's different. We're
always in some kind o' trouble, not to mention being constantly out o'
all kinds o' liquors. And then we are scairt o' our lives, or run
aground or burn up, and so lose our master's papers, which means our
job."

The speaker paused to clear his throat noisily. Then he went on:

"Speaking along these lines reminds me of a little yacht we passed on
the run up, off Ocracoke Inlet. She was a long ways off shore, headed
in. But I guess she made the inside all right in spite of the waves
running high and breaking and the strength of the wind increasing with
every flaw. Her name was _The Isabel_. And it's my opinion the captain
of that yacht ought to be in the crazy house or dead."

Somehow at the outset, the narrative had riveted the attention of Roy
and Van Dusen. It was as if their intuitions warned them that something
significant was to issue from the mariner's rambling remarks. The
utterance of the yacht's name thrilled them both, and they stared at
each other for a moment with startled eyes. Then they listened again
with new intentness as the speaker continued his account:

"It was just after daylight. I had been on the bridge all through the
night, for I was anxious over our position, should the hurricane break
with full force. I knew from the glass that it was close on us. I was
looking dead ahead. Suddenly out of the mist appeared a craft as white
and trim as a swan. She would plunge forward on a giant wave, then
disappear for a moment in the trough, to appear again right side up, and
coming at full speed to meet the next one. She was driving so fast that
often she would force herself through, rather than over, the oncoming
waves. I just naturally kept expecting from second to second that that
fool skipper, sending her along at such reckless speed, would bury her
so deep that it would be impossible for her to shake off the tons of
brine, and so float on top again. If the fool only had sense enough to
slow her down, I thought to myself, that bit of a craft would almost go
through hell itself without a scorch. I realized that we were getting
dangerously close, for I was going fast before the wind. So I quickly
gave a passing-signal blast from our whistle, indicating that we would
pass her on the port side. What do you suppose that fool at the wheel
did then? Close as we were, and with no other reason that I could guess
other than a desire to court death, he deliberately answered my signal
with two blasts. They meant that he was going to starboard, almost
diagonally across our bow. I saw it was too late to correct his error,
so I simply had to accept his cross signal, and I did my best to avoid a
collision. I was successful--no thanks to him. We missed _The Isabel_ by
a hair. As it was, I thought that in spite of all we could do the
suction from our propellers would draw in and crush the smaller boat
against our side. I fancy we missed it more through good luck and the
grace of God than through good management. And now what do you think?

"That chap at the wheel, instead of appearing grateful and giving me
three blasts in salute, stuck his head and shoulders out of the
pilot-house window and shook his fist at me. He yelled, too, and the
wind brought the words down to me. 'You're only a dirty tramp, but you
think you own the seas!' You boys know that that word 'tramp' for a good
honest trading steamer always did get on my nerves. I admit I swore a
little at the bunglesome cuss, but he was well to windward, so I might
just as well have saved my breath.

"I honestly believe that that ornery fellow in the pilot house was crazy
as a bed-bug. Stranger still, there wasn't another soul in sight aboard
of her. I'm thinking I'll report the affair to the inspectors. There's
no doubt in my mind that _The Isabel_ weathered the storm for the chap
was headin' her straight as he could go for Ocracoke Inlet. As the yacht
was of light draft she could easily get over the bar and into Pamlico
Sound, where he could haul to under the lea of the sand dunes. Down
there that craft would ride out 'most anything that might come along."

The detective, with a gesture to Roy that he should remain in his seat,
arose and crossed over to the Captain of the tramp steamer. He called
the man aside, and frankly explained how he had overheard the narrative
concerning the yacht _Isabel_. He admitted that this information was of
vital importance to his friend and himself.

The Captain at once became intently interested. Doubtless he foresaw
something in store for the yachtsman that would settle his own score
against the fellow, the fellow who had reviled him.

"If you really want to come up with that critter," the mariner declared,
"it would be the easiest thing in the world according to my mind,
provided you have the right sort of a boat."

Van Dusen described his yacht.

"How much does this _Hialdo_ of yours draw?" the swarthy-faced skipper
demanded.

"She draws, fully stocked, just eight and a half feet aft," the
detective answered. "And we could shift the gasoline so that she would
get through on eight feet of water."

The captain nodded appreciatively.

"That fellow, the chances are, is right this minute at anchor somewhere
in Pamlico Sound, or else he's cruising around on some of those
connecting inland waters. The one and only place where he could get to
sea again would be where he went in at Ocracoke, or else at Beaufort
Inlet--though he might head for Norfolk by way of one of the two canal
routes. You can bet your bottom dollar that, even as crazy as he is, he
won't tackle the open sea just yet while this heavy swell is still on.
It's my idea you got your man sure enough, for he's in a trap. The thing
for you to do is to get aboard your craft, and then hot-foot it through
the Dismal Swamp Canal for Ocracoke by way of Albemarle, Coratan and
Pamlico Sounds.

"If you like," the Captain added with a touch of embarrassment lest he
might seem officious, "I'll keep a sharp lookout on the other canal, so
that he can't pass you while you're going through old Dismal. You might
post the authorities at Elizabeth City to keep an eye open for the
yacht, and to detain her if she shows up while you're rushing on at full
speed for Ocracoke and Portsmouth. They're the little towns, one on each
side of the Inlet. If you don't happen to find the outfit at either of
these places, there ain't a particle of doubt according to my judgment
that those folks can inform you of the direction taken by _The Isabel_
when she sailed, for they keep mighty close tabs on every vessel that
comes or goes through the Inlet. If you find she headed south on the
inside, you'll know that loony is making for Beaufort Harbor with the
idea of waiting there for the sea to calm down before venturing on the
outside. Or maybe he hasn't any intention of going out at all. It seems
to me he's more likely to be heading for some one of those tributaries
to the Sound that are narrow and deep, with the shores covered by a
regular jungle growth. Boats of any size seldom go into them--except
once in a while one run by a drag-net fisherman. This crazy man could
expect to hide there for weeks on a stretch without danger of being
disturbed. If it's actually a case of kidnapping he's certainly shown
himself as cunning as mad folks sometimes are."

The detective motioned to Roy to join him and the Captain. Then in a few
crisp words he explained the situation as it was indicated by the
mariner. Both he and Roy joined in expression of gratitude to the
skipper, who gave his name as Jake White. Then the two, realizing the
need of haste, said farewell, and made their way back to the wharf with
what speed they might.



CHAPTER IX

ONCE IN A LIFETIME


To the average humane person the loss of a pet, whether through thievery
or death itself, brings a very real sorrow for a time. How much worse it
must be for one who lives alone, a recluse on an island of sand in the
sea, to suffer the loss of his only living companion, something to come
at his beck and call, something that seems indeed to reciprocate its
master's affection!

It is true that Shrimp was only a fowl--a Dominick rooster at that.
Probably, from the standpoint of intelligence, a creature very low in
the scale. But its association in this case had developed the qualities
of the bird. The years of companionship had brought man and rooster to
an intimate understanding of each other.

When Captain Ichabod stepped from his shack, his pocket bulging with
corn for his favorite, and saw the rooster showing afar off against the
snow-white sand where he was industriously scratching, and whistled a
summoning call, Shrimp would come racing toward him at top speed, with
wings beating a rhythm to his hurrying legs. Then would the rooster
greedily pick the grain of corn from his master's horny palm, clucking
the while guttural notes of gratitude. And at such moments Ichabod's
heart would grow warm with pleasure in the realization that it was
within his power thus to make one of God's creatures happy.

When Doctor Hudson came to the door of the shack, where the bereft old
fisherman sat, shaken with sorrow over his loss, he tenderly smoothed
the Captain's wrinkled brow. He asked to know the cause of this sudden
misery.

Ichabod, with a boylike gesture, brushed away the tears from his eyes
with the back of his hand. Then he straightened himself, and met the
physician's kindly gaze squarely.

"Thar ain't no call for explanations when a feller's feelin's are
teched. Doc, do ye know o' some lonely codger that needs a good
housekeeper?"

The earnest question came in such startling contrast to the old man's
manner of a moment before, when he was shaken with sobs, that the Doctor
was hard put to it to restrain a burst of laughter. But by a great
effort he limited his expression of amusement to a broad smile as he
replied:

"Yes, I know one--an old retired fisherman by the name of Jones, Captain
Ichabod Jones. He's a man who has weathered many of the storms of life.
Now, as his bark is getting nearer to the last port, he needs to be less
alone." A note of very sincere sympathy had crept into the physician's
voice. "He should no longer be troubled with the cares of looking after
his own home. But, I suppose, there's no use mentioning this to the man
himself."

"Yo'r in the right church, Doc," replied the fisherman, "but ye are
approachin' the wrong pew. Ichabod Jones has proved himself this day. I
did 'low that I was gettin' sort o' decrepit like, but this mornin'
proved to me that I ain't as near all in as me and my friends thought.
Didn't I tote a human woman nigh onto a quarter of a mile without
a-hurtin' me a mite? No, sir, Doctor, I am the man that wants the job.
Them scoundrels that I saved has stole all that I had in the world to
come home to and now I'm ready to quit this island o' mine and go an'
dust out an' cook vituals for some crabbid old customer that is meaner
than me. The more he'd quarrel the more it 'ould suit fer it 'ould take
my mind off of this woman business that took place here to-day, and then
I might larn to forgit the rooster."

"Jones, I believe you're crazy!" The Doctor exclaimed half angrily. Then
he added, with a grin: "I guess I'd better give you a sedative to quiet
those overwrought nerves of yours. Then you can get inside the shack,
lie down on your bunk and doze off for a spell."

The old fisherman took the remark with all seriousness. His face grew
livid as he stared at the Doctor with widened eyes. He stretched to his
full height and spoke in a tone of tense solemnity.

"I will have you to know, Doctor Hudson, that never again will Ichabod
Jones occupy that bunk, for--God A'mighty, man!--it has been desecrated
by a woman. Of course, it was my own fault, I suppose. But then there
was death a-starin', an' what could I do? When I built that hut an'
tossed the fust blankets on that bunk I swore by the power that rules
the waters what washes over this sand-bank o' mine that no woman should
ever be welcome. An', by the Eternal, I meant it! They may say that Icky
Jones has quar notions, and like enough he has, but when that woman what
I loved saw fit to take on the beach-comber o' Port Smith Town, an' left
me to be the laughin' stock o' Cartaret County, I sure as shootin' made
up my mind that it couldn't happen but once in my lifetime--an' it
hain't--an' it won't! An' say, Doc, when that foreign woman, whilst I
was a-bringin' her to, opened up them pretty eyes an' looked at me fer
the fust time, I made up my mind or rather diskivered, that old as I be
an' quar as I be, I can't trust myself agin whar thar's women. Sure as
thar's clams and oysters on them rocks yonder, I'd play fool, an' try
an' make it heigh-ho for the parson. You see, Doc, it ain't that I hate
women that I located on this lonely island. It's because, by golly, I'm
afeared of 'em."

This was the first time, so far as the physician knew, that Ichabod had
ever thus frankly confessed the truth concerning his bitter marital
experience and its effect on his life. Doctor Hudson was deeply
impressed by the fisherman's display of emotion. He spoke seriously in
reply:

"Captain, you can't imagine how glad I am to have heard you say this.
Until now, I never could understand how a man of your honest character
and kind heart could hate the sex to which we owe our being, the sex
that has done so much to make life more beautiful, to make happiness for
humanity. Now, at last, I understand. Your seeming hatred has been
merely a mask for cowardice. You'd fight a giant, if need be--just as
you have fought that giant, the sea, so often and so bravely. But, just
the same, you're an arrant coward. You turn tail and run when a woman's
in question, because you're afraid of the weaker sex. I suspect it's
time for you to reform. I want you to come to town with me now, and stay
there until you've fully recovered from to-day's excitement. While
you're there, I'll look round and see what I can do toward finding you a
place as housekeeper."

Ichabod shook his head with great emphasis.

"No, sir, Doc," he declared sturdily, "I ain't a-goin' to stir a step
fer the town. But I'll let ye tow me as far as the Spar Channel. Then
I'll set sail fer the coast-guard station. I'll spin my yarn thar to the
boys, an' like's not spend the night with 'em. Then I reckon I'll come
back to the Island. But, fust off, I'll stop at your office an' git some
fumigatin' powders, so's to fix the house fit fer Ichabod again."

The Captain and the physician made some further examination, which
convinced them that the strangers had in fact left the Island by means
of the wrecked yacht's little tender. Assured of this, the two men set
forth, the Doctor for Beaufort, Ichabod to pay his visit at the
life-saving station near old Fort Macon, where he knew that he was sure
of a royal welcome.



CHAPTER X

EYES FROM THE DEEP


The staid little city of Beaufort had been stirred to its remotest
corners with the exciting news brought back from Ichabod's Island by the
physician. Doctor Hudson had told the story to little groups here and
there as he called upon his patients. Needless to say that a shipwreck,
even though it be only that of a medium-sized pleasure craft, was enough
to set everyone all agog with excitement. And here, too, there was the
added mystery, concerning the young and beautiful woman together with
her strange companion, who had been rescued from death only to vanish so
inexplicably.

Next day, Ichabod quite forgot to stop at the town in order to secure
the fumigating powders from the physician. As a matter of fact, he was
accompanied home by a number of the life-saving crew, who were eager to
survey the wreck and make investigation on their own account. As he
approached the Island, the old fisherman was astonished to see at least
a dozen launches and fishing schooners gathered near the wreck. It was
low tide, and all those aboard the craft seemed to be staring down into
the pellucid waters. It was evident that something of an unusual sort
attracted their gaze. As Ichabod drew near, accompanied by the boat from
the life-saving station, one of the men, on a launch that had her nose
resting on the tiny beach at the oyster rocks was seen to be busy
arranging a block and tackle. In answer to Ichabod's hail, he shouted
that there was a dead man in the wreck.

This information astonished both Ichabod and those to whom he had told
his story, for he had had no least suspicion that there was a third
person on the yacht at the time of the wreck. In answer to eager
questions, the man with the tackle declared that the body seemed to be
chained fast to the engine of the sunken boat.

At this news, the Captain became greatly excited.

"Men!" he exclaimed in accents of dismay. "Hain't it been enough for
this old, weather-beaten, storm-tossed hulk of an Ichabod to have gone
through more'n most young fellers could stand without now havin' a
murder to be investigated at his very door? Didn't ye hear them words o'
Sumner Jenkins? He says as how the body is chained to the ingine. It's
fitten, boys, as we should go right plumb up thar, an' have a look fer
ourselves."

A few minutes later, Ichabod and his companions were lying alongside the
wreck, and were leaning over gunwales, looking intently down into the
transparent depths of the sea. And there, sure enough, lay the form of a
man, with distorted features and wide-open dead eyes gazing back up at
them. Around the waist of the corpse there was to be seen distinctly the
chain that tightly encircled the body and thence ran to the engine
frame, around which it was twisted, and held immovable by a huge
padlock. Thus fettered, the unfortunate wretch had been carried down to
his doom in the sea.

The gruesome discovery had been made that morning by pure chance on the
part of a fisherman who, out of curiosity to view the wreck, had brought
his boat up into the wind there. A careless glance over the side had
shown him the ghastly face of the corpse beneath the waves. At the
sight, the fisherman had let his craft slip off before the wind. He
sailed straight to Beaufort, and told the town his news. It was the
tidings carried by him that brought the morbid crowd of sightseers.

The combined efforts of those present had been insufficient to raise the
engine and the body of the dead man to the surface. Now they were
arranging a windlass, with block and fall, to bring the victim up to
where the Coroner was impatiently waiting to perform his duty.
Presently, then, the energetic workers secured a firm hold with the
tackle on the engine frame. It was hauled to the surface, bringing with
it the attached body. The padlock was smashed, and the stiffened form
released from its iron bonds. Forthwith, the body was removed in one of
the small boats to the sandy beach of Captain Ichabod's Island. The
Coroner would have preferred that it should be taken into the shack for
the holding of the inquest. But when the official made his request to
the fisherman, the reply was by no means favorable.

"It seems as how I might be just a leetle accomidatin', but I dunno, Mr.
Coroner, I've already got that place to fumigate out on account o' thar
havin' been sickness an' a woman present thar. An' now should ye see
fitten to carry that poor murdered feller in thar, Uncle Icky would sure
have to quit. It 'ould be just a leetle more'n he could stand. Don't
think I'm feared o' hants an' sich fer I hain't. It's just this: The
thoughts o' the poor devil, how he just lay thar on the bottom with his
eyes wide-open, an' him murdered--them thoughts would keep a-comin'
back. No, Mr. Coroner, you'd better not take him into the hut--not
unless you aim to buy Ichabod's Island."

The Coroner yielded to the old man's whim. He ordered the sodden and
twisted form laid out decently on the white smoothness of the beach.
Then, with the other men grouped about him, the Coroner selected a jury,
and a minute later the investigation was under way according to due form
of law. The only witnesses who were examined were the man who had
discovered the corpse, and Ichabod. There was small need of more. For
while the account of the finding of the body was completed within a few
minutes, Captain Ichabod's narrative continued for a full hour, during
which he told everything he knew concerning the wreck of _The Isabel_
and the subsequent events, including the kidnapping of Shrimp.

Most of the hearers, if not all, had heard previously broken bits of the
narrative. But now as they received the account in detail from beginning
to end they hung on the old fisherman's words, held by the weird spell
of this mystery of the sea.

At the conclusion of the testimony, the Coroner charged the jury
briefly, and sent them into the shack to agree upon a verdict. The
decision was not long delayed. Within ten minutes, the jury returned to
the beach and the foreman announced that they had agreed upon a verdict.
This was to the effect that the man had come to his death at the hands
of parties unknown, while confined against his will aboard the gasoline
yacht _Isabel_.

The Coroner complimented the jury upon their verdict and then discharged
the panel. He next arranged with one of the boatmen present for the
removal of the corpse to Beaufort, where he meant to have it embalmed
and held for a reasonable length of time before burial, for
identification. When these formalities were concluded the crowd quickly
scattered. Some hastened away to attend their nets, which had been
neglected for many hours, while the others set sail or cranked engines
for the voyage home.

Captain Ichabod and his friends from the life-saving station decided
that they would run over to Shackleford's Banks, and thence sail along
shore to approximately the point where Ichabod had seen the rockets of a
ship that doubtless went to pieces in the surf during the night of the
gale. Their particular destination was a place where the strip of sand
was so narrow that they could easily cross it on foot in the expectation
of locating the wreck of the unfortunate vessel. Very soon after the
party had set out, Captain Ichabod's spirits lightened. The congenial
company of the coast-guard crew, now that he was away from the gruesome
association of the Coroner's Court, induced a reaction in his mood, and
he was almost cheerful. His companions were anxious to remove the old
man's depression and made kindly effort to divert his thoughts into
pleasant channels by droll stories and rough banter. When, finally, the
party went ashore at Core Banks and walked up the beach along the edge
of the breaking surf in search for signs of the wrecked ship, it was
Ichabod that walked in the lead with brisk steps and animated face. It
seemed scarcely possible in view of his agility and vigor that the old
fisherman was indeed living on borrowed time.

It was not long before they began to see huge timbers that had been
twisted and rent asunder, which now strewed the beach. They saw, too,
others to which were attached sections of the deck and the deck-house,
which were lazily riding back and forth to the rhythm of the sea. Now, a
wave would drop its bit of flotsam upon the hard sand; then, a moment
later, one of greater magnitude would envelop the stranded spar or plank
or piece of cargo, and with its backward flow bear away the wreckage, to
be again tossed hither and yon, until perhaps finally the tide at its
full would leave it on the shore, to become the spoil of
beach-combers--those ghouls ever ready to take advantage of the hapless
mariner's mischance.

It was a fact that the whole shore line for over a mile was littered
with parts torn away from the foundered schooner. Amid the mass were
many barrels of rum and of molasses out of the cargo. As the little
squad of men from the station, together with Captain Ichabod, drew near
the strip of beach, they saw two fellows working with feverish haste to
roll a barrel of molasses over the top of a sand dune, and then down on
the Sound side. Captain Ichabod scrambled to the pinnacle of a near-by
hill of sand. From this vantage point, he beheld a good-sized two-masted
sharpie lying near the shore. The sight made him immediately aware that
the beach-combers from up the coast were already on the job, and that
the boat on the Sound side of the Banks belonged to them. He knew, too,
that the pair working so desperately to get the barrel away from the
wreckage were thus toiling in haste to get their loot aboard the
sharpie.

For certain reasons, Captain Ichabod Jones had taken a strong dislike to
the professional beach-combers. He believed that a man who would rush to
the wreckage of a ship thrown on a barren shore away from civilization,
and would appropriate without investigation the valuable articles thus
cast up by the sea, was in very sooth not a good citizen--just a plain
thief. More than once, indeed, he had seen fit to report men of this
stripe, and had caused them no little trouble in the courts over this
matter of their pilfering. It is just possible that, had Captain Ichabod
not been robbed of the woman he loved years before by one of this class,
he might have looked on their depredations with a more lenient eye. Be
that as it may, it remains certain that he maintained a very genuine and
very bitter spite against all beach-combers.

Captain Ichabod often asserted that it was right for the natives to
remove to a place of safety above high tide any articles of value from a
wreck on their shores, and then to wait during a reasonable time for the
lawful owners to make their claim. But he had no tolerance for the
fellow who would hurriedly and secretly remove to his own premises goods
of a salvable sort. He declared this to be no better than theft.

The Captain quickly realized now that here was his opportunity. He
motioned to his friends from the station to go on toward the two men
busy with the barrel. He, himself, hastened down the slope of sand, in
order that he might slip close unseen, and station himself between the
beach-combers and their boat. By this method of approach both he and the
men from the station would make sure of recognizing the offenders. As
the old man drew near the sharpie, which lay with her sails flapping
idly in the scant breeze, his eyes took in the name roughly painted on
the stern rail of the boat, and he stared at it in shocked amazement. He
stopped short and spelled the words aloud:

"_R-o-x-a-n-a L-e-e_!"

