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THE SCOUTS OF SEAL ISLAND ***




Produced by R.G.P.M. van Giesen




[Illustration: cover art]




OTHER BOOKS FOR

YOUNG PEOPLE

WITH ILLUSTRATIONS IN COLOUR

AESOP'S FABLES
ANDERSEN'S FAIRY TALES
BLOSSOM. A FAIRY STORY
BUNYAN'S PILGRIM'S PROGRESS
COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO
GRIMM'S FAIRY TALES
GULLIVER'S TRAVELS
JOHN HALIFAX, GENTLEMAN
MR. MIDSHIPMAN EASY
SWISS FAMILY ROBINSON
THE CHILDREN OF THE NEW FOREST
THE ENCHANTED FOREST
THE LITTLE FAIRY SISTER
THE LITTLE GREEN ROAD TO FAIRYLAND
THE WATER BABIES (KINGSLEY)


PUBLISHED BY
A. & C. BLACK, LTD., 4, 5 & 6 SOHO SQ., LONDON, W.




THE SCOUTS OF SEAL ISLAND




AGENTS

_New York_

THE MACMILLAN COMPANY

_Melbourne_

THE OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS

_Toronto_

THE MACMILLAN COMPANY OF CANADA

_Bombay Calcutta Madras_

MACMILLAN AND COMPANY, LTD.


"They landed safely on the lee side of the stone pier." - _Page_ 132.




THE SCOUTS OF
SEAL ISLAND


BY


PERCY F. WESTERMAN

AUTHOR OF
"SEA SCOUTS OF THE PETREL'"
"THE SEA MONARCH" ETC.



_With eight Illustrations in Colour by_

ERNEST PRATER



A. & C. BLACK, LTD.
4, 5 AND 6 SOHO SQUARE, LONDON, W.1




PRINTED IN GREAT BRITAIN

_First Published in_ 1913
_This Edition published in_ 1922
_Reprinted in) 1922, 1923, 1925, 1930




CONTENTS
CHAP.
I. SIR SILAS DISAPPROVES
II. DICK ATHERTON'S GOOD TURN
III. THE PATROL LEADER'S DILEMMA
IV. OFF TO SEAL ISLAND
V. THE ARRIVAL
VI. A SPOILT BREAKFAST
VII. THE MYSTERIOUS FOOTPRINTS
VIII. THE MISSING THOLE-PINS
IX. AT THE LIGHTHOUSE
X. THE WRECK
XI. HOW CAME PAUL TASSH ON SEAL ISLAND?
XII. THE BURGLARY
XIII. FLIGHT
XIV. PHILLIPS' DISCOVERY
XV. THE EXPLORATION OF THE TUNNEL
XVI. TRAPPED
XVII. THE MYSTERIOUS YACHT
XVIII. HOT ON THE TRAIL
XIX. THE FIRST CAPTURE
XX. A GOOD NIGHT'S WORK




LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

"THEY LANDED SAFELY ON THE LEE SIDE OF THE
STONE PIER" _Frontispiece_

"LOOK HERE, YOUNG GENTLEMAN, CAN YOU GIVE ME
ANY INFORMATION AS TO WHAT OCCURRED?"

"HE SLIPPED OVER THE CLIFF AND WAS SLOWLY
LOWERED"

"QUITE EXHAUSTED, THE FIRST SURVIVOR WAS
ASSISTED TO THE MOST SHELTERED POSITION ON
THE LEDGE"

"IN BROKEN-STEP FORM THE SCOUTS CARRIED THEIR
COMRADE TOWARDS THE CAMP"

"'IN THE NAME OF THUNDER, WHAT HAVE YOU
SCOUTS BEEN UP TO?'"

"THROUGHOUT THE REST OF THE AFTERNOON THE
WOLVES KEPT ON THE WATCH"

"'HANDS UP INSTANTLY OR I'LL FIRE!' ORDERED
MR. BUCKLEY STERNLY"




THE SCOUTS OF
SEAL ISLAND




CHAPTER I

SIR SILAS DISAPPROVES


"LADS," exclaimed Scoutmaster Leslie Trematon, "I am sorry to
announce a disappointment, but I trust you will receive the news like
true Scouts and keep smiling."

The Scoutmaster paused to note the effect of his words. Practically
every boy of the "Otter" and "Wolf" patrols knew what was coming, but
one and all gave no sign of disgust at the shattering of their hopes.
Two or three pursed their lips tightly, others set their jaws grimly,
while a few looked at their comrades as if to gauge the state of
their feelings on the matter.

