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Title: The Haunted Ship
Author: Tucker, Kate
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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THE HAUNTED SHIP


  THE MACMILLAN COMPANY
  NEW YORK · BOSTON · CHICAGO · DALLAS
  ATLANTA · SAN FRANCISCO

  MACMILLAN & CO., LIMITED
  LONDON · BOMBAY · CALCUTTA
  MELBOURNE

  THE MACMILLAN COMPANY
  OF CANADA, LIMITED
  TORONTO



[Illustration: _Ann could feel the dory rise and plunge._]



THE HAUNTED SHIP

  by
  KATE TUCKER

  _Illustrated by_--
  ETHEL TAYLOR

  NEW YORK
  THE MACMILLAN COMPANY
  1929



  COPYRIGHT, 1929,
  BY THE MACMILLAN COMPANY.

  Set up and electrotyped.
  Published March, 1929.

  All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction
  in whole or in part in any form.


  SET UP BY BROWN BROTHERS LINOTYPERS
  PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
  BY THE FERRIS PRINTING COMPANY



CONTENTS


CHAPTER                                PAGE

     I. JO BAILEY AND THREE SEYMOURS      1

    II. THE WRECKED SCHOONER             15

   III. HOW THE BOAT CAME ASHORE         29

    IV. IN THE GOOD GREENWOOD            43

     V. ON THE WRECK                     66

    VI. GOING LOBSTERING                 81

   VII. PAINTING THE DEER               100

  VIII. A MAN WITH A LANTERN            109

    IX. A DAY OF MYSTERIES              124

     X. THE FIRE IN THE WOODS           141

    XI. THROUGH THE PORTHOLE            150

   XII. THE FIGUREHEAD’S SECRET         159

  XIII. A REASON FOR EVERYTHING         171



ILLUSTRATIONS


  Ann could feel the dory rise and plunge    _Frontispiece_

                                                       PAGE

  In the lookout tree they mounted guard in turn         53

  With one beautiful jump he vanished                    61

  The harness showered down in dozens of little
    straps                                              135



THE HAUNTED SHIP



[Illustration]

THE HAUNTED SHIP

CHAPTER I

_JO BAILEY AND THREE SEYMOURS_


“Hey, Jerry, get along there, you fool horse!”

Jo Bailey flipped the reins over the back of the lumbering nag. Not
that there was any hurry, but he was so eager to see what the Seymours
would be like. They were coming from Boston to spend the summer at the
Bailey house and Jo was on his way down to the station at Pine Ledge to
meet their train.

The past winter had been a lonely one for Jo and his father, who lived
up on a hill by the sea, far from the village. Some of the time the
snowdrifts had been seven feet deep, but Jo didn’t expect these city
people to understand what that meant; they could not realize what the
Maine people called “a shut-in winter.” The Seymours were coming after
the grass had grown green and the fields sprouted up through the brown
moist earth, and they would be going home before the cold winds came
down from the north woods, the cold that closed so surely and fiercely
about the Baileys in their white house on the hill above the sea and
shut them in so tightly that they could see nothing but the sea and the
great stretches of snow for a long four months at a time.

Spring changed the whole world for Jo Bailey, and spring was here now;
winter had gone. The soft dirt road sucked up under Jerry’s clumping
feet and brooks ran in merry freshets through their deep gutters on
either side of the road. So Jo swung the old plow horse into place
beside the little station platform and whistled while he waited. The
year’s fun would begin to-day. In the early spring he had helped his
father plant, but that work was done and so was school, and he had long
and pleasant days before him, when his chores could be finished before
breakfast.

Jo never had seen the Seymour family and to-day he was going to find
out what they were like. There were three of them coming with their
father and mother and if they were as nice as their father they’d be
all right. Mr. Seymour was a painter who had discovered the Bailey
house last year while he was wandering along the Maine coast on
a sketching trip. He had said that the Bailey farm was the most
beautiful place he ever had seen.

Of course Jo liked hearing that, and he felt proud at knowing that an
artist from Boston found the old farm so lovely, though exactly what
the painter saw in the big ocean pounding against the foot of the
tall broken cliff, the stretch of smooth meadow running down over the
slope of the hill, and the dense pine woods reaching back for miles
and miles, Jo couldn’t understand any better than the Seymours could
comprehend his winter.

The Seymours were about his own age, Jo was thinking as he sat on a box
on the station platform, whistling and waiting. The oldest was a girl,
Ann, Mr. Seymour had told him last summer, and Jo was skeptical as to
what he might expect from her. A little bit of a fraidcat, probably,
always dressing up and particular about her clothes; but he could bear
it, if only the boy was spry. “Spry” was a word that meant a great deal
in Maine; in Jo’s opinion if a boy was “spry” he was all that a boy
should be.

While Jo waited at the station, Ann Seymour was sitting impatiently
in the train, looking forward to just such a place as Jo’s meadow to
stretch her long legs in a good run. School and basket ball were very
well in winter but she had grown as tired as Jo of the cold, and as
soon as April weather brought out the buds on Boston Common, Ann grew
restless and began to talk about Maine.

Ann was fourteen, just like Jo Bailey; her brother Ben was twelve, and
Helen was ten. She was decidedly the baby of the family and one of the
reasons for their all coming to Pine Ledge so early in the season.
She had been dreadfully ill during the past year and Mr. Seymour had
thought of Pine Ledge farm as the best place for Helen when they first
talked about a summer vacation. So the plans were made and he had told
the children about Jo--how he had no mother, and, because of this, they
must share their own mother with him; how he lived bravely in the snow
all winter and walked through the drifts to school; and how he knew all
about the woods and the rocks and tides and went fishing, up-river and
out to sea. He made Jo sound interesting, and the Seymours were waiting
to see him quite as impatiently as he was waiting for them.

“Will there be Indians at Pine Ledge?” Helen’s round blue eyes were
like saucers as she peered out of the car window into the woods and
fields through which the train was sliding so rapidly. “Will there be
real live Indians with feathers and paint on them?”

“Don’t be such a silly,” said Ben. He secretly hoped there were Indians
but he wouldn’t have admitted it to any one. “Indians moved away from
this country years ago, years and years ago, all except a few tame
Indians. But perhaps there are bears out in those woods. Bears live
where green bushes grow so thick. They hide in the bushes and jump out
when you’re not looking.”

He was delighted to see Helen shiver in frightened excitement. It made
him feel rather trembly, too, to think of bears as big as men that
jumped out and growled.

“Have they big teeth?” asked Helen, as she pressed her small nose
against the window glass, looking hard for a glimpse of a bear.

“I guess they have teeth! And round ears and claws and fur.”

“Oh-h-h! I don’t want to met any bears.” Helen’s nose was pressed into
a flat white spot in her desire to look deeper into the woods.

“Jo Bailey won’t let them touch you, will he, father?” said Ann
reassuringly.

She turned to her father, who sat absorbed in watching the country
flowing past his window. She knew how he loved the green fields and the
woods, all the lovely shapes of things and the way they were placed on
the green earth, for he painted them on wide, long canvases. Sometimes
the things he painted didn’t look as Ann thought they ought to, but she
always found him ready to explain why he made them so different from
the way they had appeared to her eyes. People who knew about painting
said that his work had unusually fine quality and Ann believed that
soon he would be very famous and then there would be a great deal more
money to spend than they had now. She would be able to go west and
start a ranch with hundreds of horses and cowboys riding them. That was
the dream of her life.

Ben didn’t care much about having more money. He was satisfied to sit
and watch his father at work. Often Mr. Seymour gave him an old piece
of stretched canvas to paint on while he sat so quietly there beside
him. Ben liked to splash in the paint and try to do something himself.

In spite of being a boy he was not nearly as strong as Ann, although
he was only two years younger. She could tumble him over easily, but
she was unusually strong for her age. It was hard for Ann to remember
always not to be too rough with Ben and Helen. She was not quite aware
of how she was looking forward to being with Jo Bailey, for her father
had said, “Jo’s as sturdy as they make ’em.” Jo, Ann knew, would be
able to do everything she could and then do more. And Jo would tell
them about bears and Indians, for though, like Ben, she knew perfectly
well that no Indians or bears would be in the Pine Ledge woods, she
liked to imagine that there might be some.

“Dad,” she said to Mr. Seymour, and he turned his keen smiling eyes
toward her. “Jo will know whether bears come into his woods, won’t he?
Tell Helen that Jo will take care of her.”

“I shouldn’t wonder,” answered Mr. Seymour, “but he will speak for
himself in about one minute from now, for here we are.”

What a scurrying for coats and bags as the train pulled up before the
square wooden box that was Pine Ledge station! They all climbed down
the high steps to the platform, Helen without hat or coat because, as
usual, she had been too excited to get them on until the last moment
had come.

So this was Jo, waiting for them beside a fat old plow horse and a
roomy brown wagon that Ann learned to call the buckboard. Jo was much
bigger than Ann had thought he would be, and freckles were spattered
on his tanned face. He wore a very faded pair of clean overalls and
the collar of his blue shirt stood out like a second pair of ears. He
grinned a wide shy grin and his heavy boots scraped awkwardly on the
platform as he walked across to meet them.

Helen couldn’t wait. She ran across to him before the others were
fairly out of the train. “Where are the Indians and the bears? Please
show them to me right away.”

“Bears?” answered Jo, laughing in spite of his bashfulness. “Bears--
Well, I guess I can find you places where they have been, later in the
summer, around the berry patches, but they don’t linger here in the
springtime. And the Injuns were scared away years ago. People ain’t
scalped up here any more.”

All the Seymours were around him by this time. “We shall have to do
without the Indians,” said Mrs. Seymour gayly. “Really, I prefer not to
be scalped.”

Jo laughed again as he went to help with the baggage; a feeling
of satisfaction and contentment filled him. These new people were
friendly. He was going to like them.

“I’ll take those, Mr. Seymour.” And over Jo’s square shoulders went the
strapped shawls, the extra coats, and with three valises in each hand
the boy strode down to the buckboard.

Ben’s mouth dropped open in astonishment as he watched.

“Isn’t that too heavy a load?” Mr. Seymour protested; but Jo called
back, “Not a mite heavier than milk pails.”

“How strong you are!” exclaimed Ann.

After Mr. Seymour had gathered up his share of the remaining luggage
two bags remained. Ben looked at them. He had not supposed that he
could lift them from the platform but he had watched Jo with admiring
eyes, and now when Ann stooped for the bags he suddenly brushed her
aside and grabbed the two valises.

“I’ll do that,” he said, and he struggled after his father and Jo, the
two bags trailing from his lean frail arms.

Jo piled baggage and Seymours into the two-seated wagon, although how
he managed to stow them all away Ann couldn’t imagine until she saw him
do it. The buckboard seemed elastic, and Jerry, the big lumbering old
horse, traveled along as though he had no load at all.

“Want to sit on the little front seat with me?” Jo asked Ann. Jo had
decided at first glance that he liked this thin tall ruddy girl with
her bobbed hair. She didn’t seem like the girls he had known; she was
more like a boy with her frank smile and clear eyes. No frills or
fancies about her, no sly nudgings or giggles that might mean anything,
no holding hands. No pretending not to understand his own sensible
frankness, no trying to make him remember that she was a girl. She sat
beside him as he drove, her bright eyes darting this way and that,
letting nothing escape her sight, excitedly seeking out the things that
Jo had known every day of his life. Jo knew that if he had gone to
Boston he would have felt the same way about things that were different
from those at home.

Funny thing--he had expected to like the boy best, but even this early
Jo saw that he was going to have the most fun with the girl whom he had
dreaded meeting.

They seemed to enjoy their drive so much that Jo took them the long way
around, through the village. There the houses were grouped together,
crouching down like a flock of little chickens about the tall church
that looked like a guardian white hen. All around the outskirts green
hillocks rose, framing the village into a cuddling nest. This was
planned, Jo explained, to protect the houses in winter, when the gales
brought the snow out of the north and buried the roads beyond the
pine-covered mounds.

“The wind blows like all get out,” he chattered. “And the folks are
glad to be together so that they can reach the store and the church,
and the children can go to school. The wind blows so hard that it
passes right over the top of this valley, playing leapfrog over the
hills.”

“Where do you go to school?” Mrs. Seymour asked from the back seat.

Jo turned to answer her. “I come down here.”

“You mean you come down here to live in winter?”

“No, we don’t want to leave the homestead. Jerry brings me in good
weather, and when he can’t get through I go on snowshoes to the nearest
neighbors and the school dray picks me up there.”

“You walk? All that distance?” Even Mr. Seymour was astonished.

“It ain’t so far. Only four or five miles.”

Ann was tremendously impressed. “You come all that distance every day?”

“Lots of the fellows do it, and the girls, too. Everybody goes to
school even if they do live out on a farm.” Jo was very matter-of-fact
about it. He never had thought of pitying himself, nor thought of
admiring himself, either.

Ann liked the way the small white houses nestled together with the
church steeple standing over them. The steeple reminded her of a
lighthouse piercing up into the blue sky. Above it the scudding bits
of cloud were flying by like little sailboats she had once seen racing
across Boston Bay.

After they had passed through the village Jo turned into a winding
road which grew wilder and more unkempt as Jerry plodded along. Puffs
of dust rose behind the wheels and the hot sun on the pines made the
air heavy with fragrance. Finally the road plunged down into a ravine
where the air was cool and the sound of running water could be heard.
The pines met overhead and made a soft rustling noise more quiet than
silence.

“The river runs under the road here,” explained Jo. “Then it goes down
into the sea. The sea is just beyond those trees,” and he pointed
through the pines with his whipstock.

From the ravine once again they climbed into the sunlight, mounting
up over cliffs and rocks, until the sea suddenly spread out endlessly
before them. From here they could look back and see the mouth of the
river as it foamed out of the pines into the broader expanse of water.
Gray shingled huts were clustered on the banks just out of reach of the
swishing rush of tide, and bent figures of men, tiny, and yellow in
their oilskins, could be seen moving in and out of the boats drawn on
the shore.

“Lobstermen,” said Jo before Ann had a chance to ask him. “They bring
their boats in there. We have our boat down in the cove, my father and
I. Do you know anything about lobstering?” And he turned to her with
his eyes twinkling. Well enough he knew she did not.

Ann laughed aloud with him. “I’ve seen them in the fish market. And
I’ve eaten them. But I don’t know a thing about catching them.” She
looked at him inquiringly. “Is it fun?”

“I’ll take you out with me sometime, if you will promise not to be
seasick.”

“I can’t promise that, because I don’t know and of course I couldn’t
help it if I had to be seasick, but I shouldn’t care--I can be sure of
that!”

“Take me, too,” Helen demanded from the rear seat.

“All right.” Jo nodded and turned to Ben. “And you, if you would like
to come.”

“I’ll come if I can help row.” Ben was still feeling strong after his
battle with the bags. He wanted to do everything that Jo did.

Jo understood. “You could, but we don’t have to row any more. The boat
has a motor. But you can help to pull the lobster pots up; that’s hard
work and Miss Ann wouldn’t like to get herself all over wet.”

“Don’t call me Miss Ann,” the girl cried impatiently. “It makes me feel
grown up and I hate it! I’m Ann. My gracious, I’ve done nothing but
talk of you as Jo ever since my father planned to come up here this
summer. I feel as if I’d known you for years.”

“All right,” said Jo. Secretly he was delighted, but he did not quite
know how to show it and was not quite sure that he cared to let them
see. “You will get all messed up with the bait and the water, but
perhaps you won’t mind. There’s the house just yonder,” and he pointed
around the bend of the road.

“Where?” they all shouted. And there it was, outlined against the dark
of the forest behind it. It was a small one-storied frame house like
those in the village, with the roof at the back sloping almost down
to the ground, a white hen with her wings outstretched to cover these
children from the city.

The house stood at the extreme edge of a broad meadow that ran from the
woods to the high bluff at the foot of which lay a rocky beach; black
woods behind and then the smooth stretch of pasture and beyond it the
ocean.

The sun had already set, leaving an afterglow that was dimming rapidly,
and the Seymours suddenly felt tired and glad that they were to reach
shelter before dark. The air grew colder with the setting of the sun
and the glimmer of a lamp in the window was welcome.

Even Jo seemed anxious to get home and he urged Jerry into a trot. “Hey
up, Jerry,” he chirped, and slapped the reins over the smooth round
back. Jerry pricked up his ears and blew his breath quickly through his
nostrils. He obeyed as if he had meant to hurry without being told.

Everything grew tense in the peaceful twilight, as if a storm were
creeping across the smooth sea to burst in fury against the cliff. Ann
glanced at Jo’s face and found that his chin was set tightly and his
eyes looked straight ahead. He didn’t look frightened, but Ann knew
that he had no wish to be caught on this particular bit of road after
the night had fallen.

Up over the bluff the wagon rattled, Jerry’s feet making a clump-clump
in the stillness. Across and down the slight hill they went.



[Illustration]

CHAPTER II

_THE WRECKED SCHOONER_


The great boat lay almost against the road. As the buckboard sped by
she loomed above it in the gathering dusk, menacing and mountainous.
Her broken bowsprit swung over the wagon and creaked in the breeze
that had just sprung up. Directly below the bowsprit was a carved
figurehead, larger than life and clearly outlined against the dull gray
of the ship. Sea and rain had washed away the figure’s paint and worn
the wood bone-white. It represented a demon nailed to the battered
prow, its wide ugly grin and blank eyes peering almost into Ann’s face
as the buckboard passed beneath. Ann was on the side of the wagon which
was closer and could have touched the face if she had reached out her
hand to do so. Helen gave a little shriek of fright at sight of the
thing and Ann felt the cry echoing in her brain as if she had been the
one who called out.

Instinctively she dodged back against Jo, and felt that his muscles
were tense against the tightened reins in his hands.

Jerry needed no urging; with his back flattened down he ran, swinging
his heavy feet swiftly as he mounted the hill toward the house. Ann
glanced up from the strong brown hands holding the reins and saw that
Jo was staring straight ahead as though he had not looked at the
figurehead as he went by and was determined not to turn and look back
at it afterward.

They were past, but as they went up the hill the evening wind suddenly
grew stronger and sighed through the weatherworn boards that covered
the schooner’s hull, and the rattling of their loose ends was like the
sound of clapping hands.

What was this old boat, and why did it impress them so? And yet Ann did
not feel like asking Jo about it. She wished that her father would say
something to quiet this fear that had come over her so suddenly. She
never before had felt anything like this strange impression that the
schooner was more than just a plain ordinary boat cast up on a narrow
strip of beach.

As though Mr. Seymour had read her mind he asked Jo, “Where did that
schooner come from? She wasn’t here last summer when I was down.”

“No, sir.” Jo had trouble in making his stiff lips move. “She came in
on a blizzard the winter past and stove up on the pond rocks.”

“Whose boat was she? What is her name?”

“She had no cargo on board,” said Jo slowly, as if he did not wish to
say anything about it. “She had no log either. And the waves were so
heavy that her name plate was gone and never came ashore.”

“But wasn’t there somebody on board to tell you who she was?”

“A man had no chance to live in the sea the day she came in,” explained
Jo. “Four of the crew were washed ashore the next day, but they carried
no papers and nobody claimed them. None of the folks wanted to bury
them down in the village churchyard so pop and I put them up back of
the barn where grandpop lies. It didn’t seem right not to give them a
bit of ground to lie in, even though we didn’t know what brought them
in here.”

Mrs. Seymour exclaimed indignantly, “I never heard of anything so
inhuman! Do you really mean that the people in the village refused to
bury those poor shipwrecked sailors in the cemetery? Jo! Not here in a
civilized land?”

“You couldn’t blame the folks,” apologized Jo.

But evidently Mrs. Seymour was quite positive that she could, and Ann
agreed with her most thoroughly.

Jerry had stopped running. He was going uphill and besides they were
almost home now, but Jo had time to say, “Nobody ever claimed the boat.
I guess nobody owns her. And not even the sea wants her you can make
that out by the way it threw her away up here by the road, just as if
it wanted to be free of her. Only the flood tides reach her now.”

They had reached the house as Jo talked, and he jumped down from his
seat with his face still grim and set. And then everything changed,
for the house door was flung open with a flood of lamplight over the
doorstep and there stood Fred Bailey, Jo’s father.

“Come right in,” he called, striding to meet them. “Don’t mind that
stuff, Mr. Seymour. We’ll take it in for you.”

Ann liked Fred Bailey almost as much as she had liked Jo. As soon as
she saw him standing there, tall and thin and gangling in his rough
clothes, a fisherman and a farmer, all thoughts of the strange wrecked
ship were forgotten. Here was some one who made her feel at home, some
one who was strong and trustworthy and honest as the good brown earth
and the mighty cliffs.

Mr. Seymour had rented the Bailey house and Jo and his father had moved
into the barn for the summer. So presently, when the baggage had been
brought in and when Mr. Bailey had shown Mrs. Seymour where things were
in the pantry and the kitchen and the woodshed and where the linen and
blankets were kept, he and Jo went off to their summer quarters leaving
the Seymours alone.

Provisions had been sent from the village store and Ann and her mother
found the shelves well stocked with all kinds of food, with big barrels
of sugar, flour, and potatoes stored under the shelf in the pantry.
After they had studied the workings of the kerosene stove they cooked
the first meal over it, and Ann loved just such an opportunity to show
how much she knew about cooking. Ben was ready to admit that she could
boil potatoes expertly when she didn’t forget and let the water boil
away. As there was plenty of water this time, and as Mrs. Seymour knew
how to cook the steak deliciously in a hot pan, and as Fred Bailey had
left them a batch of soft yellow biscuits, the hungry travelers were
very well off indeed this evening.

Mr. Seymour was already gloating over the work he meant to do this
summer. “That boat is a find I didn’t expect. I’ll start sketching her
the first thing in the morning. Just think of having a cottage with a
wrecked schooner right in the front yard.”

“I don’t like that boat,” said Helen. Her lips twisted as though she
were going to cry. “It has such big round eyes that stare at you.”

Her mother laughed. “You must have been sleepy when you passed the
boat. That was only the figure of a man cut out of wood. The eyes
didn’t belong to anybody who is actually alive.”

“I don’t know about that, mother,” Ben said soberly. “I saw the eyes,
too, and I was wide-awake, for I pinched myself to make sure. Those
eyes made little holes right through me when they looked down at me.
They were looking at me, really, and not at Helen.”

“They were looking at me!” Helen insisted. “And I don’t like that ship!
I want to go home to Boston.”

Mr. Seymour looked at her in astonishment. “Come, come, my dear child,
you mustn’t let a thing like that frighten you. It is strange and
grotesque but that only makes it more interesting. I’ll tell you about
figureheads. The sailors think of the ship’s figurehead as a sort of
guardian spirit that watches over the boat and protects it during
storms. Even if it were alive it wouldn’t hurt you because it was
created only to protect. But it isn’t alive, Helen, it is made out of
wood. I’ll go with all of you to-morrow and let you touch it and then
you will never be afraid of it again.”

“Do they always put figureheads on big boats, father?” asked Ann. She
would not have been willing to admit that she, too, had those eyes upon
her and had thought they seemed very much alive.

“No, not always,” Mr. Seymour explained. “Sometimes the portion over
the cutwater of a ship is finished off with scrollwork, gilded and
painted. Modern steamers don’t have them now, very often, but the
deep-sea men who are on a sailing vessel months at a time like to feel
that they have a figurehead to watch and care for them while they are
asleep. The owners decide what it will be, and give directions to the
builders. That is, if they name a boat after a man they will carve
a statue of him for the bow, or else they will choose a saint or an
old-time god, like Neptune, who was once supposed to rule over the
sea. Sometimes they will have a mermaid, because mermaids are gay and
dancing and will make the ship travel more swiftly; no sea could drown
a mermaid. When a sailing ship makes a safe passage through storm and
peril and brings the sailors home happy and well, they are very likely
to believe that the figurehead has had as much to do with it as the
captain with his real knowledge of navigation and charts.”

