FRANK MERRIWELL'S CRUISE
BY BURT L. STANDISH
AUTHOR OF "Frank Merriwell's Schooldays," "Frank Merriwell's Chums," "Frank Merriwell's Foes," "Frank Merriwell's Trip West," etc.
PHILADELPHIA DAVID McKAY, PUBLISHER 604-8 SOUTH WASHINGTON SQUARE
Copyright, 1898 By STREET & SMITH Frank Merriwell's Cruise
FRANK MERRIWELL'S CRUISE.
THE MEETING IN BOSTON.
"MR. JOHN DIAMOND, Lexington, Pa.: If you wish cruise in down East waters, join me Monday next at American Hotel, Boston. Have purchased yacht. Hodge and Browning will be in party. Great sport anticipated.
Jack Diamond was reclining in a hammock suspended in the shade of an artificial arbor when this message from Frank Merriwell was handed to him by a boy. He tore open the envelope and read it, his eyes beginning to sparkle and a flush coming to his handsome, aristocratic face.
"Just like him!" exclaimed Jack. "Before leaving Fardale he aroused our curiosity about that part of the country, and now he proposes taking us down there in his own yacht. Will I go? Will I? I wouldn't miss it for the world!"
It had not taken him a minute to decide.
* * * * *
A cab rattled up to the front of the American Hotel, on Hanover Street, Boston, and stopped. The door flew open, and out stepped a smartly dressed young man, wearing russet shoes, a light-colored box coat and a brown Alpine hat. He carried a handsome alligator-skin traveling bag in his hand.
Paying cabbie without speaking a word, this youth turned and walked into the hotel. As he entered, a colored boy hastened forward and relieved him of his traveling bag. He stepped up to the clerk's desk and said:
"I am Jack Diamond, of Virginia, and I wish to see Mr. Frank Merriwell, who is stopping here."
"Yes, sir," said the clerk, politely. "Mr. Merriwell left orders that you be shown up immediately on your arrival. Twenty-three, show Mr. Diamond to Mr. Merriwell's rooms."
"Right this way, sah," said the colored boy.
Jack followed the uniformed bell boy, who paused at the elevator shaft and pressed a button. In a moment the elevator came gliding noiselessly down, the door slid open, a lady and a gentleman stepped out and Diamond stepped in.
"Third," said the bell boy, and then he turned and disappeared, while the elevator man closed the door and sent the car gliding upward. He stopped at the third floor, and, to Jack's surprise, the bell boy with the grip was there, calmly awaiting his arrival.
Jack followed him to the door of a room at the front of the house. As the boy lifted his hand to knock at the door, there was a burst of laughter within, plainly heard, as the transom was open, and Frank Merriwell's voice cried:
"Hans, if you could tell that story on the stage just as you told it then you would make your fortune."
"Vot vos der madder mit me?" exclaimed the voice of Hans Dunnerwust, Frank's German friend. "Dot nefer vos a funny stories! You don'd seen vot I larft ad! Dot peen a bathetic sdory. I oxbected you vould took mein handkersheft oudt und cried id indo, but you sed roundt und laugh ad dot bathetic sdory like I vos a lot of monkeys. You don't like dot as vell as I might!"
Then there was another burst of laughter, and the knock of the bell boy was not heard.
"Never mind," said Diamond, taking his traveling bag and giving the boy a dime; "I'll go right in."
He opened the door and stepped into the room.
Hodge, Browning, Merriwell and Dunnerwust were there. Bart was tilted back in a chair, with his feet on the table, while lazy Bruce was half sitting and half reclining on a sofa. Frank sat astride a chair, looking over the back of it at Hans, who had stood in the middle of the room as he told his "bathetic sdory."
"Hello, fellows!" cried the lad from Virginia, heartily.
There was a shout of welcome. Frank sprang forward quickly and grasped Diamond's hand.
"Delighted, old man!" laughed Merry. "I was afraid you wouldn't come till I received your telegram stating that you would be on hand. Any trouble in persuading the mother?"
"Not much, though she said it did seem that I might remain at home a while longer, and she told me to tell you that she is beginning to get jealous of you, as I spend so much of my time during vacations with you."
"How you vos, Shack?" said Hans, getting hold of Diamond's free hand, the latter having dropped his traveling bag. "I vos a sight vor sore eyes, ain'd you! You don'd knew how dickled you vos to seen me."
Hodge came forward and shook hands, expressing his pleasure, and, with sundry grunts, Browning succeeded in getting upon his feet, saying as he rose:
"Suppose I'll have to stand to shake, or you'll challenge me. You Southerners are so confoundedly particular about courtesy and all that."
"I know you too well to resent it if you lay on your back and offered to shake hands with me. In fact, it surprises me to discover you hadn't rather fight a duel after you were obliged to get up than to get up when not absolutely forced to do so."
"What baggage did you bring?" asked Merry.
"A trunk. It will be brought to the hotel here."
"There is no room for trunks on board the White Wings," said Frank. "You'll have to store your trunk and such stuff as you do not absolutely need till we get back here."
"The White Wings? Is that the name of your yacht?"
"Good name. How did you happen to buy a yacht?"
"Got a bargain of her. I came on to Boston with Miss Burrage, whose aunt was waiting here for her. I met Jack Benjamin. You remember him?"
"I remember him. His sister is a stunningly handsome girl."
"Huah!" grunted Browning. "That explains how you happen to remember him."
"Well," Frank went on. "Benjamin turned out to be a fine fellow. Invited me over to his house, treated me beautifully. He knows a lot of sporty chaps. Among them was Walter Pringle, who owned this yacht. Pringle took a party of us out for a cruise down the bay, and we had a grand time. Went to Nantasket. Coming back Pringle said he had planned to cruise down to the eastward this summer with a party of friends, but something had come up that knocked out the arrangement. Then it was that I thought of a talk we once had while at Fardale about making a cruise down along the Maine coast, and I spoke of it. Said I'd like to own his yacht. Saw Pringle looked a little queer. He stared at me a few moments, and then asked what I would give for the White Wings. I questioned him some about her, and then made an offer. He didn't take me up, but the next day he came and told me the yacht was mine. I was astonished, for I didn't offer much more than one-half what she is really worth. But he said he must have the money without delay, as he was going to get out of Boston in a hurry. I dispatched Prof. Scotch, and he wired me the amount. I bought the boat, and now I hear Pringle has left for Seattle, on his way to Alaska. His father is hot over it, for he didn't want his son to go. Pringle had the fever, and he sold the yacht in a hurry to raise money to go with. I have a bargain. We can make our cruise, and then, when it is over, by looking about, I'll be able to get rid of the White Wings for more than I paid for her."
"Are you sure the transaction is all right?" asked Diamond.
"All right? How do you mean?"
"Why, strictly on the level. Pringle is not a minor?"
"No," grunted Browning; "but he has gone to be a miner."
"Here! here!" cried Frank, quickly; "that won't do. It's prohibited."
"It may be when we get on board the White Wings, but we're ashore now, and you are not Capt. Merriwell yet."
"Pringle is twenty-one," said Frank, answering Diamond's question. "He is all right."
"And he was sole owner of the yacht? He had the right to sell her?"
"Of course. Benjamin told me Pringle was strictly on the level."
"Well, you're always lucky!" exclaimed the lad from Virginia. "Now you will get the fun of this cruise, and, when it is over, you'll be likely to sell the yacht for enough so that you will come out ahead on the whole deal, expenses included."
"I hope to," acknowledged Frank, laughing. "I considered it a snap, but that was not why I wanted the boat. I wanted to make the cruise with my friends. Here are five of us, and that is all the White Wings will carry with absolute comfort. There is plenty of room for us. We'll make a jolly cruise of it, fellows, and I don't believe we'll ever regret going. I have the boat stocked with provisions, and some Jew tailors up by Scollay Square are at work on uniforms for four of us. We'll go out right away, Jack, and you shall be measured for yours. Come on."
