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G. Harvey Ralphson.

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medicine chest. "Is he bleeding much?" he continued.

"Funny thing, I can't find any blood at all!" declared Tom. "It's a
peculiar thing, too, for if he was hit hard enough to knock him down the
bullet must have entered his body!"

"That's a strange thing, isn't it?" spoke up Arnold.

"Strange is no word for it!" Tom asserted. "I'm just all at sea
literally as well as figuratively. This is the strangest part of our
queer experiences during the past few hours."

"Let's get his clothes off and examine him closely," suggested Arnold.
"Maybe the bullet hit him from a ricochet."

"Wise little Scout!" commended Tom. "You've got a great head on those
shoulders! I'm glad we brought you along."

Before he had ceased speaking, Tom had begun to divest Jack of his upper
clothing. With the assistance of Harry and Arnold, he removed the jacket
and shirt in a short time.

"There's nothing here at all!" he cried in amazement.

"What's that bruised looking place over his heart?" asked Harry. "Seems
to me it is discolored somewhat there."

"Sure enough!" cried Arnold. "Give him first aid for drowning. That may
start his heart action. He isn't shot after all!"

"Hurray!" responded his chums in chorus, quickly putting into action the
suggestion of Arnold. They worked quickly and effectively, their
training standing them in good stead at this time.

Before many seconds had passed, Jack opened his eyes, gasped weakly and
then sat up on the edge of the bunk. Blinking his eyes, he put his hand
over his heart. Arnold shouted for pure joy.

"Hurrah, Frank!" he cried up the companion-way, "Jack is coming to! What
do you think of us for life-savers?"

"You can't mean it!" incredulously protested Frank.

"Well we just do mean it and I for one am awful glad!"

"So are all of us glad!" declared Tom. "I was worried for a while. It
looked as if you were going to stay out, Jack!"

The boys were capering about in glee over Jack's recovery though his
smile was still a trifle wan and drawn. Slowly, however, his strength
returned. He accepted and drank with eagerness the cup of steaming
coffee proffered by Arnold as a restorative.

"Thank you, Scout!" smiled Jack. You're a master hand at the cooking!
What hit me? I felt quite a blow."

"You were shot," declared Harry. "The pirate schooner shot at us, you
remember, and then they had to shoot you, but we can't find any hole
where the bullet went in. You're only bruised."

"Ha!" exclaimed Jack. "I see it now! The bullet hit the automatic I had
put in my breast pocket. I never carried it there before and don't know
why I should have put it there this time."

"Well, it's a lucky thing you varied from your habit!"

"Let's see if the bullet is in the pocket yet," Harry said.

A search of the jacket revealed a hole, in the outer cloth where the
bullet had entered. Inside the pocket were the automatic and several
slivers of lead, fragments of the shattered missile.

"Jack," Harry said with a shiver, as he grasped his chum's hand, "that
was a mighty close shave. I'm glad it terminated so well."

The silent grasp that Jack returned spoke louder than words of the bond
of friendship that existed between the boys.

"Come, come," bustled Harry, "Jack will be getting hungry. Whose watch
is it in the kitchenette? I was on last, I know!"

"Yes, you were!" declared Arnold in mock anger. "You are always just off
duty when there's work to do! We know you!"

It was decided that Harry must prepare supper, for the boys were all
famished after their hard day's work.

"You'll have to check down a little if I cook!" asserted Harry. "This
isn't a battleship, and the pirates are far astern."

"Good idea," Jack assented. "Check her down, Tom, and save fuel. After
that Madero's wasting of our gasoline, we'll need all we have. He didn't
seem to care for expense a little bit!"

The suggestion was followed, and shortly the Fortuna was traveling at a
more moderate gait, taking the seas easily without shipping water on her
forward deck. Frank was enthusiastic over the arrangements, declaring
that each feature was exactly as he would have wished for it himself.
The searchlight and cabin lights operated by the dynamo below decks were
sources of pleasure.

Harry was soon busily engaged in preparing a bountiful supper for the
boys who were ready to do ample justice to his skill in the kitchen.
Harry felt justly proud of his ability as did the others, who sat down
to a supper of broiled Red Snapper with a mushroom sauce helped out by
fried potatoes, hot baking powder biscuits and excellent coffee. Frank
had opened a tin of marmalade which disappeared rapidly before the young
appetites.

Frank had been relieved at the wheel by Arnold who loved to be entrusted
with the management of the boat.

