"Now you mention it, I'll plead guilty," laughed Jack.
With laughter and gay spirits the boys could scarcely wait for
breakfast. Harry was an adept at the kitchen as his friends all were
willing to testify. He threw his whole soul into the task as he did with
everything he undertook. Today was no exception.
"My only regret," stated Frank as they were seated about the breakfast
table at last, "is that I didn't find you fellows sooner."
"The pleasure is mutual, I assure you - we assure you," stated Tom.
"We've enjoyed your society immensely and hope we'll find your chum
shortly. He can't be far away."
"Wyckoff wouldn't be so desperate as to do him harm, would he?" queried
Harry. "I can't believe he would make way with him."
"I don't know," replied Frank in a dubious tone. "Wyckoff has given
evidence that he's a mighty mean sort of a chap."
"Speaking of Wyckoff," put in Jack, "I believe that's the schooner that
chased us away from Petit Bois yesterday. Look there."
All hands looked in the direction indicated by Jack and saw a schooner
just putting out of the harbor. On her decks stood several roughly
dressed men lounging about in attitudes that bespoke anything but the
smart sailor. They were unkempt and untidy in appearance and were
generally a pretty undesirable looking group.
"If that's the same vessel," Frank declared, "I'm glad she didn't catch
us! They're a hard looking collection of desperadoes."
"She's tacking so as to come close aboard of us," declared Tom. "Shall I
shift the course, Jack?" he inquired.
"I don't think so," answered Jack. "Of course under the pilot rules of
the United States, a power boat under way must keep clear of a sailing
vessel. She has the right of way and seems to be taking it. But we can
easily dodge her with our powerful engines."
Closer and closer came the schooner until it seemed that she would
surely collide with the motor-boat. When scarcely more than a length
Away from the Fortuna, the schooner was brought sharply about on the
other tack. As she came about a clear cut whistle sounded shrilly in the
"Bob White! Bob, Bob White!"
"Gracious!" cried Frank springing to his feet. "The Bob White."
Instantly he was on deck sending ringing across the water his answer to
the challenge of his Patrol:
"Bob White! Bob, Bob White!"
The men on the schooner laughed coarsely as the boy waited for an answer
to his challenge. The two vessels were drawing farther apart now. Their
voices were indistinguishable, but once more came the call:
"Bob White! Bob, Bob - "
Suddenly the call stopped as if a hand had been placed over the face of
the one making the cry. The crew of the Fortuna stared at one another in
wide eyed wonderment. They all were thinking rapidly and each seemed to
have formed the same conclusion.
"Shall I follow them, Captain?" asked Tom addressing Jack.
"I'd like to," Jack replied, "but I don't think it wise. It may be that
Charley Burnett is aboard that, schooner and that the schooner is the
one that chased and fired at us yesterday. We are not sure of either
supposition. If he's aboard, he's still alive. If he was not on board
and one of the crew did the whistling, we would have our trouble for our
pains and be laughed at and perhaps insulted into the bargain. We'd
better wait a while, I think."
"But maybe he is there and wants to get off," declared Arnold.
"Possibly," agreed Jack. "But in that case if we were to attempt to
rescue him by force, that crew is too powerful for us to overcome unless
we run alongside and shoot them down mercilessly. We are not prepared to
do that just yet, I hope. What's your idea concerning, this, Frank?" he
continued addressing his friend.
"It's pretty hard to say it, but I really believe you're right, Jack,"
answered Frank holding out his hand. "'You are right."
"Thank you," said Jack. "I believe this thing will come out all right
without any serious harm to your chum or to us."
If Jack could only have looked into the future he might not have spoken
so confidently nor have believed his own words so much.
The run back to the harbor occupied but little time. Arrived there Jack
at once went ashore to arrange for hauling out and repairing the
Fortuna. He found the marine railway without difficulty but was unable
to secure accommodations for his motor boat at once. Every berth was
full but one would be empty later in the day.
When Jack reported again aboard the Fortuna the boys agreed that the
best thing to do would be to wait for their chance at the ways.
All felt that it would be far safer to replace the plank through which
Wyckoff had put the auger hole in his dastardly attempt to turn the boys
from their course.
"It will give us a chance to examine her bottom," Jack argued, "and we
can see how the barnacles like her. I believe that I'll get some copper
paint and give the hull a coat while she's out."
