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G. Harvey Ralphson.

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can investigate and find their remains tomorrow. For the present, I move
that we go back to the Fortuna!"

"Second the motion!" agreed Frank. "What do you say, Tom?"

"Might as well, I guess," Tom stated. "It's no use sticking around here!
We can't do anything until daylight, and the embers of the fire cool
off. I move we get Doright here to show us the way back to the boats,
and then we'll row back to town."

"Agreed!" cried Jack at once. "Doright, do you remember the big oak that
leans out over the water maybe two miles from here?"

"'Deed Ah does, Boss!" declared the darky. "Mighty good fishin' right by
dat oak! Sure knows dat place mighty well!"

"Well, if you'll take us there and then row us down to the town where
our vessel is lying, we'll pay you well for the trouble and give you a
good supper and breakfast. Will you do it?"

"Sure Ah will," replied Doright. "Ah'd be right smart proud to he'p
youall. Is you ready to go right now?" he added.

Having satisfied themselves that there was nothing to be gained by
lingering near the spot, the boys decided to start for the Fortuna at
once.

They all hesitated a moment when leaving the clearing, looking back with
lingering gaze at the spot where the cabin had stood. A lump was in each
throat as they trudged wearily along in the wake of Doright the giant
negro as he led them through the forest.

At length he came out into the clearing near the big oak the boys had
described. They pressed eagerly forward as the river was neared. In
their desire to return to the Fortuna they were but expressing the
desire of every heart to return to its home when trouble comes. Tonight
the boys carried aching breasts. They believed that on the morrow they
would be called upon to perform sad offices for their two friends who
had been victims of a mistake.

"I'll take the big boat with Doright, and you two lads can take the
little skiff that the boys used," suggested Jack, who was in the lead.
"That way we can make better time, I think!"

"What's the matter with all of us going in the big boat and towing the
skiff behind?" questioned Tom. "I don't want to be alone just now. I'd
much rather keep together if it's possible to do so."

"How about it, Doright, can you pull the boat with all of us in it?"
Jack asked. "You know it's one of those big shipyard scows!"

"Guess Ah kin, Boss," grinned Doright, in reply. "Ah'll try hahd!"

"All right, then, let's be in and away at once."

"Sure!" cried Tom who was now in the lead, and who had reached the live
oak. "Sure thing. All hands and the cook get aboard!"

"Something's happened!" cried Jack. "That sarcasm is so evident in Tom's
voice I just can't believe everything is all right."

"Why, nothing at all could have happened," cried Frank. "We've had more
than our share of hard luck already. First you boys got off your course
with a horseshoe too near the compass. Then you meet a boy who tried to
let your fuel leak away. Then you meet the man who bores your ship full
of holes, then you find me and we get disturbed by the possibility of
Charley's being on that fishing schooner and now the boys have
disappeared. It is not possible that someone has stolen our boats. It
just couldn't happen. It mustn't happen."

"Well, it's the very thing that did take place," Tom answered. "Now it's
a weary wait until they bring the boats back or else we'll walk back to
town. I think we'd better start walking now."

"Come on, I'm game," declared Frank wheeling in his tracks. "Does
Doright know the way back to town by the pedestrian method?"

"Sure," answered the one mentioned. "Ah knows every hook and crook
around these here parts. I've been borned and raised yere."

"Then show us the way to town," entreated Jack. "We're tired."

"Ah kin beat walkin'," replied Doright. "Ah'se got a boat."

The boys capered about in high glee at the prospect of a boat ride so
handy. Their enthusiasm was contagious and Doright actually hurried as
he went away to the place where his boat was hidden.

In a short time he returned and the boys embarked. The boat was a flat
bottomed affair, made for fishing purposes, and was to be noted because
of its rugged and simple construction, rather that for being a thing of
beauty. Doright handled the craft with skill.

"Now then, engineer," Tom cried flinging himself full length in the
bottom of the boat, "let out a link! We're going home!"

Doright's application to the oars quickly brought the party to a point
where they could distinguish the riding lights of the vessels at anchor
in the river. As they were passing the mouth of a little bayou, Frank
declared he saw people in a boat near the entrance. In explanation
Doright told him that many people were out for fish at that hour,
seeming to think the fish fed at certain hours, hence were more easily
captured.

In a short time Doright's muscles had forced the ungainly looking craft
to a point where it was necessary to use care in navigating the stretch
of water if collision with shipping was to be avoided. His skill born of
long practice was very evident. Arrived at the shipyard Jack tossed the
black a dollar saying that they were grateful for the help he had
rendered them.

