LARRY DEXTER'S GREAT SEARCH
Or, The Hunt for the Missing Millionaire
HOWARD R. GARIS
Author of "From Office Boy to Reporter," "Larry Dexter, Reporter," "Dick Hamilton's Fortune," etc.
New York Grosset & Dunlap Publishers
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Books For Boys By Howard R. Garis
THE DICK HAMILTON SERIES
DICK HAMILTON'S FORTUNE Or The Stirring Doings of a Millionaire's Son
DICK HAMILTON'S CADET DAYS Or The Handicap of a Millionaire's Son
DICK HAMILTON'S STEAM YACHT Or A Young Millionaire and the Kidnappers
DICK HAMILTON'S FOOTBALL TEAM Or A Young Millionaire on the Gridiron
(Other volumes in preparation)
12 mo. Cloth. Illustrated. Price, per volume, 60 cents, postpaid
THE YOUNG REPORTER SERIES
FROM OFFICE BOY TO REPORTER Or The First Step in Journalism
LARRY DEXTER, THE YOUNG REPORTER Or Strange Adventures in a Great City
LARRY DEXTER'S GREAT SEARCH Or The Hunt for a Missing Millionaire
LARRY DEXTER AND THE BANK MYSTERY Or A Young Reporter in Wall Street
LARRY DEXTER AND THE STOLEN BOY Or A Young Reporter on the Lakes
12 mo. Cloth. Illustrated Price, per volume, 40 cents, postpaid
Grosset & Dunlap Publishers New York
* * * * * *
I hope you will be glad to read of the further adventures of Larry Dexter. He has made some progress since you first made his acquaintance in the book "From Office Boy to Reporter." He has also advanced in his chosen profession from the days when he did his first news-gathering for the Leader. In this volume he is sent on a "special assignment," as it is called. He has to find a New York millionaire who has mysteriously disappeared.
How Larry solved the strange secret, I have woven into a story that I trust will be liked by all the boys who read it. I have taken many incidents from real life for this story, using some of my own experiences while a newspaper reporter as a basis for facts.
The things that happened to Larry are not at all out of the ordinary among reporters. The life has many strange surprises in it. If I have been able to set them down in a way that will please you boys, and if you enjoy following the further fortunes of Larry Dexter, I shall feel amply repaid for my efforts on this volume.
HOWARD R. GARIS.
I. THE WRECK 1
II. ASHORE ON A RAFT 10
III. THE MAN AT THE HUT 17
IV. RESCUED FROM THE SEA 26
V. LARRY'S SCOOP 33
VI. A STRANGE DISAPPEARANCE 42
VII. LARRY OVERHEARS SOMETHING 49
VIII. AN INTERVIEW WITH SULLIVAN 57
IX. EVERYTHING BUT THE FACTS 64
X. THREATS AGAINST LARRY 73
XI. A MISSING MILLIONAIRE 81
XII. A BRAVE GIRL 88
XIII. WHERE IS HE? 94
XIV. IN THE TENEMENT HOUSE 100
XV. LARRY'S SPECIAL ASSIGNMENT 109
XVI. SULLIVAN'S QUEER ACCUSATION 118
XVII. GRACE GETS A LETTER 125
XVIII. LARRY IS BAFFLED 138
XIX. GRACE ON THE TRAIL 148
XX. LARRY GETS A SCARE 156
XXI. TRACING RETTO 167
XXII. GRACE IS SUSPICIOUS 174
XXIII. CAPTAIN TANTRELLA ARRIVES 180
XXIV. RETTO IS CAUGHT 186
XXV. IN THE HOSPITAL 192
XXVI. A NEW CLUE 200
XXVII. THE DETECTIVE'S THEORY 208
XXVIII. A TERRIBLE MISTAKE 214
XXIX. IN HIS ENEMIES' POWER 222
XXX. MR. POTTER IS FOUND—CONCLUSION 229
LARRY DEXTER'S GREAT SEARCH
Into the city room of the New York Leader hurried Mr. Whiggen, the telegraph editor. In his hand was a slip of paper, containing a few typewritten words. Mr. Whiggen laid it on the desk of Bruce Emberg, the city editor.
"Just came in over our special wire," said Mr. Whiggen. "Looks as if it might be a bad wreck. That's a dangerous coast. I thought you might like to send one of your men down to cover it."
"Thanks," replied the city editor. "I will. Let's see," and, while he read the message, a score of reporters in the room looked up to see what had caused the telegraph editor to come in with such a rush.
This is what Mr. Emberg read from the slip Mr. Whiggen handed him:
"BULLETIN.—S.S. Olivia ashore off Seven Mile Beach, on sand bar. Big steerage list, some cabin passengers—fruit cargo. Ship badly listed, but may get off at high tide. If not, liable to break up in storm. Passengers safe yet.—ASSOCIATED PRESS."
There followed a brief description of the vessel, compiled from the maritime register, giving her tonnage, size, and when built.
"Um," remarked Mr. Emberg when he had read the short message, which was what newspaper men call a "flash" or bulletin, intended to notify the journals of the barest facts of the story. "This looks as if it would amount to something. I'll send a man down. Have we any one there?"
"We've got a man in Ocean City," replied the telegraph editor, "but I'm afraid I can't reach him. Have to depend on the Associated Press until we can get some one down."
"All right, I'll send right away."
The telegraph editor went back to his sanctum on the run, for it was near first-edition time and he wanted to get a display head written for the wreck story. Mr. Emberg looked over the room, in which many reporters were at work, most of them typewriting stories as fast as their fingers could fly over the keys. Several of the news-gatherers who had heard the conversation between the two editors hoped they might be sent on that assignment, for though it meant hard work it was a chance to get out of the city for a while.
"Are you up, Newton?" asked Mr. Emberg of a reporter in the far corner of the room.
"No, I've got that political story to write yet."
"That's so. I can't spare you. How about you, Larry?"
"I'm up," was the answer, which is the newspaper man's way of saying his particular task is finished.
"Here, then, jump out on this," and the city editor handed the telegram to a tall, good-looking youth, who arose from his desk near a window.
Larry Dexter, who had risen from the rank of office boy to reporter, took in the message at a glance.
"Shall I start now?" he asked.
"As soon as you can get a train. Seven Mile Beach is down on the Jersey coast, near Anglesea. You can't get there in time to wire us anything for to-day, but rush a good story for to-morrow. If a storm comes up, and they have to rescue the passengers, it will make a corker. Don't be afraid of slinging your words if it turns out worth while. Here's an order on the cashier for some money. Hustle now," and Mr. Emberg scribbled down something on a slip of paper which he handed to the young reporter.
"Leave the message in the telegraph room as you go out," went on the city editor. "Mr. Whiggen may want it. Hustle now, Larry, and do your best."
Many envious eyes followed Larry Dexter as he hurried out of the city room, putting on his coat and hat as he went, for he had been working in his shirt sleeves.
Larry went down the long corridor, stopping in the telegraph room to leave the message which was destined to be responsible for his part in a series of strange events. He had little idea, as he left the Leader office that morning, that his assignment to get the story of the wreck was the beginning of a singular mystery.
Larry cashed the order Mr. Emberg had given him, and hurried to the railroad station. He found there was no train for an hour, and, telephoning to the city editor to that effect, received permission to go home and get some extra clothing, as he might have to stay away several days.
The young reporter rather startled his mother as he hurried in to tell her he was going out of town, but Mrs. Dexter had, in a measure, become used to her son doing all sorts of queer things since he had started in newspaper life.
"Will you be gone long, Larry?" she asked, as he kissed her good-bye, having packed a small valise.
"Can't say, mother. Probably not more than two days."
"Bring me some sea shells," begged Larry's brother, Jimmie, a bright little chap.
"And I want a lobster and a crab and a starfish," spoke Mary, a sunny-haired toddler.
"All right, and I'll bring Lucy some shells to make beads of," answered Larry, mentioning his older sister, who was not at home.
Larry found he had not much time left to catch his train, and he was obliged to hurry to the ferry which took him to Jersey City. There he boarded a Pennsylvania Railroad train, and was soon being whirled toward the coast.
Seven Mile Beach was a rather dangerous stretch of the Jersey shore, not far from Cape May. There were several lighthouses along it, but they did not always prevent vessels from running on a long sand bar, some distance out. More than one gallant ship had struck far up on it, and, being unable to get off, had been pounded to pieces by the waves.