At the sound of the name in his ears, a strange expression came over the
fisherman's features. It was an expression compounded of many warring
emotions, which it might well have puzzled an observer to interpret. But
his muttered soliloquy made his feeling clear.

"Wall, I'll be plumb damned! Here it is, most twenty year since I has
spoke them words an' God knows I didn't aim to now, but bein' a leetle
slow on spellin', an' kinder beflustered over identifyin' these-here
thievin' cusses they got out before I realized what I was sayin'. That
boat's named fer my old gal!"

Captain Ichabod had no time for further musing. His attention was
attracted by a crackling of twigs in the small brush on the side of the
dune. As he looked in the direction of the sound he saw hurtling toward
him the barrel of molasses. The two beach-combers had succeeded in
topping the rise with their burden; then, suddenly excited and confused
by the approach of the coast-guard men, they had turned it loose with a
violent push. It shot downward at speed, nor did it stop until it had
reached the very edge of the water of Core Sound, almost at Ichabod's
feet. After the heavy barrel came the two plunderers, running rapidly.
One of them was a mere lad, certainly not more than nineteen years of
age, while the other was of advanced years as was proclaimed by his
deeply lined face and gray hair.

As the two drew near, Captain Ichabod quickly concealed himself behind a
haw bush, there to await developments. He had a particular reason for
not wishing to be recognized by these men--at least not until he should
have had time to get his bearings and to decide what course it were best
to pursue in this unexpected situation. For that matter, he was half
tempted to leave the place without showing himself and without
denouncing the paltry thieves.

Ichabod's indecision was not of long duration. His course of action was
decided more quickly than he had anticipated by the arrival of the
coast-guard men. They had hurried after the fugitives with some
apprehension lest the old fisherman might be roughly handled. Now the
men descended the slope with a cheer, and in another moment had pounced
on the two cringing wretches, who were eagerly clutching their
ill-gotten barrel of "long sweet'nin'," as if loath to give it up.

This was not the first time that old Sandy Mason, for such was the name
of the gray-haired man, had been driven away from his nefarious work by
the boys from the station. Hitherto, he had been let off with a
reprimand. He was sure that such would now be the case. Nevertheless,
his heart was sore within him, for he knew that the coming of these
servants of Uncle Sam must prevent him from taking away in his sharpie a
whole winter's supply, and more, of fine old Porto Rico molasses--a
treasure trove indeed. For the dwellers on the banks have little butter,
and molasses, when it is to be had, serves in a measure as a substitute,
at every meal.

There was only a short struggle, for the beach-combers offered no
resistance, except at being separated from the precious barrel. The
capture was chiefly an affair for merriment to the men of the coast
guard, and, when they finally loosened their hold of Sandy and the lad,
his son, they were laughing boisterously at the despair on the
countenance of the father and the youngster's look of chagrin.

Then, before a word was spoken and while the men were still roaring with
mirth, Captain Ichabod stepped forth from the shelter of the haw tree.
He seemed to stand a little more erect than was his wont. There was a
twinkle of delight in those kindly eyes, a little dimmed by age. He bore
himself with an air of impressive manliness, despite the burden of his
years. He passed around the group until he stood directly in front of
the beach-comber with the gray hair. For a moment he did not speak, but
stood motionless, gazing steadily at the fellow before him. But,
presently, he raised his hand in a gesture commanding silence. The
laughter of the coast guard ceased on the instant, and the fisherman
spoke:

"Men," he said in a steady voice, evidently weighing each word, "as I
clim over the top o' yonder dune an' come down the slope to the shore I
saw that sharpie with her nose snug-up to the shore. As I came on
further I saw an' read aloud her name--_Roxana Lee_. Right then was the
fust time that name had passed my lips in twenty year. It hurt me to
speak it, fer 'twas that o' the only woman I have ever loved--or ever
lost until just lately. The words was on my lips afore I knowed it. That
woman did not die, pass away like an honest woman, but she ran off with
a low-down beach-comber, whose thieving face I hain't looked upon--like
the name on the stern rail o' yonder boat--fer twenty year, until
to-day. Neither have I spoke his name. Seein' as how so many things has
been a-happenin' here lately that is a-changin' things with me, I will
say to you men--that varmint, that low-down robber o' the dead an' o'
the livin' whose clawlike hands you have unhooked from the chymes o' the
barrel containin' the stolen 'lasses that he hoped to get home fer
Roxana Lee to wallop her dodgers in, is no less or no other than Sandy
Mason, the thief who stole my gal twenty year ago, an' if I hain't plumb
wrong on family favorin', that striplin' is their son."

To all outward appearance, old Ichabod was perfectly calm. The men from
the station regarded the speaker with faces grown suddenly stern as they
realized the nature of the wrong done him. Neither Sandy Mason nor his
son ventured to utter a syllable, as the fisherman continued:

"Sandy, you may think as how tain't none o' my affair, an' that I'd look
a heap better to keep my lip out o' it. Maybe as how that's a fact, but
God knows when I'll ever get another chance to rub it in hard on the
likes o' you. I've heard, year after year, that you was still at the old
tricks--too lazy to work, with your eye always turned to the sea hoping
that some poor devil would misread his reckonin' an' put his ship where
you can ransack its vitals fer an easy livin' fer you and yours. I'll
lay my all agin a two pence that that wife o' your'n has wished many's
the time that she had married an honest man an' not a thief. Judging
from what I knew o' her years ago, I'll allow that it mighty nigh breaks
her heart to see the man that infatuated her as a gal a-takin' her child
an' a-bringin' him up in the ways o' a thief. Shame on ye, Sandy Mason!
I'm goin' to ask the boys to turn ye loose, an' I hope to God that this
will be a lesson that ye'll not soon forget, an' that ye'll straighten
up an' be a man afore it's too late. If so be you an' the woman are past
redemption, quit your thievin' an' beach-combin' for the sake o' the
boy."

Ichabod then turned to the lad, and addressed him in a kindly voice.

"Young man, I'm sorry to have had to hurt your feelin's with the truth,
an' I hope ye'll forgive me. Take this experience of to-day as a
warnin'. Don't be a beach-comber. For when you are, to my mind, you are
what folks call a grave-robber--a ghoul. Now go home to your mammy, who
used to have some good thoughts. Unless they're all gone through livin'
with that no-'count daddy o' your'n, she'll tell you that Captain
Ichabod is right fer once. Yes, I say, quit it all! Be a man, an' show
folks, that, after all, it _is_ possible to make a silk purse out o' a
sow's ear."

After this parting thrust, Ichabod turned on his heel without another
word, and walked swiftly away down the shore. The men from the station
added a few phrases of very trenchant advice to Sandy and his son. They
waited until the beach-combers had entered the sharpie and set sail due
north toward the hamlet of Portsmouth.

When the coast guard came up again with Captain Ichabod, they found him
seated on the sand hard by the noisy breakers. Three Dominick hens
clucked about him. The old fisherman was throwing them kernels of corn,
which he took from his pocket. The men gazed somewhat somberly at the
fowls. It was plain that these were the only creatures that had escaped
alive from the three-master whose bones littered the beach.

Ichabod looked up at his friends with a wry smile, that was touched with
grimness.

"Boys," he remarked whimsically, "it seems to me as if Icky had had
about enough reminders fer one day without these pesky Dominick pullets
a-buttin' in."



CHAPTER XI

THE AWAKENING OF ICHABOD


The door to the fisherman's shack stood ajar, and in the opening showed
the form of a man. As the light from the newly risen moon fell full upon
the wrinkled features of the face, a pleased, contented smile was to be
seen as he placidly puffed his corncob pipe and blew rings before him in
the quiet, heavy, midnight air. It was Captain Ichabod, home again after
the momentous happenings of the day when the dead body was found in the
wreck of _The Isabel_.

The Captain had been more or less methodical in his ways all his life,
but he had never carried routine so far as to keep a diary. Probably
during the past twenty years, living the life he had upon his lonely
island, there had not been enough of incident to have suggested even the
idea of such a record. But on this particular night, the fisherman,
closeted within his shack, had been toiling through three long hours in
order to set down a detailed narrative of the strange happenings in
which he had been concerned since the coming of the great storm. He had
ransacked his belongings until he found pencil and paper. Then, with his
characteristically painstaking and deliberate manner, he had indited an
itemized account of the various events. Now he had completed his work,
and rested well content with his accomplishment. As he lounged in the
doorway, he was taking a glimpse over the beautiful expanse of water,
the while he smoked a final pipe before turning in. He felt that after
the arduous endeavors of the day he was entitled to a sound and
refreshing sleep. His usual calm had returned to him.

At daylight that very morning when he awakened in the life-saving
station at old Fort Macon, he had felt that he could never again occupy
his old cabin home. Yet, here he was at night, resting well satisfied,
without any qualm whatsoever. The exciting happening of the day--perhaps
especially the opportunity to tell his old rival just what he thought of
the fellow--had proved a balm to his over-strained nerves. He had come
back home with a firm resolve to continue on there in tranquillity, and
to enjoy to the full the days that were before him. It is true that he
missed Shrimp. But, after mature meditation on the matter of the fowl's
going away, the fisherman had about come to the conclusion that in all
probability he had gone of his own free will and accord. It occurred to
the Captain as possible that the bird might have been peeved by his
master's sailing away without him as he hurried to Beaufort Town in
quest of Doctor Hudson. Ichabod believed that Shrimp had seen his
opportunity to cross to the mainland with the strangers and had seized
on it in the hope of being able at last to fight it out with his rooster
rival, whose challenging salute had been tantalizing him for many a day.
Ichabod chuckled as he expressed the wish that Shrimp's encounter with
this rival might give him as much satisfaction as had his own with the
beach-comber.

Now, under the flow of his meditations, the old man grew loquacious. He
went into the shack, shut the door and lighted the lamp. Then he
sprawled at ease in his favorite chair, and since there was no other
auditor at hand, talked to himself.

"Wall! I reckon I have larned a heap this day. The most important fact
is that Icky Jones has been a fool for over twenty year. Jest because a
no-'count woman took a notion in her haid that she had rather marry a
beach-combin' thief than an honest fisherman I have made myself hate all
o' the rest o' the gender, or least-wise to keep away fr'm 'em, an' lead
a miserable lonely life. Why! do ye know, I believe that when I spunked
up an' told old Sandy Mason what I thought o' him an' his callin', an'
rubbed it in some on the poor kid, that it did me more good than a dost
o' medicine. It sure put sand in my craw an' made me feel like fightin'
every mean thing livin'. If I hadn't been a narrow-fool, an' awful sot
in my way, instead o' takin' the loss of Roxana Lee to heart, I'd 'a'
braced up an' gone right ahead an' looked fer one o' the right sort.
I've learned jest a short time back that I'd gone off on the wrong
track. When I revived that fine-lookin' foreign woman an' she opened
those eyes--such beautiful brown eyes!--an' looked at me so
appealin'-like an' called me Doctor, I jest couldn't he'p but wish that
she'd talk to me a leetle more, but fate was agin me, an' she was mum as
an adder."

Captain Ichabod fell silent as he undressed for the night, extinguished
the light and stretched himself luxuriously on his bed. As he snuggled
down into the blankets with a capacious yawn, he drowsily spoke aloud
yet once again.

"Wall, hanged if I 'lowed this mornin' when I woke up at the station,
that to-night I'd be a-layin' here so peaceable-like an' jest a-pinin'
fer sleep. This shack an' this bunk has had a woman in 'em, but I don't
reckin it has hurt 'em none after all. I can sleep, you bet. Uncle Icky
may dream a leetle might, but it won't be about Roxana Lee."

It was not until the sun was more than an hour high that the old
fisherman opened his eyes again to the realization that another day had
come. When he felt the warm rays of the summer sun upon his cheek he
knew that he had slept beyond his usual time of waking, which stirred
him to a fleeting anger against himself. He got up quickly, and while he
dressed, admonished himself harshly.

"Betwixt the rust o' time an' a thievin' yachtsman, ye're plumb out o'
time, Ichabod. If ye aim to be a successful fisherman in the future as
in the past, you must either find ye another rooster, or buy a clock,
an' I reckin that a clock, what will run, but can't run away, is the
thing fer you."

Breakfast over, Ichabod busied himself in getting his nets and other
fishing paraphernalia straightened out, for in his hurry to put them out
of harm's way as the big blow came on, he had got them pretty badly
tangled. It was mid-forenoon before he considered that things about the
shack and door yard were about as they should be at the place of a
first-class fisherman. Occasionally as he worked, he would glance toward
the oyster rocks, where lay the remains of _The Isabel_, and he would
wonder once again what could have been the occasion of the curious crime
that had resulted in the death of the man chained to the engine. But all
his musings brought only increased perplexity, until his wits were
totally befuddled. He dare be sure only that the yachtsman he had
rescued was either a villain or a maniac.

It was a custom in the Sound Country for the natives at frequent
intervals to favor their preacher, their doctor and the editor of the
gossipy local newspaper with a gift of something attractive, either
grown in their vegetable gardens, or taken from the waters round about.
In this respect, Ichabod was not different from his neighbors of the
other islands and the mainland. Many a time and oft, after he had made a
particularly good catch of the delicious stone crabs or scallops, he had
set sail to carry an offering of the delicacies to friends in the town.
To-day, after he had finally established order in his house and among
his accoutrements, he shouldered his clam fork, and, carrying a large
bucket to hold the catch, strode out on the point. The tide was
extremely low, and Ichabod was aware that now was the time to reach the
place where round clams grew in great abundance. The old man was an
expert at locating these shell-fish. The keyhole sign made by them in
the sand was so familiar to him that he could walk along at a smart
pace, while peering alertly here and there in search of it. When his
eyes caught the mark, he would strike quickly with his fork into the
yielding sand, and so bring to the surface one of the luscious bivalves.
On this occasion, Ichabod filled his bucket well within the hour, and
then, content, returned to the shack for a midday meal.

When he was done eating, the fisherman washed the clams carefully and
wrapped them in a neat bundle. He then took them on board the skiff, and
made sail for Beaufort Town, to pay his promised visit to Doctor Hudson,
and to present him with the morning's catch, which was of particularly
good quality. In addition, he was prompted to the trip by anxiety to
learn if anything had been heard in the town as to the identity of the
yacht _Isabel_, or of those who voyaged in her.

On this occasion, the customary group of loungers was not present on the
shore to welcome the little red skiff and her skipper. The quay was
practically deserted. The fishing fleet had put to sea again in order to
take advantage of as many days as possible with favorable weather for
their labor. Ichabod made his boat fast, and then with his bundle of
clams took his way at once to the physician's house. Doctor Hudson
himself met the fisherman at the threshold with a warm handshake.

"Why, Ichabod!" he exclaimed, with a cheery smile. "Now, what in the
world has come over you? In all my life I don't think I ever saw such a
change for the better in a man's appearance within the few hours since I
saw you last. I guess that wrecks and strange women and the finding of
dead men in the sea agree with you."

Ichabod grinned assent.

"Yes, Doctor, I 'low that I'm improved a sight," he replied
enthusiastically. "I come down to bring ye a few clams, an' to tell ye
that since I saw ye I found a housekeepin' job fer life. An' so, while
I'm obleeged to ye fer a-keepin' your weather eye open fer me, why, ye
needn't no more, fer I've beat ye to it."

Doctor Hudson looked a little disconcerted.

"Why, Ichabod, are you really goin' to leave the Island?"

The fisherman shook his head solemnly.

"No, sir, I ain't a-goin' to leave the Island except on business, an' to
call on my friends. I've took the job right thar. I've done hired out to
the new Ichabod Jones, an' I cal'late I'll be the most satisfactory help
ole Icky ever had."

"What in the world do you mean?" the Doctor questioned, with much
perplexity. "I'd suppose you were clean crazy, if it weren't for a
mischievous twinkle in your eye. Come on now, and tell me what really
has happened. I am interested all right, for it must have been something
important to make this remarkable change in you, which I can't
understand."

Ichabod nodded sagely before he replied.

"Right you are, Doctor. But it took a heap more than a sudden scare like
what cured the feller with the hiccoughs. Yes, it took more'n that to
cure me. You know, Doc, I think now, as how I was diseased."

The physician perceived that nothing was to be gained by any attempt at
hurrying the old man.

"Come on into the house," he urged, "and make yourself comfortable while
you tell me the whole story."

As the two came into the reception-room, the Captain fumbled in his
inside coat pocket for a moment, and then carefully drew forth his
narrative of the events in which he had been concerned during the last
few days. He handed this to the physician as the two seated themselves
by the open window.

"Doctor," Ichabod declared with gravity, "I never did think as how I was
a partic'lar good story-teller, an' knowin' as how you an' one or two
other friends o' mine would have to know the story, I made up my mind
last night that I'd put it into writ fer you-all, so then thar couldn't
be no dispute as to the exact words of Ichabod. The story starts right
from the beginning o' the blow. A part of it, the first part, you
already know, so jest skip along until ye come to whar Sandy Mason shows
up."

Doctor Hudson perused the document with great interest. The unconscious
drollery of the old man's literary style gave piquancy to the account.
At times, the fisherman's bits of humor were amusing enough; again,
there was often pathos of a very genuine sort, in the paragraphs. But as
the physician neared the end of the roughly written record, the Captain
interrupted him.

"Say, Doc," he asked, "would ye mind a-readin' o' that last stanzy right
out loud? I think it has got stuff in it that'll make my blood warm up a
heap to hear it read."

The doctor nodded assent, for he at this moment reached the paragraph by
which the old man set such store.

"I, Ichabod Jones," the words ran, "age unknown, bein' as how the family
Bible was burnt up, announces to my friends, all an' sundry, that fer
the past twenty year I've been a coward an' a fool, but was not
a-knowin' of the same until to-day. I ain't been called to preach nor
nothin' like that. I has jest _woke up_! From this day on to the end o'
me in this world, I aim to git all o' the honest enjoyment I kin out o'
this life. An' I want my friends to know that the rule for twenty year
as made and provided has been busted. From this day forward women, ole
and young, will find a welcome on the shore an' in the shack at
Ichabod's Island."



CHAPTER XII

TOWARD THE UNKNOWN


When Captain Ichabod left the Island in haste to get medical help for
the unconscious Ethel Marion, Doctor Gifford Garnet stood before the
shack and watched the red skiff as it rose and fell on the billows until
it was well on its way to Beaufort. Then, with a smile of satisfaction,
he turned and entered the abode where the girl was lying with no sign of
life save the gentle rhythm of the bosom as it rose and fell with her
breathing. Now, once again, he knelt by the bedside. For a little, he
stroked the forehead with deft fingers, then touched her wrist and
counted the pulse. It was evident that he found the condition of his
patient satisfactory, for a pleased expression came in place of the
anxiety that had hitherto marked his features.

Leaving the bedside, Doctor Garnet went to the kitchen stove, where he
opened the oven door and took out the batteries he had removed from the
little cedar tender. The intense heat of the oven had thoroughly dried
these, so that they were again in working condition, together with the
spark coil. The Doctor carried the attachments from the shack to the
launch, in which he installed them. This accomplished, he succeeded,
after a great deal of straining effort, in getting launched the small
craft, which had been left high up on the sand. By means of an oar, he
paddled the boat around to the Captain's miniature wharf. He made it
fast here and then busied himself in tuning up the engine. When at last
it was running smoothly, he threw in the clutch, and steered the launch
toward the wreck of _The Isabel_. As he neared the oyster rocks, he
slowed down the engine, and ran directly over the sunken part of the
vessel. There, he peered intently over the side into the depths of the
water. Of a sudden, he drew back as if in fright, and his face became
ghastly pale. He threw in the clutch and steered at full speed back for
the landing. One glimpse of the dead eyes glaring up at him had
sufficed. Though he was a physician, inured to dreadful sights, he
quailed before this hideous spectacle.

At the landing, he hurriedly made the boat fast, and then ran swiftly to
the shack. He disappeared for a moment inside, and then came forth
bearing his medicine case and blankets. He stowed the case in the launch
and spread out the blankets in the bow. This done, he returned to the
shack. When he issued from it again, he staggered under a burden almost
too great for his strength--the unconscious form of Ethel Marion. He
bore her with what haste he could to the landing and gently placed her
within the blankets.

At this moment, Doctor Garnet looked in all reality the part of a wild
man. He was coatless and hatless. The strong breeze made new tangles in
his already disheveled hair. Then, through long seconds, he stood
staring bleakly at the distorted and broken yacht. Abruptly there came
from his lips a weird wail of distress. That cry meant that everything
good in life was over for him. His face set in sullen lines, as he
loosed the painter and seated himself aft by the engine. He opened the
throttle, and, heading to the northward, soon left the sands of
Ichabod's Island and those staring eyes of the dead man far behind.

So absorbed had the Doctor been in his purpose of flight that he failed
even to see the action of Shrimp. Just as the launch began to move away
from the wharf, the rooster leaped lightly to the forward deck. It never
occurred to him that he might be unwelcome. He entered the boat as he
would have the skiff for a voyage with Ichabod. He was a sociable bird,
and fond of a cruise. When the opportunity offered he seized on it with
pleased promptness. By the time that Doctor Gifford Garnet chanced to
observe Shrimp's presence, the launch was at such a distance from the
Island that it would have been folly for him to turn back for the sake
of restoring the creature to its place.

The launch tossed and pitched dangerously when it came into the broad
reaches of Core Sound. It seemed indeed at times that it must inevitably
be swamped. But the Doctor had skill and daring, and now, in the face of
this new danger, he was cool and resourceful. Here there were no rocks
to increase the danger as there had been at Ichabod's Island, and
eventually he guided the launch to safety under the lea of the wooded
shore of the mainland.

The first intention of Garnet was to make a landing in order to await
the coming of night, when, as he knew from past experiences, the wind
would almost certainly fall, after which the voyage could be resumed
without danger and in comparative comfort. The Doctor found, however,
that his plan was impossible of execution. To his discomfiture, he
perceived that the heavily wooded shore was nothing other than a vast
swamp, without anywhere a dry spot on which to step foot. Upon making
this discovery, he allowed the boat to drift a short distance away from
the land, and then dropped overboard the tiny anchor.

