G. Harvey Ralphson.

Boy Scouts in Southern Waters online

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Or, Spaniard's Treasure Chest



Author of _Boy Scouts In The North Sea_, _Under Fire In Flanders_,
_Boy Scouts In An Airship_, _Boy Scouts In A Motor Boat_




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"Wow! Look at that one! That's a monster!"

"That must be the ninth wave."

"What do you mean by the ninth wave, Jack?"

"Why, Arnold, don't you know that every third wave is bigger than the
two preceding it and that every ninth wave is bigger than the preceding
eight?" queried Jack Stanley.

"No, can't say that I ever knew that," replied Arnold Poysor leaning out
of the pilot house of a sturdy motor boat plowing her way through the
waters of that part of the Gulf of Mexico known as Mississippi Sound.
"But I do know," he continued, "that if the Fortuna takes many more
green ones over her bow, we'll have to get something other than oilskins
to keep us dry!"

"Gee, I wish this fog would lift and let us find out where we are!" put
in a third member of the part. "This is fierce!"

"It's thicker than the mush we used to get in that South Water Street
restaurant when we were fitting out in Chicago!" declared the first
speaker. "That was a bum place to eat!"

"Never mind the eats!" replied the one addressed as "Jack." "Just you
keep that Klaxon going. You know we're on government waters here and the
pilot rules require us to keep a fog signal sounding once every minute.
We had hard enough work to convince the United States Inspectors that
the Klaxon would make a perfectly good fog signal. Let's not fall down
now on the job of keeping it going."

"I'd hate like everything to have a collision!"

"So would we all!" declared the first speaker.

Four boys were standing in the pilot house of a sturdily built and
splendidly equipped motor boat that was being rolled and tossed by the,
waves driven from the Gulf of Mexico before a southerly wind. Great
banks of fog were rolling inland before the wind - fog so thick it was
scarcely possible to see a boat's length ahead.

The boys were all dressed in suits of oil skins under which might have
been seen neat khaki Boy Scout Uniforms. If their jackets had been
exposed one might have distinguished medals that betokened membership in
the Beaver Patrol, Boy Scouts of America. Other insignia indicated to
the initiated that the boys had won distinction and were entitled to the
honors in Seamanship, Life Saving, Stalking and Signaling. On the jacket
of the one addressed as "Jack" were insignia that betokened his rank as
Scout Master and also as Star Scout. These had been won by sheer merit.

All four were manly young fellows of about seventeen and, though young,
their faces gave evidence of alert natures thoroughly reliable and ready
for any emergency.

Their vessel, the Fortuna, appeared fully equal to any task that might
be expected of her. Trimly built and graceful, yet solidly and staunchly
constructed, she rode the waves like a thing of life. Her engines, which
by common consent had been reduced to half speed in deference to the
law, worked perfectly, driving the powerful hull through the water
easily. Just now she met the oncoming waves, driving into them with a
good deal of spray about the bows.

Jack Stanley, Scout Master of the Beaver Patrol of Chicago, Boy Scouts
of America, was Captain of the Fortuna. His father was president of a
bank in Chicago and had requested Jack and his chums to take the Fortuna
from Chicago to Southern waters where they would later on be joined by
the banker for a cruise among the islands and points of interest in that
vicinity. Jack was a fine, manly lad who well deserved the honors
bestowed upon him. His companions were equally clean and worthy young
boys who were members of the Beaver Patrol and who all were devoted to

Harry Harvey, an orphan, worked as messenger for one of the large
telegraph companies. He had seen a great deal of life and was far older
than his years. Tom Blackwood worked as an inspector in one of the great
department stores of State Street while Arnold Poysor was an apprentice
in a printing establishment and was possessed of an ambition to become a
great journalist.

Without doubt it would have been difficult to find four more congenial
lads than the crew of the Fortuna. Widely different in their appearance
they still gave one the impression that they all belonged to each other.
There was the same fearless, honest look in their sparkling eyes, the
same erectness of carriage, the same confident walk that bespoke clean,
ambitious, well-trained lives.