By inquiring Larry found that the wreck of the Olivia was just off a lonely part of the coast, and that there were no railroad stations near it.
"Where had I better get off?" he asked, of the conductor.
"Well, you can get off at Sea Isle City, or Sackett's Harbor. Both stations are about five miles from where the ship lies, according to all accounts. Then you can walk."
"He can do better than that," interposed a brakeman.
"How?" asked Larry.
"There's a station, or rather what remains of it, half way between those places," the brakeman said. "It used to be called Miller's Beach. Started to be a summer resort, but it failed. There's nothing there now but a few fishermen's huts. But I guess that's nearer the wreck than Sea Isle City or Sackett's Harbor."
"Is there a place I could stay all night?" asked the young reporter.
"You might find a place. It's pretty lonesome. Sometimes, in the summer, there are campers there, but it's too late in the fall now to expect any of 'em. We'll stop there for water, and you can get off if you like."
Larry hardly knew what to do. Still he decided he was sent to get a story of the wreck, and he felt it would be well to get as near to it as possible. But there was another thing to think of, and that was how to get his news back into the Leader office. He must be near a telegraph station. Inquiry of the trainmen disclosed the fact that the nearest one was three miles from Miller's Beach.
"Guess I'll chance it," concluded Larry.
"We'll be there in an hour," went on the brakeman. "It's the jumping-off place, so to speak, and it's not going to be very pleasant there when the storm breaks."
That a heavy storm was gathering was all too evident from the mass of dark, rolling clouds in the east. They hung low, and there was a rising wind.
"I wouldn't want to be on that vessel," remarked the brakeman as the train, having stopped at a small station, started off again. "It's beginning to rain now, and it will blow great guns before morning."
Several men, their faces bronzed from exposure to the weather, had boarded the train. They talked quietly in one corner of the car.
"Who are they?" asked Larry, of the brakeman.
"Life savers, from the Anglesea station. Going to Tatums, I guess."
"Tatums is the life-saving station nearest where the vessel is ashore. Maybe they are going to help in case she breaks up in the storm. Tatums is about three miles below where you are going."
Larry began to see that he would have no easy task in getting news of the wreck, or in transmitting it after he had it. But he was not going to worry so early in the undertaking. So, when the brakeman warned him that the train was nearing the water tank, which was all that remained of interest to the railroad people at Miller's Beach, the young reporter prepared to alight.
As he went out on the platform the wind increased in violence, and then, with a rush and a roar, the rain began to fall in torrents.
Larry wished he could stay in the train, as he had no umbrella, but there was no help for it. He leaped off the platform of the car almost before it had stopped, and looked for a place of shelter. He was surprised to see several large buildings in front of him, but even through the mist of rain he noted that they were dilapidated and forsaken. He was in the midst of a deserted seaside resort.
He hurried on, being wet through before he had gone a dozen steps. Then he heard the train puffing away. It seemed as though he was left all alone in a very lonesome place.
"Hi! Where you going?" a voice hailed him.
Larry looked up, to see a man clad in yellow oilskins and rubber boots standing in front of him.
"I came down about the wreck," was the young reporter's reply.
"Got any folks aboard? If you have I'm sorry. She's broken her back!"
"No; I'm a reporter from New York. What do you mean about breaking her back?"
"Why, she ran away up on the bar at high tide. When it got low tide a while ago the bows and stern just sagged down, and she broke in two. They've got to work hard to save the passengers."
"That's a good story," was Larry's ejaculation, but it was not as heartless as it sounds, for he was only speaking professionally. "I must get down after it."
"What? With night coming on, the wreck almost half a mile out, and it coming on to blow like all possessed?" asked the man in oilskins. "Guess you don't know much about the sea, young man."
"Very little," answered Larry.
A sudden gust of wind, which dashed the rain with great force into his face, nearly carried the reporter off his feet. He looked about for a place of shelter.
"Better come with me," suggested the man. "There are no hotel accommodations here, though there once were. I have a shack down on the beach, and you're welcome to what I've got. I fish for a living. Bailey's my name. Bert Bailey."
"Go ahead. I'll follow," returned Larry. "I'd like to get out of this rain."
"Have to tog you out like me," said the old fisherman, as he led the youth toward his hut. "These are the only things for this weather."
As they hastened on there came over the water the boom of a signal gun from the wrecked steamer.
ASHORE ON A RAFT
"What's that?" asked the young reporter, pausing.
"She's firing for help," replied the fisherman. "Can't last much longer now."
"Can't the life savers do anything?"
"They'll try, as soon as they can. Hard to get a boat off in this surf. It comes up mighty fast and heavy. Have to use the breeches buoy, I reckon. But come on, and I'll lend you some dry things to put on."
Five minutes later Larry was inside the hut. It was small, consisting of only two rooms, but it was kept as neatly as though it was part of a ship.
In a small stove there was a blazing fire of driftwood, and Larry drew near to the grateful heat, for, though it was only late in September, it was much colder at the beach than in the city, and he was chilly from the drenching.
"Lucky I happened to see you," Bailey went on. "I went down to the train to get my paper. One of the brakemen throws me one off each trip. It's all the news I get. I didn't expect any one down. This used to be quite a place years ago, but it's petered out. But come on, get your wet things off, and I'll see what I can do for you."
Larry was glad enough to do so. Fortunately he had brought some extra underwear in his valise, and, after a good rub-down before the stove, he donned the garments, and then put on a pair of the fisherman's trousers and an old coat, until his own clothes could dry.
As he sat before the stove, warm and comfortable after the drenching, and safe from the storm, which was now raging with increased fury outside, Larry heard the deep booming of the signal guns coming to him from across the angry sea.
"Are they in any danger?" he asked of Bailey, as the fisherman prepared to get a meal.
"Danger? There's always danger on the sea, my boy. I wouldn't want to be on that vessel, and I've been in some pretty tight places and gotten out again. She went ashore in a fog early this morning, but it will be a good while before she gets off. Seven Mile Beach hates to let go of a thing once it gets a hold."
It was getting dusk, and what little light of the fading day was left was obscured by the masses of storm clouds. The fisherman's hut was on the beach, not far from the high-water mark, and the booming of the surf on the shore came as a sort of melancholy accompaniment to the firing of the signal gun.
"Where is the wreck?" asked Larry, going to a window that looked out on the sea.
"Notice that black speck, right in line with my boat on the beach?" asked Bailey, pointing with a stubby forefinger over the young reporter's shoulder.
"That thing that looks like a seagull?"
"That's her. You can't see it very well on account of the rain, but there she lies, going to pieces fast, I'm afraid."
"Why didn't they get the people off before this?"
"Captain wouldn't accept help. Thought the vessel would float off and he'd save his reputation. The life savers went out when it was fairly calm, but didn't take anyone ashore. Now it's too late, I reckon."
As the fisherman spoke a rocket cleaved the fast-gathering blackness and shot up into the air.
"What's that?" asked Larry.
"She's firing signal lights. Wait and you'll see the coast-guard send up one in reply."
Presently a blue glare, up the beach not far from the cottage, shone amid the storm and darkness.
"That's George Tucker, burning a Coston light," explained Bailey. "He patrols this part of the beach to-night. They may try the boat again, but it's a risk."
There was an exchange of colored lights between the beach patrol and those on the steamer. Larry watched them curiously. He tried to picture the distress of those aboard the ship, waiting for help from shore; help that was to save them from the hungry waves all about.
"I wonder how I'm going to get news of this to the paper," Larry asked himself. He was beginning to feel quite worried, for he realized a great tragedy might happen at any moment, and he knew the Leader must have an account of it early the next morning, for it was an afternoon paper. The managing editor would probably order an extra.
"Couldn't I go down to the life-saving station?" asked Larry. "Maybe I could go out in a boat and get some news."
"They wouldn't let you, and, if they would, you couldn't send any news up to your paper from here to-night," replied the fisherman. "The nearest telegraph office is closed. Better stay here until morning. Then you can do something. I'll fix you up with oilskins after supper, if you like, and we'll go out on the beach. But I don't believe they'll launch the life-boat to-night."