After the launch was made secure, the Doctor took from his pocket the
hypodermic syringe. The vial accompanying it, however, was empty. Garnet
searched feverishly through his medicine case, at first in despair, for
he feared that he had no more of the drug. But at last he uttered an
ejaculation of triumph as he drew forth a small bottle of the narcotic.
He removed the cork and dropped the pellets into the palm of his hand.
He counted them rapidly, before replacing all but one in the bottle. The
quantity of the drug was so small as to fill him with the worst
apprehensions. A man held as was Garnet in the clutch of an evil habit
would be placed in a horrible position, were he to run out of his
morphia supply, while thus storm-bound along the desolate shores of Core
Sound. He shuddered at the dreadful thought of such catastrophe. Then he
tried to forget the haunting fear, the while he made his preparations
for loading the syringe. Though his fastidiousness was revolted, he had
no choice but to use the brackish water from over the side to dissolve
the pellet for the shot. When, finally, the task was completed and the
syringe duly charged, he did not again bare the girl's arm for an
injection. Now that his stock was running low, perhaps his selfishness
forbade any bestowal of the drug on another; or, perhaps, his trained
eye told him that the further stupefying of her would react dangerously.
So, the liquid in its entirety was forced into his own arm through the
needle's puncture. It was only a matter of a few minutes before the
efficacy of the drug was made manifest. The nervousness that had marked
the physician's manner fell away from him. His countenance wore a serene
aspect. Presently he settled himself comfortably on an upholstered seat
and then without more ado fell sound asleep.

Garnet did not awaken until the shades of night were fast settling over
the waters. In all probability, he would have slumbered on much longer,
had it not been for his acutely sensitive hearing, which caught the
sound of a tiny voice. It was hardly more than a whisper that issued
from out the blankets in the bow. It was the voice of Ethel Marion
calling him. This was the first time she had spoken since the moment of
semi-consciousness upon the Island when she had been revived by the
ministrations of Captain Ichabod. Now she spoke once, and again, the
single word:

"Doctor!"

Garnet sprang up and hurried to her side.

"Yes, Miss Marion," he exclaimed soothingly as he came to her.

As he knelt by her side, she bade him welcome with a smile in which
pleasure and confidence were blended. Indeed, the girl felt that she was
quite safe from any possibility of harm while in the company of the
trusted family physician. But she realized that she was very weak, and,
too, her mind was by no means clear. She was unaware that she was in
fact hundreds of miles distant from home and friends. She rested in a
reclining position so that the gunwales of the launch were high enough
to shut off a vision of the shore. Otherwise, the luxuriant swamp growth
must have shown her that she was far south of New York Harbor. Ethel was
familiar with the Sound Country from having traversed it in voyaging to
and from Florida points. Could she now have seen, she would have
recognized the giant gum trees and cypress, garnished with festoons of
Spanish moss that swayed gently under the impact of the lessening
breeze.

"Oh, Doctor!" she queried. "Have I been ill? I feel so strange in my
head, and I am so weak, and, oh, so hungry!"

"Yes, Miss Marion," replied Garnet in his most suave manner, "you have
been ill, but are now very much improved. If you will just lie quiet and
try to sleep a little more, I will soon have you where you can have
plenty of good things to eat, and your strength will return as rapidly
as it left you. I'm not going to tell you more at this time. I shall
wait until you've had some nourishment and are strong enough to listen
to a long story."

Ethel forbore further questioning. She simply smiled again and resumed
her sleep. Garnet drew out the hypodermic syringe, then hesitated. He
remembered how limited was his stock of morphia. After a moment more of
doubt, he shook his head decidedly and restored the syringe to his
pocket. It was only too apparent to him that he must husband his supply
with miserly care if he would not suffer the tortures of the damned.

Garnet slipped quietly back to his place by the engine. The sky was now
quite clear again, and as the darkness deepened the wind continued to
fall, until there was almost perfect calm. It was safe enough now for
the little boat to proceed on her way. The Doctor raised the anchor and
started the engine. He steered out from the shore resolutely, without
any sign of wavering, heading toward the northward. But for what port he
sailed was the secret of his own drug-crazed brain alone. Was it his
intention to hide away for a time in some sparsely settled section of
the Sound country, where he could depend upon getting supplies from the
kind-hearted, simple-living coast dwellers? Or did he mean to go back
over the way he had come in this frail craft? To do this, could have but
one ending--the final disaster.

The heavy darkness of the early night hours was soon dispelled. Far to
the eastward, the golden moon at the full came creeping up from behind a
huge sand dune upon Core Banks. Its gentle luminousness fell over the
expanse of water and showed the launch clearly as it voyaged toward the
unknown.... And that same radiance shone upon a lover seeking wildly for
the girl of his heart--and seeking in vain.



CHAPTER XIII

AMONG THE FISHERFOLK


This night was not different from other nights along the western shores
and estuaries of the Sound Country. For that matter, the people of the
Hunting Quarter and Cedar Island section are not very greatly changed in
their manners and customs from those of their forebears of many
generations ago. Grouped in small settlements of just a few houses each,
they live there to-day after the fashion of those same forebears in
almost every detail. The houses are the same or at least they are
carefully patterned after those built by the first settlers so many
generations ago.

There is no doubt concerning the ancestry of these folk. A little
conversation with the natives is enough to make one realize that he is
listening here to a speech redolent of the days of Chaucer, a speech
richly flavored with the colloquialisms of the Elizabethan era. Some of
the familiar folk-lore tales might well have emanated from the poet
himself, both for their language and their spirit.

And these descendants of an early English stock have preserved not only
the ancient speech, but they have maintained the generous courtesy of a
former time, when Sir Walter Raleigh spread his mantle in the mire in
order that his queen might pass dry shod. And real courtesy includes
always an unhesitating and ungrudging hospitality. The dwellers in this
isolated region are surpassed by none in their warm welcome of any
wayfarer who may come to them.

They have no highway or railroad connection with the outside world. The
only means is voyaging by small boats, a method necessarily slow at the
best, and often quite impossible. It is claimed that good roads and the
railways are essential factors in the education of any community, and
the claim is, doubtless, just. But it would be well, perhaps, if some of
those who boast of their education were to be cast among these
illiterates, there to gain a new appreciation of their own language,
shorn of its modern barbarities and the atrocities of slang. It is a
curious fact that many of these persons who can neither read nor write,
nevertheless, possess a vocabulary beyond that of many a grammar-school
graduate. Schools have been few and far between in this lonely place.
Yet the very isolation has tended to preserve the purity of the local
speech.

To-night the inhabitants of the settlement are resting upon their tiny
porches, for the air is over-warm and only the slightest bit of breeze
is stirring. What little there is of it comes from the forest hard by,
and brings with it a plague of numberless mosquitoes. Because of them a
huge smudge is kept going close beside every house. But for this defense
the insects' victims would be forced to take refuge within doors, with
every window and door fast shut. But, after all, they are accustomed to
this affliction whenever the wind blows off the land. They seem to
suffer little, if at all, from the volume of smoke that would strangle
the unaccustomed. It would seem indeed that they would require no masks
against the poisonous gases loosed against them by a warrior foe. The
most patient sufferers from the pests are those young ladies who are
entertaining their lovers. Those of their age go barefooted late this
season. The smoke does not lie close to the floor. So they are kept busy
slapping at ankles and toes while they listen as best they can to the
words of love uttered by their suitors.

But to-night most of the men are fishing. The season for the gray trout
or weak fish has arrived. Of late years a new method for successfully
catching them has crept in from the Beaufort section, whither it was
brought by some unknown foreigner. After its first coming, it was
quickly taken up by all the dwellers along the Sound. The method of it
is to suspend a fire of lightwood knots, which is built within a hollow,
gratelike iron frame over the water. The fire throws a strong light into
the depths, which attracts the fish in swarms. As they come close to the
surface, toward the fire of pine knots, the fisherman deftly slips
beneath them a net shaped like those used for crabbing. By a quick
upward movement, the wriggling fish are drawn safely to skiff or shore
as the case may be.

Such a method of fishing will not appeal to a disciple of Izaak Walton,
but one must remember that these primitive folk are not fishing for the
sport that is to be found in the pursuit. It is their way of earning a
livelihood. It is a matter of necessity, not of choice, with them.

Doctor Garnet realized that it would not be well for Ethel to remain
exposed to the chill dampness of the night. He was also aware that she
had taken no nourishment throughout the day, and was, therefore, in a
peculiarly susceptible condition. So he steered the launch close in to
shore, seeking eagerly for the lights of some friendly hamlet. But
to-night there was a landward breeze, so that all lights were
extinguished to avoid attracting the mosquitoes. There were only the
smudges burning, and these rarely showed any blaze underneath the
drifting clouds of smoke. It was the custom to stifle at once any flare
of the fire, in order to maintain the smoke at the densest.

It was the fishermen's lights between Hunting Quarter and Cedar Island
that gave the Doctor his first glimpse of life anywhere in the vicinity.
Many boats had passed him going up and down the water way, but this
strange man had studiously avoided hailing them, or being hailed by
them. He was not willing to run the risk of being reported by any craft
so encountered.

Then, presently, he observed twenty-five or thirty of the lights burning
upon the water within a radius of a half mile. Some of them appeared to
be directly on the water's edge, while others were scattered over the
surface of the Sound. He wondered greatly at the weird sight, but his
drug-crazed nerves left him no courage to investigate the phenomenon.
But, of a sudden, the blanket-wrapped form in the bow stirred. There
came the gentle noise of a healthy yawn, and then the girl's voice
called:

"Doctor Garnet! Won't you please take me home--wherever that is--or some
place where there is food? I'm just as hungry I can be!"

"Yes, Miss Marion," the physician answered glibly. "We'll soon be where
there is both food and shelter. I'm so glad to find you improved! My
patient will soon be herself again."

"Yes," the girl agreed, "I am improved, Doctor. I feel quite myself
again, and I'm wondering where I am and what has happened. I must have
been unconscious for some time," she added thoughtfully, "for the ankle
I sprained while boarding _The Isabel_ is almost well. Do you know,
there is very little I remember after that? I recall the awakening in
the morning and the finding that the yacht was at sea and then your
coming to my assistance when I discovered that I was locked in my room.
Please, Doctor, won't you explain this whole affair to me? Were we
kidnapped by river thieves, and did you succeed in escaping with me?
Somehow, I have an impression that we're a long way from New York
Harbor." Even in the faint light from the moon, Ethel could see that the
physician was perturbed by her questioning. The fact startled her,
aroused a vague suspicion. She spoke now with an authoritative quality
in her voice.

"Doctor, what is the meaning of this reticence? Why do you show such
emotion? Has something dreadful happened? Surely, an explanation is my
due."

Garnet perceived that he had at last a sane, sensible woman with whom to
deal. He knew that it would be necessary for him to treat her as such,
to give her a satisfactory and rational explanation. But he had the
cunning of that partial madness induced by the drug. He meant to have
that cunning stimulated to even a greater degree. For even while the
girl was speaking, he contrived to arrange another charge for the
hypodermic. To avoid attracting her attention, he did not even roll up
his sleeve to insert the point into his flesh. Instead, he inserted it
through coat and shirt. In an emergency such as this, he had no need for
the aseptic niceties characteristic of his profession. He had no thought
of bacteria from the cloth to infect the wound. His sole concern was to
feel within him the increased thrill of the morphia. His nerves must be
at their best to combat the inquisitiveness of this intelligent young
woman, now in the possession of her normal mind. He understood perfectly
that his narrative of events must contain such a skillful mingling of
truth and falsehood as to leave her without any doubt whatsoever
concerning his own integrity. Otherwise, there must come disgrace for
himself, the ruin of his career. He spoke then suavely, genially even.

"Right you are, Miss Ethel. You were kidnapped--taken miles and miles
from your home. I trust you are strong enough now to hear the
story--properly censored--that I have to tell you. I think, though, it
will be sufficient, for the time being, to inform you that you are now
absolutely safe. I regret to advise you that _The Isabel_ is no more.
She was driven on the rocks, and is a total wreck. Yet, perhaps, it is
better so. Your kidnapper was trying to run out into the open sea when
the tempest was such that no yacht of such tonnage could have endured
the fury of the waves. So the wreck probably saved your life, for you
were rescued unharmed with the exception of a mild concussion of the
brain, which left you unconscious for some time. And you may be glad
now, since you have aroused from the stupor, that you have no memory of
the many harrowing scenes connected with this affair. I also was
rescued, and am doing my utmost to return you to your friends safe and
sound. To-night, we're going northward on the waters of Core Sound, off
the North Carolina mainland. The great sand dunes of Core Banks, which
you have admired so many times in passing through these waters while
cruising with your father, are just visible off the starboard bow in the
moonlight. Off the port bow are many tiny lights, which I confess are a
mystery to me. I have a suspicion, however, that they are shown by
fishermen craft. I think it best to head for them in the hope that we
may obtain shelter and food. And now, my dear patient," the Doctor
concluded briskly, "please let this statement be sufficient for the time
being. Then, by-and-by, I will tell you in full the most wonderful story
of adventure that any little New York girl has ever experienced."

"Thank you, so much!" Ethel responded gratefully. "Now that I've had
this much of the story from you, I'll promise to be as patient as
possible. Just the same, I'm awfully anxious to hear it all in its
completeness. I love adventure, and I am afraid I can't exactly be sorry
that I've lived through one myself. I'm more sorry for poor father down
there on that desolate border, for I know how he is looking forward to
another cruise in the poor _Isabel_. I must wire him promptly, so that
he'll be able to have the yacht duplicated without delay."

The physician was immensely elated that his narrative was so well
received by the girl. With a new feeling of safety and contentment he
headed the launch toward the light that seemed nearest the shore. It was
not long until they reached the roughly constructed pier. Upon the
extreme end of it sat a solitary man fishing with fire and net.

As they approached the shore, Garnet was able to make out the shadowy
outlines that bulked in the distance as a half-dozen small houses.
Beside each a smudge sent forth clouds of heavy smoke. He was heartened
by the scene, for he knew well the hospitality of the southern home, and
he was confident that within the walls of one of these humble cottages
would be found food and rest for himself and the girl in his charge. Yet
even in this moment, the physician wondered if indeed there would ever
be real rest for him while he should remember the staring, accusing eyes
that looked up at him from the water's depth.

Garnet brought the tender alongside the wharf in shore, at a sufficient
distance from the man to avoid disturbing the fishing. Then he climbed
out upon the frail, wooden structure built upon poles driven into the
bottom, and made his way over its swaying surface to the native by the
fire. This proved to be "Squire" Goodwin, the big man of the settlement.
He was of an appearance above the average, and handsome still in spite
of fifty-odd years of toil and exposure. He rose at Garnet's approach,
and, without waiting to be addressed, spoke with an air of genial
familiarity.

"I don't usually go a-firin' for trout this late o' night, but the truth
is that between the hell-fired skeeters and the gals havin' beaux there
wasn't much for me to enjoy at home. My name's Goodwin," he added by way
of introduction. "They call me Squire all around these parts. I'm the
justice o' the peace. So be you're after a warrant?"

The last word affected Garnet very unpleasantly, and he shook his head
with such grim emphasis that the Squire perceived he had been mistaken
as to the stranger's purpose.

"No?" he remarked. "Well, then, maybe it's fair for me to make another
guess." A twinkle shone now in his clear eyes. "Judging from the face
that the moon just lighted up there in the bow of your snapper, I don't
believe I'd be far wrong in judging ye two to be worldly folks that
think a squire's good as a parson. What mout you're name be, stranger?"

At this blunt demand, Garnet again showed traces of embarrassment, but
these endured only for an instant. He realized that in this place so
remote from the ordinary lanes of travel there could be little danger in
divulging his identity. So he spoke with brisk confidence.

"My name, sir, is Gifford Garnet, I am a physician. The young lady lying
in the launch yonder is my patient. We were so unfortunate as to be
wrecked while on a yacht cruising in the waters to the south of here. We
are now on our way northward, bound for one of the larger towns, where
we shall be able to get transportation home. The young lady is suffering
from an injured ankle, and, too, she has been for some time unconscious
from a blow on the head received while we were escaping from the yacht.
It is only within the last hour that she has seemed to be again quite
normal. We were obliged to lay to in the lower section of the Sound for
several hours, waiting for the weather to moderate. Otherwise we would
not have been obliged to put in here and beg you for food and lodging.
If you can take care of us over night I shall be only too glad to pay
you for your hospitality."

"Pay me for my hospitality!" the Squire exclaimed indignantly. "That's
something in my locality that's never been for sale, and can't be
bought. You-all must be from the North. I've heard folks from the
outside say that folks up there pay for everything, even for a place to
hang their hats in public houses. Folks that pay for everything they get
lose all love for each other." His tone changed abruptly, and he spoke
authoritatively. "Get that young woman out o' the boat and after I make
another dip, I'll take ye up and show ye one shack where hospitality
ain't for sale. And when you go please remember that you don't leave
under any obligation to Squire Goodwin. I will say though, if ye ever
catch me in you-all's fix, and ye he'p me out, then I won't offer to pay
you for your hospitality. I just don't believe in it!"

The Squire skipped back to his firelight, and the Doctor watched him
toss four flopping, wriggling beauties upon the wharf. As the fish fell
from the net, the Squire shouted triumphantly:

"Say, Doctor, there's a mornin' meal you-all can't pay for!"

The task of getting Ethel Marion from the boat to the shore was not as
difficult as Garnet had anticipated. She was buoyed up wonderfully by
the thought that comfortable quarters awaited her and good clean food to
satisfy an appetite that was fast becoming ravenous. Had it not been for
the injured ankle, she could have walked as rapidly as either of the men
from the landing stage to the house. But when she rested her full weight
on it, she found that it was still painful, so that it was necessary for
the Doctor to support her on one side while the Squire gallantly gave
his aid on the other.

As they reached the porch, there was a stealthy sound of scurrying and
the pattering of bare feet, as the young-men callers slipped away in the
darkness to their homes. Then the two young women hastened forward to
greet the strangers in true Core Sound style. "Ma" was in bed, they
explained, but they themselves, with easy, unaffected kindness proceeded
to make the invalid at home. Then one of them hurried into the cook-room
to prepare a quick meal.

Ethel Marion, a girl of high society in New York City, and reared in
luxury, had hitherto known little of humble homes such as this in which
now she was being cared for so generously. As she glanced about her, she
saw that the walls were not covered with a paper especially prepared for
the purpose, in the manner to which she had been accustomed. Instead,
they carried sheets of ordinary newspapers, most of them of a religious
character. It was a quaint and indisputable witness to the fact that
here she was in the home of a God-loving, Christian family. All of the
furnishings were simple; most of them of great age. Among them were
antiques to warm a collector's heart. It was plain that these had been
handed down through many generations. Those of later origin were
carefully wrought duplicates of the choicest models. In her astonishment
amid surroundings so strange and yet so pleasant, with the savor of
cooking food in her nostrils, Ethel for the moment almost forgot the
mystery and the peril through which she had passed--almost forgot, for a
fleeting instant, the lover she had summoned to her aid by a message
cast into the sea.



CHAPTER XIV

GARNET THE HERO


The dwellers of the Sound Country are early risers. For this reason,
Ethel Marion was up and dressed next morning earlier than ever before in
her life. The dawn was just breaking when breakfast was announced. One
of the buxom girls came to offer her services in dressing the invalid
stranger. Then she was assisted to the porch for a breath of the early
morning air, and she exclaimed in delight over the splendid view there
unfolded. Far off to the eastward the sun was just climbing up from
behind a sand dune on the Banks. For miles up and down the coast the
broken sand hills ran in a line north and south, trending the horizon.
These showed free from any vegetation except the scrub growth at their
base and the sand of them shone under the rays of the rising sun like
molten silver. In the foreground were the blue waters of the Sound now
dimpling under the caressing touches of a gentle breeze. Here and there
showed high lights from the whitecaps that stood out as souvenirs still
of the storm that had passed. Off to the right of the small bay upon
which the house was built, a tangled mass of evergreen shrubs offered a
vivid note in the color scheme. These were the undergrowth of the huge
forest trees, of which the limbs were almost hidden by the clinging
wreaths of mistletoe.

The esthetic sense of Ethel was touched to the deeps by this vista of
beauty round-about. No wonder that the dwellers in this blessed region
lived contented in youth, maturity, and old age. She wondered, rather,
that anyone could be cross or ill tempered or evil in any way within the
environment of a nature so benign.

She was reluctant when Miss Goodwin gently led her away from the
panorama of beauty toward the more sordid pleasure of the breakfast
table. As she went, Ethel offered a silent and most devout prayer of
gratitude for her preservation and for the kindness she had received
from Doctor Garnet and these strangers, whom just now she was very near
to loving.

Had it not been for the wish to appease the anxiety of friends at home,
Ethel would have been content to remain long in this wonder spot, among
a people so simple, so different from those to whom she had been
accustomed, who were so little acquainted with the manners and the
fashions of a so-called higher society. But, breakfast over, she was the
first to suggest that it were best to leave this remote settlement, with
all its charms of scenery and the compelling attractiveness of its
homely goodness. The nerve-racked Garnet also was anxious to depart. He
had rested comparatively well after the excitement and strain of the
previous day, and now to an eye not too critical he would have seemed
quite normal. Yet, a certain wildness in the expression of his eyes had
not wholly disappeared. Now that Ethel was herself again, she perceived
that there was something radically wrong with the man. Naturally enough,
she attributed this condition on his part to the worry over her welfare,
and she even experienced a feeling almost like remorse that she should
thus unwittingly have been the cause of suffering on his part.

The Goodwins urged them to remain for a longer rest, but they abandoned
their hospitable efforts when Ethel pointed out the necessity of at once
relieving the anxiety of her friends concerning her safety. They
provided, however, an ample amount of food to be carried by the
voyagers, which would suffice them until they reached a town on the
coast to the northward, and the entire family went down to the wharf to
wish them God-speed.