Just now they were all anxiously gathered in the pilot house eagerly on
the lookout for any possible danger that might be threatening them from
out the dense fog being swept inland by the wind. Harry was at the wheel
while Jack stood with his hand close to the switchboard that governed
the engines pulsating below. Tom and Arnold were leaning half way out of
the open windows heedless of the fog and the spray that now and again
fell in sheets over the pilot house as the Fortuna thrust her nose into
a large wave.

"Great fishes!" ejaculated Tom. "I'd like to have a collision with some
eats right soon. I'm nearly starved and drowned and several other
things! I haven't eaten since we left Mobile!"

"Score one for Tom!" cried Harry. "He washes the dishes next time!
Remember our bargain, old Scout," he continued. "Do you remember what we
agreed to do when we left Chicago?"

"Could I forget it with your melodious Klaxon working overtime?" queried
Tom. "Great Fishes isn't slang, though! Ask Jack."

"How about it, Jack?" asked Harry. "Does he wash or not wash, that's the
question. Fair play here - let the umpire decide!"

Before he spoke, Jack pressed the button that actuated the Klaxon. When
the raucous noise of the fog horn had died away he turned to the two
disputants with a quizzical look and said:

"You'd be more careful of your language if your mother were here,
wouldn't you, Tom?" and then, as a look of triumph on the face of
exultant Harry was about to be followed by a shout of rejoicing, he
continued. "And I'm sure that when Harry makes a mistake we'll all be as
considerate of his feelings as we are able. But Tom washes the dishes as
a penalty for using slang!" he announced in a tone of pleasant finality
that was unmistakable.

"Who's going to be cook this next watch?" asked Arnold.

"It's my work, by the schedule," replied Jack, "but if you lads will
excuse me now, I'll do double duty later on. I hate to leave the deck
even for a few minutes. I don't feel at all easy!"

"Why, what can make you uneasy?" put in Harry.

"I don't know," Jack answered. "I suppose it's only a notion due to
indigestion after eating some of Tom's cookery, but I have a sort of
uneasy feeling that something is going to happen and I want to be on
deck when it comes. That's all!"

"Well, I'm about starved and so if this portentous calamity will please
postpone its arrival until I get my lunch, I'll be much obliged!"
remarked Arnold. "I'll go get dinner. I follow Jack on the cooking
schedule. What'll it be, gentlemen?"

"More of that fine Red Snapper!" quickly answered Harry.

"If you boys can wait long enough, I'd like some of those famous
biscuits Arnold knows so well how to make," added Tom.

"And I," said Jack, "would like a double portion of both of those and a
cup of that excellent coffee we bought at Mobile."

"Wee, Mong Sewers! Zee Chef departs!" announced Arnold disappearing down
the stairs leading to the cabin from whence in a short time the aroma of
delicious coffee was wafted up to the three boys in the pilot house,
each striving to peer farther into the fog which seemed to be getting
thicker each passing moment.

"Seems to me I hear the booming of the surf on a jagged and rock bound
coast," remarked Harry after an interval of silence following the wail
of the Klaxon fog signal being sounded at regular intervals.

"Harry, you ought to be serious once in a while!" admonished Jack.
"There are no rocks down in this part of the world. Everything is sand
and lots of it. Besides the real coast is over here to our starboard
hand side. You can't hear any surf there!"

"Maybe so, but I can hear what I believe to be the pounding of waves on
a shore, just the same!" stoutly insisted Harry.

"Listen a minute," exclaimed Tom raising a hand for silence.

"There!" cried Harry after an interval. "There it is again!"

"Jack," Tom asked turning to his chum, "can you get it?"

With his face a trifle paler than was his wont, Jack nodded his head and
with his lips closed tightly peered into the fog.

"Great Wigglin' Pollywogs!" ejaculated Tom. "If we're into a surf the
Fortuna had better give up now! We can't ever expect to get out of that
sort of a mess with this little rabbit!"

"Two times heavy on the dish washing for Thomas!" gloated Harry. "But
we're not into the surf yet a while! Listen!"

