G. Harvey Ralphson.

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carried up by Tom. At last they were all aboard, supper was under way
and the Fortuna was bright with lights from her storage batteries. Jack
decided it was best not to start the engines because of the danger of
displacing the shoring.

Supper was eaten and still the fishermen had not returned.

"Let's turn off the lights and maybe that watchman will think we have
gone uptown if we are quiet," suggested Jack.

"All right," agreed Tom. "Can we keep Rowdy quiet, too?

"Sure you'll be quiet, won't you, old chap?"

Rowdy's answer was an attempt to "kiss" his friend.

For some time the boys sat in silence, hoping every moment for the
return of their friends. It was growing dusk and Jack was becoming
anxious. Just as he was about to speak, Rowdy seemed to stiffen as if
pointing something. The hair on his shoulders rose on end, while a
scarcely audible growl escaped from his throat.

Although the boys sat in the shadow of the pilot house and were
indistinguishable to anyone below in the shipyard, they could still see
each other. Jack touched Frank and Tom lightly and then using the sign
language employed by mutes he said to them:

"Rowdy sees or smells something he doesn't like."

"I see it, too," signaled Tom. "It's that watchman friend of yours. He's
coming back to see if we left some of our supper."

"He was a hungry looking chap," wigwagged Frank. "I'd like to feed him
up a little and put some fat on his ribs once."

"It would take a mint of money to buy the grub," Tom's fingers spelled
out. "He's what the livery stable owner would call a hard keeper. He
needs a dose of something. I don't like him."

"Rowdy doesn't like him either," Jack's fingers were working. "But who
is that other chap beside him? Hush! They're coming this way as sure as
I'm alive. Is he bringing the family?"

"Wait a minute," spelled out Frank. "I wish I could talk."

"Why?" asked Jack. "Aren't you talking?"

"Yes, after a fashion, but those chaps can't understand this. I'd like
to tell the watchman what a liar he is and to ask Wyckoff where my chum
Charley Burnett is. If he didn't answer, I'd make him."

"I see," Jack replied. "But have patience. We'll get him."

"Here they come," announced Tom. "Both of 'em, hungry hounds."

"Listen," signaled Frank. "Get this if you can."

The watchman and Wyckoff, for it was he, were talking in low tones. Only
an occasional word was audible to the three watchers on the motor boat.
It was evident that Wyckoff had been drinking and was inclined to be a
trifle quarrelsome. The watchman was doing his best to restrain Wyckoff
from some act upon which he seemed determined. They were using harsh
words but still talked in a low tone.

Finally Wyckoff turned and left the yard, followed by the protesting
watchman who slammed the gate after the retreating figure.

"There, that's over," sighed Tom. "What did you get out of it?"

"Just this," stated Jack. "The watchman is a liar and Wyckoff was not
here for any good. He intends mischief of some sort."

"My idea exactly," cried Tom. "He's probably gone up town to hoist
aboard a cargo of 'Dutch Courage.' Then he'll come back here with some
of his cronies and let the Fortuna go into the water with a splash!
That'll be the end of the Fortuna."

"Let's hope not," Frank answered. "If he does that, we'll have the law
on him and he'll be railroaded to the pentitentiary so quick he won't
even stop to say good-by."

"If I see him when he's doing it, he'll go so far it would take a young
fortune to send him a postal card," gritted Tom.

"Possibly it would take all the wealth in the Treasure Chest," laughed
Jack. "Our Tom is getting to be some bloodthirsty, himself."

"Well, what'll we do?" asked Tom. "I hate sitting still."

"I think it would not be a bad idea to go look for the boys," replied
Jack. "It may seem foolish, but I feel that they are in trouble and need
us. Maybe a couple of us could go and the other stay here with Rowdy to
guard the Fortuna. It's hard to decide what to do."

"Let's not separate any more," begged Tom. "We're split up enough as it
is. Let's all go or else all stay."

"All the lockers are securely fastened so no one could take much if they
came aboard," argued Frank. "I'm in favor of remaining together if we
can. If we only had a lantern to take with us."

"We've got an acetylene headlight such as they use on motorcycles," Tom
declared. "That would be a dandy thing."

"Let's go, then, before Wyckoff comes back with his friends."

Accordingly the boys secured automatics and the acetylene headlight.
They hurriedly packed a bundle of food, borrowed one of the boats of the
shipyard and started upstream to look for their chums. In a short time
they discovered the skiff moored at the leaning oak. The big fish were
duly admired by all.