The storm had now settled down into a fierce, steady wind and dashing rain. It fairly shook the little hut, and the stove roared with the draught created. Bailey soon had a hot meal ready, and Larry did full justice to it.
"Now we'll go out on the beach," the fisherman said, as he donned his oilskins, and got out a suit for Larry. The youth looked like anything but a reporter when he put on the boots and tied the yellow hat under his chin, for otherwise the wind would have whipped it off in an instant.
They closed up the hut, leaving a lantern burning in it, and started down toward the ocean. Through the darkness Larry could see a line of foam where the breakers struck the beach. They ran hissing over the pebbles and broken shells, and then surged back again. As the two walked along, a figure, carrying a lantern and clad as they were, in yellow oilskins, loomed up in the darkness.
"Hello, George!" cried Bailey, above the roar of the wind. "Going to get the boat out?"
"Not to-night. I signalled down to the station, but they flashed back that the surf was too high. We'll try the buoy in the morning, if the ship lasts that long, which I'm afraid she won't, for she's being pounded hard."
"The station where they keep the life-boat is about two miles below where we are now," Bailey explained to Larry. "We'll go down in the morning."
Suddenly a series of lights shot into the air from out at sea.
"What's that?" cried Larry.
"It's a signal that she's going to pieces fast!" cried the coast-guard. "Maybe we'll have to try the breeches buoy to-night. I must go to the station. They may need my help."
As the beach patrol hurried up the sandy stretch, Larry had half a notion to follow him. He wanted to see the operation of setting up the breeches buoy in order to make a good story, with plenty of details. He was about to propose to the fisherman that they go, when Bailey, who had gone down to the water's edge, uttered a cry.
"What is it?" called the reporter, hastening to the side of the old man.
"Looks like a life-raft from the steamer!" exclaimed Bailey. "She must have broken up. Maybe there's some one on this. Give me a hand. We'll try to haul it ashore when the next high wave sends it up on the beach."
Larry strained his eyes for a sight of the object. He could just discern something white, rising and falling on the tumultuous billows.
"Come on!" cried Bailey, rushing down into the first line of surf, as a big roller lifted the object and flung it onward. "Grab it and pull!"
Larry sprang down the sand. He waded out into the water, surprised to find how strong it was even in the shallow place. He made a grab for the dim white object. His hands grasped a rope. At the same time the fisherman got hold of another rope.
"Pull!" cried Bailey, and Larry bent his back in an effort to snatch the raft from the grip of the sea.
At first the waves shoved the raft toward them, then, as the waters receded, the current sucked it out again. But the fisherman was strong and Larry was no weakling. They hauled until they had the raft out of reach of the rollers. Then, while there came a wilder burst of the storm, and a dash of spray from the waves, Bailey leaned over the raft.
"There's a man lashed to it!" the fisherman cried. "We must get him to my shack and try to save him! Hurry now!"
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 role 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!"
RESCUED FROM THE SEA
Larry paused only long enough to don his oilskins, as it was still raining hard. The coffee was made, but he did not wait for any, though he wanted it very much. But he knew he ought to be on the spot to see all the details of the rescue from the sea, and it was not the first time he, like many other reporters, had gone on duty, and remained so for long stretches, without a meal.
Bailey was some distance down the beach. He had on his yellow suit, which he had donned to go out to the woodshed, some distance from his hut. Larry caught up to him. He was about to speak of the man at the hut when the fisherman cried:
"Something's wrong! They're coming up this way with the apparatus! Must be they couldn't find a good place down there to rig the breeches buoy."
Larry looked down the beach. He saw through the rain and mist a crowd of yellow-suited figures approaching, dragging something along the sand. He looked out to sea and beheld the blotch that represented the doomed vessel. All thought of the man at the hut was, for the time, driven out of his mind.
On came the life savers. They halted about a mile from the hut, and Larry and Bailey ran to join them.
"Did you save any?" called the fisherman to Captain Needam, who was busy directing the rescue.
"Got some in the life-boat early this morning," was the answer. "They took 'em to the lower station. We couldn't get back with the boat. All ready now, men. Dig a hole for the anchor, Nate. Sam, you help plant the mortar. Have to allow a good bit for the wind. My! but she's blowin' great guns and little pistols!"
Larry had his first sight of a rescue by means of the breeches buoy. The apparatus, including a small cannon or mortar, had been brought from the life-saving station on a wagon, pulled by the men along the beach. The first act was to dig a deep hole in the sand, some distance back from the surf. This was to hold the anchor, to which was attached the shore end of the heavy rope, on which, presently, persons from the wreck might be hauled ashore.
Once the anchor was in the hole, and covered with sand, firmly packed down, arrangements were made to get a line to the vessel.
"Put in a heavy charge!" cried Captain Needam. "We'll need lots of powder to get the shot aboard in the teeth of this wind!"
Several men grouped about the brass cannon and rapidly loaded the weapon. Then, instead of a cannon ball, they put in a long, solid piece of iron, shaped like the modern shell, with a pointed nose. To this projectile was attached a long, thin, but very strong line.
"Are they going to fire that at the ship?" asked Larry, who was not very familiar with nautical matters.
"They hope to have it land right on deck, or carry the line over," said Bailey, who paused in his work of helping the men to lay out from the wagon parts of the apparatus.
Larry watched intently. Now and then he gazed out to the ship, a speck of black amid white foam, for the seas were breaking over her.
At the side of the cannon was a box, containing the line, one end of which was fastened to the projectile. The rope was coiled in a peculiar cris-cross manner, to prevent it being tangled as it paid rapidly out when the shot was fired.
"All ready?" called Captain Needam, as he looked at his men.
"Ready, sir," answered George Tucker.
"Put in the primer!" ordered the chief of the life savers. One of the men inserted a percussion fuse in the touchhole of the mortar. The captain grasped a lanyard. The men all stood at attention, waiting to see the effect of the shot.
Captain Needam sighted over the muzzle of the cannon. It was pointed so as to clear the stern of the ship, but this was necessary, as the high wind would carry the projectile to one side.
The arm of the captain stiffened. The lanyard tauted. There was a spark at the breach of the mortar, a sharp crackle as the primer ignited, and then a dull boom as the charge was fired. Through the mist of rain Larry saw a black object shooting out toward the ship. After it trailed the long thin line, like a tail to a kite.
It was scarcely a moment later that there sounded a gun from the ship.
"Good!" cried Captain Needam. "The shot went true!"
"That was the ship signalling that they had the line," explained Bailey, shouting the words in Larry's ear.
From the shore to the ship there now stretched out a long thin rope. Larry had no time to wonder what would happen next.
"Bend on the cable!" cried the captain, and the men quickly attached a thick rope to the line which the cannon-shot had carried aboard the Olivia. This soon began to pay out, as it was hauled in by those on the wrecked vessel. In a short time the heavy cable was all out, and securely fastened to the ship, high enough up so as to clear the rail. Directions how to do this were printed on a board which was hauled in with the rope, and, lest those on a doomed ship might not understand English, the instructions were given in several languages.
"They have it fast! Rig up the shears!" cried the captain.
Once more his men were busy. They set up on the sand two stout wooden pieces, exactly like, a pair of enormous shears. The longer parts, corresponding to the blades, were nearest the ground, while what answered for the handles were several feet in the air, opened in "V" shape.
Through this "V" the heavy cable was passed, the one end being fast to the anchor buried in the sand, and the other being attached to the ship. By moving the shears nearer to the anchor the cable was tightened until it hung taut from shore to ship, a slender bridge on which to save life.
The breeches buoy, a canvas arrangement, shaped like a short pair of trousers, and attached to a frame which ran back and forth on the cable by means of pulleys, had been adjusted. To it were fastened ropes, one being retained by the life savers and one by those on the ship. All was in readiness.
The breeches buoy was now pulled toward the ship, by those aboard hauling on the proper line. It moved along, sliding on the heavy cable, the angry waves below seeming to try to leap up and engulf it, in revenge for being cheated of their prey.
"Look sharp now, men!" cried the captain. "Get ready to take care of the poor souls as they come ashore."
The storm still kept up, and the waves were so high that a second attempt to save some by means of the life-boat, even launching it in the protected cove, had to be given up. But the breeches buoy could be depended on.
