He protests that so fascinated was he by the awful horror of the situation that he can describe accurately every marking and every detail of the great snake as it lay there coiled for the blow that would prove fatal to himself.
Almost fainting, Harry heard the two shots that caused the snake to momentarily lower its head and cease its buzzing rattles from sounding.
Hope rose within his breast as he noted this action, yet he could not move from the spot. His feet seemed leaden.
The next instant the snake again raised its head and the second shot fired by Arnold seemed to increase its anger for it recommenced with more vigor than before the sharp buzzing of its rattles. In desperation, Arnold emptied his automatic into the ground at his feet, but without effect upon the snake.
A rifle shot echoed through the forest. The rattler lunged forward.
A FRUITLESS SEARCH
“Surely that can’t be Wyckoff,” declared Tom. “He wouldn’t be around here at this time of day. Couldn’t you be mistaken?”
“I don’t think so,” stoutly protested Jack. “He seemed to be poking his head around the corner of that shed and when he saw I noticed him, he dodged back. I am quite sure it was he.”
“Well, I think he has his nerve to be sneaking around the yard at this hour. Why can’t he go on about his business instead of hounding us all the time, I’d like to know,” indignantly stormed Frank. “He’s about the poorest specimen of humanity I know.”
“He thinks he’s well within his rights,” argued Jack. “I don’t like him, but I must admire his ‘stick-to-itiveness.’”
“Whatever that is,” put in Tom. “If he’d stick to it and dig up his good-for-nothing old treasure chest himself instead of barking at the moon, we’d all be better off. But here we are at the good old Fortuna. My, my, how she looms up out of the water.”
“She certainly does look big when one can get a view of the hull below the water line,” agreed Jack, with a note of pride.
For some time the boys walked around the vessel, noting her fine lines and examining the hull for possible defects. They found nothing that they considered worthy of repair except the hole through which their plug projected. Jack examined with minute care the outboard end of the shaft log and the propeller.
“Here comes the watchman,” announced Frank as the boys paused at the foot of the ladder before going aboard the motor boat.
“Let’s stop and have a word with him,” Tom said. “Maybe he’s a pretty decent sort of chap. At any rate it won’t hurt to get acquainted. He can likely tell us something about the man you saw.”
“Agreed,” announced Jack. “By all means, let us cultivate the acquaintance of the watchman. We may need him in our business.”
Accordingly when the watchman arrived in the course of making his rounds the boys spoke pleasantly to him, finding him quite agreeable. In fact, he was inclined to visit at some length.