"They've been gone quite a while," announced Tom. "See how hard and dry
that fish is. They forgot to put it overboard."

"Evidently they didn't intend to stay long," suggested Jack.

"Look at Rowdy. You didn't know he was a bloodhound, did you?"

"Go it, boy," urged Jack. "Find Arnold. Find Harry."

The bulldog circled about the spot where the boys had eaten dinner, lost
the scent, picked it up again, again dropped it and finally started away
in dead earnest. Hastening along the boys had hard work to keep up with
him. Through forest and glade, across swampy places and over ridges the
dog led the lads ever at a swift pace. Once in a while he stopped to
give vent to a fierce growl.

At length the boys becoming exhausted called a halt.

"Make Rowdy rest a while until I get my breath," protested Tom.

"He seems to know pretty near where he's going," Jack said.

"Yes," agreed Frank, "and I have an idea that he's trailing the boys.
The point that worries me is whether we can find our way back to the
tree where the boats are tied."

"I think so," replied Jack. "When we left the river we struck straight
back for a little distance then turned directly to our left and have
followed nearly a straight course since. I have seen the stars every
little while and I'm sure I could find my way back."

"We're going against the wind, aren't we?" questioned Tom.

"Yes, what little wind there is," replied Jack, "Why?"

"Oh, nothing. I just get foolish notions in my head, that's all."

"What's the foolish notion, now, Tom?" queried Jack in a kindly tone.
"Tell us what it is, man. Maybe it is worth while."

"Well, just notice Rowdy, here. He's mighty uneasy and has been snuffing
into the air for some little time. Just now as I took a deep breath I
thought I smelled smoke and with it came an odor of burning flesh. It
was too heavy to be merely the remains of a dinner thrown into a fire. I
was just thinking that some accident - "

"I don't think so," replied Jack. "At least we won't think that until we
have to. It just can't be so," he added.

"It's getting mighty dark in here," stated Tom. "I wish it would lighten
up a bit. That's a fire ahead there."

"Whar y'all gwine?" A giant negro barred the path.



Neither Harry nor Arnold is quite clear as to just what happened after
the rattlesnake made his leap at the charmed boy.

They both are agreed on one point, however. Whenever the subject of
marksmanship is brought up, they invariably agree that the man who fired
the shot from his rifle that afternoon was the best crackshot they ever
saw. His skill surely saved Harry's life.

What really happened was that a stranger, passing through the forest at
the moment of the boys' predicament, heard the shots from Arnold's
automatic. As the reader knows, the snake, Harry and Arnold were in
direct line with Harry between the snake and Arnold. Therefore Arnold
was unable quickly to shoot the snake. He tried to distract the
attention of the reptile by creating a disturbance, but, as we know, in
this he was unsuccessful. The temporary diversion was sufficient,
however, to enable the stranger to grasp the situation as he came
through a clump of palmettos.

Swinging his rifle to his shoulder he fired, seemingly without taking
aim. His bullet sped true to the mark and severed the head of the now
thoroughly angered rattler. He was just in time, for already the muscles
of steel had started to launch the death dealing fangs.

It was not to be wondered at that Harry and Arnold should feel extremely
grateful to the stranger. As he approached they both stepped forward and
embarrassed him by the profuse thanks offered.

"Now, boys, don't say another word," he protested. "I like to kill them
varmints. It pleased me a heap to be able to he'p youall."

"But we feel that you saved Harry's life, just the same and we want you
to understand that we feel under deep obligations," Arnold insisted.
"Another moment and it would have been too late."

"Well, I guess it would," acknowledged the stranger. "That's a leetle
the biggest snake of that partic'lar kind I ever seen."

"He's big enough to be in a show," declared Harry.

"How'd you like his skin?" inquired their new found friend.

"No, thank you," protested Harry. "I've seen quite enough of him. I
couldn't enjoy that skin a bit. But you may have it."

"Thanks. Believe I'll just pull that hide off. I might be able to sell
it. Some feller'll be along from up No'th and buy it."

"Why, we're from up North," was Arnold's rejoinder. "Let me introduce my
chum and myself before you handle that snake. Shake hands with Harry
Harvey and my name is Arnold Poysor. We're from Chicago down here on a
pleasure trip in a motor boat."

"Glad to meet you," replied the fellow. "My name's Lopez. They call me
Pete when I'm to home. How'd youall like to come over to my house for
supper? I live just a piece from here."

"Thank you, but we'd better be getting back," replied Harry. "Our
friends will be expecting us shortly, and it's quite a ways back to the
shipyard where our boat is on the ways for repairs."

