Tom suddenly felt dizzy. He wished to race back, to be the first to greet his chum and press his hand. But just then Reade felt strangely bewildered.
“Of course I don’t believe in ghosts!” Tom laughed nervously.
“No!” chuckled Mr. Prenter. “This is real flesh and blood that is coming toward us.”
Now, for the first time, Tom Reade knew just how fully he had believed, in the inner temple of his soul, that Harry Hazelton had been actually killed.
“Pulling my work to pieces, are you, Tom?” Harry called jovially.
“P—–p—–pardon me for not coming to meet you, old fellow, b—–b——but I’m dumbfounded at seeing you,” Tom called back.
Harry, too, looked rather unsteady in his gait by the time he joined them. The last few yards he tried to run along the wall. Tom thrust out an arm and caught him just in time.
“You’ve been hurt, Harry!” gasped Tom.
“Yes, and I guess I’m a bit weak, even now,” Hazelton mumbled. “Hurt? Look at this.”
Hazelton uncovered his head, displaying a court-plaster bandage underneath which clotted blood showed.
“Where in the world have you been?” Tom quivered.
“At sea,” Harry answered, with an attempt at banter.
“What happened to you?”
“Tom, you remember the big black man I imagined that I saw last night?”
“Of course I do.”
“He was a reality,” Harry went on soberly. “After you had gone he appeared again. We had it hot and heavy. I saw your boat coming, and I yelled—–”
“I heard you,” Tom interposed. “We got along as speedily as we could.”
“And you didn’t find me,” finished Harry. “That brute hit me over the head with something. We clinched and rolled into the gulf together. That was the last that I remember clearly for some time. For a long time I had a dream that I was bobbing about in water, and that I had my arms around a floating log. By and by I came to sufficiently to discover that the dream was a reality. I was holding to the log in grim earnest. How I came to find the log I can’t imagine. I think, while more than half unconscious, I must have been swimming straight out into the gulf. Then I must have touched the log and clung to it instinctively. Anyway, when I recovered more fully I knew that the ’long-shore lights looked thousands of miles away. I was too weak even to dream of trying to swim back, or to push the log before me. So I got a stout piece of cord out of one of my pockets and lashed myself to the log. I was afraid I might become unconscious again. A part of the time I was unconscious.
“Well after daylight I saw a sloop headed my way. It didn’t look as though it would go straight by either. So I waved my handkerchief—–my hat was gone. After a while the skipper of the sloop saw me and headed in for me. It was a sloop that carries the mails to Hetherton, a village that has no rail connection.