While the boys ate, a glorious sunset graced the western sky. Long
spears of light flashed up through misty, veil-like clouds, seeming to
invite the boys to the West, as if holding out to them promises of great
things in store.

Silently the boys gazed in rapt wonder. At last with a deep sigh, Frank
broke the silence that had seemed to hold all the boys.

"Isn't that grand?" he asked. "For that one could almost willingly
repeat what we've been through today. I like sunrises and sunsets and
storms and calms and all the phenomena of nature."

"I like trees and flowers most of all!" declared Tom.

"And I like live things - birds and squirrels and such!" Arnold declared.
When I grow up, I'm going to be President and have a law passed that
it's a crime to rob nests and kill squirrels and things like that. I'd
rather let them live!"

"Well, I belong to an Audubon Society at home," Frank stated. "I think
it's fine to study the birds and their habits and intelligence. We study
about other creatures, too. I am learning a lot about the creatures of
the wild out-of-doors. It's interesting."

"Here's good old Rowdy coming to get his share," cried Tom, slapping the
bulldog on the shoulder. "There's a funny old chap. He'll take all sorts
of mauling from any of us boys or from anyone whom he likes, but let a
person whom he distrusts point a finger at him, and he's at their throat
in a minute. He is very partial!"

"Yes," Jack assented, "and it's remarkable what a judge of character
that dog is, too! He can select the good from the bad about as
unerringly as one could wish. Sometimes he will make friends with
perfect strangers and we find afterwards they are good people even
though first appearances were against them. Again he will take a dislike
to some mighty fine looking folks, but we learn that they are villains
under the surface in the long run."

"Rowdy," Frank challenged, "are you going to take a shine to me or not?
Be mighty careful, now, for I'm very anxious about it."

For answer the dog who had been in the center of the floor sprang up to
Frank's lap in an endeavor to "kiss" the boy's face. His weight
projected so suddenly upon the lad resulted in upsetting him, and boy
and dog rolled to the floor in a mass. Rowdy thinking a new game was on
began pulling the boy about until all hands were arrested by a cry from
Arnold, who still remained at the wheel.

"Land Ho!" came his cry down the companion-way. "Land on the starboard
bow. All hands on deck!"

"Sure enough!" cried the lads. "There's a light, too!"

"I'll wager that's Pascagoula," Tom said. "Pretty near time we were
there by the way the Fortuna went through the water when the schooner
was chasing us. I wonder where we can tie up!"

"Let's shove her along and try to get in before dark," was Jack's
suggestion to which the others readily assented.

As the Fortuna entered the harbor the boys kept a sharp lookout for a
promising berth for the night. Not until they were well past the bridge
over which the Louisville & Nashville Railroad crosses the river did
they find a place that looked suitable.

"Let's not tie up to a dock," suggested Harry. "Let's anchor."

This seemed the most feasible solution and was acted upon.

A position was chosen apart from the busy docks and well over toward an
unoccupied section of shore. A goodly length of cable was paid out and a
stopper put in place. The boys then prepared for retiring without
further attempt at getting acquainted with the town or its inhabitants,
leaving that for the morrow.

Leaving the doors between the cabins opened for ventilation and
convenience in visiting after they were in their bunks the boys soon
disposed themselves and prepared to pass a restful night.

"Wouldn't it be better to set a watch?" asked Arnold.

"I don't think it necessary," declared Harry. "It's safe here."

"Sure it's safe, but I feel uneasy just the same," Arnold protested.
"There's no knowing what's going on in these ports."

It was voted, however, that no watch was necessary so the boy composed
himself to sleep drawing the blankets closely to his chin.

Scarcely had he gotten into a quiet sleep before Rowdy came to his bunk
and insisted on making himself a bed fellow of the boy.

At last everything was still. Only the heavy breathing of the tired boys
gave evidence of life aboard the Fortuna as she rode to her anchor,
swinging with the currents and wavelets. Her riding lights were burning
brightly, fed from the storage batteries below decks, and everything to
the passer by betokened peace.

Once Rowdy lifted a watchful eye and growled menacingly. Arnold stirred
uneasily in his sleep and threw an arm over the dog.

Suddenly a shriek of agony pierced the air with startling distinctness.
Shriek after shriek followed intermingled with cries of distress. The
boys bounded from their beds in alarm.






CHAPTER X

FIRST AID AND AN ESCAPE


"Oh! Oh! Oh!" came the cries of pain. "Oh! Oh! Oh!"

Quickly Jack's hand stole toward the switch that controlled the overhead
lights. Instantly the cabin was a blaze of light.

