Penny raised the woman to her feet, but as Mrs. Jones tried to take a step, she saw that the sprain indeed was a bad one.

Already the ankle was swelling and skin had been broken. At each attempted step, the widow winced with pain, suffering intensely.

“If I kin only git back to the boat, I’ll be all right,” she said, observing Penny’s worried expression. “Drat it all! Jest when I wanted to find out what the Hawkins’ are doin’ on this island!”

Supporting much of the widow’s weight on her shoulders, Penny helped her back to the skiff.

“I guess we may as well start back,” she said, unable to hide her bitter disappointment.

The widow reached for an oar, then looked keenly at Penny and put it back again.

“’Course it would be a risky thing fer ye to go on by yerself while I wait here in the boat—”

Penny’s slumped shoulders straightened. Her blue eyes began to dance.

“You mean you don’t mind waiting here while I see where that tunnel of leaves leads?” she demanded.

“’Pears like we’ve come too fur not to find out what’s goin’ on. Think ye can git in there and back without being cotched?”

“I’m sure of it!”

The widow sighed. “I hain’t sure of it, but you got more gumpshun than any other young’un I ever met. Go on if ye’r a-goin’, and if anyone sees ye, light out fer the boat. I’ll be ready to shove off.”

“Mrs. Jones, you’re a darling!” Penny whispered, giving the gnarled hand a quick pressure. “I’ll make it all right!”

Moving directly to the thicket, she dropped on all fours and started through the leafy tunnel where Hod had disappeared. The sweetish odor now was much plainer than before.

She had crawled only a few feet, when a hand reached out of nowhere and grasped her shoulder.

Penny whirled around, expecting to see a member of the Hawkins’ family. For a moment she saw no one, and then from the thicket beside the tunnel, a figure became visible. The hold on her shoulder relaxed.

“Who are you?” she demanded in a whisper.


“Then show yourself!”

The leaves rustled, and a dark-haired lad with tangled curls crawled into the tunnel beside her. His shoes were ripped, his clothing dirty and in tatters. A rifle was grasped in his hand.

“Bada men,” he warned, jerking his head in the direction Penny had been crawling. “Mucha better go back boat.”

“Who are you and why do you warn me?” Penny asked, deeply puzzled.

The boy did not reply.

Light dawned suddenly upon Penny. “You’re the one who saved me from the boar!”

The boy’s quick grin was acknowledgment he had fired the shot.

“But why did you run away?” Penny asked. “Why didn’t you wait and let me thank you for saving my life?”

“You giva me to police maybe,” replied the boy in broken English. “I staya here—starva first!”

“Who are you?”

“Name no matter.”

Penny’s mind had been working swiftly. She was convinced the boy who had saved her also was the one who had stolen Trapper Joe’s gun. Evidently, he had needed it to survive in the swamp. He was thin and his eyes had a hungry look, she noted.

“How did you get to this island?” she inquired. “Do you have a boat?”

“Make-a raft.” The boy’s eyes darted down the leafy tunnel. “No good here,” he said, seizing Penny’s arm and pulling her back into the thicket. “Someone-a come!”

Scarcely had the pair flattened themselves on the ground than Ezekiel Hawkins crawled out through the tunnel, pushing his gun ahead of him. Standing upright not three feet from Penny and her companion, he gazed sharply about.

“Thought I heerd voices,” he muttered.

Penny held her breath, knowing that if the swamper should walk down the shore even a dozen yards, he would see the Widow Jones waiting in the skiff.

To her great relief, Ezekiel moved in the opposite direction. After satisfying himself that no boat approached the island, he returned through the tunnel and disappeared.

“What’s going on back in there?” Penny whispered as soon as it was safe to ask.

“Bada men,” her companion said briefly.

“You’re driving me to distraction!” Penny muttered, losing patience. “Do those swampers know you’re here on the island?”

The boy shook his tangled curls, grinning broadly. “Chasa me once. No catch.”

“You’re Italian, aren’t you?” Penny asked suddenly.

A guarded look came over the lad’s sun-tanned face. His brown eyes lost some of their friendliness.

“Now I have it!” Penny exclaimed before he could speak. “You’re Antonio Tienta, wanted by Immigration authorities for slipping into this country illegally!”

The boy did not deny the accusation, and the half-frightened, defiant look he gave her, confirmed that she had struck upon the truth.

“I no go back!” he muttered. “I starva first!”

“Don’t become so excited, or those men will hear you and we’ll both be caught,” Penny warned. “Tell me about yourself, Tony. I already know a little.”

“How mucha you know?” he asked cautiously.

“That you acted as a guide to G.I.’s in Italy and stowed aboard a troopship coming to this country. Even now, I guess authorities aren’t certain how you slipped past New York officials.”

“No trouble,” boasted the lad. “On ship my friendsa the G.I.’s they feeda me. We dock New York; I hide under bunk; all G.I.’s leava boat. Boat go to other dock. Sailor friend giva me clothes. Sailors leave-a boat. I slippa out. No one geta wise.”

“Then where did you go?”

“Stay in-a New York only two—three days. Go hitchhike into country. Work-a on farm. No like it. Hear Immigration men-a come, so I go. Come-a one day to swamp. Good place; I stay.”

“You’ve not had an easy time keeping alive in this dismal place,” Penny said sympathetically. “Isn’t that Trapper Joe’s gun?”

“Steal-a one night,” the boy agreed. “Give back some-a time.”

Penny studied the youth with growing concern. “Tony,” she said, “you can’t hope to stay here long. The only sensible thing is to give yourself up.”

“No! I die first! American best country in all-a the world! No one ever take-a me back!”

“But you can’t expect to elude Immigration officials very long. If you give yourself up, they might be lenient with you.”

“They send-a me back,” Tony said stubbornly. “I stay right-a here!”

“To starve? You’re hungry now, aren’t you?”

“Sure. But in Italy I hungry many times-a too.”

“Tony, we’ll talk about this later,” Penny sighed. “Right now, I want to learn what’s going on here at the island. Know anything about it?”

“Sure,” the boy grinned. “Know plenty.”

“Then suppose you tell me, Tony.”

“I show-a you,” the boy offered.

Avoiding the leafy tunnel, he led Penny in a half circle through another section of dense thicket.

Soon he motioned for her to drop on her knees.

The sickish odor rising through the trees now was very disagreeable again.

A few yards farther on, Tony halted. Still lying flat on his stomach, he carefully pulled aside the bushes so that his companion might see.

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