The Boy Land Boomer/Chapter 7
OUT ON THE RIVER.
For over half an hour longer Dick tramped the streets of the city looking for some trace of his father.
Presently he found himself down by the docks along the muddy river. The stream was much swollen, and the few boats tied up were bumping freely against the shore as the current swung them in.
"I wonder if father could have come down here?" he mused. "He had a great fondness for the water when he got those strange spells."
Slowly and with eyes wide open he moved down the river shore, ready to seize upon any evidence which might present itself.
Suddenly he uttered a cry and leaped down into a rowboat lying before him.
"Father's hat! I'd know it among a thousand!"
Dick was right. There on the stern seat of the craft rested the head-covering Mortimer Arbuckle had worn ever since he had left New York.
The tears stood in the youth's eyes as he picked up the hat and inspected it. One side of the brim was covered with dirt, and it was still soaked from the rain.
"Poor father! Is it possible he fell overboard?"
Dick said "fell overboard," but he thought something else. He knew as well as anybody that his father did strange things while under the influence of the melancholy spells which at times haunted him.
He looked up and down the stream. Nothing was in sight but the boats and here and there a mass of driftwood.
He sat down on the seat and covered his face with his hands.
"Say, boy, wot yer doin in my boat?"
It was a burly fellow standing upon the shore who asked the question.
"Excuse me; I am looking for my father, who is missing. I just found his hat on the seat here. Did you see anything of him?"
"Missing, eh—an thet's his headgear? Say, boy, thet's no laughin matter," and the burly fellow looked at the youth kindly.
"I know it. I am afraid he tumbled overboard. He had times when he wasn't feeling quite right in his head."
The burly individual whistled softly to himself. "Then I reckon Sary was right, arter all," he half mused.
"Sary? Who do you mean?"
"Sary's my wife. She woke me up about five o' clock this mornin'. We live up in the shanty yonder. Sary said she heard somebody moanin' an yellin' down here. I said she wuz dreamin', but I allow now ez I might hev been mistook, eh?"
"You didn't come out to investigate?"
"No; it war too stormy. I listened, but there wuz no more of the noise arter Sary waked me up. If yer father fell overboard I'm mighty sorry fer yer. If he did go over his body must be a long way down stream by this time."
"Poor father!" It was all Dick could say. He and his parent had been alone in the wide world, and now to think that his only relative was gone was almost beyond endurance.
"Take the boat and go down if yer want to," went on the burly individual. "Ye can leave the craft at Woolley's mill. I'd go along, only the old woman's took sick an' I've got to hustle fer a doctor."
"I will take a look around in the boat," answered Dick, and, having procured the oars, he set off. The current was so strong it was not necessary to use the blades, and he had all he could do to keep the craft from spinning around and dashing itself against the shore or the other boats which lay along both banks.
On and on the rowboat sped, until about a quarter of a mile had been covered. Nothing unusual had yet been noted, yet the boy kept his eyes strained for some sign of his father, praying inwardly that all might still be well with the only one who was left to him.
"If father is dead, what shall I do?" he thought with a shiver. "He had all of our money with him, all of those precious papers, everything. I would be left a pauper, and, worse than that, without a single relative in the wide world. Oh, pray Heaven he is spared to me!"
"Look out there, youngster!"
It was a wild cry, coming from a bend in the stream. Dick had been gazing across the river. Now he turned to behold his craft rushing swiftly toward the trunk of a half-submerged tree which the storm had torn away from the shore.
The river was almost a torrent at this place.
He grasped the oars, intending to turn the boat from its mad course. But the action came too late. Crash! The craft struck a sharp branch of the tree with fearful force, staving in the bow completely, and the next instant the boy was hurled headlong into the boiling and foaming current.
"The next instant the boy was hurled headlong into
the boiling and foaming current"