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G. Harvey Ralphson.

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passing fisherman had offered them to Jack at just the right moment. The
boys did ample justice to the feast.

Leaving the foreman to superintend the matter of replacing the plank
where Wyckoff had bored the hole in his dastardly effort to sink the
Fortuna and her crew, the boys took a boat from the Fortuna and rowed up
to the leaning oak. From thence it was easy enough with Rowdy's aid to
trail the route to the site of the cabin in the clearing.

The embers had now cooled sufficiently so that the boys could search in
the ruins. For a moment they hesitated to explore the ashes, fearing
what they might find. A last they plucked up their courage and began a
thorough search. The task was not a pleasant one.

"What's this?" cried Tom. "Boys, I declare I smell burned flesh. That
odor hangs around here something fierce."

"Well if that big Doright was telling the truth," Frank argued, "the
boys got out of the cabin and were safe last night. How about it?"

"You can't tell anything by what that fellow said," Tom replied. "He
just saw that we were worried about the boys and wanted them to be safe,
so he said they were safe. That's all there is to that."

"He's considerable of a child," Jack announced. "They all are."

During this time Rowdy had been circling the spot where the cabin had
stood, occasionally sending up a doleful howl.

"Watch Rowdy," Tom declared. "If he isn't an indication that something
happened here last night, I'll miss my guess."

"Well, I don't believe that what you mean did happen," Jack contended.
"If it was so, Doright would have acted differently. He was very
composed when we saw him and that bluff he put up about this being his
farm showed that he knew where the boys were all the time."

"Then what do you suppose happened to them?" Tom's voice broke.

"I don't know. They're around here somewhere. Of that I'm sure. They are
not far away," Jack stoutly contended.

"What do you think Frank?" was Tom's almost tearful query.

"I think we'd better not make up our minds until we get some better
evidence than a smell or a negro's word. Let's keep digging."

Accordingly the boys vigorously attacked the plan they had in mind of
stirring about through all the ashes in search of a clue to the
whereabouts of their chums. At last a shout from Tom proclaimed a
discovery. His friends rushed to his side.

"Right here by the chimney." Tom broke down. "There it is."

"Now, Tom," half scolded Jack. "Brace up, boy! Suppose it were reversed.
Would you want them to squall over you?"

"I can't help it," the boy answered. "I am not squalling, but I feel
badly to lose a chum like those boys were. So do you, too."

"I sure do," answered Jack poking about Tom's discovery. "I'd feel awful
to lose a good friend even if he was a black sheep."

As Jack spoke he held up on the end of a stick a small tuft of wool
which had adhered to the end of his staff. With it came the odor of
burned flesh again. Jack smilingly pulled Tom's sleeve.

"The boys are safe," he said, exhibiting the wool. "It was a black sheep
that burned. Arnold and Harry are not black sheep."

"Good, oh, goody," cried Tom, capering about. "That's just fine."

In a short time the boys finished their search now fully convinced that
whatever might have happened to Harry and Arnold they were not now in
the ruins of the burned cabin.

"Now let's get Rowdy to help us track the boys to wherever they went,"
suggested Tom. "I'd like to find 'em."

"Good idea," responded Frank. "Let's do that. Here, Rowdy."

"Fine," declared Jack. "Just the thing, if he'll do it."

But the boys were doomed to another disappointment. Rowdy, after being
put on the scent by Tom, circled about a while and then started off in
the direction of the leaning oak. Although the boys tried to drive him
off that trail a number of times, the bulldog persisted in following
that route or none. At last they yielded.

Straight back to the oak went Rowdy. There he stopped and gazed over the
water for a moment, then let out a howl that echoed and reechoed across
the water.

"Well, here goes back to town," cried Jack. "That dog is all right to do
some things, but he isn't much use, of course, as a bloodhound. I can't
blame him but he's really no use in that line."

Rowdy felt keenly the disgrace that was heaped upon him. He slunk into
the stern sheets and hid behind Frank's legs.

Once more at the shipyard the boys began to think of dinner. Before
their preparations could be started, however, the foreman of the work on
the Fortuna announced to them that the little vessel was all ready for
the water. The plank was repaired, the boat all painted and ready for
launching. Nothing was needed except a full crew.

"Let's get her into the briny, then," Jack ordered. "We've had long
enough visit ashore. Let's get out to sea again."

