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Tom Gerrard By Louis Becke Characters: 5108

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


On the evening of the eleventh day, after leaving the Coen, the cutter let go her anchor at a spot about a mile from the wreck of the old Dutch ship, and Gerrard prepared to go on shore, for he meant to walk to the station that night. He had now so completely recovered from both the bullet wound and the slash inflicted by Aulain's whip, that Lowry declared he looked all the better for what he had gone through.

"Well, I should not grumble, I suppose, Lowry," said his passenger, as he surveyed his features in the cabin mirror over the captain's table, "but it is enough to make any one swear. Just as I was getting rid of the alligator beauty marks on one side of my face, I get a thundering slash on the other, which will take another three months to get tanned up to the rich, soiled leather hue of the rest of my hide."

As he was speaking, Tommy put his black face down through the open skylight, and said that he could see a camp fire on shore-just above the landing-place.

"It must be some one from the station, Lowry," cried Gerrard, as he and the captain came on deck, and as he spoke, there came a coo-e-e! from the shore. It was Jim's voice. He answered at once.

Bidding the mate hang a riding light on the forestay, Lowry got his night glasses, and turned them upon the fire.

"There are four people, Mr Gerrard, with six or seven horses. Ah, they are rigging a tent. I suppose it is a party from the station. They must have seen us before dark, and have come to meet you. Well, the boat is all ready for you, sir."

In a few minutes Gerrard and Tommy were being paddled swiftly to the shore, and as they drew nearer the fire, they were able to make out the four figures as those of Kate, Mary Rayner, Jim, and a white stockman. All were busied about the tent, and as yet had not seen the boat. Then Gerrard gave a loud hail.

"Hallo there, you people!"

An answering yell from Jim and a shriek of delight from Mary, and as the boat's bows cut into the soft sand, they rushed towards it, followed by Kate. Disengaging himself from their frantic embraces he met Kate, and drew her to him.

"All well, Kate?"

"Yes, Tom," she whispered.

"What brought you here?"

"Your letter, of course! Waterboy and the other horse came home this afternoon, and Lizzie said that if we liked we could come and camp here until you came. And just after dark, as we got here, we fancied we heard the sound of the vessel anchoring, and so Jim coo-e-e-d."

Gerrard bent towards her again.

"Mary and Jim, run along and help poor H

arry with the tent." Then in a whisper: "Tom, keep quiet-we are right in the light of the fire."

"Yes, run along," added Gerrard; "we'll be with you in a minute. Oh, Jim, stop a moment! Would you and Mary like to go on board the vessel to-morrow morning, and see Captain Lowry's curios?"

"Oh, yes, Uncle," was the unsuspecting reply.

"Then you and Harry can camp here tonight, and have a good time on board in the morning. I'm in no end of a hurry to get home, and see your Aunt Lizzie. But I'll be back before breakfast to-morrow."

"Are you staying with us too, Miss Fraser?" asked Jim.

"No, I think I had better go on with your uncle. It wouldn't be fair to let him ride home alone, would it?"

"No, I suppose not," observed Jim with unnecessary dryness in his voice; "he might get lost."

Gerrard laughed, and tried to seize the lad by his arm, but he was too quick for him.

"How are you, Harry?" he said to the stockman, as he held out his hand. "Cattle all right?"

"Right as rain, boss. How's yourself?"

"Bully. Oh, I say, Harry; the youngsters want very much to have a look at the ship to-morrow. I daresay you would too."

"I would, boss, seein' 'as I never was on board a real sailin' boat."

"Well, you can all go on board to-morrow. Miss Fraser and I will push on home, so if you'll saddle our horses for us, I'll finish the tent for you."

A quarter of an hour later everything had been finished-the tent set up, and the horses saddled and in readiness.

"Good-night, youngsters," cried Gerrard, swinging himself into his saddle, and then with Kate by his side, they turned their horses heads toward the dark line of sleeping forest.

"Oh, Tom, I forgot," said Kate, after they had ridden for a mile or so; "I have some letters for you," and she took them out of her saddle pouch.

The master of Ocho Rios let fall his reins, and glanced at the superscriptions on the envelopes.

"Pull up a minute, Kate. I want to look at this one-the others can wait."

He opened the letter, lit a match, and glanced at the few lines it contained. Then he threw away the match, and placed the letter in his pocket.

"Kate."

"Yes, Tom dear?"

"It's from Templeton" (the Gold Commissioner).

"Well, Tom?"

"Well, Kate? He will be at Ocho Rios on the 27th. Are you glad, or is it too soon for you?"

"No, Tom," she whispered.

He drew her to him once more, and pressed his lips to hers, and then in happy silence, side by side, they cantered home through the darkened forest and under the star-lit sky.

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