“It is a mascot, then?” said Ben.

“Yes, a sort of mascot,” his father assented. “And some of the old
figureheads are beautifully made, real works of art. When he retired,
many a sea captain took the figurehead from his ship and nailed it over
the door of his home, for he felt a real affection for it. Perhaps he
thought that since Neptune had taken such good care of the ship at sea
he was entitled to the same enjoyment and rest ashore that the captain
had earned.”

Mr. Seymour seemed to feel that everything was clear now, but Ann was
not satisfied.

“This ship did not get home safely,” she said in a half whisper.

“No, it didn’t,” her father assented. He was perfectly frank in
admitting that even the best of figureheads failed when storms were too
heavy or when sailors made mistakes in calculating the force of wind
and currents. “But that would not be the fault of the figurehead. I am
sure we shall learn that the captain lost track of where he was and
came in too close to shore.”

Ann’s doubts showed in her face. “But the crew and cargo have
disappeared.”

“You mustn’t be superstitious, Ann. There is always a logical
explanation for everything that seems strange and unnatural. There
must be a good reason why that boat had no cargo and probably we shall
learn all about her this summer before we go back to Boston. Some of
the people about here may know more than they care to admit and have
purposely kept it secret from Jo and Mr. Bailey.”

“Wouldn’t it be fun if we could find out all about her!” Her father’s
calm confidence had reassured Ann; her father must be right and she
didn’t want to be silly and timid. Never before had she felt the least
bit afraid of anything.

Ben had been thinking. “Just exactly what does it mean to be
superstitious, dad?” he asked.

“If you try to make yourself believe that the wooden figure out there
is alive, or if you are willing to accept any one else’s belief in such
nonsense, you will be superstitious and not intelligent. For instance,
you may think you see something, or hear something, and not be able to
explain what it is immediately. If instead of working to learn a true
explanation you remember the incident as it first impressed you----”

“Like thinking a mouse at night is a burglar,” Ann interrupted.

“That is it exactly,” said Mr. Seymour. “Take that figurehead of a
demon on the boat; we passed by it just at twilight when it couldn’t be
seen as plainly as in full sunlight, and because the face was leaning
toward us, with shadows moving over it, it gave you the impression that
the thing was alive and watching you. To-morrow when the sun comes out
you will go back to look at it and see that it is only a wooden statue,
while if we should go home to-night, as Helen wishes, you children
would remember it all your lives as something evil. And in that case
you would be permitting yourselves to grow superstitious instead of
taking this as an opportunity for the exercise of honest thinking and
intelligent observation.”

“Is Jo superstitious?” asked Ben abruptly.

“Jo is too sensible to be superstitious,” answered his father.

“But Jo is afraid of that boat! I saw his face when we went past. And
even Jerry was afraid. He ran.”

Mr. Seymour glanced quickly across the table to where his wife sat
between Ann and Helen. Ann saw the look that passed between him and
her mother and realized that they both were worried. They did not want
Helen and Ben to go on thinking about the boat, nor did they want the
children to know that they, too, had felt the strangeness of that gray
broken boat and that grinning face.

Ann believed with her father that this was nothing more than an old
wooden sailing vessel thrown on the shore by a great storm. Where had
it come from, and for what port was it bound? Where were the families
who were waiting for their men to come home to them? Were there
children who thought that their father would come back in a few weeks,
now that good weather had made the seas safe? Were there mothers who
believed that their sailor sons would soon be home? How anxious they
must be, waiting all this time since last winter. Something ought to
be done about letting them know the truth. It was tragic, and it was
romantic, too.

And if there was a mystery attached to the ship that mystery could be
explained by a detective or by any one else who had the courage and
determination to find out what was at the bottom of this strangeness.
Her father had said there was a reason for everything that was queer
and uncanny. If only she were brave enough to face that grinning
demon! Should she be sensible, or should she let herself be weak and
unintelligent? Intelligent, that was what father wanted them all to be,
it was his favorite expression, “Be intelligent.”

The others began to chatter about other things while they were
finishing supper and washing the dishes afterward, but although
Ann took part in the work and the jokes and laughter and all the
anticipations of a great time to-morrow, she could think in the back of
her mind of nothing but the ship. If Jo would help them, she and Ben
would try to find out all about the wreck. It would be much more fun
than hunting imaginary Indians and bears in the woods.

After supper had been cleared away and the sweet old kitchen put in
order, all the Seymours trooped through every room in the house,
patting the wide soft feather beds that stood so high from the floor
that a little flight of steps was needed to climb into them.

“A tiny stepladder beside my bed!” exclaimed Helen. “What fun! I love
this house.”

The unaccustomedness of the quaint old furniture, the wide floor boards
polished with age, the small-paned windows, the bulky mahogany chests
of drawers that smiled so kindly as they waited for the children’s
clothes to be unpacked, all these things crowded the ship out of
Helen’s mind. She went to bed perfectly happy.

“Don’t you fall out,” called Ben from his room, “because if you should
you’d break your leg, probably, you’re so high.”

“I couldn’t fall out,” Helen called back. “You wait until you try
your bed. It seemed high before I got in, but I sank away down and
down into a nest; I think I’ll pretend I am a baby swan to-night with
billows of my mother swan’s feathers all about me to keep me warm. I
never slept in such a funny bed, but I like it!”

And then Helen’s voice trailed off into silence.

In each room the Seymours found a lamp trimmed and filled ready for
use, with its glass chimney as spotlessly clear as the glass of a
lighthouse.

“How kind the Baileys are!” exclaimed Mrs. Seymour gratefully. “I don’t
feel as if we were renting this house; Jo and his father seem like old
friends already.”

This time it was Ann and her father who exchanged a quick glance, a
flash of understanding and satisfaction. Impulsively Ann threw her
arms around her mother’s neck and kissed her. Her mother should have a
chance to rest here, if Ann’s help could make it possible, dear mother
who still looked so pale and tired after the long weeks of nursing
Helen and bringing her back to health.

“I knew that you’d like the Baileys,” said Mr. Seymour.

“Jo is an unusually nice boy, isn’t he, father?” Ann had already grown
attached to him.

“He certainly is,” Mr. Seymour agreed heartily. “And I know that you
will like him even better as you become better acquainted. His father
couldn’t get along without Jo. He does a man’s work on the farm and
helps bring in the lobsters every morning.”

“I’m going to be just like him,” Ben called from his bed in the next
room. Jo’s sturdy strength and the simple unconscious way the boy used
it had fired Ben’s imagination.

“Nothing could make me happier than to have you as well and strong as
he is, when we go away next fall,” answered Mr. Seymour.

With supper and the lamplight and the homely charm of the old house,
the atmosphere of uncanny strangeness had vanished, but after Ann had
blown out her lamp, just before she was ready to climb the steps to her
bed, she went to the window and peered through the darkness toward the
wrecked ship.

And as she looked a flickering light passed across the deck.

She must be mistaken. It was a firefly. No, there it was again, as
though a man walked carrying a swinging lantern with its wick no bigger
than a candle flame. He passed the bow, and the glow swung across the
figure of the demon.

Was it Jo or his father? That was Ann’s first thought, but she wanted
to make sure. From a second window in her room, across a corner, she
could see the windows of the barn which the Baileys had made into a
living room, and she leaned far out to see clearly. Jo was there. He
was talking to some one at the back of the room.

If Jo and his father were talking together, who could be prowling
around the boat? She crossed the room to look again at the schooner.
And as she watched, the bright pin prick of light disappeared; the
lantern had been carried behind some opaque object that hid it.

“What’s up, Ann?” Ben stirred restlessly in the adjoining room. “It
will be morning before you get to bed.”

“Oh, I was looking out of the window. The stars are so bright in Maine!”

“Ann! What do you think about that ship? I feel as if ghosts lived on
her.”

Ann climbed her little flight of steps and slid down between upper
sheet and feathers.

“Nonsense,” she called to Ben. “Ghosts don’t carry lanterns.”

“What?” Ben’s voice sounded much more awake. “What did you say, Ann?”

“I said I don’t believe in ghosts.”

Ann slid farther into her feather nest and promptly went to sleep.



CHAPTER III

_HOW THE BOAT CAME ASHORE_


Vaguely Ann heard a bell ringing. She thought that she was lobstering
with Jo and that Jo was pulling up a bell in one of the heavy lobster
pots. They were bobbing about on waves as high as mountains.

“It is seven o’clock! No farmer stays in bed late, you know.”

It was Mrs. Seymour’s voice.

How could her mother have come away out to sea? Ann sat up in bed,
not awake yet. And then she saw the sun pouring in through the open
windows. Her mother was standing in the hall between Ann’s room and
Ben’s, swinging an old ship’s bell that she must have found somewhere
in the house.

“In one minute, mother!”

How queer to wash in a huge bowl in her room instead of in a bathroom!
And how lovely to dry oneself while standing on a braided mat before
the washstand with the sun pouring down on one’s back and legs!
Bloomers and middy had miraculously appeared from her baggage; some
fairy had been at work while Ann was sleeping.

The smell of breakfast tweaked her hungry nose and she scurried madly
with her dressing, for Ben and Helen would eat everything in sight if
they felt half as starved as she did.

The kitchen seemed altogether different in the daytime. It had grown
smaller without the flickering shadows from the lamps. The ceiling was
low and Mr. Seymour bumped his head as he came through the doorway; he
would have to remember to stoop.

The big kitchen stove hummed merrily with the sweet smell of wood smoke
seeping up through the lids, a delicate fragrant thread of gray that
curled and disappeared. Mrs. Seymour explained that Mr. Bailey built
the fire for her; he had come early to show her how to make it. Just as
she spoke he appeared in the doorway again with a foaming milk pail in
his hand. His face was unsmiling but his blue eyes were alight.

“So much milk for us?” inquired Mrs. Seymour.

“Drink it down, free as water,” he answered. “That’s what puts the
color in children’s cheeks. Get your milk pans ready.”

“Hello,” said Ann. “Isn’t this a fine morning?”

“Morning? Morning?” said Mr. Bailey. “This be the middle of the
forenoon.”

Ann saw that his eyes were laughing at her although his face never
moved a muscle. “What time is morning up here?” she demanded.

“Oh--about half past three, these days. That’s dawn.”

“Do we have to get up at half past three?” cried Ben.

“Well, you do if you want to keep up with Jo,” answered his father.

“Where’s Jo now?” Ben asked, getting up from his chair.

“He’s hoein’ corn,” said Mr. Bailey. “Got two rows done already. He’s
not one to lie in bed, not Jo.”

“May I hoe with him? I’d like to, really.”

Fred Bailey looked at Ben’s mother. She nodded permission and Ben was
off like a shot.

“Won’t you sit down and have a cup of coffee with us,” asked Mrs.
Seymour, “to celebrate our first morning?”

“I don’t know but what I might,” said Fred Bailey. “Only don’t leave
that pail o’ milk out there by the door for a minute.” And he picked it
up and handed it to Ann. “It’ll be tipped over the second you take your
eyes off it.”

“Your barn cats come over this far for milk?” inquired Mr. Seymour
laughing. “They can smell a good thing from a long distance.”

“It ain’t no cats that dump it out on me,” said Fred soberly. “And I
think that I’d better warn you, first thing. It’s the spirits, the
spirits from the ship. They pester me almost to death, dumping out the
milk from pails, and they tear up the packages left beside the door.
You don’t want to leave nothin’ about.”

“You think that ship is haunted?” Mrs. Seymour poured out a big cup of
coffee.

Helen had gone already and Ann hoped that neither of her parents would
notice that she had stayed. She made as little noise as possible with
the milk pans and then came and sat down quietly. She saw her mother’s
eye wander toward her but she smiled pleadingly, hoping that her mother
would know she could not be frightened by any story about ghosts.

Fred was evidently glad to talk, once he had started on the subject. “I
shouldn’t wonder but what something was aboard that boat that shouldn’t
be there. I know this much--I’ve been bothered uncommon ever since she
came ashore, and not by human beings.”

“How did she happen to be wrecked?” Mr. Seymour was as eager as Ann for
the story, now that he felt sure that a story existed.

“She struck last winter in January,” began Fred, settling himself more
comfortably in his chair. “It was during the worst storm we’ve had in
these parts in the last hundred years.”

“It must have been a howler,” commented Mr. Seymour.

Mr. Bailey nodded soberly. “You’re right, I never saw nothin’ like it,”
he said. “The storm had been brewing for days and we could feel it
coming long before it struck us up here; there was warning enough in
the Boston paper. Then the sea grew flat and shining without a hint of
a whitecap on her. The wind was so strong it just pressed right down
and smothered the waves, and it blew straight off the land. It never
let up blowing off the land all through the storm, and that was one of
the queer things that happened.

“We had three days o’ wind, and then the snow broke, all to once, as
though the sky opened and shook all its stuffing right out on us.
With the coming o’ the snow the wind eased up a bit an’ let the water
churn on the top of the sea until it was as white as the falling snow.
Finally I couldn’t tell where the water ended and the snow began.

“The wind driving the sleet was cruel. Whenever Jo or I ventured out it
cut our faces and made them raw and bleeding. At times the wind lifted
the house right off its stone foundations and shook it, and I feared it
would be blown clear over the bluff and set awash in the sea.”

“How terrible!” exclaimed Mrs. Seymour.

“It was all of that,” Fred agreed. “The second day of the snow I
thought the wind hove to a mite, it seemed more quiet. I went to the
window to see if the snow had let up. It had--but not in any way I ever
had seen it in all my fifty years of life on this bluff. It was as if a
path had been cut through the flying storm, straight and clear with the
wind sweeping through, so that I could see beyond the bluff over the
water. It was then I had my first glimpse of it, riding over the waves
and coming ashore dead against the gale. It was such a thing as no
mortal ever saw nowadays. I thought I was losing my wits to see a boat
coming toward me, riding in to shore against the wind and while the
tide was running out. I just couldn’t believe what my eyes were telling
me, for no boat that I ever heard tell of had struck on this section
of the coast. Nature built here so that they can’t come in, what with
Douglas Head stretching out to the north and making a current to sweep
wrecks farther down; they strike to the north or the south of us, but
never here.”

“To see a ship coming in and be powerless to help it!” exclaimed Mr.
Seymour as Fred paused for a sip of coffee and a bite of doughnut.
“There was nothing that you could do?”

“Not a thing. I was alone with Jo, and even if we had been able to
get out a small boat we couldn’t have done nothin’. She was coming in
too fast. So we bundled up, Jo and I, and went out to stand by on the
shore.”

“Into that storm?” Anne demanded. She had drawn close to her mother’s
chair during the story and now she stood tense against it. She could
almost see the two figures, Fred so tall and Jo a little shorter, as
they ventured out into the wind that threatened to blow them into the
water. How the cutting sleet must have hurt, and how cold they must
have been as they stamped their feet on the ice-covered rocks and beat
their hands to keep from freezing!

“Nothing else to do but try to save the men as they washed ashore, now
was there?” Fred asked gently, and Ann shook her head. She knew that if
she had been there she would have gone with them and borne the cold as
best she could.

“We waited and watched,” Fred continued. “And all that time the narrow
path stayed in the storm, swept clear of the driving snow. And the boat
came nearer with no sails set and on even keel. When she struck she
cried like a living thing.

“We couldn’t see a man aboard. We waited all day and when night closed
in I sent Jo down to the village for help, and I listened alone all
night for the cry of some one washed to the beach; but no one came.

“When dawn broke Jo came back with ten or twelve men. They hadn’t known
a thing about the wreck in the village nor we shouldn’t, either, if it
hadn’t been for that path in the storm; the snow was falling too thick
for any one to see through it. Well, that morning the storm was over
and the sun burst out. And there she lay, almost as you see her now,
but farther out. The water was boiling all about her. The waves were
crashing in pretty high but we thought we could get one of the boats
launched at the mouth of the river and work it round to the ship. So we
left Jo to watch the bluff here and picked my dory to make the trip as
she shipped less water and rode the waves easier. We got her down the
river and around the point and after a couple of attempts we pulled
in under the schooner’s stern and three of us swung aboard while Les
Perkins and Pete Simonds held the dory.

“When we got on the schooner’s deck we found that the sea had swept
her clean of anything that might have identified her. The name plates
looked as if a mighty hand had wrenched them loose and great cuts
showed in the bow and stern where they had been. There wasn’t a
sound but the pounding of the waves along her side. It made a queer
sussh-sussh that didn’t seem to come from where the water touched her.
We broke open the hatches and went down in her--two by two. Wasn’t a
man of us who dast go down there alone, for you never can tell what
you’re going to find in a wrecked ship’s cabin. We looked all about,
but no one was in the place and I don’t believe that any one was on
her when she struck. The crew’s quarters were in order but the cabin
appeared as if there had been a struggle there, though the sea might
have done it, tossing things about. Then we searched her careful but
found no log nor no papers. Some clothes were scattered here and there
but the pockets were empty and turned wrongside foremost. She had no
cargo and the fire was still a-going in the stove.”

Mr. Bailey had another cup of coffee and drank it silently while the
Seymours waited for the rest of the story.

“Well, that’s how she came in,” he said at last.

“But what makes you think there are spirits on board?” asked Mr.
Seymour. “There must have been something more than you have told us, to
make you believe that.”

“Yes, there is more to it,” admitted Fred, “but if I was to tell ye
you’d think me foolish.”

“We’d never think that, I can assure you,” said Mrs. Seymour quickly.
“If we had been with you on the schooner probably we should be feeling
exactly as you do about her.”

“Perhaps you might, and perhaps you might not. I would think that the
trouble was with me if it hadn’t been for the other men, but every one
of them down to the cove would back me up in what I say. And I might as
well tell you, because if I don’t some one else will, no doubt.

“We had almost finished searching when I got a sort of feeling that
some one or something was peering at me. I kept looking around behind
me, and then I noticed that the other men were doing the same thing.
There was nothin’ there. We kind of looked at each other and laughed
at first. But soon it was all I could do to keep from running around
the next corner to catch whatever was behind it. We did our search
thorough, but I can tell you I was glad when Les Perkins pulled the
dory under the stern and I could drop into her. None of us hankered to
stay aboard that ship.”

In spite of herself Ann shivered and was glad when her mother hugged
her reassuringly.

“Two days after that,” Fred continued, “we picked up four men who
had been washed in by the sea. We are God-fearing people up here and
I couldn’t understand why the folks in the village wouldn’t put those
sailors in the churchyard, but some of the people were foolish and
said those men should not be put in consecrated ground, coming out of
the sea like that. I didn’t know quite what to do, and I suppose I
should have taken them out and put them back into the sea, the way most
sailormen are done by when they’re dead. But I didn’t decide to do that
way; I buried them with my own people, yonder in the field, and they
lie there marked by four bits of sandstone.

“Jo and I have been back on the boat several times, for we felt we had
a duty by her, lying at our door as she does, but we can’t find a trace
of anything to identify her and we both had that feeling that something
there is wrong. Something was watching us all the time we were on her.
So I’ve given up trying to think where she came from or who sailed on
her, for such things a man like me is not supposed to know. Spirits
from the sea no doubt came on board during the storm and threw the crew
overside. But if those spirits are there now I don’t understand why the
sea don’t claim her and break her up. Sea seems to be shoving her back
on the land as though it wanted to be rid of her.”

“That is a great story, Fred,” said Mr. Seymour. “And I can sympathize
with the way you felt; it must have taken a great deal of courage to go
back to her when you and Jo looked her over. And you have never seen
anything move on the boat?”

Ann wanted to tell about the light she had seen there last night, but
that was her discovery and she so hoped to be the one to solve the
mystery! She said not a word about it.

“Nary a sight of anything have we ever had,” Fred answered.

“Very strange indeed,” said Mr. Seymour. “What about the coast guard?
Of course you reported the ship to them. Weren’t they able to discover
anything?”

Ann knew already of the blue-uniformed men who patrolled the shores of
the United States on foot and in small boats, men who were stationed
at dangerous points to look for ships in distress and help them, men
who were always ready to risk their own lives in their efforts to bring
shipwrecked sailors ashore.

“Yes, they came,” Fred answered. “They went aboard her, and they took
her measurements, her type and capacity, but they could find no record
of such a boat nor the report of any missing boat of her description.
And because there was no salvage on her and as she didn’t lie in such
a way as to be a menace to shipping they left her for the sea to break
up--and that’s going to take a long time, by the rate she’s going now.”

“I’d like to go on her,” Mr. Seymour said. “Would you be willing to
take me?”

“Any time,” Fred assented. “Any time you pick out as long as the sun
shines.”

“What about now?” Mr. Seymour smiled into Fred’s steady blue eyes.

“Just as good a time as any,” agreed Mr. Bailey, rising from his chair.

Ann’s eyes were beseeching but she knew that her father would not be
willing to have her go, too, so she did not ask. He stopped an instant
as he passed her on his way to the door and gave her a pat of approval,
for he was perfectly aware of how much she wanted to see the boat.

“If I find there is nothing on the ship,” he said, “you can play there
to your heart’s content.”

Fred heard, and he shook his head dubiously. But he said nothing more.
The two went out together and down the meadow toward the schooner.

Ann watched them, and as she stood in the doorway she noticed that
the figurehead on the bow had completely lost its twilight menace, as
her father had foretold. This morning it looked exactly as it was, a
battered wooden statue almost too badly carved to resemble anything.
The arms that she had thought were stretched above its head now seemed
to be wings and the expression of the face was almost peaceful.

She watched the men as they climbed on deck and then she turned back to
the cheerful cottage and her work.

“What brave men these fishermen are!” said Mrs. Seymour. “And they
don’t seem to realize it, particularly. It is all in the day’s work.
Think of Jo’s walking five miles through heavy snow to bring help!”

Ann nodded. In her enthusiasm she stopped sweeping and leaned on her
broom while she talked. “I’d like to have been here with them. Mother,
I think I’d have found something on that boat!”

Her mother laughed. “Perhaps. You surely would have seen if anything
had been there. But Mr. Bailey’s eyes are keen, too.”

“Y-e-s,” admitted Ann. “Aren’t he and Jo nice people! It is much more
exciting here than going to school and walking across the Common. Don’t
you think that I could stay here next winter and not go back to town?”

Her mother laughed again. “It is rather early to talk of next winter.
School is a bit more important than adventures for you until you are a
few years older.”

“I know that you are right,” Ann apologized. “Only I think that I will
study to be a farmer.”

“Very well,” agreed her mother. “But don’t grow up too fast, my darling
Ann. Promise me you won’t.”

Ann’s broom began to work fast. “If I have to grow up,” Ann said, as
she swept under tables and chairs, “you can be sure that I am not going
to sit around playing bridge with a lot of dressed-up people. No!
I’m going to wear overalls and buy a ranch. I might take Jo in as a
partner, but I haven’t decided on that yet, and I haven’t asked him.”



CHAPTER IV

_IN THE GOOD GREENWOOD_


Mr. Seymour returned from the boat and reported that he had found
nothing unusual aboard her. He had not experienced the feeling of being
watched by some uncanny creature, which Fred had described so vividly.
And Fred acknowledged that while Mr. Seymour was with him he had found
the boat a different place, free from any unhealthy suggestion.

So Helen, Ben, and Ann were told that they might scramble about her as
they pleased, provided, of course, that they were careful not to fall
down the open hatches or slip over the sides where the rails had been
broken.

