“Just sit in it and keep an eye toward the bank, Thad,” sang out the chum on the boat, “and leave it to me to drag you out here. That chap means mischief, unless I’m mistaken.”
Since his own thoughts coincided with those expressed by Maurice, Thad was satisfied to obey instructions. He squatted low in the small craft, handled the gun in a way that any one ashore could not help seeing, and kept watch along the line.
When he was almost there he saw the man break cover, almost directly opposite, and could even note the look of disappointment on his face as he discovered how the boy had eluded his clutches.
He shouted out something which neither of them wholly understood; but there could be no mistaking the ugly manner in which that fist was shaken toward them.
“Don’t notice him, and he’ll go away soon. It’s getting dusk already, you know, and cold enough to freeze his red nose.”
Maurice proved to be something of a prophet, for sure enough presently the man, finding that his derisive words met with no response, concluded that lingering in the vicinity did not pay.
“There, he’s gone,” announced Thad, finally.
“A good riddance of bad rubbish,” echoed his chum.
“I hope we don’t have visitors in the night,” remarked Thad.
“Um; so that is what was on your mind. Well, now, I hardly think that fellow, or any of his crowd will have the nerve to come here and try to swim out to us; and you see they can’t get aboard any other way, having no boat. Still—”
“You mean that we had better be on the safe side, and keep watch?” suggested Thad.
“I was just going to say something along that style. It wouldn’t be a bad idea, you know.”
“Well, I always did believe that it’s better to keep from getting a cold, than to be able to cure one.”
But evidently the man must have determined that, with a gun in their possession, the boys were not to be easily taken by surprise, for he did not show up during the entire night, much to the relief of both young shanty-boat cruisers.
Perhaps he had no companions to back him up in a desperate enterprise; or it may be that the comforts of his own cabin appealed too much to him on this stormy night.
Be the cause what it might, both lads were satisfied to have the night pass without any alarm; though several times when Thad was on guard some prowling raccoon or skunk on the shore gave him cause to fancy that the anticipated trouble was on the point of breaking loose.
Who the man was, and what manner of boat he possessed neither of them ever knew; for they caught no glimpse of any craft just below their stopping place when eventually the chance came to continue the voyage.
Nearing the sunny south.
During the second night the storm began to die away, and when another dawn came the sun actually shone, though the country looked bleak and cold under the blanket of snow that had fallen.