Unchallenged the boys approached the Fortuna. They expected at least a
hail from the watchman of the yard. None came.

"Ah," observed Jack stooping over a prostrate figure near the foot of
the ladder leading to the deck of the Fortuna, "he sleeps."

"What's the trouble with the watchman, if it is he?" asked Tom.

"It is the watchman," Jack answered with a tenseness of expression, "and
he's struck with bottle paralysis. I wonder if the Fortuna is all right,
or has that Wyckoff had the run of things a while."

"Let's get aboard quickly," suggested Frank, "and look about."

"Up we go," cried Tom. "Easy, lads, the ladder's shaky."

Jack in the lead stepped inside the pilot house and down the
companion-way. As he reached the cabin below, his chums heard him
stumble. Quickly they reached for the light switch.

"Who left that bundle there?" asked Jack. "What's in it?"

"I didn't," declared Tom; "open it up and see what's inside."

Jack tore off the wrapper. Aghast he stared at his friends.






CHAPTER XVI

RESCUE AND CAPTURE


As Arnold rushed back into the burning cabin the gallery roof fell,
effectually blocking the doorway, thus preventing escape again.

"Harry," cried the frightened boy. "Harry, where are you?"

Through the pall of smoke and amid the hiss and crackle of flames came
the reassuring call that put new life into the lad.

"Here I am over here in the corner. Come here a minute."

"But, Harry," urged Arnold, "come on out of here. We'll be burned as
sure as fate. What makes you stay here, anyway?"

"I'm going now," declared the boy. "I forgot something that was left
here and came back to get it. That's all."

Both boys now moved toward the one window of which the cabin boasted.
The roof at the opposite end and directly over the bed where the fire
had started was now weakening and threatened to fall.

"Up with you now, Arnold," cried Harry. "Let's make time."

"You first," gasped Arnold. "You're burned and have had more smoke than
I. Go ahead or I won't stir a step."

"All right," smiled Harry. "It's a good thing the breeze is favorable.
We'll make it all right now. Wonder where Doright is."

"Never mind Doright," said Arnold, drinking in great draughts of fresh
air. "Doright can take care of himself for all of me. I want to get back
to the boats and the Fortuna. Let's be going."

"I'm with you," Harry agreed with a satisfied chuckle.

"What's the matter now?" asked Arnold. "I can't see what should amuse
you in all this trouble. I'm worried."

"I can't tell you what makes me feel so happy, but I just imagine that
we've done a good stroke of business tonight."

"In burning down a man's home?"

"Yes and no. I can't tell you any more for I don't know."

"More mystery, eh? Well, so long as we're hot-footing for home you may
save the mystery. Come on, now, let's go."

The boys lost no time in starting for the place where their boat had
been left. A short conference in the shadow of a clump of palmettos was
held. They were agreed as to the direction, although it lay in a
different quarter than the road by which they had entered the clearing.
Here the boys' woodcraft stood them in good stead.

Soon they were out of the light cast by the now fallen walls of the
burning cabin. Just as they felt safely away from the clearing and
thought it safe to speak above a whisper a coarse voice called them to
halt. They were confronted by a tall man.

"It's that man Lopez," gasped Harry. "He's got back quickly."

"What do you want?" questioned Arnold angrily. "Say it and be quick
about it. We haven't time to stand here all night."

"Now, don't get gay, young rooster, or I'll cut your comb."

"It is Lopez," whispered Arnold. "He's still angry, too."

"Put up your hands," commanded Lopez, for it was he. "Keep 'em up," he
added. "I'll fix youall for this. You done burned my cabin and it's got
to be paid for. I'll settle you." Then lifting his voice he called,
"Doright! Doright! Come yere."

"Comin', Boss," quavered the still frightened negro.

"Doright, did these fellers set fire to my cabin?"

"Yaas, sir, Boss. Dey sure done hit," replied that worthy.

"We might as well arrest 'em now as any other time, then," declared
Lopez. "Take this gun, Doright, and if they try to run, shoot."

"Yaas, sir, Boss," grinned the darky. "Ah sure will shoot."

"Now, boys, get going," commanded their captor. "Walk right up, too, for
we're a long ways from home and I'm tired."

"How did you happen back so soon?" queried Harry. "I thought you had
gone to town to talk with Wyckoff about hanging us."