"Hurray," joyfully cried Arnold. "Then I can say truthfully that I'm a
marine painter! Won't that be fine."
"There are many things you might say truthfully," agreed Harry in a
tantalizing tone. "Of course I emphasize 'might.'"
"Boys, boys," cautioned Jack. "Have a joke, but don't let it go too far.
We must constantly remember our motto and no one can 'Be Prepared' to
resist the many temptations of life unless he is constantly in training.
Sunshine and pleasant skies are best."
"I think those chaps are like a lot of young animals," Frank observed.
"They must have a certain amount of tussle and wrestle in order to
develop their muscle. They'll need a lot of it later on."
"No doubt you're right," Jack laughed. "Maybe I'm a little too severe. I
hope not. I love the boys and want them to be men in every sense of the
word. They're good boys all of them."
"When will we get off the ways again, Captain Jack?" asked Harry, after
surveying the town and shipping through the glasses.
"We can't get on until late this afternoon, so that means we won't get
the carpenter work done until tomorrow some time," Jack replied.
"Possibly we'll be able to put her into the water again tomorrow night,
if everything goes along well. After the carpenters replace the plank, I
want the caulkers to search the seams for soft places in the oakum and
after that we'll paint her."
"Well, then, if it's agreeable to you, Harry and I want to go up the
river for a fishing trip. We haven't had a chance to catch fish for a
long while and that mackerel this morning gave us the fever. We can't be
of any use here today so let us go."
"I can't see any objection to that at all," replied Jack. "I should be
real glad to have a mess of fresh fish and if you'll promise to return
before dark you may go for the day."
"Captain, we'll vote you a leather medal," declared Arnold.
"Yes," agreed Harry, "and not only that, but we'll fetch him back a mess
of fish that'll keep the crew busy for a week."
"Let's go over and see the ship carpenter. He can tell us where the good
fishing spots are and what bait to use," Harry suggested.
"While they are over there getting information, let us put up a lunch
for them," Tom said. "I'll pack a lot of sandwiches and put in a can of
coffee and some pickles. That ought to last them."
In a short time the boys returned and taking tackle and lunch set off up
the river in the boat found on Petit Bois Island. Gaily they waved their
hands at their comrades as they rounded a bend.
During the remainder of the day Jack, Tom and Frank were about the
shipyard watching the carpenters at work on various vessels of small
tonnage drawn up for repairs. After dinner they went uptown to purchase
the necessary paint and to arrange for an additional supply of canned
goods with which to stock their larder.
"Let's get some vegetables for supper," Tom said as they visited one of
the stores. "It will surprise the boys when they get back all tired and
hungry. They'll like that."
Well loaded the lads returned to the shipyard. As they neared the place
where their vessel was now lying on the ways, Jack stopped short in his
tracks. He turned a startled glance toward his companions. Alarmed, they
eagerly crowded closer.
"What's the matter, now?" inquired Tom in a whisper.
"I just saw Wyckoff sneaking behind that shed," Jack replied.
SAVED BY A STRANGER
"Look, Harry," Arnold cried as they rowed along. "See the palm leaf fans
all growing in bunches on shore there."
"Those must be what they call 'Palmettos,'" answered Harry.
"Are they good to eat?" was Arnold's query.
"Not that I know of," Harry replied, "unless some native animal here
wants to commit suicide. They are rough and have barbs growing on the
leaf stems. They do resemble palm leaf fans with streamers on the edge.
We won't bother them, though."
"Surely not," responded Arnold. "But look at that tree with all the gray
washing hanging on it. Looks for all the world like all the kitchen
mechanics and pot wrestlers in the world had hung their dirty dish
cloths on it to dry. And there's another - and another - and another," he
"I know what that is," announced Harry. "That's the Spanish moss we've
heard about! At last, we're getting closer to the Treasure Chest. At
least we've found something Spanish."
"Pull in toward the shore," requested Arnold. "I see a spot I think
would be ideal for a fishes park. I can almost imagine I see numbers of
young fish sitting around on the benches in the shady spots right now.
They look so cool and comfortable!"
"I wonder if any of them are hungry enough to take a little lunch,"
mused Harry, pulling as close to the bank as he could.
"Try and see," advised Arnold. "I'm going to drop a line to a big young
fellow I've heard about and see if he will answer."