Ann was disappointed in her father’s report although she knew that
if he had found the boat unsafe she would have had no opportunity to
investigate for herself. She tried to be sensible and forget that a
mystery had ever been attached to the ship. But it was evident to her
mind that there must have been something. As Jo said, “Where there’s so
much smoke there must be some fire.” She had felt it so strongly last
night--were those shivers caused by nothing at all?

Jo, at least, was not convinced by Mr. Seymour’s report. He refused to
join the Seymour children in a hunt over the boat that afternoon and
consequently Ann and Ben were forced to wait until they could get a
ladder before they could get up the high steep side of the schooner. It
meant that they were not to go on the boat for some time to come, for
Mr. Seymour made no suggestions as to how they were to go about getting
up to the deck and Mr. Bailey seemed not to understand their hints that
one of his ladders would be useful if he were willing to lend it.

Each night Ann looked out of her window, hoping to see that light
flickering over the deck. It had not appeared again and she did not say
a word about it to Jo and Ben. She wanted to be sure that she really
had seen it and not imagined it while excited by that first glimpse of
the ship with its guardian demon. And so she watched faithfully every
night before she climbed into her high bed.

In the meantime she put her energy into helping her mother with the
housework, into hoeing the garden and hunting new thrills in the woods.

In the garden she did her stint shoulder to shoulder with Jo and Ben.
Fred Bailey had given each of them a section of the vegetable garden
for his own and had promised them a commission on all the vegetables
sold. Ann had already planned what she would do with her money; she
knew before any green had shown above the ground. She intended to put
it into the bank as the beginning of her fund for the purchase of her
western ranch.

Ben, of course, was going to spend his for paint and brushes.

Each of them had his own patch of potatoes, beans, and corn, a section
of the main planting allotted to his special care. And they put the
seeds in the ground themselves, with the experienced Jo as instructor.
It was difficult to believe that those small hard kernels would grow
into green plants.

One morning Ben reached the garden ahead of Ann and suddenly turned
and shouted to her to hurry. “The beans are coming through! I suppose
they’re beans, because that’s where we planted beans. Don’t they look
funny!”

Funny they did look, great curling stems that thrust through the soil
like crooked fingers, cracking and heaving the ground all around them.
In the rows where the children had planted them the earth hummocked up
and hundreds of plants were forcing their way up into the sunlight.

She knew they must be coming soon but the sight of them was a greater
surprise than any Christmas Day Ann ever had known. To think that the
little hard beans that she had dropped and covered with fine earth had
been growing and putting out such curly twisted sprouts that had shot
up overnight! The dear baby things! She knelt down to touch them but
Jo’s voice stopped her. He had walked while she ran forward in reply to
Ben’s call.

“I wouldn’t do that,” he suggested mildly. “The morning dew is on them
and nobody touches beans while they’re wet. It turns them black when
they get bigger.”

“But there are no beans yet,” Ann protested, looking up at Jo over
her shoulder. “I don’t see how I could hurt them if I touched them
delicately, just to find out whether they feel as strong as they look.”

“It doesn’t make any difference how young they are,” Jo answered. “It
won’t seem to hurt them when you touch them, but when the beans form on
the plants you have handled nobody will be able to eat them. They’ll be
black and spotted; rusted, the farmers call it. Of course sometimes you
can’t help beans rusting when there’s too much rain.”

“What makes them rust?” asked Ben. “You wouldn’t imagine that the
grown-up plants would remember anything that happened to them when they
were babies.”

“I don’t know why,” and Jo shook his head. “I wish I did know more
about it. I don’t know any reasons, but there must be some. I only know
that things happen, not why.”

“Well, I know this much,” said Ann decidedly. “When I go back to school
this fall I shall find out, and then I’ll write to tell you, Jo.”

“That would be fine. I’d like that,” Jo said shyly.

Ben had gone over to the rows of corn and potatoes, and he came back
with a perplexed expression on his face. “Where are they?” he asked.
“Do you suppose that some animal has eaten them? We shall have nothing
but beans in our gardens, or can we plant more corn and potatoes?”

Jo threw back his head and laughed heartily.

“What did you expect?” he asked. “Did you think that everything came
through at the same time? The potatoes ought to sprout within a day
or two, but corn is slow. It often takes three weeks. The weather has
hardly been hot enough to start it yet. You need hot weather to make
corn grow. Beans are about the quickest things.”

“Gee, what a lot you know!” said Ben admiringly. “I didn’t know there
was so much to learn about a real garden. I thought that a farmer put
his seeds in the ground and they came up, and then after a while he
picked his vegetables and sold them.”

“Lots of people think that,” said Jo in a stiff tone of voice as he
began to hoe his morning row. “That is why so many city people make
jokes about farmers, and think they don’t know anything. Most farmers
know very little about the city, but they understand their job of
getting food for the city people to eat. I should like to see some of
those sneering city fellows plow an acre of ground under the hot sun.
A man walks pretty near thirty miles doing such a stretch, and he has
to hold his plow nearly a foot in the ground while he does his walking,
so as to turn over a six or twelve inch furrow. It takes a pretty good
man to do that.”

“I never laughed at farmers, Jo,” Ann protested mildly. “It is only
that I never knew anything about farming.”

“That’s all right,” answered Jo, smiling at her. “I wasn’t thinking
about any of you folks. I was calling to mind some of these summer
tourists who come through camping by the wayside. We don’t get pestered
by them because we’re too far from the main highway, but the farmers
nearer the village go well-nigh crazy trying to protect their gardens
and fruit from stealing. Why, last summer Les Perkins had all of his
pears just ready for picking and shipping to Boston. It took him three
years to grow those pears for a perfect crop all free from worms and
spots. He had sort of hoped to make something of them at last. He got
to his trees one day in time to see a dozen city folks piling into a
first-class car, all loaded up with pears. Not only that, but they had
shaken the trees and the fruit was all stripped off. What they hadn’t
stolen was too bruised to sell.”

“They ought to have been arrested for that!” Ann exclaimed breathlessly.

“Yes.” Jo laughed half-heartedly. “Catch ’em if you can. I caught one
of them stealing Pete Simonds’ raspberries. He had a bunch of kids with
him. I heard him tell ’em to pick the ripe ones and throw the green
ones away. They were stripping the bushes. I told them to get out, but
the man only laughed and said that all berries were common property.”

“What did you do then?” asked Ben eagerly.

Jo was rather shamefaced. “Well, I shouldn’t have done it. But the way
the man said it made me mad, so I hauled off and gave him a punch in
the jaw. He looked so funny, the way he sprawled with raspberries all
over him! He was a good-sized feller, and he got up on his feet and
came after me ugly, but he saw Pete coming on the run and I can tell
you he legged it for his car with all the kids streaming after him. He
knew just as well as I did that he was stealing.”

“Well,” said Ben slowly, “if any one stole my beans I’d punch him in
the jaw, too. After a farmer has planted seeds on his own land the crop
is his exactly as much as the vegetables in my mother’s kitchen are
hers after she has brought them home from the market.”

“There ought to be policemen to watch city people,” said Ann. “They
ought to be made afraid to steal, if they are not the kind of persons
who would be ashamed to take what isn’t theirs.”

“There don’t seem to be many of that last kind,” said Jo.

“It makes me feel rather queer,” said Ann. “I don’t like to think that
you have learned to have such a bad opinion of people who live in the
city.”

“Tell us some more about farming, Jo,” begged Ben. “What happens to
beans after they have sprouted and begun to be plants?” He looked
fondly at his row with their yellow-green stems.

“Oh, we’ll have plenty of work from now on,” began Jo. “We’ll have to
hunt for cutworms right away. See--here is one now.” He uncovered a
small gray worm about an inch long and crushed it with his hoe.

“Let’s see!” said Ben excitedly, and he and Ann began to examine their
own allotments.

“They work at night and dig in under the soil when the sun comes out,”
Jo explained. “They bite the young plant off just where it goes into
the ground. Whenever you find a plant lying on the ground you know that
a cutworm has eaten it off and he is hiding under the dirt a few inches
away. You’ll have to dig each one up and kill it before he does any
more damage. He would come back again and again and finally eat off the
whole row.”

“I’ve found one!” Ben cried. “I hate them! Why do they have to come?”
he asked as he stamped on it.

“I guess they have to eat like the rest of us,” answered Jo. “But if we
didn’t watch there would be more cutworms than beans in the world. They
sure were invented to pester us farmers.”

“They are almost as bad as the tourists,” and Ann laughed.

“Well, in a way we don’t mind them so much as we do tourists. We expect
the cutworms.”

“I don’t believe the tourists would enjoy being cut in two,” said Ann.

So the days went happily by, full of new experiences for the Seymours.
Whenever the short rains came the children sat before the open fire in
the living room, or, as Jo called it, the parlor, while Mrs. Seymour
read to them, or while Jo told stories of the country near Pine Ledge;
for Jo was always included in the circle.

Ann never grew tired of watching the sea. While the others watched the
fire she often sat by the window, listening, of course, but with her
eyes fixed on the ocean. How the waves shone in the sun, and how they
tumbled and grew dark when the squalls rushed over them! At such times
she wondered about what had happened on the schooner cast up on the
shore, lying on its side almost at her very feet. Fred believed what
he had felt while he was on her, and Jo so evidently had a horror of
everything connected with the wreck; there was her father’s testimony
that nothing was wrong there. And as a climax to that, there was what
her own eyes had seen, the moving light.

Mr. Seymour was working hard and getting a great deal done. His
sketches grew rapidly under his hands. Already he had a number of
canvases leaning against the walls of the living room and he had asked
Jo if he might paint his portrait.

Then one day a heavy northeaster broke and gave promise of lasting two
days at the very least. It was a good time for indoor work and Jo was
called into service as a model. He did not know the story of Robin
Hood, so Mrs. Seymour read it aloud while he sat for Mr. Seymour. The
others had heard it many times, but they were never tired of those
adventures in the glade and the good greenwood and they listened as
eagerly as did Jo.

Then came clear days that were the best of all, for after their gardens
had been hoed, Maude, the cow, milked and put to pasture, and the
chickens watered and fed, they followed Jo’s lead into the dense pine
woods, where they held forth as Robin Hood and his band.

Jo was, of course, Robin Hood, for he knew all the trails through the
merry greenwood and could find clear fresh springs no matter in which
direction they tramped. Ben was Allan-a-Dale, although he couldn’t sing
very well. In fact, after he had proved to know only one tune and had
sung that one a great many times, the entire band requested him to stop
it.

“Allan-a-Dale was a minstrel and he was supposed to sing,” Ben
protested.

But Helen, who was taking the part of Ellen, had a good reason for
wishing that Ben would be quiet and she did not hesitate to tell him.
“I want to watch the birds, and you scare them away. Can’t you just
pretend to sing? It would be very much nicer.”

[Illustration: _In the lookout tree they mounted guard in turn._]

As the band contained only one woman besides Ellen, Ann finally
consented to be Maid Marian, although she much preferred to be Friar
Tuck.

“You’re a girl,” Ben said decidedly. “And a girl can’t be Friar Tuck.”

“What difference does that make?” protested Ann. “I can swing a stave
as well as you do; better.”

“I know you can,” said Jo. “But Maid Marian is far more important than
Friar Tuck. Robin Hood couldn’t have done a thing without her. She went
everywhere the band did and thought things out for them, but Friar Tuck
didn’t do much except eat and drink.”

“It is such a nice name,” mourned Ann. But Maid Marian she decided to
be.

The band discovered a place high up in the wood that was exactly suited
to be their glade. It was a wide bare spot covered with pine needles,
and along its edges a few walnut trees were scattered, one of which
the boys could climb easily. This was the lookout tree, and after Ann
learned how to get up it they mounted guard in turn. From its branches
one could see far away across the green forest to the village, a
cluster of white dots. On the other side the watcher looked over the
home meadow and the house to the sea beyond. From such a high perch
the expanse of water seemed much greater and the house and meadow very
small in contrast.

“What ho, what ho,” Ben called the first time Ann settled herself among
the branches. “Sister Ann, do you see anybody coming?”

“Pooh!” exclaimed little Helen contemptuously. “That’s Bluebeard!
That’s not Robin Hood.”

“So it is,” admitted Ben. “What ho, what ho, Maid Marian, doth an enemy
draw nigh?”

“I see only one,” Ann answered as a small blue figure that was Fred
Bailey crossed the meadow far away, “but he holds at a distance and is
seemingly unaware of our hiding place.”

No band is complete without its longbows and staves. Jo quickly filled
this lack. He made staves by cutting branches from the straight alder
bushes that grew in the brook, peeling them until they were white and
shining. They whipped lithely in the air with a clear whistling sound.
Jo gathered them up every evening and kept them in the running water of
the brook, so that they would not dry out and become brittle.

At first he was puzzled as to how he could make longbows that were
strong as well as limber, but soon he thought of the young willows.
These he cut and bent into a regular bow-shape without destroying the
springiness of the wood. And for bowstrings they used old fishing line.

There was no problem concerning life in the greenwood that Jo could
not solve; the making of proper arrows, for instance. He built a small
fire after scraping away the dry pine needles and sprinkling the ground
with fresh moist earth, and cut some thin lead into strips. These he
fastened to the points of the short arrows he had made, so that the
tips would have weight to carry them straight to the mark. Of course
each member of the band took great care not to shoot his fellow members
and only one person was allowed to practice at a time, so that the
arrows would be easy to locate after they had been shot.

At first the band made forays into the wood in pairs, Jo and Ann, then
Ben and Helen, so that the glade might not be left unprotected. Under
this arrangement Jo was always worried when it was his turn to stay in
the shelter. He knew that Ben was unfamiliar with big woods and might
get lost. So the band was called for conference and it was decided that
the entire band should foray together. Meeting enemies in full strength
they stood a better chance of beating them, and before starting out
they carefully concealed all the trails to the glade and knew that no
enemy could uncover them.

“To-day I shall get me a fine buck,” Ben said as he swung his longbow
over his shoulder and seized his stave. “I hanker much for fresh meat.”

“I’ll show you where the deer come to drink,” Robin Hood offered.
“Methinks if Allan be a good shot he can easily bring down a couple for
our goodly dinner. I saw tracks by the river a month or so ago.”

“Really?” exclaimed Ben. “Gee! I’d like to see a deer!”

The trip to the river was all downhill and they scrambled through
the prickly barberries and juniper like true outlaws, courageously
ignoring the thorns that pricked and tore. Great ledges of gray rock,
covered with lichens and holding small hemlocks and spruces in their
cracks, opposed their way and they were obliged to climb up the rocks
on one side and slide down over the steep slope beyond. Helen had the
most trouble because her legs were shorter, but after Jo and Ann had
pulled her down once or twice she lost her fear. With the aid of her
stave she sat down on the top of the rock and coasted, landing upright
on her feet in the soft underbrush at the bottom. It wasn’t very good
for her bloomers, but they were made of stout cloth and managed to hold
together.

As they drew near to the wide pool where the river spread out over the
low land Jo motioned for them to step quietly. He took the lead and
crept slowly foot by foot, crouching low in the underbrush. Finally
they came on a narrow trail through which they could just pass with the
bushes touching their shoulders. Ann noticed how Jo avoided touching
the branches so that they should not move any more than necessary and
she tried to imitate him. It was not easy. He twisted his shoulders
this way and that, all the time moving forward slowly. Ben went along
with his hands on his knees, bent forward, while Helen was so short
that she had no difficulty at all.

At last Jo looked back over his shoulder, put his finger on his lips
and beckoned for them to come beside him. He pointed to a mark in the
soft ground before him. It was the imprint of a small cloven hoof and
even Ann’s inexperienced eye could see that it was fresh.

“He’s been down here this morning,” Jo whispered. “I wish we had been
around--he’s a big fellow all right.”

“Isn’t he here now?” whispered Ann. “How do you know that he isn’t?”

“We’ll find out,” Jo answered. “He may be sleeping under the bushes,
but they don’t stay in this neighborhood generally; too many people in
the daytime, passing, and deer are nervous, nowadays. They like it best
back on the hills where there is more protection.”

As he spoke he turned at right angles from the trail and plunged
silently into the undergrowth. The bushes closed about him and it was
all Ann could do to follow. Suddenly he stopped.

He did not so much as whisper. Silently he motioned for them to come
forward quickly.

They looked to where his finger pointed.

Under a group of pines a few feet away a huge buck deer lay asleep,
with the sun through the trees splotching his dark coat and turning
it into shimmering velvet. His horns were short and looked like dull
leather; Jo told them afterward that was because he had not yet made
his full year’s growth.

As the band watched he leaped from the ground, fully awake in the
instant that he scented danger. He leaped almost as if his feet had
not touched the earth and he bounded lightly into a jungle of thorns
and scrub oak. And with that one beautiful jump he vanished.

“Well, Allan,” Jo turned toward Ben’s wide-eyed face with a laugh. “Why
didn’t you shoot him?”

“Shoot him-- Try to kill him? I couldn’t kill anything as lovely as
that, ever. I want to draw him, paint him, just as he jumped in the
sun, with the light on his skin and the green all around. Oh,” he cried
excitedly, “do you suppose that father could see a deer so that he
could show me how to make a picture that was halfway good?”

“If Mr. Seymour would really like to see one, we can come out some
morning at dawn and if we are quiet perhaps we can see a deer as he
comes down to drink. It is great fun to lie in the bushes when they
don’t know any one is watching; they walk about and drink.”

“We’ll go home and ask him now,” said Ann with determination. “It is
just too wonderful, and I know he’ll want to come, perhaps to-morrow.”

“And I want to tell mother about it,” said Helen.

“All right,” agreed Jo. “We’ll follow the river out to the road. That
will be easier than going back over those high ledges.”

[Illustration: _With one beautiful jump he vanished._]

The trail led down to a smooth swamp pond filled with such clear water
that the children could see the long grass moving at the bottom. A
short distance from the edge little heaps of leaves, straw, and twigs
rose here and there above the surface of the water. Jo said they were
houses that the muskrats had built to live in last winter.

“They build just before the cold weather sets in,” he said. “It is
great sport to come every day and see how the houses grow. Sometimes
the muskrats don’t bother very much with building, and the winters that
follow are open and warm, generally. But when old Mr. Muskrat builds
high, wide, and handsome, look out for thick ice and deep heavy snow.”

“How curious!” said Ann. “How do you suppose they know what the weather
is going to be?”

The band walked along beside the swamp until it narrowed into a running
river again.

“Gulls like the pond, too,” Jo said. “Especially when a storm is
blowing up. When the wind begins to be too strong the gulls sweep into
the cove and watch for the fish that are beating into the mouth of the
river. They hang up there in the air and laugh as if they liked the
storm. They laugh out loud and shriek and have a great time. When they
get tired and pretty well fed they let the wind carry them back here
to the pond, where they settle in droves on the sheltered water. They
wait until the storm blows over. Next nor’easter that blows up, I’ll
remember to show them to you. You can see them easily from the kitchen.”

He was leading the band and they were drawing nearer to the road.
Suddenly he stopped short, so short that Ann, who was next, bumped into
him.

“Hello!” he said. “What’s this?”

At his feet were the charred embers of a fire. They were still
smoldering and, as he brushed the ashes aside with his foot, the coals
gleamed brightly.

“Who do you suppose did that?” he exclaimed indignantly. “None of the
folks around here would ever leave a fire burning in the woods. Why, it
might spread and burn off the whole territory. Once a fire got started
up through the pines nothing could stop it.”

Ann looked down at the wicked gleam. She never would have dreamed
that it was wicked if Jo hadn’t told her it was, but what he had said
made her regard the fire from a very different standpoint. To her
imagination the live embers glowed and flickered like the lantern she
had seen on the wrecked ship.

She grew vaguely excited, for if no native of Pine Ledge could have
left that fire, then some stranger must be prowling around the
neighborhood, some one who didn’t want to be seen. Perhaps the very
person who lighted this fire to cook his breakfast was the same
invisible person who carried the swinging lantern across the deck, that
first night.

The keen-minded Jo saw her excitement. “What’s up?” he asked. “Is
something the matter?”

Ann hesitated. “Perhaps I am imagining, but I think I know of some one
who might have built this fire.”

So she told them about that tiny pin point of lantern light.

Jo listened silently until she had finished, although Ann could see
that he, too, was growing excited.

“I shouldn’t wonder if you were right,” he said at last. “It looks to
me as if some one who has no business here is hanging about. But if we
tell the other folks about it they will say that it is nonsense; they
think that we are too young to know much of what we are talking about.
I think we had better keep a good lookout, and if we actually discover
anything we can tell them then. This is a job for Robin Hood’s men all
right.”

Jo threw up his head and squared his shoulders.

“What ho, merry men!” he shouted. “How many will follow me in fathoming
the mystery of the wrecked ship?”

“I will follow,” Ann said quickly.

“I want to be in on it, too,” Ben cried breathlessly.

“Me, too,” Helen chimed in a voice that was a bit frightened but
nevertheless determined. “I want to help hunt for ghosts.”

“Then we are united?” Jo asked.

“Aye, aye,” shouted Ben. “Lead on.”

Before they started on their way again they dipped water from the river
in their cupped hands and threw it hissing upon the live coals until
the fire was out. As an extra precaution, for the fire might have gone
deep into the pine needles beneath, Jo raked away the leaves and twigs
and needles until he had made a wide circle of bareness.



CHAPTER V

_ON THE WRECK_


Robin Hood and his band did not let the grass grow under their feet,
after they had once decided to thoroughly investigate the mystery of
the wrecked schooner. Ann, herself, felt much stronger and braver now
that she had allies. She was quite willing to admit that she had been
squeamish about going aboard and examining the ship alone or with no
one but Ben and Helen. Although Mr. Seymour had reported the boat to be
uninhabited and perfectly safe, Ann, nevertheless, had wondered whether
perhaps the ghosts might not have been on a vacation the day her father
went aboard with Mr. Bailey.

The band chose to begin their undertaking early in the afternoon of
the day following their discovery of the fire in the woods. The sun
was bright and therefore the demon on the bow was quite unlifelike and
battered.

Jo bent his back, for a step, and Ann was the first to climb up to
the sloping deck. After she had scrambled to safety she let down her
hands to help Ben and then Helen, and then she lent a hand to Jo as he
braced his feet against the wooden side and walked as a fly might until
he could catch the gunwale and swing himself over the rail.

“It is a very big boat,” ventured Helen, whispering, as she looked
over the wide deck with its shining weathered gray boards. “It is much
bigger than it looks from the house.”

“Now, right here,” Jo interposed, “let’s make up our minds to one
thing. Nobody is to whisper and nobody is to scream, no matter what
happens. A whisper will frighten a person even when there is nothing
to be afraid of, and if anybody screams in my ear I know I shall jump
right out of my skin.”

“I don’t see how you have the courage to come back, Jo,” said Ben
admiringly.

“I’m not so terribly courageous,” admitted Jo candidly. “If it hadn’t
been for Ann’s thinking that the fire had something to do with the ship
I shouldn’t be here now, I know that much!”

“Where shall we go first?” Ann asked, and then, because she thought she
might have seemed unsympathetic, she added, “I don’t believe we shall
find anything wrong to-day. If men are really hanging about the boat
they couldn’t come here in the open daylight, for they’d be sure to be
seen.”

“We’ll go down to the captain’s quarters first,” Jo decided. “And then
we’ll work forward into the crew’s sleeping place, and later look down
in the hold. The whole place was bare and empty when my father and
yours came to look her over.”

As they walked along the deck Ben kept close to the railing, as if he
thought he could jump over it in case anything happened. And as he
walked he ran his hand along the side, for the sea had worn the rails
until they felt like silk under his fingers. Suddenly he stopped by a
splintered break in the top rail and picked something from its outside
edge.

“See what I’ve found,” he exclaimed as he glanced at what he held in
his hand. “Oh,” he said in a tone of disappointment, “it is nothing but
a piece of old cloth.”