"We must, I'm afraid, give up all hope of our Cornish trip and set
our minds upon a fortnight's camp at or in the neighbourhood of
Southend," continued Mr Trematon. "I had an idea, when I approached
Sir Silas Gwinnear, that my application would be favourably
considered, and that in less than a week's time you would be enjoying
the pure bracing air of Seal Island. Unfortunately, Sir Silas does
not see eye to eye with us. His opinion of Scouts in general is not a
flattering one. Of course every man is entitled to his own opinion,
but at the same time I sincerely trust that Sir Silas may be
convinced that his estimate of the qualities of Scouts is
inconsistent with facts. I would not hold your confidence if I did
not read his letter to you. At the same time I feel sure you will
make due allowances for the somewhat scathing strictures upon Boy
Scouts in general."

Leslie Trematon, the third master of Collingwood College, was a tall,
broad-shouldered muscular Cornishman of twenty-four years of age. He
was just over six feet in height, his complexion was ruddy, though
tanned by exposure to the sun, while his crisp, light brown hair and
kindly blue eyes gave him a boyish appearance. He had been two years
assistant master at Collingwood College, and, although a strict
disciplinarian during school hours, was the idol of his scholars. Out
of harness he was almost as one of them: full of spirit, keen on
games, and sympathetic with lads who sought his confidence.

A little more than twelve months previously, Mr Trematon had raised
four patrols of Scouts amongst the pupils of Collingwood College, and
the troop was officially designated the 201st North London. Trematon
saw possibilities in the Scout movement. His superior, the Rev.
Septimus Kane, the dignified and somewhat old-fashioned Principal of
the College, did not regard the newly raised Scouts in a favourable
light. He set his face against new institutions; but, finally, on the
Scoutmaster's representations he grudgingly consented to give the
experiment a term's trial.

At the end of the first term he condescended to admit that the 201st
Troop justified its existence. More recruits came in, and the
school-games club flourished more than it had done before. Scouting
went hand in hand with sport, and the Collingwood College football
team attained a higher place in the junior league than it had since
its formation.

The second term gave even better results. The whole school seemed
infected with the spirit. There was more esprit de corps, the
physical condition of the boys was decidedly on the improve, while
the Midsummer Examination percentage of passes caused the Rev.
Septimus to beam with satisfaction and the governors to bestow lavish
praise upon their headmaster and his staff of assistants.

Even Monsieur Fardafet, the second French master, noticed the change
in the boys' behaviour, and weeks went by without his having to
complain to the Head about the conduct of certain irreconcilables who
had hitherto been the worry and despair of his existence.

The fact was that the whole College was imbued with the principles of
scoutcraft. Every boy realised that it was incumbent upon him to
develop his individual character, and that it was impossible for his
masters to confide in him if he failed to confide in them.

It had always been a strong point with the Rev. Septimus to impress
upon his assistants the necessity of appealing to a boy's honour, but
hitherto there had been a flaw in the working of the Head's scheme.
The boys regarded any advance on their masters' part with suspicion.
It was their firm belief that masters existed simply and solely for
the purpose of driving in the dreary elements of knowledge. But when
Mr Leslie Trematon arrived upon the scene matters began to improve,
till, at the time our story opens, a state of harmony existed betwixt
the masters and scholars of Collingwood College.

The number of patrols had now increased to ten. Of these the "Otters"
and the "Wolves" were composed solely of boarder who, through various
circumstances, were unable to spend their holidays in the home
circle. Mr Trematon looked upon it as a pleasurable duty to give up a
portion of his summer vacation to these two patrols, and, with this
object in view, had approached Sir Silas Gwinnear to obtain his
permission to have the use of Seal Island for a fortnight in August.

Sir Silas was a city magnate whose name was generally to the fore in
every large commercial transaction that would bear close
investigation. With the exception of a comparatively brief holiday,
invariably spent on his large Cornish estate near Padstow, Sir Silas
stuck closely to his business. He was a self-made man, whose wealth
had been accumulated by sheer hard work and indomitable
determination. In his earlier days he knew Mr Trematon's father
intimately, and the young Scoutmaster took decorous advantage of this
friendship to ask a boon for his Scouts.

Seal Island, which formed but a small portion of Sir Silas' estates,
is situated off the north Cornish coast, being separated from the
shore by a stretch of deep water barely a quarter of a mile in width.
It is a little more than half a mile in length, and half that
distance across its widest part. Roughly, the island resembles the
shape of the body of a pig, the back being seawards. It is
uninhabited, save for numerous rabbits and countless sea-birds. Its
north-western side is honeycombed with caves; a romantic ruin, that
tradition ascribes to the work of a saintly hermit, occupies the
highest position, which is two hundred and fifty feet above the sea.