"Only a little ways," asserted Lopez. "I know a short cut through a
bayou that'll take you there in less than half an hour. Youall better
stay. I'm goin' to have mutton for supper, and my nigger shore knows how
to cook mutton. He's a fine cook."

While Lopez urged the boys to stay, he was busy with the carcass of the
dead snake and soon had the skin deftly removed. His entreaties for the
boys to visit his home were insistent. The boys felt that they owed him
such a large debt that they could not decline, although they preferred
to proceed in the opposite direction. At length they yielded to the
urgent invitation. Lopez started away at a good gait through the forest,
closely followed by his new guests, who found some difficulty in keeping
pace with him.

"I'm gwine to have mutton for supper," explained Lopez, "and I want to
get down to my sheep as they are passin' through a little draw back here
a piece. They always go through there about this time."

After a short time the party came to a draw through which ran a small
stream of clear water. Here they saw a flock of perhaps two hundred
sheep feeding slowly along. All were headed in one direction.

"I see a young wether," Lopez announced as the party drew up beside a
giant pine. "Shall I pick him off?"

"Go as far as you like," replied Harry. "I don't know one from another.
They all look alike to me."

"See those two drinking by that big dead stub," Lopez said. "Which one
shall I take, the one with black on his face or the white?"

"Take the black faced one," replied Arnold. "He's fatter."

"Here goes then," stated Lopez seeming hardly to take aim before pulling
the trigger. "The black faced one was what you wanted."

His shot was successful. The black faced sheep fell in his tracks. Lopez
swung quickly forward, picked up the sheep and started away with his
burden over his shoulder.

"Come on, now," he urged. "The rest of the flock'll go home all right
and I want to get to the cabin right soon and get supper."

The boys wondered at his haste to leave the spot. Arnold looked quickly
at Harry and exchanged questioning glances, but spoke no word. Harry's
hands were busy with the mute language, however.

"Looks mighty suspicious," he telegraphed to his chum.

"Just what I was thinking," declared Arnold in reply.

"We'd better keep our weather eye open," was Harry's next suggestion.
"Maybe those are his sheep and maybe they are not."

"You're the wise boy," Arnold agreed. "I mistrust him."

During this time the three travelers had been making good progress. At
length they came out into a small clearing in the center of which stood
a log cabin surrounded by every evidence of shiftlessness and neglect. A
gunnysack did duty as a window and curtain also. The chimney at the end
of the building was of sticks and clay while the roof was of "rived"

At the approach of Lopez and the boys a large negro stepped out to meet
them. His face was black as ebony while his teeth were pearly white. His
grin was expansive.

"'Deed Boss, I'se powerful glad to see you," he began.

"Shut up," commanded Lopez. "Take this sheep and get some supper on the
way just as quick as you can and not a word out of your head. I want you
to get supper and I'll do the talkin'. Hear?"

"Yaas, sir, Boss. I done hear you. I sure can get supper."

"Now, boys," stated Lopez with a large, hospitable manner that was
intended to be ingratiating, "help your se'fs to whatever you find.
Doright, here, will soon have things goin' for supper. Let's set out on
the gallery while he's fixin' up things."

Accepting the invitation the boys disposed themselves upon the
"gallery," as the veranda is called in that country. They noticed that
Lopez continued to hold his rifle. Only glances could be exchanged,
however, for Lopez seemed to be watching them.

In a short time the negro announced supper and all went inside. A rough
deal table contained broiled steaks from the sheep, while sweet potatoes
roasted in the embers of the fire were handed around by the servant. The
crude arrangements led the boys to again glance at one another in

"Take right holt, boys," urged Lopez, setting the example.

The boys were hungry enough to need no second invitation. Surely the
mutton was done to a turn and the sweet potatoes were the most delicious
the boys had ever eaten.

After supper Lopez swung round to the boys and demanded:

"What youall here for, anyhow? Give it to me straight."

"Came here for supper," parried Arnold. "And a mighty good one it was.
We'd like to hire that cook of yours for the boat."

"You won't need no cook on the boat if you Don't tell me the truth,"
almost shouted Lopez, with a gleam of hatred in his eye.

"Why, what's the matter?" cried Harry, springing to his feet.

"I'll show you what's the matter," gritted the enraged man. "You think
you can come down here and steal what rightfully belongs to us and take
it away up North, don't you? I'll show you."

"Why, what do you mean?" cried Harry. "I don't understand."