He started to throw it away but Jo caught his arm.

“Let’s see it,” Jo said, and took the torn piece of blue woolen from
Ben’s hand. “Hum,” he grunted thoughtfully as he turned it over and
felt of it carefully.

“What is it, Jo?” asked Ann. “Does it mean something?”

“That I don’t rightly know,” Jo answered slowly. “It is just ordinary
blue wool, but I know that not one of the fishermen around here wears
anything like it. The really interesting thing about it, seems to me,
is that it hasn’t been out in the weather any time. I should say it had
never been rained on, nor the sun had a chance to bleach it. See, it
hasn’t begun to fade.”

“You are right,” said Ann. She took the soft material in her hands.
“This couldn’t have been torn from the clothing of any of the men who
came to investigate, because that was so long ago that cloth torn from
their suits would have worn away, such a little piece as this, with
threads sticking out where it was torn off.”

“What sort of suit did your father wear the day he came here with my
father?” inquired Jo.

“It was gray. He didn’t bring any dark suits with him, I’m sure,”
answered Ann.

“And that isn’t the kind of cloth his blue suits are made of,” asserted
Ben. “This is so thick; he wouldn’t wear that fuzzy thing.”

Jo put the bit of cloth into a pocket and carefully tucked it down into
a safe corner; then he examined the splintered rail where their clue
had been found.

“See,” he explained while the others hung over the edge to look, “the
cloth caught on the outside of this splinter, as though the man who
wore it slid down the side, holding on to the rail with his hands
before he jumped free.”

“Well, ghosts don’t wear thick blue woolen clothes,” said Ann. “We can
be sure that real people have been here.”

“I call this a pretty promising find of Ben’s,” said Jo, as he led the
way toward the open hatch. “It makes me feel very different about this
boat.”

Sliding down the companion-ladder they landed in the tiny passage from
which the captain’s cubbyhole and the mate’s opened on either side.
The captain’s stateroom was slightly larger than the mate’s, and his
berth ran under the open porthole in which the thick glass had been
shattered. The berth was piled with moldering blankets; apparently no
one had touched them since the wreck. Beside the berth, wedged between
it and the wall, a table stood with its only drawer pulled open,
showing that it was empty.

“The log should have been there,” explained Jo, “in that drawer. But it
had been taken away before ever our men got to the wreck. And over here
on this wall is the closet where the captain kept his clothes; they
were hanging in it when we were here last.”

Ann unhinged the latch and swung the door open. Two suits hung from the
hooks. She felt them to discover whether anything was in the pockets,
and she found the cloth damp and sticky. The closet smelled of the sea.

There was a familiar feel to the cloth under her fingers. “I believe
that this coat is made of the same cloth as the piece Ben found.”

Jo and Ben came quickly to her side. “The cloth of this suit is better
quality,” pronounced Jo, “and the coat isn’t torn anywhere. Most
deep-sea men wear clothes like that and so the torn piece doesn’t mean
much except that the man who wore it is a sailor, most likely.”

Helen was very much interested in the little cubbyhole. “I should like
this room for a doll house,” she said, and she stayed in it while the
others went across the passage to the mate’s stateroom.

They found things there in the same condition; empty drawers, moldy
blankets and a closet damp with brine.

Suddenly Helen called from the other cabin. “Come quick, Jo!”

They tumbled over each other in their efforts to reach her, and they
found her pointing to the blankets on the berth.

“Some one has been sleeping there!” she said breathlessly.

They had not looked closely at the berth when they had been in the
cabin and now they saw that the tousled heavy blankets were matted
flat, just as they would be if a man had slept on them and had not
troubled to shake them when he rose.

“Whoever he was, he didn’t choose a comfortable place,” said Ben,
looking up at the broken port. “The rain must beat in here every time
there is a storm.”

Ann turned to speak to Jo; she thought that he was directly behind her,
for she heard him move. But when she looked he was not there. He was
standing before the table, running his hand behind the drawer. If he
hadn’t been close beside her, who had? Neither Ben nor Helen was near
enough to be the person whose presence she had felt. Ann shook herself
slightly. She mustn’t be so foolish and nervous; she hadn’t supposed
she was capable of imagining things that weren’t there. The others were
so bravely forgetting that they once had thought that the ship might
be haunted, and she, the oldest of the Seymours, mustn’t be a coward.

Jo left the drawer and came over to the berth again.

“We’ll shift these blankets,” he said, “stir them up a little. And then
next time we come we can tell whether some one has been sleeping on
them again.”

A second time Ann heard a slight stir behind her, and this time Jo
heard it, too. He stooped with the edge of the blankets in his hands,
as though he were frozen. Then he dropped the blankets and leaped from
the doorway into the hall. Ann ran after him, and so did Ben and Helen.

“Whoever it was has gone up the ladder,” said Jo, evidently trying to
make his voice sound natural. His lips were set in a straight line.

“Was somebody here?” asked Ben in surprise. He had not felt the
presence nor heard the sound that had been so plain to Ann and Jo.

“Somebody came back of us,” Jo told him. “You heard him move, didn’t
you, Ann?” He seemed to wish to be reassured.

“I heard it twice,” said Ann. Her fingers were cold and she tucked them
into the palms of her hands. She was chilly all over.

“Shouldn’t wonder if it might not be the wind coming in through the
porthole of the mate’s cabin,” suggested Ben. “Wind often makes a queer
noise.”

“You may be right,” said Jo slowly. “We’ll look.”

He led the way into the smaller cabin again. The porthole was closed
tightly and it was unbroken.

“I think I will go up on deck,” said Helen abruptly.

“We will all go,” said Jo. “We’ve seen about everything down here, I
should think.”

Once more on deck in full sunlight everybody felt more comfortable, for
it is a spooky business to hunt through the empty cabins of a haunted
ship and there are plenty of grown-ups who never would have gone there
at all.

From the deck they peered into the blackness of the hold, but they
could see nothing without the flashlight that Ben promised to bring
next time. Down in the depths bright little glimmers showed here and
there from the opened seams in the side of the schooner, but there was
not enough light to reveal any possible secrets hidden in the hold.
A ladder led down into the darkness, but after Jo had tested it and
descended a few steps he reported that some of the rungs were broken;
it was too unsafe to go down unless one could see the exact condition
of every step before he trusted his weight to it.

He paused a few seconds before he climbed into the light again, and he
bent his head to listen.

“The water is in here,” he called. “I guess it keeps pretty high up; I
can hear it swish a little.”

“If the water is so high, no one could hide down there,” said Helen
decidedly. “They would get all wet.”

“It wouldn’t be much over their knees,” Jo answered. “That’s about
where the first cracked seam comes. Any water that got in above that
would run out with the tide. But it wouldn’t be pleasant to stay down
there long, you can bet on that.”

The band found the crew’s quarters very much as they found the cabins,
except that the sailors’ clothing had been tossed on to the floor.
Dungarees, boots, slickers, and coats were all thrown everywhere and
great spots of green mildew showed on them.

“I think that some one should have carried these clothes home and worn
them,” said Ben.

“Yes, it seems a dreadful waste,” said Ann. “Has every one in Pine
Ledge more than enough warm suits and coats?”

Jo laughed sarcastically at Ann’s question. “They could have used the
things, all right,” he said, “and by the law of salvage anybody has a
right to take what is found on beaches or in an abandoned boat, if it
is not claimed by its original owner. But nobody in these parts has any
use for a thing from this boat. I don’t believe that any man in the
village would touch these clothes; you couldn’t make anybody wear one
of these oilskins out into a storm, not for love nor money. They all
think there is a curse on this boat and they believe the curse would
settle on them if they so much as wore a southwester that came off of
her.”

Ann and Jo had been listening almost unconsciously for the return of
the sound that had startled them. They were keyed up to a high pitch
and their nerves were taut. While they searched the crew’s quarters Ann
had to fight to keep herself at the work in hand. She constantly had
the feeling that some one was watching; she wanted to turn her head
quickly and look over her shoulder. She looked at Jo, and instinctively
she knew that he was struggling against the same desire.

Then she remembered again that Mr. Bailey had told her father and
mother about this curious impression; it was the feeling of eyes
upon them that made him and all the other fishermen shun this boat.
Evidently it hadn’t been their own fearful and timorous imaginations,
as her father believed. Something or some one must be on board. She
couldn’t have had this feeling so strongly unless there were some
foundation for it.

“There is nothing here,” Jo finally said. “We might as well finish up
with the kitchen galley now. That is the only place left.”

Ann was glad to be able to turn around at last. She spun quickly, but--
Of course nothing stood in the broken sagging doorway. She was being
silly!

Once more on deck, the feeling evaporated. The four adventurers stood
in the warm sun a moment or two and then plunged into the gloom of
the kitchen galley. Over in one corner the rusted stove stood awry,
its doors gaping open. Ben lifted the lids. Within the stove the
thick ashes of many fires lay undisturbed, although a little ash had
scattered over the kitchen floor when the boat tilted. All around the
walls of the little room shelves climbed up to the ceiling and from
them tin cans had rolled helter-skelter. There was not one left on a
shelf.

Already the sun had sunk low in the west. It was down behind the pines
on the hill, and in a few minutes it would be gone.

“It is time to go home,” said Helen. “I’m not going to stay any longer.”

“I think that we are late for supper already,” and from the tones of
his voice Ann could tell that Ben had been as anxious as she for some
word that would take them over the side of the schooner without having
seemed to hurry away.

Ann could not help remembering how that figurehead had leered in the
dusk of the evening of their arrival; it hadn’t seemed half as menacing
since that time, but to be on the schooner as night fell was more than
she was willing to endure unnecessarily.

Jo glanced around the galley as though to prove to himself that he
wouldn’t be afraid to stay longer. Suddenly he stopped and threw his
head up.

“Listen!” he said in a low tense voice.

They all heard it this time and Helen crept close into Ann’s protecting
arm. This was not an evasive faint sound like the other; it was a
regular soft sussh-sussh that seemed at first to come from the deck.
Jo stole to the door on tiptoe but the deck was as bare and empty as
when they had entered the galley.

The noise did not stop. Sussh-sussh-sussh-sussh. It seemed farther away
now, up near the bow and the figurehead. It was stilled for a moment
and then it began again, near the captain’s cabin. They heard a faint
scratching, as though something had slid along the floor somewhere, and
then again the sussh-sussh growing fainter.

“Come on,” Jo spoke hoarsely through pale tight lips. “Now’s our chance
to get off.”

The doughty band ran in full retreat to the side of the ship. Jo swung
each of them overside in his strong arms and he was the last to leave
the wreck. He dropped beside them in the sand.

None of them stopped to look up into the face of the figurehead that
towered over them as they ran by. With wings of the wind in their feet
they sped up the meadow toward the lights where their suppers were
waiting for them.

At supper Mrs. Seymour noticed Helen’s pale tired face. She had grown
to expect a certain sort of tiredness in all of the children at night,
and this was very different. She looked from one to another of them.

“How did you like playing on the ship?” she asked casually.

“How did you know that we were there?” asked Ann.

“I saw you climbing up and once in a while I saw you on deck,”
explained Mrs. Seymour.

To Ann there was something very reassuring in the thought that all the
time they had been on the schooner their mother had been keeping an
eye on them; they had been perfectly safe, even when Ann was feeling
nervous and fidgety and wanting to look over her shoulder. That was
that, thought Ann, “And I’ll never let myself feel the least bit afraid
again, when I am on the wreck.”

She could not know that Mrs. Seymour had spent an anxious afternoon.
She trusted her husband’s judgment, but sometimes mothers know things
without being told, while fathers have to hear reasonable explanations
before they can understand the very same things that mothers have known
by instinct.

“We had such a lot of fun on the wreck, mother,” said Ann.

“Yes,” said Helen pluckily, “we had lots of fun. You won’t tell us not
to go there, will you, mother? Please!”

Ben looked at both the girls as if he wished to remind them of
the band’s pledge of secrecy. But he need not have worried. Ann’s
determination to solve the mystery unaided by the help of older people
was even stouter than his, and Helen had always proved a trustworthy
young thing who never gave a secret away.

Ann knew that her mother wanted to hear more about the afternoon; she
must explain a part of what they were doing. “The band has taken
an oath, a strict oath to keep secret everything connected with the
wreck--you’ll understand, won’t you, that is why we can’t talk about it
more? If you ask us to tell you, of course we will, but we are planning
a surprise.”

“I don’t think you need to worry about the ship, Emily,” said Mr.
Seymour. “Helen played too hard to-day, that’s all that is wrong.
To-morrow she will be as brown and rosy as ever.”

So Mrs. Seymour said nothing more and the whole family talked about
other things.

Later in the evening Jo came over and the band gathered around the fire
in the living room for a conference while Mr. and Mrs. Seymour read in
the kitchen.

“What do you suppose it was that we heard?” Ben asked in a whisper;
sometimes his mother had been known to hear more than she should. Not
that the band wished to deceive, but they had started on an exciting
adventure and they meant to put it through alone.

“I know it was not made by ghosts,” asserted Ann. “Nor by that wicked
demon, either. He’s nailed too tight to the bow.”

“I don’t believe that I want to go on the wreck again to-morrow,” said
Helen. “It makes me feel too tired.”

“We won’t go on again, not any of us,” Jo said. “I’ve been thinking
over the situation while I had my supper. We’ll keep a sharp lookout
for the man who built that fire; sort of hang around the woods, we
will, and watch the ship, too, but from the outside. If anybody or
anything climbs over the side we’re bound to see it.”

“I’m going to watch for that lantern,” said Ann.

Jo nodded wisely. “If we can find out who it is that carries the
lantern we shall know what made the noise; that’s how it looks to me.”



CHAPTER VI

_GOING LOBSTERING_


“Hist-sst! Ann! Wake up!”

It was Ben’s voice that woke Ann, and his hand on her shoulder. She
thought it was the middle of the night, it was so dark, and her second
thought was of the wreck. Had anything happened there? They had watched
for days and never seen a sign of life on it.

“Jo just called me,” whispered Ben. “He wants to know whether we would
like to go after lobsters with him. He says it is going to be a fine
day and not too rough for landlubbers like us.”

Would she like to go? Well, rather! Jo had promised that he would take
them some fine day when the swell on the water was not too heavy. The
Baileys, either Jo or his father, made a daily trip out through their
lobster string, which was set beyond the pond rocks and Douglas Head in
the wide expanse of the sea. Jo had decided that Helen had better not
go as she was still so frail that if she grew dizzy and ill out there
probably she would have to go to bed for the rest of the day. And as
she would be grief-stricken if she knew that she was being left behind
the others arranged to go some day without letting her know anything
about it.

Ann’s room was just light enough for her to see her way without
lighting a lamp. She had not realized that the night faded so slowly
just before the sun rose, for she never had been up so early in all her
life. The small clock on the chest of drawers pointed to half past one.
She could hear Ben moving about in his room, scurrying into his clothes
with a sound like the little scramblings of a squirrel.

They found Jo waiting for them by the kitchen steps with a lighted
lantern in his hand.

“Probably we won’t need this after we get across the meadow and strike
the road,” explained Jo, “but now it will be easier going with a light
to shine and show up the bumps. Dawn is coming pretty fast now.”

He struck off down the sloping meadow, going across it diagonally in
such a way as to give the wreck a wide berth. Ann realized that he
deliberately chose the rougher ground of the field in preference to
walking along the road, merely because of that ship waiting to draw
their thoughts into her shadows. Ann had no desire to peer into the
grinning face of the demon in the half-light of the pale dawn. She
still had a vivid recollection of its leer the first time she had seen
it in the gathering shadows of dusk. And dawn is exactly like the dusk
in its power to make things look different from the way they really
are.

“I’m glad we’re not going past the boat,” Ben murmured heartily in her
ear, and she nodded in sympathy.

The cove lay at the mouth of the swamp river and was only a short walk
from the road at the end of the meadow. Jo swung into a swift pace
as waiting for Ben and Ann had made him later than usual. He always
timed himself with the sunrise and should have his dory in the water
and well started before the sun hopped up over the horizon. The others
kept beside him only by running now and then with short quick steps,
and when they caught him Jo would spurt ahead and the race would start
again.

“Ben Seymour couldn’t have paced this,” Ben cried breathlessly. “But
Allan-a-Dale can. Chasing bucks in the wood is fine for strengthening
the wind.”

It was true. In the past few weeks Ben had filled out considerably and
he had grown an inch as well. Ann looked down at her own strong brown
lean hands; they had changed since she first undertook to handle a hoe.
The healed blisters still showed on her palms but they had long ago
ceased to hurt. And so the three of them frisked away in the early dawn
like three young colts turned loose in the meadows.

The gray shacks of the fishermen, clustered at the mouth of the river,
seemed not much larger near at hand than they looked from the bluff.
They all were built with only one story, the shingled roofs coming
almost down to the ground on either side. Small square doors led into
the dark interiors and the windows were nothing but little openings cut
in the walls.

A narrow winding lane led from the dirt road down through the ravine
bordered by thick brush and the same variety of dark pines that stood
about the swamp pond above. After the track reached the pebbly beach
it was paved with crushed clamshells that glistened in the early light
like a pale ribbon over the dark oval pebbles.

As soon as the lane met the shacks it twined gracefully in and out
among them all, so that although the shacks seemed from a distance to
stand together, pressed up in a heap, the lane managed to come directly
to the door of each one of them. Suddenly from a regular workaday world
Ann felt that she had been transplanted into a tiny village out of some
fairy tale, whose inhabitants were yellow gnomes with big sou’wester
hats pulled over their heads. Under the reversed brim of each gnome’s
yellow oiled hat a pair of keen blue eyes, laughing as Fred Bailey’s
eyes laughed, peered out at the children. Every face was brown, seamed,
and leathery. Always a small stubbed pipe belched clouds of smoke about
each lobsterman’s head. All the men were built alike, square and solid,
and they all wore yellow.

“How do you tell them apart?” Ann asked Jo.

“Tell them apart?” Jo echoed Ann’s question; it sounded so foolish to
him that he barely took the trouble to make any answer. “Why, I’ve
known them since I was a baby in long clothes. Why shouldn’t I be able
to tell them apart?”

Then, seeing that she was actually puzzled, he stopped teasing and
pointed them out to her; she had seen them all before.

“I do suppose,” he said, “that in the dim light they look as much alike
as so many Chinamen. Don’t you recognize that one down by the boat in
the water? That’s Jed; he’s a mite shorter and rounder than the rest,
though I don’t suppose you’d notice it in broad daylight. Yes, I know
he looks very different with his slicker off. The one traveling along
with the basket--he’s Walt. He’s the youngest next to me. He’ll be
fifty-three this fall. That fellow coming toward us now, he’s Pete
Simonds; he’s quite a joker.”

“Pete Simonds was one who went out to the ship with your father the day
after she was wrecked,” said Ann, remembering the name.

“Sure,” said Jo. “They all were there. They all came up from the
village when I told them that a boat needed help. Why shouldn’t they?”

Ann could not take her eyes from the figures pottering up and down the
shelving beach of pebbles, fitting their dories for the trip out to
sea. These were the men who had taken a small boat across the terrible
pounding waves to go to the help of sailors who had come from no one
knew where. They had risked their lives to try to do something for
others. While Fred Bailey was telling the story Ann had listened as
if some one were reading a thrilling tale out of a magazine or a book,
without half realizing it all had actually happened. But these were
real live men, and old men at that. She had seen them, often, going
along the road on their way to the cove, but she never had thought much
about their connection with the wreck.

She looked more closely at Pete Simonds. As she came up beside him she
noticed how powerful he was in spite of the wrappings of his cumbersome
slicker. His great fingers were gnarled and looked like steel rods.
Under his sou’wester she could see frayed ends of his snow-white hair
and his eyes shone as cold ice shines when the winter sky is unclouded.

“Hallelujah, Jo-ey,” he shouted as he came abreast of them, shifting
his bitten pipe to the other corner of his shaven lips. “Ain’t you a
mite late? A spry boy like you layin’ abed till afternoon! You oughter
be ashamed of yourself.”

“It wasn’t his fault,” Ann spoke bravely into the unsmiling face. “We
delayed him. He promised to take us out in the boat with him this
morning and he had to wait for us. We’re the lazy ones, not Jo.”

“Oho!” The big foghorn voice boomed out and Ann was sure he could be
heard in the village. “So it was you, young lady, he was waiting for.
Wal, now, I don’t blame him.”

“Hush your noise,” ordered Jo, laughing. “This is Ann Seymour and Ben
Seymour who are staying up at the homestead this summer. They don’t
know that you’re pestering them just for fun.”

“Why, o’ course she knows I was only a-funnin’. This young lady has
good sense, I can see that.” Pete clapped one huge hand down on Ann’s
shoulder. “I wouldn’t go for to hurt her feelings.” He looked into
Ann’s eyes. “Jo’s a good boy and a first-class skipper. You couldn’t
have picked a better captain among us.”

Jo visibly swelled under the compliment after Pete had left them, and
Ann was happy to see him so pleased.

“It was nice of Pete to say that about you,” she said softly.

“You bet it was,” said Jo. “He is a close-mouthed old fellow but he
sure knows how to handle a boat. And his bark is a good deal worse
than his bite. He has been awfully kind to me. He taught me just about
everything I know, what with father being so busy often when I needed
help. But Pete never said anything to make me think he was pleased with
the way I was sailing the boat. I can remember when I was very small
and came down here to watch the men; Pete used to pull a pair of oars
in his boat and make a straight trip of over twenty miles a day and
think nothing of it.”

“You said twenty miles?” asked Ben incredulously.

“All of that,” asserted Jo. “He was the first fisherman to buy a motor
for his dory, when everybody thought he was a fool to do it. He used to
sit here on the beach for hours reading over the book of instructions
that came with the engine, and finally he put the parts together and
made the thing work without any help from anybody. It has made a heap
of difference, having engines in the boats. A man can take care of
pretty nigh eighty pots if he has a motor boat, when he used to be held
down to twenty, pulling oars.”

Ann had peeped into a shack where a lantern glowed. It was stacked with
barrels of salt and open kegs of steeping fishbait; nets were festooned
on the walls, coiled ropes were thrown here and there, and a yellow
goblin was preparing for his morning’s voyage out to sea. The air was
filled with the pungent smell of tar.

Jo opened the padlock of his own shack, reached into the darkness, and
pulled out a pair of oars. Then he shut the door after him, leaving the
lock dangling from the hinge.

“We don’t clasp it,” he explained, “while we are out on the water;
otherwise our neighbors would think we didn’t trust our tackle open to
them.”

“Why are you taking oars, if it is a motor boat that you use?” asked
Ann.

“In case anything should happen to the engine. It’s safer.”

“And why aren’t you taking all the rest of the things that the other
men are working with?” inquired Ben.

“I thought it was likely to be fine to-day, so I stored the bait kegs
in the dory last night. We can get off right now.”

With Ben’s help he shoved the light dory into the smooth water of the
river and helped Ann aboard, suggesting that she should sit in the bow
as she was heavier than Ben. The two boys in the back would balance the
dory evenly.

“She would have been afloat if the tide had been up a mite,” apologized
Jo; “but sometimes the water runs out on the ebb a bit faster than we
calculate and that drops the boats a mite high up the beach.”

Ben had climbed in over the gunwale without minding his wet feet.
Sea water would dry without giving him a cold. He really had enjoyed
helping to push the dory afloat.

Jo took his place by the engine; he could manage it and the tiller at
the same time. He spun the wheel of the motor once or twice, the engine
sputtered as the spark ignited the gasoline and then it caught in a
clear put-put. Then he seized the tiller cord and pointed the boat’s
nose steadily out toward the dark smoothly rolling waves of the sea
beyond the mouth of the river. They were off.

