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Salvage Point
by [?]

“So I yelled at the top of my lungs, and Alice waved her jersey. We might as well have hailed a comet. That boat ran straight for the ledges as if she meant to hurdle them. She came near doing it, too. Over the first she scraped, as if her heel had hit it. Over the second she shivered, hanging there for a second till a wave lifted her. On the third she bumped hard and checked her way for a moment, but the engine kept going, and finally she got herself over somehow and ran head on to the beach.

“Of course we were excited, and everybody hurried down to see what this crazy performance meant. There was not a creature on the boat, alive or dead.

“Everything was shipshape. The little craft had evidently been used for fishing. There were rough men’s clothes on board, rubber boots and oilskins, fresh water and provisions, blankets in the cabin, fishing-lines and bait in the cockpit, gasolene in the tanks–a nice little outfit, all complete, and no one to run it.

“Where had she come from? There were no names on bow or stern, no papers in the cabin. Who had started her on this crazy voyage? How did she get away from them? Had they perhaps abandoned her and cast her adrift for some mysterious reason? Undoubtedly there were men–apparently three–on board when she set out. What had happened to them? A drunken quarrel? Or possibly one of the men had fallen overboard; the others had jumped in to save him; the engine had started up and the boat left them all in the lurch. Perhaps one or all of them may have had some reason for wanting to ‘disappear without a trace,’ so they hit upon the plan of going ashore at some lonely place and turning the boat loose to wreck herself. That would have been a stupid scheme of course, but not too stupid to be human.

“It was just a little piece of sea mystery to which we had no clew. So we debated it for an hour, and then set about the more important work of salvaging the stranded derelict. Fortunately she went ashore near the last of the ebb, and now lay comfortably in the mud, apparently little damaged except for some long scratches on her side, and a broken blade in her propeller. We dug away the mud at bow and stern, made fast a tow-line, and when the tide came in my small cruiser pulled her off easily. In the morning the mysterious stranger lay at anchor in the cove round the corner, as quiet as a China duck.

“Of course we advertised in the coast newspapers, giving a description of the boat–‘came ashore,’ etc.

“Three days later a boy about thirteen years old turned up at Winterport. He came from a village at the northeast corner of the bay forty miles away. He guessed the boat was his father’s, but couldn’t say for sure until he had seen it. So he came down to the point and identified it beyond a doubt. He told his story very simply.

“The boat belonged to his father, who was a widow-man with only one child. He used the boat for fishing, and sometimes he took Johnny with him, sometimes not. On the trips without the boy he used to stay out longer, sometimes a week or ten days. About a week ago he had started out on one of these trips with two other men. They had a dory in tow. They hadn’t come back. Johnny had seen the piece in the paper. Here was the boat, for sure, but no dory. As for the rest of the story–well, that was all that Johnny had to tell us about it–the mystery was as far away as ever.

“He was a fine, sturdy little chap, with tanned f
ace and clear blue eyes. He was rather shaken by his experience, of course, but he wouldn’t cry–not for the world. We were glad to take him in for the night, while we verified his story by telegraph. It seemed the boat was practically his only inheritance, and the first question he asked, after we had gone over it, was how much we wanted him to pay for salvage.