Needless to say the Scouts voted that Seal Island was an ideal place
to spend a holiday, and one and all looked for the expected reply.

And now Sir Silas Gwinnear had replied, and their hopes were dashed
to the ground.

"I may as well let you hear what Sir Silas says," continued Mr
Trematon. "You will then be able to know what some people think of us
Scouts: -


"DEAR MR TREMATON,

"I must apologise for the slight delay that has arisen in replying to
your letter of the 2nd.

"It is an unpleasant thing to have to refuse the request of the son
of an old friend of mine, but in so doing I merely adhere to the
principles I am about to explain.

"I give you my reasons. They may not meet with your approval, but
they are certainly what I believe to be correct. In the first place,
I strongly disapprove of the Boy Scout movement. To me, a man of
strong commercial instincts, the whole scheme suggests militancy and
is merely the thin end of the wedge of 'National Conscription,' which
to a man of peace is utterly abhorrent.

"Nor can I see that any useful purpose can be served by grotesquely
garbed youths running about the country with broomsticks in their
hands and wild cat-calls on their lips. The very privacy of a country
ramble is menaced by the apparition of an inquisitive youth in a
Scout's hat peering through a gap in the hedge.

"To-day, too much time is wasted in outdoor amusements - in fact, in
amusements of all sorts. The commercial vitality of the nation is
seriously threatened. I can assure you that I've had the greatest
difficulty in obtaining a suitable junior clerk. There were scores of
applicants for the post, but in almost every case the lads wanted to
know what holidays were given, and what the hours were on
Saturdays - in order, I suppose, that they can go to football.

"By granting you permission to take your Scouts to Seal Island I
realise that I should be tacitly violating my principles. It is not
because of the damage the boys might do: there is very little to harm
on the Island. I trust, therefore, that you will understand the
reason of my refusal, and accept my assurance of regret at not being
able to accede to your request. - Yours faithfully,

"SILAS GWINNEAR."


"Jolly hard lines, sir," exclaimed Jack Phillips,
the Second of the "Otters." "Can't you write and explain that his
ideas are wrong."

"Hardly," replied the Scoutmaster, with a smile. "Sir Silas does not
ask for my opinion. All the same it is up to us to show him that he
is in error. All great organisations are misunderstood by some,
especially during the initial stages. Time alone will wear down
opposition, and in due course I sincerely hope that Sir Silas may
have cause to change his opinions. Meanwhile, lads, we must not be
downhearted. I must say you appear to take the bad news in a true
Scout-like spirit. Perhaps, after all, we will have almost as jolly a
camp at Southend, although I am sorry we are not going to sample the
glorious Cornish climate. But now let's to work: its bridge building
to-night, and there's quite a lot to be done in the time."

Five minutes later the old gym., which the Rev. Septimus Kane had, as
a token of appreciation, handed over to the sole use of the Scouts,
was a scene of orderly bustle. For the time being the lads had put
Seal Island from their minds.



CHAPTER II

DICK ATHERTON'S GOOD TURN


ON the following Wednesday afternoon Leader Dick Atherton, of the
"Otters," was invited to his chum Gregson's to tea. Gregson was a day
boarder whose people lived at Brixton. He wished very much to join
the Scouts, but his parents strongly objected. This was a source of
keen disappointment both to Gregson and Atherton, for instinctively
they realised that there was bound to be an ever-widening gap in
their friendship.

Dick Atherton was a good specimen of a British school-boy. He was
sixteen years of age, fairly tall, and with long supple limbs and a
frame that showed promise of filling out. At present he was, like a
good many other lads of his age, growing rapidly. Plenty of outdoor
exercise and an abundance of plain wholesome food had turned the
scale, for instead of becoming a lank, over-studious youth he showed
every promise of developing into a strong, muscular man.

One of the first to avail themselves of Mr Trematon's offer to become
Scouts, Dick Atherton was by the unanimous vote of the patrol
appointed Leader of the "Otters." He took particular pains to prove
himself worthy of the honour his comrades had paid him, with the
result that he soon gained his Ambulance, Cycling, Pathfinder,
Swimming and Signalling badges.

Scoutmaster Trematon was strongly opposed to the idea of any lad
hastily qualifying for badges merely for the sake of having the right
sleeve decorated by a number of fanciful symbols; he preferred to
find a Scout making himself thoroughly proficient, and keeping
himself up to a state of efficiency in a comparatively few number of
subjects, rather than a slipshod scramble for badges that could only
be regarded in a similar light to the trophies of a "pothunter."