Under Jo’s expert handling the boat took the first wave without effort.
With the second wave she rolled a little, but as Jo swung her more
toward the end of Douglas Head she moved steadily up and over the crest
of each running wave and slid gently down on the far side.

From where she sat in the bow Ann could feel the dory rise and
plunge, run forward and rise to plunge again. The wind was fresh and
cool, blowing straight into her face and tossing her short hair all
topsy-turvy. The sky far over to the east had turned a blood-red with
flames of orange shooting up through the center of the mass of color.
Suddenly the first sun ray shot out over the water and touched the
racing boat. The last of the darkness melted quickly away.

“Oh, Ben! Isn’t it wonderful!” Ann exclaimed.

But her brother was not so enthusiastic. “I am not sure that I like it
yet,” he admitted. “I have a queer feeling in my middle; all gone, like
dropping down in a fast elevator.”

“That comes from the pancakes you ate last night,” said Jo
unsympathetically. “Don’t think about them and you will be all right in
a minute.”

“I forgot,” said Ann, putting her hand in her pocket. “I brought these
crackers; it will be rather a long time before breakfast and I thought
that mother would say we must eat something.”

“I ought to have thought of that,” apologized Jo, “but I never have
anything myself.”

But though he did not feel the crying emptiness that was upsetting Ben,
Jo ate his share. Never had crackers tasted better to any of them.

“That was a fine idea of yours, Ann,” said Ben.

“Now,” advised Jo, “if you should sing you’d feel even better. I’ve
heard that some doctors cure patients by giving them something worse
than they have already.”

“That cure might work,” admitted Ben, “but it seems hard to give you
and Ann a dose of the same medicine, and besides, I don’t need any,
now. What shall I sing?”

“Oh, we wouldn’t suffer in silence,” said Jo. “We’ll sing, too. How’s
this one?” And he began:

  Oh, it’s bonny, bonny weather
    For sailormen at sea,
  He pulls his ropes and trims his sails,
    And sings so merrily----

His fresh young voice rang out high and clear in the new warm sunlight.

“Jo!” exclaimed Ann. “I never have heard you sing. I didn’t know you
could. Where did you learn that song?”

“I sing only when I’m in the boat,” Jo answered laughingly. “It must
be the bobbing up and down that makes me want to do it, just like a
chippie bird swinging on the branch of a tree. My mother used to sing
me that song when I was little. She taught it to me.”

“You were old enough to remember her?” Ann asked gently.

“Yes,” he replied, speaking as gently as Ann had asked her question, “I
remember her very well. I was nine years old when she got through.”

Ann had learned since she came to Pine Ledge that the fishermen never
spoke of any one as dying. They talked as though the person who had
left this world had finished a task and gone somewhere else. They had
“got through” with the present job of living and were resting.

“My mother taught the district school before she was married,” Jo
continued. “She was very smart and she taught me a great deal during
the winter evenings. In lots of ways she was like your mother; kind,
you know, with never a cross word, and always understanding when I
tried to please her. She knew lots of songs and taught them to me. How
she used to laugh because I always got the tune right even when I was
so little that I could hardly say the words! One bit she used to sing
a lot and I liked it one of the best, but though I remember the tune I
have forgotten most of the words. I wish I knew them. Maybe you know
it, Ann. It started something like this:

  Maxwelton’s braes are bonnie,
  Where early fa’s the dew----”

“Oh, I know that,” said Ben.

“Yes, we know the rest of that, Jo. It is ‘Annie Laurie,’ an old Scotch
song, and it goes on like this,” and Ann took up the song where Jo had
been interrupted.

“That’s the one! That’s the one!” cried Jo happily. Then he stopped
suddenly. “Hey! Here’s my first buoy, and I came near running it down.”

Ben peered after the block of green and yellow that Jo had just missed
striking. “However do you manage to come away out here and hit a little
block of wood floating in the middle of the ocean?”

“That’s easy. I do it every morning,” Jo answered. “And I don’t
generally pass it by, as I was going to do to-day.”

He turned the dory in a wide circle and just before reaching the buoy
he shut off his engine and coasted alongside. Seizing a short boat book
that lay beside him on the thwart he deftly caught the rope attached to
the buoy and began to haul it in. Yard after yard ran through his hands
until finally it began to pull harder, as if a heavy load were attached
to it.

“Here she comes,” he said.

The huge wooden crate swung up beside the boat. Jo opened the catch
at the top and threw up the swinging lid. Then he began to take out
the lobsters. They were green and shining, with big claws waving
frantically in their effort to catch Jo’s fingers. One, two, three, and
four he fished out of the crate. The last was a small one and he threw
it back into the water.

“It is too short,” he said. “We are not allowed to bring them in as
small as that.”

“Aren’t they good to eat?” asked Ann.

“They’re the sweetest and the tenderest. But if the lobstermen began
selling them there soon wouldn’t be any left to grow up. Lobsters under
ten inches long aren’t allowed to be sold in the state of Maine.”

“What a lot you know, Jo!” exclaimed Ben admiringly.

Jo looked a little surprised. “That’s my business; of course I know
that, about boats and lobsters. There’s a plenty of things that you
know and I don’t.”

He dropped the three big lobsters into a wooden box in the dory. “Now
hand me one of those bait bags, Ben, if you please; out of the keg
behind you.”

He took the bag, wet and dripping, from Ben’s outstretched hand and
fastened it into the trap, taking out the half-empty one that had been
there. Then he closed the cover, hasped it, and let the trap slip
gently down, down, away from sight in the clear green water.

“Now for the next,” he said as he spun the wheel, and the dory once
again pointed her course up the coast.

Jo visited twenty of his pots that morning, replacing the bait in each
before he dropped it back into the water. Ann soon learned to fill
the little bait bags which he handed across to her as he pulled them
out of the pots and she always had them ready for him by the time the
next pot had been hauled to the surface. They had taken pity on Ben
and forbidden him to handle the bait, for the smell of the fish was a
little too much for his slight attack of seasickness.

“I’m all right now,” he insisted.

“Next time you come out you won’t feel the motion at all,” Jo promised.
“And you’ll forget all about this as soon as you step on shore.
Everybody gets a little sick the first time they go outside in a small
boat. Ann’s just tough, that’s the only reason she has escaped.”

“Where do you get the fish for the bait, Jo?” asked Ann after she had
filled the twentieth bag and they were sweeping in toward the cove with
the morning’s catch.

“The lobstermen get it. We would catch our own bait, but the farm work
takes so much of my father’s time and I’m not strong enough to handle
a trawl alone. So we buy from the men who go out after fish. You see,
to go lobstering the way most of the fishermen do would take all day.
First, they have to dig their clams down on the sand beach a mile to
the south; they use the clams to bait the fish trawls. After the trawls
are baited, they have to go out and catch the fish and bring them in.
Then the fish are used to catch the lobsters.”

“Sort of ‘great fleas have little fleas to bite ’em,’” Ben quoted.

“I guess you are almost well now, after that,” said Jo as he swung the
boat into the river.

Just before landing he once more cut off his engine and let the dory
drift alongside a large wooden box afloat in the smoother protected
water of the river. “This is the storage box where we put our catch
until we gather enough to pay to ship them to Boston.”

He opened the padlock on the cover and swung the big lid up, dumping
the day’s catch into it, eighteen in all, most of them fair-sized. Jo
felt that his morning’s work had been well worth while.

They landed, pulling the dory after them until it was slightly out of
the water. Jo threw the iron anchor well up the beach, so that the tide
would not set the boat adrift as it rose to the flood.

When she began to walk Ann discovered that she still felt the motion
of the boat and she swayed a bit as she went up the lane. She had real
“sea-legs” Jo told her and would soon be a regular deep-sea man.

On the way back to the shack to replace the oars and snap the lock
on the door they passed a building Ann had not noticed in the early
morning. It was merely a built-in shed between two shacks, a sort of
lean-to in a sad state of repair. The door stood open so that she
could see the man working inside as she passed by. He was dressed in
rough clothing, a pair of dark trousers and a thin shirt opened at
the throat, and what surprised her most was the fact that he was not
wearing oilskins. He was much younger than any of the other men she had
seen that morning and this, too, astonished her, for Jo had said that
Walt was the youngest of the fishermen, while this man could not have
been as old as her own father. He wore no hat and his thick hair was
unkempt. She could see, even as she walked by, that he was unshaven and
looked like a tramp--a rather interesting tramp, however.

“Who is that man?” she asked Jo.

“Him? That’s Warren Bain.” Jo’s voice sounded contemptuous.

“He doesn’t seem like the other fishermen.” Ann did not wish to show
her interest, especially as Jo did not seem eager to talk about the
stranger. But she was feeling inquisitive about him and she had already
learned that Jo talked more freely if he were not being questioned.

“He’s a queer fellow,” Jo continued after a moment, as though it had
taken him a while to decide whether or not to gossip. “He don’t belong
to these parts. Came from Down East this spring and set out lobstering
from the cove here. We don’t quite take to his coming, because there
are more lobsters down his way than there are here and we feel that
it would be fairer for him to keep to his home grounds. Besides, he
ain’t been none too friendly with the men since he came, and he pries
into other folks’ private affairs a good deal. I haven’t got anything
against him, but I just don’t like his way.”

As they passed the open door of the shed Warren Bain lifted his head
from his work and saw them. Then he moved slowly and lazily to the
doorway and watched them. He said nothing, although he looked Ann and
Ben over from head to foot. Ann was annoyed by his intense stare and
she resented the fact that he did not reply immediately to Jo’s curt
greeting.

“Fine morning,” Jo had said when the man first noticed them.

Finally Bain shifted his eyes a little from Ann and Ben and relaxed
against the side post of his shack, lounging comfortably. “Good
enough,” he said, and nodded his head to Jo.

“You kids stayin’ up at the Baileys’?” he asked with a slow drawl.

Trying not to be angry, Ann answered, “Yes. We are spending the summer
with Jo.”

“Hum,” and Bain brought his piercing eyes back to Ann’s face. “Where do
you spend all o’ your spare time?”

Jo interrupted Ann before she could answer such an astonishingly rude
question. “I don’t know that that is for you to worry about,” Jo said,
and though his words were discourteous, his voice was quietly polite.

“Oh,” Warren Bain apologized, “I was just interested. I didn’t mean to
be pryin’. It really ain’t none of my business.”

Ann thought that he was going to laugh at their indignation, but he did
not. He lounged against the door and watched them as they went away up
the lane.

When she thought that they must be completely out of sight, Ann turned
excitedly to Jo. “You don’t suppose that he knows anything about
the wrecked schooner?” she whispered breathlessly, although the man
couldn’t hear, not possibly. “Perhaps he doesn’t want to have us play
on it and perhaps interfere with whatever he plans to do.”

“Gee, Ann!” exclaimed Ben. “You have brains! I’ll bet that he knows
something! No man would have acted in such a strange way for no reason
at all.”

“What do you think, Jo?” insisted Ann.

Jo did not answer for another moment. He thought for a little space,
piecing together all the different things that had happened--especially
trying to tie them up with that lantern and the fire in the woods.

“I think you are right, Ann,” he said at last. “I believe he does know
something, and we will watch him as well as the ship.”



CHAPTER VII

_PAINTING THE DEER_


Ann did not have to watch alone for the lantern that might again be
seen flickering and swaying across the deck of the schooner. The band
mounted guard in turn and watched so industriously that Mr. and Mrs.
Seymour began to wonder what the children hoped to see out in the night.

Jo took upon himself the watch during the late hours, for he believed
that no one would be likely to venture aboard the wreck while lamps
still glowed from house windows so near. At least a man would not carry
a lantern there during the early hours of the night but would creep
about in the shadows or hang a covering over the portholes so that
whatever light was needed would be hidden.

“I think that the reason you saw it that first night, Ann, was because
pop and I go to bed so early. Whoever it was got careless. He thought
we always were asleep by that hour and he didn’t know that you folks
were coming.”

The evenings were long now; the sun did not set until after supper, and
it made the time of watching for a lantern very short.

Mr. Seymour had been interested in hearing about the buck deer that
Robin Hood had tracked to its lair and he joined with the band in
several early forays. They picked their way stealthily through
underbrush that dripped with dew and waited silently by the swamp pond,
counting discomfort nothing if only they could sometime see a deer
drink.

At last they were rewarded in the half-light of one clear dawn. A big
buck stepped gently out from the end of the narrow trail they had
followed that first day. He slowly approached the pond, cautious at
first. But Jo had chosen a hiding place where the breeze would not
betray their presence and the animal soon felt perfectly safe. First
he nosed about through the tender young marsh grass which grew close
to the water’s edge. He pulled a little of it, here and there, before
he raised his head. Whether he signaled that all was safe the human
beings could never know, although Jo said afterward that deer had ways
of warning their own kind, but when he had taken several mouthfuls of
grass he threw up his head and looked carefully about him, sniffing
into the light rustling breeze.

Down the same trail by which he had entered, his doe came with mincing
steps to take her place beside him. The legs that carried her slim body
so easily seemed no thicker than the twigs of the trees through which
she came so swiftly and quietly, and her big soft ears pricked forward
over her gentle brown eyes.

The children hardly dared to breathe and they spoke no louder than a
whisper even after the deer had vanished.

“Oh, father!” sighed Ben. “How lovely they are! You will show me how to
draw them, won’t you?”

So Allan-a-Dale resigned temporarily from Robin Hood’s band and became
the constant companion of his father. After his beans were hoed and his
potatoes hilled--for both corn and potatoes had sprouted rapidly and
gave promise of making an excellent crop--Ben took his canvas and easel
and went with his father to the swamp pond. Here they set up their
props and worked every day.

Mr. Seymour showed Ben how to plan his picture, so that his drawing
would be balanced and the deer stand straight on their own four legs.

“You will have to decide first of all, Ben, just how the deer balances
his weight on his feet while he is jumping, and then draw him so that
this point of balance comes as a straight right angle up from the line
where you are going to draw in your ground. That point of balance is
what makes people and animals stand upright, for otherwise they would
fall down. So when you draw pictures of them, you have to plan very
carefully to get an effect of stability in your drawing.”

In beginning his own picture Mr. Seymour planned to paint the swamp
first, and then place the deer in position some morning after he had
had an opportunity to sketch them rapidly from life. He hoped to see
them again, poised on the edge of the water before him. Consequently he
busied himself in transferring the pond with its green motionless water
surrounded by the dark pine woods to a canvas that was twice the size
of the one that Ben was working on.

Often the rest of the band gathered around the painters to watch the
growth of the two pictures, for they felt a personal interest and
responsibility because of their share in discovering the deer. Jo liked
to watch the brush in Mr. Seymour’s quick deft fingers and see how a
few strokes of color here and there made a splotch of green look like
a pine tree. Under his eyes Jo saw the swamp grow on the gray canvas.
It was the swamp, and yet it was not exactly like the swamp itself, for
Mr. Seymour had left out a great deal of underbrush and many of the
trees. When Jo asked him why, he explained:

“When you look at that pond out there with the trees for a background,
it fills the entire space so far as you are concerned while you are
looking at it. That is the first thing you notice. Now what is the
second thing?”

“Well, I guess,” Jo ventured, “that I notice next that the pine trees
are pointed up into the sky, all jagged, while down below the trees
come together and I can’t separate one from another. It is all a
darkness.”

“Yes,” said Mr. Seymour, “but doesn’t that mean something more to you
than just a lot of pine trees growing together?”

“I don’t exactly know what you mean,” Jo answered. “They are pine
trees, most of them, although I can see one or two foliage trees among
them--shouldn’t wonder but what they are swamp maples.”

“You’re too definite, Jo.” And Mr. Seymour laughed. “I didn’t mean to
ask you to look for the other trees, because you can see them only when
you look carefully.”

“I know what you mean, father, and you shouldn’t ask questions--it
takes too long. You should tell Jo right out.” Ann looked at her father
with her eyes twinkling. “You wanted Jo to say that the first thing he
saw in looking into a space filled with trees was the line they grew
in.”

“Of course,” Jo agreed. “Everything grows in a line or a clump.”

“That is just what I mean,” Mr. Seymour replied. “After you decide that
the space before you is filled with trees you next decide what the line
or pattern of the background of your picture is to be. After you decide
this, you can plan how to transfer the trees which fill the big space
into the much smaller space that is your canvas. You do it by following
the pattern which you see before you.”

“But you can’t get all that swamp on a little canvas,” Jo protested.

“Exactly,” said Mr. Seymour. “And that’s why I am leaving out so much.
By following the pattern of the pine trees for my background and the
twisting shore of the pond for my foreground, I can shrink the whole
swamp to the size of my canvas even though I leave out a great deal
that your eye sees growing there in the living wood. Now, while you are
looking and comparing so closely, watching picture and swamp at the
same time, the swamp, in contrast, seems magnificent. But next winter
when you see only the picture you will forget about these details that
mean so much to you now, and you will think the picture looks quite
like the swamp as you remember it.”

“Gee!” Jo said sadly. “You’ve forgotten that I won’t be seeing the
picture next winter.” He scraped the toe of his boot disconsolately
against the loose pebbles. “You aren’t thinking of going home too soon?”

“Not for ages!” exclaimed Ann. “And I’ll write to you every week after
we get back,” she promised.

“We’ll sign our names to the same letter,” said Ben.

“You won’t!” Ann assured him, in her most decided manner. “If I write a
letter I am going to be the only one to sign it. He will have to write
his own letters, won’t he, father?”

“It looks as if he would have to.” Mr. Seymour laughed. “I know that
Jo would like to get more than one a week through the winter. How about
it, Jo?”

“You bet I would,” answered Jo, his eyes shining.

Ben was almost entirely interested in painting the animals. He was
trying to draw them from his recollection of the leaping buck. He
got the action very well, Mr. Seymour told him, but he would have to
practice more on the outlines, so that the leaping figure would look
more like a deer.

“When I saw that deer,” Ben explained excitedly, “I felt as if I were
jumping in exactly the same way. That is why I am sure about how the
lines should go.”

“With a little patience, Ben,” his father promised, “I feel certain
that you will be able to draw.”

“And I shall be very famous?”

“I can’t promise that. The famous--but of course you don’t mean
‘famous’; you aren’t using the right word and I can’t have you saying
it. You are trying to ask me whether you can do work that will satisfy
yourself, and that no one can prophesy. You will have to work hard.
Don’t think that you can be anything you wish by merely wishing it. And
besides, some of the greatest painters have only made a bare living
after studying and working all their lives long.”

“I don’t care if I don’t make any money,” said Ben stoutly, “if I can
paint as much as I like.”

“Paint costs money,” said Mr. Seymour rather sadly. “And an artist has
to feed himself and his family.”

“Don’t you worry about that, Ben,” Ann protested. “When Jo and I get
our ranch started you can come and live with us--can’t he, Jo?”

“Sure he can,” Jo assented readily. “And he can paint all the time;
there will be lots of animals out there, steers and horses. And we can
live on potatoes and beans.”

Mr. Seymour seemed to think that this was very funny, for he laughed
heartily.

“I’ll come to visit you once in a while,” said Helen. “But I am going
to marry a millionaire and live on candy and nuts.”

“You’ll be glad to eat some of Jo’s beans, in that case,” said Ben
quite positively. He once had known what it was to eat too much candy.
“And if Jo lets me live there with him and with Ann, I’ll promise to do
my full share of hoeing.”

“Father will come, too,” said Ann eagerly, “even though he will be the
greatest painter in America by that time. When our ranch is paying,
neither father nor mother nor Mr. Bailey will need to do any more work
for money.”

“That’s a very kind promise,” said Mr. Seymour. “And I shall expect to
enjoy visiting you. Helen can bring some of her candy and nuts, for
they will make us a pleasant change from a steady diet of beans and
potatoes.”

In the evenings Ben was tracing his deer drawings on a piece of
shellacked cardboard which he planned to cut into stencils, so that he
could stencil some new curtains for the Boston apartment, curtains with
deer leaping all along the bottom.



[Illustration]

CHAPTER VIII

_A MAN WITH A LANTERN_


Meanwhile Jo made a ladder exactly long enough to reach from the
ground to the porthole of the captain’s cabin. He had reasoned that
the band would be safer outside the ship; he was afraid, and with good
reason, of being caught in a trap. But if some one were sleeping on the
blankets in the captain’s stateroom Jo could look in and see who was
there without disturbing the sleeper. The man could be caught unaware
before he had time to hide.

Jo made his ladder by splitting a young green cedar. He selected a
straight slender tree, cut it down and trimmed the branches close to
the trunk. It looked like a beautiful pole with the bark still on it.
Then Jo struck the ax along the grain of the log, inserting wedges
in the open gashes. This split the tree evenly as he pounded the
wedges in. Then he pared the two pieces smooth and nailed flat bits of
boxboard across for rungs, making sure that every nail pointed down as
he drove it home.

“When we put our weight on each rung,” he explained to the interested
band, “we shall drive the nails farther into the cedar instead of
working them loose. Lots of people don’t think of that and their weight
comes down in such direction that gradually the nails are pried out.
I don’t trust a ladder that I haven’t made myself. I’m always kind of
nervous when I’m up on it.”

When the ladder was finished it looked bulky and heavy, as homemade
ladders always look, and Ann was astonished to find that she could lift
it easily.

Jo explained that, too. “That’s because of the wood I chose. Cedar and
spruce and the pine that grows up North here are lighter than hemlock
or yellow pine. Yellow pine comes from down South, and you might as
well try to lift a stone. And hemlock is not much good for such work as
this, as it cracks too easily and once you drive a nail into it you can
never pull it out again. Hemlock is used for rough work only, because
it is most unreliable. It will crack when you least expect it and let
you fall.”

“I should think oak would be the strongest,” said Ben.

“Oak is about the best lumber that grows in these parts,” Jo agreed,
“but it is worth a lot of money and it is hard to get, these days.
So it is used for finish wood, that is, for furniture and expensive
flooring. And supposing we could get it, it weighs more than yellow
pine. I’ll bet you couldn’t lift a ladder made of oak, much less carry
it down to the wreck; I know I shouldn’t hanker after that job. It sure
is pretty wood, though; the grain runs so evenly.”

“The grain is the darker lines through the boards, isn’t it?” asked
Ann. “We helped mother scrape the paint from some chairs last winter
and then we smoothed the wood with sandpaper so that the grain would
show. They were lovely when we had finished. They looked like satin.”

“Sure,” said Jo. “And the grain comes from the way the tree grows. The
longer it takes a tree to grow the finer its grain. Oak is grained
straight with narrow lines, and yellow pine has a grain that looks like
broad bands of ribbon running through it and it shows much pinker in
color. The northern pine--white pine, we call it--is so soft that you
can’t see the grain; the boards are all the same color and are very
white and the wood is easier to cut with a saw than any hard wood.”

“That is the strangest ladder I ever saw,” said Ben, looking at it
critically.

Ann had thought the same thing although she had not cared to say it
to Jo. She believed in Jo and he must have had some reason for making
it as he had. He had kept his two long poles far apart and the rungs
were twice as long as in the ordinary ladder. Naturally it was a short
ladder because the porthole was not very high above their heads when
they stood below it on the beach, but why make it so very wide?

“It is wide because I wanted it to be very steady and because, if it’s
wide enough, more’n one of us can look in the port at the same time.”

“Gee! A big idea, Jo!” exclaimed Ben admiringly.

“I think that three of us can get up on it. Let’s practice. We don’t
want to make much noise when we’re really using it against the side
of the wreck. Anybody inside the cabin could hear us like rats in the
wall.”

So Jo placed the ladder under a small window in the barn. He climbed up
until his head was opposite the window and then Ben followed. Jo stood
as near one end of his rung as possible and Ben stood on the other end;
they had one foot each on the ladder while the other twined about the
pole. Then Ann came up between them. She was glad that she was thin and
lanky!

