BOY SCOUTS IN SOUTHERN WATERS
Or, Spaniard's Treasure Chest
G. HARVEY RALPHSON
Author of Boy Scouts In The North Sea, Under Fire In Flanders, Boy Scouts In An Airship, Boy Scouts In A Motor Boat
I. A COLLISION IN THE FOG II. CRIPPLED BY THE STRANGER III. A MYSTERIOUS MESSAGE IV. THE HOLE IN THE BOAT V. WIG-WAGGING A WARNING VI. A MAROONED BOY SCOUT VII. THEIR PIRATE PRISONER VIII. JACK STRICKEN BY A BULLET IX. A NIGHT ATTACK X. FIRST AID AND AN ESCAPE XI. AN ELUSIVE BOB WHITE XII. SAVED BY A STRANGER XIII. A FRUITLESS SEARCH XIV. TWO BEAVERS IN PERIL XV. A SURPRISE AT THE FORTUNA XVI. RESCUE AND CAPTURE XVII. WHAT BURNED IN THE CABIN XVIII. SHANGHAIED! XIX. TREACHERY EXPOSED XX. RESCUED AT SEA XXI. A FRIEND AND AN ENEMY XXII. A DESPERATE ATTEMPT XXIII. AT THE SPANISH FORT XXIV. DEFEATED BY GREED XXV. THE TREASURE
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BOY SCOUTS IN SOUTHERN WATERS OR THE SPANIARD'S TREASURE CHEST
A COLLISION IN THE FOG
"Wow! Look at that one! That's a monster!"
"That must be the ninth wave."
"What do you mean by the ninth wave, Jack?"
"Why, Arnold, don't you know that every third wave is bigger than the two preceding it and that every ninth wave is bigger than the preceding eight?" queried Jack Stanley.
"No, can't say that I ever knew that," replied Arnold Poysor leaning out of the pilot house of a sturdy motor boat plowing her way through the waters of that part of the Gulf of Mexico known as Mississippi Sound. "But I do know," he continued, "that if the Fortuna takes many more green ones over her bow, we'll have to get something other than oilskins to keep us dry!"
"Gee, I wish this fog would lift and let us find out where we are!" put in a third member of the part. "This is fierce!"
"It's thicker than the mush we used to get in that South Water Street restaurant when we were fitting out in Chicago!" declared the first speaker. "That was a bum place to eat!"
"Never mind the eats!" replied the one addressed as "Jack." "Just you keep that Klaxon going. You know we're on government waters here and the pilot rules require us to keep a fog signal sounding once every minute. We had hard enough work to convince the United States Inspectors that the Klaxon would make a perfectly good fog signal. Let's not fall down now on the job of keeping it going."
"I'd hate like everything to have a collision!"
"So would we all!" declared the first speaker.
Four boys were standing in the pilot house of a sturdily built and splendidly equipped motor boat that was being rolled and tossed by the, waves driven from the Gulf of Mexico before a southerly wind. Great banks of fog were rolling inland before the wind—fog so thick it was scarcely possible to see a boat's length ahead.
The boys were all dressed in suits of oil skins under which might have been seen neat khaki Boy Scout Uniforms. If their jackets had been exposed one might have distinguished medals that betokened membership in the Beaver Patrol, Boy Scouts of America. Other insignia indicated to the initiated that the boys had won distinction and were entitled to the honors in Seamanship, Life Saving, Stalking and Signaling. On the jacket of the one addressed as "Jack" were insignia that betokened his rank as Scout Master and also as Star Scout. These had been won by sheer merit.
All four were manly young fellows of about seventeen and, though young, their faces gave evidence of alert natures thoroughly reliable and ready for any emergency.
Their vessel, the Fortuna, appeared fully equal to any task that might be expected of her. Trimly built and graceful, yet solidly and staunchly constructed, she rode the waves like a thing of life. Her engines, which by common consent had been reduced to half speed in deference to the law, worked perfectly, driving the powerful hull through the water easily. Just now she met the oncoming waves, driving into them with a good deal of spray about the bows.
Jack Stanley, Scout Master of the Beaver Patrol of Chicago, Boy Scouts of America, was Captain of the Fortuna. His father was president of a bank in Chicago and had requested Jack and his chums to take the Fortuna from Chicago to Southern waters where they would later on be joined by the banker for a cruise among the islands and points of interest in that vicinity. Jack was a fine, manly lad who well deserved the honors bestowed upon him. His companions were equally clean and worthy young boys who were members of the Beaver Patrol and who all were devoted to Jack.
Harry Harvey, an orphan, worked as messenger for one of the large telegraph companies. He had seen a great deal of life and was far older than his years. Tom Blackwood worked as an inspector in one of the great department stores of State Street while Arnold Poysor was an apprentice in a printing establishment and was possessed of an ambition to become a great journalist.
Without doubt it would have been difficult to find four more congenial lads than the crew of the Fortuna. Widely different in their appearance they still gave one the impression that they all belonged to each other. There was the same fearless, honest look in their sparkling eyes, the same erectness of carriage, the same confident walk that bespoke clean, ambitious, well-trained lives.
Just now they were all anxiously gathered in the pilot house eagerly on the lookout for any possible danger that might be threatening them from out the dense fog being swept inland by the wind. Harry was at the wheel while Jack stood with his hand close to the switchboard that governed the engines pulsating below. Tom and Arnold were leaning half way out of the open windows heedless of the fog and the spray that now and again fell in sheets over the pilot house as the Fortuna thrust her nose into a large wave.
"Great fishes!" ejaculated Tom. "I'd like to have a collision with some eats right soon. I'm nearly starved and drowned and several other things! I haven't eaten since we left Mobile!"
"Score one for Tom!" cried Harry. "He washes the dishes next time! Remember our bargain, old Scout," he continued. "Do you remember what we agreed to do when we left Chicago?"
"Could I forget it with your melodious Klaxon working overtime?" queried Tom. "Great Fishes isn't slang, though! Ask Jack."
"How about it, Jack?" asked Harry. "Does he wash or not wash, that's the question. Fair play here—let the umpire decide!"
Before he spoke, Jack pressed the button that actuated the Klaxon. When the raucous noise of the fog horn had died away he turned to the two disputants with a quizzical look and said:
"You'd be more careful of your language if your mother were here, wouldn't you, Tom?" and then, as a look of triumph on the face of exultant Harry was about to be followed by a shout of rejoicing, he continued. "And I'm sure that when Harry makes a mistake we'll all be as considerate of his feelings as we are able. But Tom washes the dishes as a penalty for using slang!" he announced in a tone of pleasant finality that was unmistakable.
"Who's going to be cook this next watch?" asked Arnold.
"It's my work, by the schedule," replied Jack, "but if you lads will excuse me now, I'll do double duty later on. I hate to leave the deck even for a few minutes. I don't feel at all easy!"
"Why, what can make you uneasy?" put in Harry.
"I don't know," Jack answered. "I suppose it's only a notion due to indigestion after eating some of Tom's cookery, but I have a sort of uneasy feeling that something is going to happen and I want to be on deck when it comes. That's all!"
"Well, I'm about starved and so if this portentous calamity will please postpone its arrival until I get my lunch, I'll be much obliged!" remarked Arnold. "I'll go get dinner. I follow Jack on the cooking schedule. What'll it be, gentlemen?"
"More of that fine Red Snapper!" quickly answered Harry.
"If you boys can wait long enough, I'd like some of those famous biscuits Arnold knows so well how to make," added Tom.
"And I," said Jack, "would like a double portion of both of those and a cup of that excellent coffee we bought at Mobile."
"Wee, Mong Sewers! Zee Chef departs!" announced Arnold disappearing down the stairs leading to the cabin from whence in a short time the aroma of delicious coffee was wafted up to the three boys in the pilot house, each striving to peer farther into the fog which seemed to be getting thicker each passing moment.
"Seems to me I hear the booming of the surf on a jagged and rock bound coast," remarked Harry after an interval of silence following the wail of the Klaxon fog signal being sounded at regular intervals.
"Harry, you ought to be serious once in a while!" admonished Jack. "There are no rocks down in this part of the world. Everything is sand and lots of it. Besides the real coast is over here to our starboard hand side. You can't hear any surf there!"
"Maybe so, but I can hear what I believe to be the pounding of waves on a shore, just the same!" stoutly insisted Harry.
"Listen a minute," exclaimed Tom raising a hand for silence.
"There!" cried Harry after an interval. "There it is again!"
"Jack," Tom asked turning to his chum, "can you get it?"
With his face a trifle paler than was his wont, Jack nodded his head and with his lips closed tightly peered into the fog.
"Great Wigglin' Pollywogs!" ejaculated Tom. "If we're into a surf the Fortuna had better give up now! We can't ever expect to get out of that sort of a mess with this little rabbit!"
"Two times heavy on the dish washing for Thomas!" gloated Harry. "But we're not into the surf yet a while! Listen!"
His hand was held up again for silence. From the cabin came the sound of the clock striking the hour in nautical fashion.
"Five bells!" announced Jack.
"Let's see," mused Harry. "I never can get used to that."
"Ten thirty," Tom put in, "if it was a railroader; half past o'clock for you Dutchmen," he added with a chuckle, wrinkling a freckled nose at Harry and winking at Jack.
"All right!" assented Harry. "Log a surf heard at—how many bells? Oh, yes, five bells in the morning. Log Tom Blackwood for uncivil language to an officer and for refusing duty under fire!"
"Hark, boys!" commanded Jack "We may be getting into a mess and it's no time for joking and carrying on like that!"
"You're right, Jack, as always!" assented Tom. "Just to show that I'm serious, I'll joke no more until this fog lifts!"
"Here, too!" declared Harry. "But look at Rowdy! What's the matter, Rowdy, old chap?" he continued as a great white bulldog came up the ladder from the cabin. "What ails you?"