Dick Atherton, as did most of his comrades, saw the good sense of his
Scoutmaster's wishes. Therein he laid the foundations of his success
in after life: he specialised. It would be hard to find another Scout
in the whole of the London Troops who could excel Atherton in any of
the branches he had taken up. To the Scouts' motto "Be prepared" he
instinctively added another, "Be thorough."

Shortly after six o'clock Atherton bade his friends farewell and
started on his return journey to Collingwood College. It was
imperative that he should be back before a quarter to eight in time
for evening "prep."

A heavy mist, almost a fog, had settled down earlier in the
afternoon, driving most people to the Tubes. Atherton, however,
preferred to take a motor-bus.

As the vehicle was passing under the railway viaduct in the Waterloo
Road it skidded on the greasy surface and dashing into the kerb
smashed the nearside fore-wheel. The Scout promptly alighted,
thinking that perhaps he might be of assistance. To his request the
motorman curtly told him to "Chuck it and clear out," advice that
Atherton deemed it expedient to carry out.

Just then he remembered that to-morrow was Fred Simpson's birthday.
Simpson was the Leader of the "Wolves," and a jolly good sort, and
Atherton resolved to spend the remainder of his weekly allowance in
some small present for his chum. Stamp-collecting was one of
Simpson's hobbies, and Atherton knew that it was his ambition to get
a set of Servian "Death Masks."

"I saw a set in a shop in the Strand only last week," thought
Atherton. "I'll take a short cut across Hungerford Bridge, buy the
stamps if they are still to be had, and pick up the Tube at Charing
Cross. There will be ample time if I make haste."

The approach to the bridge consists of a fairly steep wooden gangway
with an abrupt turning at its upper end. The worn planks were
slippery with mud, while, being close to the river, the mist seemed
denser than ever. From the bridge it was just possible to see the
outlines of the adjoining brewery and the tiers of heavy barges lying
on the reeking mud, for the tide had almost ceased to ebb.

Less than half-way across the bridge Atherton saw the figures of two
men. One was leaning over the low parapet, the other, hands in
pockets and his hat stuck on the back of his head, was looking
fixedly along the narrow footway. Suddenly the latter poked his
companion in the ribs and pointed at the oncoming Scout; then both
men turned and leant over the parapet as if interested in the swirl
of yellow water twenty or thirty feet beneath them.

"What can their interest be in me, I wonder?" thought Atherton. "No
use showing the white feather. I'll walk straight past them - but I'll
'Be prepared.'"

Somewhat to his surprise the two men took particular care to keep
their faces averted. But swiftly as he walked by the Scout did not
forget the value of unobtrusive observation.

"No. 1. - Height about five feet five, broad shouldered, short legs;
back of neck dirty yellow, hair black and long, showing a tendency to
curl. Clothes: a billy-cock hat, soiled stand-up collar, with a
frayed yellow-and-black necktie showing above the back collar-stud,
coat rusty black, circular patch of deep black material on left
elbow; trousers grey, frayed at bottoms; boots pale yellow, badly in
need of a clean, and much worn on the outside of each heel.

"No. 2. - Height five feet ten, back of neck red, iron-grey hair
closely cut, shoulders bent, legs long, feet planted well apart.
Cloth cap; blue woollen scarf, blue serge coat and trousers, black
boots that had apparently been treated with dubbin. Should take him
to be a seafaring man; more than likely a bargeman. I feel pretty
certain that I could pick out these men in a crowd of - - "

A stifled shout for aid was faintly borne to the Scout's ears. He
stopped, turned, then without hesitation ran as hard as he could in
the direction from which he had come. The mist hid the two men from
his sight, while at the same time a light engine running slowly over
the adjacent bridge threw out a dense cloud of steam that, beaten
down by the moist atmosphere, made it impossible for Atherton to see
more than a yard ahead.

Once more came the cry, this time nearer, but gurgling, as if the
victim's mouth was being held by one of his assailants. Imitating a
man's voice, the Scout shouted. Just then the cloud of steam was
wafted away, and Atherton was able to see what was taking place.

The two men he had previously passed were struggling fiercely with a
tall, elderly gentleman, who in spite of his grey hairs was
strenuously resisting. Even as the Scout dashed up, the two rascals
deliberately lifted their victim over the iron balustrade. There was
a stifled shriek followed by a heavy plash, while the assailants
bolted as fast as their legs could carry them.

Three or four pedestrians, looming out of the mist, promptly stood
aside to let the hurrying men pass. The former made no attempt to
stop the fugitives. All they did was to stand still and gaze after
them till they were lost to sight.

"A man has been thrown into the river!" shouted Atherton. "Run down
to the Charing Cross Pier and get them to send out a boat."