INZA AND PAULA.
Frank and Jack left the American House and turned toward Scollay Square.
"These tailors are rushers," said Merry. "They have made a reputation by turning out work in short order. That is why we ordered the suits of them. You know we sail to-morrow morning."
"What? Not to-morrow?"
"Well, they will not have time to make up a suit for me."
"Oh, yes, they will."
"Not at all, old man. They will get the work out in a hurry, as I shall pay them to do it."
"But I never heard of such a thing."
"Possibly not. You are in Boston now. In Virginia they require more time to accomplish anything. Down in this part of the country things move."
Diamond could hardly believe that he could obtain a suit to order in such a short time.
They came to Scollay Square, into which trolley cars were pouring from various sections, and soon they reached the store of the Jew tailors. It was a large store, and at least a dozen customers were looking over samples, striking bargains or being measured. However, the boys were not forced to wait, for one of the proprietors came forward, greeted Frank by name, and said:
"Your order will be ready for you on time, Mr. Merriwell."
"We sail at nine o'clock to-morrow morning," said Frank. "Here is a friend of mine who will require a suit like the others."
"That is crowding us somewhat, sir," smiled the tailor. "I hardly think we can——"
"I will pay five dollars extra if the suit is delivered at the American House at six o'clock in the morning," said Frank, quietly.
"Very well, sir. I think that will cover the extra expense of rushing it through. If the gentleman will step back this way, his measure will be taken."
So Jack was measured, and, ten minutes after entering the store, the boys left it.
"He didn't even ask a deposit of you, Merry," said Jack, in surprise.
"No. Benjamin vouched for me, and that was all that was necessary. No deposit was required under such circumstances."
"What if he fails to get the suits round on time?"
"He won't. He wouldn't want them left on his hands."
Frank's confidence reassured Jack, and they strolled over toward Tremont Street and finally came out at the Common.
"I'd like to have a little time to look Boston over?" said Jack.
"You can do that when we come back. If you were to stop long enough to take in all the interesting sights, we wouldn't get down into Maine this summer. I want to spend a little more time in Boston, although I have seen Faneuil Hall, the new Public Library Building, the Old South Church, Bunker Hill Monument and a hundred other interesting things. The business portion of Boston is not particularly attractive, but the suburbs and the aristocratic dwelling sections are beautiful."
They walked across the Common to the Public Gardens, then turned round and strolled back. From Tremont Row they went down Temple Street to Washington, and just as they reached Jordan, Marsh & Co.'s store, two girls stepped out upon the sidewalk and came face to face with them.
"Miss Burrage!" exclaimed Diamond, lifting his hat.
"Inza!" cried Frank, also lifting his hat. "Miss Benjamin, too! This is an unexpected pleasure. Miss Benjamin, permit me to present a particular friend of mine, Mr. Jack Diamond, of Virginia."
Paula Benjamin was a pretty girl. Her eyes met Jack's, and she showed her pearly teeth in a most bewitching smile as she bowed, saying:
"I have heard of Mr. Diamond."
"Indeed!" exclaimed Jack. "I was not aware I was quite as famous."
"Yes. My brother mentioned you. Perhaps you know something of him—his name is Jack. He plays on the Harvard eleven."
"And he spoke of me? That is surprising. Don't see what he could have said about me."
"I don't believe I will tell," laughed the girl, and her manner aroused all of the Virginian's curiosity.
"Please tell," he urged, smiling.
"Well," hesitated Paula, still laughing, "before the game on Jarvis Field, he said you were fool enough to think Frank Merriwell could beat the whole Harvard eleven. After the game he said you weren't half the fool he took you for."
This caused them all to laugh, and, as the street was crowded, they strolled on together.
"Oh, Frank!" exclaimed Inza; "you can't guess what we are going to do!"
"Then I will give it up without trying. What is it?"
"Paula and I are going to Bar Harbor."
"I am astonished!"
"I knew you would be. We've been talking about it, you know—saying we'd like to go. Yesterday Paula had a letter from her cousin, who is spending the summer down there. Her cousin urged her to come. Paula's mother said it was impossible, as two girls like us should not be traveling about alone. Then Aunt Abigail said she'd like to spend a week or two in Bar Harbor herself, and she volunteered to chaperone us. After a while, Paula obtained her mother's consent, and we take the Bangor boat for Rockland to-morrow night."
"By Jove, this is interesting! We'll have to run in to Bar Harbor and see you on our cruise. I didn't suppose we would see much of each other after leaving Fardale."
"I didn't know as you would care about that," said Inza, carelessly.
"Care!" exclaimed Frank. "You should know I would care. How can you say anything like that! What made you imagine I wouldn't care?"
"Something! What was it? Tell me, Inza."
"Tell me now," urged Frank, in his masterful way. "During the last of my stay in Fardale I noticed a change in your treatment of me, Inza."
"Did you?" she murmured, lifting her eyebrows.
"Yes. You were cold toward me, and you seemed to shun me. If I tried to be friendly, as in the old days, you would not give me the opportunity. I did not understand it."
"That is singular. The reason was plain enough."
"If so, I must have been thick-witted."
"Elsie Bellwood was there."
"I read your secret. You made your choice between us."
Frank was astounded.
"Choice? What can you mean, Inza? I did not make any choice."
"Oh, but you did!"
"If you say so—but I—really——"
"You made your choice that time when the boat upset, and we were struggling in the water, Elsie and I. You plunged in to her rescue. I was quite as near to you as was Elsie—nearer, if anything."
Frank caught his breath, beginning to realize what she meant. Inza went on:
"You swam to Elsie's rescue—you saved her. That was the test. I brought it about, for I upset the boat intentionally to settle the point. I wanted to know which one of us you cared the most for—and I found out!"
It was like her, Frank realized that. He knew she was telling the truth when she said she upset the boat intentionally.
"But you—you could swim some, Inza. I knew it."
"Did you know Elsie could not swim?"
"She is the daughter of a sea captain, and she has been with him on many voyages. There was every reason to suppose that she could swim quite as well as I—or better. No, Frank, you made your choice between us that day. It's all right," and she forced a laugh that was not very musical. "I don't deny that, at one time, I did think more of you than any other fellow. There was every reason why I should. You saved me from a mad dog, saved me from death beneath a railroad engine, saved me from drowning. But I am not a fool, if I am a girl! I have not been taking stock in all the passionate love stories I have read. I got out of the way. I remained Elsie's friend, for she is the sweetest girl I know. I don't blame you for thinking more of her than you do of me."
Frank uttered the word in protest; it was all he could say.
"You can't deny it, so don't try," came almost harshly from the girl. "It's all right. We're still friends. We'll always be friends—nothing more. Sometime I'll be bridesmaid at the wedding, and——"
But Frank had heard enough, and he stopped her.
"I am not likely to marry anyone very soon," he said. "Elsie knows that. Let's talk about something else. How did it happen we met you?"
Inza seemed willing enough to permit the conversation to be turned into another channel.
"We were out shopping, you know—making our last purchases before starting for Bar Harbor. You must take us out on your yacht after we all get down there."
"I'll do it. Your aunt——"
"Oh, she will not object. You know she thinks you the finest fellow in all the world. She will come along."
At last the boys were forced to part from the girls, but Jack had made such progress with Paula that she offered him her hand at parting, saying laughingly:
"Next fall you will not pick the winner if you pick Yale, even if Mr. Merriwell is on that eleven. If you want to keep your record for wisdom, be careful."
"Jove!" exclaimed Jack, after they had seen the girls on board a car. "She's a way-upper, Merry!"
"She's a good sample of the Boston girl."
"Eh? Where's her glasses?"
"You have been reading the comic papers."