"I done change my mind," answered Lopez. "I forgot something at the
cabin and now hit's done burned. I have an idee I'd better shoot youall
right now for that trick. Yes, sir, I just believe so."

Knowing his quick and hasty temper as they now did, the boys were not
unprepared for anything that might happen. Gritting their teeth they
marched bravely on even though they felt that at any moment the erratic
man behind them might send a bullet into their backs. They resolved,
however, to show no fear.

Not far along the path they were halted by Lopez, who whispered a short
consultation with Doright. In a moment he ordered the boys to one side
of the road for some distance where he compelled them to lie flat on
their faces and commanded them to absolute silence on pain of instant
death. He kept his rifle at their ears.

"Doright," he ordered, "go back up to that there path and see what them
folks wants. If they're strangers let 'em go on. If they're the fellers
I think they is, toll 'em along and lose 'em. You'll know where to find
me at the factory if I lose you now."

"Yaas, sir, Boss," grinned the negro. "Ah'm named Doright."

Arnold and Harry were compelled to lie with outstretched arms and
fingers digging into the sand while their comrades parleyed with Doright
in plain hearing of their place of concealment. Neither dared to make a
sound or in any way attract the attention of their friends. Lopez was
swinging the rifle muzzle slowly back and forth.

After Doright and the other, party had proceeded to the destroyed cabin
Lopez compelled his prisoners to get to their feet and walk ahead of him
in the path.

"We'll have a nice little boat ride, boys," stated Lopez in a pleased
tone of voice. "We're going to have a pleasant trip, too."

No answer was made to this remark by either of the boys. Their silence
seemed to anger Lopez, for he upbraided them for their sulkiness. His
moods changed quickly. Frowns tramped the heels of smiles. One moment he
was gay, the next in despair.

Arrived at the leaning oak he compelled the lads to untie both boats,
towing the small skiff that had been brought by Harry and Arnold behind
the big scow rowed by their friends. Into this scow he put the boys and
then seated himself, rifle in hand.

"Grab a root and growl, now," commanded Lopez. "I'm ridin' this trip.
And mind you," he continued, "you better row quiet. No splashin' and
bangin' around with them oars."

"We'll row as well as we can," replied Harry. "A Boy Scout always does
everything he undertakes as well as he knows how."

"You're great Boy Scouts, you are," sneered Lopez. "If I had a boy like
you, I don't know what I would do with him."

"You couldn't have a boy like us," declared Arnold with some heat. "You
know heredity exerts a wonderful influence on boys."

This sally, luckily, was lost on Lopez for his knowledge of English was
limited to say the least. His mind, ever alert, caught the sarcasm in
the boy's tone, but he hesitated about showing his ignorance by asking
questions concerning the meaning of the big word. He contented himself
with abusing the boys in vile language.

Pulling manfully at the oars the captives sent the scow through the
water at a good rate of speed, rapidly shortening the distance between
themselves and the town. Ever and anon Lopez cast a backward glance over
the stern. Finally he commanded the boys to pull in closer toward the
shore. His voice assumed a brisker tone with a note of anxiety in it. He
was visibly excited.

"Lopez," announced Arnold, "I see a light behind us. It's gaining on us.
I've seen it for two or three minutes. What is it?"

"Hush up about lights, boy," commanded their captor. "Youall don't see
no lights. They ain't no lights there at all."

"But I did see a light," insisted Arnold in a positive tone.

"No, you never," repeated Lopez. "Don't make no difference if you think
you saw a light, they ain't no light there."

"Oh, I get you," Harry put in. "That's another of those mysterious
'because' reasons. Or as the fellow said, 'It's so if I say so even if
it ain't so.' Is that it, Lopez?"

"Yes," snapped Lopez. "Now git to work at them oars and send this boat
along or it'll be the worse for you."

Thus urged, the boys bent to the oars with renewed vigor. Their efforts
sent the boat along at a rapid pace. Finally as they were becoming
exhausted, Lopez commanded them to head directly in shore. They did so,
but instead of running ashore, shot up the entrance to a narrow bayou.
Inside, Lopez commanded them to lie flat in the bottom of the boat. They
heard directly the sound of approaching oars.

"What's that coming, Lopez?" questioned Harry.

His answer was a thrust of Lopez's foot in his ribs and again he felt
the muzzle of the rifle creep along his spine.

With the talk and laughter of their chums ringing in their ears, Harry
and Arnold were compelled to lie silently in the scow, while the other
party passed them a second time that night without being aware of their
presence.