A signal from the ship told those on shore that the buoy was loaded with a passenger, and ready to be hauled back. Willing hands pulled on the rope. On it came through the driving rain; on it came above the waves, though not so high but what the spray from the crests wet the rescued one.
"It's a woman!" cried the captain, as he caught sight of the person in the buoy.
"And a baby! Bless my soul!" added Bailey. "She's got a baby in her arms!"
And so it proved; for, wrapped in a shawl, which was tied over her shoulders, so as to keep the water from the tiny form, was an infant clasped tightly to its mother's breast.
"Take her to the station!" cried the captain, as he helped the woman to get out of the canvas holder in which she had ridden safely to shore. "My wife will look after her. Now for the rest, men. There's lots of 'em, and the ship can't last much longer! Lively, men. Every minute means a life!"
"I'll take her to the station!" volunteered Larry, for there was nothing he could do to help now, and he thought he could get a good story of the wreck from the first person rescued.
"Go ahead!" exclaimed the life savers' captain.
The woman, in spite of her terrible experience, had not fainted. Still clasping her baby, she moved through the crowd of men, who cheered her as they set to work again.
"Come with me," said Larry. "We will take care of you!"
"Oh, it is so good to be on land again!" the woman cried. "I am not a coward—but oh, the cruel waves!" and she shuddered.
"Are there many women aboard?" asked Larry, as he moved off through the rain toward the life-saving station with the rescued passenger.
"I was the only one," was the answer the woman made, in a pronounced Italian accent. "I am the purser's wife. They made me come first. Me and the baby," and she put her lips down and kissed the little face nestled in the folds of the shawl.
"The purser's wife!" exclaimed Larry. "Perhaps your husband will bring the passenger list with him. I would like to get it. I am a newspaper reporter," he added.
The woman, with a rapid movement, held out a bundle of papers to him.
"What are they?" Larry asked.
"The list of passengers! You reporters! I have heard of you in my country, but they do not such things as this! Go to wrecks to meet the passengers when they come ashore! You are very brave!"
"I think you were brave to come first across the waves," replied Larry. "The rope might break."
"I had my baby," was the answer, as if that explained it all.
"Do you think your husband would let me telegraph these names to my paper?" asked Larry.
"He gave them to me to bring ashore, in case—in case the ship did not last," the purser's wife said, with a catch in her voice. "You may use them, I say so. I will make it right."
This was just what Larry wanted. The hardest things to get in an accident or a wreck are the names of the saved, or the dead and injured. Chance had placed in Larry's hands just what he wanted.
He hurried on with the woman, who told him her name was Mrs. Angelino. He did not question her further, as he felt she must be suffering from the strain she had undergone. In a short time they were safe at the station, and there Mrs. Needam provided warm and dry garments for mother and child, and gave Mrs. Angelino hot drinks.
"Ah, there is my reporter!" exclaimed the purser's wife, when she was warm and comfortable, as she saw Larry busy scanning the list of passengers. "He came quick to the wreck!"
"Can you lend me some paper?" Larry asked Mrs. Needam.
"I want to write an account of the rescue and copy these names. I must hurry to the telegraph office. I left my paper in the fisherman's hut."
"I'll get you some," said Captain Needam's wife, and soon Larry was writing a short but vivid story of what had taken place, including a description of the storm, and the saving of the only woman on board, with her baby, by means of the breeches buoy. Then he copied the list of names.
"There's something I almost forgot," said Larry when he had about finished. "There's that passenger who came ashore on the life-raft. I wonder who he was? I'll ask Mrs. Angelino."
But she did not know. She was not aware that any one had come ashore on a raft, for, in the confusion of the breaking up of the ship in the storm, she thought only of her husband, her baby and herself.
"I can find out later," Larry thought.
He gave the list back to Mrs. Angelino, and then, with a good preliminary story of the wreck, having obtained many facts from the purser's wife, Larry set out through the storm for the nearest telegraph station.
"Don't you want some hot coffee before you go?" asked Mrs. Needam. "I've got lots—ready for the poor souls that'll soon be here."
Larry did want some. He was conscious of a woeful lack of something in his stomach, and the coffee braced him up in a way he very much needed.
It was quite a distance from the life-saving station to the nearest telegraph office, but Larry knew he must make it if he wanted an account of the wreck to get to his paper in time for the edition that day. So he set off for a tiresome trudge over the wet sand. As he was leaving, several men, who had been brought ashore from the ship, came to the station. From them Larry learned that part of the ship was likely to last until all the passengers and crew could be saved. He then resolved to telegraph the story of the saving of all, knowing he could make corrections by an additional message later in case, by some accident, any lives were lost.
To get to the telegraph office Larry had to go back to a point nearly opposite where the life savers were working, and then strike inland. As he was hurrying along he came to a little hummock of sand, from which elevation he could look down on the beach and see the crowd gathered about the breeches buoy. Out on the bar he could make out the wrecked vessel. As he stood there a moment he saw some one detach himself from the crowd and hurry across the intervening beach.
"That figure looks familiar," thought Larry. "I wonder if that's Bailey the fisherman?"
He waited a few minutes, and the figure became more distinct.
"It's Peter Manton!" cried Larry. "He's been sent down here to report the wreck! I wonder what paper he's on? But I guess I haven't any time to stand here wondering. I've got to beat him to the telegraph office if I want to get a scoop, though he can't have been on hand long enough to get much of an account."
Still Larry knew that even a brief and poor account of anything, if it got in first, was enough to discount or "take the edge off" a better story told later, and he made up his mind he would "scoop" Peter, his old enemy.
The representative of the Leader hurried on. Peter caught sight of Larry, and recognized him in spite of his oilskins. Peter wore a rain-coat, which was wet through.
"Hold on, Larry!" he cried. "I'm on the Scorcher again. What have you got?"
It was the newspaper man's way of asking his brother-of-the-pencil for such information as he possessed. But though, as a general thing, when several reporters are on a general story, they interchange common news, Larry was in no mind to share what he had with Peter. His paper had gone to the trouble to send him down in good season, a piece of forethought which the other journals' editors had neglected. Therefor Larry felt that he was not violating the common practice (though it is against the strict office rules) if he ignored Peter.
"Haven't time!" he called back.
"Wait a minute!" cried the rival reporter. "I just came down on the first train, and I walked about five miles to find the wreck. I'm going to the telegraph office to send my account in for an extra. We'll whack up on it."
"We'll do nothing of the sort!" exclaimed Larry. "I don't want anything to do with you." He had never forgiven Peter for his part in the kidnapping of Jimmie.
"Needn't get huffy about it," remarked Peter. "I want to be friendly."
Larry thought it was hardly Peter's place to offer to be "friendly" after the mean part he had played.
"I haven't time to stop now," said Larry. "I'm in a hurry. You'll have to get along the best you can."
"So that's how you feel, eh?" asked the rival reporter. "Not very white of you, Larry Dexter. I've only just got back my job on the Scorcher after they laid me off for getting beaten, and I've got to make good. But never mind. The beach is free, and I've got as good a right to the telegraph office as you have. I'd like to see you beat me."
Larry himself did not just see how he would, but he made up his mind to attempt it. Peter was now keeping pace with him. There was nothing for it but to hurry on. Whoever reached the office first and "filed his copy" would have the right to the wire. Larry resolved that he would win in the race, even as he had won in the other, at the big flood, but he knew there was time enough yet. If he started to run Peter would run also, and the way was too long for a fast sprint.
The two kept on, side by side, neither speaking. The only sound was the patter of the rain, and the rustle and rattle of Larry's oilskin suit.
They passed through the deserted summer resort. It was about a mile now to the telegraph office. Larry recalled that Bailey had told him there was a short cut by keeping to the railroad track, and he turned into that highway, followed by Peter, who, it seemed, had resolved not to lose sight of his rival.
It was now about nine o'clock, though his activity since early morning made it seem much later to Larry. He knew he had a good story safe in his pocket, and he was pretty sure Peter had only a garbled account, for he could not have gotten the facts so quickly. Nor did he, Larry was sure, have the passenger list, which was the best part of the story.
On and on the two rivals trudged silently. They must be near the office now, Larry thought, and he looked ahead through the rain. They were in the midst of a little settlement of fishermen's houses—a small village—but it was nearly deserted, as most of the inhabitants had gone to the wreck. Larry saw a building on which was a sign informing those who cared to know that it contained a store, the post-office and a place whence telegrams might be sent and received. Peter saw it at the same instant.