“Pretty good,” said Jo. “I think that we can manage that.”

In order to be ready for any emergency they carried the ladder down to
the road and hid it in the bushes that made a hedge between the road
and the meadow, directly opposite the wreck.

They had not made their preparations a day too soon, for that very
night as Ann was ready to hop into bed she heard a tap against her
window, a secret tap, the signal of the band. She pulled back the
curtains and saw Jo standing outside in the moonlight.

“Somebody is coming,” he said in low tones. “See there,” and he pointed
across the meadow.

At first Ann could see nothing; then a small light flashed and
instantly disappeared.

“I thought he wouldn’t bring a lantern again,” said Jo with quiet
satisfaction in his powers of deduction. “He has a flashlight this
time.”

The gleam showed again and swung in a semicircle over the meadow.

“He don’t know his way,” said Jo. “He has to watch pretty carefully
where he is going.”

“I’ll get Ben,” Ann whispered excitedly. “Helen said that she didn’t
want to go to the boat at night--and I don’t believe that mother would
like to have her go even if she wished it. We’ll dress quickly and be
with you in a minute.”

“All right,” agreed Jo. “Get a move on you. If we can reach the road
before the man gets there we will have a fine chance to see who he is
as he goes by. I’ll keep track of the light while you’re getting ready.”

“Ben!” whispered Ann. “Are you awake? Robin Hood waits for his men--the
marauders are upon us.”

“What’s that?” said Ben, sitting up in bed, and feeling his hair rise.

“Some one is walking toward the wreck with a flashlight! Don’t talk out
loud; we don’t want to be told that we mustn’t go out!”

“Is Jo ready to go?”

“Yes. I’ll beat you at dressing.” Ann whisked back to her room. “And if
I’m ready first we’ll go without you!”

“If you beat me you’ll be beating some one worth while,” answered Ben
as he swung out of bed and thrust his bare feet into his shoes without
bothering with stockings. But in spite of his omissions he finished
at the same time as Ann and reached her side as she climbed over her
window sill.

“Where is he?” she asked Jo.

“About halfway, I should judge. Time to see his light now.”

Even as Jo spoke the light flashed yellow.

“Just where I thought he would be,” whispered Jo exultantly. “Now
follow me and be quick and quiet, for you can bet he is watching and
listening or he wouldn’t be traveling so slowly. Keep in the shadows as
much as possible and remember he is less likely to see us when he has
the light. Light shows up things that are close by but it blinds pretty
well for distance.”

Jo crouched low into the shadow of the ground so that he would not be
outlined against the white house in the moonlight. Lithe as a cat he
sped into the shadow of a tree a short distance away.

“He won’t move on from there until the light shows,” Ben said to Ann.
“Wait until he runs again and then we will go together to the tree
where he is now.”

The light flashed almost immediately.

Ann could see Jo’s dark slim bulk speed on to a bush and shoulder to
shoulder she and Ben reached the shelter of his first hiding place. Jo
waited where he was and in the next flash his followers slid over to
his patch of darkness.

There was shadow most of the way now and they quickly reached the
underbrush that bordered the road by the wreck. They were several
minutes ahead of the man with the flashlight.

“Flatten down,” Jo warned softly. “He won’t expect anybody to track him
from this side, so there’s nothing to be scared of now. He’ll make for
the far side of the ship.”

They could hear the sound of heavy boots walking cautiously along the
road. Nearer and nearer it came and Ann had to swallow hard. Although
she hoped that Jo was right when he said there was no danger while they
were lying in the bushes, she could not help fearing that the man must
hear them as plainly as they heard him. Ben’s arm trembled where it
pressed against her shoulder and she knew that he felt as she did.

Jo lay a little ahead of them, where he could peep through an opening
that gave him a good view of the road. “Almost here now,” he warned
under his breath. “If he swings his light this way hide your face but
don’t move a muscle unless you have to.”

The man was walking in the dark now. As he drew closer to the ship he
walked more quietly and more quickly, as if he were stalking something
in the night. Ann could see the shadows cast by his legs as he passed
in the moonlight and he almost touched Jo, but the boy lay as if
frozen. He did not even tremble and Ann knew that he would have kept
exactly as quiet if the big boots had trodden on him.

The man went directly to the prow of the boat. Vaguely in the moonlight
the figure of the demon hung over him. The man looked up at it and Ann
heard him give a low chuckling laugh. “Well, old boy,” he said, “you
are one grand guard for the old boat and you keep her well protected
for me.”

Then Ann thought that the torch must have slipped from his hands, for
it turned as he clutched it and the light went on. The reflection
flashed across the man’s face.

“Warren Bain!” Ben breathed close to her ear.

If Ann had not remembered Jo’s instructions she would have hushed Ben
impatiently. She felt certain that he had been heard. Warren Bain--for
it was he--shut off his light instantly and stood listening. Ben,
realizing that perhaps he had betrayed the band, pressed so close to
the ground that Ann almost expected to see him disappear into it.

But Warren evidently was satisfied that whatever sound he had heard
came from the noises of the night. After a moment he started on his
business again. He slipped his flashlight into his coat pocket and
then leaped up into the dangling irons that were swaying from the bow.
Having mounted these he reached up and caught the top of the rail with
both hands and pulled himself up to the deck. For a minute he stood
erect, outlined against the bright sky, and then he strode forward and
vanished from sight.

“He’s going to the cabin,” whispered Jo. “Now’s our chance to get the
ladder placed.”

There was no need of concealment for the next moment or two, and the
ladder was beside them in the bushes. Jo raised it noiselessly against
the side of the wreck.

Stealthily he mounted, peered through the window, and listened. Ann
thought of the buck deer, listening by the pond. Then Jo beckoned to
Ben. Quickly Ben climbed after him and placed himself in position where
the two boys balanced each other perfectly. Then Ann went up.

The boys stood one rung above her and could peer into porthole one on
either side over her head. Ann found that from where she stood she
could just manage to see over the bottom edge of the round window. She
could dodge down quickly if Bain happened to glance toward the porthole.

He was coming now. How different his steps sounded from the strange
sussh-sussh she had heard that other day when the band visited the
wreck. Bain walked lightly but he came steadily with abrupt steps that
sounded like those of a human being. The other sound, she felt sure
now, could not have been human. But what had made that curious noise?
Ann could not bring herself to believe in ghosts.

As Bain entered the captain’s cabin he flashed his light into all the
corners and the band dodged out of the glow. The port was so high from
the floor that there was no danger of Bain’s seeing anything that was
not directly in front of the opening.

In a minute they pulled back where they could see and all three watched
the man as he examined the cabin. He gave most attention to the table.
He pulled the drawer out, banging it on the floor and listening for
some sound that would indicate a secret compartment; then he took out
his pocketknife and ran the open blade around the joining of the wood.
It was evident that he found nothing. When he began to work he fixed
his torch in his belt in such a way as to allow the light to follow his
hands and let him see clearly what he was doing. Once in a while he
would stop and listen intently, and each time he took up his task again
he worked faster than before, as if he expected interruption.

As he searched his dark face was very intent. But it did not appear
evil. He looked far more friendly to Ann to-night than when she had
seen him at the cove. But in spite of that she had no desire to let him
know that Robin Hood’s band were spying upon him.

Under his hands one of the table legs suddenly loosened; apparently it
had been screwed together in the middle where the crack was hidden by a
line of decoration. The piece in Bain’s hands was hollow and from it he
took a roll of paper. He opened it and grunted with satisfaction as he
read. Then he slipped the paper into his pocket and replaced the table
leg carefully, taking great pains to screw it tight.

He was searching for something more than the paper, for he crossed to
the closet and began to shake and finger the clothes hanging there.
When he found nothing in them he ran his hands up and down the closet
walls, tapping them at intervals. Evidently he found what he wanted; as
he latched the door he wore a pleased smile and as he turned away he
said, “Stay there, sweet babies, some one will come for you.”

Such a funny thing to say! The words had no meaning for the three
listeners.

Bain’s light flashed across the blankets in the berth. Ann could feel
Jo start in astonishment, and glancing toward him Ann saw that his
eyes, too, were riveted on the berth. She followed them and realized
that the blankets were matted down as they were before Jo had shaken
them that other day. Some one had been sleeping on them again; some one
who had come aboard in spite of their vigilance and walked about the
boat without a light. And it was not Warren Bain; that was perfectly
evident, for he had taken his flashlight out of his belt and was
running it slowly over the blankets.

Suddenly Bain stopped. He was listening intently. Had he heard their
breathing or perhaps heard them moving against the side of the ship
above his head? Ann was quite prepared to slip from her precarious
perch and scamper away to the safe farmhouse.

But no, he was not paying any attention to the porthole. Slowly he
turned his head and glanced back over his shoulder to the door. Ann
recognized the movement. So he was beginning to feel that strange
sensation, too. Ann strained her ears to hear the mysterious noise that
he must be hearing.

From the deck above the three, near the top of the ladder, faintly came
the phantom sussh-sussh. Slowly it drew nearer and louder, then it came
from a spot farther away; always moving nearer or farther, it came with
the same rhythm, the first sussh heavy and scraping, the second lighter
and with more of a rasp.

“Hold tight,” whispered Jo. “We’ll weather it through with Warren.”

But Warren had no intention of weathering through any such meeting.
He reached his free hand into his coat pocket and brought out a heavy
automatic which he cocked. Shifting the flashlight into his left hand
he rushed out of the door and up the companionway.

“Hurry,” ordered Jo. “Slide into the shadows under the boat. Jump,
Ben; I’m letting go of my side.”

The boys dropped together and Ann stepped down to the ground. Jo barely
had time to take the ladder and cut under the stern of the boat. From
their hiding place they could hear Bain run across the deck and they
saw him swing out over the prow and drop. He switched off his flash as
he landed on the beach and crept into the underbrush where the children
had hidden to watch him go by. Then he was gone.

The shuffling noise had ceased as the three left the wreck and went
home.

When they were once more under Ann’s window Jo exclaimed, “There goes
Bain now! Out toward the swamp.”

And a sudden pinprick of light showed beneath the dense growth of pine
on the edge of the wood.

“He was not the one who left that fire,” said Ann with conviction.

“How do you know?” asked Ben.

“I don’t actually know,” admitted Ann, “but I feel sure.”

“Jo, what do you think was in that roll of paper?” Ben asked.

“Perhaps it was a few sheets from the lost log,” suggested Jo. “But if
it was that, a table leg was a funny place to keep it.”

“You don’t suppose that Warren was the captain of the ship?” Ann
questioned.

“I thought of that,” said Jo. “But if he was captain, what reason had
he for skulking aboard in that fashion? He would have full right to
occupy the ship.”

“Besides,” said Ben, “Warren Bain searched for that paper; if he had
been the captain he would have remembered where he hid it.”

“Perhaps,” agreed Ann. She was loath to believe that Bain was where he
had no business to be, for suddenly she had begun to like the man. In a
moment she had another idea. “Perhaps the captain stole something from
Warren and hid it, and Warren has been searching for it.”

“That sounds more like it,” said Jo. “But if it were the log that he
took, had he any right to it? Logs aren’t included in a ship’s salvage.”

“It sounded to me,” said Ann, “as if he found something that he didn’t
take away with him. Did you hear the strange thing that he said as he
came away from the closet?”

“Yes!” exclaimed Ben. “‘Stay there until some one comes for you,
babies.’ Only of course it wasn’t babies--they’d have starved to death
before now.”

Ann and Jo laughed at that. “I guess you’re right about that, Ben,”
said Jo.

“And what do you think he is doing, back there in the woods?” said Ann.

“Ask me another,” answered Jo. “I’m stumped about the whole thing.”

And then he slipped away in the darkness and Ann and Ben crept silently
over the window sill. For the second time that night Ann undressed and
went to bed.



CHAPTER IX

_A DAY OF MYSTERIES_


“Ben,” Mrs. Seymour asked next morning at the breakfast table, “did you
bring home the cheese yesterday when you came back from the village?”

“Yes, mother,” Ben answered. “I left it with the other packages on the
bench outside the kitchen door.”

“You are sure that you didn’t leave it in the store?” Mrs. Seymour
was not questioning Ben’s statement, for she, too, was quite certain
that the cheese had been accounted for when Ben had dropped all his
marketing on the seat by the door and checked each purchase by the list
she had given him.

“I know I brought it with me,” repeated Ben. “This chil’ loves cheese
too well to let himself forget anything as important as that. Didn’t
you find it out there?”

Mrs. Seymour shook her head without answering.

“Probably it dropped behind the bench, or perhaps it is in the
buckboard,” Mr. Seymour suggested. He knew that his wife must be
thinking of Fred Bailey’s warning against leaving any food outside the
door. This was the first time that the advice had been overlooked.

Followed by Ann, he went out to look for the missing cheese. There
might be remnants left to indicate what had happened to it. But there
was not a trace to be found anywhere. He and Ann looked at each other
incredulously. As they stood there, not yet quite ready to put their
questions into words, they saw Mr. Bailey running toward them from the
back field, holding something in his outstretched hand. He was waving
frantically to them in most unusual excitement. As he came closer Ann
could see that what he carried was a package wrapped in torn paper.

Ben, standing in the kitchen doorway, recognized this bundle and hailed
Mr. Bailey. “Hey!” he called. “Where did you find our cheese?”

“So it be yours,” Fred gasped as he stopped before them, very short of
breath. “I thought it would be, but I wanted to make sure of it.”

Ann saw that the man was pale beneath his tan and the laughter had fled
from his blue eyes. Whatever he might have to say now could have no
joke hidden behind it.

“I left that cheese out on the bench and forgot it,” Ben explained.

“I warned you folks not to leave food lyin’ around outdoors; I told you
that you mustn’t leave anything that would tempt spirits to come from
the sea and pester us,” said Mr. Bailey. “I don’t know as we shall
ever be free from them again,” he added despairingly.

“I never heard that spirits were especially fond of cheese,” commented
Mr. Seymour. “Where did you find it, Fred?” he asked quietly.

“Up by the stone wall in the back field,” Mr. Bailey half whispered,
staring at the package that he was holding. “Mr. Seymour, Mrs. Seymour,
marm, something terrible must have been going on this past night.”

Ann was tremendously impressed by his attitude; he was so tense and
earnest. Never had she seen any grown person so moved and anxious. She
looked at Ben and saw that he shared her own feeling, while Helen’s
face was white with excitement.

But the assurance of Mr. Seymour’s calm reply steadied the children and
they turned with relief to watch him while he spoke. “Why are you so
sure it was taken during the night? Why not in the afternoon? Much more
likely then, I think, for if it had been lying on this bench all the
afternoon and evening somebody would have noticed it and taken it into
the pantry.”

Just then Jo came across from the barnyard and stood beside his father,
listening. Ann could tell from his drawn face and wide eyes that he was
as seriously upset as was Mr. Bailey.

“I’ll admit that I’m puzzled,” said Mr. Seymour, “though your theory,
Bailey, is perfect nonsense. Who in the name of reason would have
carried off a great chunk of cheese?”

“Not one of your hens, I suppose?” asked Mrs. Seymour.

At that the children laughed, even Jo; the cheese was nearly as big as
a hen. The Seymours all liked cheese, plain and in rarebits, and as
they went to the village for groceries only twice a week Mrs. Seymour
had ordered what might have seemed an overgenerous supply.

“What have you missed at other times?” asked Mr. Seymour.

“Milk, first of all,” Fred answered. “I put a pail down in the yard and
turned my back on it a minute to go into the house and when I looked
at it again it was lowered a couple of inches. Next time, they tipped
a pail over and spilled the whole of it. And then they took a piece of
meat--walked off with Jo’s and my Sunday dinner.”

“Who could have done it?” exclaimed Mrs. Seymour, and Ann felt a shiver
of excitement running down her spinal cord; her thought flashed back to
that shushing noise on the wreck.

“Who done it?” echoed Mr. Bailey. “That grinnin’ sea demon on the prow
o’ that ship is who done it.”

“Rubbish, Fred!” Mr. Seymour came out with his flat denial. But he
looked very grave. “I don’t like to believe there is a sneak thief in
the neighborhood; in fact, I can’t believe it.”

And even gentle Mrs. Seymour was indignant. Her eyes shone with
sympathy as she said, “And these things are too unkind for any one to
have done them with the idea that he was playing a practical joke. Your
Sunday dinner! How mean!”

“Practical jokes? Sneak thieves?” Mr. Bailey repeated scornfully. “I
told you what’s been troubling everything around here. It’s that devil
figurehead.”

“Bailey! I never would have thought you capable of such superstition.
It comes from living alone so much, I suppose, and being so close to
the sea and the sky. Are you going to be frightened by the mischief of
some bold rascal of a woodchuck or stray dog? Put the cheese on the
kitchen table, Ben. Before we throw it away I want to examine it and
see whether there are marks of fingers or claws and teeth, to try to
get some clue to who or what has been handling it.”

“Who or what about says the whole of it,” said Mr. Bailey as he turned
away to go back to his farm work.

Ann thought that he looked very tired and anxious. Why had that ship
ever come to his shore to worry him? She wished more than ever that she
could do something to solve the mystery; she hoped still to accomplish
what she had promised herself to do, but she was so slow about it!

“What are you going to do, Jo?” Ben called after him.

“Goin’ down to the beach to get a load of small pebbles and sand--want
to come?”

“Yes, of course I do,” answered Ben, forgetting that half of his time
lately had been given to painting.

“And I’m coming, too,” called Ann. “Bring three shovels, Ben.”

“Haven’t but two,” Jo called back, laughing. “You can drive.”

So down to the beach they went, joggling over the ruts and rocks in the
two-wheeled cart as sensible Jerry plodded steadily along regardless of
the bumping cart behind his heels.

A great change had come over Ben during these weeks at Pine Ledge.
Instead of the boy who had hardly known whether or not to help carry
the bags at the station that first day, he now took his place beside Jo
and shoveled with him, tossing the shovelfuls of beach sand into the
high cart and keeping pace with Jo. This pleased Ben very much, for
though he could not lift as heavy a load it was only because he was
younger and shorter than Jo; proportionally he was doing exactly the
same amount of work. He did not say anything about it, but Ann noticed,
and so did Jo,

“Pretty good work,” he said approvingly. “You’re getting up a fine
muscle.”

In the afternoon great thunderheads of clouds began to climb up
toward the sun and blacken the sky. The Seymours were up in a field
watching Mr. Bailey and Jo as they laid a platform of cement in the
milk house for which the beach gravel had been carried that morning.
Already squalls were sweeping in from the sea in dark and menacing
blots, and to the Baileys this did not promise to be merely a passing
thundershower but an all-night deluge.

“See the gulls coming in,” said Jo. “They are beginning to notice the
storm, just like I said they would, even before the blow begins.”

Ben and Ann looked to where Jo was pointing, and sure enough, a
scattering of gulls showed white as they clustered about the mouth of
the river, rising up on spread wings and crying spasmodically with a
plaintive note that sounded almost human.

“They will ride with the wind that way until they get fed up,” Jo
explained, “and then shift back to the shelter of the swamp pond.” He
looked at the clouds with a speculative eye. “Along about sunset they
should be taking to the pond. We’ll watch carefully and see how they
act, for that will show us, very likely, how heavy the wind will blow
before morning.”

To Ann and Ben the sky looked as though the storm would break in a
few minutes, for the clouds were black and massed, with a white misty
foam along their edges. But Jo’s prophecy was right. The clouds hung
steadfastly just over the top of the pine forest, as though fixed in
that one spot, moiling and running in layers over themselves but not
advancing. The Seymours kept glancing at the sky, for it made the
afternoon seem very strange and threatening.

But Mr. Bailey’s thoughts could not have been on the approaching storm,
for suddenly he looked up at Ann, who was standing near by, watching
him as he smoothed the cement with gentle unhurried strokes of his
trowel.

“I’ve been thinkin’ about what your father said this mornin’, kinder
turnin’ it over in my mind. And I don’t know but what he’s right about
that cheese; he was talkin’ to me after dinner an’ he says--an’ he
showed ’em to me--that there’s marks of dog teeth on the cheese. But
there ain’t any stray dog around here; there couldn’t be, without Jo or
me catchin’ sight of it now and then. Maybe it’s a wolf. They’ve been
known to come down from the backwoods, now and again. But that old sea
demon, I don’t like him at all. Ain’t got no use for him. We would all
be better off without him.”

“I don’t like him,” Ann agreed most readily. “But what can you ever do
to get rid of him before the wreck breaks up?”

“I’ve made up my mind to fix him,” Fred answered grimly. “I’ll chop him
off the boat and burn him up on the beach.”

“Oh!” Ann danced gayly in anticipation. “Won’t that be fun! We’ll have
a bonfire and bake potatoes in it. And that will be the end of the old
grinning demon.”

“And we’ll roast some of our own corn,” Ben chimed in. “Don’t you
suppose, Jo, that we could find a few ears that would be ripe enough?”

“Shouldn’t wonder,” Jo answered. “Lobsters are mighty good cooked in
the open, too. After the rocks get hot you put the lobsters under a
pile of wet seaweed and steam them. We’d do it to-night only the storm
would open right on top of us.”

Mr. Bailey squinted up at the western sky. The clouds were weaving in
and out above the tops of the pines. The dropping sun had now tinged
their white edges with a line of yellow fire. The squalls out at sea
had melted together into one great blot of dark shadow relieved here
and there by a bit of foam that showed startlingly white against the
somber blackness.

“You two had better skite for the house now,” he said. “Jo and I will
hurry and finish this work before the rain comes, and get the critters
under cover. The thunder makes them run the pasture.”

“The critters” were Jerry, the horse, waiting with the empty cart, and
Maude, the cow, feeding placidly in the pasture near by although she
had more than once looked up at the sky as though she understood what
was coming.

“Let us take Maude and Jerry,” begged Ann. “We’ll get them into the
shed.”

“All right,” Mr. Bailey consented. “Only get a move on you. After this
long dry spell the storm will be some blow, and don’t you forgit it.”

Ben chose to bring in Maude, for he loved the slow-moving gentle
creature with her soft brown eyes that always seemed so interested in
him every time he appeared.

Ann’s job was Jerry. He was as eager as she to get within the four
walls of his shelter. He went briskly down the cart path and into the
barnyard and stopped on the spot where the cart belonged, all without
the need of much guiding from Ann. It was there that Ann’s trouble
began. She didn’t know how to unharness him. She could not discover
which of the big buckles distributed about the harness would free him.
Even after she had unfastened the traces, as she had seen Jo do, Jerry
still stayed firmly fixed between the shafts. He turned his head and
looked at her with patient wonder as if he wanted to know why he was
being kept there.

Ben, coming in with Maude walking sedately before him, proved to be of
little help. “Jerry sticks there because he is so fat,” he suggested.
“See, the shafts bulge out over his sides. We’ll have to pull him out.”

But though Ben held the shafts while Ann pulled at Jerry’s head they
had no better success. Whenever Jerry moved forward an inch the cart
came, too.

Ann knew how Mr. Bailey would laugh if he and Jo reached the barnyard
and found that she had been beaten by a buckle. Besides, she had
promised to get Jerry under cover, and into his stall he should go if
it were a possible thing; she was determined to get him there. She
would unbuckle every strap in his harness until she came to the ones
that held him to the cart. So she and Ben began with those nearest,
and some of them were so stiff that they couldn’t have been unfastened
since the harness was bought, goodness knew how many years ago.

At last Jerry was free. He seemed to know when the right buckle came
undone. He stepped forward and looked at Ann and Ben with an expression
of mild disgust, then he braced himself and had one fine shake, the
harness showering down in dozens of little straps. Again he looked at
the children, as if to say, “Now see what you have done!”

