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Jess of the Rebel Trail By H. A. Cody Characters: 10602

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04

Captain Tobin rowed toward the shore with long steady strokes. He was in no hurry as he had all the morning on his hands. He did not expect the wind to rise until the turn of the tide, which would be about noon. He was thinking of Eben, and wondering what had come over the boy to make him so docile in such a short time. He had seemed more animated than usual, and had eaten his breakfast without making any embarrassing enquiries. He had not even referred to the men searching the river for the missing girl, neither did he speak of the conversation that had taken place between his father and the man in the small boat. All this was puzzling to the captain, for it was very unlike Eben's usual manner. Was it possible that the boy knew anything about the matter, or had a hand in the affair himself? he wondered. He banished the idea, however, as too absurd to be entertained even for a moment.

Reaching the wharf, he tied the boat, and was making his way to the store when he was suddenly hailed.

"Hi, there," someone called, "let me have your boat, will you?"

Looking around, he saw the immaculately-dressed young man coming toward him from the lower side of the wharf. He knew that this must be the missing girl's lover, and he had no desire to meet him. There seemed to be no escape, however, so he was forced to stop and wait until the man sauntered up to where he was standing.

"Was ye callin' me?" the captain asked.

"I was," the man replied. "I want your boat."

"Ye do, eh? Well, I guess I want it meself more'n you do, by the look of things."

"But I want to help with the search."

"Oh, so you're Lord Fiddlesticks' son, are ye? Glad to meet ye," and the captain held out his hand. "I'm Sam'l Tobin, captain an' owner of the 'Eb an' Flo,' layin' jist out yonder."

"So I supposed," was the drawling response. "But it makes no difference to me who or what you are. You might be the devil for all I care. All I want is your small boat."

"Come, come, Mr. Lord Fiddlesticks, don't talk in sich a high an' mighty manner; it might not be good fer yer health. A young chap about your make-up tried it once upon me, but it didn't work out to his satisfaction. He acknowledged it when he got out of the hospital. See?"

"Oh, I didn't mean to offend you," and the young man retreated a few steps. "I'm all upset this morning over Miss Randall's disappearance, and so am hardly responsible for what I say. Let me have your boat, will you? I'll pay you well for it."

The captain eyed the young man critically from head to foot, especially his soft white hands. Then he shook his head in a doubtful manner.

"What's the matter?" the young man impatiently asked. "Is there anything wrong with me ?"

"That's what I'm jist tryin' to figger out. I s'pose it's really me duty to take ye home to yer ma, but I ain't got time this mornin'. Does she knew where ye are?"

"What do you mean, you ignorant clodhopper? Do you take me for a baby?"

"Not exactly, as yer too big fer one. But accordin' to yer togs one would imagine that ye've jist come from the nursery. No, it wouldn't be right to let ye have me boat, fer ye'd be sure to spile yer pretty white hands an' soil yer bib an' pinny. An' besides, if anything happened to ye, I'd be held responsible. No, ye'd better trot along home to yer mamma before she comes after ye with a strap."

The young man was now very angry, and he was about to give vent to his feelings in a furious outburst. But the stopping of an auto on the road near by suddenly arrested his attention, causing him to stare hard at the driver who had just alighted. Glad of this timely diversion, the captain moved away and made toward the store. In passing the car, he did not recognise the driver, who, with his back toward him, was examining the engine, and seemed to be heeding nothing else. But no sooner had the captain passed than he straightened himself up, cast one swift glance toward the man down on the wharf, and at once followed the captain into the store, where he stood quietly at one side without speaking to anybody.

The captain was already at the counter, fumbling with the list which had been given him. He was well acquainted with the storekeeper, a middle-aged man of genial countenance.

"Here's a list of things I want, Ezry," he explained, as he handed over the paper. "Guess ye kin make out the writin'."

The storekeeper adjusted his spectacles and studied the paper for a few minutes. Then he looked keenly at his customer, while his eyes twinkled.

"Are yer wife an' daughter with ye on this trip, Captain?" he asked. "They seem to be out of 'most everything women need. It's a wonder ye didn't get them outfitted in the city. D'ye think this is a department store? Guess they must have been studying Eaton's catalogue."

Captain Samuel coughed and shuffled uneasily.

"Why, what's on the list, Ezry?"

"Didn't ye read it?"

"No, never looked at it. I thought it was all right, an' that ye kept 'most everything here."

"Well, I don't, and never expect to. Now, look at this, for instance," and the storekeeper touched the paper with the forefinger of his right hand. "A kimona, just think of that! I never had a call for such a thing before."

