“About twelve, but we’re not going there. I’m trying to make Vineyard Haven. It’s only about two miles.” He glanced puzzledly at the compass and moved the wheel a fraction. “There’s a jetty comes out there and I guess we’d better give it a good wide berth.” Collars were pulled up to keep the moisture from creeping down necks, and Perry begged to be allowed to manipulate the fog-horn. He went at it whole-souledly and Steve had to curb his enthusiasm. “Once a minute will do, Perry,” he said. “You sound like a locomotive scaring a cow off the track.”
“How do you know there isn’t a cow ahead?” demanded Perry. “Or a whale? Gee, wouldn’t it be a surprise if we bust right into a whale? Who would get the worst of it, Steve?”
“I guess we would. Shut up a minute, fellows, please!”
Silence held the bridge deck, silence save for the subdued purr of the engine under their feet and the drip, drip of the drops from the awning edge. Steve peered anxiously ahead, his senses alert. At last:
“Hear anything?” he asked.
They all said no.
“I guess I was mistaken then,” Steve explained, “but I could have sworn I heard surf.” He leaned over the chart. “This doesn’t show anything, though, nearer than the land. Toot your horn, Perry.”
Perry obeyed. At long intervals the unseen, distant steamer bellowed her warning and more frequently the Follow Me groaned dismally on a hand horn. It was ten minutes later, perhaps, when Steve suddenly swung around and looked back past the bow of the dingey on the after cabin roof.
“That’s funny!” he exclaimed. “The Follow Me sounded away over there!” He looked anxiously at the compass, hesitated and shook his head. “If I didn’t know this thing was all right, fellows, I’d say it was crazy. Or if there was a strong current here—” His voice dwindled away to a murmur as he studied the chart again. Just then the Follow Me’s fog-horn sounded and it was undeniably further away and well over to port. “Either he’s off his course or I am,” muttered Steve. “And I simply don’t see how I can be. Give them a long one, Perry!”
Perry sent a frantic wail across the water and they listened intently. But no reply came from the Follow Me. Instead, from somewhere off their port bow travelled the steamer’s bellow. That, too, seemed considerably further away. Then the distant siren sounded, and after that there was silence again. But the silence lasted only a moment, for before anyone could hazard a conjecture as to the Follow Me’s erratic behaviour, Phil’s voice arose warningly.
“Listen, Steve!” he cried. “Isn’t that surf I hear?”
STEVE TAKES HER IN
Steve’s hand flew to the clutch as the rest joined Phil at the side of the boat, and, in the grey silence that ensued, strained their ears.