Mr. MacMasters was cautious. He held the paper under the edge of the table and saw almost instantly what the communication was and to whom it was addressed.
“That’s the name of that spy you boys say blew up the Elmvale dam, and was out on that oil tender we chased in the submarine patrol boat, isn’t it?” whispered the ensign. “I declare! Did you find it here?”
“Yes, sir. You see, the edge of the paper is browned. The whole letter was probably thrown into the fire on the hearth and this piece failed to be destroyed.”
“You’ve hit it right, I fancy,” agreed the officer. “Something queer about this old woman and about this place.”
“She knows we are from the Kennebunk, too. How should she know so much if she wasn’t in with the spies?”
“And she knew too much about the steamer being mined in the channel over there,” muttered Mr. MacMasters.
“It looks as if we were watched by the spies and that she is in cahoots with them,” Whistler suggested.
“Humph! Maybe. You can’t read this letter, I suppose, Morgan?”
“No, sir. None of us boys read German. Not even Ikey, although he understands the language quick enough when it is spoken. And poor Ikey isn’t here!”
“Don’t worry about that,” advised Mr. MacMasters. Then: “I do not think any of the men can translate German. Of course there is probably nothing on this paper of present moment to us.
“What we should do first is to find the rest of our crowd and get off this island. The Kennebunk will be coming back up the coast and we’ll miss her altogether.”
“I hope the other boys are safe,” sighed Whistler anxiously.
“I hope they have as good a refuge and are treated as kindly as we are. But we can’t make a search of the island in the dark. Besides, they may not have landed on this island at all. There are other beaches quite as hospitable as this one proved, I have no doubt.”
Whistler and Torry helped the old woman clear up and wash the bowls and spoons after supper. She sat in the chimney corner and puffed away slowly at a short-stemmed and very black pipe.
The seamen were rather afraid of Mag, Jemmy especially. He carefully crossed his fingers whenever she chanced to glance in his direction.
Mr. MacMasters went outside to assure himself that nothing could be done toward searching for the rest of the crew of the auxiliary steamer before daybreak. It was as dark as Erebus without, and the gale still blew strongly off shore.
The ensign politely asked the strange old woman what arrangements they should make for the night.
“We don’t wish to turn you out of your bed, you know, Ma’am,” he said.
She waved him away, the pipe in her hand. “Tumble into yo’ bunks,” she ordered. “Old Mag doesn’t sleep—hasn’t slept for more years than you-uns are bo’n already. That is why she knows more than others—yes! The spirits of the night come and whisper to her while she stays awake.”