His hand was held up again for silence. From the cabin came the sound of
the clock striking the hour in nautical fashion.

"Five bells!" announced Jack.

"Let's see," mused Harry. "I never can get used to that."

"Ten thirty," Tom put in, "if it was a railroader; half past o'clock for
you Dutchmen," he added with a chuckle, wrinkling a freckled nose at
Harry and winking at Jack.

"All right!" assented Harry. "Log a surf heard at - how many bells? Oh,
yes, five bells in the morning. Log Tom Blackwood for uncivil language
to an officer and for refusing duty under fire!"

"Hark, boys!" commanded Jack "We may be getting into a mess and it's no
time for joking and carrying on like that!"

"You're right, Jack, as always!" assented Tom. "Just to show that I'm
serious, I'll joke no more until this fog lifts!"

"Here, too!" declared Harry. "But look at Rowdy! What's the matter,
Rowdy, old chap?" he continued as a great white bulldog came up the
ladder from the cabin. "What ails you?"

The bulldog was evidently excited about something for the hair on his
shoulders and neck was standing straight up while from his throat issued
a low fierce growl scarcely audible above the noise of the tumbling
waters. His every action bespoke antipathy to something. Raising himself
upon his hind legs, the dog rested his paws upon the window sill of the
pilot house. He peered eagerly into the white shroud of mist that
enveloped the motor boat.

"He hears that surf, too!" declared Tom. "He hears it!"

"I don't believe it's surf he hears," Jack stated. "He looks just like
he did back there in Mobile when we found that black browed fellow
trying to board the Fortuna.

"Good old Rowdy!" soothingly murmured Tom reaching over to give the dog
a pat. "What do you see, boy? Tell your friend."

"Looks to me like it might be a person he scents!" Harry stated. "Only
it isn't a likely place for a person to be out in this mess!"

"We're out in this mess, aren't we?" objected Tom.

Jack's hands swiftly traveled over the switchboard seeming to find as if
by instinct just the right levers. The engines stopped and then reversed
full speed! The Fortuna shook and quivered from stern to stern. She fell
off slightly into the trough.

"On deck!" shouted Jack. "Here's a collision."

Tom and Harry were on deck instantly. Jack leaned against the
switchboard and groaned. The next instant came a crash!



With a lunge the Fortuna struck a dark object riding the crest of an
oncoming wave. Jack stood against the switchboard scarcely daring to
look while Arnold came crowding up the companion-way his face blanched
and eyes staring. Harry and Tom were on the forward deck looking along
either side of the plunging boat.

"What did we hit?" queried Arnold in a shaking tone.

"I don't know," replied Jack. "Whatever it was, we don't seem to be sunk
yet, though. Maybe it was just a few floating boards washed adrift from
some vessel."

"What did you see, boys?" Arnold called out to his companions on deck.
"Did we hit something or did it hit us?"

"Looks to me as if we had run down a row boat and cut her right in two!"
declared Tom. "I was sure I saw the stern of a boat just sinking here on
the starboard side."

Jack reeled against the wheel, covering his face with his hands. Despite
his efforts a groan escaped him. Arnold sprang toward his chum and put
an arm about his shoulders with a friendly air.

"What's the matter, Jack? Are you hurt?" he asked solicitously.

"Only inside" replied Jack. "I'm sure I saw a man in a row boat loom up
out of the fog just before we struck. The shudder that ran through the
Fortuna told me only too plainly that we had hit something more than a
mere board or two. I can't bear to think that we've run down a man out
here in the Gulf! It's too bad!"

"Maybe it was only an empty boat, Jack," comforted Arnold. "Did you hear
anyone cry out or see anything of a man overboard?"

"No," was Jack's answer, "I didn't. I just felt that something was going
to happen and then we struck the boat. I guess it's all right and we'd
better get the Fortuna with her nose into it or we'll roll the engines
off their beds. This is surely a choppy sea!"