"Looks like we better get up and go to work," announced their captor
after the sound of the oars and talk from the other boatload had died
away. "We've got a long ways to go yet," he added.

"Let's take it a little easier, if you please," requested Arnold. "My
arms are nearly pulled out of their sockets."

"All right, my hearties, take your time now. I just wanted to get into
clear while the others went past us," replied Lopez.

In a short time the boys were amongst the shipping on the river. Here
they were directed to row alongside a deserted wharf. Lopez guarded them
while they made the boat fast and then prepared to take them up into a
rough looking quarter of the town. Just as they were preparing to leave
the wharf a boat was heard approaching from down stream. Lopez stopped,
then gave a peculiar whistle.

What was the boys' surprise to see Doright row up alongside the wharf,
make fast his boat and come ashore.

"Doright," Lopez commanded. "Youall come with me while I fix these young
rascals and then I want you to come back here and take that shipyard
man's scow back to him and take that skiff back to the shipyard, too.
Somebody might want them boats again."

"Yaas, sir, Boss," was Doright's unvarying reply.

The boys were marched a short distance up the deserted street to a
disreputable looking shanty. Here they were forced inside and compelled
to enter an inner room.

"Doright, get a piece of rope and tie these young fellers."

"Haint got no rope, Boss," announced Doright. "No rope here."

"What'll we tie 'em with?" inquired Lopez.

"Don't know, Boss," replied the darky. "Dey don't need tyin'."

"Oh no, they don't," Lopez replied sarcastically. "They didn't need it
up in the woods, neither. That's why they burned my cabin down. Now I
haint got no home no more'n a rabbit."

"Haint got no rope, Boss," dolefully declared Doright.

"Here, take this gun while I cut up their snake skin," cried Lopez,
turning over to the negro his rifle.

He proceeded to remove from an inner pocket of his jacket the skin of
the snake that had so nearly ended the life of Harry. Cutting this into
strips he quickly bound the boys' arms and made them sit down on a
bench. Next he prepared to leave the room, taking Doright also.

"If you are good boys and don't try to burn this place," he said from
the doorway, "I'll bring you something to eat by and by."

After he had closed the door the boys sat talking over the events of the
day. They were agreed that the day had been a most strenuous one and
that a little sleep would be welcomed. As they prepared to lie on the
floor for what rest they might get, Harry gave vent to a chuckle of
laughter. Arnold was all attention.

"What is it, Harry?" he queried. "What's the joke?"

"If that man only knew what he had been missing, he wouldn't have gone
away so cheerfully," replied Harry with another chuckle.

"I don't seem to get you," declared Arnold. "I think you might tell - "
He paused. "What was that noise?" he asked.

"I didn't hear any noise," replied Harry sitting up.

Through the wall came the plaintive cry, "Bob, Bob White."






CHAPTER XVII

WHAT BURNED IN THE CABIN


"Why, that's blasting gelatine," Jack declared. "One stick is enough to
blow the Fortuna to pieces. Here are one, two, three, four, five,
six - six sticks of high powered explosive lying right next to our
engines. Where would the good ship have been if that stuff had let go? I
tell you, fellows, this looks serious."

"Serious is no name for it," declared Tom. "I'm scared."

"Wonder where he got it?" mused Frank. "It's dangerous stuff for common
folks to have. They don't sell it at the stores."

"No doubt he stole it from someone who is using it for stumping, or some
such work as that. He couldn't buy it," said Tom.

"But look at this fuse," Jack cried. "It looks as if it had been
lighted. Sure as you're a foot high it has been lighted."

"Why didn't the stuff go off then?" queried Tom.

"I don't know," Jack admitted. "I'm going to pull the end of the burned
fuse out of this stick and see what's the matter."

Suiting the action to the word, Jack slowly extracted the end of the
fuse from the stick of gelatine in which it had been thrust.

"Ha, Ha," he laughed with a motion as if to slap his thigh. Startled, he
caught himself in time. The laughter died away.

"What's the matter, Jack?" inquired Frank.

"I almost dropped one of the sticks," replied Jack.

"Well, what of it?" innocently Tom suggested.

"Nothing of it," Jack gruffly responded. "At least, I might say nothing
of the Fortuna and her crew if I had dropped one of the sticks. They're
only about an inch in diameter and seven or eight inches long, but one
of them is enough to blow this vessel into chunks and the six would have
blown her to little pieces."