The bulldog was evidently excited about something for the hair on his shoulders and neck was standing straight up while from his throat issued a low fierce growl scarcely audible above the noise of the tumbling waters. His every action bespoke antipathy to something. Raising himself upon his hind legs, the dog rested his paws upon the window sill of the pilot house. He peered eagerly into the white shroud of mist that enveloped the motor boat.
"He hears that surf, too!" declared Tom. "He hears it!"
"I don't believe it's surf he hears," Jack stated. "He looks just like he did back there in Mobile when we found that black browed fellow trying to board the Fortuna.
"Good old Rowdy!" soothingly murmured Tom reaching over to give the dog a pat. "What do you see, boy? Tell your friend."
"Looks to me like it might be a person he scents!" Harry stated. "Only it isn't a likely place for a person to be out in this mess!"
"We're out in this mess, aren't we?" objected Tom.
Jack's hands swiftly traveled over the switchboard seeming to find as if by instinct just the right levers. The engines stopped and then reversed full speed! The Fortuna shook and quivered from stern to stern. She fell off slightly into the trough.
"On deck!" shouted Jack. "Here's a collision."
Tom and Harry were on deck instantly. Jack leaned against the switchboard and groaned. The next instant came a crash!
CRIPPLED BY THE STRANGER
With a lunge the Fortuna struck a dark object riding the crest of an oncoming wave. Jack stood against the switchboard scarcely daring to look while Arnold came crowding up the companion-way his face blanched and eyes staring. Harry and Tom were on the forward deck looking along either side of the plunging boat.
"What did we hit?" queried Arnold in a shaking tone.
"I don't know," replied Jack. "Whatever it was, we don't seem to be sunk yet, though. Maybe it was just a few floating boards washed adrift from some vessel."
"What did you see, boys?" Arnold called out to his companions on deck. "Did we hit something or did it hit us?"
"Looks to me as if we had run down a row boat and cut her right in two!" declared Tom. "I was sure I saw the stern of a boat just sinking here on the starboard side."
Jack reeled against the wheel, covering his face with his hands. Despite his efforts a groan escaped him. Arnold sprang toward his chum and put an arm about his shoulders with a friendly air.
"What's the matter, Jack? Are you hurt?" he asked solicitously.
"Only inside" replied Jack. "I'm sure I saw a man in a row boat loom up out of the fog just before we struck. The shudder that ran through the Fortuna told me only too plainly that we had hit something more than a mere board or two. I can't bear to think that we've run down a man out here in the Gulf! It's too bad!"
"Maybe it was only an empty boat, Jack," comforted Arnold. "Did you hear anyone cry out or see anything of a man overboard?"
"No," was Jack's answer, "I didn't. I just felt that something was going to happen and then we struck the boat. I guess it's all right and we'd better get the Fortuna with her nose into it or we'll roll the engines off their beds. This is surely a choppy sea!"
Suiting the action to the words Jack reached for the levers on the switchboard just as Tom and Harry returned to the shelter of the pilot house dripping from the sheets of spray that had come aboard while the vessel lay rolling in the trough of the sea.
"Great Wiggling Pollywogs!" exclaimed Tom, "this is sure a nasty piece of weather! I'm glad I'm on top and not sloshing around in the Gulf right now. Bet that fellow in the boat is wet all right."
"Hark, Tom!" cautioned Harry. "You mustn't talk like that."
"I'm going back to finish my cooking," announced Arnold. "We'll all be hungry enough to eat a raw dog. And speaking of dogs," he continued pointing at the white bulldog still holding his position at the pilot house window, "what's the matter with Rowdy?"
"Rowdy scents something he doesn't like," explained Tom.
"I wonder," began Jack and then without finishing his half begun sentence he dashed madly from the pilot house and flung himself into the bow of the yacht now gaining headway under the impetus of the engines. Flat on deck he fell and crawling to the rail peered eagerly over the side. His friends saw him turn an agonized and pleading glance in their direction and then reach far over the rail of the vessel. In an instant Tom and Harry were by his side eager to be of any possible assistance to their chum.
"What is it?" began Tom, but Harry motioned him to silence.
"Sit on his legs!" he commanded and Tom with a flash of comprehension obeyed unquestioningly. His weight on Jack's feet enabled the captain to lean far over the rail and grasp the wrists of a clinging figure gripping with the tenacity of despair the links of the cable that still hung from the hawse pipes.
Harry, too, leaned far out and in his eagerness to be of help nearly lost his balance and all but plunged into the sea.
"Steady!" gasped Jack. "Slow and steady now or he's gone!"
With a mighty heave the two boys dragged the figure to a level with the rail and then Tom left his post and came to their help.
It was now but a short task to get the rescued person on deck, but he was so chilled and exhausted that he could not stand.
"Let's put him below as quickly as we can, boys," Jack suggested. "Arnold has some hot coffee already cooking and that'll help him as much as anything we can do. Easy with him, now, maybe he's hurt."
With tenderness and skill the boys who had been trained to care for injured persons helped the visitor who had boarded their vessel so strangely and all unannounced down the companion-way into the cabin where he was speedily given a change of clothing followed by a steaming cup of fragrant coffee.
Jack again assumed command in the pilot house while Arnold took up his interrupted preparations for the meal.
"Be sure you fry an extra big piece of that Red Snapper for the new lad," directed Tom as he prepared to go again to the pilot house. "He's about half starved and pretty near used up, I guess!"
"You know I'll take care of him all right!" replied Arnold. "I'm sorry we broke his boat up like that but I guess we can all take a knot out of our neckties today. Wasn't it lucky he caught the cable, though? I'm delighted that we were able to save him!"
"Of course, we couldn't be blamed for running into him," said Tom. "I'm glad we rescued him from his awful predicament and now we'll have to be extra good to him to make up for it!"
So saying he passed up the companion-way and into the pilot house joining Harry and Jack at their ceaseless vigil.
Busily engaged with his work in the kitchenette, Arnold was quite surprised to observe the door leading into the after cabin open softly. It admitted the newly found stranger. He had been given spare clothes belonging to the boys and looked little the worse for his rough experience of only a short time before. His eyes were black and piercing and might have been pleasant were it not for his disagreeable habit of not looking directly at the one with whom he was talking. His glance roved about the place taking in every detail yet never resting long in any one place.
"How do you do?" pleasantly queried Arnold resolving to be congenial in spite of his instant distrust of the other. "I'm sorry we ran you down and ruined your boat, but I'm glad we got you aboard in time to save your life. It was a lucky accident."
Advancing in his frank and friendly manner he held out his hand in greeting. The stranger at first drew back, then as if thinking better of his resolve, he thrust forth his hand for a quick handshake, almost instantly releasing Arnold's grasp.
"What is your name, may I ask?" questioned Arnold.
"Carlos Madero is my right name, but they call me Charley," was the lad's almost surly response. "I live at Pass Christian and work on a shrimping schooner. My boat is gone now."
Arnold busied himself with the operation of the stove for a moment to regain his composure, for the fellow's manner had angered him immediately. Presently he turned and said:
"My name is Arnold Poysor. I am from Chicago and so are my chums. We are down here for a vacation and pleasure trip. We're sorry we smashed your boat, but if you'll accept it, we'll give you the one we're towing behind us. We bought it in Mobile."
"All right!" replied Carlos. "You ought to do that much."
Arnold now prepared the table for dinner and calling his companions to eat he introduced them to Carlos as they entered the cabin. Jack remained at the wheel while the others ate.
All the boys tried to make pleasant conversation for the newcomer but he greedily devoured the food set before him in a ravenous manner. His conversation was little better than monosyllables. At last the boys in despair gave up the effort of entertainment and fell to discussing their situation amongst themselves. They recounted the incidents of their trip down the Great Lakes, through the Erie Canal and down the Hudson River, their pleasant run down the east coast of the United States to the Florida Keys, past the Dry Tortugas and up to Mobile.
To all of their conversation Carlos listened intently, eating in silence, but keenly alert to every word that was said. Finally as the talk lulled to an occasional remark he looked up and said:
"What are you here for, anyway?"
"I told you," replied Arnold, "we're here for a pleasant vacation trip. We'll be joined later by the father of the boy at the wheel and then we expect to go on up the Mississippi to our home at Chicago. Didn't you believe me at first?"
"No," bluntly replied Carlos, "I didn't."
"All right," laughed Arnold, "we'll forgive you this time."
To relieve the tense situation Tom sprang to his feet saying that he would go and relieve Jack at the wheel while his friend ate.
Once in the pilot house he was met with a questioning look from Jack who was holding the wheel with one hand and Rowdy with the other. The dog was struggling wildly to free himself.
"What's the matter with Rowdy?" questioned Tom wonderingly.
"I'll never tell you," Jack panted, "he's been trying to get down into the cabin like all possessed ever since dinner was called. I've had my own sweet time to keep him here."
"Maybe the poor tyke is getting hungry like the rest of us human beings," ventured Tom. "Rowdy, are you hungry?" he asked.
Rowdy's reply was a glance from bloodshot eyes toward his friend, then he launched himself against the door leading to the cabin emitting growls that were unmistakably vicious.
"That's pretty near talking, Jack!" Tom stated.
With a knowing look Jack assented and pointing with his thumb toward the newcomer's direction nodded his head once or twice. Securing a length of small line Jack made Rowdy fast to a ring bolt in the pilot house floor and then went into the cabin for his dinner.
He had no better success in his effort at conversation with the stranger than his chums had met and shortly gave over trying to be pleasant. Making a hurried meal he again hastened to the pilot house where he assumed charge of the craft, for the fog was still thick.
Arnold in an effort to be friendly asked Carlos to inspect the Fortuna from the interior, which offer was quickly accepted.