"Don't you lie to me," shouted Lopez, making as if to strike the boy.
"Don't you lie to me! I know what you want."

"Well then, what do we want?" questioned Arnold indignantly.

"Youall want that Spanish Treasure Chest, but you won't get it,"
savagely vociferated Lopez. "That chest belongs to us."

"Well then," cried Harry with some heat, "why don't you go on and get it
instead of annoying a party of boys who are here for a pleasant outing.
You make me tired. You act foolish."

"Don't you insult me," almost screamed Lopez. "I'll let Wyckoff settle
with you for this. You see if I don't."

"Wyckoff don't worry me any," boasted Arnold with a great deal more
composure outwardly than he felt inside. "I don't care a snap of my
finger for Wyckoff. He couldn't lick a postage stamp."

"We'll see about that!" shouted Lopez. "Doright," to the negro, "fetch
that cord and tie these fellers up. Then you stay here and watch 'em
while I go see what Wyckoff wants to do with 'em."

"Yaas, sir, Boss!" replied the negro. "Mah name's Doright 'case Ah
always does de rightest Ah knows how. I sure does, Boss. Ever'body what
knows me says dat! Ah'm a Doright nigger!"

"Shut up," snapped Lopez. "And stay shut, too. Don't you go talkin' to
these boys while I'm gone, or I'll get Mammy Judy to put a conjure on
you that'll turn half of you white and the other half green. Now you
remember that, or I'll fix you!"

"Yaas, sir, Boss," replied Doright in a shaking tone.

Quickly he obeyed the commands of his master, securely fastening the
boys' arms behind their backs with lengths of cord. He then indicated a
bed on the floor of the cabin as a place where the boys might rest if
they chose.

"Now you stay out here on the gallery and keep your eyes open,"
commanded Lopez. "I won't be gone more'n an hour if I can find Wyckoff
and we'll see what he wants done with these robbers!"

After he was gone Doright took up his post on the gallery. He
persistently refused to reply to the boys' questions, and after a time
they refrained from trying to elicit any information.

"Looks like that villain Wyckoff was out after us and means business!"
Harry ventured. "He seems to have lots of help!"

"I guess this is one of those Spanish moss beds you were telling about,
Arnold," Harry said, walking over and kicking the bed.

"Looks like it," replied Arnold, "but just now the springs in the
Fortuna berths would suit me a whole lot better. I'm homesick."

"And I'm going home," declared Harry with emphasis.

"How are you going?" queried Arnold. "We can't get away from the negro
outside. He's guarding the very door."

"I'll show you how we'll get out. I'm going to burn these cords off my
arms, and then I'll set fire to the cabin, and when Doright rushes in,
we'll rush out. Before he knows what's up, we'll be away in the woods.
I'd like another piece of sheep, though!"

"Funny they brought it in here," commented Arnold. "I'll bet Lopez stole
it. He was in a mighty hurry to get here and then brought it inside the
cabin. He should have left it outside."

"We won't argue about that now," replied Harry kicking the remains of
the fire about. "I'm going to get loose first thing!"

Arnold protested vigorously, but to no avail. Harry maintained that Tom
had been kicked and Jack had been shot and therefore a burn or two on
his part should be borne unflinchingly. He found considerable difficulty
in getting the fire applied to the cords without also burning his own
flesh. At last he was triumphant.

Quickly he loosed Arnold. He then threw the remains of the fire into the
middle of the mattress. A burst of flame followed. In an incredibly
short time the whole end of the cabin was blazing.

Doright horrified fled to the edge of the clearing where he felt safe.
Arnold dashed out of the cabin in terror. Turning to find Harry gone he
rushed back, entering just as the gallery fell.



"What's it to you where we are going?" demanded Jack, as he elbowed his
way past the others and confronted the giant.

"Look here, white folks," began the negro, "Ah don't want no trouble,
but youall mustn't go rangin' aroun' thoo mah place like this here
'thout 'splainin' yourselfs. This is mah fahm."

"Yes, it is your farm," cried Frank. "You've got as many farms as a
hen's got teeth! All your farms are in your mind!"

"Nemmine about dat, boys," grinned the black. "Jes' youall tell me where
youall's gwine, else mebbe somepin' gwine happen!"

"You're right, something's going to happen, and that mighty suddenly!"
was Jack response. "This'll happen to you!"

He swung his arm up. Tom expected momentarily to hear the report of an
automatic. Instead he saw the negro's face lighted brilliantly by the
dart of flame from the imitation automatic which was fitted as a
searchlight. The powerful electric light blinded and dazzled the man on
whom it was thrown.