As the party approached the landing, the attention of all was called to
Shrimp, who hitherto had been neglected. He came walking proudly along
the beach toward them from the pier. When the physician explained that
the rooster was a pet, the Squire hurried back to the house and returned
quickly with a small package of corn. A moment later, the launch was
again in motion, while those on shore waved their adieux with
handkerchiefs, to which Ethel replied in kind.

Ethel was eager in her praise for every member of the family that had
shown them such kindness and hospitality.

"Oh, Doctor," she exclaimed, "just as soon as the new yacht is built,
the very first cruise shall be a visit to this beautiful spot. Father
must know these plain people who have been such life-savers to us. You,
too, Doctor Garnet, shall be one of the party. We'll see if we can't
devise some scheme by which to repay them for what they've done."

The physician made no reply. He seemed indeed to be wholly absorbed in
meditation. But he aroused with a start from his reverie at the girl's
next question.

"Doctor, you know a woman's inquisitiveness! Last night you bade me be
patient, and said that after a while you would tell me the whole story
of this unfortunate affair. Now, I simply must ask you just one
question. Will you answer it?"

"I'll try, Miss Marion," was the answer, given with an air as nonchalant
as he could assume.

"Where are the villains who took part in this affair? Did they go down
with _The Isabel_, or did they escape, and are they still at large?"

Garnet looked the girl straight in the eye as he replied in a tone of
the utmost sincerity.

"The arch-conspirator escaped. He is probably being hunted by the best
detectives in the country. He is sure to be captured eventually, dead or
alive."

"Thank you, Doctor," Ethel said gratefully. "And in proof of my thanks,
I won't trouble you any more on this subject, which seems to worry and
annoy you. Of course, I don't know what dreadful things you were obliged
to go through with in order to save yourself and me from harm. Really,
I'm not surprised that you don't wish to talk about it. But I do hope
they catch the guilty man and punish him as he deserves--hang him,
perhaps."

The physician winced at the innocent remark, and vouchsafed no reply.

The launch sped on and on. The wind increased in some degree during
mid-forenoon, as is usual in southern waters at this season of the year.
But the little craft was staunchly built, and by taking advantage of the
headlands she made fairly good progress.

Garnet was beginning to suffer again from lack of the drug. Ethel had
not as yet seen him use the hypodermic needle, nor did he care to have
her. But by rapid stages his desire reached such a point that he must
either have the relief of morphia or go mad. Then his cunning brain
suggested that it would be easy enough to deceive this guileless girl.
So he boldly told her that he was in a highly nervous state and
suffering as well from a splitting headache, and that, therefore, he
deemed it advisable to take a small injection of morphia, which would
undoubtedly relieve him.

Ethel had not the faintest idea that this learned man, of such eminence
in his profession, was, in fact, a drug fiend. She had no suspicion of
the truth even when she saw the point of the hypodermic syringe
penetrate the skin of his forearm. She merely admired the graceful, deft
movements of the long and slender fingers.

Nevertheless, the girl could hardly fail to note the change that came
almost immediately over the man. Now he became again his usual self,
with little, if any, trace of nervousness, with the manner that was
affable and sympathetic.

It was a half hour later when Ethel, ever alert, noticed a fisherman's
boat laboring clumsily down the Sound. In years agone, it had been
equipped with a sail, but now it chugged away industriously under the
energy of a wheezing gasoline engine. There were several persons
aboard--three men, two women and a baby in arms. During her first glance
at the ungainly-looking boat, the beat of the engine ceased, and it was
evident from the actions of the man who busied himself with the
machinery that the motor had balked. As the launch drew nearer, the girl
saw that those in the broken-down craft were in a state of
consternation, with their attention centered on the child. She cried out
in wonder to the Doctor.

"What in the world can be the matter in that boat? It must have
something to do with the baby."

Garnet answered without hesitation.

"Yes, Miss Ethel, I've been watching, and there is certainly something
seriously wrong. I'll go close enough to hail them."

The men in the fishing boat began to wave their hats as distress
signals, and the Doctor nodded and raised his hand as a signal that he
was coming.

When the launch came within hailing distance, one of the men shouted out
an explanation. The propeller had become entangled in a piece of
floating net, and so rendered useless. The party came from the
Tournequin Bay section, where an epidemic of diphtheria was raging. This
baby had not improved under the "granny" treatment of the neighborhood,
in which there were no doctors. In consequence, it was now being taken
to Beaufort to receive the antitoxin--that new remedy for which such
miracles were claimed. Even as the man was speaking, the baby was seized
with a fit of strangling that brought it almost to the point of death.

Came a transformation scene. Here was no longer Garnet, the crazed drug
fiend. In his stead was revealed the man and the physician--he who in
times of distress and suffering had always given his services to the
best of his ability. In this moment the old instinct rose dominant. He
called to them in a loud clear voice.

"I am a physician. If you will permit me I'll come aboard and try to
give temporary relief. Something must be done promptly, or the child
will die."

In order to save Ethel as far as possible from any danger of contagion,
Garnet brought the launch alongside the stern of the fishing boat, since
the baby was in the bow. As he stepped aboard the other craft he bade
one of the men let the launch drop back astern to full length of the
painter. While this was being done, the physician, medicine case in
hand, hurried to the child that lay struggling spasmodically in its
mother's arms. An instant of examination showed to Garnet's practiced
eyes that the throat was almost completely filled with the membrane
characteristic of the disease, and that it must be only a matter of
minutes before suffocation would ensue unless effective measures for
relief were taken. A glance to the shore two miles away told him
that the delay in reaching it would prove fatal to his patient's
chances. It was evident that if the baby's life were to be saved he
must act--and act now. Nor did he hesitate. With lightning-like
rapidity he took out his emergency kit of surgeons' tools. He bade the
most intelligent-appearing of the men hold the child according to his
precise directions. Then, with his coat off and shirt sleeves rolled up,
Doctor Garnet braced himself in the tossing boat and performed the
operation of tracheotomy, while the mother crouched weeping and praying
with her face hidden in her hands.

Presently, the sufferer grew quiet, for now it was able to breathe
again. Thanks to the great skill of this man, once again a life had been
saved.

The parents of the child were profuse in the expressions of heartfelt
gratitude. They would have given what little money they had to this
savior of their child. But Garnet, of course, would take no fee for his
services. He diverted the chorus of thanks by offering to take in tow
the disabled fishing boat and bring it to the shore, whence means could
be secured for their going on to Beaufort. He insisted that in spite of
what he had done, the baby should be taken to the town, in order to
receive treatment with the antitoxin.

Throughout all the scene, Ethel had watched the physician with eyes in
which shone pride and affection. It seemed to her that this man was one
who fought always to relieve distress according to the best measure of
his strength.

"He has succored me," she mused with a warm glow in her heart.

"He is taking me to my home--to Roy. He has stopped only long enough to
rescue another sufferer from the jaws of death--even as he rescued me.
He is a hero."



CHAPTER XV

ADRIFT WITH A MADMAN


The afflicted child showed marked signs of improvement by the time _The
Isabel's_ tender, with its tow, reached the small hamlet of Atlantic--a
cluster of fishermen's houses and two stores built on a bluff to the
westerly side of Core Sound. There the disabled boat was pulled out upon
the beach so that the stem was exposed and workmen could get at the
injured shaft. The work of repair was simple. Soon the craft was
restored to running condition, and its passengers went on their way,
their hearts filled with new hopes for the safety of the child.

Ethel remained at the wharf, since the steep climb up the bluff must
have proved too trying for her injured ankle. But the Doctor, acting
under the girl's instructions, made his way up the hillside to the
stores in order to purchase for her some necessary apparel to replace
that lost in the wreck. There was occasion also to buy additional
gasoline for the launch. With these things provided, the two again set
forth on their voyaging.

The physician, though he appeared genial enough, was in fact greatly
perturbed. He had tried in vain to secure morphia at either of the
stores in Atlantic. He took advantage of his absence from Ethel to
administer another injection, so that for the present the craving was
stilled. But he was filled with dread for the future. While the launch
moved forward steadily through the calm water, he secretly counted again
the pellets remaining in the vial. Heartsick, he realized the truth. It
was a matter only of a few hours before his stock of the drug would be
entirely exhausted. In such a situation, knowing as he did the horrible
suffering that must ensue to him for lack of morphia, Garnet did not
hesitate. He had learned by inquiries that there was a physician at
Portsmouth, on the south side of Ocracoke Inlet, at the extreme
northerly end of Core Banks. He must direct the launch thither, there to
seek relief from his fellow practitioner. There was even the possibility
of whiskey to mitigate his torture, for as one of the natives had
informed him in Atlantic, "No'th Caroliny wasn't plumb bone-dry."

For some time now, Ethel Marion had closely watched her companion. She
could not but perceive how different was his manner from that of the man
who, for years, had visited her father's house whenever medical aid was
needed. Formerly he had been full of life and vigor; a man of most
affable bearing, while now he was morose, almost diffident. Since her
return to consciousness, she had not once seen a smile on his face.
Instead, his expression was always abstracted and remote. Moreover, at
times, the girl had seen him turn his face quickly to the south as if
moved by some irresistible and baneful attraction. And, too, at such
times he had shuddered visibly. Ethel felt convinced that there remained
something very frightful in the story still to be told concerning the
wreck of the yacht. As she watched the man, a vague fear developed in
her--a fear of him, for him. She had as yet no suspicion that she had
been in mortal peril through the act of this man. But she was more than
half convinced that he could be no longer a safe protector, for the
peculiarity of his appearance and manner soon convinced her that he was
actually deranged. It was evident that he desired to be left to his own
musings. So, for a long time, she refrained from any attempt toward
conversation. She even feigned sleep, but through the long, brown lashes
she continued to study the worn and harassed visage before her. And it
was during this period of sly observation that she detected his deft
resort to the hypodermic syringe. She witnessed as well the febrile
anxiety with which he once more inspected the number of pellets. She
noted with dismay the horror in his drawn features as he stared at the
vial. Her ears even caught his whispered words:

"Only two!"

But before the startled and apprehensive girl could formulate a
conclusion as to the significance of what she had seen and heard, there
came an interruption.

In the spring great numbers of shad journey from the depths of the
Atlantic to their spawning grounds far up in the head waters of the
Neuse and Pamlico Rivers. The Sound fisherman is alert to know the time
of their coming and stakes his gill nets all along the miles upon miles
of shallows away from the buoy-marked channel of the Sound, in order
that he may gain for himself the high prices paid in the northern
markets for these delicacies of the sea. It is the rule that after the
shad season the stakes to which the nets had been tied shall be removed.
But sometimes carelessness, or worse, leaves the stakes in their places.
In many instances these are broken off below the surface of the water by
the buffeting of the waves. Thus invisible, they become a serious menace
in the course of small boats. Sometimes in rough water, a boat falling
from a wave has struck on one of these to have its bottom pierced, and
forthwith to fill and sink.

It was one of these stakes that now caused catastrophe. The sloping
stern scraped over it. Next instant, the brittle bronze propeller blades
rasped against it. They were swept off as smoothly as icicles from a
window ledge, and the homeward cruise of the frail little tender was at
an end.

There came a scream from Ethel, which was echoed by a groan from the
physician as his thoughts went in despair to the two pellets--only two!
It was with the mechanical action of the experienced yachtsman that he
threw the throttle of the engine as it raced free from the propeller's
resistance.

"Oh, Doctor," the girl cried, "what is it now? What has happened to
us--"

"Our propeller blades are stripped, Miss Marion," he answered, in a tone
of deep dejection. "There is no injury to the hull, of course, or we
would have taken in water already. There is no danger, but," he
concluded with great bitterness, "it is very discouraging, I must
admit."

"What shall we do, Doctor?--drift with the wind until we are picked up
by some passing vessel?"

"I think not, Miss Ethel," Garnet replied. "Judging from the direction
of the breeze, in less than an hour we shall come on the shore of Core
Banks."

He spoke in a new voice of gentleness as he continued:

"Pray do not worry. I don't believe there is an acre of water that we
will pass over where the depth would be above our arm-pits."

The thought of being stranded upon the barren Core Banks would have been
serious enough to awaken dread in the heart of any woman, even in the
company of a sane person. But Ethel Marion had her distress instantly
increased by the fact that the man with her was of unsound mind. She had
a general idea of how far they would be distant from any human
habitation. This very strip of sand had been pointed out to her many
times by the local pilot aboard her father's yacht. Now, there came
crashing into her tortured brain memories of tales told by that same
pilot; concerning treasure secreted there years agone by the pirate
Black Beard; concerning the weird lights that rose from the sands at
night, then mysteriously vanished; concerning the evil beach-combers who
burned here their flares to trick the skippers of ships out at sea and
deliver them to death upon these sands, where the bones of the vessels
might be picked at ease; concerning the utter isolation of this region,
where no human beings were to be found short of Portsmouth at one end
and Cape Lookout at the other--fifty miles apart.

The launch drifted slowly, but none the less surely, toward the strip of
sterile bleakness broken only by the huddled masses of the dunes. As she
saw them that morning from the porch of Squire Goodwin's home, Ethel had
thought them a splendid and inspiring spectacle. Now, under the changed
circumstances, their nearer aspect terrified her. She felt a desperate
wonder as to what fate might hold in store.

By a mighty effort of will, the girl forced back the fear that
threatened to overcome her. She addressed Garnet in a voice that
trembled only slightly.

"Would it not be better to drop the anchor, and remain out here where we
could surely be seen by passing boats?"

The Doctor shook his head in negation as he answered:

"No, Miss Ethel. It would be of no use, for we are too far from the
traveled route. Besides, you have been so long cramped up aboard this
little boat that it's imperative that you should stretch yourself
ashore. As far as the fishermen are concerned, we can make signals to
them on shore as well as from here, better in fact."

He pointed suddenly.

"I can make out a rough fisherman's shack over younder between the
dunes. There's no chance of its being occupied at this season, but the
shelter afforded by it will mean everything to you."

Ethel looked in the direction indicated.

"Oh, yes, Doctor, I see it. I suppose it would help in an emergency, but
I do hope we shall not be compelled to pass a night in this desolate
place."

The physician's voice was surcharged with gloom--perhaps from pity for
himself rather than for her--as he replied.

"It's already near sundown, so I'm greatly afraid we must pass at least
a night in this wretched place. There is just one chance. Should the
wind veer a little further to the southward, I could possibly use a pole
and so push the boat up along the shore toward Portsmouth. But while the
breeze remains in its present quarter, we have no choice but to stay
here marooned. I only wish we had taken on more supplies at Atlantic.
Should I be obliged to go on foot to Portsmouth in order to bring back a
boat for you, a collection of canned goods would prove capital company
for you during my absence."

Ethel regarded the physician with surprise, and a tremulous smile bent
her lips, for this was his first and only attempt at humor throughout
all the trip. But as she studied his face, with its lugubrious
expression, she came to the conclusion that, after all, he had not in
the least meant to be funny; had, on the contrary, spoken in all
seriousness.

Presently, the waves bore the tender gently upon the shelving strip of
sand. Ethel remained on board, while Garnet went to make an inspection
of the hut.

Shrimp, too, hurriedly hopped from the tiny deck forward, and when he
found himself safe ashore expressed his gratification by a lusty
crow--his first during the voyage.

Garnet found the accommodations far better than he could have expected.
The shack contained a small cook-stove, cooking utensils, clean bunks,
some chairs and a table. He returned and aided Ethel to disembark. Then,
still holding her hand, he led her toward the shack.

She went in a mood of dire foreboding toward this miserable shelter,
under the escort of a man whom she now knew to be crazed.



CHAPTER XVI

THE COMING-OUT PARTY


As Captain Ichabod left the physician's house after having made his
confession, Doctor Hudson stood watching him while he walked briskly
away.

"See how that old devil is stepping it off down the street like a
four-year-old," was the observer's comment. "He really has taken on a
new lease of life, and materia medica didn't have a finger in the pie,
either. If it had happened a few years earlier that he had a chance to
tell Sandy Mason what he thought of him, and to save a woman from
drowning, likely as not there'd have been a wife and children on the
Island to-day to cheer the old fellow's declining years. It's a shame
that cat of a woman ever crossed his path, for he's one of the
best-meaning, greatest-hearted men in the county."

Suddenly, the Doctor chuckled.

"By George, I have an idea, and I'll get busy on it. Yes, sir, I'll take
the old rascal at his word." With that, Doctor Hudson disappeared inside
his house and shut the door after him.

The government wireless station at Beaufort is built upon an island,
which is separated from the mainland by the narrow channel of New Port
River just before it empties into the sea. Now, Captain Jones went at
once to the government wharf, where he secured the services of a small
boy to row him to the island. On his arrival, he was warmly welcomed,
for he was as popular there as with the men of the coast guard. As he
entered the small receiving-room, the instruments were spitting out dots
and dashes, with all kinds of sparks for accompaniment. The principal
operator was taking down a message. As soon as the task was ended, he
whirled about and greeted the old fisherman enthusiastically.

"Why, howdy, Captain Ichabod--glad to see you. It's sure fine of you to
come over. I understand there've been some exciting times up in your
neck of the woods. By the way, what was the name of the yacht that went
on the rock?"

"It was _The Isabel_, of New York," replied Ichabod.

"Is that so!" exclaimed the operator. "If that's the case, I reckon this
message I just yanked out of the air will be of interest to you."

He handed the paper to the Captain, who, after finding his spectacles
and adjusting them carefully, read aloud the following:

     "To all port officers:

     "Motor-driven yacht _Isabel_ of New York, put to sea without
     clearance papers. Investigation shows she was probably stolen.
     Daughter of owner a prisoner on board. If located in your vicinity
     arrest boat and all members of crew. Make diligent search for young
     woman and release her."

The bulletin was signed by an officer of the Treasury Department.

"Well I'll be doggoned!" cried the Captain, in great astonishment. "I
knowed that feller was some kind o' a bad egg, but now I believe to
goodness he was plumb sp'ilt. That poor little brown-eyed gal! What a
pity! I wish I'd a held right smack onto her--that I do."

"I suppose," the operator rejoined, "that bulletin has been picked up by
all of the stations, so that the boys are keepin' a sharp lookout to
overhaul the yacht and pinch the bunch, an' especially to save the girl.
I'll get this over to the Collector of Customs right away. He'll want to
report the escape of the man and woman and to give the direction they
went."

"Ye'd better tell him to mention the dead feller, an' that he was tied
down."

"That's right, Uncle Ichabod. Say, but there's a lot of mystery about
this affair. I'll bet my boots you haven't heard the last of it."

"Maybe not," the fisherman admitted. "But, by cracky, since what I've
been through a'ready they can't skeer Ichabod. No, not by a damned
sight!"

It was very seldom that Captain Jones used a profane expression. When he
did, it was with deliberate intention.

Upon this island where the wireless outfit is stationed, the government
has another institution--a laboratory where studies are made in sea
life. It includes a remarkable museum, which is visited by students from
far and near. There are power boats equipped for dredging at
considerable depth in order to bring to light the secret things of the
sea. Many of the curios are contributed by the fishermen, who are
continually dragging forth in their nets objects strange to them. When a
thing of real rarity is brought to the laboratory, a snug sum is paid to
the finder. The Captain himself had always a ready eye for anything that
might prove of value, and his finds from time to time netted him a tidy
profit. To-day he had with him a variety of sea porcupine new to him,
which he had found in his net a few days before. So now, on leaving the
wireless station, Ichabod visited the laboratory, where the sea
porcupine was duly delivered and brought in return a satisfactory sum of
money. Here, too, he retold once again all his experiences in connection
with the wreck of _The Isabel_. By the time this was done, the afternoon
was well spent. The old man was rowed back to the mainland, where he
entered the red skiff and set sail homeward.

As he passed up the bay, the tide was low, so that in many places the
shoals and rocks were exposed. Captain Ichabod, reclining lazily in the
stern sheets of the skiff, tiller in hand, listened to the noisy clatter
of the gulls, which in vast swarms were feeding on their favorite
scallops.

Ages ago, the gulls discovered that the fluted shell must be broken ere
the luscious morsel within could be obtained. It was wholly impossible
for them to crush the stonelike casing with their bills. So the birds
devised another means. This was to carry the shell high aloft, then drop
it on the shoals. If it fell on a hard surface, it would be broken open,
and the scallop within would be promptly devoured by the gull following.
When the shell fell in a soft place, and remained unbroken the bird
would merely continue its efforts until finally crowned with success.
Ichabod, idly watching such repeated trials, was induced to meditation
on the lesson thus taught.

"It shore is a pity that arter Roxana Lee"--the name came easily
now--"arter a-stabbin' o' me in the back--yes, it's a pity that I didn't
do sort o' like that Scotch feller that watched the spider try an' try
an' try ag'in till at last he spun his web whar he aimed to. Why, when
he saw what that-thar crab-lookin' son-of-a-gun could do, he jumped
right up, an', a-bucklin' himself around a leetle tighter, went out and
cleaned up a whole mess that was arter him. By cracky! all I had to do
was to come right out to these sand shoals an' oyster rocks an' watch
them noisy gulls a-tryin' an' a-tryin', an' at last bustin' a scallop. I
jest believe, if I'd done that, then I'd have got right square up an'
licked Sandy Mason, an' told Roxana what I thought o' her no-'countness,
an' then I might have married the best-lookin' woman in Cartaret County.

"But, then, what's the use?" he continued, as he drew the sheet in a
little closer, so holding the skiff more into the wind, in order to
round a point of marsh land. "That's ancient history, an' I ain't
a-goin' to study it. I've done turned over a new leaf. I hope, Ichabod,
ye'll live right an' die happy."

The skiff was nearing the home port. Captain Ichabod's attention was
called to a sound of happy voices--women's notes, as he expressed it.
Unless he was much mistaken, it came from his own Island.

The old fisherman, true to his instinct of fear in reference to
womankind, loosened the sheet, so that the skiff might slide by and let
him learn more definitely what might be the meaning of this invasion.

