Another gust had set the hat rolling again. Captain Jethro made a grab at it but his attempt only lifted it higher into the air, where the wind caught it underneath and sent it soaring.
“Oh, dear!” piped the exasperated Galusha, and ran after it.
“Who in tunket is he?” demanded Jethro.
Mr. Pulcifer gazed at the thin little figure hopping after the hat. The light of recognition dawned in his face.
“I know who he is!” he exclaimed. “I fetched him over t’other night in my car. But what in blazes is he doin’ here now? . . . Hi, look out, Mister! Don’t let it blow that way. If you do you’ll— Head it off!”
The hat was following an air line due east. Galusha was following a terrestrial route in the same direction. Now Raish followed Galusha and after him rolled Captain Jethro Hallett. As they say in hunting stories, the chase was on.
It was not a long chase, of course. It ended unexpectedly— unexpectedly for Galusha, that is—at a point where a spur of the pine grove jutted out upon the crest of a little hill beyond the eastern border of the cemetery. The hat rolled, bounced, dipped and soared up the hill and just clear of the branches of the endmost pine. Then it disappeared from sight. Its owner breathlessly panted after it. He reached the crest of the little hill and stopped short—stopped for the very good reason that he could go no further.
The hill was but half a hill. Its other half, the half invisible from the churchyard, was a sheer sand and clay bluff dropping at a dizzy angle down to the beach a hundred and thirty feet below. This beach was the shore of a pretty little harbor, fed by a stream which flowed into it from the southwest. On the opposite side of the stream was another stretch of beach, more sand bluffs, pines and scrub oaks. To the east the little harbor opened a clear channel between lines of creaming breakers to the deep blue and green of the ocean.
Galusha Bangs saw most of this in detail upon subsequent visits. Just now he looked first for his hat. He saw it. Below, upon the sand of the beach, a round object bounced and rolled. As he gazed a gust whirled along the shore and pitched the brown object into the sparkling waters of the little harbor. It splashed, floated and then sailed jauntily out upon the tide. The brown derby had started on its last voyage.
Galusha gazed down at his lost headgear. He rubbed his chin thoughtfully. Then he turned and looked back toward the hollow by the front door of the old church. From the knoll where he stood he could see every inch of that hollow and it was untenanted. There was no sign of either human being or of a bicycle belonging to a human being.
Mr. Bangs sighed thankfully. The sacrifice of the brown derby had not been in vain.