"She didn't mention Emerson or Browning."
"And that surprised you?"
"Why, I didn't suppose the genuine Boston girl could talk ten minutes without doing so."
"Boston girls are very much like other nice girls, old man. They are well educated, refined and all that, but they are not always quoting Emerson and Browning, they do not all wear glasses, they are not all cold and freezing and they are handsome."
They came to Cornhill. A car was coming down from Scollay Square, and they paused close to it to let it swing out upon Washington Street.
Just as the front of the car approached, Frank Merriwell received a push from behind that sent him flat upon the track directly in front of the car wheels!
That particular car did not have a fender, and it seemed that Frank must be mangled beneath the wheels. The motorman saw the lad go down and put on the brake hard, but he could not stop the car in time.
Frank realized that he had been pushed upon the track by some one whose deliberate purpose it was to maim or murder him, but he could not save himself. He struck the paving, and the iron wheels seemed right upon him.
But Jack Diamond moved with marvelous quickness. He made a grasp at Frank as the latter fell, almost caught him, then stooped, grasped his coat and yanked Merry from the track.
The car brushed Frank as it passed, but he was not injured.
"Thank you, old man," said Merriwell, as he quickly rose to his feet. "You saved me that time. But who pushed me?"
They looked about. A small crowd had witnessed Frank's peril and gathered. In the crowd was a person slipping away. With a bound Frank was after him, caught him by the shoulder, swung him to get a look at his face.
The fellow snarled the words and struck at Frank's face with his clinched hand.
"Wat Snell!" he cried, astounded.
"Yes, Wat Snell!" grated the other, who was a boy well known to him—a boy who had been his enemy years before at Fardale Academy, when they both went to school.
"You pushed me!" accused Frank.
"You lie! I did not touch you! You fell."
"I felt you push me, you miserable dog!"
"Don't dare talk like that to me!" hissed Snell. "I'll have you——"
"What! You don't dare do anything that is cowardly and treacherous! You did push me!"
"That's right!" exclaimed a boy. "I seen him do it!"
There was a murmur from the crowd that began to gather about. Black looks were directed toward Snell.
"He ought to be lynched!" blustered a little old man.
Then there were threats, and Snell grew pale, looking around for some means of escape. He saw accusing and angry faces on all sides, and he quailed and trembled.
"It was an accident," he whined, humbly. "I ran against you by accident. I'll swear I didn't recognize you, and I didn't mean you any harm."
"Call an officer!" cried the little old man. "It was an attempt at murder! Have him taken care of!"
With a gasp, Snell plunged through the crowd and took to his heels. Some tried to stop him, but he ran like a deer up Cornhill. There was a short pursuit, but the fellow doubled and dodged, escaping his pursuers.
"Let him go," said Frank. "I wouldn't make a charge against him, for it would detain me, and we must get away in the morning, wind and weather permitting."
"He ought to be punished," said Diamond. "He tried to kill you."
"It isn't the first time he has tried to do something to me. We are old, old foes."
"Why, I supposed him in Fardale."
"So did I."
"It's singular he's here in Boston."
"What is the meaning of it?"
"I can't tell. Don't ask me. He bobs up anywhere. Anyhow, we're not liable to see him again for some time after we leave here to-morrow."
They returned to the hotel and told the others of their adventures. All the boys were astonished to learn that Wat Snell was in the city.
A HOODOOED YACHT.
Promptly at six o'clock the following morning the uniforms were delivered at the American House. Without delay the boys put them on, and they proved satisfactory in every way, so Frank paid the bill and the messenger who brought them departed satisfied.
The boys ate an early breakfast, and all had good appetites. The American House dining room is rather somber, but they joked and laughed in the best of spirits.
After breakfast final arrangements for the care of their baggage were made, then a cab was ordered, and they all piled in and were rattled away toward Atlantic Avenue.
Jack had not seen Frank's yacht, and he was curious, concerning her appearance.
Not far from the pier of the Bangor boat lay the White Wings, guarded by a watchman, who saluted Merriwell as the boys went aboard.
The White Wings was a sloop yacht with club and jib topsails. She was not large, and it did not strike Diamond that she would prove to be fast, but she looked comfortable, and comfort was what they sought. They were not thinking of racing.
Frank paid the watchman for his services, and gave him something extra, whereupon the man departed greatly satisfied.
"Come, fellows," called Merry; "we'll go below and see how she looks down there."
They descended into the cabin, which was locked, Merry having the key. Jack was astonished when they entered the cabin, for it was far more roomy than he had supposed possible. A glimpse at the curtained berths showed there was plenty of sleeping room for all of them. There was a folding table, an oil stove, comfortable seats on the lockers, and everything looked inviting. Four handsome repeating shotguns and a magazine rifle hung above the lockers.
"How does she look down here, fellows?" asked Frank.
"She looks all right," grunted Browning, as he lazily rolled into one of the bunks. "Excuse me. I want to see what kind of a place I'll be stowed in when I am seasick."
"What do you think you'll do with those guns, Frank?" asked Jack.
"Can't tell," smiled Frank. "Remember, we are going down into Maine."
"Yes, but you told us Maine was a civilized State. From your talk when we discussed the matter I didn't suppose guns would be needed down there."
"Is Virginia civilized?"
"Ever find anything to shoot up in the mountain region?"
"Oh, yes; but——"
"That's all. New York is civilized, but there are bears and deer in the Adirondacks."
"Well, I didn't know we were going anywhere near a portion of Maine where there was game."
"Can't tell where we may go."
"Besides, if they have game laws down there, it must be close time for hunting."
"It is, but, all the same, it will be a good scheme to have these guns along. We're going to rough it a great deal, and we may need them. I have brought all sorts of rigs for fishing, and I have two tents on board. My idea, gentlemen, is to make this a regular outing trip, and, when we are not on board the White Wings, we do not want to spend our time in hotels."
"Not much," nodded Hodge.
"Say, Merriwell," cried Diamond, in admiration, "you are a dandy. You have planned all our outings for the past two years, and we have had sport galore; but what makes me sore is the fact that you pay all the bills."
A truck team came rumbling down onto the wharf, and Hodge looked around.
"Baggage," he called.
A truckman had arrived with their luggage from the hotel. The boys, excepting Browning, went on deck and brought the stuff aboard.
As Frank was settling with the truckman, the latter said:
"I wish you good luck, young man, but I doubt if you'll have it taking a cruise in that craft."
"Why is that?" asked Merry. "What is the matter with that craft?"
"Well, sir, they do say as how she is hoodooed."
"Yes, sir. Everybody as has owned her in the last two years has had hard luck."
"This is interesting."
"I hauled her first load of provisions, and I have known her a long time. On her trial cruise she capsized before she got out of the harbor."
"Is that all?"
"Hardly. Her first owner committed suicide on board of her—cut his throat down below. They say she has been haunted by his spook ever since."
"This is decidedly interesting. I'd have given more for her if I had known she owned a spook. I am very fond of spooks. They are interesting."
"Boo!" shivered the truckman. "Don't want none in mine."
"Have you told me all the unlucky things that have happened to the White Wings?"
"No. Next fellow that owned her ran down a rowboat and drowned a boy. Then he put her on top of a ledge, but got her off without doing her much damage. He sold her for a song."
"What happened next?"
"Next fellow as owned her went crazy and is in an asylum. They say he saw the spook go through the suicide act in the cabin, and that was what crazed him."
"The interest increases. The horrors are piling up. Anything more?"
"Benjamin owned her next."
"Anything happen to him?"
"He got the Klondike fever."
"Ain't that enough? He's run away to Alaska, and his father's rich as mud. He didn't have no need to go up there into that infernally cold region and freeze and starve. His old man's so mad he threatens to cut him off."