Without waiting he stalked away to his stall.

Ann and Ben began to pick up the miscellaneous bits of harness as
fast as they could, but Jo came and caught them before they had quite
finished. He laughed until he was weak as he watched them on their
hands and knees picking up the little pieces. Even Jerry turned around
in his corner and stared with astonished eyes.

“I’ll give you a good lesson to-morrow,” said Jo, “show you how to put
a set of harness together. The big buckle under his forelegs and the
two straps on the sides wrapped about the shafts were all that you
should have opened.”

[Illustration: _The harness showered down in dozens of little straps._]

“I didn’t know there were so many straps in the world!” exclaimed Ben.
“And look at Jerry over there. He is laughing at us, too.”

“We don’t get many city hicks out here, do we, Jerry?” Jo took a sly
nudge as he rubbed the soft nose of the old horse, and Jerry opened his
mouth in a wide bored yawn. “That’s the way to treat ’em,” said Jo.
“Yawn again, a bigger one this time.”

The Seymours rushed through their supper, for they were eager to see
the first real storm of the season beat against the cliffs. Fred had
promised that there would be gorgeous sights, to-night and all day
to-morrow, and they did not wish to miss a bit more than necessary.

Mr. Seymour was eager to see the color of sea and sky and rocks and the
struggle of the wind against the water. Ben found the curling, twisting
sea fascinating to watch as the wind closed down beyond the pond rocks.
The gale seemed to have shut them into a wide semicircle, for the tops
of the tallest pines far against the sunset were swaying and bending
gently, while the house and the meadow still stood in the first soft
yellow twilight where not a breath of air moved. It was early yet, for
the Seymours had fallen into country ways and it was hardly six o’clock.

Jo joined the group as they stood watching the sea. He touched Ann
lightly on the shoulder. “Come over here if you want to see the gulls
now,” he said, and Ann went with him to the corner on the kitchen side
of the house.

Ben followed, for he wished to see the birds. Anything that had
movement interested him enormously, the flight of the gulls as well as
the sweeping onward of the crested waves.

“How strangely the gulls act!” said Ann.

Dozens of the great gray birds were poised over the spot where the
children knew that the swamp pond lay circled with great pines. Their
wings were outstretched as they rode the still air and they were
calling in a confused jumble of high-pitched chuckling cries.

“They ought to light.” Jo’s face was puzzled. “Strange the way they
hang up there. Usually it looks as if they dropped straight down, out
of sight.”

“Why do they come inland?” asked Ben. “To get out of the wind?”

“Partly. But they know, same as I do, that the storm will blow the fish
up the river to seek quiet water.”

“I don’t believe that they mean to settle on the pond to-night,” Ann
ventured after a while.

“Strange,” said Jo again. “It would almost seem as though something
down there on the pond was keeping them off, but gulls don’t fret about
muskrats. I never have heard of a bobcat around these parts, but it
looks suspicious to see them act in that jumpy way.”

“Perhaps it’s the same animal that took our cheese,” suggested Ann.

“Perhaps,” agreed Jo. He dropped his eyes from the poised birds and ran
them thoughtfully along the fringe of the woods where the trees cut
sharply into the growing twilight. Suddenly he caught hold of Ben’s arm.

“Look! See there!”

“What?” Ben asked. “I don’t see anything. What do you mean?”

“Right there alongside of that big pine. Don’t you see the smoke? Some
one has lighted that fire again. It must be just where we found the
embers.”

As he spoke he began to run down over the meadow in the direction of
the spot from which the smoke rose. Ben and Ann could see it plainly,
now that their attention had been called to it, a thin wisp of smoke
curling above the top of one of the tallest pines.

“Come on,” said Ann. “I’m going, too.”

“Sure,” said Ben, and they started to run after Jo.

“Where are you going?” called Mr. Seymour. “The rain will be here soon.”

“Jo thinks there is a fire down in the swamp,” Ben answered, “and we
are going to help him put it out.”

“Well, don’t stay too long. Remember that the rain will be of more use
than you are.”

“I want to go with them,” said Helen. “Mayn’t I, father?”

“Take care of her, Ann,” cautioned Mr. Seymour.

And then the three Seymours ran down the hill to where Jo was waiting
for them in the shadow of the woods, for he had turned to see whether
they were following. He was standing in a spot that was hidden from the
entrance to the path into the woods.

Vaguely Ann wished that Helen had not come; she was such a little girl.



[Illustration]

CHAPTER X

_THE FIRE IN THE WOODS_


Just beyond lay the deer trail that had grown so familiar to them all.
A little fringe of undergrowth to be broken through with the utmost
caution, stooping low to avoid as many branches as possible, and then
they were on the trail in Indian file creeping stealthily toward the
swamp pond with Jo ahead. As they drew nearer they could smell the wood
smoke in the air.

This was even more exciting than stalking deer, Ann thought, as she
went forward noiselessly, hardly daring to draw a full breath.

Jo stopped for a whispered conference.

“As we draw close,” he instructed, “we had better scatter, so the
noise won’t come always from the same direction if we step on twigs or
stumble. And that will give us all a chance to light out and make our
getaway if somebody is there by the fire. I’ll take the center. Ben and
Ann swing out on either side of me and Helen had best stay right here
behind me.”

So the band took the formation that Robin Hood suggested and bore
down upon the fire in a wide semicircle, within sight of one another,
if one knew where to look and peered through the green leaves of the
underbrush. Through the scrub growth and briers, now, they could see
the glow of flames and hear a murmur of men’s voices speaking in low
tones.

Jo dropped flat on his stomach and pulled Helen down beside him and the
others followed his example. Slowly they crept forward and came to the
edge of the little clearing on the edge of the pond.

Two men were seated before the crackling sticks of a small fire. Ann
had never seen either of them before. They were dressed in dark blue
wool and she felt sure that the cloth was like the torn piece that Jo
carried constantly in his pocket. Were they sailors from the wreck? And
where had they been all the time since the boat came ashore last winter?

The nearer man was big. His shaggy hair was tumbled and long on his
bare head and a heavy beard covered the lower part of his face. Ann
knew that he would be an ugly customer, and quieter than ever she lay
motionless under the bushes. The other man was small and lithely thin
like a weasel. He had a weasel’s tiny pale eyes that darted nervously
everywhere while he talked. He was very white with an unnatural pallor
and as the glow of the fire leaped up in his face Ann could see a long
newly healed scar that ran from one eye down across his cheek to his
small receding chin.

The men were talking in low tones, the big man gruff and hoarse, the
smaller one in a screechy weak whine. At times their voices rose louder
as their argument became intense, and then dropped back into a low
rumble. Finally the small man looked up at the sky.

“It’s going to be a terrible blow,” he said bitterly.

“What of it?” demanded the big one. “The darker the night the easier it
will be to take care of that butting-in detective, and no one will be
the wiser. What’s the matter with you, Charlie? Your yeller streak is
comin’ forninst, now that the real job is ahead of us.”

Charlie’s weasel eyes jumped furtively as he looked into the big man’s
face. “I ain’t no squealer,” he snapped. “You know that. I ain’t the
one to shy off when I can see my way clear. You found me ready enough
with my bit against the captain and the mate. But this guy you’re
planning for now is something different. You can’t knock off men like
him; it doesn’t do any good. Some one else steps into his place and
then they hunt you until they get you.”

“I ain’t arguing that,” Tom answered soberly. “But who is going to
know what happens to one lone man? If he falls off the deck of that
wrecked schooner and hits his head against a rock as the sea washes him
about, who is going to connect us with the accident? That farmer will
bury him alongside the captain and the mate and blame nobody but the
boat itself, blame that figurehead, probably. And you and me will be
living like kings down in Boston.”

“That sounds first-class,” the other sneered scornfully. “But I been
noticing that things aren’t going quite so much your way as you
expected they would.”

“What do you mean?” growled Tom.

“You haven’t found much as yet, have you? You’ve come this far with
your plans, and here you’ve stuck. Find the money, why don’t you?
What’s the use of getting rid of Bain before you get the money that’s
hidden?”

“He might find it first,” answered the big man.

Ann heard, but she was too astonished and excited to realize that the
secrets of the wreck were being revealed to her at last. The great
surprise that eclipsed all the others was the news that Warren Bain was
a detective. Had he known everything from first to last?

But she must listen and learn all she could. This was no time to be
wondering about things; what was Charlie saying? She had missed part of
it already, but he ended with a sneering laugh, “And I noticed that you
ran as fast as I, the minute you heard that noise last night, on the
boat. You didn’t wait to see what made it, did you?”

In reply the big man muttered something that sounded to Ann like
nothing but a savage roar.

“I tell you,” said Charlie, “it was that blamed figurehead. Him and
the captain was friends; I seen them talking to each other on many an
evening.”

“You did not! Maybe the cap’n talked but no wooden figure ever
answered. Come along now, you coward. I’ll admit that Bain scared me
off last night, but now I’m ready for him!”

“Bain!” echoed Charlie.

“It was, too, Bain. He was dragging something along the deck to make
that ssush-ssush to scare us.”

“But it wasn’t Bain,” thought Ann, “because we were watching him.”

The men had risen and begun to scatter the fire, kicking the burning
wood into the pond. The gulls rose even higher, screaming.

Under cover of the noise that the men were making Jo and Helen began to
creep slowly backward into the denser shadows. Ann became aware of what
they were doing and she, too, made a successful retreat. She reached
the deer path and stood beside the others.

Ben, however, was not so lucky. His foot slipped on a stone and he
crashed down into the underbrush.

Instantly Charlie was after him, while Jo and Ann stood as if
paralyzed. There was nothing that they could do to help. Helen, in
agonizing fear and excitement, put both hands over her mouth so that no
sound could escape.

“It’s a boy,” called Charlie. He had caught Ben’s arm and was pulling
him roughly toward the fire.

Ann’s courage had come surging back, but Jo leaned toward her and put
his lips close to her ear; he seemed to know that she was going out to
Ben. “Hush! We can’t do a thing now. Wait!”

Tom yanked Ben by his coat and turned his face toward the light. “What
kid is this? What are you doing here, spying on us?”

Ann thought that she would have been frightened nearly out of her wits
if that black unshaven face had been so near hers, but Ben drew back as
far as he could and answered bravely.

“I saw the smoke and came to put out the fire.”

“Did you come alone?” demanded Tom, giving him a shake. “Don’t you dare
to lie to me!”

“Yes, I am alone!” answered Ben. “Do you see anybody with me?”

Ann felt her heart swell with pride. She caught Jo’s hand and squeezed
it and he answered with a like pressure.

“What are you doing here?” asked Ben in his turn. He took care to shout
it as loudly as possible, knowing well that the men had tried to be
quiet.

In reply Tom cuffed him sharply. “Be still, there.” The hard-muscled
seaman could hold the boy at arm’s length and Ben kicked and struggled
in vain. “What’ll we do with him?”

“Let him go home,” said Charlie.

“Go home and tell, and have a batch of farmers chasing down here to
look for us? Not on your life.”

“What’s he got to tell? We aren’t doing any harm, two men sitting
peacefully in the woods.”

“You don’t know how much he heard.” And again Tom shook Ben
vindictively.

Ann had to clench her fingers; how she wished she had a gun! Those
men could be frightened easily. Their conversation had told her how
superstitious they were. Just one shot to scare them off and they would
run like deer. But there wasn’t any gun. The house was so far away. How
could she get word to her father?

“Tie him up and leave him here. We can stop his noise.”

But Tom never seemed to care to profit by Charlie’s suggestions.
“What’ll we tie him with? No; we’ll take him along to the boat. I want
to know where to put my hand on him, I do.” He lifted Ben and set him
on the ground again, although Ben made his legs limp as a child does
when it refuses to be led along by the hand. “Stand up there!” ordered
Tom.

Evidently Ben thought he had better do as he was told. It was easier to
walk than to be dragged through the woods.

“You march between me and Charlie, and step along now!”

Silently the remaining three of the band waited in the shadows until a
moment or two after the bushes had stopped waving behind Charlie’s back
as he, the rear guard, disappeared.

Helen turned and threw her arms around Ann, seeking comfort. “Ben’s
gone! What will they do to him?” she whispered, even in her distress
remembering to be quiet.

Ann had no answer. She hugged Helen tight and patted her back as though
her little sister were a kitten, but her own anxiety looked toward the
sturdy, resourceful Jo. “Will they hurt him?”

“Not if he does as they tell him.” Jo shook his head thoughtfully. “He
seemed to catch on to that and stopped kicking when he found it got
him nowhere. Probably they will take him down to the boat and tie him
somewhere there while they search for the money.”

“What money is it?” asked Helen.

“I don’t know any more’n you do. Seems like they thought Bain was
coming there to-night.”

“Did you hear them say that Bain is a detective?” said Ann excitedly.
“Perhaps he’s there now and can save Ben!”

“Maybe,” answered Jo. “But we can’t wait on the chance of that; we’ve
got to do something right now.”

In the shelter of Ann’s arms Helen had stopped sobbing. “They mustn’t
hurt my brother Ben even though he does tease me all the time.”

“What can we do?” Ann spoke with a small quaver in her voice although
she had grown calm in this real danger.

“Don’t you worry too much,” Jo assured her stanchly. “Things always
seem worse than they are and we’ll get Ben, don’t you fear!”

“If only the house wasn’t so far away,” said Ann despairingly. All
possible help seemed so remote.

“It ain’t more’n a mile,” said Jo. “Now, Helen, you go just as fast as
you can to get pop and Mr. Seymour. Tell pop to bring his gun. And tell
them that Ann and I are going straight to the ship.”

“Oh, Helen,” cried Ann, “run across the meadow and don’t mind wetting
your feet!”

“Yes, I’ll go a short cut, right through the brook!” And Helen was off,
following the more direct path by the river, the path by which Jo had
taken them home the first day they saw the deer.



CHAPTER XI

_THROUGH THE PORTHOLE_


Jo and Ann dashed across the clearing and down the path that the men
had taken. There was no danger of their being heard, if the men had
kept up the pace at which they started. When the two reached the edge
of the woods they paused a moment or so, to see whether the coast was
clear, but there was not a sound or a trace to indicate that any one
had lately passed that way.

Night had fallen by that time and Ann was glad of its shelter. She
would not have wished to cross the road and the narrow strip of beach
with an uncomfortable feeling of certainty that she was being watched
from some crack in the warped hull.

“You stay here,” commanded Jo. “I’m going to take a look around.”

Obediently Ann settled herself in the deeper darkness under the side
of the boat. There was a gentle rattle as Jo swung himself up into the
irons and then absolute silence, so far as any human sounds came to her
ears. It seemed as though she waited for ages, alone in the dark. There
was plenty of time to think and to worry. Helen must be nearly there
and it wouldn’t take long for father and Mr. Bailey to get started
after they heard the news of Ben’s capture. They must hurry, hurry!
Perhaps she ought to have gone for them, she could run so much faster
than Helen and she surely wasn’t being of much use now, sitting under
the side of the boat! Perhaps Helen had fallen, stepped into a hole in
the turf and broken her leg, so she could not go on for help.

Something was making a slight noise, something was coming across the
pebbles toward her! She half rose to her feet to meet it--and then she
saw that it was Jo cautiously creeping along, bent almost double in his
efforts not to be seen from the deck of the schooner.

“I found Ben,” he whispered. “I know where he is--in the hold. He ought
to be about here, behind where you are sitting.”

“Did he see you?”

“No. And I didn’t see him, but there isn’t any other place for them to
hide him. You both know the Code, don’t you? You let him know that we
are here while I get the ladder.”

It seemed a slight chance to Ann. But Jo was certain that Ben was there
and so Ann began to tap against the plank nearest her right hand. It
sounded fearfully loud in the stillness and she could only hope that
the thunder of the waves and the rattle of the pebbles as each wave
receded might keep the men from hearing. It seemed to her almost too
great a risk to run. But if Jo told her to rap, rap she would.

“Ben! We are here!”

Three times she tapped it out and then the SOS signal. Each time she
listened and received no reply.

And at last an answer came, clear, but fainter than the taps she had
given. “OK, OK, OK.”

That was enough; she was not taking any unnecessary risks. As softly as
possible she went to join Jo.

He had hoisted the ladder already and climbed up, and he motioned to
her to follow. In another minute Ann was looking through the porthole
of the captain’s cabin.

She wouldn’t have thought of speaking in any case but Jo’s finger on
his lips cautioned her to be quiet as possible. As she stepped on to
the ladder with her eyes lifted toward the porthole she realized that
there must be a light in the room and when she could see over the rim
she was not surprised to find the two men hard at their search.

Tom was running a knife through the cracks and crevices of the berth.
Not a sound could be heard except his heavy breathing, and Charlie
stood close by, watching.

“I tell yer it ain’t there,” said Charlie as Tom straightened his back
at last and stood glowering at the berth.

“It’s--” And then Tom stopped, giving every thought and attention to a
strained listening. “Hist!”

Charlie heard it, too, whatever it was, but Ann could catch no faintest
echo. Was the ssushing sound coming?

Suddenly the light went out and with utter darkness came perfect
silence in the cabin. Ann wished that she could keep her heart from
beating so loud. It seemed as though the thuds must be noisy enough to
be heard by the men below. But this complete silence did not last long.
Suddenly came the sound of thuds and blows, and light came again.

Warren Bain was stretched out on the cabin floor, unconscious. Tom was
glaring angrily at the man whom he had knocked down. “He’ll come back,
all right. Gimme some blanket strips to tie him fast.”

Charlie scurried to the berth and with his knife ripped one of the
blankets into strips and with these Tom began to tie Bain’s arms and
legs.

Ann had no time to think; things were happening too fast.

First Tom tied Bain’s ankles together, then used another strip for his
wrists, and then tied the two together using a peculiar slip knot that
seemed to tie the tighter the more it was strained.

“Now you”--and Tom swung about toward Charlie with a suddenness that so
startled Ann that she nearly fell off the ladder--“you rout out them
blankets and tear the berth to bits and I’ll take care of the floor.
There’s a secret hiding hole in here somewheres and the money is in it.”

Charlie obediently threw the remaining blankets and the mattress and
pillow into a pile outside the cabin door and began to wrench and tear
at the boards. But apparently he was not convinced of the value of
what he was doing. “What makes you so sure the cash is down here?” he
snapped.

“Captain Jim had it on him when the men started rioting, up forward,”
Tom answered. “He came down here to the cabin to hide it, I reckon. Why
else did he come down? And after he was on deck again he went no place
but overboard.”

“And he put three good men there, before him,” commented Charlie dryly.
He seemed to have a wholesome respect and fear of the captain, even now.

“Any one of ’em was a better man than three of you!” Tom growled. He
had taken a short iron from his pocket and now began to pry up big
pieces of floor boards.

Jo touched Ann’s shoulder to call her attention to Warren Bain. He was
stretched just within the circle of light cast by Tom’s torch and Ann
saw at once that he had regained consciousness. Not only that, but as
she looked down into his open eyes he stared straight up into hers. He
smiled slightly, but instantly his face became expressionless as Tom
turned in his work.

But he was not quick enough. Tom caught the flicker of Bain’s eyelids.
The sailor dropped his iron and stood upright over the detective.
“None of that faking!” And he kicked the bound man in the side. “You
ransacked this place and we want what you found!”

To Ann’s amazement Bain opened his eyes and answered, “Yes, I found it.
What are you going to do about it?”

Tom seemed as much surprised as Ann and for a moment he gaped stupidly
down into Bain’s face.

“There is not a thing you can do,” Bain went on. “Kill me if you like
but the secret of the money goes with me--Tom Minor.”

Charlie leaped to his feet with a cry of terror. “He knows us! Knock
him off, Tom, knock him off! He’ll tell on us.”

“Not until we get what we’ve come for,” answered Tom, with one shove of
his hand pushing Charlie back into the wrecked berth. “There is ways of
making people tell secrets.”

Into Ann’s mind came all the tales of days gone by when men were
tortured and put on the rack; historical tales were her great love in
reading, Crockett and Scott and the others. What were she and Jo going
to do to save Warren Bain? Run to the house? There wasn’t time for that
to be of the slightest use. Her father and Mr. Bailey should be here
now.

Ann had no idea how long it was since Helen had left them. She knew
well enough that it could not be as long as it seemed, but surely it
wouldn’t have taken Helen more than half an hour to get home. Half an
hour, and then five minutes for Mr. Bailey to get his gun--Ann was sure
that her father hadn’t one--and then ten minutes across the sloping
field from the house. But all those minutes had seemed like an hour
each, with all the excitement and all the happenings. Help would come
in a minute, but it seemed as though time had stopped. Anything could
be done in a minute, and no one was there but Jo and herself.

All at once she knew. The strange noise! It had frightened the men last
night; she had heard Tom admit it, she had heard Charlie taunt Tom with
his fear of it.

“Jo!” She hardly breathed the words. “Get two sticks, two dry sticks!”
He could go more silently than she; pebbles seemed never to rattle
under his feet.

Jo did not stop to ask why. Down the ladder he went while Ann tried to
press more firmly against the hull of the ship, so that no sound of a
ladder bumping against the planks of the side could be noticed by the
men. It was only now that Ann realized that the storm had come at last.
The rain was pouring in torrents and she was wet through.

Jo came back with several small rough branches from the hedge beside
the road where they kept the ladder hidden. Taking one branch from him
Ann reached out as far as possible along the side of the wreck and
rubbed it harshly against the boards. She tried to make it sound like
the weird haunting shuffle, a noise that there was no danger of her
forgetting as long as she lived.

Sussh--she rubbed the branch away to the length of her arm and the wet
leaves on the little twigs added to the effect that she hoped to give.
Sussh, she went, making it hard and scraping, then sussh, she pulled it
back with a slight rasp.

She was afraid to peek into the porthole, for surely the men would be
looking in the direction from which the noise came. But she could hear
what they said.

Charlie gave a squeal of fright. “There it is!” he cried.

“That devil figurehead!”

“The captain’s sent him after us!” Charlie’s voice rose in a shrill
yelp.

It was impossible to hold her hand steady, but she kept on with scrape
after scrape as rhythmic as that dread sound she had heard on the first
day they visited the ship.

“Put the table against the door, Charlie,” ordered Tom.

“You can’t keep him out with that,” Charlie shouted. “That table would
have been just kindling wood to Cap’n Jim and it won’t be even that
much to the figurehead. I’m going!”

“Hands up!”

Heads up, too, for it was Mr. Seymour’s voice and instantaneously Jo’s
and Ann’s eyes came level with the porthole.

In the doorway stood Mr. Seymour with a shotgun in his hands and behind
him, his lean face grimly set, Mr. Bailey stood with a long rifle held
above Mr. Seymour’s shoulder. The shadows in the cabin were strange,
for Tom and Charlie had dropped their torches as they raised their
hands and all the light in the room came from the two circles on the
floor. Warren Bain, still trussed like a fowl, had been shoved into a
corner.

“Where are the children?”

Ann could hardly believe that it was her father’s voice that said those
words, so changed it was from the voice she knew.

“Here we are!” she called.



CHAPTER XII

_THE FIGUREHEAD’S SECRET_


“Gee, this is a terrible storm, for the summer-time,” exclaimed Jo as
they reached the deck.

He and Ann had been sheltered by the great hull of the schooner, for
the wind and rain were driving from the direction of the sea, but now
they felt its full force. The sweeping blasts almost carried Ann off
her feet. A steady sheet of rain was sweeping across the bare deck and
hissing out through the scuppers. She had to lean against the storm as
she pushed her way to the ladder that led below.

“Ann!” her father cried at sight of her. “Are you all right? Where’s
Ben?” He held her tightly, as if he wanted to make sure that his
daughter was once more safe beside him.

