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Madman’s Luck
by [?]

It was one thing or the other. Yet it might be neither. There was a disquieting alternative. No doubt the message disposed of the delicate affair for good and all in ten terse words. The maid had made up her mind; she had disclosed it in haste: that was all. It might be, however, that the dispatch conveyed news of a more urgent content. It might be that the maid lay ill–that she called for help and comfort. In that event, nothing could excuse the reluctance of the man who should decline an instant passage of Scalawag Run with the pitiful appeal. True, it was not inviting–a passage of Scalawag Run in the wet, gray wind, with night flowing in from the sea.

No matter about that. Elizabeth Luke had departed from Scalawag Harbor in confusion, leaving no definite answer to the two grave suggestions, but only a melting appeal for delay, as maids will–for a space of absence, an interval for reflection, an opportunity to search her heart and be sure of its decision. If, then, she had communicated that decision to her mother, according to her promise to communicate it to somebody, and if the telegram contained news of no more consequence, a good man might command his patience, might indulge in a reasonable caution, might hesitate on the brink of Black Cliff with the sanction of his self-respect. But if Elizabeth Luke lay ill and in need, a passage of Scalawag Run might be challenged, whatever came of it. And both Tommy Lark and Sandy Rowl knew it well enough.

Tommy Lark and Sandy Rowl, on the return from Bottom Harbor to Scalawag Run, had come to Point-o’-Bay Cove, where they were to lie the night. They were accosted in haste by the telegraph operator.

“Are you men from Scalawag?” she inquired.

She was a brisk, trim young woman from St. John’s, new to the occupation, whose administration of the telegraph office was determined and exact.

“We is, ma’am,” Sandy Rowl replied.

“It’s fortunate I caught you,” said the young woman, glowing with satisfaction. “Indeed it is! Are you crossing at once?”

Sandy Rowl smiled.

“We hadn’t thought of it, ma’am,” said he. “I ‘low you don’t know much about Scalawag Run,” he added.

The young woman tossed her red head.

“When you have thought of it, and made up both your minds,” she replied tartly, “you might let me know. It is a matter of some importance.”

“Ay, ma’am.”

By this time Tommy Lark had connected the telegraph operator’s concern with the rare emergency of a message.

“What you so eager t’ know for?” he inquired.

“I’ve a dispatch to send across.”

“Not a telegram!”

“It is.”

“Somebody in trouble?”

“As to that,” the young woman replied, “I’m not permitted to say. It’s a secret of the office.”

“Is you permitted t’ tell who the telegram is from?”

The young woman opened her eyes. This was astonishing simplicity. Permitted to tell who the telegram was from!

“I should think not!” she declared.

“Is you permitted t’ tell who ’tis for?”

The young woman debated the propriety of disclosing the name. Presently she decided that no regulation of the office would be violated by a frank answer. Obviously she could not send the message without announcing its destination.

“Are you acquainted with Mrs. Jacob Luke?” said she.

Tommy Lark turned to Sandy Rowl. Sandy Rowl turned to Tommy Lark. Their eyes met. Both were concerned. It was Tommy Lark that replied.

“We is,” said he. “Is the telegram for she?”

“It is.”

“From Grace Harbor?”

“I’m not permitted to tell you that.”

“Well then, if the telegram is for Mrs. Jacob Luke,” said Tommy Lark gravely, “Sandy Rowl an’ me will take a look at the ice in Scalawag Run an’ see what we makes of it. I ‘low we’ll jus’ have to. Eh, Sandy?”

Sandy Rowl’s face was twisted with doubt. For a moment he deliberated. In the end he spoke positively.

“We’ll take a look at it,” said he.