"Here's where I beat you!" he cried as he sprang forward on the run.
Larry tried to follow, but his legs became entangled in the oilskin coat and he fell. He was up again in an instant, only to see Peter entering the office. Larry's heart seemed like lead. Had he worked so hard only to be beaten at the last?
Something spurred him on. He stumbled into the office in time to hear Peter saying:
"I want to hold a wire for a long despatch to the New York Scorcher. I've got a big account of the wreck."
"Where's your copy?" asked the young man in charge of the clicking instruments.
"I'll have it ready for you in a minute," replied Peter, sitting down to a table, and beginning to dash off words and sentences as fast as his pencil could fly.
"I can't hold any wire for you," said the operator. "If you have any press stuff to file let me have it. That's the only way you can keep a wire."
"I'll have it for you in a second," Peter replied as he looked anxiously at the door.
"That will not answer. I must have copy in order to keep the wire busy."
"Here it is!" cried Larry, as he entered at that moment and pulled from his pocket his hastily written account of the wreck, including the list of passengers. "I'll be obliged to you if you can get this off to the New York Leader as soon as possible."
"I was here first!" angrily cried Peter.
"But I have his copy first," the operator said. "It is the filing of the despatch first that counts, not who gets here first. I'll get this off right away for you," he added, turning to Larry.
And thus it was that Larry got his scoop, for his account took so long to telegraph that, when the operator began on Peter's, the Leader had the story in the office, and was preparing to get out an extra.
A STRANGE DISAPPEARANCE
Remaining only long enough to see that the operator got off the first part of his story, and finding, on inquiry, that the telegrapher had no difficulty in reading his writing, Larry started back to the scene of the wreck. He wanted to learn if all the passengers and crew were saved, and get an interview with the captain, if he could.
So he left his old enemy, Peter, there grinding out his story in no pleasant frame of mind. But it was part of the game, and Larry's "beat" was a cleanly-scored one, especially as Peter had tried to win by a trick.
The young reporter found the work of rescue almost completed. The life savers had labored to good advantage and had brought nearly all the passengers ashore in the breeches buoy. They were cared for temporarily at the beach station, though the small quarters were hardly adequate.
With the bringing ashore of the crew and officers, the captain coming last, the life savers found their work finished. And it was only just in time, for, not more than an hour after the commander had staggered up the beach, worn and exhausted by the strain and exposure, the after part of the vessel slid from the bar and sank in deep water.
Larry, who had been introduced to Captain Needam by Bailey, told the former of his desire for an interview with the commander of the Olivia, and the matter was soon arranged, though Captain Tantrella was in dire distress over the loss of his ship.
However, he told Larry what the reporter wished to know, describing how, in the fog, the vessel had run on the sand bar. He related some of the scenes during their wait to be rescued, told of the high seas and terrible winds, and painted a vivid picture of the dangers. Larry wrote it in his best style and hurried back to the telegraph office.
There was only one passenger missing, and the name of this one, according to the purser's list, was Mah Retto. The name, though peculiar, Larry thought, was not dissimilar to scores of others, for the steamer had on board a cosmopolitan lot of passengers. No one knew how Retto had been lost.
As Larry was on his way to the telegraph office a sudden thought came to him.
"That's it!" he exclaimed. "The man who came ashore on the life-raft is this missing Mah Retto. I'll just stop on my way to the telegraph office and see him. That will clear it all up, and make every passenger accounted for."
He hurried on, intending to get a hasty interview with the man at Bailey's hut, and then go telegraph the rest of his story. The fisherman was still down on the beach, aiding the life savers to pack their apparatus for transportation back to the station. As Larry came in sight of the cabin he saw the raft, on which the stranger had come ashore, lying just beyond high-water mark.
He entered the hut, expecting to see Retto, as he had come to call the foreigner, sitting comfortably by the fire. But the rescued man was not there. Nor was he in the room where he had been put to bed.
"Maybe he's in the woodshed," thought Larry. "I'll take a look."
But he was not there.
"That's strange," Larry mused. "He's disappeared. There is something queer in this, and I'm going to find it out. But first I must send the rest of my story."
Larry found Peter Manton still at the telegraph office grinding away. Larry's first batch of copy had been sent off, as had most of Peter's stuff. As the representative of the Scorcher handed in the last of his copy he turned to Larry and said, sneeringly:
"I'll bet I've got a better story than you have."
"Perhaps," was all Larry replied. Then, as Peter went back to the wreck for more information, Larry wrote, as an addition to his story, the interview with the captain, finishing with an account of the missing Mah Retto. He told also of the man who came ashore on the raft, and who was believed to be the passenger who was unaccounted for.
"That's a good day's work done," remarked the young reporter, as he signed his name to the last sheet of copy. "I wonder if they want me to stay here?"
He wrote a brief message asking Mr. Emberg for instructions. Telling the operator he would call in about two hours for an answer, Larry decided he would get some breakfast.
As there was no restaurant in the little hamlet, he thought the best plan would be to go back to the fisherman's cabin. He wanted to talk with Bailey about the disappearance of the man they had rescued from the raft.
The fisherman was at the hut when Larry arrived, and was busy preparing a meal.
"Guess you feel like eating something, don't ye?" he asked.
"You guessed it right the first time," replied the young reporter, with a grin.
"And my other company," went on Bailey. "I expect he's hungry."
"Yes; I came back here a while ago and there wasn't a sign of him."
"Why, that's queer," returned the fisherman. "I've been so busy frying this bacon and making fresh coffee I didn't notice it. But that reminds me, I haven't seen or heard anything of him since I came in. His clothes are gone, too."
Larry and Bailey made a hasty search through the cabin. There were few places where a person could conceal himself, and they very soon found that their late guest was nowhere on the premises.
"Here's something," remarked Larry, as he looked on a small table in the room where the rescued man had slept. "It looks like a note."
It was a note, written on the fly leaf torn from a book. It read:
"Dear friends. Accept my thanks for saving my life. Please take this small remembrance for your trouble."
There was no signature to the note, but folded in the paper was a hundred-dollar bill, somewhat damp from immersion in the sea.
"Well, sink my cuttle-fish!" exclaimed Bailey. "That's odd. A hundred dollars! That's more than I make in a summer season. But half of it's yours. I'd like to rescue people steady at that rate."
"It's all yours," said Larry. "I got the story I came down after, and that's all I want. But I would like to find this Mah Retto, if that's his name. He doesn't write much like a foreigner, though he looks like one. May I keep this note?"
"As long as you don't want a share in the hundred-dollar one, I reckon you can," Bailey replied, with a laugh.
Larry folded the scrap of paper to put in his pocket. As he did so something bright and shining on the floor attracted his attention. He stooped to pick it up, finding it was a small gold coin, of curious design, evidently used as a watch charm.
"I guess our man dropped this," Larry said, holding it out to Bailey.
"Well, you can keep that, with the note. Perhaps it will help you solve the mystery," the fisherman said. "I'm satisfied with what I got."
Larry put the charm in his pocket, together with the note, and was about to leave the room, when the fisherman, who was lifting from the corner a box, in which to deposit his money, uttered an exclamation.
"What is it?" asked Larry.
"Why, it's a man's beard. Somebody's shaved his off and left it here. How in the name of a soft-shell clam——"
"It's that man!" cried Larry. "I knew he had a beard on when we pulled him ashore!"
"A beard on?" murmured Bailey, in questioning tones.
"Yes," went on Larry. "When you were outside, getting some wood, just before you ran down the beach when the life savers came, I was in here. The man stuck his head from the bed-room and asked for his clothes, which I gave him. I noticed he was smooth shaven——"
"Why, he had a beard on when we pulled him from the water," interrupted the fisherman.
"I was sure he did, but when I asked him why he had shaved it off he said I was mistaken—said it was only a bunch of seaweed I had thought was a beard. Then you called me to hurry out, and I forgot all about it until now. But he must have shaved his whiskers off in here, and then he disappeared. There's something strange about it all."
"I rather guess there is," Bailey admitted. "Wonder where he got his razor? I never use one."
"He must have had it in that small valise he wore, strapped by a belt, around his waist," Larry answered. "That's probably where he carried his money. I'd like to get at the bottom of this mystery."