"Here," explained Arnold, standing near the bulkhead separating the pilot house from the cabin, "is the forward part of the vessel. I suppose you'd call it the forecastle, but we have the fuel tanks, chain locker and lazarette here. On occasion we can use this space for extra bunks, but with the Pullman berths in the cabins we don't often need the room for anything but storage."
"Where is your gasoline?" asked Carlos displaying some interest.
"In tanks right up in the eyes of her," replied Arnold glad that he was interesting his visitor. "Then you see the engines amidships here with a berth on each side. The switchboard is in the center of the pilot house so the stairways are on each side of the engines. In the next compartment aft are more berths. Then still further aft, you see are the kitchenette on one side and the wash room on the other. Abaft of that is the after cabin that we use as a dining room. With the folding berths we can accommodate twelve people easily. It makes a fine home, all right."
"Can I go to sleep?" inquired Carlos. "I'm right tired."
"Sure you may," declared Arnold. "Take the after cabin and make yourself comfortable. I'll go up forward and let you sleep."
So saying he joined his companions in the pilot house and reported to them the result of his effort to placate their visitor.
For half an hour the Fortuna breasted the waves plunging through the thick fog. Anxiously the boys peered ahead ever alert.
Directly the vibrations of the motors grew fainter. The boys glanced at each other wonderingly. Rowdy tugged at the rope that confined him and growled savagely. Jack's face went white as he reached for the switch. He looked at the other boys in wonder.
The Fortuna's engines came to a dead stop!
A MYSTERIOUS MESSAGE
"Pull off the hood over the engines," cried Jack to Harry who was quickly down the companion-way, "and see if the wires from the magneto are disconnected. I made a new clip while we were at Mobile and maybe it has broken and cut off the current."
"Phew!" ejaculated Tom who was preparing to follow Harry below. "I'll bet something's broke loose all right. Smell it?"
"Sure enough I smell gasoline strong!" declared Jack.
"Some odoriferous, whatever that means!" cried Arnold. "Smells like the gas house up near Goose Island in the North Branch of the Chicago River," he added holding his nose.
"Switch on the electric lights and see where the gasoline pipe has broken loose," suggested Jack. "It seems to me the feed pipe must have become broken. That's an awful smell!"
"I'll venture there are gallons of gasoline in the bilge right now!" averred Harry. "Better open the windows a bit and let it air out in here. Suppose you get the bilge pump to work, Tom, and I'll try to find the leak."
"Sure, I'll pump the bilge," assented Tom. "Just look here at the stuff slopping up through the floor boards," he continued. "It surely looks as if we'd lost some fuel."
"That's funny," declared Jack. "I wonder how it could have happened. The pipes were all right when we fitted out and nothing we have done since could have injured them."
A shout from Harry announced a discovery. He was backing out of the compartment under the pilot house floor and just forward of the engines. As he appeared his face was the picture of rage.
"What's it?" queried Tom. "Don't hold your breath that way, you're apt to choke if you do," he laughed.
"Where is the fellow that opened that drain cock?" shouted Harry shaking his fist in the air. "Someone deliberately drained our gasoline into the bilge. I found the drain cock wide open!"
"Nobody opened it," asserted Jack. "We were all in the pilot house since dinner watching the fog and we couldn't reach the pipe."
"I hate to say it, Jack, but we were not all in the pilot house," answered Tom. "Maybe it isn't fair to the chap, but that fellow we nearly run over doesn't look good to me. I rather suspect him."
"Hush, my lad," Jack warned. "A good Boy Scout doesn't accuse anyone until he has proof, and we have no proof yet of his guilt."
"All right, Jack," unwillingly replied Tom, "but I can't help feel the way I feel, can I? He didn't impress me very favorably."
"And then, look at Rowdy!" put in Harry. "He spotted the fellow when he was still hanging on the cable and he tried to get back into the cabin all the time to eat up his visitor."
"Well, let's go back and wake him up and see what he knows," suggested Jack. "Maybe he can put up a good story that will satisfy even you chaps. I can hardly believe anyone would do a thing like that. He has no motive for attempting to cripple us like this."
The boys moved with one accord toward the after cabin. The Fortuna rolled viciously in the trough of the choppy sea, making their footing extremely unsteady. Jack swung open the door.
Starting back in amazement he bumped into Tom who was following closely. Harry was at their heels peering over their shoulders.
"Where is he?" gasped Jack wonderingly. "Where did he go?"
"The bird has flown!" declared Tom in a tragic tone.
"Bag and baggage!" asserted Harry.
True enough, not a sign of the stranger remained except the pile of water soaked garments in which he had been clothed when first brought into the cabin. These lay in a heap on the floor.
"Maybe he's out on the after deck," ventured Jack still hopeful.
"Let's see," answered Tom. "If he is there, I'll cook and wash dishes and scrub decks for a week on end!"
The after deck was empty. The visitor was nowhere in sight.
"Well, it looks as if he had come up out of the sea like a modern Neptune and like Old Neptune has gone back into it again," Jack said, his voice shaking. You don't suppose the fright he had turned his head and made him commit suicide, do you?"
"Suicide your tintype!" stoutly scorned Tom. "Do you think that fellow would commit suicide in a rowboat?"
"What do you mean?" questioned Jack wonderingly.
"I mean that our young pirate friend got one perfectly good square meal of food, one entire new outfit of clothes and one rowboat from this bunch of kindergartners. Then he opened the drip cock in our fuel tank and sneaked out the back door and is gone."
"Good night," vociferated Harry. "It's as clear as mud! Look at what that young villain has done! Why, he's a thief!"
"Easy now," admonished Jack. "We mustn't call him names. Maybe things look black for him, but it may come out all right."
"Yea-ah!" scorned Tom. "When I can see the back of my neck it will. That guy's crooked! That's what I believe."
"Me, too!" declared Harry. "I vote with Rowdy. He's usually pretty near right when it comes to reading character!"
"Well, anyhow, this won't get us anywhere, and the Fortuna is rolling like a loon. Let's see if Arnold can find bottom in the bilges yet and then we'll connect up the spare tank and start out."
"Second the motion," declared Tom. "We ought to get going."
Suiting the action to the word the boys returned to the cabin to find Arnold replacing the pump. The air was still heavy with the odor of gasoline but Jack deemed it safe to operate the engine, since the windows were to be left open giving a plentiful supply of air, thus preventing danger of an explosion.
Tom was about to replace the hood over the engines after they had been started when his eye caught sight of a piece of paper lying on the floor. Hastily he kicked it aside and was about to pass to the pilot house when Harry called his attention to the paper.
"Nice housekeeper you'd make," he taunted, "kick the dirt back under the couch and let the sweepers get it! Why don't you pick it up?"
"Guess I will," replied Tom shamefacedly. "I was in a hurry."
"What is it?" asked Harry. "Let me see it."
"Sure, read it," Tom answered. "Read it aloud and we'll all hear."
"What's this?" gasped Harry. "Listen, you fellows! Here's the secret of the whole thing! Hear this!"
"Well, read it," impatiently cried Arnold. "I'm dying to hear."
"Get the Fortuna and crew!" read Harry. "They know about the Spanish Chest. They're after it. Sink them if you have to."
As he finished reading he glanced at each of his chums in amazement. Their faces were pictures of dismay and amazement.
"What does that mean?" Arnold cried in tones of wonder. "What does it mean when it says, 'Get the Fortuna and crew?'"
"The last part explains that," answered Jack. "It means that some one or more people are after us and will sink the Fortuna if they have to in order to 'get' us. It listens like desperate characters were following us all right. We must remember our motto, boys, and 'Be Prepared.' We know they're after us."
"Yes, 'Be Prepared' for what?" questioned Tom. "Who're after us and why? What does that mean about the Spanish Chest?"
"I see it's time to let you fellows in on the whole thing," declared Jack. "I had hoped it would not be necessary to say anything for a long while yet for the moon isn't full until nearly a week from now, but this has precipitated matters. Now, listen!
"You all know Lawyer Geyer of Chicago. His offices are in the Masonic Temple. He and my father are very close friends—in fact they were schoolmates. Lawyer Geyer offered me a commission for him and fitted out this vessel and is paying our expenses. He also offered us half the reward if we were successful."
"What reward?" interrupted Arnold. "Why don't you hurry?"
"Keep still, rattle-head!" admonished Tom. "He's hurrying."
"Well," continued Jack, "it is said that years and years ago the Spaniards had a fortress built on what is known as Biloxi Bay. It seems they wanted to fortify this section of country and built a fine place there. As time went on and the country became settled, this fort was quite a refuge for settlers in times of trouble. It is said that once a commander of the fort was wicked enough to turn against his own people and that he incited the Indians to rise against the settlers. After they had taken refuge in the fort he got them to put all their gold and jewelry into his strong box which was a stout oak chest, and then he planned to get away with it."
"The piker!" cried Tom. "I think he should have been shot."
"He was," continued Jack, "or so the story goes. Some say he was shot by his own people who discovered his treachery and some say he fell defending the fort and incidentally the gold against an attack by Indians. But whichever way it happened, report says that the gold was buried in the fort by the survivors and has never been unearthed since. Many people have tried to get it, but it is reported that a curse hangs over this wealth and that no human being will be permitted to recover it, unless related to the officer."
"Is that why Lawyer Geyer sent us after it?" asked Harry.
"I don't quite get your meaning," Jack said.
"Well, you said no human being would be permitted to get the coin and then you said Lawyer Geyer sent us after it and—"
"I move we throw him overboard—he's a scoffer!" declared Tom.
"Second the motion," replied Jack laughing. "Sit still a while and listen to me. The worst is yet to come."
"Go on, Jack!" breathlessly urged Arnold. "Tell the rest."
