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Chapter 3

THE MAN AT THE HUT


With a few quick strokes of his knife Bailey severed the ropes that bound the unconscious man to the raft. Then, taking him by the shoulders, and directing Larry to grasp the stranger's legs, they started for the hut.

"Queer there weren't more to come ashore on that raft," the fisherman remarked as they trudged over the sand. "It would hold a dozen with safety. Maybe they were all swept off but this one. Poor souls! there'll be many a one in Davy Jones's locker to-night I'm afraid."

"Is he—is he dead?" asked Larry, hesitatingly, for he had never handled a lifeless person before.

"I'm afraid so, but you never can tell. I've seen 'em stay under water a good while and brought back to life. You'd best help me carry him in, and then run for some of the life guards. I'll be working over him, and maybe I can bring him around."

Through the storm the two staggered with their burden. They reached the hut, and the man was tenderly placed on the floor near the fire.

"You hurry down the coast, and if you can see any of the guards tell 'em to come here," Bailey said to Larry. "They can't do anything for the wreck to-night."

Larry glanced at the man he had helped save from the sea. The stranger was of large size, and seemed well-dressed, though his clothes were anything but presentable now. His face was partly concealed by the collar of his coat, which was turned up, and Larry noted that the man had a heavy beard and moustache.

These details he took in quickly while he was buttoning his oilskin jacket tighter around his neck for another dash into the storm. Then, as he opened the door of the hut to go in search of a coast-guard, Bailey began to strip the wet garments from the unconscious man.

Larry was met by a heavy gust of wind and a dash of rain as he went outside again. He bent his head to the blast and made his way down the beach, the lantern he carried making fantastic shadows on the white sand.

He had not gone far before he saw a figure coming toward him. He waited, and in a few minutes was joined by George Tucker.

"Mr. Bailey wants you to come to his place and help him save a man who just came in on a raft," said Larry.

"Can't do it, my boy. I was just coming for him to help us launch the life-boat. We need all the men we can get, though we've got help from the station below us. Captain Needam sent me after Bailey."

"I don't believe he'll come," said Larry. "He'll not want to leave the man he pulled from the ocean."

"No, I don't s'pose he will," said George. "He may save a life. But we've got to try for the steamer. She's going to pieces, and there are many aboard of her, though I'm afraid there'll be fewer by morning."

"I'll come and help you," said the reporter. "I don't know much about life-boats, but I'm strong."

"Come along, then," said the coast guard.

They made their way down the beach, Larry accepting, in the manner newspaper reporters soon become accustomed to, the new rôle he was suddenly called on to play.

While he is thus journeying through the storm to aid in saving life, there will be an opportunity to tell you something about his past, and how he came to be a reporter on a leading New York newspaper.

Larry's introduction to a newspaper life was told of in the first volume of this series, entitled "From Office Boy to Reporter." At the start the youth lived with his mother, who was a widow, and his two sisters and a brother, on a farm in New York State.

The farm was sold for an unpaid mortgage after the death of Larry's father, and the little family came to New York to visit a sister of Mrs. Dexter, as Larry thought he could find work in the big city.

On their arrival they found that Mrs. Dexter's sister had unexpectedly gone out West to visit relatives, because of the sudden death of her husband. The Dexter family was befriended by a Mr. Jackson and his wife, and made the best of the situation. After many unsuccessful trials elsewhere, Larry got a position as office boy on the New York Leader.

His devotion to duty had attracted the attention of Harvey Newton, one of the "star" reporters on the sheet, and Mr. Emberg, the city editor, took a liking to Larry. In spite of the enmity of Peter Manton, another office boy on the same paper, Larry prospered. He was sent with Mr. Newton to report a big flood, and were there when a large dam broke, endangering many lives. Larry, who was sent to the telegraph office with an account of the accident, written by Mr. Newton on the spot, had an exciting race with Peter, who was then working for a rival newspaper. Larry won, and for his good work was advanced to be a regular reporter.

In the second volume of the series, entitled "Larry Dexter, Reporter," I told of his experiences as a gatherer of news in a great city.

In that book was related how Larry, with the aid of Mr. Newton, waged war against a gang of swindlers who were trying to rob the city, and, incidentally, Larry himself, for, as it developed, his mother had a deed to certain valuable property in the Bronx Park section of New York, and the swindlers desired to get possession of the land. They wanted to hold it and sell it to the city at a high price, but Larry got ahead of them.