"I'm with you there," declared Frank. "It was too bad we were forced to
come here at all. I want to be on my way and find the boys. They must be
somewhere near here. May be they are purposely hiding."

"Hello, there's your boat back," cried Tom to the day watchman. "And as
I live, there's our Petit Bois skiff," he shouted.

"That's the boat the boys had last night," ejaculated Frank.

"Say," the watchman called, "Wyckoff was lookin' for you."

"What did he say he wanted?" asked Jack.






CHAPTER XVIII

SHANGHAIED!


"We ought to answer that signal," declared Harry. "Maybe there's a Boy
Scout needs help in the next room."

"Remember your motto," cautioned Arnold. "Be Prepared for trouble and
for enemies as well as to help someone."

"We haven't had much chance to help anyone so far today," asserted
Harry. "This may be just the chance to take the knot out of our
neckties, so I'm going to take a chance. We can't afford to be too
careful. If we were in trouble, we'd want help."

"That's so," admitted Arnold. "Go to it, then. I'm with you."

"Let me roll over and get on my feet and I'll slap, slap, slap on the
floor with my foot," declared Harry. "That'll be easy."

"Why don't you whistle 'Bob White,' at him?" queried the other.

"Because we're not allowed to use the call of another Patrol. If he's a
Bob White, he can't in reason howl like a wolf or bark like a dog or
slap, slap like a beaver. You understand that."

"Sure I do," admitted Arnold, "but I overlook things sometimes."

Harry now succeeded in rolling over onto his face and from that
uncomfortable position rose to his feet. He balanced himself against the
wall while he raised one foot and gave three distinct slaps on the floor
with the sole of his shoe. Both listened sharply.

"Bob, Bob White," came the answering call through the partition.

"Who's there?" called Harry in a voice trembling with excitement.

"Bob White, St. Louis," came the muffled reply.

"Good gracious," was Harry's startled comment. "Bob White, St. Louis.
Then they've got Jack and Tom and Frank cooped up here."

"That's awful," groaned Arnold. "What shall we do?"

"If it is really a Boy Scout, we'd better try to help him."

"If we only were not tied. How can we get loose?"

"There's only one way that I can see," stated Harry. "If you will rise
to your feet so that I can get at your hands with my teeth, I'll try to
untie that rope that holds you. Then you can untie me."

"But that isn't a rope," protested Arnold. "That's a snake skin and it's
off the snake that nearly struck you. You wouldn't think of biting on
that. You just couldn't do it. I couldn't."

"That's what I thought, so I suggested that I do it."

"What do you mean?" flashed Arnold. "I guess I can do anything you can.
I've never been stumped yet and I shall not begin now."

"Never mind the argument, let me get at your bonds."

"Not yet. I'll untie yours, but you're not going to untie mine with your
teeth. Tom got kicked in the jaw, Jack got shot and you got your wrists
cruelly burned on this trip. It's no more than fair that I should have
some of the discomforts of this experience."

"Well, then, hurry up. That fellow may be in trouble."

But a few minutes were required for the boy with his strong, white teeth
to so loosen the knot hastily tied by Lopez as to render possible the
free movement of Harry's arms. After swinging his hands vigorously a few
moments to restore circulation, Harry then performed a similar office
for his chum, but not, however, with his teeth. The experience was
almost too much for Arnold, who for a time threatened to be ill from the
suggestion of biting the thongs.

When both were freed they next gave their attention to the lad on the
opposite side of the partition. Their signals had been constantly
answered with the plaintive, "Bob, Bob White." "This door's locked on
the other side," declared Harry, after trying the latch. "I'll bet it's
got a bar across."

"Then the only thing to do is to batter down the partitions," declared
Arnold. "Is it lath and plaster, or just boards?"

"They don't need to use plaster in this warm country."

"Well, then," Arnold continued, "We'll have to knock a hole in the
boards. What can we get for a battering ram?"

"Here's this bench. It's heavy and solid. Let's try it."

Not many blows of the bench swung in the strong arms were required to
batter loose enough of the partition to permit the boys to crawl through
into the next compartment. There they found a boy of about their own
age. He was dressed in a khaki uniform and medals and badges on his
jacket proclaimed him a Boy Scout. Prominently displayed were merit
badges proclaiming that he had attained proficiency and qualified for
the honors of Signaling, Seamanship, Camping and Stalking.

"Hello, here. What's this?" cried Harry, who was first through the
opening. "Why, this poor Bob White is tied hard and fast."

