However, they could not start off alone to hunt for Michael Donahue and Ikey Rosenmeyer. They were just as much under Mr. MacMasters’ orders ashore as they were at sea.
They had confidence in the ensign’s judgment, too. They believed he would make a search for the rest of their party just as soon as it was practicable.
The cabin to which the woman led them was a large log hut of only one room, but with a number of bunks, built in two tiers, along the walls. At one end was an open hearth and chimney and arrangements for cooking. A long table and some rough-hewn benches were in the middle of the open space.
It was more like a barracks than a home; and from the ancient and fishy smell about the place, the party from the battleship was sure that it had not long since housed fishermen and their nets.
Mr. MacMasters and most of the others turned in at once for a nap; but Whistler Morgan was much too anxious to sleep. The old woman who called herself “Mag” went to work at once to prepare a meal, and the boy offered to help her.
He peeled the vegetables and cut corn from the cob for a sort of Brunswick stew which she prepared. Mag put into it a rabbit, a pair of squirrels and a guinea fowl, the neck of which she wrung and then skinned and cleaned in a most skilful manner.
While she was thus engaged she talked to Whistler. The boy noted, as his chum had, that she arranged her spoken sentences much as Germans do who are not well drilled in English. Yet she had the southern drawl and accent.
“I know whar yo’ boys come from,” she advanced almost at once. “Yo’ are from the Kennebunk battleship—and she’s a fur ways from here.”
“You have seen the rest of our crowd, then!” cried Whistler earnestly, “haven’t you, Missus?”
“No, no!” the old hag said, wagging her head. “Old Mag sees strange sights and knows more’n most folks. Oh, yes! Your little steamboat was blowed up by a big bomb in yon channel.”
“It was blown up by a Hun mine,” declared Whistler bitterly.
The old woman’s eyes flashed at him threateningly. “What yo’ mean by ‘Hun’? Them that put that bomb there is just as good as yo’ folks. I ain’t got no use fo’ Yankees yet.”
“You don’t call yourself a Southerner, do you?” asked the boy curiously.
“What am I then?”
“You’re German. At least, your folks were,” Whistler declared with conviction.
The woman scowled at him and said nothing more. When Whistler had finished helping her he moved his chair back from the fireplace, for the heat from the live coals was intense. He saw a scrap of torn paper upon the earth floor, near his foot.
His suspicions had been aroused now and he covered the paper with his foot until he could get a chance to pick it up without the old woman observing him. Having secured it he moved still farther back to the table. There was a smoky hanging-lamp over the board which gave him light enough to see by. Secretly he examined the torn paper.