"Well," laughed Frank, "the White Wings is mine now, and I don't fancy all the spooks of the infernal regions could scare me away from her. In fact, I'd rather enjoy having a call from a few spooks."
"You'll have some kind of bad luck," declared the truckman, as he prepared to go. "I don't like to tell you that, but I think you oughter be looking out."
A young man with a small, curly, black mustache came hurrying onto the pier. He was well dressed and carried a cane. He came straight up to Frank and the truckman.
"Where is the person known as Frank Merriwell?" he asked.
"I am Frank Merriwell," Merry answered. "What can I do for you?"
"You are the chap I want to see," said the stranger. "I understand you bought the White Wings of Jack Benjamin?"
"I did, sir."
"And he sold it to you as clear and free of encumbrance?"
"He beat you."
"How is that?"
"I hold a bill of sale of that yacht, and I am here to claim it as my property!" was the answer.
Frank was surprised.
The truckman slapped his hand against his hip and muttered:
"I told him! The thing is hoodooed! Anybody as has anything to do with it is bound to buck against hard luck."
"This is rather surprising information," said Frank Merriwell, speaking with the utmost calmness, while he studied the face of the stranger with piercing eyes. "I hardly understand it. I believe Jack Benjamin has the reputation in Boston of being on the level, and so I hardly understand a piece of business like this."
"Perhaps Benjamin was stuck, found it out, and got out of the hole the best way he could."
"How do you mean?"
"Perhaps at the time he bought the boat, he didn't know I held the bill of sale of her."
"Ha!" he exclaimed. "Then Benjamin did not give you the bill of sale?"
"No. Chap that owned her before that did. His name is Fearson."
"Fearson? Is he the one who went crazy?"
"The very same," put in the truckman.
"When did he give you this bill of sale?"
"Don't remember the exact date."
"The bill will show."
"Sure. Why do you want to know?"
"I want to find out if he gave it to you before a certain time. That's all."
The strange claimant of the yacht was suspicious.
"I don't see the point," he said. "I hold the bill, and I claim the yacht. Just found out what Benjamin had done, and I came down in a hurry, after getting track of the boat, to warn you not to try to move her. I won't have it."
It began to look like a scrape, but Frank was not flustered in the least. He kept his head, saying:
"Have you the bill of sale with you, sir?"
"Will you be kind enough to permit me to look at it?"
The stranger started to do so, but seemed to change his mind of a sudden, and said:
"No, I won't bother. I tell you not to move her. If you do, I'll make you pay a big sum for damages, so look out."
Frank smiled sweetly.
"That is a very silly threat," he murmured. "If you do not show me the document I shall not believe it exists."
"That doesn't make any difference to——"
"It makes this difference: It is now twenty minutes to nine. At nine I shall cast off from the pier. Wind and tide being right, it will not take me long to get out of the harbor."
"You wouldn't dare!"
"What is there to dare? I fail to see anything."
"Why, confound you! I'd make you smart for it!"
"You couldn't. You have made a lot of bluffing talk about holding a bill of sale, but I do not take any stock in that till you produce the document. I have purchased this yacht, and, as long as I believe myself her rightful owner, I shall do with her as I see fit. At nine o'clock she sails."
The fellow hesitated, and then snapped out:
"Oh, I can prove to you that I am not lying. I will prove it. Here is the bill—see for yourself."
He took a number of papers from his pocket, and selected one among them, which he opened and held before Frank. Merriwell looked the document over carefully. It was a bill of sale of the yacht White Wings from Fergus Fearson to Parker Flynn.
"Is your name Parker Flynn?" asked Frank.
"And you bought the yacht of Fearson?"
"You bet!" nodded the claimant, triumphantly. "I rather think this document settles it."
"It does," nodded Frank, quietly. Then he turned to the truckman, and asked:
"When was Mr. Fearson committed to the asylum?"
"The latter part of May."
"And this bill is dated May 21st. The fellow must have been deranged then."
"Oh, you can't make that go!" cried Flynn, quickly. "It's no use for you to try to crawl out of a little hole like that."
"Why have you not claimed the yacht before? Holding this bill, why didn't you claim it while it was in Benjamin's possession? Answer that question!"
"I was away—out of the city," faltered Flynn.
"All the time?"
"Most of the time."
"Very well. Here is your bill. I advise you to destroy it without delay, or it may get you into serious trouble."
"What?" cried the man, angrily. "Destroy it? I'll have that yacht. This bill gives me the right to it."
"That bill gives you the right to nothing!" came clearly and distinctly from Merriwell's lips. "Either you have been badly fooled or you are a rascal trying to obtain property that you have not the slightest claim upon. It looks as if the latter were the real condition of affairs. Fergus Fearson is confined in a madhouse, and so he cannot deny that he ever gave you a bill of sale of this yacht."
"Deny it? Here is his signature!"
"And that may be forgery! I tell you to be careful!"
"It is not forgery! It is genuine! Your bluff will not go, sir! The yacht is mine, and I will have her."
"Even if the signature is genuine, the bill is not worth the paper it's written on!" declared Merriwell, with the utmost coolness.
"More bluffing! You are crazy! Why isn't it good?"
"Because it is dated May 21st."
"What of that?"
"The date is exactly four days after John Benjamin purchased and paid for this yacht, as I can prove by documents in existence. If Fergus Fearson sold you the White Wings on May 21st, he sold you property that did not belong to him. That's all, Mr. Flynn."
The claimant of the yacht turned pale and stared at the bill and then at Frank, who was standing there so coolly before him.
On the deck of the yacht were three boys who had heard the most of the conversation. Now Hodge exultantly exclaimed:
"That was a body blow! Merry has floored him!"
"That's right," nodded Diamond. "Frank has the best of it, but it did seem that we were in a scrape."
Flynn gasped for breath.
"I don't believe it!" he cried. "The boat is mine, so don't dare cast off from this pier."
"The White Wings sails at nine o'clock," said Frank, turning away.
Flynn's face, that had been so pale, flushed and turned purple with anger. All at once, he lifted his walking stick to bring it down on Merry's head.
A cry from the boys on the yacht warned Merriwell, who ducked and dodged—just in time.
Whizz!—the cane cut through the air, but Merry was not touched.
Quick as thought, Frank turned and grappled with Parker Flynn. He wrenched away the cane, and, with a quick motion, broke it across his knee. Then, as he coolly tossed it into the water, he said:
"If you try any more funny business, sir, you'll follow your cane."
"Oh, I'll fix you!" Flynn almost screamed. "I'll get a warrant for you! I'll be back in a hurry! Don't dare leave before I return!"
He dashed away on the run.
"I told you you would have bad luck," said the truckman. "It's begun."
"Oh, I don't know!" laughed Frank. "If Flynn paid money for the yacht, he is the one in hard luck."
At nine o'clock the White Wings cast off from the pier. Her sails were hoisted, and, aided by the out-running tide, she soon got away enough to catch a breeze.
And Parker Flynn had not returned.
IN THE FOG.
"It's no use, fellows, we can't go any further in this fog to-night," said Frank Merriwell on the fourth day after leaving Boston.
"We must go farther!" exclaimed Diamond. "There is no anchorage here."
"How do you know? We haven't tried for it."
"But we are not in a harbor."
"No. We are somewhere near the Whitehead Islands, near the mouth of Penobscot Bay."
"Well, let's keep on as long as there is a breath of wind. I don't fancy anchoring here. We might be run down in the night."
"And, if we keep on, the chances are two to one that we'll run onto a reef or pile up on an island. I had much rather take the chances of anchoring here and being run down. The wind is dying out, and this fog is shutting down thicker and thicker."
"Well," said Jack, in a dissatisfied way, "this is your boat and you are in command. You can do as you like."
"I'll do as the majority believes best."
"Then anchor," grunted Browning. "I don't fancy this prowling about in the fog."