"Sure enough," was Arnold's comment. He followed fast on Harry's heels
and was at the prostrate boy in a moment. It was a short task to free
the lad of his uncomfortable fetters and help him to his feet. "Sure
enough," repeated Arnold. "Poor Bob White."

Their ready sympathy proved almost too much for the stranger.

"Won't you come over and visit us?" was their invitation.

"Thanks, I'll be glad to do so," was the reply.

"I was just a bit lonesome in there, to tell the truth. I'm better now."

"What shall we call you other than Bob White?" asked Harry.

"My name is Charley Burnett," answered their new friend. "I belong to
the Bob White patrol of Boy Scouts in St. Louis."

"And you came down the Mississippi in a launch called the 'Spray,' and
were set upon by a gang of thugs and pirates!" cried Arnold. "How am I
for a mind reader or clairvoyant?"

"You're just fine," declared Charley following the lads into the front
room. "I wish I were half as good. I certainly do."

"What would you do if you were?" inquired Harry.

"I'd go into a trance and see if I could locate my chum."

"You don't have to do that," declared Arnold. "Just cross my palm with a
piece of silver and I'll locate him for you," he added with a laugh.
Then pretending to take an imaginary piece of money from Charley, he
went on, "Your chum is on a boat called the 'Fortuna.' He is in the
hands of friends who wish him well. He has been seeking diligently for
you but cannot find you. Where have you been?"

"Well," laughed Charley, amused at the joke, "I've been sailing around
and around and around. Most of the time I have been on a shrimping
schooner on the Gulf. This morning the men aboard of her said that I was
dangerous, so they were going to put me out of the way. They brought me
here and tied me up. That's all."

"Didn't you whistle 'Bob White,' at us when we were coming into the
harbor here?" inquired Harry breathlessly. "I know you did."

"Maybe I did," admitted Charley. "I whistled 'Bob White,' at all
possible and impossible times until they threatened to kill me."

"The brutes. I almost believe they'd dare do anything."

The tender sympathy that was evident in the tones of his new found
friends proved almost too much for the fortitude of the late captive. It
was only with a great effort that he restrained the tears.

"Well," at length Harry decided, "if you lads are rested, I move that we
get busy, break out of here and go back to the - "

A heavy footstep sounded on the gallery outside the door. Lopez and
Doright entered through the door. Doright carried a tin pail. He was
followed by Lopez with one of the boys' automatics in his hand. His face
darkened instantly when he saw the lads.

"You sure are tough customers," declared he. "I guess, Doright, youall
better go get them old slave chains. They won't break them."

"Yaas, Sir, Boss," replied the negro hastening away.

"If you're hungry, better get at that grub while you got the chance,"
offered Lopez. "In a minute that nigger'll be back with the irons, and
then you won't be runnin' around loose."

Urged on by their hunger the boys lost no time in attacking the tin
pail. It contained but "grits," a small hominy, cooked with a piece of
bacon, yet never it seemed to the lads had they tasted better food. Only
the merest crumbs remained when Doright entered bearing an armful of
clanking chains. These he threw on the floor.

"Make 'em fast," ordered Lopez, keeping the muzzle of his automatic
pistol ever trained on the group before him. "Put them leg irons on good
and tight. Make sure of your work this time."

Obediently the negro clamped the irons tightly about their ankles. Then
drawing a longer chain through the leg irons he lifted a board from the
floor to pass the long chain under a heavy hewn joist.

A padlock securely fastened the ends of this longer chain and thus the
boys were shackled beyond hope of releasing themselves.

"Now, just to make sure, we'll leave Doright on guard and he'll have a
gun in his hand. He likes to shoot, too. And he knows how."

Never had the voice of the outlaw sounded so coarse and disagreeable as
now when hope seemed gone. His villainous face lighted with evil triumph
as he surveyed the plight of his captives.

"Looks like old times," he gloated, "only now you boys are wearing irons
that have graced the leg of many a slave. And there's a black boy
guarding the white boys now. That's funny."

Throwing back his head he gave vent to peal after peal of laughter.

"What are you expecting to do with us?" inquired Arnold, who was longing
to get at the throat of his jailor.

"Well, Wyckoff hasn't decided yet," replied Lopez. "He has found out
that it's a mighty uncomfortable job keeping prisoners and feeding them.
He couldn't keep this other boy on the schooner for it was too public.
When you came chasing into port, he got scared. I was uncomfortable,
too. If you had hailed me then, I guess I'd have let you take the boy
off the schooner. When we got Wyckoff, though, he said it wouldn't do.
Youall will never have a chance at the Treasure."