"Well here's the curious part of the story," Jack continued. "It is said that only at certain stages of the moon and tide can one hope to find this chest of treasure. Also it is reported that only one who is of Spanish descent can hope to find it."
"Well, that lets us in," stoutly averred Harry. "Tom, here, is Spanish and so am I. How about you, Rowdy?" he went on addressing the white bulldog to whom he gave a friendly slap.
Rowdy responded with an affectionate attempt to "kiss" Harry's face and then endeavored to distribute his favors to the others.
"Seriously," Jack continued, "I have little faith in the project. Lawyer Geyer seems to half believe the story, however. He was down in this country a while ago on some real estate business and while here got the tale from some source that he considered fairly reliable. So he fitted out the expedition and is willing to take half the proceeds, whatever it may be, for his share."
"But it looks as if we are being opposed from the very start," objected Tom. "Look at this visitor and the note he left. That must indicate that there is a gang working against us. I'm a peaceful, orderly citizen and not at all inclined to start anything."
"Yes, he is!" laughed Arnold. "Look at the way he put the rollers under the gang of thugs at our camp at Mackinac Island!"
"Now, boys," continued Jack, beckoning Arnold to silence, "if any one of you wants to go back, he can have the chance. We're going to Pascagoula and also to Biloxi. At either place one can get the Louisville & Nashville railroad for home. Think it over. If you want to try for the Spanish Treasure Chest, stick. If not, you are at liberty to go home at any time we make a port."
At that instant the lads were startled to hear the hail:
"Launch ahoy! Keep off!"
"Port your helm," commanded Jack to Arnold who was at the wheel.
Dimly the boys made out the bulk of a schooner on their port bow, her sails slatting and rigging flying as she came up into the wind. As the Fortuna fell off they looked at the schooner and saw the main boom swinging across the deck, strike a man standing near the rail.
"Man overboard. Give me a line," cried Arnold, springing over the rail without stopping to divest himself of his clothing.
THE HOLE IN THE BOAT
Harry dashed to the rail and seized the ring life preserver from its beckets. As Arnold rose to the surface and reached out for the unfortunate man from the schooner, Harry flung the ring-buoy with unerring aim. It fell true, and within Arnold's reach.
Gradually pulling in the line, Harry and Tom drew their chum to the side of the Fortuna. The figure in his arms appeared perfectly lifeless. Quickly they prepared to take both on board.
"Make a bowline in a bight in that line," directed Harry. "Pass it down to Arnold and let him send us up the man first."
"Right-o," responded Tom, quickly preparing the line.
It was but the work of a moment to securely fasten the line about the man's limp form and in another moment he was safely on deck. Arnold followed, coming over the rail like a monkey.
First aid to the drowned was administered rapidly by the boys who prided themselves upon their proficiency in this art.
"Looks like a nasty bump he got on the coco, too," commented Tom. "How'd they happen to sneak upon us so close?" he added.
"Humph!" grunted Harry. "We all forgot to keep the Klaxon going while we listened to that fairy tale about the Spanish Treasure Chest. Maybe they forgot to blow their fog horn also, and there you are. Natural result of neglect. That's easy."
"Where are they now?" queried Arnold peering about in the fog.
"I believe that as soon as they saw we were picking up this chap," Jack replied, "they filled their sails and away they went. Certainly they are not here now."
"Hush, boys, he's coming to," declared Tom, watching the newcomer anxiously for signs of returning consciousness.
"Sure enough," assented Harry. "I tell you that little trick of pulling a fellow's tongue out isn't near as good as turning him face down. Look how easily this chap came around."
"We'd better get him in and get him to bed as soon as we can, boys," admonished Jack. "He needs a warming up."
"I'll start the electric heater and percolate some coffee for both of we rescued persons," declared Arnold. "Lucky I hadn't put on my oilskins after getting dinner," he added.
Quickly the boys carried the stranger to the cabin and put him into one of the berths. There every care was bestowed to make him comfortable and easy, while Arnold prepared the coffee.
"Lay right there and don't try to talk," advised Arnold. "I'll stay with you and see that you don't want for anything."
"That's kind of you," replied the stranger. "What vessel is this, if I may ask before you make me keep quiet?"
"This is a gasoline pleasure launch," replied Arnold.
"Oh, thanks," replied the stranger. "Now, I'll rest a while."
In the pilot house the boys discussed the incident that had so nearly resulted in a collision. They were all excited and beginning to feel the strain upon their nerves.
"This is getting to be one of our usual strenuous trips," announced Jack. "I declare we never go anywhere, it seems, but we dash head foremost into excitement and trouble. The only thing we need now to start us right is to discover a Boy Scout or two out here and we'll be prepared to go ahead and have some adventure."
"Never mind, Captain, we'll find the Boy Scouts, all right. Don't think our luck will turn yet. Just remember the horseshoe I picked up on the street in Mobile," urged Tom.
"Yes," Jack assented, "that's a fact. And, by the way, where did you put that horseshoe? I haven't seen it since."
"I hung it up on the switchboard lamp bracket," said Tom.
"Well, it isn't there now," declared Jack.
"What's that isn't there now?" asked Arnold at that moment climbing the companion-way from the cabin.
"Tom's horseshoe," Jack replied. "He says he hung it on the lamp over the switchboard and now it's gone."
"Oh, that," scorned Arnold. "That was just a little bit of a mule shoe. That wasn't a real full-sized horse shoe."
"All right, Smarty," bridled Tom. "Just tell us where you threw it overboard and we'll make you go dive for it."
"It was swinging around and making so much noise I took it down and hung it on the bracket there by the compass," replied Arnold pointing to the missing article hung over the place indicated.
"Good night," cried Jack. "Here we've been trying to steer a compass course in a thick fog all the way from Mobile with that thing there! No wonder we've been hoodooed."
"Why, what's the matter?" innocently inquired Arnold.
Jack's answer was to take the horseshoe from its resting place and make as if to fling it overboard. He restrained himself, however, and turning to Arnold said quietly:
"Look here, young man, you evidently do not know how sensitive a thing the compass is. But if you had done a thing like that on some vessels they would have thrown you overboard. You have rendered the compass useless and we have been steering by a crazy instrument. Your horseshoe hanging there has deflected the needle to such an extent that we cannot even guess where we have been going."
"I'm sorry," contritely answered Arnold, "but I didn't understand it that way. I won't do that again, that's sure."
"Thanks, awfully," scornfully answered Tom. "Maybe now you'll agree that the thing is bigger than you imagined at first."
"You're right," was Arnold's reply. "A little thing can be mighty big in some cases. I'll remember this for a long time."
"Boys, I believe the fog is thinning out somewhat," announced Harry. "Maybe the old horseshoe is bringing us luck after all."
"I believe you're more than half right," responded Jack.
"We'd better be on the lookout for breakers and things inside as well as outside," declared Tom. "Remember what that Carlos de Sneakodorus Madero did to us when our backs were turned."
"Sure enough, we ought to set a guard on this fellow," agreed Harry. "I'll volunteer to go and 'red up' the cabin as the Dutchman says, and incidentally keep an eye on his royal joblots."
The boy descended to the cabin and in furtherance of his design walked to a locker and extracted an automatic pistol which he placed in a convenient pocket. He then busied himself about the place in small tasks that always kept him within sight of the rescued man.
No effort was made by the stranger to engage the boy in conversation, however, and he worked away undisturbed. Occasionally the bulldog would enter and after sniffing suspiciously at the prostrate figure of the rescued man would emit a low growl of disapproval and retreat. He was not disposed to be friendly.
On one of his trips to the forward cabin Harry noticed the clothes belonging to the newcomer lying on the floor where they had been dropped when he had been put into the berth. Thinking to care for them by straightening and drying them, the boy picked up the first garment in the pile. It was a vest and as he raised it a collection of small articles fell from the pocket to the floor.
Among the contents was a metal match box which fell and slid across the floor, striking, on the locker as it dropped.
"Well, that's too bad. The gentleman will have wet matches, I guess," thought the boy. "I'd better empty those wet ones out and give him some dry ones against his waking and needing some."
What was his amazement, however, upon opening the box to find instead of matches, a clipping from a newspaper. Harry was about to thrust it back into the box again when a printed word caught his attention and held him for a moment motionless. The word was the name of their vessel, the "Fortuna."
Hastily glancing through the headlines, Harry uttered a quick cry and dashed forward to the pilot house.
"Boys! Jack, Tom, Arnold," he cried excitedly. "What do you think of this? Here's some more of this mystery for us."
"What do you mean, mystery?" queried Tom, scoffingly.
"Just listen to this! Here's a newspaper clipping evidently from a Chicago paper which tells about our fitting out the Fortuna for the cruise to the Gulf of Mexico and also hazards the guess that we are young and adventurous spirits evidently seeking the buried treasure on the Gulf Coast."
"Does it say that we are after the Spanish Treasure Chest at the old Fort on Biloxi Bay, that must be dug up in the full of the moon on a rising tide with not a word said?" asked Tom.
"It does say that our destination is Biloxi and that we are known to be daring lads," replied Harry. "But that is not all."
"Let's have it, Harry," cried Jack. "I'm anxious to hear all."
"There's a pencil notation across the paper that says: 'Get these fellows at any cost.' That's mighty encouraging."
"Say, fellows, this is getting uncomfortably tight! I don't like it a little bit," declared Tom. "Here we are peaceable Boy Scouts out for a little pleasure trip and all at once it begins to rain adventurous spirits from any old place and each of them is posted to make away with us and all seem to be protecting this old Spanish strong box. I wish they'd go away and let us pursue the even tenor of our way unmolested."
"So do I," Jack replied. "But they seem to feel otherwise and so we'll have to take them as they come. We'll remember our motto and 'be prepared' to accept whatever they may have to offer."