To further their ends the bad men took away Jimmie, Larry's little brother, but the young reporter, and his friend Mr. Newton, traced the boy and found him. Peter Manton had a hand in the kidnapping scheme.

By the sale of the Bronx land Mrs. Dexter became possessed of enough money to put her beyond the fear of immediate want; Larry decided to continue on in the newspaper field, and when this story opens he was regarded as one of the best workers on the staff of the Leader. His assignment to get the story of the wreck was his first big one since the incidents told of in the second volume.

At Larry and the coast-guard trudged down the beach the guns from the doomed steamer were fired more frequently, and the rockets lighted up the darkness with a weird glare.

"Not much farther now," remarked George, as he peered ahead through the blackness, whitened here and there with masses of flying spray.

A little later they were at the life-saving station. The place was in seeming confusion, yet every man was at his post. Most of them were hauling out the long wagon frame, on which the life-boat rested. They were bringing the craft down to the beach to try to launch it.

"Lend a hand!" cried Captain Needam, as Larry and the coast-guard came in. "We need every man we can get."

Larry grasped a rope. No one paid any attention to him, and they seemed to think it was natural that he should be there. Perhaps they took him for Bailey.

The boat was taken down to the edge of the surf. An effort was made to launch it, but, struggle as the men did, they could not get it beyond the line of breakers.

"It's no use!" exclaimed the captain. "We'll have to haul her to Johnson's Cove. Maybe it isn't so rough there."

The wagon, with the boat on it, was pulled back, and then began a journey about two miles farther down the coast, to a small inlet, protected by a curving point of land. There the breakers were likely to be less high, and the boat might be launched.

Larry pulled with the rest. He did not see how he was going to get his story telegraphed to the paper, but he was consoled by the reflection that there were no other reporters on hand, and that there was no immediate likelihood of being "beaten." When morning came he could decide what to do.

So, for the time being, he became a life saver, and pulled on the long rope attached to the wagon until his arms ached. It was heavy hauling through the sand, and his feet seemed like lead.

It was nearly midnight when the cove was reached, and after a desperate struggle the life-boat was launched.

"Some of you go back and get ready to operate the breeches buoy as soon as it's light enough!" called Captain Needam, as the boat was pulled away over the heaving billows toward the wreck, which could be seen in the occasional glare of a rocket or signal light.

"Might as well come back," said George Tucker to Larry. "Can't do any more here."

Back through the wind and rain they walked, with half a score of others. They reached the life-saving station, tired and spent from their struggle through the storm.

"You can go back to Bailey," said George, as Larry sat down inside the warm and cozy living-room of the station to rest. "He may need you."

"I thought I could help here," replied Larry. "Besides, I'd like to see you work the breeches buoy."

"You'll see all you want of that in the morning," replied the coast patrol. "We can't do much until daylight. Are you afraid to go back alone?"

"No," replied Larry.

Back he trudged to Bailey's cabin. It was about three o'clock when he reached there, and he found the fisherman sitting beside the table, drinking some hot tea.

"I thought you'd got lost," spoke the fisherman.

"I went to help 'em launch the boat. They needed me. George Tucker was coming for you, but I told him of the man we saved. How is he?"

"Doing well. He's asleep in the next room. He had been struck on the head by something, and that was what made him senseless. It wasn't the water. I soon brought him around. How about the wreck?"

Larry told all he knew. Bailey insisted on the young reporter drinking two cups of steaming hot tea, and Larry felt much better after it. Then he and the fisherman stretched out on the floor to wait until morning, which would soon break.

Bailey was up early, and his movements in the hut as he shook down the fire and made coffee, aroused Larry.

"We'll get a bit of breakfast and then we'll go down to the station," said the fisherman. "I guess our man will be all right."

He went outside to bring in some wood. A moment later the door of the inner room, where the rescued man was, opened, and a head was thrust out.

"If my clothes are dry I'll take them," the man said, and Larry, glancing at him, saw that the stranger was smooth-shaven. The reporter was sure that when he was pulled from the water on the raft the man had had a heavy beard.

"Why—why—" began the youth—"your whiskers. Did you——?"

"Whiskers?" replied the man with a laugh. "Oh, you thought that bunch of seaweed on my face was a beard. I see. No, this is the way I looked. But are my clothes dry?"

Larry took them from a chair near the fire, where Bailey had hung them. He gave them to the stranger. Larry was much puzzled. It seemed as if he had stumbled upon a secret. The man shut the door of his room, A moment later the fisherman called from without the hut:

"Come on! Never mind breakfast! They're going to fire the gun!"

Victor Appleton

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