Robert Coverdale's Struggle - LightNovelOnl.com
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He advanced to the door and opened it. Before him stood a dog, but it was not Dash. It was a large black dog, with an expression of intelligence almost human. He had in his mouth what appeared to be a scrap of writing paper. This he dropped on the ground when he saw that he had attracted Herbert's attention.
"What does this mean?" thought Herbert in great surprise, "and where does this dog come from?"
He stooped and picked up the paper, greatly to the dog's apparent satisfaction. It was folded in the middle and contained, written in pencil, the following message, which, not being directed to any one in particular, Herbert felt at liberty to read:
"Feel no anxiety about Robert Coverdale. He is safe!"
Herbert read the message, the dog uttered a quick bark of satisfaction, and, turning, ran down the cliff to the beach.
Herbert was so excited and delighted at the news of his friend's safety that he gave no further attention to the strange messenger, but hurried into the cabin.
"Mrs. Trafton--Mr. Bence!" he exclaimed, "Bob is safe!"
"What do you mean? What have you heard?" they asked quickly.
"Read this!" answered Herbert, giving Mrs. Trafton the scrap of paper.
"Who brought it?" she asked, bewildered.
Ben Bence quickly asked:
"What do you mean?"
"I know nothing more than that a large black dog came to the door with this in his mouth, which he dropped at my feet."
"That is very strange," said Bence.
He opened the door and looked out, but no dog was to be seen.
"Do you believe this? Can it be true?" asked Mrs. Trafton.
"I believe it is true, though I can't explain it," answered Ben. "Some dogs are wonderfully trained. I don't know whom this dog belongs to, but whoever it is he doubtless has Robert under his care. Let us be thankful that he has been saved."
"But why don't he come home?" asked Mrs. Trafton. "Where can he be?"
"He was probably rescued in an exhausted condition. Cheer up, Mrs.
Trafton. You will no doubt see your boy to-morrow."
"I feel like giving three cheers, Mr. Bence," said Herbert.
"Then give 'em, boy, and I'll help you!" said old Ben.
The three cheers were given with a will, and Herbert went home, his heart much lighter than it had been ten minutes before.
THE CRUISE OF THE RAFT
It is time we carried the reader back to the time when Robert, after launching his rude raft, set out from the island of his captivity.
Notwithstanding his rather critical situation, he was in excellent spirits. The treasure which he had unearthed from the wreck very much elated him. It meant comfort and independence for a time at least, and in his new joy he was even ready to forgive his uncle for leaving him on the island and Randolph for not taking him off.
"I've heard of things turning out for the best," was the thought that passed through his mind, "but I never understood it so well before."
Robert possessed a large measure of courage and he had been used to the sea from the age of six, or as far back as he could remember, but when he had rounded the Island and paddled a few rods out to sea he began to feel serious.
There was a strong wind blowing, and this had roughened the sea and made it difficult for him to guide his extemporized raft in the direction he desired.
Had it been his uncle's fishing boat and had he but possessed a good pair of stout oars, he would have experienced no particular difficulty.
He would perhaps have found it rather hard pulling, but he was unusually strong for his age, and, in the end, he would have reached the shore.
But with a frail raft, loosely put together, and only a board to row or paddle with, his progress was very slow.
He did make a little progress, however, but it was so little that, at the end of fifteen minutes, he seemed as far off from the little cabin on the cliff as ever.
"It's hard work," said Robert to himself. "I wish I had a boat. If it were smooth water, I could get along with a raft, but now----"
He stopped short, as the raft was lifted on the crest of a wave, and he nearly slid off into the water.
He looked back to the island and began to consider whether it would not be best, after all, to paddle back and trust to being taken off the next morning by some fisherman's boat.
No doubt that would have been the most sensible thing to do, but Robert was very reluctant to relinquish his project.
Had he not devoted several hours to constructing the raft he was trying to navigate and should he allow this time to be thrown away?
Again, the prospect of passing a night upon Egg Island was not very inviting. There was nothing to fear, of course, for the island was too small to be infested by wild animals or even snakes. He could no doubt sleep some, even if his bed were not very comfortable.
Robert looked back. By this time he was half a mile, at a rough guess, from Egg Island, and between his raft and the mainland there intervened probably two miles and a half of rough sea.
"If I can get within half a mile of shore," thought our young hero, "I won't care for the raft any longer. I will plunge into the waves and swim to the shore."
He looked toward the shore.
There, in plain view, was the humble cabin which he called home. Inside doubtless was his aunt, worrying perhaps about his absence.
"How delighted she will be when I tell her of the money I have found!"
thought Robert joyfully. "Come, Bob, brace up now and push out boldly for home."
With his eyes fixed on the cabin, our young hero used his paddle with such energy that, in the course of half an hour or thereabouts, he was about a mile farther on his way.
He had gone half way, and though he was somewhat fatigued, he was strong and muscular, and the chances were that he would be able to hold out till he reached the boat landing.
But now a new danger threatened itself.