"Is this fellow going to open the drip cock on our spare gasoline tank?" asked Arnold. "If he is, I'm going down to mount guard over him right now! Once is enough and too much is plenty."
"I don't believe he knows what vessel he's on yet," declared Harry. "He asked me and I gave him an evasive reply."
"Fog's lifting, Captain," announced Tom who was at the wheel.
"Sure enough, it is," joyfully cried Jack. "Now maybe we can get a bearing and know where we are. Do you see land anywhere?"
"I see smoke," declared Harry. "What does a sailor say when he sees a smoke? Should he say 'smoke ho,' or 'sail ho,' or what?"
"I don't know, I'm sure," Jack answered with a laugh.
"And now I see two 'smoke ho's,'" cried Tom. "That means that some Boy Scout is in trouble and wants help."
"Maybe it means that a steamer is over there and the 'ash cats' are busy while the firemen are putting in more coal."
"I don't believe it!" declared Tom. "See that fringe of pines along there and see the smoke rising from the sand beyond them. It surely looks like two signal smokes to me! How about it?"
"Let's put on some more steam and run over in that direction to discover who may be making the smokes," suggested Jack.
It was voted a good idea and accordingly the Fortuna was headed in the direction of the smokes with increased speed of the motors. Every moment now the fog was lifting and objects could be more clearly distinguished on the land which lay not a great way off.
"We can't get in very much closer here," declared Tom, "I see bottom now, I believe. We'd better slip along shore until we're about opposite the smokes and land in a small boat."
"All right," agreed Jack. "What do you say, boys?"
"Good idea, I say," offered Harry. "Who do you suppose it is making the smoke? Wish it were someone from Chicago."
"Maybe it would be a good idea to see how our passenger is getting on," suggested Arnold. "I believe I'll slip down and see."
He stepped down the companion way and in a moment the boys heard him shout excitedly back:
"Somebody come here, quickly. The Fortuna's taking in water fast. It's up over the floor boards now and the engine is throwing it around in great shape. Our passenger's gone!"
WIG-WAGGING A WARNING
Tom and Harry quickly followed their chum to the cabin, where their eyes were greeted by the sight of water rising above the floor of the forward compartment.
"She's started a butt!" declared Tom with a tremor in his usually cheery voice. "She's started a butt and we'll have to beach her or she'll sink right out here in the Gulf of Mexico!"
"No, she won't!" snapped Harry. "Get the hand bilge pump going and I'll start the power pump with the electric light engine!"
Quickly the directions were followed. Tom and Arnold speedily assailed the rising water with the hand pump, while Harry started the gasoline engine that operated their dynamo, connecting it to the power pump. Together the two agencies gained on the rising flood that threatened to swamp the sturdy Fortuna. Eagerly the boys plied the handle of the pump, keeping an eye upon the bilge.
Harry went about lifting floor boards and peering here and there in an effort to discover the source of the great leak.
"Ha!" he shouted from the after cabin. "Here's the trouble! Come here, you fellows, and bear a hand. Get something to plug this hole in the Fortuna's side. This is sheer murder!"
Trusting the power pump to keep abreast of the incoming water, Tom and Arnold deserted their post at the hand pump and sprang to assist their chum whose cries told them that something had been found.
The sight that met their eyes was a startling one.
Harry had removed the floor boards from the center of the cabin and was reaching down to the bilge. A spray of water squirted up into his face drenching him thoroughly.
"Get something to plug this hole!" he gasped. "I'm drowning!"
Looking about hastily for means to plug the hole, Tom offered a jacket he had picked up from the locker. Arnold seized a fid from another locker. Harry shut his eyes, turned his head side-wise and gasped for breath. Reaching out for the jacket he took it from the hand of his friend and tried to push it into the hole through which the water was pouring steadily. His efforts were fruitless.
"Here, take this," urged Arnold. "This fid will plug a big hole and jam it tight, too. Is it a butt started?"
Harry took the fid from his chum. Quickly he inserted the pointed end into the hole he had been trying to cover with his hand.
"Give me a hammer or something to knock with and I'll try to drive this into the hole. It's not a butt, it's an auger hole!"
"An auger hole?" both boys gasped in horror.
"An auger hole!" repeated Harry, his lips set and white. "Just a little more and we'd have been beyond all help. I think this idea of helping unfortunate castaways is getting to be a good thing."
"Why, who on earth could have been so cold-blooded as to have bored a hole in our vessel?" cried Arnold. "Surely it wasn't the man whose life we just saved a short time ago!"
"I came into this cabin," asserted Harry "and could hear the rush of water. I thought the leak must be here. Of course, I thought at first that we had started a butt in the rolling a while back, when our friend Carlos Sneakodorus Madero boarded us and left us."
"But that seems impossible," incredulously offered Tom. "The Fortuna was built at Manitowoc where they have a reputation of doing first class work and she hasn't had rough handling at all."
"It was impossible!" cried Harry. "Just as I knelt to raise the floor board I saw that auger lying there. Then as I raised the board, I saw a handful of white chips float up through the hole."
"And then you saw the stream of water?" queried Arnold.
"That's all there is to it, except the fact that the life-belts are pulled from their places on the ceiling," answered Harry.
"Sure enough, they're down in a heap," declared Arnold.
"And if you count them," Harry continued, "I'll wager my next meal that you'll find one missing. I can also guess who is wearing it at this moment if he hasn't thrown it away!"
"Do you mean the man we picked up—the man who was knocked off the schooner?" breathlessly queried the younger boy.
"That's the man we want!" announced Harry. "And maybe I won't do a thing to him when I lay hands on him. Boy Scout or not, I'll put a dent in his dome that'll hold coffee like a saucer!"
"Will that fid hold?" questioned Tom examining the spot.
"No, I don't think it will," was Harry's reply. "We'd better get a plug of that soft pine in the lazarette, then when it gets soaked it'll swell and hold tight. This fid's made of hard wood. It may hold all right for a while, but it'll work loose just when it should hold. If you'll get the pine, Arnold, I'll make a plug."
Arnold hastened to bring the wood while Tom looked to the pumps and examined the cabin for further damage.
"He got an automatic or two from the locker in the kitchenette," he announced returning to the after cabin after his search.
"If he took those two lying on the lower shelf," announced Harry, "he got only one automatic! That's a joke on him."
"What do you mean by that?" Arnold asked returning with the desired piece of wood. "If the man took two, he took only one!"
"Because" explained Harry fitting the plug into place, "the other is a flashlight made in the shape of an automatic."
Laughing over the joke unconsciously played upon himself by their late visitor, the boys repaired to the pilot house where the gravity of the situation was repeated to Jack, who had been at the wheel controlling the movements of the Fortuna and keeping a lookout.
"I was examining the coast a moment ago with the glasses and saw what I took to be a man wading ashore back of our present position," explained Jack. "He looked as if he had on a life belt, but I couldn't be sure because I couldn't hold the glasses steady and handle the boat, too. Suppose one of you take the glasses and see what you can make out along the shore line in both directions."
Tom took the binoculars, mounted to the cabin roof, and swept diligently the shore line in both directions.
"What can you make out?" inquired Jack from the pilot house.
"I see a fellow just as you described, only he's not wearing a life belt. He seems to be crossing the strip of beach sand to the fringe of pines a short distance inland. I don't see any automatic flashlight in his hand, though!" whimsically announced the watching lad. "Then on the other hand, I can see two smokes that look like a Boy Scout call for help and between the two fires I can see a Boy Scout running back and forth and waving his hat."
"How do you know he's a Boy Scout?" challenged Harry.
"Well, if he started Boy Scout signals, he'd be a Boy Scout, wouldn't he?" replied Tom. Besides, he's red headed like Arnold and homely like Harry and kind hearted like Jack and good like Tom. That's enough for me."
"You're just right, that's enough for you!" declared Harry. "You may throw on your shovel—you've got a load."
"Honest, now, Tom," put in Jack, "what's the straight of this? Quit your nonsense! We must be serious."
"All right," agreed Tom. "What I said is all so except the foolishness. I can't see what the boy looks like. I can just make out a figure between the two fires. It looks slight like a boy. That's all I can make out. There are some trees over there just this side of the fires, and it looks as if we could make a landing close up to the fires. There seems to be a little bay there."
"Thank you," said Jack in a tone of relief. "We'll run close in and try to find out what's the matter. Maybe the stranger can help us get our bearings. Lucky the fog lifted when it did or we would have piled up high and dry on this beach!"
As the Fortuna approached the little bight indicated by Tom, they discovered that there would be plenty of water to enable the Fortuna to run close inshore and permit of their landing easily. Tom and Harry busied themselves with clearing away one of the metal boats carried on the cabin roof and preparing to lower it when the Fortuna should come to rest. Upon completing their task, Tom stood up for another view of the beach which they were approaching.
"Look, Jack!" he cried. "Can you see the boy over there wig-wagging at us? Isn't that the Boy Scout wig-wag?"
"Sure enough, it is!" declared Jack excitedly. "Take this flag and answer him. You're in a good place up there."
He passed the flag up to Tom as he spoke. All four lads watched with intentness the figure on the beach, while Tom prepared to reply to his further signals with his flag grasped in both hands.
"He's got two flags, I believe," announced Tom.
"He's going to use the Semaphore code, then!" declared Jack.
"There it comes!" cried Harry. "He's calling us! Answer him."
"All right, Scout!" assented Tom. "Here comes the message!"
"Right arm at head, left arm down in front—that's 'D,'" announced Harry who was watching with the glasses. "Then right and left both down and diagonal to the right—that's 'A.' Next both arms diagonally down away from the body—that's 'N.' Oh, he's telling us his name—Dan! Hurray! He's introducing himself!"