"What's the matter?" cried the boy looking toward the source of the
disturbance. "What's going on here, anyway?"

Rowdy bounded off his bed and dashed toward the forward cabin with a vim
and energy that bespoke ill for someone.

"Here, Rowdy," commanded Arnold, "come here, sir."

Slowly the dog returned to his master's side. The hair on his shoulders
was standing straight on end while hoarse growls issued in thunderous
tones from his throat around which the muscles tightened in anticipation
of a desperate struggle with an enemy.

"There's someone in there," declared Harry in a tone of discovery.
"Somebody came aboard while we were asleep."

"Sure enough," scorned Tom rumpling Harry's usually smooth hair. "What
did you suppose was making all that noise, friend?"

"Well, there is someone in there," stoutly maintained Harry.

"Hush, boys," commanded Jack. "Let's see who it is."

Automatics were produced from under pillows and the boys moved forward
to investigate. The cries still came loudly.

"Who are you and what do you want?" questioned Jack.

"Oh, help me, help me," groaned the figure lying at the foot of the
companion-way. "Help me, I'm hurt badly."

"Where are you hurt?" inquired Jack solicitously bending over the
prostrate form curled in a heap. "I'll help you if I can."

"My foot, oh, my foot," wailed the stranger. "It's cut off."

"Look at the blood," declared Frank. "Good gracious, that's a bad wound.
Wonder how he got it. How did he get aboard?"

"There's something sticking into his foot," cried Harry. "Look at that
thing projecting from his foot. No wonder it bleeds."

Frank and Jack exchanged glances and then at the whispered command of
Frank, Jack quickly sat on the head of their visitor while Tom and Harry
threw themselves upon his leg. Frank stooped, grasped the foot with one
hand and with the other wrenched quickly at the thing that was
protruding through the foot of the boy.

A shriek of agony told of the pain he had caused. Frank shook his head
in pity at the suffering he had brought about. He glanced at the object
he held in his hand, then sat down upon a locker and gave vent to shout
after shout of laughter. The boys gazed in open mouthed wonder at the
spectacle. Frank's laugh was hearty.

"Frank," cried Jack wonderingly, "what's the matter? Have you gone plumb
crazy or are you enjoying this boy's suffering?"

"Neither," asserted Frank. "I think we'll give a little first aid and
then thank Arnold here for catching the thief."

"Thank me?" queried Arnold. "I didn't catch him."

"Yes, you did," declared Frank. "But now to help him a bit."

"How shall we treat the foot?" asked Tom gazing ruefully at the deck,
now becoming crimson under the stain of blood.

"Get a basin and then some hot water," directed Frank. "I think we'd
better wash this out first and then put in some disinfectant. Have you
got something to cleanse the wound?"

"Surely have," was Tom's confident answer. "Got a whole chest full of
dope here. Help yourself to anything you want!"

"Let's put in a lot of turpentine," suggested Harry. "That's good for
snake-bite and other things. We've got plenty of it, too."

Frank took charge of the injured lad, bathing and cleansing the wounded
foot. He prepared to bandage the member after giving it a liberal
application of turpentine. As he was about to put the bandage in place
Harry offered another suggestion.

"Let's put on some of that fat salt pork. I got a rusty nail in my foot
once and that's what they put on me."

"Did it work?" asked Tom. "I mean the pork, of course."

"Of course it worked," stoutly maintained Harry.

"All right, then, put on a slice of pork. It surely can't do any harm
and may draw out the poison from the foot."

"What poison?" queried Arnold. "What did he step on?"

"I told you," stated Frank in a positive tone, "that Arnold captured
this fellow. When you know the facts, you'll agree."

"Let me mop up this smear on the floor," suggested Tom, bringing hot
water, "and then we'll all listen. Who's the Sherlock?"

"Take cold water, Tom, for that spot on the floor," was Frank's
suggestion. "If you don't the place will be discolored."

"Sure enough, I guess I'm getting old and forgetful," laughed Tom.
"We've had enough excitement today to make me forget most everything, I
guess. Tell you what, I'm sleepy, too."

"Now tell us how you happened to say that Arnold caught this chap," Jack
demanded of Frank when the stranger had been placed in a comfortable
position and the boys had gathered in the after cabin. "I thought Arnold
was in the bunk when it happened."

"Well, boys," began Frank producing the object he had taken from the
visitor's foot, "Arnold discovered the horse buried upside down in the
sand on Petit Bois and he insisted on bringing the shell."