"Well, you newspaper fellows are looking for just such things as this," said the fisherman with a smile. "It's right in your line."
"So it is," Larry replied. "I'll solve it, too."
But it was some time later, and Larry had many strange adventures before he got at the bottom of the queer secret that started down there on the lonely sea coast.
LARRY OVERHEARS SOMETHING
Larry decided that the disappearance of the fisherman's guest was not a part of the story of the wreck, though the fact that the passenger was missing was an item of much interest, and he used it. He made up his mind to tell Mr. Emberg all about the strange happening when he got back.
Arriving at the telegraph office for the third time, he found a message from the city editor, instructing him to come back to New York, as the best of the story was now in, and the Associated Press would attend to the remainder. Some of the representatives of that news-gathering organization were already at the scene of the disaster.
"Your friend got a calling down," volunteered the operator to Larry, as the young reporter began looking up trains to see when he could get back.
"He got a message from his city editor a while ago, wanting to know why he hadn't secured a list of passengers and the crew. The message said the Leader had it, and had beaten all the other papers."
"That's good," spoke Larry. "I worked hard enough for it."
"The Scorcher man wanted me to give him your list, but I wouldn't do it," the operator went on. "So he's gone out to get one of his own. But he's too late, I reckon. I'll have my hands full pretty soon, for there'll be a lot of reporters here. But you're the first to send off the complete story."
Larry felt much elated. Of course he knew it was due, in part, to the forethought of his city editor in seeing a possible situation, and rushing a man to the scene ahead of the other papers. That counts for almost as much in journalism as does getting a good story or a "scoop."
Larry received hearty congratulations from Mr. Emberg when he got back to the Leader office the next day, for, not only had the young reporter secured a fine "scoop," but he had sent in an exceptionally good story of the wreck.
"Larry, you did better than I thought you would. You've got the right stuff in you!" exclaimed the city editor, while the other reporters, crowding around the hero of the occasion, expressed, their pleasure at his success. Not one of them but would have given much to have been in Larry's place.
"Have much trouble?" asked Mr. Newton.
"Well, I had to hustle. Struck something rather queer down there, too."
"What was it? Some of the men from other papers try to get the best of you?"
"Only my old enemy, Peter Manton, but I put a crimp in him all right. No, this was something else." And Larry told of the disappearance of the man at the hut.
"That is rather odd," agreed the older reporter. "If I were you I'd tell Mr. Emberg about it, and then you'll be in a position to act on what information you have, in case anything turns up."
Larry followed this advice. The city editor puzzled over the matter a few minutes, and then decided nothing could be done at present.
"We'll watch developments in regard to the Olivia wreck," said Mr. Emberg, "and it may be this mystery will fit in somewhere. If it does we may get a good story."
But neither Larry nor the city editor realized in what a strange manner the mystery was to develop.
It was the beginning of the newspaper day in the Leader office. Reporters were busy writing accounts of meetings they had covered the previous night, and others were going out on assignments to police courts, to look up robberies, murders, suicides, and the hundred and one things that go to make up the news of the day.
"How would you like to try your hand at politics?" asked Mr. Emberg of Larry, when they had finished their talk about the man at the hut. "I haven't given you much chance at anything in that line, but if you're going to be an all-'round newspaper man you'll have a lot to do with politics."
"I think I'd like it," replied Larry.
Certainly this life was one of variety, one day at the wild scene of a rescue from a wreck, and the next peacefully sent to talk to some political leader.
"I want you to go up and have a talk with Jack Sullivan, the leader of one of the Assembly districts," went on Mr. Emberg. "You've probably read of the trouble in that district. Thomas Kilburn is a new aspirant for the Assembly and he's fighting against the re-nomination of William Reilly. Now Jack Sullivan is the leader of that district, and whoever he decides to support will be elected. That's the way politics are run in New York.
"It would be quite an item of news if we could find out whom Sullivan is going to support. So far he has played foxy and no one knows, not even the candidates themselves, I believe, though I have an idea that Sullivan will swing to Reilly."
"How did Kilburn come to be in the race?" asked Larry.
"That's what we newspaper editors would like to know, and it's what you reporters have to find out for us. There's something back of it all. Sullivan wants something he thinks either Kilburn or Reilly can give him, and that's why he's holding back. He'll give his support to the man who, after he's elected, can give him what he wants. Now if you could discover whom Sullivan is going to support, and why, it would make a corking story."
"I'll try," said Larry, a little doubtful of his ability.
"It isn't at all like going down to a wreck and seeing persons rescued," went on Mr. Emberg. "You've got to nose out your news this time. A number of reporters have tried to pump Sullivan, but he won't give up. Go and try your luck. You'll find him in the district headquarters," and he gave Larry the address.
"Where you going?" asked Mr. Newton, as he passed Larry in the corridor.
"To interview Sullivan."
Mr. Newton whistled.
"I don't envy you," he said. "I'm afraid you'll fall down this time, Larry" ("falling-down" being a newspaper man's term for failure). "We've all tried him, but he's as cute as an old fox. He'll be nice and polite, but he'll not give you a decided answer, one way or the other."
"I've got to try," was Larry's reply.
Larry had one advantage on his side. He was a new reporter in the political field. That was one reason why Mr. Emberg sent him. Nearly all the other available men on the Leader were well known to the politicians, they were familiar with them, and, as soon as they saw these reporters, the politicians were on their guard.
Larry, never before having talked with Sullivan and his friends, might take them off their guard, and they might let fall something that would make news, the city editor thought. It was a slim chance, but newspaper editors are accustomed to taking such.
When Larry entered the headquarters of Sullivan, which were located in the rear of a large dance hall, he found the place well filled with men, though it was the middle of the forenoon, when most persons would have been at work. But the men were politicians of more or less power, and had plenty of spare time. Besides this was really their work, though it did not look like very strenuous labor, for most of them were standing in little groups, talking and smoking, or sitting in chairs tilted back against the wall.
Here was where Larry's newness gave him an advantage. No one in the room knew him to be a reporter, or he would have been greeted by some of the men as soon as he entered, called by name, and thus all the others would have been put on their guard.
Larry sauntered into the big room as though he belonged there. He hardly knew what to do, but he decided to look about for a few minutes and size up the situation. No one paid any attention to him, and he felt it would be a good plan to see if he could pick Sullivan out from among the throng.
With this end in view Larry walked from one end of the room to the other. He did not know that the man he sought was in his private office, closeted with some of his henchmen. As Larry passed one group he heard one man in it say:
"Well, Sullivan's made up his mind at last."
"He has, eh?" asked another. "Who is it?"
Larry was all attention at once. This seemed to be the very thing he had been sent to find out.
"Don't let it get out," went on the man who had first spoken, "but I understand Tommy has got to wait a while yet."
"Then Billy can probably deliver the goods," the second man added. "I thought he could. Well, it means a good thing for the district when they build the new line. If only Potter doesn't go back on his promise. He's so rich you can't touch him with money, and he's as foxy as they make 'em. If Billy can work him I don't blame Sullivan for swinging his way. Now——"
But at that moment one of the men turned and saw Larry. He at once knew him for a stranger, and quickly inquired:
"What do you want, young man?"
"I want to see Mr. Sullivan."
Larry didn't announce himself as a reporter, for that, he felt, would have brought him only a polite refusal, on Sullivan's part, to receive him.
"What for?" went on the man.
"I have a message for him," Larry said.
"You can tell me, I'll see that he gets it."
"It is for him personally," Larry said, for a bold plan had come into his mind and he determined to try it.
AN INTERVIEW WITH SULLIVAN
For a moment the man who had questioned Larry stood gazing at him. Suspicion was in the look, but the reporter never quailed. He was playing a bold game and he was running a risk, but he was not going to give up so soon.
"What's your name?" the man asked him.
That conveyed nothing to his questioner, for Larry had not been long enough on the Leader to become known in the field of politics. There were some men in the newspaper business with whom the politicians were so familiar that they sent for them whenever they had any news they were desirous of making public. But Larry was not yet one of these.
"Sam, tell Mr. Sullivan a young man wants to see him personally," went on the man who had interrogated Larry. "You can take a seat over there," he added, pointing to some chairs farthest removed from the group of which he was a member.