"Here comes the rest," cried Harry excitedly, "both arms diagonally downward and to the left—that's 'G.' Now the right down in front and left diagonally up and out from the shoulder—that's 'E.' Next both arms out horizontally from the body—that's 'R.' Why, that spells 'DANGER!' What does that mean?"
"Search me!" declared Tom. "I'm not a bit surprised, though for we've been in danger ever since we left Mobile. Anything goes here. I'd thank him to tell us some news, though."
"Well, here comes some more!" announced Jack who had shut off the power, permitting the Fortuna to ride the smooth waters of the little bight without headway.
"Here's some more!" cried Arnold, who has again taken the glasses. "Left arm over head, right arm diagonally down—that's 'K.' I learned that code last fall. Here's another. Left arm up from the shoulder diagonally and right down in front—that's 'E,'and he repeats it. Then right out horizontally and left straight up from head—that's 'P.' Next, right out horizontally and left diagonally up and across the breast—that's 'O.' Now the left is out horizontally, and the right down in front—that's 'F.' He repeats it. Why, that says 'DANGER, KEEP OFF'! What does he mean?"
"Maybe he means what he says," suggested Jack. "Answer him, Tom, and tell him we're coming ashore. Arnold and Harry, will you get the boat overboard and we'll go ashore to see what's up. Better take your automatics and see that the boat is properly equipped."
"Right-o, Captain!" cried Tom. "I'll do my best."
The boat was quickly brought around and Arnold, Harry and Jack prepared to go ashore. As they pulled away from the Fortuna, Harry cautioned Tom to watch the plug in the after cabin and keep dry.
As the boat approached the shore the stranger on the beach frantically made signals indicating that he wished them to return to the Fortuna at once. Putting his fingers to his lips he glanced about as if in alarm and then put out his hand in a gesture of caution.
"I'll bet there's some monkey business going on somewhere!" ventured Harry. "Why should he send up smoke signals for help and then tell us to keep away because of danger. He's kidding us!"
"I think I can see someone running toward us through those trees and bushes over there!" announced Arnold standing and pointing.
A figure broke from the cover of the bushes indicated just as Arnold spoke. It was the figure of a man. He stopped a moment.
Tom from the Fortuna gave a wild cry and waved his arms.
A shot rang out and the strange boy on the beach fell forward.
A MAROONED BOY SCOUT
Rushing ashore in the small boat, the boys paused scarcely long enough to draw their craft to a safe position on the beach before they raced to the spot where the stranger had fallen.
They were abreast as they approached his prostrate form lying face down in the sand. With one accord they stooped to examine him. Jack rolled the body over tenderly searching for the mark of the villain's bullet but found none.
Slowly the prostrate boy opened his eyes staring about in amazement. Jack supported his head while the two chums stood by anxious to be of assistance in rendering aid to the fallen lad.
"Where are you hurt?" questioned Jack tenderly.
"Nowhere!" replied the lad. "I heard a shot just as I tripped over something in the sand and then the next thing I knew you had me. What happened, anyway? Who shot and at what?"
"I don't know the fellow's name, but he was at one time a passenger on our boat, I believe. He is a villain if ever there was one!" replied Jack with some warmth.
"Maybe it's the same fellow I know!" declared the stranger. "But may I ask to whom I am indebted for the pleasure of this call?"
Jack introduced himself, and then his two chums. In turn the stranger gave his name as Frank Evans of the Bob White patrol of St. Louis. The boys now started toward the rowboat, keeping a glance around for foes as they walked.
"Hadn't we better get your things from on shore if you go with us?" asked Arnold, as the boys approached the boat.
"I haven't a thing of my own here!" declared Frank. "If we except, of course, my fire stick and the remains of a flounder."
"A fire stick and flounder!" cried Arnold. "Where are they?"
"Up there by that old bit of wreckage," replied Frank. "You see, I had nothing but my pocket knife when I landed here, and haven't had much chance to import goods since my arrival."
"How long have you been here?" queried Harry. "We thought you must be in desperate need from the looks of the fires."
"I think this is the third day," replied Frank. "Yesterday I slept most of the time while the schooner was standing off and on, and the day before that was the day they put me ashore. I've had a rush with the pirates that infest these waters under the guise of honest working fishermen. They're a bad lot, too," he added.
"Pirates?" gasped the three members of the Fortuna's crew.
"That's what I'd call them," replied Frank. "You see, my chum and myself came down the Mississippi River in a gasoline launch. She was a beauty—a thirty-footer. She had a trunk cabin over three-quarters of her, and an open cockpit aft. We had her fitted up in pretty good shape, too. We wanted a little pleasure trip, so we made up our minds we'd bring the launch down here and if we got a good chance we'd sell her. My Chum, Charley Burnett, and I are the same age—seventeen last October—and we built the boat last winter. When we got through the Lake Borgne Ship Canal below New Orleans, we ran against a lot of rough fellows who tried to steal our boat. We held them at the point of a gun and ran away from their tubby old boats. Then when we got a little farther along the coast—to Bay St. Louis—we were warned to turn back.
"Warned to turn back?" repeated the boys in chorus. "By whom?"
"A black browed chap who gave the name of Wyckoff, and who said that he wouldn't have anyone fooling around the Spanish Chest but those who rightfully should share the treasure. We didn't know what he meant, and told him so, but he wouldn't believe us."
"The Spanish Treasure Chest!" gasped Jack. "What about it?"
"I don't know anything about it!" stoutly asserted Frank.
"We've heard a little about it," volunteered Jack, "but nothing definite. We would like to know more and to know why these fellows should oppose your coming to this vicinity."
"I've told you all I know about that part of the story," declared Frank. "Now you know as much as I do in that line."
"What did this Wyckoff look like?" asked Harry eagerly.
"He's black—I don't mean that he's a negro,—but he's one of these fellows with a blue-black beard that never can be shaved clean because it shows black under the skin. Then he's got a shifty eye and a sneaky look about him. Then, too," he added with a smile, "he's got a smashed nose where my fist landed when he put me ashore here. I certainly handed him a beauty that time!"
"Good for you," cried Harry, clapping Frank on the shoulder.
"What was the cause of that?" asked Jack, "did he hit you?"
"Well, to make a long story short," Frank continued, "he and his gang kidnapped Charley and me from the 'Spray' two nights ago. Where they've got Charley I don't know. They put me ashore here without a thing to eat or drink and with nothing to make a fire with. As I was shoved ashore and before the boat got away, I ran up and landed on him. They were on a schooner of which Wyckoff seemed to be captain. I hope they haven't made away with Charley."
"If Charley is as resourceful as you, he's all right," consoled Jack. "I admire your grit and ability. How did you get a fire?"
"I made a fire stick as all Boy Scouts can and took a shoe lace for a bow string. I had hard work getting the first tiny blaze, but after that I've kept a bed of coals covered with sand as a reserve. I found a piece of wreckage and used part of it for a shelter. One part had a long spike in it and that I sharpened by scraping it on some of the shells. Then I got a piece of fat pine that had washed ashore and made me a torch. With this sharp spike and the torch I went fishing at night and got three dandy big flounders."
"What's a flounder?" asked Arnold intensely interested.
"Well," explained Frank, "a flounder is a queer sort of a flat fish. He's dark on top and white on the bottom. He swims on his side and has his two eyes on the one side of his head unlike any other fish. When the tide comes in he comes close inshore and burrows down into the sand to wait till a minnow floats by. He reaches up and snaps Mr. Minnow and then goes on to another good spot. If you take a bright light you can walk right up to the flounder without alarming him. Then before he knows what is coming, you thrust a spear down through his head and you have him."
"Did you get yours that way?" eagerly asked Arnold.
"Not the first one," replied Frank with a laugh. "I just scared the first one. And I'm afraid I forgot for a minute that I was a Boy Scout. I was mighty hungry and that fellow looked so nice and fat I just felt as if I simply had to have him."
Jack's arm stole inside Frank's and a pressure of sympathy told the Bob White that a Beaver understood his former trouble.
"I move we go and get Frank's fire stick and bow," Harry suggested, "and then put out the signal fires and hit the trail for the mainland. It is getting along in the afternoon and I'm hungry and if we make Pascagoula tonight, we'll have to go some."
"Second the motion," declared Arnold. "But where does Pascagoula lie from here? Where is this place, anyway?"
"We're on Petit Bois Island, I think," replied Frank. "At least, one of the men suggested that I be put ashore on Petit Bois and the rest agreed, arguing that I would stay here only a short time before some fishermen would visit the island and find me."
"Then in that case," Jack stated, "Pascagoula lies just about northwest of us. If our compass hadn't been disarranged by the horseshoe, we'd have been in the harbor by this time," he added.
"Your compass disarranged by a horseshoe?" queried Frank.
"Yes," was Jack's laughing rejoinder. "Did you ever hear such a tale? And it was lucky for you it happened. There's a case of a horseshoe being lucky for you when you've never seen it yet!"
After Jack had related the tale of the horseshoe and its relation to their present situation, Arnold suggested that they visit Frank's camp and then go aboard the Fortuna. This met the approval of all the boys. A trip to the wreckage disclosed the fact that Frank had made his bed on the hard, smooth sand with a fire in front of him for protection from the chill winds of the night.
"Here's the fire stick," exultantly cried Arnold. "Gee, won't I have a great story written about this adventure when I get back to little old Chi. Sherman Street won't know me when I arrive."
"Hurray," cried Harry who had wandered a short distance from the others. "Hurray, I've found the horse that belongs to the horseshoe! Here he is buried upside down in the sand."
Hastening to the spot indicated the boys saw what looked to be a horse's foot upside down in the sand. So startling was the resemblance that Jack and Arnold were completely deceived for a moment, but Frank's laugh soon indicated that they had been mistaken.
