Clearly the old woman was trying to befool her visitors. She probably possessed some local celebrity as a witch or wise woman.
Whistler, however, was not ready to believe her any wiser than her neighbors.
He thought out the matter back to the time the auxiliary steamer was blown up in the channel between the islands. The wireless operator sent out S O S messages till the very last. Small as the radius of the instrument was, a station along the adjacent coast would surely pick up the cry for help.
It was an important thought, but he had no time that evening to mention it to Mr. MacMasters. He and Torry shared one of the wide and fishy smelling bunks together, and they did not wake up until it was broad daylight.
There was a heavy smell of rank, boiling coffee in the air. Bacon was sizzling over the fire and a huge corn pone was baking on a plank before the coals. Mag did not propose to starve her guests, that was sure.
The sun had burst through the clouds and the gale had ceased. The surf still thundered upon the outer shores of the island; but the sound, upon which the cabin fronted, was smooth and sparkling. It was a pretty view from the cabin door.
And almost at once, when Whistler and his chum ran out of the cabin to look about, they saw a number of familiar figures approaching along the rock-strewn shore. These newcomers were as shabby and bedraggled as themselves, and it was easy to identify them.
“Here they come!” yelled Torry, and rushed toward the approaching party.
Whistler was not behind him; but when they reached the refugees they discovered that Mr. MacMasters was already with them. The ensign had been up since before dawn and had searched out Mr. Mudge and his companions at the other end of the island.
“Oi, oi!” wailed Ikey Rosenmeyer, meeting the older boys. “Such a time! I swallowed enough salt water to make me a pickled herring yet!” Ikey could not get away from memories of the delicatessen shop.
“By St. Patrick’s piper that played the last snake out of Ireland!” was Frenchy Donahue’s complaint, “it was holdin’ a wake over you two fellers, we was, all the night long.”
“Where did you put in the night, anyway?” asked Whistler.
“Say! we didn’t have no more home than a rabbit,” cried Ikey.
“After we got ashore,” began Frenchy, when Torry interrupted to ask:
“How did you do that? Give us the particulars.”
“Why, when you fellers went off and left us without sayin’ ’by your leave,’ even——”
“What’s that?” growled Whistler. “You know that hawser snapped.”
“Just the same you parted company from us mighty brusk,” grinned Frenchy. “We drifted in with the tide. Mr. Mudge took a line ashore—Oh, boy! he’s some swimmer. So we followed him along the line, hand over hand——”
“And head under water,” grunted Ikey. “Oi, oi!”