“Has she been took?” asked Jamie, excitedly.
“Took!” said David. “The painter were untied and she were took! There’s tracks about of big boots with nails in un!”
Andy and Jamie ran down with David. No trace of the boat was to be found.
In the earth above the shore were plainly to be seen the tracks of two men wearing hobnailed boots.
“They’s fresh tracks,” declared David.
“Made this marnin’,” Andy agreed. “They’s the same kind of tracks as the ones I see under Lem’s window. Whoever ’twere made these tracks shot Lem and took his silver.”
“And now we’re left here on the island with no way of gettin’ off,” said David.
“What’ll we be doin’? How’ll we ever get away?” asked Jamie in consternation.
But that was a question none of them could answer.
THE MYSTERY OF THE BOAT
The boys looked at each other in consternation. They were marooned on a desolate, rocky, sparsely wooded island. Boats passed only at rare intervals, and a fortnight, or even a month, might elapse before an opportunity for rescue offered. Their provisions would scarcely last a week, and the island was destitute of game.
“Whoever ’twere took the boat,” Andy suggested presently, “were on the island when we comes.”
“Aye,” David agreed, “and makin’ for Fort Pelican. They been up as far as Lem’s and they’s gettin’ away with Lem’s silver to sell un.”
“’Tis strange boots they wears,” said Jamie. “Strange boots them is with nails in un.”
“’Twere no man of The Labrador made them tracks,” David declared.
“I never sees boots with nails in un,” said Andy, “except the boots the lumber folks wears over at the new camp at Grampus River.”
“Aye,” agreed David, “they wears un. When we goes over with Pop last month when the big steamer comes I sees un. Plenty of un wears boots with nails in.”
“That’s who ’twere took our boat!” said Andy. “’Twere men from the Grampus River lumber camp.”
“Let’s track un and see where they were camped,” suggested David.
The trail was easily followed. Here and there a footprint appeared where soil had drifted in among the rocks above the shore. The trail led them three hundred yards to the eastward, and then down into a sheltered hollow just above the water’s edge, where a small boat was drawn up upon the shore.
“Here’s a boat!” exclaimed Jamie, who had run ahead.
“A boat!” shouted David. “They left un and took our boat.”
“And good reason!” said Jamie, who had reached the skiff. “The bottom’s half knocked out of un.”
It was evident that the boat had been driven upon the rocks in making a landing, and a jagged hole a foot square appeared in the bottom, rendering it in that condition quite useless. Near by a tent had been pitched, and there was no doubt that the men who had abandoned the boat had been in camp for a day at least in the sheltered hollow.