The matter was not long in doubt. As he rounded a point, he saw them. It
seemed to him there were a dozen or more of women. They were not only
upon the Island: the shack door stood open. There were women actually
going in and out through the entrance--busy as bees.... Upon the shore,
a great fire was burning.

Ichabod, who had been brave for three days, now began to be afraid of
this influx of feminine furbelows--this show of skirts. Twice Ichabod
tacked with a desire to take a running look at his own Island; and twice
he dared not make a landing because of the feminine contingent on shore.
But, when he sailed the red skiff by his homeland for the third time, he
recognized a pudgy figure on the shore, which was waving frantically
toward him.

"Oh, hell!" Ichabod spoke, with great indignation. "If it ain't Hudson!
Consarn him, he has took me at my word an' if he hain't brought a flock
o' 'em! I didn't aim to run away, nohow. I jest forgot fer a minute thet
I had reformed. I wonder what the fire means? It's mighty early yet for
an oyster roast, but they are a-gittin' fat."

The Doctor met the old fellow at the landing. Ichabod wore a sheepish
look, while, on the contrary, the physician's good-natured face was
wreathed in smiles.

"Throw me your painter, Captain!" shouted the medical man. "When I get
that in hand I'll feel sure that you are really here!"

Old Icky went forward, wound the sail neatly around the mast, removed
the rudder, pulled up the center-board, and then tossed to Hudson a line
to be turned around the piling. Ichabod stepped ashore, nonplused. His
expression was stern and forbidding as he advanced on his friend, the
Doctor, and demanded the meaning of all this.

"Why, Captain Ichabod," came the answer, "the women folks up there have
named this meeting Ichabod Jones' coming-out party. You know in great
cities where there's a heap of society, when a girl reaches an age that
they think it is time for her to be setting her cap, they arrange a
swell party to let the fellows know that the young lady is eligible. So,
you see, that's the case to-day. Only, this time, it's a man that has
come out of his shell, and you can believe me that shell was the hardest
one I ever tried to crack!"

"Say, Hudson, did I tell ye I was a-lookin' fer a woman? No, sir; I only
said as how they was welcome to come to the Island. This how-dy-do o'
your'n I call a-rubbin' it in pretty hard. If it's a joke with you, it
hain't with me."

"Now, old friend, don't get peeved. I'll tell you just how it came
about. After you left my house, I went out to pay some professional
calls. Ichabod, your name's in everybody's mouth. They all asked
questions about you, knowing how close friends we are. What could I do
but just up and tell how you had seen the light and had hit the trail
for happiness; how all women were to be welcome at the Island from now
on, and how the latch-string would be hanging always on the outside of
the shack door? I had no sooner arrived home than one of these good
ladies called me up and asked me if I would mind escorting a few of them
to the Island to congratulate you on your quitting playing Rip Van
Winkle as far as women were concerned. I just told the pretty creatures
I'd be only too glad to go with them.... Shake hands, Ichabod. Let your
family physician be the first to welcome you back."

Realizing that the whole trouble had been caused by his talking too much
and that no one was to blame save himself, the old man smiled somewhat
wryly as he grasped his friend's extended hand.

"Say, Doc," he declared, "I always did like a joke where it didn't hurt
none. So, I ain't a-goin' to make ye out untruthful to that passal o'
women."

With that, the fisherman slipped his arm within the Doctor's, and walked
forward spiritedly toward his doom--as he mentally termed this social
ordeal. It was indeed his coming-out party, and never a debutante so
secretly tremulous and shy as Captain Icky.



CHAPTER XVII

STRANGERS AT ICHABOD'S ISLAND


The friendly squeeze that Doctor Hudson was giving Ichabod's arm as they
advanced toward the group of women heartened the old man mightily. A few
days since, he would have felt that he was being led as a martyr to be
burned at the stake. But now, in the twinkling of an eye, everything was
changed. It is true that he felt a keen embarrassment over this
introduction to feminine society after his isolation from it for twenty
years. Yet his natural courage dominated this embarrassment, so that he
faced the trial bravely enough.

The Doctor explained to him that a formal introduction to the ladies
would be necessary.

"That is," Hudson continued, "to all except one. You are already
acquainted with the one just now coming out of the shack door with your
vinegar bottle in her hand. It's Miss Sarah Porter that I'm referring
to. She has told me that you have talked with her on more than one
occasion about your domestic troubles and your lonely life. She has told
me, too, that she tried her best to give you advice that would be good
for you."

Ichabod replied defensively.

"Wall, I cal'late I've been a-tryin' to take her advice!"

It was even as Doctor Hudson had said. In spite of the sharp eyes and
wagging tongues of the townsfolk, few had known that the old fisherman
occasionally visited Miss Porter in the hostelry managed by her for many
years, and that there he had listened gratefully to her words of kindly
admonition. As a matter of fact, long before the Lee woman entered into
the fisherman's life, he had felt very kindly toward Miss Porter, and
his attentions had been well received by her. It is very possible that
he might have offered himself to her years ago, had it not been for a
conscientious scruple as to his jilted self being unworthy. So, he saw
her only at rare intervals, and then only when he brought fish to sell,
thus making business his excuse. There had been to him a certain comfort
in the fact that this vivacious woman of sixty had never married. He
even dared to wonder sometimes with a thrill of vanity if her feeling
toward him could have been the cause of her spinsterhood. And this was
always followed by an emotion of disgust with himself that he should
ever have found the company of Roxana more to his liking than that of
the pleasant and wholesome Sarah.

When the Captain saw Miss Porter with the vinegar bottle in her hand, he
knew that the visitors were preparing an oyster roast, which, of course,
accounted for the fire of twigs and seaweed. Now, the other women stood
in a row, while Sarah, her face wreathed in smiles, came forward to
greet her old lover. This done, she formally presented Ichabod to the
other guests. The fisherman's increased embarrassment expressed itself
in a sheepish grin, when it suddenly dawned on him that every one of the
women there before him was unmarried. Dr. Hudson remarked afterward that
Ichabod looked to him as if he were convinced that each and every one
was "after him!"

Nevertheless, once the introductions were over, the Captain found
himself at ease in a manner quite surprising. Every one of the visitors
seemed to enter into the spirit of the affair with a whole-hearted
geniality that was infectious, and under this benignant influence the
host was filled with an unaccustomed happiness. He at once began to
assist in the roasting of the oysters, which the women had gathered from
the rocks. He gave them carte blanche to help themselves to plates and
forks and such other things as were needful from the shack.

None was so rude as to refer to Ichabod's reformation. But Sarah Porter,
whenever she caught his eye, gave him a look that spoke as plainly as
words:

"Ichabod Jones, at last I have found you a man, and I am proud of you!"

No doubt she congratulated herself, with justice, on the fact that her
talks with him had had much to do with this change. She was the only one
in the party of mature age; the others were comparatively young and
sprightly maidens. This selection of guests was due to the fine Italian
hand of the Doctor. Evidently, he was hard at work on a plan to make
Ichabod Jones a provider, rather than trying to find him a place as
housekeeper, in accordance with the fisherman's original request.

The hours passed delightfully for all--especially for the host whose
pleasure was edged by the novelty of the situation in which he found
himself. It was not until the moon showed in the east that the visitors
made ready for departure. Just before the party embarked, the boldest of
the maidens kissed the old man's weather-beaten cheek. There was a burst
of laughter from the onlookers. Ichabod could feel himself blushing
furiously, but that blush was invisible under the deep tan. Then the
others thus saluted him, one by one--all save Sarah Porter.

She bestowed herself in the launch while the kissing was going on, and
Ichabod, regarding her furtively with anxious eyes, read in her
expression signs of strong disapproval, which disconcerted him hugely,
and robbed him in great measure of his just due of enjoyment under the
osculatory attack.

Then, it was all over! The old man stood waving his hat mechanically as
the launch glided away. Ichabod watched with unseeing eyes. He was in a
daze, thinking more in sorrow than in anger of "how fer he had let them
minxes go with him--an' Sary a-lookin' on, too!" He shook his head
despondently, as he reflected that the closing incident would have been
more agreeable if "Sary hadn't been a-lookin' on."

Once more, Ichabod Jones burned midnight oil. In the early evening he
brought his easy chair out in front, where he could see the glistening
waters and watch the moon climb high. He smoked pipeful after pipeful of
his strong tobacco. Again he made rings, and thought, and wondered. It
was after ten before he arose and went into the shack, lighted his oil
lamp, laid out his paper and pencil, and proceeded to add more to the
record that he had started. No doubt, after his long reverie in the
moonlight, he had come to the conclusion that the fact of his being
kissed by ten young women and having one more making eyes at him in one
day, the first of his reformation, was of moment enough to be recorded.

That night, as Ichabod finished his entry in the diary and leaned far
back in his chair with chest expanded, his chin with its whift of beard
thrown out at an angle of forty-five degrees, he reminded one of a
cartoon of Uncle Sam when showing a self-satisfied air. The picture he
portrayed at least conveyed the impression that he was monarch of all he
surveyed and even dared once again to place his battle flag of conquest
on the mainland of Cartaret County.

As he put away his writing materials and prepared to retire to his
lonely bunk, he again talked aloud.

"It looks to me, by cracky, as if things was a-movin' jest a leetle too
rapid fer a starter. It reminds me right smart o' a hoss race I saw at
the fish and oyster fair, at New Bern, a spell back. The animal that I
cal'lated would win, he jest started off like a steam engine, an' when
he got half way around he was clean ahead o' the bunch. But by the time
he reached the home-stretch, he was a swettin' like a mad bull an'
puffin' like a grampus--an' every other hoss got in fust. Here I am now,
kissed by ten o' the prettiest gals in Beaufort jest as the sun is
a-settin' on my first day o' new manhood. I'm startin' too almighty
fast. If I don't tame down I'll lose out on the home-stretch. I opine
Sara didn't like the idea o' that kissin' business. I was particular to
hold my face straight out where she could see it an' not let my lips
tech nary one o' 'em. But I guess it would be safer to go down an' tell
Sara how partic'lar I was, an' how I wanted to tell 'em to stop, but
didn't dar'st not to be polite."

As Captain Ichabod lay in his bunk before falling asleep, he allowed his
mind to dwell upon more serious things. He thought of the wireless
message. What had become of the strange man, of the woman, and of his
rooster, Shrimp? He wondered that there were no reports of their passing
other boats. His heart was sore for that poor woman who had lain so long
unconscious upon his bed. His interest in her was vital, for he had
saved her life. What could the man mean by thus secretly hurrying away?
Ichabod had asked himself this question many times. Now he knew beyond
peradventure of doubt that the fellow was a criminal, a refugee from
justice, with a young woman of gentle birth in his power.

Ichabod's conscience smote him. He was ashamed that he had not
instituted a search immediately after the fellow's disappearance from
the Island. He had had the right to call on the Sheriff of the county
for aid. There had been plain theft. A pair of blankets had been stolen
from him--as also his chanticleer.

The monetary loss from this robbery meant nothing to the fisherman, but
it would have served as an excuse for arresting the man, and thus
rescuing his girl victim.... Ichabod remembered the man chained to the
engine in the sunken yacht. It was doubtless this murderer who now had
the girl in his power. Should it suit his ends, would that desperate man
hesitate to murder even the girl herself--the girl he had saved from
drowning? Ichabod decided that he would fulfill a belated duty by going
to town next day, there to swear out a warrant of arrest against the
abductor of the girl, that thus the Sheriff should have reason to search
the waters of the Sound in the hope of arresting the guilty man and
rescuing his victim....

Despite the thrilling experiences of a day so unaccustomedly feminine,
the sturdy old fisherman, when he was done with his meditations, slept
soundly throughout the night. He was up at cock-crow--though there was
no clarion call from Shrimp to awaken.

It was while he was busy over the preparation of a modest breakfast that
there came the wailing cry of a yacht's siren. It sounded from the
northward, evidently not far away from the Island. Captain Icky shut the
drafts on the stove, pushed the coffee-pot back to a position where it
would keep hot without boiling. Then he stepped outside the shack to
watch the incoming vessel pass over the bar into the waters of the
Inlet. He was impressed at first glance by the beautiful lines of the
little vessel, which was evidently of light draft so she might cruise
safely in shallow waters, while capable of weathering a storm-tossed
sea.

It was a new thing that a yacht of such size should come to anchor off
the Island. Ichabod watched curiously as the vessel slackened heavily
and then let a light anchor drop from the starboard side of the bow.
Presently, he saw a small boat put off from the yacht, rowed by two
sailors, and carrying two passengers in the stern. When he made sure
that a landing was intended, Ichabod went down to the point to greet the
unexpected visitors.

As the boat touched the landing, the two men stepped ashore and advanced
toward Ichabod, who greeted them hospitably.

"Howdy, men! Ye are welcome to Ichabod's Island. But it's a leetle
unusual to have a call from boats o' your class.... Jones is my
name--Captain Ichabod Jones, at your service!"

The shorter man stepped forward, and introduced himself as Jack Scott.
He presented his companion as his friend, Roy Morton.

"Captain Jones," the stranger began, "we are now, I take it, just at the
entrance to the Beaufort Inlet."

"Yes, yender is the Inlet," Ichabod replied.

The other spoke with curt incisiveness.

"We're in a hurry. We'd like to ask you a few questions. It's plain no
craft of any size could pass your Island without attracting notice.
We're looking for a yacht stolen from her anchorage in the North River.
She has now been missing for several days. The last report we've been
able to get is that she was seen passing out of Pamlico into Core Sound.
Do you know the whereabouts of any such boat? Her name was _The
Isabel_."

"_The Isabel!_" Ichabod answered. "Thar she lays!"

The two men followed the direction of the horny hand--and saw! Roy
Morton felt a sick dizziness crash upon him. In that moment of agony, he
believed that the girl he loved was forever lost.



CHAPTER XVIII

THE CALL OF THE DARK


A few handfuls of sea water dashed into Roy's face by Ichabod, together
with a rough massage by Van Dusen, soon brought the young man around
again.

"I must have the truth," he declared, "no matter how terrible. Was the
young woman lost?"

"Why, no, young man," the fisherman answered; "least-wise, not in the
wreck. I took her out o' the water myself. She was plumb full o'
swallered brine, but I had that out o' her in a jiffy. I took her into
my shack an' got her all right exceptin' her haid. Poor thing never did
speak to me but once."

"Then she died!" Roy cried, in a tone of anguish.

But Ichabod shook his head emphatically.

"Not as I knows on," he declared; "unless that nervous-actin' skunk has
killed her since he took her away in the small boat. Had I knowed what I
l'arned yesterday at the wireless station, I'd 'a' held on to the gal. I
saw she was pretty bad, not bein' able to talk, an' so I told the man I
took off o' the wreck that what she needed was an M.D. Leavin' him in
charge, fer he seemed to know a heap about medicine himself, I put the
rag on the skiff, an' sailed to town for the Doctor. When I got back, I
found that the thievin' rascal had stole my pet rooster, a pair o'
blankets--an' the woman, an' had gone off in the gasoline tender what
come ashore from the wreck. O' course, they went up the Sound--to God
knows whar! The woman ain't safe with no sich critter as that feller. If
the gal is much to you, which I 'lows she is from your tantrums, ye had
best make all haste to git her. I was jest a-fixin' to go to Beaufort
an' take out a warrant fer the feller fer murder, an' charter a gasoline
boat, prepared to go through hell if need be to save that gal an' put
the sallow-skinned varmint, what took her, behind the bars o' the county
jail."

"Warrant for murder?" Van Dusen demanded, suddenly alert, "What do you
mean, Captain Jones? Has this man killed some one?"

"Wall, I reckin!" Ichabod answered grimly. "Thar was a feller a-sailin'
around the wreck o' _The Isabel_, which, as ye see, is all busted to
pieces by an explosion after she struck an' the beatin' on her of the
big storm waves. When this feller looked down by the engine, he saw a
dead man a-lookin' back up at him. He looked closter before he hurried
away, an' saw that the poor devil was chained to the wreck. Now, that
bein' the case, an' this feller that's got the gal bein' the man in
charge o' the yacht, then why _ain't_ he wanted for murder?"

Van Dusen nodded his head understandingly.

"This clears up part of the mystery," he said to Roy. "Now, if we can
only catch Garnet and save Miss Marion, the case will be happily ended.
The whole thing is clear in my mind, but we have still to find the
proof."

"Them's the names the feller give me," the fisherman vouchsafed, "when
he introduced himself to me. I 'lowed he was 'most crazy from his scare.
Say, men! Do you know I think that feller was a-takin' dope, an',
furthermore, since I've had time to think it over, I'm almost certain I
saw him puttin' some under the gal's skin. As folks around here only use
Baitman Drops or swallers pills, I took a spot on the gal's arm fer a
skeeter bump. I didn't know what the shiny thing was that he slipped in
his pocket when he saw me a-lookin'. Since then the Doctor has told me
he 'lowed it was a hypodermic. First he called it a gun, but when he
discovered that I thought he meant a shootin' iron, because I said it
was too small fer that, why, then he give me the other name. O' course,
I had heard that other name afore."

"This whole business is goin' to turn out just as I outlined it to you,
Roy," Van Dusen asserted. "These things are unusual, but I don't think
you need have any fears for Miss Marion, provided she doesn't starve, or
meet with some accident through the foolhardiness of this crazy Garnet.
The thing I suggest is to solicit the aid of Captain Jones, and have him
act as our pilot. We should also charter several small gasoline boats
and go through the waters of this shallow Sound and its tributaries like
a fine-toothed comb. It's haste now that is important. We'll probably
find the fellow hidden away in some remote fisherman's home where he can
administer to the wants of his patient, while avoiding capture. I
believe that he is, even though deranged, terrorized at the thought of
arrest, so that he will not dare come out into the open. That's the
reason he left the comfortable quarters of the Island."

Roy was all eagerness to begin the work forthwith, and Ichabod proffered
all the assistance in his power.

"Jest a minute, men," he said, "till I swaller my coffee an' put out the
fire, then Ichabod Jones will be ready to show ye every nook an' corner
o' these-here waters; an' if that skunk ain't got out of 'em or gone to
the bottom, we'll git him--an' git him right!"

After leaving Norfolk, _The Hialdo_ had covered many miles. Arthur Van
Dusen when he acted, moved with deliberation as well as speed. Already,
on the way down, every avenue of escape had been blocked. It would have
been impossible for _The Isabel_ to escape over the route by which the
pursuers had come. She would have been seized the moment she showed at
any port. The thoroughness of these precautionary measures was the
reason why it was not until now that _The Hialdo_ had dropped anchor at
Beaufort Inlet.

The only area that remained unsearched was the Core Sound section. The
searchers had taken advantage of the night, when there was little else
that they could do, to run down to the Inlet in order to find out if the
yacht had passed out to sea through the channel.

They were reasonably certain now that the Doctor and the young woman
were not a great way off. Van Dusen was confident of speedily running
down the culprit, and he was exultant over the prospect. But Roy was
still tortured with anxiety concerning the safety of the girl he loved.

Before coming out of the shack to go aboard _The Hialdo_, Ichabod took
time to tidy up his person a little. This, for the sufficient reason
that they were going first to Beaufort, where it might be that he would
encounter Sarah Porter. It would never do for her to see him except
properly "spruced up" for a trip to town. There was, in addition, the
fact that he was about to go aboard a handsome yacht, where, as he knew,
everybody went about habitually "dressed up." As he took a parting
glance into his tiny bit of mirror, the old fisherman indulged in a
self-satisfied smirk, and spoke aloud.

"I'd be willin' to bet that when them fine fellers gits to be as old as
me, they can't tell as how ten single women kissed 'em all in one day,
an' another one, by cracky, made eyes an' jest didn't darst!"

Having thus said, Ichabod hurried off to his visitors, and a minute
later was following them up the ladder to the deck of _The Hialdo_. Van
Dusen had taken on a pilot at Ocracoke, so that they had no trouble in
following the intricate round-about ship's channel to the town.

Captain Ichabod directed the place of anchorage. This was in the small
channel directly in front of the Inlet Hotel, where Sarah Porter reigned
supreme. They would use her wharf in going ashore. He admitted to
himself that he had been pleased over being kissed by the "young fry";
but he also admitted that the chief appeal to him had been made by the
elderly woman who had looked on so disapprovingly from her place in the
Doctor's launch.

Van Dusen was anxious to call first upon the Collector of the Port. That
office here had become, of late years, rather unimportant, since the
action of the tides had filled the Inlet with sand, to such an extent
that very few vessels of the ocean-going steamer type could get over the
bar. The Collector's business was confined to seeing that yachts and
other vessels of small draft had their proper papers. There was no
United States Marshal located in the town, and the case of _The Isabel_
was plainly one to be handled by the Treasury Department.

It was unnecessary for Ichabod to guide the detective further than the
wharf, for the Custom House, with its identifying flag, stood near the
landing. So, the Captain felt himself at liberty to visit the hotel,
where he reclined at ease in a rocking chair on the porch, and enjoyed
an intermittent conversation with the hostess of the inn. Roy remained
on board the yacht, at his friend's bidding, in order to recover from
the shock he had suffered on hearing Ichabod's story.

Van Dusen found the Collector anxious to be of service in every possible
way. He suggested that the services of the Sheriff should be enlisted,
and that a warrant for the arrest of Doctor Garnet should be secured
from the Justice of the Peace, for robbery, to be sworn to by Ichabod,
since that offense had been committed within the jurisdiction of the
state courts.

The Sheriff, when called up over the telephone, agreed to supply three
deputies, each equipped with a copy of the warrant. Finally, two small
launches, each carrying one of the Sheriff's men, were chartered to
voyage in different directions for the search, while the third would go
aboard _The Hialdo_. Other business prevented the Sheriff from giving
his personal aid in the quest. Ichabod was interrupted during his
pleasuring on the porch by a telephone call, which requested him to
report at once to Squire Chadwick's office in order to swear to the
necessary papers.

But the fisherman forgot the imperative summons as his hostess came out
on the porch to bid him farewell.