Both boys laughed quietly at the conceit. Their day started finely and
augured well. Preparing their tackle they lost no time in lowering an
alluring bait to the finny denizens of the water.
Evidently the fish were hungry for not many minutes passed before Harry
felt a tug at his line. He began reeling in rapidly.
"Oh, what a whopper," exclaimed Arnold peering over the side of the
boat. "It's as long as my arm and big as a good sized stove pipe, I
believe. One or two like that will be enough."
"Thanks," panted Harry. "Wait till I get this one."
Skillfully the lad drew the fish to a point where he could be sure of
landing it without danger. Then he waited for his chum to assist with
the landing net. The fish was a beauty.
"What shall we call it?" proudly questioned the lad.
"Well, I should call that No. 1," gravely replied Arnold. "He looks like
a fellow I used to know by the name of 'A. No. 1.'"
"Good," cried the delighted Harry. "Now you go after his cousin. Get Mr.
No. 2, and do it quickly."
"Here he comes," declared Arnold. "I knew I spit, no, spat - what should
I say, spitted or spatted? - on that bait just right."
"You watch out or he'll walk away with the bait and all."
"Bingo," yelled Arnold. "I got him."
Harry laughed to see the way Arnold was struggling to keep the fish. For
a short time it looked as if the fish had Arnold. At last after a long
battle the fish was exhausted and gave up.
"That's a better one than mine," was Harry's generous comment.
"They're just about as nearly twins as it's possible to get them,"
asserted Arnold. "And they're both beauties. It's nearly noon by my
watch, so I vote we go ashore and build a fire. Some fish for dinner
wouldn't go bad at all. What are these, Bass?"
"I don't think so," objected Harry. "See that red spot just at the root
of their tail? Well, the natives a call that redfish."
"All right," agreed Arnold, "fresh redfish will go mighty fine. And I'm
hungry enough to eat a big one myself."
"You're always hungry, Arnold," declared his chum.
"No more often than the rest of the crew. I notice they all eat when the
eating is good. And I'd pity the chicken that had to live off the table
scraps from our festive board," declared the boy with emphasis. "We're
noted for being table finishers."
"I notice we all brought our appetites along," admitted Harry.
"Lets land near that oak tree that leans out over the water," suggested
Arnold. There are three tall pines growing a short distance from the oak
and that'll make a good landmark if we walk about."
"The very thing! You haven't forgotten your instructions in scouting,
have you? That idea is a good one."
"Then we'll go up from the river a ways, make a little camp and eat
dinner. Maybe we can see some of the wild creatures of this country. It
would be interesting to watch them at play."
"I'm agreeable. We've got the whole day before us. Isn't it fine to know
that you don't have to get back at any certain time, but can just loaf
along if you wish or work hard if you like?"
"Glorious," agreed Arnold. "Just now, however, you'll want to work hard,
I know, for we're going to have a grand feed on redfish. That means
you'll please get the wood while I clean the 'piece de resistance' of
our dinner. The boys put up a nice lunch."
Not far from the tree where they landed the boys found a suitable spot
for their camp. A fire was soon blazing merrily over which the fish
cooked with an appetizing odor.
"The boys laughed when I brought this pan along," remarked Arnold. "They
evidently didn't believe I would have need for it."
"They'll like that fine big fish we take home, I'll wager."
"After dinner, let's gather some of that Spanish Moss and take it to the
Fortuna. I wonder if it wouldn't make good mattresses."
"They say the negroes and some of the whites down here do just that.
They bury it in the ground a while then pack it into a mattress and have
a fine bed. It must be buried in the earth for a time, though, they say.
It is funny looking stuff isn't it?"
"It surely is. But what is that green plant up there? It looks as if the
oak tree were all dead except that one sprig of green. Strange that it
should keep only one twig alive."
"I believe that's mistletoe growing on a limb of the oak."
"I guess you're right. And down there at the foot of the tree I see a
quail. He's humped over and seems to be trying to make himself smaller
all the time."
"Hush, man," Harry protested. "Quails don't grow down South as far as
this! They're a Northern bird."
"Then maybe I don't know what a quail is," retorted Arnold.
"I don't mean that," replied Harry, "but it seems strange to think of
quail being here. I always had an idea that quail humped themselves
under the shelter of a corn shock with snow blowing around their toes
and nearly freezing them to death."