Hodge was in favor of anchoring, and Hans agreed with them, so Jack was the only one who felt like going on. He gave up in disgust.
While they were talking the last faint breeze had fallen swiftly, and, by the time it was definitely decided, the White Wings lay becalmed, rolling helplessly on the swells that came in from the open sea.
"Shimminy Gristmas!" groaned Hans. "I don't like dot roll up und drop avay motions. Id makes me feel sick to your stomach."
"You will get enough of that as long as we remain anchored out here," said Diamond, unpleasantly.
Frank gave the orders, and down came the sails. A sounding showed they could anchor without trouble, and then the anchor was cast. The sails were not reefed, for it was not known when they might be required. Arrangements were made for raising them on short notice.
Night came down swiftly. Lights were set, but the boys felt that a light was poor protection for them in that darkness and fog.
"If we are in the course of the steamers we'll be run down," grumbled Jack.
"There'll have to be a regular watch to-night," declared Frank; "and the fog horn must be used."
Browning had managed to crawl on deck, and he looked disconsolate and disgusted.
"This is what they call a life on the ocean wave," he grunted. "Oh, it is more fun than a minstrel show!"
"We'll have to put up with some discomforts," said Merriwell.
"We made a mistake in coming further east than Portland," put in Jack. "That was a good place to stop."
"Wait till the sun comes out to-morrow and we run into Rockland Harbor," laughed the owner of the White Wings. "You will change your tune."
"Well, I hope so."
Hans was given the first watch, and he remained on deck while the others went below and had supper. At intervals he blew a blast on the horn, which sounded like some lost animal bellowing in the fog.
Frank laughed and joked, and he succeeded in putting the others in better spirits after a time. It was comfortable in the cabin, despite the fog outside.
Hodge made coffee, and the smell of it as it bubbled over the blaze of the oil stove gave all of them a ravenous feeling of hunger. The little folding table was let down and spread, and the sight of the food and smell of the coffee took their minds off the unpleasantness of their situation.
"It was a foolhardy thing running down here without somebody who knew the coast," said Jack.
"My dear fellow," smiled Frank, "we have our chart and compass, and I know a little something about navigation. Quit your worrying. I'll land you in Rockland to-morrow all right."
"You were going to land us there to-day."
"And so I would had the wind held right and this fog kept off."
"I believe there is a fog factory down this way somewhere," said Browning.
Hodge announced that supper was ready, and they gathered about the table. The White Wings was riding on a steady, regular swell, so they were not shaken up down there, and they found they could eat without discomfort. Browning was hungry as a bear, and he "pitched into the spread."
"Well, I don't know as this is too bad after all," he confessed, taking a third slice of tongue. "We've been in worse places."
"That's right," nodded Hodge. "Pass the sugar. I want a little of this coffee myself. I made it."
"The coffee is good," acknowledged Jack. "It warms a fellow up. A little grog wouldn't go bad in a case like this."
"There is no grog on this boat and will not be as long as I own her," declared Merriwell. "It's a foolish thing for a lot of fellows on a cruise like this to think that they must have grog."
"Oh, I didn't suppose you had any on board, Merriwell," said Diamond. "I know your temperance principles too well to look for anything like that."
By the time they finished eating all were in much better spirits. No one but Hans had been troubled with seasickness thus far on the cruise, and the Dutch boy had not been very sick.
Hans was called down to eat, and Bart took his place while he was below.
"Uf I can haf some of dot coffee id vill done you goot," said the Dutch lad. "I don'd pelief I vant to ead much. Mein stomach felt like id don'd been aple to held much uf a loadt. Yaw!"
So Hans drank some coffee and ate a little hard bread, after which he returned to his duties on deck, having donned a suit of oil clothes.
Frank got out his guitar and put it in tune.
"That's right, Merry," grunted Browning, rolling into his bunk. "Give us a song to cheer us up."
"What shall I sing?"
"Some of the old college songs."
"They'll make me homesick," said Diamond.
"It's a pleasant thing to feel homesick for Old Yale," murmured Frank. "Dear Old Yale!"
"Give us 'Stars of the Summer Night,'" urged Hodge.
So Frank sang the song that has sounded beneath the elms at Yale so many times. It was a beautiful song, and it awakened in the memories of the listening lads thoughts of the gay times at college, the moonlight nights, the roistering lads, the lighted windows of the Quad and the groups gathered at the Fence.
Jack brushed his eyes.
"Don't sing anything more like that," he urged. "Make it something lively—'Solomon Levi,' or any old thing."
So "Solomon Levi" followed, and they all joined in on the chorus. Other lively songs were sung, and, by the time Frank put aside the guitar all were in fairly good spirits.
Merriwell arranged the program of standing watch. Hans was relieved before they turned in.
All through the night they took turns at standing watch and blowing away at intervals on the fog horn. And the night passed quickly enough without event.
When morning came, however, the fog still hung on the surface of the water. They ate a light breakfast, and Frank fell to walking the deck impatiently.
"If there was a breeze, this fog would be liable to lift," he said. "It is disgusting."
After a little a light breeze rose, but it did not clear away the fog entirely. However, the coming of the sun had some effect on it, and it was not long before Merry decided to get up anchor and run up the sails.
The anchor was hoisted and the sails set. Frank took the wheel.
During the night the old swell had run out. Frank had studied his chart till he believed he knew about where they lay, and he set his course by the compass.
Not ten minutes after getting under way they found they were headed straight for an island. In their vicinity the fog was not heavy, but out beyond the island lay a bank of it.
Immediately on sighting the island, Frank changed the course of the yacht, bringing her almost about. Then he ran out past the island, headed for the fog bank.
All at once there was a strange sound, a roaring swish of water. Not one of them was certain which direction the sound came from.
"Vot dot vos?" exclaimed Hans, in alarm.
"Keep still!" ordered Frank.
The sounds grew louder.
Then, all at once, Hans flung up his hands and shouted:
"Reef your rudder, Vrankie! You vos running a sdeampoat ofer us!"
Out of the fog bank, just ahead, came a large side-wheel steamer, headed straight toward them!
Frank sighted the steamer at the same moment Hans saw it, and he realized their peril. It was the Boston boat, City of Bangor, on its course up the bay.
In the twinkling of an eye, Merriwell threw the wheel over and over, the White Wings swung to port, but headed straight across the course of the great steamer.
Hoo-oo-oot! hoo-oo-oot! hoo-oo-oot! sounded the hoarse warning whistle from the steamer.
"If you had been whistling through that fog bank all would have been right," muttered Merriwell, through his set teeth. "Now, if you run me down, you'll pay for this yacht!"
There was a jangling sound of a bell on board the steamer, and the pilot in the pilot house was seen to send his wheel spinning over with frantic haste at the same moment that the headway of the steamer grew less.
"Will she clear us?" cried Hodge.
"She is bound to cut us in two!" shouted Diamond. "There isn't breeze enough for us to get out of her way!"
"Vere vos der life breserfers?" squawked Hans. "I vant to got me onto a life-breserfer a hurry in!"
The Dutch lad made a headlong leap for the companion way. At the head of the steps he stubbed his toe and down he went head first.
It happened that Bruce Browning had heard the commotion on deck, and, strange to relate, it had aroused him so that he was coming up.
Bruce had just started to go above when Hans came flying through the air like a huge toad, struck him full and fair, and both went down in a heap on the cabin floor.
"Dot seddles id!" yelled the frightened Dutch lad. "Der yocht vos sunkin' und I vos a goner!"
"You blundering Dutch chump!" gasped Bruce, when he could catch his breath. "What is the matter?"
"Didn't you toldt me der yocht vos sunkin'?" shrieked Hans. "Id haf run ofer a pig sdeampoat! Uf you kept myseluf drownting from I vill haf to got oudt und valk ashore!"