"Do ye realize, Sarah Porter, that this is the very fust time in over
twenty year that I've come to your house except on business, without
some fishes, terrapin, scallops, or sich to sell fer the hotel?"

Miss Porter blushed like a girl.

"Well, seein' as how you mention it, I reckon it's a fact." Her manner
did not betray how often she had wondered, and perhaps grieved, over
that fact during the score of years.

Then, Ichabod at last took heart of courage, and spoke boldly:

"This time, Sarah, arter due deliberation, an' study, Ichabod has come
to ye to give something away. Tain't nothin' that comes out o' these
waters or sands or marshes. Tain't gold, nor yit silver, but somethin'
that nobody in all these years could 'a' bought, had they tried. Could
ye guess what it mout be, Sarah?"

There came a certain dreaminess into the woman's eyes, which, if a
little dimmed, had by no means lost their luster.

"I never was good at guessing, Ichabod," she said simply. "I cal'late
you'll jest have to tell me. I know from the way you speak that it must
be something perfectly splendid."

"Wall, now, you may think it more wuthless than plain seaweed, an' if ye
do, why ye must speak right out, Sarah. What I have come to offer ye is
Ichabod Jones' love!"

Ichabod waited through a full minute for the answer that failed to come.
The woman's eyes were gazing out over the broad expanse of the Atlantic,
which opened so gloriously before them. He took one of her hands in his,
and pressed it gently as he went on speaking.

"It's true that I'm some old, but I ain't crippled. An' arter all these
years o'--yes, oh, hell!--I want to be loved ag'in. Sarah, I'll tell ye,
an' it's God's truth, I never did love that triflin' woman. I have come
to that idea arter a long time o' thinkin'. I was young, an' I thought I
loved her, but, Sarah, I just had my haid turned. Time is now tellin' my
true feelin's."

Still the woman made no answer, but her very silence gave encouragement
to the wooer.

"I'm through with fishin' an' lonely livin', whether or no, Sarah. All
these years that I've hung around alone, it hain't cost me much to live,
an' I've got a right smart o' money saved up. Ye know, this hotel ain't
big 'nough fer all the Yankees that'd like to stop on the way up an'
down offen their yachts. I was a-thinkin' las' night what a thing it'd
be for me an' you to be real partners, an' let me spend some o' the
savin's to double the size o' the hotel, an' hire 'nough help to take
the strain offen you in runnin' o' it."

The mingling of romance and practical worldly advantage won Miss
Porter's consent to the plea of her suitor. Perhaps, either would have
sufficed of itself; certainly, together, they were irresistible. Ichabod
was all a-tremble with happiness and pride, as the spinster coyly
offered her cheek to his kiss.

He started guiltily a moment later, as a huge negress appeared in the
doorway, and bawled at him:

"Mr. Ichabod, the 'phone is a-callin' yoh-all."



CHAPTER XIX

BOTTLED UP


Captain Ichabod Jones stepped briskly into Squire Chadwick's
courtroom--which was otherwise the parlor in his modest home. Van Dusen,
that very shrewd detective, observed that the old man trod with a
jauntier step than heretofore, and that his expression was one of smug
complacency. He wondered a little as to just what might have occurred to
make this change so swiftly. He could not guess that a romance of twenty
years was concerned, but his observant eyes told him that in some
mysterious fashion this aged native had found a new happiness in life
within the hour.

That happiness indeed was a thing assured in the opinion of Captain
Ichabod. The smile that Van Dusen found so hard to interpret was the
outward expression of great things within the old man's soul. He had
loved his loneliness. Now, he was rejoicing that no more would his life
be lonely! The gulls and fish-hawks and sand-crabs could take possession
of the old shack that had sheltered him for years. He cared nothing for
that. Shortly, he would be known as Ichabod Jones, proprietor of a
fashionable tourist hotel. He chuckled, and his lips moved into the
travesty of a kiss.

"I'm a-sayin' good-bye to that-thar hermit o' Captain Icky's Island,
what lived thar fer twenty year. He hain't a-goin' to live thar no
more."

The warrant was speedily signed and duly sworn to, after which Van Dusen
and Captain Jones hurried to board the yacht. The two chartered motor
boats arrived. Since _The Hialdo_ had the legs of the others, it took
both in tow to bring them to the point whereat the search was to start.
On reaching the Island, the red skiff also was taken in tow at Ichabod's
suggestion, since its draft would permit it to penetrate shallows
impenetrable to the other craft.

At a point midway between Harker's Island and Smyrna, Uncle Ichabod
directed that one of the chartered boats should be sent over and along
the shores of the Island, then to proceed up the Banks shore, but not so
far as to prevent the deputy from covering the southerly section of Core
Sound with his field-glasses in order to detect any attempt to retrace
the route by the Doctor in the tender. This launch having been
dispatched, _The Hialdo_ resumed her course, with the other boats still
in tow.

The next objective in the cruise was Atlantic--a long way up the Sound.
Thence, it was the intention to send the other chartered boat back along
the westerly shore, with instructions to go into every inlet and cove
and bay, no matter how small, provided they could navigate it, there to
make diligent inquiry of every person seen on the shores.

Van Dusen had already prepared reward notices, offering five thousand
dollars for the safe return of Ethel Marion, and one thousand dollars
for the capture of her abductor. These posters were given to the
deputies with instructions that they should be posted in every fishing
hamlet. It was the belief of the detective that the effect of these
would be to send out a swarm of fishing boats to search every nook and
cranny of the territory.

Before turning in from the main channel to the pier at Atlantic, Van
Dusen had the second patrol boat turned loose under the charge of his
deputy. He gave instructions that four blasts of the yacht's siren
should be understood as a signal for the smaller craft to return to _The
Hialdo_.

It was learned beyond doubt at Atlantic that the Doctor and Ethel had
been there. There were a score of witnesses to the fact. The entire
hamlet was loud in its praises of this stranger, who, by his skill, had
saved a life without thought of fee. Captain Ichabod's anxious inquiries
elicited the information that there was indeed a Dominick rooster aboard
the tender, perched on the forward deck. One boy, of a fine imaginative
mind, declared that the bird was tethered by a string tied to one of his
legs. That false information stirred the wrath of Uncle Icky, so that he
was moved to mutter:

"Yep, I reckin they're a-savin' 'im fer broth--consarn 'em!"

At the principal store in the town, soon after the arrival of the yacht,
there was a scene of unusual excitement. Conspicuously posted was the
notice typewritten by Van Dusen of the reward for Doctor Garnet's
capture. But here sentiment was overwhelmingly strong in the physician's
favor. A local orator made an impassioned speech to defend this
wonderful physician, who had shown such ability in saving of life
without charge. He insisted that the townsfolk should throw out the
"furriners" who desired the arrest of such a man.

Van Dusen was in a desperate hurry, but when he sensed the feeling of
the crowd, he was at pains to tell them, very simply, the facts. He
declared that, in all probability, the physician who had been guilty of
the kidnapping was a crazy man.

After touching at Atlantic, it was decided to sail the yacht to the
northward, along the mainland shore, with the little red skiff still in
tow. There was more depth of water on this side and, in consequence, a
larger number of inhabited points, from which news might be gathered. At
the end, there was a lighthouse, where the keeper would have seen every
boat that passed.

The yacht stopped at the Squire Goodwin landing. There they learned of
the recent presence of the physician and his patient. Thence, they went
on to the lighthouse, where they were reassured by the keeper's firm
assertion that the tender had not passed. It seemed to Van Dusen now
that the little boat must be bottled up, so that its discovery and
capture could be only a matter of a few hours. But there still remained
one tract to be explored.

For the voyaging over these shallows, the red skiff was needed. The
three men entered it, cast off from the yacht, hoisted sail, and set
forward toward the desolate land of the sand dunes, the wild ponies, the
goats and the beach-combers.... And it was Captain Ichabod who sat in
the stern, handling proudly both sheets and tiller.



CHAPTER XX

THE TRUTH UNALLOYED


The lowly home where Ethel had passed the previous night was as a palace
compared with this structure of beach-provided boards and shingles, over
the threshold of which she was ushered, supported on the arm of her
protector, Doctor Gifford Garnet. As she stepped over the sill, she had
a sense of apprehension, that ran over her flesh like chills. They were
the physical expression of fright. She was downright afraid of this
dark, dank, dungeon-like room. Her emotion was emphasized by a
realization that her escort was a mentally unbalanced, drug-mad man.
Ethel, realizing something of the danger in her environment, had set
herself to carry a bold demeanor. She would not let the man know either
her fears or her suspicions. She meant to assume toward him an air of
confidence.

There was a single window in the room, which had a wooden shutter, swung
on leather hinges. This was closed, so effectively that not a particle
of light filtered in from outside. It was only by the illumination
through the open door that any light entered. Ethel hobbled across the
room to the window, and threw open the shutter.

The setting sun threw its rays freely into the interior of the shack, as
the girl looked about her. She saw tiers of bunks on either side. In the
center of the room were a table and some rough chairs. An oil lamp stood
upon the table. In a corner of the room were a cook-stove and the
ordinary utensils for cooking. A curious conglomeration showed on some
shelves at one side. In some of the bunks, there were blankets. Ethel
regarded those blankets with satisfaction. They would mean warmth for
the night, should she be compelled to spend it here.

The Doctor's nerves did not improve. While the girl dropped down to rest
on one of the uncomfortable chairs, he walked the floor to and fro in
silence. His muscles were twitching, and his eyes were wide-lidded,
though the pupils were only pin-points.

Ethel watched him closely. Now, when at last her suspicions were
aroused, she studied as if for her own salvation every aspect of this
man, whom at first she had looked on as her savior, but now regarded
with a dread unspeakable.

At last, to relieve the tension of her terror, she requested the Doctor
to go out to look for a sail or any craft that he might hail. He went
obediently enough. As soon as he had left the room, she moved her seat
so that she could watch him.

He walked hurriedly to the boat, where, using water from the jug, he
prepared another measure of the drug and shot it into his arm. When he
had done this, he raised the vial that had held the pellet of morphia,
and stared at its emptiness with affrighted eyes. Then, at last, with a
cry of utter despair, he cast the bit of glass into the sea. The watcher
understood that he had used the last atom of the drug. The knowledge
filled her with new dismay. She had already learned something as to what
must be the tortures of the drug-addict deprived of his supply.

After vainly scanning the horizon for a few minutes, Garnet returned to
the hut, carrying the girl's blankets in one hand, the water jug in the
other. When he had set the jug by the stove, he went to the
cleaner-looking of the bunks, where he deftly arranged the blankets for
his patient.

The sight of his preparations brought an increase of Ethel's distress at
the prospect of a night to be passed in the company of the distraught
man there before her. In her misery, she murmured passionate prayers for
the coming of her lover to save her from the unknown perils of the
night. Her situation seemed to her desperate beyond endurance. Yet, she
could not fly from it by reason of her injured ankle. She had no
recourse but to remain inactive, helpless, in an agony of dread. She
could not take comfort from the thought that the man had always treated
her with scrupulous respect. Now, he was no longer sane, and his past
courtesy could offer no promise for the future. Had she but known, she
might have been comforted by the fact that the long-continued secret
indulgence in morphia had killed in him every desire and passion save
one--a mad craving for the drug itself, and for more, and more.

Ethel urged the Doctor to share with her the food provided for them by
Mr. Goodwin. But he refused, declaring that he was too greatly worried
over the misfortune in which she was involved. The girl then decided
that she would not dare to sleep while the crazed man was present with
her. She determined to remain in her seat. She was so worn with fatigue
that she did not dare lie down on the comfortable blanket, where she
would be unable to resist falling asleep. So she sat huddled in a mood
of sick misery, while the Doctor ceaselessly paced to and fro the length
of the hut, like a wild beast caged.

Presently, Garnet halted, and insisted that Ethel should lie down in the
bunk to rest. This she refused to do, and she persisted in her refusal
when urged a second and a third time. But, after her third refusal,
Garnet regarded her with an expression of utter despair. Then he spoke,
in a changed voice, shaken with emotion.

"Miss Marion, I believe that you have become afraid of me!"

Having uttered the words, he sank down heavily on one of the vacant
chairs. His breath came hard and fast. He seemed like a man about to
suffer a stroke of apoplexy. Then, suddenly, he burst into tears.

The man's loud sobbing stirred the girl's sympathies. She even felt a
little guilty, since her conduct had caused this final outburst of
wretchedness. She was eager to soothe him. Certainly, he could not be
dangerous now. She hobbled across the room toward him.

But the physician ceased his sobs at her approach. He sat erect and by a
brusque gesture checked her advance. He spoke to her in a toneless
voice.

"Miss Marion, when first you regained consciousness, you asked me to
tell the story of your kidnapping. Owing partly to your condition at
that time and partly to a certain dread of my own, I only gave you a
part of the story. I promised to tell the rest later. That time has now
arrived. I have waited for a moment when I should feel that you had lost
confidence in me, for the moment when I should know that you no longer
trusted me. I delayed because I hated to confess my weakness. I wished
to appear before you still as a strong man. And let me assure you that
you are not in any slightest danger from me. It is true, I am a nervous
wreck. And yet, at this moment, my mind is clear. I realize that the
time has come for me to make my confession to you. In the hope that it
will render your judgment of me less harsh, I shall tell you my whole
story. It begins back in the days when I was taking my course in the
medical school."

Ethel was amazed over the change that had so abruptly taken place in the
man. It seemed indeed that he had recovered, at least in some measure,
his accustomed poise. He appeared less afflicted with nervousness in
this new eagerness to talk. She returned to her chair and again seated
herself. There she sat in rapt attention as she listened to the weird
narrative of a great man's folly and degradation. As the tale unfolded,
the girl's heart was like a lute swept by chords and dissonances of
emotion. She was thrilled to horror, moved to strange sympathy; by turns
fearful and sympathetic.

"I believe," the Doctor went on, "that I was a more than ordinarily
hard-working student. Night after night I burned the midnight oil. I was
ambitious to forge ahead. I was eager to finish my course and to begin
the practice of the profession that I so deeply loved. I was possessed
by a feeling that I had been created for this calling. I believed that I
was destined to obtain eminence in my chosen career.

"Everything went well until I became friends with a certain young tutor
in the university. He noticed that I was working hard, and that
sometimes I would begin the day tired and depressed, when, naturally, my
mind would not be as bright as it should be.... The man was a vampire of
viciousness--only desirous to corrupt.... And I was an easy mark! The
only excuse I have to offer is my age.

"This man was a drug-fiend. He used morphia slyly, knowing full well
what the outcome must be. It was that hideous knowledge that made him
eager to enchain others, even as he himself was enchained, so that he
would not be alone in the final catastrophe.

"One day when I was in the dumps, he came to me, placed his hand on my
shoulder, and said:

"Gifford, come with me. I want to make a new man out of you.' ... He
did!--the kind of man you'll know me to be when my story is done.

"I went with him to his room. From a small bottle, he handed me a
pellet, with instruction to swallow it. I must ask no question--merely
return to my work, and see if it did not ease my labors. I did as
directed. I found the promised relief--I could do wonders. Very soon, I
became the leader of my class. There were no questions asked. Whenever I
felt depressed, I went to the tutor's room and he came to my rescue.

"It was nearly a month before I was certain what he was giving me. As
you, Miss Marion, have trusted me as a friend, so I trusted this man.
One day I went back to this fellow for more 'Brain Food'--as I had
innocently begun to term it. I had been accustomed to entering his room
without knocking, but on this occasion the door was locked. He heard me
rattling the knob, and called out to know who was there. I shouted in
answer and said it was Garnet after more Brain Food. He then unlatched
the door and admitted me. His coat was off and one arm was bare. Upon a
small stand was a hypodermic outfit. I was surprised, for I had never
seen the fellow take medicine of any kind. He laughingly remarked that I
was just in time--that he was not feeling quite himself and so was
taking a little Brain Food 'the other way.'

"I guessed now that the drug I had been taking was indeed morphia. For a
moment, I was startled and alarmed. But the fright was of short
duration. I had already developed a craving for this thing that so
helped me on with my work. The tutor bade me remove my coat, roll up my
shirt-sleeve, and allow him to give me a little Brain Food in his way.
Needless to say, I did as he ordered. That was my first 'shot'.... Years
ago, that man killed himself--perhaps in remorse for his crime against
me and others corrupted by him."

The Doctor sat silent for a long minute in brooding contemplation over
this beginning of the vice that had mastered him, and now threatened at
last to destroy him.

"It was not long after this," he resumed, still with that toneless
monotony of voice, "that I began my life-work. Sometimes, I would go for
long periods without resorting to the needle. That has helped me in the
deception of my patients. For long intervals, I could endure without the
drug. Then, during periods of great mental strain and physical
depression from all-night vigils, I would invariably fall back upon my
old Brain Food. Occasionally, such a relapse would develop into what
might be termed a morphia spree. It was at the time of my last spree
that--to my destruction, and your discomfiture and suffering--I was
called to treat you aboard _The Isabel_."

It seemed to Ethel that Doctor Garnet wearied of his long discourse. He
now arose from his chair, and once again he began to pace the floor
uneasily. It appeared that he was debating in his mind whether or not he
should continue his narrative.

Ethel, moved to pity by the man's evident deep distress, suggested that
he should put off the further telling until morning when he would be
rested. She urged him to repose in one of the bunks until the morrow,
after which she would listen to him again. But to this he objected,
declaring that he had made up his mind to tell the whole story. Unless
she should refuse to listen, he would continue. Ethel admitted her
willingness to hear the remainder of the narrative.

"I suppose," the Doctor continued, still in that dead level of
monotonous recitation, "at the time that I boarded the yacht that you
were suffering so greatly from your injured ankle that you did not
detect my deplorable condition. Of course, I should not have gone in
answer to your call. But I realized that you were alone, and I had
explicit instructions from your father to care for you. So, duty called
me. Then, after administering to you a sedative of extra strength, in
the next instant I injected more of the death-dealing drug into my own
arm. From that moment, the Doctor Garnet that you knew and trusted
became a Mr. Hyde. Gifford Garnet did not wish to do you harm----"

"But----"

"But Mr. Hyde became obsessed with an insane desire to have you--a young
woman absolutely pure in heart--to have you enjoy with him the wonderful
sensations derived from the hideous drug to which he was subject."

The revelation, shocking as it was, brought a profound relief to the
listening girl. The confession shone like a sun through the mists of
fear that had fallen upon her. She listened now in a mood, not of
fright, but all of pity.

"I told you when you asked me about the fate of the kidnappers that the
ring leader had escaped. That was the truth. He did escape. But he's
here to-night, a prisoner--a confessed criminal, in your hands, Miss
Marion.

"I drugged the man in charge of the yacht. Then I chained him to the
engine. When he aroused from his stupor, I had everything ready for the
yacht's sailing. I forced the man to answer the bells as given from the
bridge, under penalty of death. The most of the time I kept you under
the influence of my drug. Much of the trip is a blank to me. Why we were
not swallowed up in the great waters of the Atlantic, I cannot
understand. It must have been, Miss Marion, that God stretched out His
Arm to save you.... At the time the yacht struck and was destroyed, I
was a raving maniac.

"Then, somehow, I once again became sane. That was while I watched an
old fisherman, who rescued you from the pounding seas.

"At last, I remembered the man chained to the engine. It was fear of him
that made me flee. When the kindly old fisherman went in search of a
physician for your sake, I was wild with the desire of flight. I could
see always the accusing eyes of that man there in the depths of the sea,
staring up at me--his murderer!... So, I took you and fled with you in
the tender."

Ethel looked at the man, whom she had known and trusted as the family
physician, with widened eyes of horror. This trusted friend, by his own
avowal, was not only thief and kidnapper--he was a murderer!



CHAPTER XXI

SEALED ORDERS


Doctor Garnet, seeing the effect made upon the girl by the conclusion of
the story, did not approach her or try to relieve her, as had been his
wont. At the moment he felt himself too low, too despicable, to lay his
hands on this fair girl, even as a physician. Moreover, he knew that it
would not be long ere she recovered her calm. Indeed, only a few minutes
elapsed before Ethel had passed through the crisis of her emotion. Her
mind clear again, she stared at the man with an unconcealed repugnance,
under which he cringed. She thought with dismay of the dreadful thing
Doctor Garnet had done. She even wondered now with new distress as to
what her friends must have thought concerning her secret departure. It
seemed to her that the truth was too fantastic a thing to be credited by
the world at large. It would scoff at this explanation of a young girl's
sailing for days with a man, practically alone, on her own yacht. She
shuddered at thought of the slanders sure to be her portion. How her
father would grieve over this disgrace of his daughter! How
Roy----Appalled, she thrust the terrifying thought from her mind.... And
there was the murder of the caretaker! Would the public not believe her
an accomplice, by consent at least, in that forcible holding of him to
the engine?

Ethel's thoughts veered to Roy again. But, now, there was something of
comfort in her musing. It occurred to her that he at least would believe
the truth, though all the rest of the world should mock at it as a lie.
Besides, there was the message she had thrown into the sea for him,
which she had seen picked up by the fisherman. There was no doubt in her
mind now that Roy had received it. There came a little glow of courage
in her heart as she reflected that even at this very moment he was
searching desperately for her.... Had she been outside the cabin just
then, she might have seen the lights of _The Hialdo_, on which her lover
was being carried to Beaufort, there to receive the news of her having
left Ichabod's Island alive.

A new courage for herself left her free to feel compassion toward the
miserable being who had done her such grievous wrong. She could guess in
some measure from the man's lined and haggard face and twitching body
how great was his suffering and remorse. From the fact that he had made
such a full confession of his guilt, she knew that he would make every
restitution in his power. Sympathy for him, added to sympathy for
herself, proved too much for her self-restraint. Woman-like, she hid her
face in her arms outstretched on the table, and wept.

After a little while, the fit of weeping ended. The girl brushed away
the tears, and again sat erect. Then, for a long time, neither she nor
the man opposite her moved or spoke. What, indeed, was there for her to
say to him who had made her his victim? She had not the heart to
reproach him. She could find no word of comfort. It seemed to her that
there could be no assuagement of his misery--that he were better dead.
If he lived, he must be a fugitive from justice, or, if captured, he
must be tried and condemned for murder. Or he might end his days in a
mad-house. Surely, death were preferable.