"All as plain as mud," shouted Arnold. "I left the horseshoe crab shell
in the forward cabin. It must have got kicked about during the evening
and left with the tail sticking straight up. When this fellow came down
the steps, he landed on it kerplunk."

"Right-O!" declared Frank. "At least," he continued, "that's my
deduction. If anyone has a better explanation, let him give it."

None was offered, however, the boys seeming to agree that Arnold's
explanation had been correct. They all waited to hear further from
Frank. He noticed their hesitation and continued:

"I think it would be a good idea to go and interview this lad. He looks
to me like a tough customer here for no good."

This suggestion met with instant approval. The boys crowded forward
eagerly. One or two automatics were displayed.

"Hello, what's this," questioned Harry, picking up an object from the
bunk beside the visitor who was lying on his side.

"Why, it's a piece of raw meat," he exclaimed. "Where did that come
from? We haven't any beef aboard, have we?"

"Not that I know of," answered Arnold. "It's only a small piece. Give it
to Rowdy. He needs a lunch."

"Stop," shouted Jack. "Don't give that to Rowdy."

"Why not?" Arnold questioned in a surprised tone.

"Maybe this chap brought it aboard for that very purpose!"

"What a numbskull I am," scolded Arnold. "Here I might have killed our
best friend. I must get the habit of thinking."

"How about it, friend?" queried Jack shaking the stranger by the
shoulder. "What have you got on the meat?"

"Nothing," stoutly declared the newcomer, keeping his face turned toward
the bulkhead. "I have nothing on it."

"I see," scorned Jack. "You intended to bring the meat aboard to use for
a sandwich for yourself. You were about to use our kitchenette for a
while, then you would have gone on peaceably."

No answer was vouchsafed to this sally and Jack continued:

"You might as well make a clean breast of the whole matter. We know you.
You were aboard our boat once before. We are several gallons of gasoline
short because of your kindness. 'Fess up, now."

"I guess I know a way to make him talk," declared Frank. "Come here
until I suggest a method that I hope will be effective."

Frank and Jack withdrew a little from the group about the berth holding
the stranger. After a moment's consultation they returned and Jack again
addressed the injured boy in a friendly tone:

"Come, now, Carlos Madero, or whatever your name may be, we want to
treat you right, but we're going to have some information if we have to
wring your neck to get it. We don't care about doing you any harm,
especially since you're already wounded, but you will have to explain
your presence here at this hour of the night. Why did you come aboard
barefooted and unannounced?"

"I am not afraid of your threats. You can't do anything to me. Besides,
you're Boy Scouts and you wouldn't harm me."

"Never mind about that just now," interrupted Jack. "We can protect
ourselves even if we are Boy Scouts. You'll learn that."

"Sure he'll learn it," chimed in Tom. "He'd better not monkey too far
with this crowd. We'll make him eat that meat."

"God idea," declared Jack. "Arnold, please start the coils and fry this
chunk of meat for out friend. He's hungry."

With these words, Jack drew an automatic and displayed it for the
benefit of the visitor. He had no intention of using the weapon, but
felt it might have a salutary effect. In this he was right.

"I can't eat it," cried the boy. "It's poisoned."

"Ah, ha," gloated Jack. "I thought so."

"Oh, please let me go away," begged the lad. "I'll promise not to do
anything against you again. I'll never bother you at all."

"We don't want to do anything rash," Frank suggested. "We won't harm you
if you'll agree not to injure us, but we must know why you came aboard
tonight as you did and what your purpose was."

"Wyckoff made me," groaned the boy covering his face with his hands.
"There," he cried sitting up in bed, "now I've told, he'll kill me sure.
Oh, I'm in trouble now."

"Not so you could notice it," gritted Jack, taking a firmer hold on his
automatic. "If Wyckoff tries any of his dirty tricks around here, we'll
fill him so full of holes he'll leak straw."

"You don't know him," shuddered the boy. "He's a desperate man. He shot
a nigger once just because the fellow disputed Wyckoff about a match.
He's a bad, bad man. I know him."

"And still he had the nerve to tell us on Petit Bois that his hands were
clean," scornfully declared Jack. "He makes me sick."

"Oh, have you seen him?" questioned Carlos.

"He didn't tell me that! He just told me what I must do."

"What did he tell you to do?" inquired Frank not unkindly.

"He said that in the after cabin of this boat under the floor boards I
would find a plug driven into the skin of the boat to fill an auger
hole.

"He directed me to remove that plug carefully and swim ashore. I was not
to awaken you but to get away quietly."