"No? Just wait and see what happens," taunted Arnold. "They say there's
many a slip between the cup and the saucer. Watch us."

"You are right, I'll watch you," declared the outlaw. "When we let you
go this time, you'll say Good Bye for keeps."

"You can't let things come any too swift for us," boasted Harry. "We are
from Chicago, and if you've ever been on a Halsted street trolley at six
o'clock of an evening, you'll know what we live on. Send along your hard
times. We eat those things."

"Maybe," gritted Lopez. "You boys better sharpen your teeth."

With this he left the cabin with instructions to Doright to watch the
boys and not permit any talking or communication.

Doright was at least faithful to his trust. After one or two attempts
the boys gave over trying to engage the negro in conversation. Becoming
cramped in their sitting positions, they shortly stretched themselves on
the floor and presently were fast asleep. Awakened later by a rough hand
on their shoulders, they sat up in bewilderment. The chains on their
legs soon apprised them of their location and surroundings. Lopez stood
over them.

"Unlock 'em, Doright," he commanded. "Get the hand irons on 'em first
and watch out, for they're tricky. They may get you."

The boys were marched out of the little cabin and down to the river,
where they boarded a boat under the direction of Lopez.

Doright at the oars had plenty of work to pull the craft with its heavy
load. At last they approached a vessel lying at anchor in the stream.
Lopez's hail brought an answer immediately.

"Up you go," commanded the outlaw to the boys, as Doright loosened the
shackles. "Over the rail with you now and no monkey work."

So deeply loaded was the schooner - a large three-masted vessel - that the
boys had little difficulty in reaching her rail and vaulting it.
Arriving on deck they found an officer and two or three members of the
crew standing ready to receive them.

"Well, here are the three men you wanted," stated Lopez to the officer.
"I had hard work gettin' them, but they wanted a vessel bad so I signed
'em on. Now to settle up if you please."

"Take these men forward, Johnson, and break 'em in," commanded the mate,
passing some money over to Lopez. "Get a jump on 'em."

A tug took the schooner in tow. As she passed the shipyard Charley
whistled, "Bob White." The mate's fist descended on his head.






CHAPTER XIX

TREACHERY EXPOSED


"He didn't say," replied the watchman. "He left this letter."

Proffering an envelope to Jack the watchman passed on to his duties.
Apparently he had lost all interest in the missive.

Jack looked blankly at his comrades. He held the letter in his hand
unopened, while the others crowded closer.

"Open it up, Captain," urged Tom. "Let's get at this mystery at once.
We're usually shrouded in so much mystery you could cut it with a knife.
What's the good news? Is the treasure discovered?"

"Quit your joking, Tom. This may be more serious than we think. Wyckoff
is not writing letters for the fun of it. He means business."

"I can testify to that," declared Frank. "He surely does mean business.
This treasure stuff is actually real to Wyckoff."

"And that's what makes him so dangerous," Jack mused. "He's really
deluded himself into thinking there is a treasure and that it should
rightfully belong to him. Therefore he gets desperate when he imagines
anyone is trying to take it from him. He's bad medicine."

"Well, let's get at the letter," cried Tom impatiently.

"Yes, open it up, Jack, and let's hear what he has to say."

"Well, here it is," Jack replied unfolding the paper. "He says: 'For the
last time, go back. Your pals are put out of the way and you are next.
The treasure belongs to me and I'm going to have it.'"

"That's a pretty 'howdedo,'" declared Tom as Jack's voice ceased. "I
suppose he thinks a Boy Scout will up and go right home."

"Evidently he doesn't believe any such thing, but just to be on what he
calls the safe side, he's sent this warning."

"What did he sign it? Does he leave any address for an answer?"

"Not an address," declared Jack. "It's a pretty poor thing to scare a
lot of Boy Scouts with, but I suppose it was the best he could do. It
wasn't quite up to his standard of boring holes in boats, though. This
is rather mild for Wyckoff."

"That reminds me," announced Tom. "We'd better have them drop the
Fortuna into the water as quickly as we can, for she won't improve any
where she is and we may want to make a quick getaway."

"Bright boy," Jack responded. "We'll do that same and then go uptown for
some more supplies. I wonder where we can get some gasolene. We ought to
have a wagon load of the stuff."

