The House in Cradle Bay
On an afternoon in the first week of November, 1918, under a sky bank full of murky cloud and an air freighted with a chill which threatened untimely snow, a man came rowing up along the western side of Squitty Island and turned into Cradle Bay, which lies under the lee of Point Old. He was a young man, almost boyish-looking. He had on a pair of fine tan shoes, brown overalls, a new gray mackinaw coat buttoned to his chin. He was bareheaded. Also he wore a patch of pink celluloid over his right eye.
When he turned into the small half-moon bight, he let up on his oars and drifted, staring with a touch of surprise at a white cottage-roofed house with wide porches sitting amid an acre square of bright green lawn on a gentle slope that ran up from a narrow beach backed by a low sea-wall of stone where the gravel ended and the earth began.
“Hm-m-m,” he muttered. “It wasn’t built yesterday, either. Funny he never mentioned that.”
He pushed on the oars and the boat slid nearer shore, the man’s eyes still steadfast on the house. It stood out bold against the grass and the deeper green of the forest behind. Back of it opened a hillside brown with dead ferns, dotted with great solitary firs and gnarly branched arbutus.
No life appeared there. The chimneys were dead. Two moorings bobbed in the bay, but there was no craft save a white rowboat hauled high above tidewater and canted on its side.
“I wonder, now.” He spoke again.
While he wondered and pushed his boat slowly in on the gravel, a low pr-r-r and a sibilant ripple of water caused him to look behind. A high-bowed, shining mahogany cruiser, seventy feet or more over all, rounded the point and headed into the bay. The smooth sea parted with a whistling sound where her brass-shod stem split it like a knife. She slowed down from this trainlike speed, stopped, picked up a mooring, made fast. The swell from her rolled in, swashing heavily on the beach.
The man in the rowboat turned his attention to the cruiser. There were people aboard to the number of a dozen, men and women, clustered on her flush afterdeck. He could hear the clatter of their tongues, low ripples of laughter, through all of which ran the impatient note of a male voice issuing peremptory orders.
The cruiser blew her whistle repeatedly,—shrill, imperative blasts. The man in the rowboat smiled. The air was very still. Sounds carry over quiet water as if telephoned. He could not help hearing what was said.
“Wise management,” he observed ironically, under his breath.
The power yacht, it seemed, had not so much as a dinghy aboard.
A figure on the deck detached itself from the group and waved a beckoning hand to the rowboat.
The rower hesitated, frowning. Then he shrugged his shoulders and pulled out and alongside. The deck crew lowered a set of steps.