“Well, shall we stop, turn to the right or left, or go ahead?”
There was a slump to indecision again. Cub looked foolish. His father was making sport of him and he did not know how to answer intelligently. In desperation, however, he replied:
“What for?” asked Mr. Perry. “Shall we dash to the rescue and face those four men, who probably are armed with pistols?”
“No, of course not. Anyway, we don’t know where they are. They may be twenty-five miles from here, for all we know.”
“Then we’ll have to give up the search if you don’t get any more messages from him,” declared the boy’s father.
“That’s so,” Cub admitted. “And if those men captured him and took him away in their boat, this affair will have to remain a mystery in our lives forever afterward.”
“You’d better go back to the cabin and see if Bud and Hal got any more messages from him,” suggested Mr. Perry.
“That’s the only hope left,” said Cub as he turned to go.
But this “last hope” proved to be vain. Bud and Hal were both still listening-in, but with little suggestion of expectancy on their countenances.
“Anything more?” inquired the tall youth, unwilling to put his question in negative form, in spite of the fact that his better judgment would have dictated it thus.
Both listeners shook their heads.
“Then that’s the end of our search,” Cub declared with a crestfallen and disgusted look.
“Why?” asked Bud.
“Answer the question yourself; it’s easy,”
“I don’t see why we should give up just because we’ve run up against an obstacle a little worse than any we’ve met before,” said Hal.
“All right,” Cub challenged. “Let’s see what you propose to do.”
“Well,” Hal responded slowly; “we could go on till we found—”
He stopped and looked foolish.
“Found what?” asked Cub. “The island? How would you do that without something to guide your radio compass?”
“That’s so”; Hal admitted, with another foolish look.
“It’s too bad,” Bud broke in, with tone well suited to his words.
“I suppose the next thing for us to do is to look for a tie-up for the night.” said Hal indicating his sense of defeat by his change of subject.
“I think father is doing that now,” replied Cub. “Guess I’ll go and see what his idea is on that subject.”
By this time the Catwhisker was several miles beyond Grindstone Island and was winding its way through a labyrinthine group to the north of Grandview. The scenery here was so enchanting that Cub and his father speedily agreed that the first convenient, unclaimed natural harbor that they discovered ought to be adopted as theirs for the night.
The season was well opened, and there were many boats on the river, so many, indeed, that it seemed strange that any live, intelligent person could be marooned on one of those islands, however vast their number, without being able to call attention to his distress. However, there were main highways in this, as in any other, semi-wilderness, and doubtless some of the by-ways were less accessible, if not less inviting and in the nature of things, less frequently visited.