Browning managed to get himself together and rise to his feet. Then he hurried up the companion way and reached the deck just in time to see the huge white hull of a steamboat looming above the yacht.
But Merriwell's prompt action and steady nerve had saved the White Wings, for the steamer, with motionless paddlewheels, was slipping past, the yacht having cut square across her course.
It was a close shave, and a few white faces looked over the forward starboard rail of the huge steamer.
"If you chaps knew your business you would be at anchor instead of cruising round in this fog," called a hoarse voice from the steamer.
"If you knew your business you would blow your fog whistle while running through a fog bank," returned Frank Merriwell, promptly.
"That's the stuff, Merry!" grated Hodge, whose face was still pale. "How do you suppose they happened to do such a thing?"
"Probably that bank of fog is narrow, and they only ran into it a few minutes ago. Perhaps they did not strike heavy fog till just before they broke through and came into view."
"Well, it was a piece of reprehensible carelessness, and it's lucky the White Wings was not cut in two."
As the huge steamer slipped past, the boys saw not many persons were astir on her. She had made an all-night run from Boston, and the passengers were still sleeping in their staterooms, with a few exceptions.
Near the stern of the steamer were two persons in mackintoshes. They seemed to regard the yacht with interest, not to say excitement, and their movements attracted the attention of the boys.
One of the passengers clutched the other by the arm and pointed out the White Wings, then both leaned over the rail.
Jack Diamond leaped to Merriwell's side, grasped Merry by the shoulder, and cried in his ear:
"On the steamer there! The two fellows astern!"
"I see them."
"By Jove! I believe I do!"
"One of them is——"
"Sure! And the other is——"
"The chap who claimed this yacht—Parker Flynn!"
"Great Scott! What are they doing on that boat?"
"Perhaps they are."
"Perhaps! There is no perhaps about it! Of course they are!"
"But Snell and Flynn together—how does that happen?"
"I can't tell that, but they are together, and they are following us—that's sure. You are not done with Flynn, it seems."
"He will get into trouble if he bothers me any more. I shall not stand any nonsense from him. As for Wat Snell, all I want is a good chance to square up with him. I will make him sorry he ever heard of me!"
"That's the talk, Frank!" exclaimed Diamond, approvingly. "Snell will be easier to dispose of than the other chap, for it is probable that Flynn believes he can take this boat away from you because he has a right to it, or he would not be following us."
"He has no right to it, and he will not be able to take it."
"See, Frank! What is the fellow going to—— Look out!"
On the steamer Flynn had been seen to hastily unbutton his mackintosh, jerk something bright out of his hip pocket and point it toward the yacht.
It was a revolver.
Jack Diamond realized the desperate fellow's purpose, and he caught hold of Frank Merriwell and gave him a push that threw him to the deck beside the wheel.
There was a flash of fire from the revolver, a puff of smoke, and then a bullet whistled over the yacht, striking the water beyond.
"Well, of all the foolhardy, cowardly tricks, I believe that takes the premium!" said Frank, as he arose and grasped the wheel again. "That man is drunk or crazy!"
The moment Flynn fired, Snell took to his heels and scudded out of sight, disappearing on the other side of the steamer. Flynn hastily put up his revolver, shook his fist toward the yacht, and then followed Snell, both of them getting out of the way before anyone, attracted by the sound of the shot, came aft to investigate.
The big paddlewheels of the steamer were in motion again, and she was forging on her course, as if nothing had happened.
Frank brought the White Wings round and set his course to follow as closely as the wind would allow. In a short time the steamer was almost out of sight in the thin mist that hung over the water where there was no fog.
Then, at last, Hans Dunnerwust came puffing and stumbling on deck, fairly loaded down with life-preservers. He fell at the head of the companion way, and the life-preservers flew all over the deck.
"Put me onto them kvick!" he squealed. "Uf I don'd haf a life breserfer on ven der yocht sinks you vos a goner!"
The boys laughed at his ludicrous appearance, and he sat up on the deck, staring around blankly.
"Vere dot sdeampoat vos?" he asked, in astonishment.
"Why, the steamer is a mile away by this time," said Hodge.
"If she had run into us, we'd been at the bottom long before this," laughed Frank. "You are too slow, Hans."
"Vale, I done your duty, anyhow," sturdily declared the Dutch boy. "You don'd got me to makin' no mistake in dot."
Then he was set to gathering up the life preservers and carrying them below again.
The encounter with the steamer and the desperate action of Parker Flynn furnished food for conversation on board the yacht. The boys talked it over and over, and it was the general opinion that the presence of Flynn and Snell in company on the steamer was not an accident.
"We'll see more of those fellows before long," prophesied Diamond. "And it strikes me that Flynn is more dangerous than Snell, for he is a desperate fellow. If he had shot anybody on this boat there was no way of making it seem an accident. When Snell pushed you in front of the car he could have sworn it was an accident if the car had killed you. Look out for Parker Flynn."
"I will," said Merriwell.
It was nearly nine o'clock before they rounded Owl's Head and pointed into Rockland harbor. The mist still hung on the water, and the outlines of the city were hidden. Frank, however, felt confident that he was all right.
"We'll take dinner ashore if you say so, fellows," he said.
"Oh, I don't know," said Jack. "I don't believe these natives down in this country know how to cook anything fit to eat."
"I fancy you have a few notions that will be knocked out of your head after you have been down this way a short time. You still seem to fancy you are going into a howling wilderness where there are only savages and half-civilized white people."
"Perhaps we are," said Jack, by way of being odd. "You don't know yourself, for this is your first visit down here."
Out through the mist came a tiny steam launch. All at once it was headed straight toward the White Wings.
"She acts as if she is coming for us," said Hodge, scowling.
As the launch came nearer five persons were seen in her. The interest of the boys increased rapidly, for everything seemed to indicate that she was making straight for the yacht.
All at once Diamond uttered a cry, turned to Frank and said:
"I knew it! I told you we'd see more of him! See the fellow in the bow of that launch? It's Parker Flynn!"
A BOARDING PARTY.
"Sure as shooting!" nodded Frank. "He is in a hurry to see me—that's plain."
"Yes, he couldn't wait till we got into the harbor."
"It's probable he thought we might not come into Rockland after seeing him on the steamer, and so, as soon as he could get ashore, he hired the launch to run out and head us off."
"Snell is with him," said Hodge. "Oh, I'd like to get a crack at that fellow!"
"You may have a chance," smiled Merriwell, coolly.
"I don't propose to let those chaps come aboard my yacht unless they show that they have a right to do so."
"Good for you!" cried Bart, his face growing stern. "I am with you, Merry!"
"And I!" exclaimed Diamond.
"Vale, I don'd knew but I vos re'dy vor a liddle schraps," observed Hans.
"Then we will stand by to repel boarders if they try the trick," said Frank. "Call Browning on deck."
So the big Yale man was called, and he came up in his shirt sleeves. He was interested immediately the situation was explained to him, and he seemed well pleased when Frank expressed his intention of preventing the strangers from boarding without authority.
"This promises to be a real warm morning," he said, with a lazy smile. "I'm rather glad I'm here."
By this time the launch was close at hand.
"Ahoy the yacht!" called a voice.
"Ay! ay!" called back Merriwell, in true nautical style. "On board the launch, what's wanted?"
"Lay to. We have business with you."
"Keep off. We haven't time to bother with you."
"Don't act foolish!" was the angry exclamation. "If you do, you will be sorry!"
"If you bother us without a legal right you will be sorry," flung back Frank. "We are not to be trifled with this morning."
The launch made a circle and swung round so that she was heading in the same direction as the yacht.
"If you don't lay to," said the spokesman on board the launch, "we'll run alongside and board you."
"Try it. You will find the warmest job you ever struck!"
"Why, you will not resist officers of the law?"
"Not if we know the officers have authority."
"Well, we have the authority, so head up into the wind."