"Well, you surely were the pussy-footed little sleuth," declared Harry.
"It would have been impossible to hear you more than forty or fifty
miles away. There's nothing the matter with that voice of yours. I know
an auctioneer who could use that noise."

"Don't rub it in, Harry," advised Tom. "The poor lad is having troubles
of his own right now as it is. He's all in."

"He brought it on himself," maintained Harry. "He wasn't invited aboard.
If he'd stayed away, this never would have happened."

"I know," soothed Tom, "and you'll find that most of the troubles we get
into are caused by our own acts. I'm sleepy. Move we postpone this third
degree business until morning."

"Second the motion," declared Harry. "Let's set a guard over the
prisoner and go back to sleep. I'm all in, myself."

The suggestion met with the approval of all the boys. They were tired
after their long and strenuous day and needed rest badly.

Arnold, feeling elated because his crab shell had been the means of
trapping the midnight visitor, volunteered to act as guard during the
first watch. He stoutly maintained that he was not sleepy and would be
only too glad of the chance to watch.

The poisoned meat was thrown overboard and quiet reigned again.

Frank awoke and stretched himself. Then he reached across to the bunk
occupied by Jack and shook that worthy by the arm.

"Let's get up and visit the hospital," he suggested, springing up.

Arnold sat sleeping on the bunk. The prisoner was gone!






CHAPTER XI

AN ELUSIVE BOB WHITE


"Hey," cried Jack grasping Arnold roughly by the shoulder, "Where is
your prisoner? You're a pretty guard, you are."

Sheepishly Arnold glanced around, now thoroughly awake.

"Has he gone?" he asked in a wondering tone. "Where is he?"

"Yes, indeed, he went hours ago," asserted Frank. "He was lying here
sleeping and a big side wheel boat pulled up with a band playing. They
tied up to the Fortuna, fired a salute of twenty-one guns in honor of
royalty and then the band filed through the cabin, one at a time,
playing their instruments as hard as they could blow. The invalid got up
and walked away with them and after another salute of twenty-one guns,
the steamer pulled away upstream."

"They did not," protested Arnold stretching himself.

"Well, if they had, it wouldn't have affected you in the least,"
declared Jack. "We were all tired out and none of us heard him get away.
Even Rowdy didn't say anything against it and when Rowdy keeps quiet
things are pretty still. He's a light sleeper."

"How about it, Rowdy?" inquired Arnold caressing the bulldog. "You'll
stick up for me, won't you, old pal?"

Rowdy's stumpy tail wagged ecstatically as Arnold lavished affection
upon him. He endeavored to "kiss" all hands, but this was discouraged.
The boys dearly loved their pet but objected to "kisses."

"Anyhow," decided Arnold, "Rowdy never would have let the chap get away
if he had thought he was here for harm. So that means the boy is all
right! He may have come here a bad boy, but he went away a good one or
Rowdy never would have let him go. So there!"

"There might be something in that, too," admitted Jack.

"All hands on deck for a bath," sang out Tom. "I feel dirty!"

"Let's run out of the harbor and get some clean water," Harry proposed.
"This river looks pretty thick to me."

All the boys thought the idea a good one and accordingly the anchor was
lifted and the Fortuna put out to sea a short distance.

The morning was a glorious one. Old Sol cast his rays upon the sea which
gave them back broken and shattered into a thousand shafts of shimmering
light. The air was cool and clear. Here and there in the distance a
white sail like a fleeting gull marked the position of a sailing vessel,
while a smudge of smoke from a steamer far away to the west lent a touch
of color.

No time was lost by the boys in starting the pump. Soon a stream of
water from the hose was playing on the deck. All hands seized brushes
and scrubbed the decks industriously until they shone in spotlessness.
Then the hose was turned on the crew, each boy in turn enjoying hugely a
shower bath of sea-water. After splashing about to their hearts' content
someone mentioned breakfast.

"Let's run out a ways and see what we can catch," cried Arnold. "I'd
like a broiled fish for breakfast."

Accordingly the lines were made ready and in a short time Tom announced
a bite. His catch proved to be a Spanish mackerel of good size. No time
was lost in cleaning the prize.

"Now, while the cook prepares breakfast," Jack said, "I think we'd
better get back into harbor. I'm dubious about that plug in the
Fortune's side and think we'd better have her out on the ways for a new
plank if necessary. Let's get back."

"Right you are, Captain," declared Harry. "I'm cook this morning, while
Jack must wash dishes! He said lots of slang yesterday."


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