As Larry moved away he heard one of the men remark:
"Wonder if he's a newspaper man?"
"I don't believe so," replied another. "I've never seen him before and I know most of the reporters in New York. None of the editors would send a new man to interview Sullivan. He's too tough a bird for a greenhorn to tackle. I guess he's a messenger from some broker's office. Maybe Potter sent him."
"I wonder who this Potter is, and what all that talk meant?" Larry thought to himself as he took a chair, and watched the messenger enter a small room at the end of the big apartment.
In a little while Sam, who appeared to be a sort of janitor around the place, came back to inform Larry that Sullivan would see him.
"Now for my game of bluff," said the young reporter to himself as he entered.
The political leader was sitting behind a desk, littered with papers. He was a small man, wearing glasses, and looking like anything but the chief factor of an important Assembly district. Mr. Sullivan was bald-headed, and had rather a pleasant face, but there was a look about him that indicated force of character, of a certain kind, and a determination to succeed in what he undertook, which is what makes a good politician.
"You wanted to see me?" and the question came in a low voice, totally unlike the loud tones Larry had, somehow, associated with an important politician.
Larry felt the eyes of Sullivan gazing sharply at him, as though they were sizing him up, labeling him, and placing him on a certain shelf to be kept there until wanted. Sullivan was a good reader of character, as he showed by his next question.
"What paper are you from?"
Larry started. He wondered how the man knew he was from a paper, for Larry had said nothing about it. Seeing his confusion Sullivan laughed.
"Wondering how I took your measure, aren't you?" he asked, and when Larry nodded he went on: "You have the air of a newspaper man, which you may consider flattering, as you have acquired it after having been in the game only a short time. I assume that because it's my business to know most of the reporters in this city, and I never saw you before. If you didn't look like a newspaper man I'd size you up for one, because only a reporter, or some of my political friends, would come here to see me. You're not the one, so you must be the other. Now what do you want?" and the politician's voice became rather sharp.
"I came here to find out if it's true that you're going to support Reilly because he can deliver the goods from Mr. Potter," Larry explained, resolving to chance all at once.
Sullivan started, and half arose from his chair. Then he seemed to recover himself.
"Some one's been talking!" he murmured, and, glancing quickly at Larry, he asked:
"Who is Mr. Potter? I'm afraid I don't understand you."
"He's the financier interested in the new line," went on Larry, boldly. "It's going to be a good thing for the district, I understand. Come now, Mr. Sullivan," he went on, assuming a familiar air he did not feel, "you might as well own up and give me an interview about deciding to support Reilly."
For several seconds the leader gazed at Larry, as if seeking to read his inmost thoughts. Then he spoke:
"You either know too much or too little, Dexter. I guess you're an older hand at this business than I took you for. Tell me what you know."
"You tell me what I want to know," Larry said with a smile. "You probably know all that I do and more, too. But I don't know half as much as you do about this, though I know enough to print something in the Leader. You might as well come out with it."
Sullivan hesitated. He was wondering how this new young reporter had discovered information supposed to be a secret among the politician's closest advisers. Clearly there was a leak somewhere, and he must play the game warily until he discovered it. Meanwhile, since part of the truth was known he decided to tell more of it. He could manage matters to suit his ends if necessary, even after he gave out the interview for which all the papers in New York were anxiously waiting.
"Did Mr. Emberg send you to see me?" asked Sullivan.
"He did," Larry answered, wondering how intimate was the politician's acquaintance with the city editor of the Leader.
"Emberg's foxy," went on Sullivan.
"Do I get the interview?" asked Larry.
"You do. I like your nerve, and I'd like to find out where you heard that about Potter."
Larry did not think it well to say he had merely overheard, in the politician's own headquarters, a reference to the man, who was a well-known millionaire and promoter of New York. The truth of the matter was Larry only used the information that had so unexpectedly come to him, but he used it in such a way that Sullivan thought he knew a great deal more than he did.
"I'm going to support Reilly," went on Sullivan. "I don't know that I have such great influence as the papers credit me with, but what I have is for my friend, William Reilly. You can say for me that I think he served well in the Legislature and is entitled to another term. As for Mr. Kilburn, who I hear would like the nomination, he is an excellent young man. I know little about him, but I believe he would do well. But I believe in rewarding good work, and so I am for Mr. Reilly."
"Do you want to say anything about Potter and the new line?" asked Larry, though if Sullivan had said anything about them the reporter would have been decidedly in the dark as to what the politician was driving at.
"I guess you've got enough out of me for one day," replied Sullivan with a smile. "It's more talking than I've done in a long while—to reporters," he added. "Lots of 'em would give a good bit to have what you've got, and I wouldn't have given it to you, only I think you're smarter than I gave you credit for. Now you tell me where you heard about Potter."
"I can't," answered Larry, truthfully enough, for he did not feel that he could betray one of Sullivan's own men, because of the talk he had inadvertently overheard. "Sometime I may."
"I'll have to cultivate your acquaintance," the district politician remarked as Larry went out.
The young reporter hurried to the Leader office, having hastily jotted down what Sullivan had said. He felt he had secured a piece of news that would prove a big item that day.
"What luck?" asked Mr. Emberg, rather indifferently, as Larry came up to the city editor's desk to report.
"I've got the interview."
"I s'pose he gave you a lot of hot air that doesn't mean anything. See if you can dress it up a bit. We haven't many displays to-day."
"Sullivan is going to support Reilly," announced Larry, quietly.
"What?" almost shouted Mr. Emberg. "Did he tell you that?"
"He did," answered Larry, wondering why Mr. Emberg was so excited.
EVERYTHING BUT THE FACTS
The city room, that had been buzzing and humming with the talk of several reporters, seemed strangely quiet as Larry gave his answer. His remarks had been heard by several. The clicking typewriters stopped, and those operating them looked up.
"Say that again," spoke Mr. Emberg, as though a great deal depended on it.
"Sullivan is going to support Reilly," repeated Larry. "There's what he says," and he handed out the brief interview which he had written on some sheets of paper as he came down in the elevated train. The city editor glanced quickly over it.
"Are you sure you haven't made a mistake?" he asked.
"I'm positive that's exactly what he said."
"This is a big thing," went on Mr. Emberg. "We have news from Albany directly contrary to this, but if you're sure you are right I'll use this. It will make a big sensation. Have you got it all alone?"
"There were no other reporters there that I knew," Larry said.
"Good for you. How in the world did you do it? I never thought you would. Sit right down and make as much as you can of it. Describe how he received you, what you said and what he said and all about it. This is great."
"I stumbled on it," said Larry, and he proceeded to relate what he had heard about Potter and the new line, though he did not in the least know what the "new line" was.
"Better and better!" exclaimed Mr. Emberg. "This is what I suspected. It has to do with the new subway line. If it runs through the eighth district it will be the making of Sullivan. That's why he's supporting Reilly, because he thinks Reilly can influence Potter to run the new subway line in that direction. We must have an interview with Potter. I'll send some one else out on that. You write what you have. Here, Mr. Newton, jump out and see if you can find Potter. It's going to be quite a job, but maybe you can land him."
"Hamden Potter's in Europe," said a reporter who "did" Wall Street, and who knew the movements of most of the financiers. "But he's expected back soon."
"Maybe he's back by this time," Mr. Emberg went on. "Get out on the job, Newton. Hurry, Larry, it's close to edition-time."
Larry sat down at his typewriter, which he had learned to operate with considerable speed, and was soon banging away at the keys.
"Shall I put in that about Mr. Potter and the new line?" he called to Mr. Emberg.
"No, I'll have Harvey attend to that part. You just tell of the interview in regard to supporting Reilly. Make it a good story."
Larry did his best, and gave a graphic picture of the leader's headquarters, without touching on how he had come to get the information which so many other papers and reporters were anxiously waiting for.
"Here, Tommy!" called the city editor to one of the copy boys, which position Larry used to fill, "bring me Mr. Dexter's stuff, page by page, as fast as he writes it. I'll get it upstairs and fix up a head for it."
Larry smiled to hear Mr. Emberg call him "Mr. Dexter," but, no matter how familiar an editor may become with his reporters, he gives even the youngest the title of mister when speaking of him to the copy boys.