"Maybe you're right. They tell me the natives call these birds
partridges. Just the same, I'll venture to say that I can call them out
of cover. Want to see me try it?"
"Sure. Go as far as you like. We won't shoot them, though."
"Certainly not. We have all we need for food except maybe a rabbit.
Watch me toll them on."
Both boys were very quiet for a few minutes, then Arnold sent out a
plaintive "Bob White" call. In a few minutes he repeated the cry. This
time an answer came and directly both boys were delighted to observe the
little bright eyed bird that had responded stepping out from the shelter
of a clump of grass.
"Too bad to disappoint him," declared Arnold, "but it is getting on
towards the shank of the afternoon, so let's take a walk around and then
get back to the town. The Fortuna is probably on the railway by now. I
wish the others could have been with us this glorious afternoon. It has
been fine so far."
Leaving the river the boys walked slowly along scanning closely the
vegetation on all sides and keeping an alert eye open for the feathered
and furry denizens of the forest.
A rabbit scurried across their path and hastened with great leaps down
the path. The boys laughed to see the patch of white tail go bounding
down the old trail along which they were walking.
"I'll choose the next one," declared Harry. "Rabbit stew for supper
wouldn't go so bad! It would help out on canned goods."
"All right, Harry," responded Arnold. "We'll make the limit one rabbit
apiece if you don't mind. We'll have a good supper at that. There's no
use taking home more than we can eat soon."
"Here's mine, then," announced Harry taking quick aim at a fleeing
cotton-tail. "I'll choose this one right here."
As a tribute to Harry's excellent aim the rabbit bounded high in the air
and then rolled over and over lying quite still after falling to the
earth. His career had been stopped instantly.
"I hope I can do as well," was Arnold's pleased comment.
"There's your chance," announced Harry. "See him?"
"Come here, rabbit," cried Arnold taking quick aim.
At his shot the rabbit bounded into the air, falling as had Harry's. But
instead of lying quietly where he had fallen the rabbit struggled and
ran limping away. It seemed impossible for him to go rapidly, however.
He managed to get away just too quickly to be caught. The boys hastened
after their quarry in an effort to end its struggles as much as to
secure the game.
Their chase led them to a low spot where rank grass was growing. The
dead stalks of the previous year's growth were fallen to the earth,
making a dense mat of dried stubble.
"Small chance of finding him in here, Harry," was Arnold's comment. "We
might as well give it up and go on back to the boat."
"I don't like to do that," protested Harry. "He might be right under
foot for all we know. Let's kick around a little. Why, what's this?" he
continued stooping to pick an object from the ground. The next moment
with a scream he jumped backward.
A great snake had lain directly under his feet but now was coiled in a
mass. Its tail was whirring angrily while the great triangular head
waved slowly from side to side.
Fascinated the boy stood as if rooted to the spot.
Arnold was in direct line with Harry between himself and the snake, so
dared not shoot. Harry's automatic had dropped from his nerveless
fingers at the first alarming whir of the vibrating rattles. Unable to
make a sound or move a muscle the lad stood entirely unnerved while the
great reptile prepared to strike.
Arnold fired two quick shots from his automatic, hoping to attract the
attention of the snake from its intended victim. His hope was not in
vain. At the sound the snake seemed to hesitate a moment as if undecided
what to do. Evidently its attention had been attracted from Harry.
Elated at his success, Arnold fired twice more, but this time the angry
buzzing recommenced. It seemed as if there was no hope whatever for the
lad who stood with the sweat now pouring from his face. To this day he
says that he can distinctly remember a little drop of sweat trickling
down his nose and pausing at the tip before it splashed to the earth. He
declares that it seemed a lifetime while he stood there expecting
momentarily to feel the deadly fangs dart into his body and leave their
He protests that so fascinated was he by the awful horror of the
situation that he can describe accurately every marking and every detail
of the great snake as it lay there coiled for the blow that would prove
fatal to himself.
Almost fainting, Harry heard the two shots that caused the snake to
momentarily lower its head and cease its buzzing rattles from sounding.
Hope rose within his breast as he noted this action, yet he could not
move from the spot. His feet seemed leaden.