“Ben’s down in the hold. Oh, dad! I thought you’d never get here! I
won’t try to solve another mystery without telling you beforehand.”

“‘Mystery’?” repeated Mr. Seymour. “Why are you children here? I
thought that you went to put out a fire in the woods.” In spite of
his relief at seeing Ann unharmed he kept his gun pointed in a very
businesslike manner. “Who are these men? And who is this, tied up?”

“That chap is Warren Bain,” said Mr. Bailey. “He’s been hanging around
the cove all season. No one knows aught of him.”

“He’s a detective!” announced Ann in great excitement.

“You’d better fasten those two before you do much talking,” advised
Bain dryly, speaking for the first time. “In my coat pocket, Bailey.”

A bit doubtingly Mr. Bailey put his hand into Bain’s pocket and took
out two pairs of handcuffs. Finding them there seemed to assure him of
the truth of Ann’s statement and his manner was quite different as he
snapped them around the wrists of Tom and Charlie. Ann and Jo, and Mr.
Seymour, too, never had seen that done and for the moment all their
attention was given to that grim proceeding.

Then, “Where’s Ben?” Mr. Seymour asked again.

“In the hold,” answered Jo, “and I guess we’d better be getting him
out. He’ll be pretty cold and wet.”

Mr. Bailey had cut the strips of blanket that bound Warren Bain, and
now the detective stood on his two feet again, stretching his aching
arms and legs and back. “Boy in the hold,” he said. “I was wondering
where the third one of you was keeping himself. Well, with the tide
that there’s likely to be to-night, it is lucky we can get him up
before the hold is half full of water.”

“You’re right,” said Mr. Bailey. “We don’t often get such a storm as
this in summer. It’s a hummer, all right. Can you take care of these
fellers alone?”

“Just watch me,” answered Bain, bringing out his automatic.

The heavy driving rain had settled to a drumming downpour. The sea
seemed to be flattened under the weight of it, to be spreading out like
a pond when the water rises. The tide had turned and the waves were
breaking nearer and nearer the stern of the wreck.

They reached the open hatchway and Mr. Seymour called, “Ben?”

“Hey, there!” The boy’s voice came faint but cheerful. “Have you really
come at last? I thought a week had gone by!”

“We’ll have you out in a jiffy,” shouted Jo. “Come on up, the coast is
clear.”

“I can’t,” answered Ben. “The ladder’s broken and I can’t reach high
enough.”

Mr. Bailey and Mr. Seymour looked anxiously about. “Any rope?” asked
Mr. Bailey. The bare rain-swept deck offered nothing.

“Get our ladder!” exclaimed Ann, and Jo dashed after it.

That, dropped down to the bottom of the hold and placed against the
ship’s ladder, enabled Ben to climb to safety.

“Did they hurt you, my son?” asked Mr. Seymour, his hand on Ben’s
shoulder.

“Oh, they banged me around a bit--a few black and blue spots, I
suppose, but nothing permanent. What’s been happening, Jo? Tell a
feller, quick!”

“We all want to know,” said Mr. Bailey. “What’s been goin’ on here,
anyway?”

“Those men were robbing the ship--” began Ann.

“Of what?” demanded her father.

“That’s what we don’t know, exactly,” said Ann.

“I don’t believe that anybody knows the whole of it,” Jo said. “Let’s
go back to the cabin; each person can tell what he does know and we can
piece it all together.”

“Great idea,” said Mr. Seymour.

They found Warren Bain grinning sardonically at his two captives.

“Well, I swan!” said Bailey. “An’ you’ve been laying by this wreck all
these weeks, and no one had any notion of what you were here for. We
thought you was a-buttin’ in on our lobster fields.”

“I thought that was how you folks figured; you didn’t act any too
welcoming. But I’d be some sleuth if I went telling my business to
every Tom, Dick, and Harry. I have to count on a little unpopularity
once in a while. Yes, we knew the boat as soon as we came here and
looked her over. She was just the boat we expected she would be. A
government cutter had been trying to pick her up before the blizzard
came down.”

“Then she wasn’t a phantom ship at all,” Ann remarked. And her
disappointment must have shown in her voice, because her father and
Warren Bain seemed to think that was one of the funniest things they
ever had heard. But was all that excitement and anxiety over nothing
but an ordinary boat that had been wrecked in a perfectly natural way?

Bain went on with his story.

“She ran under the name of _The Shadow_ although she carried no name,
and her owner, Jim Rand, captained her. She carried a crew of five men
besides himself and she ran a good trade, smuggling Italian silk and
Indian spices into the North Atlantic harbors. She wasn’t hard to pick
up because of that figurehead, but Rand wouldn’t give it up. It was
his mascot and the crew believed that he talked things over with that
wooden image. Rand was a clever one. This boat was stopped many a time,
but when the men from the government cutter climbed aboard to examine
her they never found anything. She seemed to be running empty. We never
found a cargo and consequently we never could pin anything on Rand.”

“Well, you got it on him now,” Fred said heartily. “Which one o’ these
is Rand?”

“Neither one,” and Warren sounded contemptuous. “Rand was a lawbreaker
but he wasn’t like either of these two low-down thieves and murderers
here. Rand is up in your burying ground. You put him there with the
mate and two of the crew.”

“So, one o’ those was the captain, hey?” Fred rubbed his chin
thoughtfully. “Well--I guess he’s glad to be resting in the ground.”

“He made the worst mistake of his life when he shipped these two,” went
on Bain, “both of them with criminal records, although he didn’t know
it. Of course he couldn’t expect to get too high-class sailors for his
business, but those he’d had were harmless, at least. As near as I can
make out from what Tom tells me, Rand had just sold a cargo of silk
in Boston and for some reason or other refused to divide the cash the
minute the crew wanted it. So they mutinied, on the advice of these two
jail birds. The captain went overboard, but he accounted for three of
the crew before he went. Tom and Charlie hid on the wreck until after
you searched her”--he nodded to Fred--“and then they blew for shore to
wait until the excitement cooled down and our hero Charlie was tucked
into jail, somewhere upcountry, for taking a lady’s pocket-book while
he was stealing her chickens.”

They all turned to look at Charlie, who acted very sheepish. Ann had a
suspicion that his shame came from having been caught, rather than from
the actual crime. So that was why his face had that queer pallor.

“They were hidin’ on the boat when we came on?” Mr. Bailey demanded
incredulously. “We looked her over well; there weren’t a cubic inch in
her that we didn’t see.”

Charlie snickered and Tom growled, but both sounds gave Ann to
understand very clearly that Tom and Charlie knew things about that
boat that would be forever hidden from Mr. Bailey.

“It wasn’t strange you didn’t find them,” said Bain, “if our government
inspectors couldn’t find where the men had tucked away whole cargoes.”

“Well, God was good to the whole of us, that is all I have to say.” And
Mr. Bailey gripped his rifle tighter as he looked at the two captives.
Sailors they were not; they were just two criminals who had gone to sea
for a time.

“So that was why you felt as if some one was there!” exclaimed Ben.
“They were peeking at you, and you didn’t know it!”

Tom must have been on the boat the day she and Jo so strongly felt
that impression of eyes upon them, thought Ann, and shivered as she
thought it. Anything might have happened if Tom had chosen to come out
and frighten them. Her mother had been right, after all, when she had
worried about their playing on the wreck.

“And we peeked at you, Mr. Bain, when you didn’t know it,” Ben went on.
“Will you tell us, please, what you meant when you said, ‘Stay there,
babies, and wait for me.’”

“Yes!” cried Ann. “What was in the closet? We couldn’t find anything
there.”

Warren Bain looked at Ann and Jo with a wide smile. “You kids were on
the job all right, weren’t you! So you saw me at that! Well, I’ll show
you something pretty.”

Tom had wrenched the closet door from its hinges and now Bain took
it in his hands. “This panel looks exactly like the others, but it
actually is a sliding panel that goes back like this.” Under Bain’s
fingers the thin board slid back and revealed a space filled with
papers closely covered with writing. “These are Jim’s bills of lading;
I tell you, he knew how to hide his stuff.” Bain put the door down and
looked at Tom and Charlie. “Even after he was dead you couldn’t beat
him. You were foolish to try.”

Charlie nodded his head miserably, but Tom did not deign to acknowledge
that he had heard.

“As you children are so interested,” Bain continued, “it won’t do any
harm to let you see the whole of it. Do you want to see where Rand hid
the money?”

“You’d better believe we do!” exclaimed Jo.

Even Tom showed signs of excitement at this, although any chance of his
getting any of that money had vanished, money for which he had thrown
away all freedom for the rest of his life.

“It is just where Rand left it,” said Bain, “double safe and out of
his cabin. I knew that Tom was around because the blankets here were
shifted.”

“But it wasn’t Tom,” Ann said quite defiantly. “We did it, to see if
they were being used.”

“H-u-mm--” said Bain.

“And you aren’t solving any of our mysteries,” Ann went on. “You’re
clearing things up for the sailors and Mr. Bailey, but I want to know
what made the noise that frightened us, and frightened you, too, last
night.”

“That’s true,” admitted Bain. He rumpled the hair on his head, knocking
his cap sidewise. “And I knew that you must have heard it, some time
or other, when you used it just now to scare the men away from me.” He
looked at Mr. Seymour. “You haven’t heard the half of it yet. These
children had the wit to imitate this strange noise in order to frighten
these gentlemen away from trying to make me tell where to find Rand’s
money. The scheme would have worked, too; Charlie’s nerve was gone and
Tom’s was growing weak. Our Charlie was half paralyzed with fright when
you came. That’s why you held them up so easily.”

Ann and her father exchanged a glance; she was glad he knew without her
telling of her splendid idea. It might have sounded like boasting. And
to have her father proud of her was one of the things Ann most desired.

“When we were watching them by their camp fire I heard them say that
the noise frightened them,” she explained modestly.

“What made the noise?” inquired Mr. Seymour.

“Nobody kn--” began Ben, but Charlie interrupted him.

“That blasted figurehead makes it, coming to scare folks away from the
captain’s money. I told you, Tom Minor, that no good would come from
signing on a ship with that figurehead.”

“Do you suppose the figurehead really walked about?” asked Jo, his
confidence shaken by Charlie’s firm belief. “The sound was just like
scaly feet rubbing over the deck boards.”

Instead of laughing at him, Bain was considerate enough of the boy’s
feelings to answer soberly, “No, I can’t think that. But it is a queer
noise, I’ll admit that much. You see, the other night I thought it
was made by the men, so it didn’t occur to me to attribute it to the
figurehead.”

“And who took Mr. Bailey’s milk and our cheese?” asked Ben.

“Foodstuff stolen from your place?” inquired Bain of Mr. Bailey.

“I never touched a crumb of it!” denied Tom. “Don’t you say I did.
Everything I ate I bought! Don’t you dare say I stole your milk!” He
glared at Mr. Bailey.

“Yes,” said Mr. Bailey, “enough was stolen so it wasn’t safe to leave
anything about; but nothin’ else ever was took.”

“That’s curious,” commented Bain thoughtfully. “Well, who is coming to
see where Rand hid the treasure? How about it, Bailey? Will you stay
down here to guard the prisoners and let these young people have the
first look?”

“Sure,” Fred answered, and settled himself on the broken edge of the
captain’s berth.

“It makes me laugh,” said Jo as he crossed the deck with the others,
“to think of pop holding a gun on them down in the cabin!”

They had left the lantern with the men below but Bain’s torch carried
ample light. It gave Ann a thrill to think that she should be crossing
the deck with a moving light. How often she had looked toward the wreck
before she climbed into bed, hoping to see a pin prick of yellow there
as she had seen it on the night she arrived at the Bailey house! And
now that the light was here she was here with it! Not she, but her
mother, was looking at it from the house windows, looking out through
the rain and wondering what was happening down here.

She wondered where Bain could be taking them, and then she realized
that they were headed straight for the demon figure.

Bain strode up to it and flashed his light over its grotesque outlines.
He looked back over his shoulder to the Seymours and laughed. “Jim Rand
knew his best friend aboard this boat.”

Reaching forward he thrust his hand into the mouth of the figurehead,
fumbling and stretching to the end of his reach, and when he brought
his hand back it held a huge roll of paper money.

“All in hundreds” he explained. “A pretty good haul for Uncle Sam. I
never found it until to-night! And it was a lucky thing that I left
them where they were before I went down to the cabin.”

“Oh--may I touch them?” asked Ann with a shiver of excitement.

Bain handed them to her. “Take them, if you like.” And to Mr. Seymour
he said, “I’ll be glad to get that safely into some one else’s care.”

“I don’t doubt it,” replied Mr. Seymour. “Hold them tight, daughter; we
can’t have the wind blowing any of it away.”

Ben and Jo crowded around, and the three children looked at the money
with silent awe. Suddenly the sharp-eared Jo lifted his head. Then they
all heard.

Again that sound! Sussh-sussh, sussh-sussh.

“It’s the money,” Jo exclaimed. “He’s after the money.”

The shuffle did not waver this time nor did it stop. It came steadily
down the deck toward them although whatever made the noise was veiled
by the storm. Warren Bain snatched the bills from Ann’s paralyzed hands
and dropped them into his pocket.

The sound was very near the group by the figurehead when it stopped.



CHAPTER XIII

_A REASON FOR EVERYTHING_


Ann was most dreadfully afraid, but her feelings were not in the least
like those when she heard the noise last night. She had no sense of
panic, no desire to run away. Her father was here now and she would
stand by him, come what might. He wasn’t running. Neither were Ben and
Jo. The three children stood as firm as the two men.

Without warning, Bain shut off his light, for they stood in its circle
of brightness while anything beyond its rim was invisible in the
darkness of the stormy night. Suddenly he flashed it on again.

A big black dog was there.

His teeth were bared and he was crouched to spring.

Jo was the first to recover. He knew dogs and he saw at the first
glance that this one was more terrified by their presence on the boat
than he and Ann and Ben had been by the strange noise. He walked
steadily toward the animal, reaching quietly into his pocket.

What was he going to do? Ann was afraid that anything he could do
wouldn’t be enough. The dog would spring and then-- Why didn’t Warren
Bain shoot?

But Jo knew what he was doing. Out of his pocket he took two or three
crackers. “Come, boy,” he said gently. “So-o-o-o, puppy, it’s time to
eat.”

The dog snarled but Jo paid no attention to threats or growls; he put
the crackers in a small pile on the deck and backed slowly away. The
dog drew nearer by one stealthy step and sniffed suspiciously toward
Jo’s offering. Then he slunk forward within reach of it and crunched it
ravenously.

“Want some more?” Jo reached again into his pocket and the dog wagged
his tail.

“He is starved!” Mr. Seymour at last found his voice. “That dog has
been without proper food for weeks.”

Bain looked at the gaunt wild-eyed creature whose ribs showed plainly
under his shaggy matted coat. “He is that,” he agreed. “I shouldn’t
wonder if he isn’t the answer to Bailey’s stolen milk and your cheese.
He must have come in with the boat and hung around here ever since.”

To think that noise was made by a dog as it slunk across the deck! Even
though Ann had seen and heard at the same instant she could hardly
credit her senses. A dog? Robin Hood’s band had been utterly routed
by a starving dog? Never again would she run from anything unless she
actually saw with her own eyes that there was need of fear. She looked
at Ben and in spite of the rain streaming down his face she could
see that his thoughts were very much like her own. They hadn’t been
cowards, exactly, and those men down below had been frightened, too,
but nevertheless she was ashamed of herself.

The noise of the breakers had risen until now it was a roar; it was
hard to talk against the combined crashes of storm and gale and sea.
And it was high time to seek better shelter than the wreck afforded.

When they returned to the cabin to relieve Fred and to get Bain’s
captives the dog hung close to Jo’s heels and could not be persuaded
to leave him for an instant. The dog followed at his heels down the
companionway and stood behind him in the passage outside the cabin.

“Ready?” asked Bain. “Come along now, men. We’ll be moving along to
where you can stay awhile without being disturbed. A fine evening for a
stroll of three or four miles.”

But Tom did not move. “If you want me, get me up,” he growled.

At sound of his voice came a scratching of paws in the passage and
through the doorway leaped the dog, making straight for him. Jo sprang
as quickly and seized the shaggy coat of his new friend. And in the
meantime Tom had scrambled to his feet without any more argument.

“Captain Jim’s dog,” Charlie crowed with shrill laughter. “He
remembers you all right, Tom. You forgot to heave him overboard with
the rest of ’em!”

Under Fred’s vigilant gun the men were herded up the ladder and across
to the side of the ship. The rain still poured ceaselessly and the
wind blew in gusts that pierced Ann’s wet clothes and made her shiver.
But she was not too uncomfortable and tired to lose her desire to know
every detail of what had happened on the wreck.

“There’s one thing you haven’t told us,” she said to Bain. “What was it
that you found in the leg of the table?”

“You children had better be trained to be first-class detectives. There
wasn’t much you didn’t see last night, I should say. Well, it won’t do
any harm to tell you and I think you deserve to know. The papers were
a sort of log that Rand kept; told where he got his cargoes and how he
disposed of them and for how much. It is much more important than the
money, to the government.”

Ann hadn’t thought of that; of course, a man who was willing to buy
smuggled goods was exactly as dishonest as the person who sold them.
It made it seem to her as though Captain Rand wasn’t quite as--as----
She didn’t like to say “bad” even to herself, for surely a man couldn’t
be really bad if he had made his dog so fond of him that the dog had
rather starve than go away from the place where he’d last seen his
master.

As they left the wreck Warren Bain flashed his torch into the face
of the figurehead, high above them as they stood on the beach. The
light shone straight up into the huge ugly face and, to Ann, the demon
still grinned with its eyes looking far out and away, as though it
saw something they couldn’t see and knew a great deal more than human
beings ever could know. Suddenly Ann wished that she might never have
to see that demon again. His work was done; he had taken care of the
captain’s money, and now was there any use of his staying there to
frighten people? Perhaps to-morrow Mr. Bailey would carry out his
intention of burning him with an accompaniment of lobsters and corn and
roast potatoes. What a wonderful plan that was, because then she would
remember that glorious picnic and let that memory offset some of her
other recollections of the figurehead!

Ben was the last to leave the boat and when he landed from his jump he
was wet to the knees by a swift unexpected sweep of undertow from the
rising tide. He ran clear of the water, but the next wave, chasing him,
met him around the bow of the boat. Not that a little fresh wetness
mattered to a soaked-to-the-skin Ben; the interest lay in the fact that
the Seymours never had seen the water so high on the beach.

Fred Bailey had offered to lend Jerry to Bain so that he could drive
his prisoners to the village instead of having to walk all that
distance in the stormy night and Bailey had offered, too, to go with
him.

Jo went ahead to hitch Jerry for the trip. “Shall I tell Mrs. Seymour
that everything is all right?” he asked.

“Thank you, Jo, yes,” said Mr. Seymour. “Just call out to her as you go
by and let her know that we are coming.”

Away went Jo, with the black dog at his heels.

“Jo’s found a new friend,” said Warren Bain with a smile.

“Jo!” called Ann, for she had just remembered. “Has Jerry another
harness?”

“Sure!”

When they reached the house door Jerry stood waiting for his load while
Jo talked with Helen and Mrs. Seymour, who, in raincoats, were standing
on the porch.

“You haven’t told mother everything before we came?” asked Ann, greatly
disappointed that such exciting news should be told without her having
been there to share the thrill.

Jo shook his head, the reliable Jo who could be counted on to do the
right thing. “No, marm, I didn’t tell,” he answered gayly. “That’s your
job, not mine. I was only saying that you were all right, and Mrs.
Seymour is mighty hard to convince. I had to say that all of you were
safe, all of you together, and then each one separately.”

But Mrs. Seymour was not ready to smile, even yet. Her face was pale
and her eyes widened as she saw Tom and Charlie slouch handcuffed
into the light that spread from the door in a wide semicircle of
welcome through the driving rain. As she realized her mother’s anxiety
Ann dashed across the intervening space and flung herself into the
outstretched arms.

Ben followed, and for an instant no one of the three spoke.

After Fred and Warren Bain had driven away they all sat around the fire
to tell the story. Like powwowing Indians in blankets and bathrobes
they sat before the snapping black stove, the storm shut outside.

Jo had turned red man with the rest and was bundled in one of Mr.
Seymour’s big wool robes, his thick hair on end and his blue eyes
dancing with excitement and happiness. The dog lay at his feet.

“And now,” said Mr. Seymour, “what are you children going to do with
the wealth that the capture of these men will bring you?”

“I didn’t know there was going to be any,” answered Jo in astonishment,
and Ann and Ben, and Helen, too, pricked up their ears. “Gee! Money?”
said Ben.

“Bain insists that he never could have got the men if it hadn’t been
for the way you two worked on their superstitious fears, and he says
that he is going to share the reward. What will you do with it? There’s
something practical for you to think about and change your line of
thought before we all go to bed.”

Ben put his hand on his father’s knee. “You know what I want more than
anything else in the world,” he said, with his fascinated eyes resting
on the finished portrait of Jo that Mr. Seymour had set against the
wall only a day or two before. “If I could only learn to paint! Would
there be enough money for me to do that?”

“I don’t know, Ben. It will be only a few hundred at most, after it is
divided, and you understand, of course, that we aren’t going to let
Mr. Bain rob himself more than seems absolutely necessary to him. But
you’ll go on painting at home for a long time yet and if we put your
share away it will have grown before you are ready to use it. It will
help a great deal, anyway.”

“What about you, Jo?” asked Mrs. Seymour gently. It seemed as though
the farm boy had suddenly grown lonely as new plans began to be talked
over. “Have you any idea about what you wish to do with your share?”

“I have always wanted to go to a bigger school than we have here,” Jo
answered slowly, “but pop never seemed to be able to get ahead enough
to send me and hire help in my place. Perhaps he might be able to
manage without me for a while now.”

“Father!” exclaimed Ann. She had not said anything about her own plans;
it seemed as if everybody ought to know what she would do with her
money, she had wanted one thing for such a long time. Any share given
to her would go toward her western ranch; five minutes ago she wouldn’t
have supposed that any other use of it would be possible. But now she
knew differently. “Father! I am going to lend mine to Jo, to make his
last longer.”

Mr. Seymour looked at Jo. “Will you accept Ann’s offer?” he asked.

The boy was dazed; it took him a moment to answer. “I don’t rightly
know why she should do that for me,” he said finally, “but I do think
kindly of her for being so generous.”

“I want to do it, Jo! Why shouldn’t I? Think of all you have done for
us this summer. And besides that, if we are going to have a ranch
together sometime, one of us will really have to know something. I am
sure I couldn’t learn how to add or subtract any better than I do now.”

At last they all trooped to bed and slept soundly. Now that the haunted
ship had become a solved puzzle each one of them had his own new dream.

The next morning broke clear and bright. The rain of the night had
painted the grass a new green, the sky was cloudless. The sun woke Ann
and she dressed hurriedly.

What a glorious day! She peered out of the window, glad that she was
alive.

Something out there was different. What?

Then she saw Jo coming from the barn.

“I thought you’d never wake up,” he shouted excitedly. “Do you see
what’s happened? The wreck’s gone!”

“The wreck?” repeated Ann.

“It went adrift in the storm last night.”

Quickly Ann climbed through the window that she might see better. It
was true. The beach at the foot of the sloping meadow was bare. And as
far as the eye could see there was no sign of a boat on land or ocean.

“I’m glad! I’m glad!” she cried. “I didn’t want that old demon to stare
at us all of the time.”

“Well, he won’t stare no more,” answered Jo. “He’s gone to Davy Jones’
locker, where all good sailormen go.”



Transcriber’s Note:

Punctuation has been standardised. Spelling and hyphenation have been
retained as in the original publication.





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