Ruth Fielding at Lighthouse Point/Chapter 15
TOM CAMERON TO THE RESCUE
The three boys were on the other side of the narrow inlet where the Miraflame lay. Phineas had told them that bass were more likely to be found upon the ocean side; therefore they were completely out of sight.
The last Tom, Bob and Isadore saw of the girls, the fishermen were placing them along the rocky path, and Mercy was lying in a deck chair on the deck of the launch, fluttering a handkerchief at them as they went around the end of the reef.
"I bet they don't get a fish," giggled Isadore. "And even Miss Kate's got a line! What do girls know about fishing?"
"If there's any tautog over there, I bet Helen and Ruth get 'em. They're all right in any game," declared the loyal Tom.
"Madge will squeal and want somebody to take the fish off her hook, if she does catch one," grinned Bob. "She puts on lots of airs because she's the oldest; but she's a regular 'scare-cat,' after all."
"Helen and Ruth are good fellows," returned Tom, with emphasis. "They're quite as good fun as the ordinary boy—of course, not you, Bobbins, or Busy Izzy here; but they are all right."
"What do you think of that Nita girl?" asked Busy Izzy, suddenly.
"I believe there's something to her," declared Bob, with conviction. "She ain't afraid of a living thing, I bet!"
"There is something queer about her," Tom added, thoughtfully. "Have you noticed how that Crab fellow looks at her?"
"I see he hangs about her a good bit," said Isadore, quickly. "Why, do you suppose?"
"That's what I'd like to know," returned Tom Cameron.
They were now where Phineas had told them bass might be caught, and gave their attention to their tackle. All three boys had fished for perch, pike, and other gamey fresh-water fish; but this was their first casting with a rod into salt water.
"A true disciple of Izaak Walton should be dumb," declared Tom, warningly eyeing Isadore.
"Isn't he allowed any leeway at all—not even when he lands a fish?" demanded the irrepressible.
"Not above a whisper," grunted Bob Steele, trying to bait his hook with his thumb instead of the bait provided by Phineas. "Jingo!"
"Old Bobbins has got the first bite," chuckled Tom, under his breath, as he made his cast.
The reel whirred and the hook fell with a light splash into a little eddy where the water seemed to swirl about a sunken rock.
"You won't catch anything there," asid Isadore.
"I'll gag you if you don't shut up," promised Tom.
Suddenly his line straightened out. The hook seemed to be sucked right down into a hole between the rocks, and the reel began to whir. It stopped and Tom tried it.
"Pshaw! that ain't a bite," whispered Isadore.
At Tom's first attempt to reel in, the fish that had seized his hook started—for Spain! At least, it shot seaward, and the boy knew that Spain was about the nearest dry land if the fish kept on in that direction.
"A strike!" Tom gasped and let his reel sing for a moment or two. Then, when the drag of the line began to tell on the bass, he carefully wound in some of it. The fish turned and finally ran toward the rocks once more. Then Tom wound up as fast as he could, trying to keep the line taut.
"He'll tangle you all up, Tommy," declared Bob, unable, like Isadore, to keep entirely still.
Tom was flushed and excited, but said never a word. He played the big bass with coolness after all, and finally tired it out, keeping it clear of the tangles of weed down under the rock, and drew it forth—a plump, flopping, gasping victim.
Bob and Isadore were then eager to do as well and began whipping the water about the rocks with more energy than skill. Tom, delighted with his first kill, ran over the rocks with the fish to show it to the girls. As he surmounted the ridge of the rocky cape he suddenly saw Nita, the runaway, and Jack Crab, in a little cove right below him. The girl and the fisherman had come around to this side of the inlet, away from Phineas and the other girls.
They did not see Tom behind and above them. Nita was not fishing, and Crab had unfolded a paper and was showing it to her. At this distance the paper seemed like a page torn from some newspaper, and there were illustrations as well as reading text upon the sheet which Crab held before the strange girl's eyes.
"There it is!" Tom heard the lighthouse keeper's assistant say, in an exultant tone. "You know what I could get if I wanted to show this to the right parties. Now, what d'ye think of it, Sissy?"
What Nita thought, or what she said, Tom did not hear. Indeed, scarcely had the two come into his line of vision, and he heard these words, when something much farther away—across the inlet, in fact—caught the boy's attention.
He could see his sister and some of the other girls fishing from the rocky path; but directly opposite where he stood was Ruth. He saw Mary Cox meet and speak with her, the slight struggle of the two girls for position on the narrow ledge, and Ruth's plunge into the water.
"Oh, by George!" shouted Tom, as Ruth went under, and he dropped the flopping bass and went down the rocks at a pace which endangered both life and limb. His shout startled Nita and Jack Crab. But they had not seen Ruth fall, nor did they understand Tom's great excitement.
The inlet was scarcely more than a hundred yards across; but it was a long way around to the spot where Ruth had fallen, or been pushed, from the rock. Tom never thought of going the long way to the place. He tore off his coat, kicked off his canvas shoes, and, reaching the edge of the water, dived in head first without a word of explanation to the man and girl beside him.
He dived slantingly, and swam under water for a long way. When he came up he was a quarter of the distance across the inlet. He shook the water from his eyes, threw himself breast high out of the sea, and shouted:
"Has she come up? I don't see her!"
Nobody but Mary Cox knew what he meant. Helen and the other girls were screaming because they had seen Tom fling himself into the sea; but they had not seen Ruth fall in.
Nor did Mary Cox find voice enough to tell them when they ran along the ledge to try and see what Tom was swimming for. The Fox stood with glaring eyes, trying to see into the deep pool. But the pool remain unruffled and Ruth did not rise to the surface.
"Has she come up?" again shouted Tom, rising as high as he could in the water, and swimming with an overhand stroke.
There seemed nobody to answer him; they did not know what he meant. The boy shot through the water like a fish. Coming near the rock, he rose up with a sudden muscular effort, then dived deep. The green water closed over him and, when Helen and the others reached the spot where Mary Cox stood, wringing her hands and moaning, Tom had disappeared as utterly as Ruth herself.