"What is it?" asked Arnold eagerly. "Gee, but I see so many new things here I don't know which to write a story about first."
"Better not write any story about this," admonished Frank. "The wonderful phenomenon you see before you, my friend, is not a horse at all. It is merely a crab shell from which the crab has gone."
"A crab shell?" repeated Arnold in wonderment. "A real crab?"
"Sure enough," declared Frank. "The underside of the shell has exactly the same outlines as the under side of a horse's foot. This fellow has projecting from the heel a spikey tail that is hard and sharp at the end. The whole thing, as you see, is dried and hardened by exposure to the weather. The crab has been gone a long time."
"I'm going to take it along," asserted Arnold. "I'll put it in my locker and make a collection of things I pick up. I'd like to see a flounder now so as to recognize one the next time I see it."
"I have a fine big fellow at the place I had my fires," Frank answered. "We'll go over there and see how he's getting on. I got him last night. I think he must weigh as much as three or four pounds."
"Tell me some more about this Spanish Treasure Chest," Jack said as the boys turned toward the site of Frank's camp. "I'm anxious to know everything you overheard anywhere that would have a bearing on the matter from any viewpoint. It's interesting."
"I can't tell you any more than I have. I know these fellows objected to our visiting this locality because they seemed to believe that we were trying to get something that belonged to them and they were ready to employ force if necessary to keep us out," Frank said.
"We know they are a desperate gang," Jack admitted. "Our own experiences show that. They also believe we are here on the same mission and already they have attempted to disable and sink our boat."
Frank stopped in alarm. Glancing hurriedly about he grasped Jack's arm and in a trembling tone entreated him to leave the vicinity at his earliest opportunity. Jack's answer was a negative shake of his head. His companions also indicated their disapproval of the course.
"Well, here's the flounder," announced Frank at last picking up a fine specimen of that denizen of the Gulf waters. "He's a beauty."
The boys gathered about the fish admiring and investigating the peculiarities already mentioned by Frank. At last Harry spoke:
"But he wouldn't be good raw and you had to have a fire. I'm always interested in seeing fire produced from a stick."
"Oh, that's not so difficult," Frank answered; "watch me."
Kneeling on the sand he grasped his fire stick in his left hand after placing the bowstring in position. With a shell over the upper end of the stick, he sawed away busily for a moment. A tiny wreath of smoke eddied away from the lower end of the stick.
"Hurray," cried Harry, "You're fetching it. I can see it coming around the bend. Just look at that, boys. I can see it coming."
"Put up your hands," came a coarse voice from the rear.
Startled, the lads with one accord jumped to their feet to see their guest of a short time previous pointing an automatic at them.
"Drop that gun," came an order in Tom's ringing voice.
THEIR PIRATE PRISONER
With an exclamation of surprise and alarm all eyes were turned in Tom's direction. With a steady hand he was leveling an automatic pistol at the head of the outlaw who now dropped his pistol hand to his side without, however, relinquishing his hold upon the weapon. His shifty eyes were closely watching the boy.
"I'll not tell you again!" warned Tom. "Once is plenty."
"Yes, I heard you the first time!" gritted the outlaw, opening his hand and permitting the weapon to drop to the sand. "You wait! You Yankees can't come down here and have your own way always."
"We won't argue that point just now," was Tom's rejoinder. "Right now, you'll please put your hands up over your head." Then as the outlaw obeyed, Tom added—"Way up with 'em. Pick me a star or two out of the sky. Keep 'em up there and watch a comet while one of my friends goes through you for souvenirs of the occasion."
As Jack stepped forward to search the captive, Frank took a closer look at the dark face and bruised nose, then cried out:
"Why, Wyckoff, how did you get back here?"
"Is this your friend Wyckoff?" questioned Jack, turning to Frank before continuing his task of searching their involuntary guest.
"This is the man who warned me back and who marooned me on this lonely island!" declared Frank with some heat. "I know him!"
"That settles it!" stated Jack in a determined tone. "He's going to get all that's coming to him if I have a vote here!"
"Here, too!" chorused the others. "Here's where he gets his."
"Remember, boys, we're Boy Scouts!" cautioned Jack. "No harsh measures will be permitted. Justice may be necessary—no more."
A murmur of approval that ran around the little group showed that the boys heartily favored Jack's sentiment in the matter.
Under cover of Tom's leveled automatic Wyckoff, for it was he, remained passive while Jack searched his pockets, producing therefrom the missing flashlight made to imitate an automatic pistol, a watch, a purse with some coins inside, a vile smelling pipe with a pouch of tobacco, a stubby lead pencil and a note book partly filled with figures and memoranda. Apparently there was nothing of value.
"Aside from the flashlight and the real automatic pistol, I can't find that he's taken anything of our property," Jack said when the search was completed. "I guess we'd better return his own property to him. We don't want his money and wouldn't use his pipe."
"Now let's tie him up!" Arnold suggested. "I think it would be wise to sew him down to the sand. He's a slippery fellow."
"Good idea!" laughed Frank. "But tying is better all round."
"What shall we tie him with?" asked Tom. "I have nothing."
"Why, come to think of it," Harry put in, "how did you get ashore, anyway? Last we knew of you, you were guarding the Fortuna."
"While you lads were up the beach after that horseshoe crab," explained Tom, "I sat on the roof of the cabin with the glasses. I thought I saw a figure stealing along in the shelter of those pines to the eastward of this spot and after a while I made him out. The glasses showed that it was our last visitor on board the Fortuna. So I knew he'd bear watching, as they say, and I went below to get a gun for emergency. When I came out again, he was real close, and I saw what he intended to do. I simply started the engines, slipped the cable and ran the Fortuna high and dry on shore, tumbled over the bow and arrived in time to checkmate his little game. I'm glad, too!"
"So are we!" heartily agreed the boys with one accord.
"But what are we to do with this chap?" queried Jack. "It rather worries me. He's apt to be a white elephant on our hands."
"It would serve him good and right," began Arnold, "and be only justice, too, if we marooned him on this very island where he left Frank. I think that's the best way out of the whole thing."
"Let's set the chap down by the fire," Tom suggested, "while we argue it out. There's still a little raw edge on the wind."
Tom was right, and although the fog of the morning had gone, the air was still damp and the wind from the Gulf was heavy with moisture that chilled the boys when not in motion. Accordingly, following the lad's suggestion, they directed their steps toward one of the fires kindled earlier by Frank. There they seated themselves while Tom with one automatic and Jack with another watched Wyckoff.
"Perhaps the prisoner at the bar may have a suggestion in the premises," ventured Frank. "We want to be square with you, Wyckoff, even if you have treated us exceedingly unkind."
"I want you fellows to take your gear and go back north!" shouted Wyckoff in an angry tone. "I'll fix you yet for this!"
"We have a right to be here," Jack put in, "so long as we don't harm anyone. We are merely tourists out for a pleasure trip."
"You lie!" almost screamed Wyckoff. "You're after the Spanish Chest, but you shall never have it! It belongs to me!"
In his excitement the prisoner almost forgot himself and shook his fist at Jack threateningly, rising to his feet meanwhile.
"Sit down!" Tom's voice, although calm, carried a world of meaning to the excited man whose glance toward Tom took in the unwavering blue muzzle of the Weapon in his captor's hand.
"Suppose for the sake of argument that we were after this mythical chest of treasure whose value has been without doubt multiplied many times in the retailing of its story," Jack argued, "does that imply that we are committing a crime against you? Have you any more claim on the chest that you mention than we have?"
"Yes!" shouted the angry Wyckoff. "I am a lineal descendant from the Spaniards who buried it. It is mine because it is in the family. I don't know what word you educated Yankees would use, but it is mine because it belonged to my father's father's father."
"I know," spoke up Arnold; "you mean you have inherited it?"
"Yes, that's it," agreed Wyckoff. "Besides that, you will never be able to get the treasure. It is cursed to anyone but a person of Spanish blood. I am part Spaniard and it is mine."
"Well, we might consider going back in the face of such argument," said Frank, appearing to agree with Wyckoff, "but what did you do with my chum? I won't go away and leave him, you know."
"Your partner and your boat are both safe," declared Wyckoff. "When we know that you are ready to leave, we'll bring you all together again, but not before. You'll never see him again otherwise."
"Why, what would happen to him?" questioned Frank in amazement.
Wyckoff drew his thumb across his throat with a suggestive move.
The boys shuddered as they grasped the significance of his meaning. Their glances, met and instinctively they shrank away from the prisoner, who seemed to enjoy their discomfiture immensely.
"I've heard great tales about this treasure chest since I came down here," stated Frank at last. "What is this I hear about the one who discovers the chest having to keep very quiet while he's digging? Is there anything at all in that story or not?"
"It is said," stated Wyckoff, "that the one for whom the treasure is destined must not utter a word while digging for it. Also, he must come with clean hands. You understand what I mean? That is why you boys are yet alive. My hands have not yet been—"
"Well, if they have not," interrupted Tom indignantly, "it is no fault of your own, old chap. You surely tried your level best to put the Fortuna and her crew under the water. Take it from me!"
"And yet he raves about his clean hands, the dirty scoundrel!" cried Harry. "Why, if we were only afloat, we'd make him walk a plank!"
"That reminds me," Tom put in. "The Fortuna lies on the beach unless she's worked herself loose, and it may be some job to get her off."
"Suppose you stay here and mount guard over the prisoner," suggested Jack, "while we go back and look after the vessel. We'll return when we've gotten everything ship shape and Bristol fashion."
"Suits me fine!" declared Tom. "And I hope this angelic prisoner tries to escape while you're gone! That would be fine!"
"Tom, you're bloodthirsty, I believe!" laughed Jack indulgently. "I know the provocation is severe, but remember that you're a Boy Scout."