The next instant the snake again raised its head and the second shot
fired by Arnold seemed to increase its anger for it recommenced with
more vigor than before the sharp buzzing of its rattles. In desperation,
Arnold emptied his automatic into the ground at his feet, but without
effect upon the snake.
A rifle shot echoed through the forest. The rattler lunged forward.
A FRUITLESS SEARCH
"Surely that can't be Wyckoff," declared Tom. "He wouldn't be around
here at this time of day. Couldn't you be mistaken?"
"I don't think so," stoutly protested Jack. "He seemed to be poking his
head around the corner of that shed and when he saw I noticed him, he
dodged back. I am quite sure it was he."
"Well, I think he has his nerve to be sneaking around the yard at this
hour. Why can't he go on about his business instead of hounding us all
the time, I'd like to know," indignantly stormed Frank. "He's about the
poorest specimen of humanity I know."
"He thinks he's well within his rights," argued Jack. "I don't like him,
but I must admire his 'stick-to-itiveness.'"
"Whatever that is," put in Tom. "If he'd stick to it and dig up his
good-for-nothing old treasure chest himself instead of barking at the
moon, we'd all be better off. But here we are at the good old Fortuna.
My, my, how she looms up out of the water."
"She certainly does look big when one can get a view of the hull below
the water line," agreed Jack, with a note of pride.
For some time the boys walked around the vessel, noting her fine lines
and examining the hull for possible defects. They found nothing that
they considered worthy of repair except the hole through which their
plug projected. Jack examined with minute care the outboard end of the
shaft log and the propeller.
"Here comes the watchman," announced Frank as the boys paused at the
foot of the ladder before going aboard the motor boat.
"Let's stop and have a word with him," Tom said. "Maybe he's a pretty
decent sort of chap. At any rate it won't hurt to get acquainted. He can
likely tell us something about the man you saw."
"Agreed," announced Jack. "By all means, let us cultivate the
acquaintance of the watchman. We may need him in our business."
Accordingly when the watchman arrived in the course of making his rounds
the boys spoke pleasantly to him, finding him quite agreeable. In fact,
he was inclined to visit at some length.
He was glad to exchange ideas with the boys upon learning that they were
from the North. Their tales of adventure with the motor boat seemed
quite fascinating to him. They related some of their adventures on Lake
Michigan and Lake Superior, in the mining region, where they had been on
special duty during the strike of mine employees and then detailed some
features of their trip South that had so nearly resulted in disaster.
An hour passed quickly away before the boys realized that it was getting
late. Jumping up from their seats they declared that they must prepare
supper and make ready for their chums who were expected momentarily.
With an expression of good will the watchman prepared to make his rounds
of the yard.
Just as he was about to move away Jack asked:
"Oh, by the way, do you know a man named Wyckoff who lives in this
vicinity somewhere? He's a man of medium build and has one of those
peculiar blue-black beards that can never be shaved quite clean because
the skin is so clear, the black roots of the whiskers show through. He
also is carrying a smashed nose just now."
"I cain't seem to reckomember of any sich man," deliberately replied the
watchman. "What did youall say he done?"
"I don't know what he does regularly. I think he's a fisherman and
shrimper betimes. Possibly he does odd jobs when he's not fishing. He
seems to be quite a handy man at any job."
"No, I don't believe I can place him," replied the watchman with a note
of regret in his voice, as if he were sorry for his lack of knowledge
concerning the man sought.
"Oh, well," lightly answered Jack, "it's no matter. He's probably from
some other town along the coast. Don't worry about it."
"Are you going to stay aboard tonight?" asked the watchman in leaving.
"If you wanted to take a run uptown to the show I'll be mighty glad to
watch your vessel right close while you're gone."
"Thank you for the offer," Jack replied as he prepared to mount the
ladder leading to the deck above him. "You are very kind."
He was about to add that they would remain aboard the vessel, but caught
himself and for no accountable reason answered:
"We were figuring on going uptown after supper. If you happen to be in
this part of the yard you might keep an eye on the little wagon.
"And, by the way," he added, "here's a piece of change for your trouble.
It's not much, but if you try hard you can spend it. Most business
places are glad to get them."
"Thank you, boss, thank you," eagerly cried the watchman.
Jack knew by his manner that the piece of money was the object of his
offer, but tried to avoid letting the man see that.
Rowdy was unable to negotiate the ladder and consequently had to be