But Ethel knew that Doctor Garnet, despite her earlier belief, was not
mad. Notwithstanding the tortures he endured, his narrative to her had
revealed a mind lucid and sane. She wondered suddenly if, after all, it
might be possible somehow to save him from the law's penalty? Yet, the
damning evidence of the murdered man in the wreck of the yacht could not
be concealed. The consequence of it would be that there could be no
safety for the guilty one--at least on this continent.

That last phrase brought inspiration to the girl. There flashed into her
mind a thought of another continent, where death was riding ruthless
over countless thousands. There, under a new identity, this miserable
creature might return to his manhood, might once again exercise his
great skill in behalf of suffering humanity, might indeed atone for the
past, might win a martyr's crown.... If he could but be smuggled out of
the country!

It was hours past midnight now; a ghostly trace of dawn showed in the
eastern sky. The physician, it was evident, was fighting desperately
against the anguish induced by his abstinence after over-indulgence in
the drug. But, presently, he noted through the open doorway the
lightening of the horizon. Once again, now, he spoke to Ethel.

"Miss Marion, it's near daylight and the wind is still holding to the
same course it was blowing yesterday. I see little chance of getting
away from this place until there is a change. It is, I should judge,
about twenty miles to Portsmouth. With your permission, I shall set out
for there at once, in order to procure a boat and then return to you.
I'm sure that I can make it. I shall be spurred on by two of the
strongest incentives: one is my anxiety in your behalf; the other--for I
shall be frank with you--is my anxiety to reach a physician. I know that
unless I can secure relief within a few hours I shall become insane."

He paused for a moment, and then added in a voice surcharged with
emotion:

"This has been a terrible night. It was a horrible ordeal for me to make
my confession to you. But now I feel the better for it. I have fought my
hardest to retain my self-control, and I have succeeded thus far. Now,
if you can only continue to be brave for a few hours, I'll have you
safely on your way home."

"But do you consider that you are equal to the trip, Doctor?" Ethel
inquired doubtfully. "Twenty miles is a long, long distance for one in
your state of body and mind. Oh, how I wish my ankle was fit, so that I
could stand the journey! But, of course, you most certainly have my
permission, Doctor Garnet. That is, on one condition."

"And what is that condition, Miss Marion?"

"I want you to go under sealed instructions. I shall write these out and
give them to you, but you must not read them until you have gone ten
miles up the shore. Before you answer, let me tell you that in those
instructions you will find nothing but what is to the best interests of
both yourself and me."

"I owe you every obedience," the Doctor declared instantly, though there
was a note of astonishment in his voice. "It shall be as you wish."

At her request, Doctor Garnet provided Ethel with his fountain-pen and
some pages torn from his memorandum-book. She wrote her instructions
hurriedly, folded them and gave them to the physician, who bestowed them
in his coat-pocket. Then, with a short word of farewell, he set forth on
his journey, while the girl, standing in the doorway, looked after him
with brooding eyes. When he had disappeared from view, she seated
herself on the doorstep and mused for a long time on the curious
adventures through which she had passed, and of which the end was not
yet come. She felt a great content over being thus alone, gladdened by a
sheer relief at the absence of the Doctor. She no longer felt any fear,
and presently she limped across to the bunk that had been prepared for
her, where she quickly fell asleep on Ichabod's blankets. When at last
she awoke, it was after a sound slumber of some hours, for the sun was
now high in the heavens. She found herself greatly refreshed, and a
desire came on her for the added refreshment of a plunge into the sea.
There was no sign of a human being anywhere within sight, so she
undressed and entered the water.

When her bath was ended, and she was again clothed, Ethel found a stick
to serve her as a cane, and with its aid made a halting ascent of one of
the sand dunes. She was surprised and pleased at the manifest
improvement in her ankle. There remained little pain, even when her
weight bore upon it in walking, and the swelling was greatly reduced, so
that she was able partly to button her shoe over it. From the crest of
the sand dune, she was able to look out over a wide expanse of the
waters all round-about.

To the eastward, she could see for miles out over the bosom of the
Atlantic. Far away in the distance, she saw a large steamer headed
toward the north. At sight of it, she was swept with a sick longing to
be on board, bound back to home and lover. Scattered over the surface of
the Sound were visible many small sails of the fishing boats, darting to
and fro, many skirting the shore. These were, however, located far away
to the southwest, miles distant from where she stood. It was evident
that, for the time being at least, there would be no opportunity to
signal for help. A sudden realization of hunger drove her back to the
shack.

Ethel gathered sticks from the shore for the rusty ramshackle stove. She
lighted them with matches brought from the tender. Soon she had water
boiling for coffee, and presently, with the remnants left from Mrs.
Goodwin's supply, the girl was able to make a meal that seemed
wonderfully savory to her sharpened appetite.

As the day lengthened, Ethel's mind busied itself with the problem of
finding a means to signal her presence. There was always the possibility
of the physician's failure to reach his destination. Prudence demanded
that she herself should make every effort possible for relief. From her
reading, she remembered how shipwrecked castaways in similar plight had
used a shirt or any white garment as a flag of distress. She saw a
net-pole lying on the strand, which, she believed, she could drag to the
top of the sand dune, in spite of her ankle's weakness. Her muslin
petticoat would serve as the banner. The idea no sooner presented itself
than she proceeded to its execution. The moving and the erection of the
heavy pole taxed her strength to the utmost, but it was at last
accomplished, and its white flag fluttered bravely in the light breeze.
Ethel looked with pride on her achievement, and dared to believe that
her father, could he have seen her now, would have praised her courage
and resourcefulness. She felt oddly like a soldier who has scaled the
wall in the face of the enemy, and planted his flag in triumph on the
rampart--though hers was a flag of truce. She surveyed her work
complacently, though every muscle was aching from long-continued digging
in the shifting sand with her bare hands and the tramping it into
firmness about the pole.

When again she glanced out over the Sound, Ethel saw off to the
northward a small skiff sailing toward her. Even at this distance, she
was sure that it was approaching her refuge. It was evident that her
signal had been seen. She sat down, and stared eagerly. She felt
suddenly faint in the reaction of joy over the prospect of rescue. Then,
a minute later, the castaway was forgotten in the woman. She hastily
pulled her signal banner from the pole, wadded it under her arm, and
hurried down the dune to the hut. Having accomplished its extraordinary
purpose so valiantly, the white flag should now disappear to perform its
ordinary useful service.

[Illustration: She sat down and stared eagerly.]

And as the signal banner came down, there sounded a clarion note, as if
of victory, from the crest of a neighboring sand dune. It was the
crowing of Shrimp, still bold to challenge the world.

But Ethel gave no heed to the bird that had been her companion for a
time in misfortune. It occurred to her that she ought not to go away
from this place in such fashion as to leave Doctor Garnet to worry over
her fate, should he return and find her gone. She decided that she would
offer her rescuers a sufficient payment to wait throughout the day for
his return, before taking their departure.

Now, the boat was putting in at some little distance up the shore. But
there could be no doubt that a landing was intended, for the little sail
had been lowered, and one of the men was sculling toward the beach with
an oar.



CHAPTER XXII

THE PARTING CROW


In this particular case, the cock crowed, not thrice, but once. Indeed,
the single triumphant call was all that was necessary. It was as if the
vainglorious fowl was aware that he had been a figure in a tragedy, as
had been no other of his kind since the time when Saint Peter made
craven denial of his Master.

There was no possibility that Captain Ichabod could be deceived as to
the identity of the creature's voice. As the boat drew in toward the
shore to investigate the significance of the white flag that had
fluttered from the sand dunes and had then so abruptly vanished, the old
fisherman, hearing the cock's crow, turned to the detective and Roy
Morton, and spoke vehemently:

"Men, did ye hear that? Whar are your ears? I'll jest be John Browned if
that wa'n't my ole rooster Shrimp a-crowin'! Why, men, I declare to
goodness if it ain't a fact as sure as shootin'. I'd know that bird's
hide in the tan-yard with the feathers off. It's him, men--an' if he's
thar so is the gal!"

The all-important feature of the chase with Ichabod hitherto had been to
find Ethel. Not only on his own account, but for the sake of Roy, whose
deep distress aroused his sympathies. Now, however, when he heard his
old feathered friend lift up a lusty voice as if in salutation, the
fisherman for the time being forgot the graver aspect of their quest. A
new emotion dominated him: He must see Shrimp--at once! Forthwith, then,
he dropped the sheets, and sculled vigorously toward that part of the
beach whence had issued the sound of the crowing.

When the boat grounded, Ichabod excitedly hastened forward, climbing the
steep slope of the nearest dune. Roy and Van Dusen followed him, for
they believed in the accuracy of the old man's observation that the girl
must in truth be somewhere near his pet.

As the three reached a cleared space above the thick growth of bushes
about the base and sides of the dune, Uncle Icky, who was some distance
in advance of the others, stopped short. He stood for a few seconds in
silence, peering intently ahead. Then he cried out in a loud voice:

"Wall, I'll be eternally damned!" He pointed a bony forefinger. "Now,
what do you men think o' that? It's him, all right, but, by cracky, the
ole devil, as well as myself, has changed consider'ble in his attitude
toward the other sex, since last we met! Don't ye see, men, he's
a-scratchin' an' a-kityka-dawin' thar fer three hens!"

Both the old man's hearers burst out laughing over this comparison of
the rooster's conduct to Ichabod's own, of which they had been given a
full account during their voyaging together.

"Wait a minute, folks," he called out as he trotted forward, "till I
gits my Shrimp, an' then I'll jine ye!"

Ichabod gave his whistle, so familiar to the rooster, as he walked
forward. The feathered ex-alarm clock, now become a gay Lothario, looked
up from his pecking and scratching. Then, seeing his old Island
companion approaching, Shrimp hurriedly scurried off into the thick
growth of bushes, and as he went he issued an authoritative call to the
hens to follow, to which they rendered prompt obedience. Ichabod halted,
and stared for a moment in dismay. He made no attempt to continue the
pursuit. He realized that the old rooster had had a taste of real life,
like himself he had come to realize the mistake of living alone on an
island of sandy waste, far from the society of the gentler sex. As the
old fisherman returned to his companions he spoke gravely:

"Wall, I don't know as how I can blame him. If he's gittin' as much
pleasure out o' his new life as I aim to git out o' mine, I don't
believe as how he orter be disturbed. He sure was a faithful alarmer,
an' I don't see any reason why he shouldn't make a good husband an'
father o' a family."

The three now descended to the shore line. They had made their landing
in such haste that they had failed to see the little tender lying in the
cove a short distance below. Then, presently, the eyes of the three fell
on the shack. Roy halted as abruptly as had Ichabod at the sight of
Shrimp, though with a vastly more poignant emotion--for in the window he
saw the face of the girl he loved. As he saw the smile of recognition
and blissful welcoming, he set out on a run for the cabin. A moment
later he disappeared within it.

Ichabod and the detective discreetly refrained from following Roy at
once. They gave their attention instead to a sailboat that was
approaching. They took the newcomer--for the boat had only a single
occupant--for a fisherman seeking to win the reward, though they could
not understand why he should be coming from the northward. The watchers
were still further puzzled when the boat, instead of bearing shoreward,
abruptly shifted its course and swung in a wide circle, returning the
way it had come. The two men then walked to the tender, which, as it was
now low tide, lay fully exposed on the beach. At sight of the shorn
propeller, they understood the reason of the interrupted voyage. But
they could make no guess as to the whereabouts of Doctor Garnet himself.
They waited with feverish impatience for the appearance of Roy, with
such information as he should have gathered from Ethel. In the meantime,
they kept a sharp lookout all about, in the hope that the physician,
being only temporarily absent, might reappear at any moment.

At last, Roy issued from the cabin. He carried a chair in his left hand,
while his right arm supported his betrothed. He placed the chair on the
shady side of the shack, and tenderly bestowed the girl in it.

Ichabod and Van Dusen came forward. Ethel greeted the detective warmly
as an old acquaintance, and thanked him gratefully for the part he had
played in the rescue. But she looked with bewilderment on the leathery
visage of the fisherman. She was sure she had seen the face of the old
man somewhere once before, but she could by no means find a precise
recollection of time or place. Then Roy spoke in introduction of Ichabod
to her, and explained the mystery.

"This is Captain Ichabod Jones. To him, Ethel, you owe your life. It was
he who rescued you from the wreck of _The Isabel_, and faced death
himself to do it. To him also we owe our discovery of you here."

Ethel bestowed so radiant a smile on the old fisherman that he fairly
thrilled with pleasure.

"You must tell me the whole story some time soon," the girl said, after
she had uttered a few phrases of earnest thanks.

"Miss Marion," replied Captain Ichabod, "jest the pullin' o' a poor
drowned woman out o' the water arter the waves has laid her right smack
at your feet, an' then a-pumpin' a little swallered brine out o' her
lungs don't call for no fuss like what you an' Mr. Morton makes over it.
It'd be a mighty-sorry human what'd a let you lay thar an' die. That's
the way I feel 'bout it. 'S'fur's findin' o' ye here is consarned, that
hain't so."

He pointed at Roy as he continued:

"Thar's the feller what found ye, an' if thar's any other thanks
a-comin' they'd orter go to an old rooster, what used to live with me.
Which flighty bird eloped with you an' that tallow-faced Doctor. His
crowin' did the business."

The Captain chuckled.

"An', by cracky, I'm a-thinkin' from what we jest see that he's already
got his reward!"

Van Dusen, who had been showing signs of restlessness, now interrupted.

"I have a professional reputation at stake," he declared, a little
grimly. "I quite understand that you two lovers are perfectly happy in
being thus reunited again. But there still remains a duty to perform. I
must catch Garnet. Please, Miss Marion, tell me where he has gone, what
his intentions are."

"He is off on a mission of mercy," Ethel replied. "He has gone to get a
boat to come back here for me."

She explained in detail concerning the physician's project.

"I expect him back at any minute," she concluded. "If you folks will sit
down and wait patiently, your quarry will come to you."

Van Dusen asked some further questions, which the girl answered frankly,
to all appearance. The detective was convinced that he had, as she
suggested, only to remain in waiting at the shack, to make sure of
capturing his man within a few hours. He dismissed his anxiety
concerning Garnet, and for the gratification of his curiosity, begged
for a full narrative of the events that had happened after Ethel
regained consciousness.

The girl did not demur, but told the whole story of her dreadful
experiences. The three men sat spellbound as they listened to her
dramatic recital. They were thrilled by that climax when in the desolate
hut the physician at last made his full confession to the girl.

As Ethel came to the end of her account, Van Dusen addressed Roy with a
note of self-gratulation in his voice.

"Now, what do you think, Roy Morton? You remember that night on _The
Hialdo_ when I gave you my opinion of this affair? You remember, I said
that such cases are rare, but that in the end we should find this whole
affair to be the work of a drug-crazed man, dominated by a fixed
idea--that he must steal this young lady away, and, by force if
necessary, make her a sharer with him in a drug orgy. I told you, too,
that I did not believe her life or person in any danger whatever, unless
through accident. And there's another point: This Doctor Garnet should
go to a mad-house, rather than to prison and the electric chair."

The day was drawing to a close now, with the sun hardly an hour high
above the trees that lined the western horizon. Uncle Ichabod declared
that Garnet should have sent help long before, if he had safely reached
Portsmouth. The fisherman gave it as his opinion that the physician must
have met with serious trouble on the way, or that he must have
deliberately deserted Miss Marion. He further suggested that he and the
detective should leave Roy and Ethel for an hour or two, in order to
search along the shore for a possible trace of the missing man. But he
amended this plan a moment later by advising that Roy should take the
girl in the skiff and make sail for the yacht, which was vaguely visible
at anchor some miles away. Afterward, a seaman could bring the skiff
back for himself and Van Dusen.

This proposal met with ready acceptance by all concerned. The lovers
embarked and sailed away while the fisherman and the detectives set
forth on their scouting expedition along the shore. But before starting,
Ichabod pulled off his shoes and stockings and rolled up his trousers.
It was his custom to go barefooted, and he had no mind now to be
handicapped in the long tramp by the foolishness of footgear--suited
only to town and the presence of Sarah Porter.

As he passed among the dunes, Captain Jones heard once again Shrimp's
lusty crowing. He whistled, but the bird remained invisible, only crowed
again, with a note that sounded almost derisive in the ears of his old
master.

Ichabod grieved a little over the defection of his old friend. Then,
quickly, his mood lightened. He would have through the years to come a
companion infinitely more desirable.



CHAPTER XXIII

THE SEARCH UP THE SHORE


It was fairly good walking up the shore, so that the two searchers were
able to make excellent progress here. Much of the way the waves had
pounded the beach until it was hard and level as a floor. But in places
the sand was strewn with quantities of sea shells, many of them broken.
These troubled Van Dusen a little, even though he wore heavy-soled
shoes. He wondered that the barefooted Ichabod experienced no discomfort
to all appearance. As a matter of fact, the old fisherman's soles were
horny, tough as any leather.

As the two journeyed on, the detective gratified his natural curiosity
concerning things round-about by questioning his companion. He was
especially interested in the small bands of wild ponies that appeared
from time to time. These, like himself, were inquisitive, and often
would stand gazing with curious eyes, until the men were within a
hundred yards of them, before they would show their heels and go
cantering off through the deep sand.

Ichabod, though he answered at length all the questions put to him by
the detective, kept up a train of thinking apart. He showed the results
of it presently when he spoke.

"Do ye know, Mr. Detective," he began, "I've been a-thinkin' a whole
week 'bout that poor cuss what me an' you are a-tryin' to run down? Do
ye know, from what that pretty gal says, I don't say as how that feller
orter go to a jail house? Thar's a heap o' good left in that man yit.
Jest think what he done out thar in the Sound a-savin' o' the kid! That
wa'n't the act o' no beast--not by a damned sight!"

"Yes, Captain," Van Dusen answered, "I'll admit that was not the act of
a beast. But don't you think that a man becomes worse than a beast when
he allows the craving for drugs to destroy mind and body and to prompt
him to acts such as those of which this degenerate has been guilty?"

"But, Mr. Detective," the fisherman argued, "that man was led astray.
Seems as if, 'cordin' to my way o' thinkin', this case is a heap like
that o' a poor gal what's led off when she's young. It don't make no
difference what happens arterward. The folks, women 'specially, won't
give her no credit, no matter how hard she tries to go right. They jest
naturally kain't see no good in her. Ye see, I used to know a gal like
that. But she was smart. She up an' moved clear out o' the country, an'
started life all over ag'in. It's right-smart hard to believe, but, sir,
that gal married a preacher, an' worked a durn sight harder fer God than
a heap o' the ones that she up and left behind did! Them poor fools are
still a-talkin' 'bout her. Now, Mr. Van Dusen, do ye exactly have to
arrest Garnet if we find him?"

"Well," the detective answered, "since he's a murderer any one has the
right to arrest him. For my part, I have no right to take him in charge
for the other things he's done. I have no warrant, an' I'm not a state
officer."

"What I'm afeard of," Ichabod went on, "is that while he's a-sufferin'
so, an' so full o' remorse, he'll do away with himself. If he don't do
that now, I 'low as how he's a cured man. It's my opinion that feller
will never hit the dope ag'in. An' if he don't, he's too valuable a man
to lose. If we come up with him, let's me an' you see if we can't git
him to do what that kind-hearted little girl wanted him to--go off
somewhars under another name an' work fer his feller human bein's, an'
fer God. A man, when he does it right, is a-workin' fer Him when he
practices medicine!"

Unaccustomed emotion vibrated in Van Dusen's voice as he replied:

"Captain, you yourself would make a good one to work for the Master. You
have a heart! And, in my profession, I find many, both men and women,
who are heartless. I would not willingly put a straw in the way of
Garnet. But, just the same, for the love of God and man, think what his
guilt is."

The old fisherman wagged his head in assent.

"Yes, I admit he has done a heap o' evil. But, Mr. Detective, the
closin' words that man said to Ethel Marion are still a-ringin' in my
ears. I hain't got much edicatin, but I can repeat 'em jest like she
said the Doctor said 'em. Here they be: 'My only hope now is to return
you safe to your friends an' to do my utmost to explain these most
unbelievable circumstances. I care nothing fer my own future. It is
ruined, an', like a good patient, I am ready to take my medicine.'"

As the old man ended his quotation from the Doctor's farewell to Ethel,
Van Dusen suddenly pointed a little way ahead.

"Unless I'm greatly mistaken," he exclaimed, "he has already taken--or
been given--his medicine. That looks to me like a yachtsman's cap down
there on the beach. You said he was dressed in yachting costume."

The two men hurried forward. When they reached the cap, which was
weighted down with a shell, the detective picked it up and found a note
pinned to the top of it. Captain Ichabod glanced about him with
apprehension at thought of the tragedy that might have occurred here.

Just beyond where they were standing there was a sort of false inlet. It
does not show as an inlet upon the map. Nevertheless, at times it allows
the water to cut clear across the Core Banks. Except at high tide, it is
shallow. But it is not safe for fording by those who do not know the
way, for the bed of it abounds in treacherous quicksands. It was indeed
at this point that Captain Jones had feared lest Garnet, a stranger,
might meet with disaster. Now, it seemed likely that he had.

Van Dusen unpinned the note, opened it, and read aloud:

     "To the World:

     "I hope to cross this unknown channel in safety, for the sake of
     the young woman, Ethel Marion, who is pure and innocent. I have
     spent my energies in order that the world might be benefited. But
     in zeal to win the fame for myself while helping others, I resorted
     to drugs to give me a capacity for strength beyond that apportioned
     to me by my Creator. Let my guilt serve as a warning to every
     professional man who desires to be of service to his fellows. There
     can be no gain to humanity from a folly that must cost him his own
     soul.

     "GIFFORD GARNET."

[Illustration: Van Dusen unpinned the note, opened it, and read aloud.]

