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On the Frontier


like a cry in a dream, and seemed hardly to reach beyond the surf
before it was suocated in the creeping cloud. A silence
followed, but no response.
”It’s no use to beach her and go ashore until we find the boat,”
said the first voice, gravely; ”and we’ll do that if the current
has brought her here. Are you sure you’ve got the right bearings?”
”As near as a man could o a shore with not a blasted pint to take
his bearings by.”
There was a long silenc e again, broken only by the occasional dip
of oars, keeping the invisible boat-head to the sea.
”Take my word for it, lads, it’s the last we’ll see of that boat
again, or of Jack Cranch, or the captain’s baby.”
”It DOES look mighty queer that the paint er should slip. Jack
Cranch ain’t the man to tie a granny knot.”
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”Silence!” said the invisible leader. ”Listen.”
A hail, so faint and uncertain that it might have been the long -
deferred, far-o echo of their own, came from the sea, abreast of
them.
”It’s the captain. He hasn’t found anything, or he couldn’t be so
far north. Hark!”
The hail was repeated again faintly, dreamily. To the seamen’s
trained ears it seemed to have an intelligent significance, for the
first voice gravely responded, ”Aye, aye!” and then said softly,
”Oars.”
The word was followed by a splash. The oars clicked sharply and
simultaneously in the rowlocks, then more faintly, then still
fainter, and then passed out into the darkness.
The silence and shadow bot h fell together; for hours sea and shore
were impenet rable. Yet at times the air was softly moved and
troubled, the surrounding gloom faintly lightened as with a misty
dawn, and then was dark again; or drowsy, far-o cries and
confused noises seemed to grow out of the silenc e, and, when they
had attracted the weary ear, sank away as in a mocking dream, and
showed themselves unreal. Nebulous gatherings in the fog seemed to
indicate stationary ob jects that, even as one gazed, moved away;
the recurring lap and ripple on the shingle sometimes took upon
itself the semblance of faint articulate laughter or spoken words.
But towards morning a certain monotonous grating on the sand, that
had for many minut es alternately cheated and piqued the ear,
asserted itself more strongly, and a moving, vacillating shadow in
the gloom became an opaque ob ject on the shore.
With the first rays of the morning light the fog lifted. As the
undraped hills one by one bared their cold bosoms to the sun, the
long line of coast struggled back to life again. Everything was
unchanged, except that a stranded boat lay upon the sands, and in
its stern sheets a sleeping child.
CHAPTER I.
The 10th of A ugust, 1852, brought little change to the dull
monotony of wind, fog, and treeless coast line. Only the sea was
occasionally flecked with racing sails that outstripped the old,
slow-creeping trader, or was at times streaked and blurred with the
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trailing smoke of a steamer. There were a few strange footprints
on those virgin sands, and a fresh track, that led from the beach
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