"Now, look here, fellow!" began Jack in a threatening tone. "If you
don't stand one side and tell me your name at once, I'll put this light
square on your foot and that foot'll wither up and tomorrow this time,
it'll drop off. I could do that to your head, too, if I wanted to. But
you will probably not make it necessary for me to do so. At least, I
hope not."

"Lordy, Boss," stuttered the now thoroughly frightened man, "Don't
youall point that there thing mah way no mo'. Ah don't like hit - Ah
pointedly does not. Youall needn't be afraid of me."

"Nobody's afraid of you, you big lummix!" declared Tom, now coming
forward. "What's your name, anyhow?" he demanded.

"Mah name's Doright Abraham Jefferson Davis Canaan. Ah don' know de rest
ob it. Ah 'spects dey done forgot to tell me all."

"Well it's a good thing your shoulders are broad enough to carry that
much of a load," laughed the boys. "That's enough."

"Now then, Doright Whatsyourname Canaan," Jack began, "can you tell us
where we are? It is dark in these woods and we don't know this country
at all. Tell me where we are at."

"Well, sah," began the darky, "Youall is 'bout half way to West
Pascagoula. Yaas, sir, Boss, dat am a sure 'nuf fac'."

"Good! That's enlightening!" Frank put in. "Now tell me is there a place
nearby. I mean does anyone live near here?"

"No, sir," replied Doright. "Ah can show youall where they was onct, but
they haint there no mo'. Done moved!"

"Lead on, Doright," commanded Jack, "and be careful on what road you set
your feet. We have lost our two comrades and we are trying to find them.
Our noble dog here has trailed them thus far, and he'll help us find the
boys, but you can do it more quickly."

In answer, Doright turned and beckoned the boys to follow. He led them
in a short time to the site of the cabin in the clearing. There the lads
found only a few smoking pieces of timber and a huge bed of embers.
Tom's nose was sniffing suspiciously.

"Do you get it again?" asked Frank. "I do, and it's plain as can be in
here. Seems mighty funny, too!" he declared.

"It is peculiar," agreed Tom. "I can get the odor of burned flesh as
plain as day. I wonder what this fellow knows."

"Doright," demanded Frank, pulling his automatic from his pocket and
presenting it muzzle foremost towards the giant, "tell us what happened
to the boys. Tell it quick and straight."

Quaking with fear, the negro told of the call of the boys late in the
afternoon; of his preparing supper; of the rage of Lopez; of his command
to tie the boys; of his own sleepiness when thinking the boys were safe
and of finding the cabin afire.

He maintained that he had remained as long as it was possible to hope
for the boys' safety, and then had started off in search of Lopez or
Wyckoff to give them the news.

His fear was so genuine and his grief over the fact that he had been
unable to do anything to save their chums so intense that the boys could
not find it in their hearts to chide him further.

"Never mind, Doright," Tom exclaimed laying a hand on the broad shoulder
of the negro. "We believe you did all you could and that you tried to
live up to your name and to do right. Don't grieve."

Rowdy had been ranging about the clearing while the conversation had
been going on. He did not seem to take a dislike to Doright, but rather
ignored him. This fact was commented on by the boys.

"Jack," Tom spoke at length, "do you know what I think?"

"No, Tom, I do not," replied Jack. "You think so many things it's hard
to keep track of them all. I wish I might. What is it?"

"I don't believe the boys ever were in that cabin at all."

"Oh, yes, dey was, Boss!" protested Doright. "Ah seen 'em."

"Then they got out!" stoutly maintained Tom.

"Where are they now?" asked Frank. "And how do you explain that odor of
burning flesh? There's a mystery here somewhere."

"There always is a mystery when the Beaver Patrol goes out on a hike,"
declared Tom. Look at the dense, dark mystery that surrounded us while
we were in the Copper Country. Look at the mystery about our visit to
Niagara Falls. We simply blunder into mystery every time we stir a foot!
Mystery is our regular schedule!"

"Yes," agreed Jack, "but we always solve the mystery. This is going to
be no exception to the rule! We must solve it!"

"Maybe Doright can explain something about this thing," suggested Frank.
"Doright!" he called. "Can you tell me what makes such a smell of
burning meat around here? What is it?"

"'Deed, Boss, Ah cain't tell youall what it is. Ah don' know!"

"Not much use quizzing him!" declared Jack. "We can't search the ruins
now. The embers are too hot. If the boys were in there when it fell, we

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