"You say you have authority, but I do not even know you are an officer. In fact, judging by the company you are in, I should take you for anything else."
There were muttered words on the launch, savage, suppressed oaths and a stir that was significant.
"They do mean to run alongside and board!" exclaimed Diamond. "Are you still in for keeping them off, Merry?"
"You bet!" nodded Frank, grimly. "If I decide otherwise, I will give you the word in time."
Bruce Browning began to roll up his sleeves, baring his brawny arms. There was a flush on his face and an eager look in his eyes.
"Some of those gentlemen will take a bath this morning," he said.
Both Diamond and Hodge flung aside their coats.
The men on the launch saw these significant movements and could not misunderstand them. They were surprised by the attitude of the crew of the White Wings.
"You fools!" cried the spokesman of the party, who had a full black beard. "You will get yourselves jailed if you make any resistance. I am Sheriff Ulmer, of Rockland!"
"Where is your badge?" demanded Frank. "Show that."
The man who claimed to be the sheriff hesitated.
"He can't do it!" muttered Hodge, triumphantly.
"I have papers to serve on you," said the black-bearded man.
"You can serve them when I come ashore," returned Frank. "I am going into the harbor, and I shall be ashore in thirty minutes after dropping anchor."
"But you are on a stolen yacht, and I am here to take possession of it."
"I am not on a stolen yacht, and I do not mean that you shall take possession of it unless you have the right to do so. This yacht belongs to me. I bought it and paid for it with good money, and I mean to hold it. If you really are Sheriff Ulmer, which I am inclined to doubt, you have been deceived by that rascal in the bow of the launch. He holds a worthless bill of sale of this boat, which, if it is not a forgery, was made out by a crazy man who did not own the boat at the time."
"It's a lie!" snarled Flynn. "The bill of sale is all right, and we're going to take that yacht!"
"You will have to fight for her, if you do!"
"If you fight, you fool, you will go to jail. There is a first-class jail in Rockland, too."
"I'll take my chances of going to jail. Keep off! This is a fair warning."
By this time the launch was close to the yacht, and the faces of all the persons in the small boat could be seen and studied. Wat Snell was pale, and it was plain he did not relish his position. With the fellow who claimed to be sheriff was a hang-dog looking chap who looked like a fighter. The man who was running the launch acted as if he had no intention of taking any part in the fight, if one should occur. It was plain he had been hired to set the others on board the White Wings, and he did not mean to do anything more than that.
"Hans!" called Frank, "take the wheel and hold her steady as she is. You will get out of the scrimmage, and I want to have a hand in that."
Hans took the wheel, and Frank prepared to take a hand in the repulse if the enemy tried to board.
The man in the launch who had claimed to be sheriff stood up and waved his clinched fist above his head.
"In the name of the law, I command you to surrender!" he shouted.
"Show your authority," calmly returned Merriwell.
"Here it is—the bill of sale of that yacht."
"That is no authority. Do you think you can bluff us because we are young? You will find you have made a big mistake."
"Board them!" cried Flynn. "Take the yacht! That is the only way to do it!"
"You will find that is a mighty hard way to do it!" grated Bart Hodge. "Come on, Snell! I want to get at you!"
The launch ran alongside the yacht, and the man with the fellow who claimed to be the sheriff caught the rail of the White Wings with a boat hook.
"Come on!" roared the black-whiskered chap.
"Stand by to repel boarders!" rang out Frank's clear voice.
THE STRUGGLE FOR THE YACHT.
The big man with the whiskers was the first to make an attempt to reach the deck of the yacht. He gave a leap that landed him on the rail. Then Bruce Browning picked him up and tossed him back into the launch.
The man was surprised, but he made another rush to get onto the White Wings.
In the meantime Parker Flynn had tried to get aboard, but had been struck on the jaw by Merriwell's hard fist and knocked back into the launch.
Snell started to climb over the rail of the yacht, but tumbled back of his own accord when Hodge made a rush for him.
The hang-dog-appearing chap was the spryest man on the launch. With a catlike leap, he cleared the rail of the White Wings and reached the deck. He found himself face to face with Jack Diamond, and a second later they clinched.
"You are not wanted here!" exclaimed Jack.
"But I'm going to stay here!" said the other.
Diamond was strong and smart, but he found his hands full. Had he not taken the chap at a slight disadvantage in getting the first hold, the stranger would have been his master. As it was, they slipped and staggered about the deck, the stranger struggling to break Jack's hold.
In his excitement, Hans failed to hold the yacht steadily on her course, as Frank had directed, and suddenly she swung, so the main boom swept across the deck. It struck Diamond's antagonist on the back of the head and stunned him for a moment. That moment was long enough for Jack to lift him and drop him over into the launch.
Hans sent over the wheel and brought the yacht back, so the boom swung out of the way, but his negligence had aided Diamond to a large extent.
On falling back into the boat, Snell had scrambled up and stood snarling at Hodge, who was urging him to come within reach.
"Oh, I do want to get my hands on you!" said Bart. "I'll give you something to remember me by, you sneaking cur!"
"You are a sneak yourself!" cried Snell, "or you would not be hanging around with Frank Merriwell after he licked you and got the best of you in everything you did!"
"It is a compliment to be called a sneak by you, you coward! Come up here! Let me give you a black eye!"
But Snell kept just out of reach, although he made several bluff attempts to board the White Wings.
Probably the most astonished man was the big fellow with the black whiskers. He realized that Browning had handled him easily and carelessly, but still it did not seem possible that the rather fleshy, smooth-faced chap could have much strength, large as he was.
"Better stay down there," advised Bruce. "Next time I shall throw you farther."
"Next time you won't throw me at all!" came from the professed sheriff, as he made another spring for the yacht.
It seemed that Bruce caught him on the fly. Now the big fellow was fully aroused, and he swung the stranger over his head and gave him a terrific heave.
The man whirled through the air, passed clean over the launch, struck the water beyond and disappeared from view.
At that very moment Frank Merriwell got another crack at Parker Flynn, who had not learned his lesson by his first experience, and again tried to board.
Smack!—the blow sounded, and, with a groan, Flynn dropped down into the launch.
The man who was running the launch seemed satisfied, for he suddenly let go with the boat hook, and the yacht swung away from her foe.
The self-styled sheriff came to the surface and was pulled aboard the launch. The ducking seemed to have taken the spirit out of him. He glared at the yacht, but all his eagerness to board her seemed gone. Parker Flynn sat up and swore, holding onto his aching jaw. He had not realized that there was a set of fighters on board the White Wings, although Wat Snell had warned him to that effect. Now he realized that the yacht could not easily be captured in the manner in which he had attempted to accomplish the feat.
The meeting of Flynn and Snell came about in this way. Snell, on finding Frank and his friends were in Boston, had played the spy on the party. He followed them to the pier the morning they went aboard the White Wings, and he saw the encounter between Frank and Flynn. When Flynn left the pier, Snell followed and spoke to him. After that it did not take Wat long to work into the good graces of Flynn.
Infuriated by his failure to obtain possession of the yacht, Flynn proceeded to get drunk and stay so. On the second day of his spree, he determined to pursue Merriwell and take the yacht by force, if it could not be obtained in any other manner. Then he hunted up Snell, and it was not hard to induce Wat to accompany him.
Flynn knew the "poker gang" in Rockland, and he knew there were a few desperate fellows among those who made up the gang. He had "dropped his roll" in Rockland once when he struck the town with an idea in his head that he was "getting against a lot of jays," and on that occasion he became friendly with Peter McSwatt and Hunk Gardman. Gardman did not belong in Rockland, but he came in frequently from an adjoining town to play poker. He was a crook and a sneak, and he showed it in his face. McSwatt was not quite as "smooth" as Gardman; he could not "handle the cards" as well, but he could sit in a game with Gardman and play what his crooked pal dealt him, so that, after every game, there was usually an ill-gotten pot to be divided. If there was any trouble, McSwatt did the fighting.