"You wouldn't leave me on this island, would you?" inquired Wyckoff when the boys had departed for the boat. "That would be cruel."
"But you marooned Frank here, didn't you?" asked Tom angrily. "Why would it be any worse for you than for him? Tell me that."
"I told the men to leave him provisions and matches. I have no matches nor provisions. I cannot make a fire with sticks, as he did," replied the prisoner in an humble and whining tone intended to placate.
"Well," Tom considered, "we might leave you some matches and some grub. You could find plenty of wood hereabouts, couldn't you?"
"There's plenty of wood here if one could work it up," replied Wyckoff. "The storms have washed ashore thousands of pieces of planks and timbers of all sorts. Why, once I came out to one of the islands and found a fine boat washed ashore by a storm. It was perfectly sound and tight, too. There's plenty of timber here to make one rich if he could only salvage it and get it to market."
"Then if we leave you a box of matches and some canned goods," Tom argued, "you'd be a lot better off than Frank was."
A shout from the direction of the Fortuna indicated that something was taking place there. Wyckoff glanced hastily in that direction. Tom's first impulse was to look that way, also, but his training stood him in good stead. By a magnificent effort of will he kept his eyes fastened on the prisoner, who stared intently toward the Fortuna as if fascinated by what he saw. Thus they sat for a moment or two. Then Tom regained his composure. Wyckoff glanced out of the corner of his eye narrowly at his guard. Tom laughed.
"You didn't want the provisions badly enough to wait for them, did you, you old fox?" he taunted. "You wanted me to look away for a minute and then you'd have gone looking for provisions alone."
"You do me an injustice, lad," replied Wyckoff meekly.
"All right; I apologize; but the gun is in working order just the same, and don't you forget it. It's still on the job."
Wyckoff's glance was baleful and full of venom as he controlled himself with a visible effort. Hatred seemed to ooze from him as he sat quiet very much against his will.
Another shout from the boat gave with its note of triumph a message that the boys were meeting success in their efforts to get the Fortuna off the beach. Wyckoff looked intently that way.
"Ha!" he ejaculated. "They're fetching it! Good boys!"
In spite of his resolve to keep his eyes on the prisoner, Tom's gaze wandered for an instant to the sight viewed by Wyckoff.
That instant seemed to be the object of the outlaw's vigil.
The boys on the Fortuna had, by dint of great exertion, managed to work the yacht from her resting place on the beach where Tom had driven her in his mad race to rescue them a short time previously. Because of the short distance traveled, the momentum of the boat had not been sufficient to drive her far up on the beach, so it was not a difficult matter to get her afloat again. The powerful motors tugged and pulled and at last they were again afloat, but minus their anchor.
Frank offered to dive for it, and, divesting himself of his clothing, went overboard in the clear water of the little bight where the anchor and cable could be seen lying on the bottom.
The shout of triumph voiced by the boys when the Fortuna floated free was echoed when Frank came to the surface after having bent on the line he carried to the end of the chain cable. He was nearly breathless when he reached the surface, but willing hands pulled him over the stern of the rowboat in which the boys had searched for the lost anchor. Soon he recovered his wind.
Peace seemed never to reign for long in the Fortuna. Scarcely had the boys shouted in victory over the recovery of the anchor than they heard a shot from the shore. Harry, from his position on the pilot house, gesticulated and pointed inland in a frenzy.
JACK STRICKEN BY A BULLET
"What's up now?" cried Jack from the rowboat.
"That villain has shot Tom and is running away across the island!" cried Arnold from his position. "Tom's lying on the sand!"
"Great Double-Barreled Wiggle-Headed Pollywogs!" ejaculated Harry. "Excuse my French, but this is too much. If he's killed Tom, I'll resign from the Boy Scouts for a few minutes. I will so!"
"Pull for the shore, boys!" urged Jack. "Get into your clothes, Frank!" And then, before either of his orders could be obeyed, he seized the oars and pulled the boat with lusty strokes toward the beach, intent on capturing the outlaw if possible. Great sobs escaped him as he worked manfully at the oars.
Each boy at that moment was mentally blaming himself for the tragedy he was sure would await their arrival at the scene of the campfire. Each one felt that he should have remained to guard the captive outlaw who was so evidently desperate because of his situation.
But Jack's exertions were unnecessary. Before the rowboat reached the sand, a flash of white had appeared over the bows of the Fortuna, a great splash of water gave evidence of a heavy body launched from the deck, and a commotion betokened a swimmer in action.
"Good old boy!" cried Frank with a sob in his throat.
"That never was Arnold!" cried Harry aghast at the thought of his chum venturing into the water alone on such a quest.
"Not on your life!" Jack protested. "That was our one and only. Old Rowdy is on the job with both feet. He's going ashore for business, too. I believe that dog actually knows things!"
"Heaven help that poor wretch if Rowdy gets to him first!" cried Harry. "Rowdy has more enthusiasm than caution, and he's apt to get rough. I wouldn't be surprised to find Wyckoff all strung around the island in small pieces when we get there."
In a short time the nose of the rowboat grounded on the beach.
The three boys leaped out and raced quickly to their fallen chum. Tom was struggling to rise from his prone position. Far across the sands the fleeing figure of the outlaw was being rapidly overtaken by the enraged bulldog, who sensed the situation and who apparently was determined to overtake and punish the escaped prisoner.
"Are you hurt, Tom?" queried Jack in a shaking tone.
"I guess so," Tom replied in a dazed manner. "No, I don't think I am," he corrected himself. "That is," he continued, "I don't know just what happened. I heard you cry out, and as I turned to look, the explosion took place. What happened, anyway?"
"From the look of your jaw, Wyckoff must have landed a sweeping kick just where the knockout nerve is located," explained Frank.
"Try to shut your teeth," suggested Harry. "If you can shut your teeth all right, nothing serious is to be feared."
Tom made the effort, but winced with pain. A grimace stole over his countenance and his hand went up to the injured jaw.
"That hurts, doesn't it?" solicitously inquired Jack.
"Not much," bravely protested Tom. "The most trouble is that I can shut the front teeth, but the back ones don't seem to meet by half an inch or more. The jaw must be dislocated."
In spite of their sympathy the boys could not restrain a laugh.
"I guess that if your front teeth come together your back ones meet," Jack assured the injured boy. "Let's look for Wyckoff."
"You mean let's look for Wyckoff's remains!" Harry tried to put in, but he was stopped by a gesture from Frank.
"Let's not make it any more horrible than it is. That man is desperate and I'm afraid of him," he whispered as they helped Tom to his feet and started away in the direction taken by the outlaw.
"I can't see him anywhere," Harry asserted. "I'll bet Rowdy has eaten him up body, boots and breeches. Serve him right, too!"
"We're the bloodthirsty bunch!" declared Jack. "It must be some quality in the atmosphere down here. This is the old region infested by Captain Kidd and his buccaneers. They must have left something in the way of a piratical germ in the atmosphere."
"Maybe so, but I'd like to find that dog just now," stoutly declared Harry. "He's had one big meal even if the quality was poor."
"Follow his tracks," suggested Frank. "That's easy in this sand. See, here they go. My word, but he was taking long jumps."
"He left in such a hurry that he didn't take my automatic," declared Tom. "I guess when he hit me or kicked me I must have closed on the trigger and started the thing going. He left without waiting to take the gun away from me. I'm glad of that, too."
"I see him!" joyfully shouted Frank, who was slightly in the lead. "Here he is, and Rowdy is mounting guard. Good old dog."
It was even as Frank had said. Rowdy had overtaken the fleeing villain and brought him to earth. Now he was walking about the prostrate form, occasionally stepping in and taking a nip at an arm or a leg. Wyckoff, thoroughly cowed, was begging and whining at a great rate. At the approach of the boys he begged piteously.
"Let him get up, Rowdy!" commanded Jack. "Now, Wyckoff," he ordered when the dog had permitted that worthy to regain his feet, "You 'bout face and back to the campfire on the double quick. It's getting toward evening and we can't lay around here all night waiting on you. We want you for a little while yet."
Wyckoff's appeals for mercy were piteous. All the way to the campfire he begged that the boys would show him mercy, but no response was made. Rowdy trotted along beside the outlaw with a satisfied air. Now and again he would look up at Wyckoff's face and then make as if to take a bite of the man's leg. At such times Wyckoff would involuntarily quicken his gait until cautioned by Jack to go more steadily. This was very hard for him to do, for he was frightened.
"Frank," Tom asked when the little party arrived at the fire, "did you see anything of a boat on shore here during your visit?"
"Come to think of it, I certainly did," replied Frank. "It is a dandy, too. I had made up my mind to try to drag it to the water and row to the mainland if no one came soon, but your arrival drove all thoughts of it from me. It is back here just a short distance."
"Wyckoff was telling me that boats were sometimes washed ashore on these islands. That reminded me of it. I wonder if it wouldn't be a good idea to ask Mr. Wyckoff to drag the boat to the water for us. He's been very obliging and I don't want to overwork him without paying him for his trouble," Tom added sarcastically.
"Hurray!" shouted Jack. "The very thing! And that may replace the one we brought from Mobile and gave to that other fellow,—what was his name? I never was much of a hand to remember names."
"I know—Carlos de Sneakodorus Madero!" announced Harry.
"Well, he got a boat from us, and it's only right we get one from his boss," asserted Tom. "Did you know your hired man stole our boat?" he inquired, turning to Wyckoff, who looked very humble.
"No, sir," replied that worthy. "I know the young fellow, but he is not hired by me. I don't know what you mean about his stealing your boat. I never told him to do such a thing!"
"All right; you've got a story coming, then. You just ask him when you see him again. He'll tell you," was Tom's information.
"Lead us to the boat, Frank," requested Jack. "Mr. Wyckoff seems to be just crazy to help us launch the rowboat."