Suiting the action to the words Jack reached for the levers on the
switchboard just as Tom and Harry returned to the shelter of the pilot
house dripping from the sheets of spray that had come aboard while the
vessel lay rolling in the trough of the sea.

"Great Wiggling Pollywogs!" exclaimed Tom, "this is sure a nasty piece
of weather! I'm glad I'm on top and not sloshing around in the Gulf
right now. Bet that fellow in the boat is wet all right."

"Hark, Tom!" cautioned Harry. "You mustn't talk like that."

"I'm going back to finish my cooking," announced Arnold. "We'll all be
hungry enough to eat a raw dog. And speaking of dogs," he continued
pointing at the white bulldog still holding his position at the pilot
house window, "what's the matter with Rowdy?"

"Rowdy scents something he doesn't like," explained Tom.

"I wonder," began Jack and then without finishing his half begun
sentence he dashed madly from the pilot house and flung himself into the
bow of the yacht now gaining headway under the impetus of the engines.
Flat on deck he fell and crawling to the rail peered eagerly over the
side. His friends saw him turn an agonized and pleading glance in their
direction and then reach far over the rail of the vessel. In an instant
Tom and Harry were by his side eager to be of any possible assistance to
their chum.

"What is it?" began Tom, but Harry motioned him to silence.

"Sit on his legs!" he commanded and Tom with a flash of comprehension
obeyed unquestioningly. His weight on Jack's feet enabled the captain to
lean far over the rail and grasp the wrists of a clinging figure
gripping with the tenacity of despair the links of the cable that still
hung from the hawse pipes.

Harry, too, leaned far out and in his eagerness to be of help nearly
lost his balance and all but plunged into the sea.

"Steady!" gasped Jack. "Slow and steady now or he's gone!"

With a mighty heave the two boys dragged the figure to a level with the
rail and then Tom left his post and came to their help.

It was now but a short task to get the rescued person on deck, but he
was so chilled and exhausted that he could not stand.

"Let's put him below as quickly as we can, boys," Jack suggested.
"Arnold has some hot coffee already cooking and that'll help him as much
as anything we can do. Easy with him, now, maybe he's hurt."

With tenderness and skill the boys who had been trained to care for
injured persons helped the visitor who had boarded their vessel so
strangely and all unannounced down the companion-way into the cabin
where he was speedily given a change of clothing followed by a steaming
cup of fragrant coffee.

Jack again assumed command in the pilot house while Arnold took up his
interrupted preparations for the meal.

"Be sure you fry an extra big piece of that Red Snapper for the new
lad," directed Tom as he prepared to go again to the pilot house. "He's
about half starved and pretty near used up, I guess!"

"You know I'll take care of him all right!" replied Arnold. "I'm sorry
we broke his boat up like that but I guess we can all take a knot out of
our neckties today. Wasn't it lucky he caught the cable, though? I'm
delighted that we were able to save him!"

"Of course, we couldn't be blamed for running into him," said Tom. "I'm
glad we rescued him from his awful predicament and now we'll have to be
extra good to him to make up for it!"

So saying he passed up the companion-way and into the pilot house
joining Harry and Jack at their ceaseless vigil.

Busily engaged with his work in the kitchenette, Arnold was quite
surprised to observe the door leading into the after cabin open softly.
It admitted the newly found stranger. He had been given spare clothes
belonging to the boys and looked little the worse for his rough
experience of only a short time before. His eyes were black and piercing
and might have been pleasant were it not for his disagreeable habit of
not looking directly at the one with whom he was talking. His glance
roved about the place taking in every detail yet never resting long in
any one place.

"How do you do?" pleasantly queried Arnold resolving to be congenial in
spite of his instant distrust of the other. "I'm sorry we ran you down
and ruined your boat, but I'm glad we got you aboard in time to save
your life. It was a lucky accident."

Advancing in his frank and friendly manner he held out his hand in
greeting. The stranger at first drew back, then as if thinking better of
his resolve, he thrust forth his hand for a quick handshake, almost
instantly releasing Arnold's grasp.

"What is your name, may I ask?" questioned Arnold.