Larry finished the first page of his story, pulled it from the typewriter and handed it to Tommy, who rushed with it to Mr. Emberg's desk. The editor glanced over it, made one or two corrections, changed the wording a bit, and handed it back to Tommy, who hurried with it to the pneumatic tube, in which it was shot upstairs to the composing room.
There it was taken from the metal carrier that dropped from the tube on the desk of the man in charge of distributing the various pieces of copy to the compositors. This man put a mysterious-looking blue mark on the first page of Larry's story. This was to identify it later, and to make sure that all the succeeding pages would be kept together.
Then the sheet was handed to the first of a long line of compositors, who were standing in front of the desk of the "copy-cutter," as he is called. It was close to the hour for the first edition to go to press, and every one was in a hurry.
The compositor fairly ran to his type-setting machine and began to operate the keys, which were arranged like those on a very large typewriter. He did not strike them, as one does who operates a typewriter, but gently touched them. As he pressed each finger down the least bit there was a click, and from the rack above the machine there tumbled down a small piece of brass, called a "matrix." This contained on one edge a depression that corresponded to a letter.
In a short while enough matrixes had fallen into place to make a complete line, just the width of one of the columns of the Leader. The compositor looked at the row of matrixes as they were, arranged before him, read it (no easy task to the uninitiated), took out a wrong letter and inserted a right one, and then pressed down a lever.
This lever operated the lead-casting machine at the back. A plunger was shoved down into a pot of melted lead, kept molten by means of a gas flame. A small quantity of lead was forced up against the line of matrixes, which automatically moved in a position to receive it.
The lead was held there an instant to harden, then another lever automatically removed the solid line of type from its place in front of the matrixes, a long arm swooped down, took the brass pieces and returned them to an endless screw arrangement which distributed them, each one to its proper place, in the series of chutes that held hundreds of others.
Everything was done automatically after the compositor had touched the keys and then the lever, so that he was almost finished with the second line of the story by the time the matrixes of the first were being returned to their slots by the machine, which seemed almost human.
Thus Larry's story was set up. In all, five men worked at putting it into type, and finally the five sections were collected together on a "galley" or long narrow brass pan. A proof was taken and rushed down to Mr. Emberg so that he might see it was all right, but by this time, some typographical errors in the story having been corrected, men were placing it in the "form" or steel frame which holds enough type to make a page of the paper. This was soon in readiness for the stereotyping department.
Larry had not finished the third page of his story before the first two were in type. He hurried through it, and by the time he had handed in the last sheet there were men upstairs waiting for it, so quickly is the mechanical part of newspaper making accomplished.
Finally the story was all in type, the lead lines were in the form, and, when the latter was filled it was "locked," or tightly fastened, and was ready for the men who were to take an impression of the page in damp papier-mache.
This papier-mache, which is also called a matrix, was baked hard by steam, put in a curved cylinder, melted lead was poured on it and there was a solid metal page of the paper ready for the great press, which was soon thundering away, printing thousands of papers, each one containing, on the front page, Larry's account of the interview with Sullivan.
Of course many things had been going on meanwhile. Mr. Emberg had written a "scare head," as they are called, that is a head to be printed in big letters, and this had been set up by men working by hand. This was put on the story after it was in the form.
"Guess Newton is having trouble finding Potter," commented the city editor, when he had finished with Larry's copy. "If we don't hear from him in five minutes we'll miss the edition."
The five minutes passed, and no word came from Harvey Newton. The building shook as the giant press started, and Mr. Emberg, shutting up his watch with a snap, remarked:
"Too late! Well, maybe he'll catch him for the second."
It is often the case that only part of a story gets in the first edition of a paper. So many circumstances govern the getting of news, and the sending of it into the office, that unless a story is obtained, complete, early in the morning it is necessary to make additions to it from edition to edition in the case of an afternoon paper.
"Mack, maybe you'd better try to find Potter," went on Mr. Emberg after a pause, turning to another reporter. "You know him. Tell him we've got an interview with Sullivan, and ask him what the support of Reilly means."
Mack, whose name in full was McConnigan, but who was never designated as anything but "Mack," glanced at the proofs of Larry's story.
"I guess I'll find him in Donnegan's place," he said, naming a resort where men of wealth frequently gathered for lunch. "I'll try there."
"Anywhere to find him," returned the city editor.
"Are you looking for Hamden Potter?" asked an old man, coming into the city room at that juncture.
"That's what we are," said the city editor. "Why, do you know where to find him, Mr. Hogan? Have you got a story for us to-day?"
Hogan was an old newspaper man, never showing any great talents, and he had seen his best days. He was not to be relied on any more, though he frequently took "tips" around to the different papers, receiving for them, together with what money he could beg or borrow, enough to live on.
"I've got a story, yes. I was down at the steamship dock of the Blue Star line a while ago, and I see Mr. Potter's family come off a vessel.
"Was he with them? Have you got the story?" demanded Mr. Emberg, eagerly.
"I've got everything, I guess. I've got all but the main facts, anyhow. I don't know whether Potter was with them or not. I didn't think it was of any importance."
"Importance!" exclaimed the city editor. Then he bethought him of Hogan's character, and knew it was useless to speak. "Everything but the facts—the most important fact of all," Mr. Emberg murmured.
"Isn't that tip worth something?" demanded Hogan.
"Oh, I suppose so," and Mr. Emberg wrote out an order on the cashier for two dollars. Poor Hogan shuffled from the room. He was but a type of many who have outlived their usefulness.
"Jump down to the Blue Star dock, Mack," the city editor said, when Hogan had gone. "Find out all you can about the Potters—where they have been and where Mr. Potter went. Hurry now!"
As Mack was going out the telephone rang. It was a message from Mr. Newton to the effect that he could not find Mr. Potter, and that at his office it was said he was still in Europe.
"Hurry to his house," said Mr. Emberg over the wire. "I have a tip that his family just got in on the Messina of the Blue Star line. I've sent Mack to the dock! You go to the house!"
Thus, like a general directing his forces, did the city editor send his men out after news.
THREATS AGAINST LARRY
Second edition-time was close at hand, but no news regarding Mr. Hamden Potter had come in from either Newton or Mack. From a reporter sent to interview representatives of the company constructing the subway came a message to the effect that none of the officers would talk for publication.
"What in the world is the matter with Harvey and Mack?" asked Mr. Emberg, restlessly pacing the floor. Every one in the city room felt the strain. Every time the telephone bell rang, the city editor jumped to answer it, without waiting for one of the boys or a reporter to get to the instrument.
Finally, after several false alarms, the bell rang and the city editor, grabbing up the portable telephone, cried out:
"Yes? Oh, it's you, Newton. Where in the world have you been? We only have time for the last edition. Talk fast! What's that? The Potter family home, and you can't see Mr. Potter? Why not? Tell them you've got to see him. Send in a message you have something of importance to tell him. You say you have? And you can't see him? But you must! Go back and try again. This is the biggest story we've had in a long while and we can't fall down on it this way!"
He hung up the receiver on the hook with a bang, and once more began pacing the floor.
"That's queer," he murmured. "There's something strange back of all this. Potter is up to some game, and so is Sullivan. Come here, Larry."
Mr. Emberg closely questioned the young reporter as to every detail of his interview with Sullivan.
"I'm going to write something myself," the city editor announced. "We've got to have more of this story. I can guess at part of it, and I'll make it general enough, and with sufficient 'understoods' in it to save us in case I'm wrong."
He began to write, nervously and hurriedly, handing the sheets over to his assistant to edit as fast as he was done with them. They were rushed upstairs, one at a time, as Larry's copy had been.
The last edition went to press without the much-desired interview with Mr. Potter. The city editor wrote a story, full of glittering generalities, telling how it was believed that certain forces were at work in the interest of getting a new line of the subway through the eighth district, and that Assemblyman Reilly was concerned in the matter, as was also a certain well-known financier, whose name was not mentioned, but whom the readers of the Leader would have little difficulty in recognizing as Mr. Potter.
To show that it was Mr. Potter to whom he was referring Mr. Emberg added at the bottom of the story, and under a separate single-line head, a note to the effect that all efforts were unavailing to get an interview with Hamden Potter, the financier, who that day had returned from Europe with his family, as Mr. Potter would see no reporters. It was added that Mr. Potter's connection with the subway interests might throw some light on the reason for the declaration of Sullivan for Reilly.