"But why would dropping it to the floor have done damage?" persisted
Tom. "I thought it had to have fire to explode it."

"That's where you're wrong," Jack explained. "Most people have the same
idea. Evidently that was also the idea of the villain who planted this
stuff here, for he neglected to put a cap on his fuse."

"What's a cap?" Tom eagerly asked. "I don't know about this."

"I couldn't help but notice it," Jack scorned. "Well, it's just this
way - You see, dynamite will burn without exploding. A very little jar,
however, sometimes is sufficient to set it going and explode it. When
setting off a charge, a cap containing some fulminate of mercury is put
over the end of the fuse. That stuff will explode from fire. When the
fuse burns down to the cap, the cap explodes and the jar of its
explosion sets off the dynamite. See?"

"Thanks," gratefully replied Tom. "Now I'm enlightened. Then the reason
the Fortuna is still here is because the guy forgot to put his cap on
his fuse? Am I now correct?"

"Right you are, Tom," answered Jack. "Are there any further questions?
If not, the class in explosives is dismissed."

"One more, Professor, if you please." Frank had the floor. "What shall
we do with the stuff? We don't want to keep it aboard."

"That's a problem," Jack announced. "We can't merely throw it overboard;
nor we can't leave it in a fence corner. I'll confess I'm puzzled to
know how we shall get rid of it."

"Let's leave it until morning," Tom suggested. "Just now I'm so worn out
I can't think. I wish we had Wyckoff here, I'd put it in his pockets and
then climb a telegraph pole with him and throw him down good and hard.
When he landed it would explode and he'd get his."

"Sure," laughed Frank. "Listen to the bloodthirsty Thomas. What do you
suppose would be going on up the pole all that time?"

"Well, I'd be there watching for Wyckoff and when the explosion blew him
up, I'd reach out and slap his wrist as he went sailing by."

"Well, he isn't here and probably won't be here for some time, either.
We'd better get to sleep," Jack stated. "Tomorrow bright and early we'll
get those carpenters at work. One plank is a short job and then it'll
only be a few minutes work for all hands to slap on the copper paint and
into the water she goes. We should have the Fortuna afloat before noon
if everything goes well."

"Hurray!" cried Tom. "Then we'll go up to the cabin - "

His voice lost its ringing, cheery tone as he thought of what they might
find at the cabin. No one could speak for a few minutes.

At last they composed themselves for slumber in the after cabin that the
boys liked so well. It was fitted up with souvenirs of their various
trips. Here a pair of wings from a great snowy owl that Tom had shot.
There a stuffed porcupine that caused such a commotion in their camp in
the Canadian wilds of Georgian Bay. Here were the jaw bones of a giant
muscalonge that had taken the bait at sunrise one morning as Harry was
trolling from a skiff in northern Michigan. So on it went with various
trophies of the hunt and chase. The room was their parlor, where they
gathered for a pleasant evening and where they preferred to spend the
night.

Rowdy curled on a rug in the middle of the floor. One eye was open. Ever
as he slept or dozed his limbs twitched convulsively and he moaned and
muttered in his fitful unconsciousness.

No disturbance wakened the boys that night. They slept soundly as only
healthy, hearty boys can sleep when their minds are filled with pure
thoughts of sport and active out-of-doors life. As yet they had not been
tainted with the many things that go to disturb rest. Their everyday
training at the Beaver Patrol club rooms had been along right lines.
Their Scout Masters were all young men of high ambition whose purpose
was to teach their younger scouts that highest, noblest lesson - that man
is here for a purpose and that purpose is not a selfish one. Thus far
their teaching had not been in vain.

With the early beams of the morning sun Jack was awake.

"Come on, boys," he cried. "We'll have to bathe in a pint bowl this
morning. No hose for us today."

"Well, if we can't have a shower bath, let's take a quick cold sponge
and then have a little setting up exercise," suggested Tom.

Their actions were a revelation to the watchman who was now just
recovering from his stupor of the night before. His brain was still so
befuddled by the liquor that he could not at once understand what was
going on about him. His surprise pleased the boys.

"What'll we have for breakfast?" asked Tom, and then added, "Suggest
something easy, for I'm cook, you know."

"Pancakes," cried Frank. "Those you made when we were leaving Petit Bois
were just about the best I ever ate."

"Pancakes it is, then," agreed Tom dashing to the kitchenette, where he
proceeded to prepare a breakfast of delicious pancakes and coffee. A few
freshly boiled shrimp added to the feast were welcomed by the boys. A


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