"Carlos Madero is my right name, but they call me Charley," was the
lad's almost surly response. "I live at Pass Christian and work on a
shrimping schooner. My boat is gone now."

Arnold busied himself with the operation of the stove for a moment to
regain his composure, for the fellow's manner had angered him
immediately. Presently he turned and said:

"My name is Arnold Poysor. I am from Chicago and so are my chums. We are
down here for a vacation and pleasure trip. We're sorry we smashed your
boat, but if you'll accept it, we'll give you the one we're towing
behind us. We bought it in Mobile."

"All right!" replied Carlos. "You ought to do that much."

Arnold now prepared the table for dinner and calling his companions to
eat he introduced them to Carlos as they entered the cabin. Jack
remained at the wheel while the others ate.

All the boys tried to make pleasant conversation for the newcomer but he
greedily devoured the food set before him in a ravenous manner. His
conversation was little better than monosyllables. At last the boys in
despair gave up the effort of entertainment and fell to discussing their
situation amongst themselves. They recounted the incidents of their trip
down the Great Lakes, through the Erie Canal and down the Hudson River,
their pleasant run down the east coast of the United States to the
Florida Keys, past the Dry Tortugas and up to Mobile.

To all of their conversation Carlos listened intently, eating in
silence, but keenly alert to every word that was said. Finally as the
talk lulled to an occasional remark he looked up and said:

"What are you here for, anyway?"

"I told you," replied Arnold, "we're here for a pleasant vacation trip.
We'll be joined later by the father of the boy at the wheel and then we
expect to go on up the Mississippi to our home at Chicago. Didn't you
believe me at first?"

"No," bluntly replied Carlos, "I didn't."

"All right," laughed Arnold, "we'll forgive you this time."

To relieve the tense situation Tom sprang to his feet saying that he
would go and relieve Jack at the wheel while his friend ate.

Once in the pilot house he was met with a questioning look from Jack who
was holding the wheel with one hand and Rowdy with the other. The dog
was struggling wildly to free himself.

"What's the matter with Rowdy?" questioned Tom wonderingly.

"I'll never tell you," Jack panted, "he's been trying to get down into
the cabin like all possessed ever since dinner was called. I've had my
own sweet time to keep him here."

"Maybe the poor tyke is getting hungry like the rest of us human
beings," ventured Tom. "Rowdy, are you hungry?" he asked.

Rowdy's reply was a glance from bloodshot eyes toward his friend, then
he launched himself against the door leading to the cabin emitting
growls that were unmistakably vicious.

"That's pretty near talking, Jack!" Tom stated.

With a knowing look Jack assented and pointing with his thumb toward the
newcomer's direction nodded his head once or twice. Securing a length of
small line Jack made Rowdy fast to a ring bolt in the pilot house floor
and then went into the cabin for his dinner.

He had no better success in his effort at conversation with the stranger
than his chums had met and shortly gave over trying to be pleasant.
Making a hurried meal he again hastened to the pilot house where he
assumed charge of the craft, for the fog was still thick.

Arnold in an effort to be friendly asked Carlos to inspect the Fortuna
from the interior, which offer was quickly accepted.

"Here," explained Arnold, standing near the bulkhead separating the
pilot house from the cabin, "is the forward part of the vessel. I
suppose you'd call it the forecastle, but we have the fuel tanks, chain
locker and lazarette here. On occasion we can use this space for extra
bunks, but with the Pullman berths in the cabins we don't often need the
room for anything but storage."

"Where is your gasoline?" asked Carlos displaying some interest.

"In tanks right up in the eyes of her," replied Arnold glad that he was
interesting his visitor. "Then you see the engines amidships here with a
berth on each side. The switchboard is in the center of the pilot house
so the stairways are on each side of the engines. In the next
compartment aft are more berths. Then still further aft, you see are the
kitchenette on one side and the wash room on the other. Abaft of that is
the after cabin that we use as a dining room. With the folding berths we

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Online LibraryG. Harvey RalphsonBoy Scouts in Southern Waters → online text (page 1 of 13)