"Yes, we surely need it and if we get any more of that Madero lad on
board we'll need to have a wagon go along with us."

"Wonder where he is now," Frank mused. "He certainly was a great lad. He
didn't look so bad at heart. He looked to me as if he had gotten into
bad company and didn't know the way out."

"He's a bright fellow, surely," agreed Jack. "Now let's get to work.
Where is the foreman? We'll need him first."

In due course the necessary steps were taken and the Fortuna was again
in the water. Not even an expert could have discovered the place where
Wyckoff had bored the hole that so nearly cost the lives of the lads
aboard the trim craft. She was again seaworthy.

A trip to the business part of town was made to select necessary
supplies and order a stock of fuel. This occupied the better part of the
day, for the lads were careful in their buying. They were well posted as
to value and refused to allow the local merchants to overcharge them for
any goods.

At length the supplies were all aboard and stowed in their places. The
gasolene wagon had driven away and the boys felt more confident with
full lockers and gasolene tanks.

"We're ready for a night's rest and a long cruise," declared Tom, as the
boys sat down to a supper of fried fish, sweet potatoes and coffee. A
bone from the nearby butcher shop had been provided for Rowdy who lay
upon a newspaper spread in a corner of the cabin, munching in peace. His
manner recently had been quite composed. Everything about the Fortuna
seemed to speak of peace.

How little the boys knew what a few more hours held in store for them.
How unfortunate, indeed, were they that the knowledge of future events
was withheld. They might not have enjoyed the supper so much had they
been aware of all that was to transpire.

Discussing the events of the past few hours, speculating upon the
possible location of their chums, making plans for the future, the boys
sat late about the table. Rowdy fell asleep over his bone. At last Tom
jumped up, declaring he would wash the dishes if the others would sweep
and put the cabin to rights.

Busily the boys went at their tasks and soon the Fortuna was once more
"Ship shape and Bristol Fashion," as Jack loved to say.

"What do you suppose Wyckoff meant when he said our pals are out of the
way and we are next?" questioned Frank, a trifle uneasily, as his mind
traveled back to the last time he had seen Charley and his launch the
"Spray." "Do you suppose he meant - "

"Nothing of the sort," interrupted Jack. "Unless it was an accident, I
can't believe that those villains would make away with the boy as you
mean. I think he is alive and well, but being detained by Wyckoff and
his gang until they have a chance to make another effort for this
mythical treasure. Then the lads will be free."

"Oh, I hope so," fervently declared Frank. "If anything should happen to
Charley, I could never forgive myself for bringing him down here with
me. His parents would be prostrated with grief."

"I believe you'll find it to be as I say," Jack continued.

"Sure thing," cried Tom. "Those fellows may be pretty rough amongst
their own neighbors, and do things that are mighty bad, but when they
get amongst outsiders, they know that an inquiry would be made to trace
the chaps who disappear. All three boys are safe, I really believe. At
least, I'll require positive proof to the contrary."

Presently the boys prepared to retire. They felt quite satisfied to know
that their home was once more afloat. Jack declared he rested better
when the vessel was rocked by the waves.

None of the lads slept soundly. Rowdy seemed to have lost his composure
of a few hours earlier and paced up and down the cabin.

Occasionally one of the boys would start up from his bunk and wander
about to peer from the windows or pilot house. The moon light flooded
the town and river, turning the rigging of the ships into silver and
glittering in dazzling bits of light from the rippling waters. Deep
black shadows were cast by every object.

Thus up and down the boys were passing a restless night.

"Get up fellows," called Tom at length. "Here's a pretty sight. A
schooner - I think she's a three master - is leaving town. See the
fountain of sparks from the tug's smokestack. What a sight it is to see
those sails going up. I wonder where she's headed for."

"Look at the man away up there in the top," cried Jack.

"And there goes another up the main rigging," put in Tom. "The sails go
up slowly somehow. I guess she's short handed."

"Maybe she's like many another vessel that my father has told me about,"
offered Frank. "He has often told me of ships that left port with only
two or three sober hands besides the captain and officers. When they
were once outside the harbor and had been dropped by the tug, the mate
would go to forecastle and rouse out the hands. If they were drunk, he'd
beat them until they were sober."

"What a terrible thing," cried Jack in horrified tones.

"And then he sometimes has told me of fellows who were shanghaied aboard


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