"Is that down thar?" the captain enquired, rea

ching for the list.

"Sure, ye can see for yourself. But that isn't all. A pair of pyjamas is wanted, bedroom slippers, table-cloth, and napkins. Say, Captain, your wife an' daughter must be getting some new fandangled notions all of a sudden. Going to use them on the boat, eh?"

The captain made no reply. His face was very red, and he was mopping his forehead with a big pocket-handkerchief.

"It does work ye up, doesn't it?" the storekeeper chuckled.

"Work me up! Why, I'm bilin' hot. But fer the love of heaven, isn't there anything on that list ye do keep? Guess we'll have to send to Eaton's after all, only them things are wanted right away."

The storekeeper again studied the list, and with a pencil scored out the articles he did not have.

"I haven't that, nor that, nor that," he commented.

"Well, fer goodness' sakes what have ye got, Ezry? Tell me quick, fer

I can't stay here all the mornin'."

"Nor that, nor that, nor that," the storekeeper continued. "Ah, I have that," and his face brightened. "Yes, I've got a tooth-brush, or I did have one a year ago. Let me see." He turned and began to rummage in a dilapidated show-case, and at length brought forth with triumph the required article. He laid it carefully on the counter, and resumed his study of the list. A brush and comb were the next requisites, and these, after considerable searching, were produced.

"Yer doin' fine, Ezry," the captain encouraged. "Don't work too hard, though I would like to git back to me boat before the river freezes. I don't want to lay out thar all winter. What's next on the program?"

"A box of choc'lates, hard-centres. I don't keep 'em, Captain. I've only mixed-candy an' conversation lozenges. Maybe they 'd like some of them."

"All right, put 'em in; it's all the same to me. I never eat sich things. Is that all?"

"Yes, I guess that's all I can supply," the storekeeper replied as he finally viewed the list. "If ye wanted molasses, sugar, or anything in the hardware line I could accommodate ye. But kimonas, pyjamas, bedroom slippers, and such things, I don't carry."

During this conversation the auto driver had been an attentive listener. At times it was difficult for him to refrain from laughing outright, especially at the captain's embarrassment. It was not for amusement, however, that he was there, but for something far more important. What he learned seemed to please him, so with the light of satisfaction in his eyes, he left the store and returned to his car. When the captain came out a few minutes later he greeted him in a friendly manner.

"Fine morning, Captain," he accosted.

"Hello, John!" the captain replied. "I didn't know it was you. Where did ye drop from?"

"Oh, just on my way from the city. I didn't expect to meet you here."

"An' I didn't expect to be here, John. I've been hung up fer hours, an' can't git a breath of wind. I should be loadin' at Spoon Island by this time."

"Perhaps a rest will do you good, Captain. A trip ashore once in a while will do you no harm. You have been shopping, I see? I didn't know your wife and Flo were with you on this trip. They were home when I left."

"What makes ye think they're with me?" the captain somewhat sharply asked.

"Oh, it was merely a surmise on my part," and the young man smiled. "I happened to overhear the conversation between you and the storekeeper; that was all."

"Well, s'pose I was buyin' things fer me wife an' daughter, what of it?

Why should ye think they're on the boat when I buy things they want?"

"It was just a notion on my part. I happened to hear what they wanted, and naturally wondered why you should go to a store like that when you could have got all the articles in the city to far better advantage. It's none of my business, of course, only it made me somewhat curious."

The captain made no reply but turned and looked out upon the river, where the men were searching for the missing girl. The young man, too, looked, and there was an amused expression in his eyes as he at length turned them upon the captain's face.

"They don't seem to be meeting with much success, do they?" he casually remarked.

"Seems not," was the quiet reply.

"Perhaps they are not searching in the right place. They may be all astray, and the girl is not drowned after all."

"What makes ye think that?" the captain somewhat anxiously asked.

"Oh, certain things have made me come to the conclusion that the girl did not drown herself. It would be a most unlikely thing for Miss Randall to do. She is not that kind."

"H'm, that's no reason," the captain retorted. "Ye never know these days what notions gals'll take."

"I believe you are right," and the young man smiled. "They do take queer notions at times, as was proven by the list of articles you tried to buy in the store just a few minutes ago."

"Hey, what's that yer sayin'?" the captain demanded, swinging swiftly around. "What d'ye mean by them words?"

"Don't you know, sir? I think you understand my meaning. Look well after Miss Randall, and tell her to keep out of sight. So long. I hope to see you later."

The young man sprang into his car, and in another minute was speeding up the road, leaving the captain staring after him, dumb with astonishment.

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