Chapter XXVI

It was on the second morning after the boys had reached New York that the Indian Queen went down the harbor, her canvas drawing merrily in the spanking breeze of dawn. The intervening day had been spent at the dock-side, where wide-breeched Dutch longshoremen were stoutly hustling bales and boxes of merchandise into the hold. Jeremy had watched the passers along the river front narrowly, though he could not help having a feeling that Pharaoh Daggs was gone. The fancy would not leave his mind that there was some connection between the vanished pirate and the dark vessel he had seen stealing out on the night tide.

A strong southwest wind followed them all day as the Queen ran past the low Long Island shore, and that night, though Captain Ghent gave orders to shorten sail, the ship still plunged ahead with unchecked speed. They cleared the Nantucket shoals next day and saw all through the afternoon the sun glint on the lonely white dunes of Cape Cod.

Two more bright days of breeze succeeded and they were working up outside the fringe of islands, large and small, that dot the coast of Maine.

Jeremy was too excited even to eat. He stayed constantly by the man at the helm and was often joined there by Bob and the Captain, as they drew nearer to the Penobscot Bay coast. In the morning they dropped anchor in fifteen fathoms, to leeward of a good-sized fir-clad island. Jeremy had a dim recollection of having seen it from the round-topped peak above his father's shack. His heart beat high at the thought that tomorrow might bring them to the place they sought, and it was many hours before he went to sleep.

At last the morning came, cloudless and bright, with a little south breeze stirring. Before the sun was fairly clear of the sea, the anchor had been catted, and the Queen was moving gracefully northeastward under snowy topsails.

They cleared a wide channel between two islands and Jeremy, forward with the lookout, gave a mighty shout that brought his chum to his side on the run. There to the east, across a dozen miles of silver-shimmering sea, loomed a gray peak, round and smooth as an inverted bowl. "It's the island!" cried Jeremy, and Captain Ghent, turning to the mate, gave a joyful order to get more sail on the ship.

About the middle of the forenoon the Queen came into the wind and her anchor went down with a roar and a splash, not three cables' lengths from the spot in the northern bay where Jeremy and his father had first landed their flock of sheep. On the gray slope above the shore the boys could see the low, black cabin, silent and apparently tenantless. Behind it was the stout stockade of the sheep-pen, also deserted, and above, the thin grass and gray, grim ledges climbed toward the wooded crest of the hill.

Jeremy's face fell. "They must have gone," he said. But Bob, standing by the rail as they waited for the jollyboat to be lowered, pointed excitedly toward the rocky westward shoulder of the island. "Look there!" he cried. Three or four white dots were moving slowly along the face of the hill.

"Sheep!" said Jeremy, taking heart. "They'd not have left the sheep--unless----"

But the boat was ready, below the side, and the Captain and the two boys tumbled quickly in. Five minutes later the four stout rowers sent the bow far up the sand with a final heave on the oars. They jumped out and hastened up the hill. There was still no sign of life about the cabin, but as they drew near a sudden sharp racket startled them, and around the corner of the sheep-pen tore a big collie dog, barking excitedly. He hesitated a bare instant, then jumped straight at Jeremy with a whine of frantic welcome.

"Jock, lad!" cried the boy, joyfully burying his face in the sable ruff of the dog's neck. In response to his voice, the door of the cabin was thrown open and a tall youth of nineteen stepped out, hesitating as he saw the group below. Jeremy shook off the collie and ran forward. "Don't you know me, Tom?" he laughed. "I'm your brother--back from the pirates!"

The amazed look on the other's face slowly gave place to one of half-incredulous joy as he gripped the youngster's shoulders and looked long into his eyes.

"Know ye!" he said at length with a break in his voice. "Certain I know ye, though ye've grown half a foot it seems! But wait, we must tell father. He's in bed, hurt."

Tom turned to the door again. "Here, father," he called breathlessly. "Here's Jeremy, home safe and sound!" He seized his brother's hand and led him into the cabin. In the half-darkness at the back of the room the lad saw a rough bed, and above the homespun blankets Amos Swan's bearded face. He sprang toward him and flung himself down by the bunk, his head against his father's breast. He felt strong, well-remembered fingers that trembled a little as they gripped his arm. There was no word said.