Great excitement reigned at the quarry when the men learned of the accident which had befallen Miss Randall. Feeling ran high and had they known the one who committed the deed, it would have gone hard with him. Captain Tobin heard the story when he visited the quarry during the morning. He had been more surprised than ever at Eben’s silent and strange manner, especially when he had found him at daybreak at the bow of the boat. He could get nothing from the boy, and in disgust he had left him and ate his breakfast alone. He believed that his son was deeply in love with Jess Randall, and that the presence of John Hampton was the cause of his depression. He imagined that it was but a temporary affection, and nothing would come of it, until he heard of what had happened to the girl. Then a great fear forced itself upon his mind. He banished it at first as improbable. But the more he thought of it, and the more he considered Eben’s strange manner, the more he was led to the painful conclusion that his son was the one who had thrown the stone through the window. He was well aware of Eben’s impulsive nature, and the extent to which he would go when roused to anger. He overheard two men talking about the affair.
“I’d like to lay my hands on the skunk who threw that stone,” declared one, “I’d show him a thing or two. The idea of hitting such a girl as that, an’ her watching by Bill.”
“Is she badly hurt, d’ye think?” the other asked. “Can’t say. Mrs. Dobbins said she was able to sit up in the car when young Hampton took her away.”
“Where did he take her to?”
“To the hospital, I guess. But maybe he took her to his own home. His mother lives down the river somewhere, so I understand.”
The captain breathed more freely when he learned that the girl was able to travel in the car. At first he feared that she had been so badly injured that she might die. Then the guilty one would surely be found, and if it proved to be his own son how terrible it would be. Even now should suspicion rest upon Eben the quarrymen might prove very troublesome. He, therefore, decided to get away as soon as possible. He did not wish to shield his son if he were in the wrong. But he wanted him to receive a fair trial, if the matter went that far, and not have him dealt with by a number of excited men who might let their passions get the upper hand.
Shortly after noon the “Eb and Flo” slipped from her wharf, and headed downstream. The tide was fair, and the light breeze was favourable for a long tack out of the narrow channel into the main river below Spoon Island. The captain was at the wheel, with Eben by his side, ready for any orders which might be given. Very few words had passed between father and son during the day, and to all outward appearance they seemed like complete strangers. But the captain’s mind had been busy upon more than his boat. He felt it was his duty to speak to Eben and find out if he did really throw the stone which hit the girl. Several times he was on the point of mentioning the subject, but always hesitated. It was a delicate matter, he well knew, and for the first time in his life he was at a loss for words. At length, however, he brought his courage to what he thought was the sticking point.