Its own weight had swung it back, and the spring lock in which he had left the key had worked exactly as the circular of directions declared it would do. He was a prisoner in that boathouse. Even then he did not fully grasp the situation. He uttered an exclamation of impatience and tugged at the door; but it was heavy, jammed tight in its frame, and the lock was new and strong.
The raft was left far behind and the marksmen were put out of range with surprising ease. Fifteen minutes later the skiff shot across the river and up to the landing of Bracken's boathouse, while a mile back in the brush Anderson Crow and his men were wrathfully scrambling in pursuit. "Hey, Bracken! Jimmy!" shouted Jack Barnes, jumping out upon the little wharf.
And all around the boathouse stretched the beautiful blue water, so clear and sunny and sparkling that it dazzled Milly's eyes to look at it.
"It couldn't," replied Tom. "It was one of the new ones I put in myself and it was nailed fast. You can see where it's been pried loose. I can't, understand it," and Tom thought rapidly of several mysterious occurrences of late in which the strange man at the auction and the person he had surprised one night in the boathouse had a part.
Ned laughed as he folded up the map and put it in his pocket. "I know just how you feel," he said. "It will be very nice to sleep in a soft bed, and eat off a table again, and sit out on the boathouse porch in the evenings; but about a week after you get home you'll wish with all your heart you were back on the creek with the grass for a bed and a rock for a table.
Taking the hoop, he returned to his boathouse with all possible speed, and leaping into his skiff, paddled up the river, his eyes scanning the marsh lines on either bank of the channel. Arriving at the bridge, he learned by inquiry from the tender stationed there that he had not seen the Lillian coming up stream within the past three days.
Ottilia's eyelids were set blinking by one look aloft. Rain and lightning filled heaven and earth. 'Direct us, you! she said to me gently. The natural proposal was to despatch her giant by the direct way down the lake to fetch a carriage from the stables, or matting from the boathouse. I mentioned it, but did not press it. She meditated an instant. 'I believe I may stay with my beloved?
"I think," suggested the doctor, "she might prefer to be told by a woman." So I shut my lips together and took the distracted lady gently by the arm and led her to the door. We stole like two criminals down the veranda, and along the path to the beach, and near the boathouse we stopped, and I began. "Mrs.
JERRY'S announcement was news to his chums, for he had given them no hint of his intentions as the Ripper was nearing the boathouse. "Do you mean you are going to hunt for that man on the rocks?" asked Ned. "Yes, I think he fell; or was pushed over by Blowitz. There was no mistaking that call for help. Blowitz says it was he who called to us, but I know better. That was a cry of fear."
At noon on the following day there was more or less excitement around the spot where the boathouse stood. The canoes, already loaded, lay moored near by, awaiting the word to be given that would send the little expedition on its way up-stream. Of course the news had got abroad, though Max would much rather have kept it a secret, if they could.