Throwing off his coat and shoes the Scout climbed over a parapet and
lowered himself till his whole weight was supported by his hands.
There he hung for a brief instant. He realised that the drop was a
long one, and in addition there was the possibility of falling not
into the water but upon the deck of a barge that might at that moment
be shooting under the bridge. In that case it might mean certain
death, or at least broken limbs.

Shutting his eyes and keeping his legs tightly closed and straight
out, Atherton released his hold and dropped. He hit the water with
tremendous force, descending nearly ten feet. Instinctively he swam
to the surface and, shaking the water from his hair and eyes, struck
out down stream.

Twenty yards from him, and just visible in the murky atmosphere, he
caught sight of a dark object just showing above the surface. The
next moment it vanished. Putting all his energy into his strokes
Atherton swam to the spot and, guided by the bubbles, dived. It
seemed a forlorn hope, for at a few feet below the surface the thick
yellow water was so opaque that he could not distinguish his hands as
he struck out. For nearly half a minute the brave lad groped blindly.
His breath, already sorely taxed by the force of his drop from the
bridge, was failing him. He must come to the surface ere he could
renew his vague search. Just as he was on the point of swimming
upwards his left hand came into contact with a submerged object. His
grip tightened. With a thrill of satisfaction he realised that he had
hold of the victim of the outrage.

Thank Heaven, the surface at last! Turning on his back Atherton drew
in a full breath of the dank yet welcome air, then shifting his grasp
to the collar of the rescued man drew him face uppermost to the
surface. To all appearance the old gentleman was dead. His eyes were
wide open, his lips parted, his features were as white as his hair.

The Scout looked about him. His vision was limited to a circle of
less than fifty yards in radius; beyond this the mist enveloped
everything. The Embankment, the bridges, the Surrey side - all were
invisible. But above the noise of the traffic on the Embankment and
the rumble of the trains across the river came the dull roar of
voices, for already a dense crowd had gathered almost as soon as the
alarm had been given by the hitherto apathetic pedestrians on the
foot-bridge.

"The wind was blowing down stream," thought Atherton. "If I keep it
on my left I ought to strike shore somewhere, so here goes."

Still swimming on his back, and holding up the head of the rescued
man, the Scout headed towards the Middlesex side. His progress was
slow, for his burden was a serious drag, and his strength had already
undergone a severe strain. His clothes, too, were a great impediment.
Had it been clear weather Atherton would have been content to keep
himself afloat till picked up by a boat, but he did not relish the
idea of drifting aimlessly on the bosom of old Father Thames; his
plan was to make for land, hoping to reach the Embankment somewhere
in the neighbourhood of the steps by Cleopatra's Needle.

All this while, owing to a slight veering of the wind, Atherton was
swimming, not towards the shore, but almost down stream. He wondered
faintly why his feet had not yet touched the mud. More than once he
thrust his legs down to their fullest extent, hoping to find
something offering more resistance than water, but each time his
hopes were not realised.

He was momentarily growing weaker. His movements were little more
than mechanical, yet not for one instant did he think of abandoning
his burden to save himself. His clothing seemed to hang about his
limbs like lead. Ofttimes he had practised swimming in trousers,
shirt and socks - for one of the Scouts' swimming tests is to cover
fifty yards thus attired; but he had already covered more than four
times that distance, while, in addition, he was heavily handicapped
by having to tow another person.

Presently a dull throbbing fell upon the Scout's ears.

"A steamboat," he muttered. "Wonder if she'll come this way."

And expending a considerable amount of his sorely tried breath he
shouted for aid. A sharp blast upon a steam-whistle was the response,
while a hoarse voice bawled, "Where are you, my man?"

"Here," replied Atherton vaguely, for owing to the mist the direction
in which the sound came from was quite unable to be located.

Fortunately the steamboat was heading almost down upon the nearly
exhausted lad. Her bows, magnified out of all proportion, loomed
through the misty atmosphere.

"Stop her!" shouted the coxswain to the engineer, then, "Stand by
with your boathook, Wilson."

Losing way, the boat - one of the Metropolitan Police launches - was
brought close alongside the rescuer and the rescued. The bowman,
finding the lad within arm's length, dropped his boathook, and
leaning over the gunwale, grasped Atherton by the shoulder. The
coxswain came to his aid, and the victim of the outrage was hauled
into safety.



CHAPTER III

THE PATROL LEADER'S DILEMMA


SHIVERING under the stern canopy of the launch, Scout Atherton
assisted the bowman in his work of restoring the half-drowned man to
life. Before the craft reached Charing Cross Pier, the policeman was
able to announce that there was yet hope.


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