Ichabod burst forth excitedly as the reading ended.

"Thar, now, didn't I tell ye that feller was no beast? The poor man! I
wonder if he did get over all right. Maybe he has jest really destroyed
himself, an' meant to, but didn't want folks to think he was that kind
o' a coward."

Van Dusen shook his head.

"No, I don't believe he meant to kill himself. I believe he meant to try
his best to cross, but feared he might be swept away and drowned."

Ichabod bade the detective wait while he himself should ford the inlet
in order to look for tracks in the sand on the further side. He reached
the opposite shore safely, and there moved to and fro along the water's
edge for a time, apparently making a close search. Van Dusen awaited a
signal, but there was none. At last, Ichabod reëntered the water and
crossed to where the detective awaited him. In answer to the mute
inquiry of his companion's gaze, Captain Jones shook his head sadly as
he spoke.

"Mr. Van Dusen, thar hain't a doubt in my mind but that God A'mighty
will be mighty easy with that feller at the judgment seat."

The two slowly retraced their steps toward the cabin. The detective
purposely lagged a little. He wished to save his companion from
over-exertion. He had never hitherto seen a man of such advanced age
endure so much strenuous physical activity, and he feared that it might
bring ill consequences. As a matter of fact, of the two, Ichabod
probably felt less fatigued.

It was dark by the time they reached the landing. A sailor from the
yacht was in waiting for them with a motor-equipped tender, similar to
that of _The Isabel_. The man had already made his painter fast to the
disabled boat, ready for towing it back to the yacht. Very quickly, the
detective and fisherman were aboard, and the little boat was chugging
sturdily toward _The Hialdo_. Van Dusen reflected, almost with a sigh of
regret, that his work was practically at an end. There remained only to
make a report to the Collector of the Port and the Justice of the Peace
at Beaufort. He would exhibit to them the cap and the accompanying note,
and thus the case would be done with. The evidence would eliminate
Doctor Garnet from further consideration.

Ichabod regarded the detective as a man of extraordinary experience and
ability. He proposed to avail himself of the wisdom here ready to his
need.

"Mr. Van Dusen," he demanded suddenly, "air ye a fambly man?"

"I suppose," was the answer, given with a smile, "you mean by that, am I
so lucky as to have a wife and children."

"That's it!" Ichabod agreed.

"No, my friend, I am sorry to say that I am not. I suspect I'm one of
those fellows that will keep putting it off until it's too late. But,
why do you ask?"

"I reckon the reason is," the old man said very solemnly, "cause I'm
goin' to be, myself, an' that right soon. An' I thought if ye was, ye
might be able to give me a little advice 'bout the pre-nuptals, as Sarey
calls 'em. She mentioned it, an', to tell ye the truth, I didn't know
the meanin' o' the remark. Is it something pertain' to weddin' frocks
an' things, or air ye like me, igornant? She said, jest before I left,
that it'd take a little time for the pre-nuptals, an' since I ag'in
realized how unsartin life is, I sorter thought I'd like to have it over
with to-morrer."

Van Dusen smiled.

"I don't think you need to worry, Captain Ichabod," he declared
soothingly. "I think the pre-nuptials will be satisfactorily adjusted by
you without any trouble. All you need to do is to walk up to your girl
to-morrow, and wave before her the five-thousand-dollar check Roy
Morton's going to give you as your reward. So long as you have the
wherewithal for the post-nuptials you don't need to worry about the
pre-. Then you might tell her that there's a fine yacht all ready to
take the two of you north for a honeymoon trip."

Van Dusen dropped his bantering tone and spoke with great cordiality.

"Leaving all joking aside, Captain, here is a splendid chance for you.
I'll take you and your bride all the way to New York, or I'll drop you
at any port you like between. I know that Roy and Miss Marion will be
delighted by this chance to get better acquainted with the man who made
their reunion possible. They owe everything to you."

"Yes," Ichabod retorted; "an' I owe them a heap, too. It's that girl
that started the whole change in my way o' thinkin'. She caused me to
decide to take on a fambly an' happiness. I don't much like what ye says
'bout that-thar five thousand, though. Ye see, we folks down this way
don't go round savin' lives fer pay--that is 'ceptin' the coast-guard
boys. What we does is fer the feelin's that possess us. Why, do ye know,
if thar's airy man in Cartaret that I didn't think'd do what I did, an'
more, in this scrape, I'd head a passel o' men to run him clean into the
swamps fer keeps!"

"It's a legally posted reward offered for the discovery of Ethel
Marion," Van Dusen explained, "and there is no question as to its being
rightfully yours. You need have no scruple about taking it. But Roy and
his sweetheart will convince you as to that, even if I can't."

Ichabod appeared dubious for the moment. Then his face wrinkled in a
grin, for he had found a method whereby to satisfy his conscience in the
matter.

"Wall," he declared judicially, "I has lost consider'ble time from my
fishin'." Then his enthusiasm overcame his air of reticence. "Whoopee!
Five-thousand dollars! I cal'late that sure will cut out them
pre-nuptals--whatever they be."



CHAPTER XXIV

A GENTLEMAN'S PROMISE


Roy and Ethel stood by the rail on the yacht's deck as the tender drew
alongside. They were filled with anxiety over the results of the search
upon the shore. Dismay touched them when they saw the cap that Van Dusen
carried in his hand as they stepped forward. Ethel's cheek blanched, but
she asked no question; only stood waiting while the detective stepped
aside with Roy and gave him Garnet's note. The young man hastily read
the message. For a moment, he mused as if in doubt concerning its
significance; then he asked:

"Do you think that he made the crossing in safety?"

"I think not," was the reply. "Captain Ichabod went through the channel
to the other side. He looked everywhere for signs of Garnet's having
continued on up the beach, but the search was fruitless. I have an idea
that the Doctor, in his weakened condition, was unable to breast the
tide, and so was carried out to sea. To my mind, it seems, perhaps, the
best ending for that drug-crazed man. At the same time, I confess I'm
heartily sorry for the fellow. Had there been any way to get him clear
of the charges it would have been necessary for him to face, I for one
would have been willing to go to any length to save him, to get him away
to some place where he was not known and could begin life anew."

Roy showed the note to Ethel, and explained how the evidence seemed to
indicate that the physician was dead. The girl listened quietly, but
when her lover had made an end, she turned quickly and went away to her
stateroom, to be alone with her grief.

During Ethel's absence the yacht was got under way for Beaufort. Van
Dusen and Ichabod restored their energies by a hearty meal. By the time
the moon had risen, the party of four were gathered aft, talking
together quietly, and enjoying the beauties in the panorama of sea and
shore and sky unfolded by the yacht's progress. There was rapture in the
hearts of both lovers in this reunion after so great trials. Each of
them had sailed over these waters in an agony of grief and fear while
they were separated from each other. Now, they were once again together.
The fear and the peril were things of the past. For the present, there
was only joy, a joy that would endure for the days to come.

Van Dusen explained to the others how he had extended an invitation to
Ichabod to make use of the yacht for his honeymoon-trip. Ethel was
astonished and delighted to learn of the old fisherman's romance and his
intended bridal on the morrow.

"But, do you know," she exclaimed with a smile, to Captain Jones, "I
supposed, of course, you were married, and had grandchildren?"

"Not me!" the old man answered, unabashed. "But I do aim to!"

Van Dusen further explained that the only thing now wanting was the
consent of the bride herself to the plans. He then spoke again of the
reward to be paid to Ichabod. Roy declared that this should be made out
immediately. Once again, Captain Icky protested against the payment, but
without much heart in his objections, and finally, after mumbling
something as to the time lost from his fishing, he consented to receive
the amount. But on a condition. He stipulated that the check should be
made out to Sarah Porter, and that in the left-hand corner there should
be written the words:

"In lieu of all other pre-nuptals."

The fisherman gave it as his positive opinion that this would clinch the
matter for the following day.

"Anyhow," he added grimly, "if it don't, I'll be dogged if she gits it!"

When the yacht reached Beaufort, the party went ashore, for it had been
decided that Ethel should be cared for at the Inlet Hotel, where, if
need be, she might prove of service in persuading Sarah into meeting the
ardent Ichabod's wishes.

The hostess greeted the girl warmly, and fussed over her with a maternal
solicitude that promised well for the fisherman's hopes in the matter of
grandchildren. Then, when she had seen her guest comfortably installed,
Sarah returned to the porch, where Ichabod, armed with the check, was
anxiously awaiting her.

"Oh," she exclaimed tenderly, "I'm so glad you have returned safely!
I've really worried about you. I was afraid that dreadful man might do
something terrible if you came upon him unexpectedly."

"No, sir," was the spirited retort; "there ain't nothin' kin git me now
but you!"

The gallant remark so pleased the spinster that she patted his hand
affectionately, as they sat down side by side on a porch settee.

Ichabod braced himself for the encounter. He felt that there was to be
no shilly-shally now. Moreover, his backbone was amazingly stiffened by
the five-thousand-dollar check. He meant business! Besides, it would
never do to disappoint his new friends. He was going to make that
honeymoon-trip, or "bust!"

"Sarah," he began, "do ye remember as how in the old days I was always
said to be a man o' very few words?"

"Why, yes, Ichabod," Sarah agreed--perhaps a little doubtful, "come to
think about it I believe you were. But what's agitating of you to-night?
There seems to be something heavy-like on your mind."

"Thar is, Sary--somethin' mighty big an' I reckin as how you'll think it
sudden. But that's the only way to do--jest speak right plumb out an'
have it over."

His hearer paled slightly. She had a horrid suspicion that her lover had
backslidden, that he meant to return to his hermit life on the Island,
and was here now to jilt her.

"Of course, ye understand that me an' you are promised to wed?" Ichabod
went on.

"Yes," came the faltered response.

"Wall, thar ain't but one thing now as I see it that is a-standin' in
the way, an' that is them-thar pre-nuptals you mentioned when I wanted
to hurry things a leetle. Now, what I'm a-comin' to is this: I'm mighty
well aware that them things takes time an' costs money. In lieu o' them
as the lawyers say I'm servin' ye with this"--he extended the
check--"an' we'll fix the hull thing up in the mornin', an' sail no'th
in the evenin' on my New York friend's yacht, for our after-nuptals.
But, consarn ye! thar's jest one other condition: Sure as shootin',
ye'll have to pay our way back!"

Sarah took the check to the light. She gasped as she read the four
figures. There was awe in her voice as she pronounced the words aloud:

"Five-thousand dollars!"

Then, after a moment, she questioned seriously:

"Ichabod, are ye goin' to build the addition on the hotel besides?"

The old fisherman nodded emphatically.

"That," he stoutly declared, "was a gentleman's promise!"

Sarah capitulated.

"Ichabod Jones, I ought to call you a triflin' rascal for starting in to
scare me like you've done. Anyhow, I jest can't make it earlier than
eleven-thirty. Will that do?"

The fisherman's reply was to take Sarah in his arms. Roy and Van Dusen
in the hotel lobby hailed the smack that followed as a signal of the
wooer's success.



CHAPTER XXV

DOING HIS BIT


Ichabod saw Ethel come out on the porch and take a seat at the far end.
He somewhat hastily released Sarah from his arms, with the explanation
that he ought to leave her free to make her preparations for the
wedding. The spinster, blushing with happiness and excitement, hurried
to busy herself with making ready for her new state of full womanhood.
Just as Roy reached Ethel's side, Ichabod joined the two with the glad
tidings of his sweetheart's acceptance of the "pre-nuptals." The
fisherman's apprehensions concerning too much publicity for the wedding
ceremony led him rather shyly to suggest that it should take place on
board _The Hialdo_, away from the prying eyes of the townsfolk. He
explained that he didn't know which would be worse--the small boys, or
the older devils, or the cacklin' hens.

Immediately after the bank opened next morning, the cashier readjusted
his enormous bone-rimmed spectacles in order to study a check presented
for deposit by Miss Sarah Porter. Then he espied the phrase concerning
"pre-nuptals" in the upper left-hand corner, and that was sufficient,
for he was a man of shrewdness. He passed the news along to every person
that appeared before his wicket. In less than half an hour, the whole
town was agog over the astounding intelligence that the old maid, Sarah
Porter, was engaged to be married. There remained the mystery as to the
identity of the bridegroom. But this was speedily cleared up by the
genial Doctor Hudson, who made no scruples of advertising his old
friend's happiness. The result was that by the time set for the
ceremony, the whole town was out, waiting in eager anticipation. It was
indeed a season of great excitement. Here was an opportunity to
celebrate an event that was at once amazing, romantic and historic.
Captain Ichabod had been known by them for twenty years as an inveterate
woman-hater. During that same score of years, as her friends could
testify, Sarah Porter had refused no less than seven excellent offers of
marriage. Now, these two were to marry. The citizens, with one accord,
marveled and rejoiced.

Yet, no one criticized the match. The two were universally liked and
respected. While the townsfolk wondered and smiled they did not jeer.
But they were resolved to make a demonstration of their appreciation.
They meant to give the wedded pair a "send off" to be remembered.

Sarah, assisted by three of her closest friends, passed the whole night
in making ready for the momentous occasion. By nine o'clock in the
morning, her trunk was safely aboard the yacht. Immediately after her
return from the bank, Captain Jones escorted her aboard _The
Hialdo_--before the townspeople had any suspicion of what was going on.
They were quickly followed by Doctor Hudson and the clergyman. Van Dusen
bustled in after them, having finished the paying off of the chartered
boats.

The ceremony was duly performed. A woman's dream of years at last became
reality.

Van Dusen suggested that the newly wedded pair should go ashore to
receive the congratulations of the crowd that now thronged the water
front. But Ichabod, having in mind pestiferous small boys, steadfastly
refused any such exhibition of himself and his bride. His opinion of
them would have been confirmed could he have overheard their questioning
of Doctor Hudson, which was: Had he examined their teeth to see how old
they were?

Nevertheless, the townsfolk, though they got no sight of the principals
in the affair, cheered with a lusty good-will. And, too, they dragged a
cannon down to the shore, where the gunner fired a salute of twenty-one
thunderous explosions. The Collector of the Port, who alone knew that
this was an honor reserved for the President of the United States,
inquired curiously why this exact number was chosen. The gunner replied
seriously that it represented the bride's age.

At Uncle Icky's request, the yacht sailed first for the coast-guard
station. Here, he had no hesitation in proclaiming his new state and in
receiving the congratulations of his friends--for there were no small
boys to trouble. He explained the whereabouts of Shrimp and the hens,
with a request that they should be rescued from the barren stretch of
sand. The coast-guard men promised that the little flock should receive
a home at the station itself. Thus, the old fisherman's last concern
with the old life was happily ended. In a moment apart, he made a final
entry in the diary.

"Through with Shrimp and the shack, by heck! My weddin'-day! Hooray!"

It was owing to a request by Ethel to Van Dusen that the yacht's course
was to Portsmouth that night. Early next morning, before the others were
stirring, Captain Ichabod rowed Ethel in a small boat from _The
Hialdo's_ anchorage to the town. They were absent for a full three
hours. On her return, Ethel spoke with enthusiasm of the town's quaint
charm, but she gave no details of her visit there, not even to Roy. The
old fisherman said nothing at all of the trip, not even to Sarah Jones.

The wedded pair, though urged to prolong their stay on the yacht,
insisted on leaving when _The Hialdo_ reached Norfolk. They took with
them a promise from their new friends to come south again in order to
attend the opening of the new Inlet Hotel.

       *       *       *       *       *

Colonel Marion was appointed to head a mission to France for study on
the war-methods there. On his return to New York from Texas, he urged
Ethel's immediate marriage, before his sailing. Naturally, there was no
objection on the part of the lovers, and the father was able to depart
tranquil in the assurance that his daughter would be safe in her
husband's care.

One morning a few months later, as Roy and Ethel sat at breakfast, the
servant brought him a letter with a Paris postmark, which was addressed
in the familiar hand of Colonel Marion. Somewhat surprised that the
letter should be to him rather than to Ethel, Roy opened it and read:

     "DEAR ROY:

     "Just a few lines to give you the surprise of your life. I have
     found that our old friend, Doctor Garnet, was not lost in the
     quicksands, as you supposed. On the contrary, he is here in France,
     doing noble, wonderful work in the branch of his profession that he
     always loved--surgery. I understand that he has been decorated
     several times. And also, strange to say, he is going under his own
     name. I am sending this news to you instead of to Ethel direct,
     because I feared the effect of a sudden shock on her. You can break
     the information to her gently.

     "With love to the dear girl,

     "Your father,
     "STEPHEN MARION."

Roy had little alarm lest his wife should suffer any ill effect from
what she would regard as the best of news.

"My dear," he asked at once, "would you be greatly surprised to get
authentic information that Gifford Garnet is alive and doing wonders in
his profession of surgery? Would you believe it, if I should tell you
that he has been several times decorated for his services on the battle
front in France?"

To his astonishment, Ethel showed no extraordinary excitement, though
her face grew radiant.

"No, Roy," she replied, "I should not be surprised, but I should be very
glad!"

"Your answer sounds strange to me," Roy declared, with a puzzled glance
across the table. "Anyhow, you are calm enough so that I don't need to
hesitate in telling you that your father's letter to me actually
contains this astonishing news."

"Thank God, Roy!" Ethel said reverently. "The madman has become sane
again. Thank God, he did obey my sealed orders."

Roy stared at his wife in open bewilderment.

"What on earth do you mean, Ethel?" he demanded. "Have you been keeping
something from me?"

"Yes, my dear husband, I've been guilty of just that thing. I've just
been waiting and praying for the hour when I could come to you and give
you the very information that father has been able to send you. I'll
tell you the whole story. But, first, I must exact a promise. For
Ichabod's sake, as well as my own, you must not breathe a word of the
truth to Arthur Van Dusen."

Still mightily wondering as to the meaning of all this mystery and eager
for its solution, Roy readily gave the required promise that he would
keep Ethel's secret. Thereupon she told him the story.

"The night Arthur and poor old Ichabod returned to us aboard _The
Hialdo_ with the Doctor's cap and note, I believed as firmly as you did
that the unfortunate man had been swallowed up in the quicksands, or
swept away to death by the tide. At the time when he left me alone in
the shack in order to go for help, I would not let him go until he had
agreed to carry with him sealed orders under which he should act. I
wrote these and gave them to him, and he promised to follow my
instructions. They were for his future guidance. I believed that, if he
followed them, he would not only escape punishment, but reform so as to
be of service once more to the world. Naturally, when help did not
arrive from Portsmouth, I concluded that his strength had not been
sufficient for the task, that he had perished. So, I was not surprised
by the news brought to the yacht by the men who had been searching for
him.

"That morning when I visited Portsmouth, Roy dear, I had two objects in
view. One was to verify the fact that Doctor Garnet had not reached the
town. The other was to visit the young physician whom I knew to be
located there, in order to arrange with him to care for the afflicted
man in case he should arrive later on. As I was about to leave the
yacht, early in the morning, Captain Ichabod appeared."

Ethel's gravity vanished for a moment. Her lustrous eyes narrowed and
twinkled. She smiled until the dimples in her cheeks were shadows
against the rose.

"I suppose he stole away from the fond Sarah while she was asleep. He
never could have managed it had she been awake." She became serious
again, and Roy, whose mouth had widened in an appreciative grin, again
listened with sober attention.

"Captain Ichabod had a confession to make to me. That confession was
vastly more of a surprise to me, as you will soon understand, than this
news in father's letter. The old fellow first swore me to secrecy. Then
he out and told me, not without a certain exultation at his shrewdness,
that he had put one over on the greatest detective in America, Arthur
Van Dusen. He explained that when he and Arthur reached the false inlet
where they found the cap and note, he believed that Doctor Garnet had
crossed in safety, for the channel was by no means so dangerous as he
represented to the detective. As a matter of fact, he hoped and expected
to find the Doctor's tracks on the other side, and he did so although he
concealed the knowledge of their existence from Van Dusen. Ichabod went
on to tell me that he was moved to sympathy in Doctor Garnet's behalf,
that he believed the man would reform, would be of use to the world,
that he was worth saving from the law's punishment for offenses inspired
by a drug-maddened brain. He insisted that he told no lie to
Arthur--only allowed the world's greatest detective to draw a few wrong
conclusions from his vague remarks and the melancholy expression on his
face when he returned after crossing the inlet to look for tracks.

"Right then and there, that old fisherman and I formed a partnership. We
decided that we would locate our man, save him from capture, and have
him restored to the normal. This would be comparatively easy since the
authorities believed him to be dead. We would demand in return that he
should go to France, there to serve those sufferers on the battlefield
who might have need of him.

"Ichabod preferred to remain behind, when I went to the physician's
house. There I found that Doctor Garnet had in fact been received by the
young doctor, who had taken him in and cared for him--proud indeed to do
so, since he knew his patient's reputation and held him in veneration
for his skill. The younger doctor readily entered into a conspiracy with
me when he had heard my story. I had an interview with Doctor Garnet. He
accepted my proposition fully. He was glad of a chance to expiate his
follies. He swore to me that never again would he take a grain of the
drug. At his request, I brought Ichabod to his bedside, and he thanked
the old man warmly for all that he had done both for himself and for me,
his victim. I offered him funds for the trip abroad, but he told me that
he was well supplied with money. He told me also that he had come in a
small sailboat to carry me away from the shack, but had seen on
approaching that his services were no longer needed, so had returned
whence he came.... From that day until now, I have had no word of the
man. Yet, I felt that he had kept his promise."

"And he did--nobly!" Roy said. There was a new admiration in the glance
with which he regarded his wife, who had accomplished this miracle of
regeneration.

Ethel met that glance, and smiled responsively.

Once again she dimpled, as she spoke half-seriously, half-playfully.

"Roy, dear, aren't you just a bit proud of your wife and Uncle Ichabod?
Between us we so worked it out that my kidnapping was not in vain. It
has done three things: First and best, it hurried our marriage; second,
it made Captain Jones a bridegroom instead of a hermit; third, it
furnished a hero for the battlefields of France."



END





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