“I’ll borrow the ‘Water Witch.’ I think I can get up to the Belleview quicker if I go by water than if I wait for the street car to take me there. The girls will bring the boat home with them.”
Mr. Brown disappeared from the deck of the boat a few moments later. He climbed into the “Water Witch” and rowed very swiftly up the bay.
Miss Jones had taken it for granted that their houseboat had caught fire by accident. She had not had time to give much thought to the matter. But Mr. Brown had other views. He remembered the boy who had attempted the robbery, and he had other reasons for his suspicions. A can of oil might very easily have turned over on the deck, but was there any reason to suppose that a pile of matches would be left lying at one side of the can? The young artist meant to make a thorough search for the possible offender. He wished to get out on the water as soon as he could, because he believed the incendiary had escaped that way. Mr. Brown and Miss Jenny Ann had been walking down the embankment at the very time the trespasser must have made his escape. If he had gone by land, one of them must have caught sight of him.
Theodore Brown was an ex-member of a Yale boat crew. He made the “Water Witch” skim through the waters, and at the same time he kept a sharp lookout for a small boat. There were a number of skiffs filled with young girls and men. But Mr. Brown was looking for a boat with the single figure of a boy in it.
He went toward the hotel, believing that the boatman would feel more secure if he were swallowed up in a crowd, than if he were seen in a more deserted part of the bay. Mr. Brown had almost reached the hotel pier before he came up to the character of skiff he desired to find. Then he was embarrassed how to accost the young man in it, as it was possible for him to see only the oarsman’s back. Mr. Brown. came as close up alongside the stranger’s boat as he could. Still he could not see the man’s face. He leaned out of his own boat and called: “I want to drift along here and smoke. Would you be kind enough to lend me a match?”
The other oarsman apparently did not hear him. He rowed on faster. Again Mr. Brown caught up with him. He called, in an even more friendly fashion, “Haven’t you that match?”
The stranger fumbled a minute in his pocket. “Sorry to disoblige you,” he answered. “I haven’t a match about me.”
Theodore Brown laughed. The two small boats were almost touching each other. “Sorry to have troubled you,” continued Mr. Brown, leaning as far over the side of his boat as he could. “After all, I find I have some matches in my own pocket. You had better take a cigar to show you forgive me for annoying you.”
The artist struck a light and held it for a moment full in the other oarsman’s face. It was only a second; the light flickered and went out. The man in the boat winced as the light shone on his face. “No, thank you; I don’t smoke,” he answered politely. With that he shot his skiff on ahead.