Flynn telephoned McSwatt and told him when he would be in Rockland, asking to be met at the boat by McSwatt and a good man who would stand by in a scrap. He ended by saying there was good money in it, and his offered inducements led McSwatt and Gardman to be on hand at the time set.
Flynn was still under the influence of liquor. Had it been otherwise, he would not have fired at the White Wings from the deck of the City of Bangor.
On arriving in Rockland, he found his chosen tools waiting for him, and he explained that the yacht White Wings had been stolen from him. To convince McSwatt and Gardman, he showed the bill of sale which he held. He explained that he could not afford the time to recover the boat by regular process of law, and said that it would be an easy thing to take it from the boys who were on board. He showed money and paid his tools something in advance. A few drinks of liquor put them in the mood for almost anything, and then the steam launch was hired to go out in search of the White Wings, as Flynn feared the yacht might not come into Rockland at all.
The owner of the launch was convinced that Flynn really owned the yacht, and had a right to take her by force if necessary, but he did not agree to have anything to do with the seizing of the boat further than putting the party alongside.
Snell had warned Flynn that the party on the White Wings was made up of fighters, but the man sneered at them as a lot of boys. It was not believed that there would be any real difficulty in obtaining possession of the yacht, but it was thought best that McSwatt should claim to be an officer.
Thus it came about that the White Wings was met by the steam launch as she headed into Rockland harbor. But the crew on board the launch met with the surprise of their lives, and they were thoroughly disgusted when they were beaten off without much difficulty.
The two cracks Frank had given Flynn knocked some of the conceit and bravado out of him, and for some time after the yacht and the launch swung apart he sat still and swore.
McSwatt was not in a pleasant mood as he wrung the water out of his clothes. He glared at Flynn and snarled:
"Thought you said they were a lot of boys who could be scared out of their skins! Boys! Why, they are young devils! The fellow I went against is a regular Samson!"
"They're in a bad scrape now," said Flynn, with an attempt at fierceness. "They have resisted the rightful owner of that yacht, and they shall smart for it."
"That's all right, but they might have been fooled in a different way. Here they are running right into the harbor, and they will stop there. We might have watched till the most of them went ashore, and then we could have taken her easily."
"How did I know they would run in here? They might have kept on up the bay. And I didn't suppose a lot of beardless chaps could put up such a scrap."
"Well, we have done all you asked of us, and we want our pay."
"Done! You haven't done anything! I hired you to help me take the yacht."
"And misrepresented the case to us. You will pay me, or I'll chuck you overboard!"
There was a glare in McSwatt's eyes that cowed Flynn.
"Oh, we mustn't quarrel," he quickly said. "Of course, I will pay you, as I agreed."
"I thought so."
"And I will double the sum if you stand by me a while longer. I tell you I can't fool with those chaps—I can't waste time. I must get possession of my boat at once."
"Well, if you are thinking of attempting to board her again, you'll have to get somebody in my place. I have had enough of that kind of work."
Flynn saw that McSwatt meant it.
"All right," he growled. "We'll stay out and keep watch of her till she drops anchor. I want to be sure they mean to stop here."
So the launch cruised about, keeping in sight of the White Wings till the yacht ran slowly into the harbor and let fall her anchor in the vicinity of half a dozen other pleasure yachts laying near together.
ARRESTED IN ROCKLAND.
There were some indignant lads on board the White Wings.
"A regular case of piracy!" declared Diamond. "If we had not been too much for that gang, they would have seized the boat."
"Sure," nodded Hodge, whose eyes were gleaming, while his breast, across which his arms were folded, rose and fell with excitement.
"We handled them too easy," grunted Browning. "It would have served them right if we had split the skull of every man who tried to come over our rail."
"Der pig poom come britty near sblitting der skull uf one," grinned Hans. "You pet dot chap half a swelt head on me."
Frank had returned to the wheel. He did not say much, but his cheeks were flushed with excitement and his lips were pressed together.
"Remember what the truckman told you, Merry?" questioned Diamond.
"What was that?"
"Why, about this boat being hoodooed."
"It begins to look as if he was right."
"Oh, I don't know."
"Well, if this hasn't been a hoodoo cruise from Boston, I don't know a thing!"
"It has been rather eventful," admitted Frank, his face relaxing somewhat.
"Uf you vos lookin' oxcitement for, we haf found him," put in Hans.
"Those chaps are keeping watch of us now," said Frank. "I suppose they think of trying the trick again."
"Don't believe they will," said Hodge. "We'll be in the harbor pretty soon, and they won't dare make another attempt like that."
As they ran in the mist lifted and vanished, and they saw the city stretched before them. To the north was the breakwater that protects the harbor, and away in the distance loomed some mountains.
"What are those hills there?" asked Diamond.
"Those are the famous Camden mountains," answered Frank. "The town lies at the foot of those mountains, and Thomas Wentworth Higginson says the scenery in the vicinity of Camden is the most varied and beautiful to be found anywhere in the world."
"Are we going to stop at Camden?"
"Well, that is on the program. We'll run up there to-morrow."
They anchored near the other yachts and vessels, purposely running into the very midst of them.
"As long as one of us stays on board, those chaps will not attempt to seize the yacht by force while we remain here," said Merriwell.
"Don't be too sure of that," warned Hodge. "They are desperate characters, and there is no telling what they will try."
They watched the launch run into a wharf and saw the party leave her. Not one of the baffled boarders remained in the vicinity, but all quickly disappeared.
"I believe they are afraid of the consequences now," said Merry. "They are getting out of the way in a hurry."
It was not long before the others were of the same opinion. However, Frank was not certain but this movement on the part of the enemy was a ruse to lull their suspicions.
"Three of us will remain on the yacht," he said. "Jack and I are going ashore."
"How?" asked Diamond. "We have no boat, and we are anchored off here in the bay."
"I am going to buy a boat here. I think we can get one of the boats from some of these vessels to set us ashore."
The nearest vessel was hailed, and it did not take long to get a sailor with a boat to come over to the yacht and take Frank and Jack off. He rowed them to the steamboat wharf, and would not take a cent for doing so.
"All right, mates," he said, in a hearty way. "I'll want a turn sometime, perhaps." Then, after telling them that, if they did not get a boat, they could whistle him up and he would bring them off to their yacht, he rowed away.
There were a number of truck teams about the wharf, loading with the freight left there that morning by the steamer. Frank inquired of one of the truckmen where to find a man who would sell them a first-class rowboat, and the truckman directed him to a man who had boats to let and to sell.
This man the boys sought without delay, but he was not at his shop. They were told that he had gone uptown, and so they walked up Sea Street into the heart of the city.
As they came out on Main Street, Diamond halted with an exclamation of astonishment.
"Great Scott!" burst from his lips. "Is this real?"
"Is what real?" asked Frank.
"Do I really see a trolley car running along the street here, or am I dreaming?"
"Oh, come along!" laughed Frank. "They have trolley cars down in this country, and I don't think it looks quite as wild and uncivilized as you expected."
They entered the Thorndike Hotel together, and, just as they passed through the door, Frank suddenly clutched his friend's arm, giving a gasp of astonishment himself.
Jack saw Merry was staring toward the flight of stairs. He looked up, and there on the stairs, descending toward them, were two girls, Inza Burrage and Paula Benjamin!
Merriwell recovered his composure immediately and stepped forward to meet the girls at the foot of the stairs, accompanied by Diamond. The boys lifted their hats, and Frank said:
"Another unexpected pleasure! We didn't dream of this. Supposed you were in Bar Harbor."
The girls shook hands with them, and both seemed to show confusion.
"It is a pleasure," declared Inza. "We are stopping here in Rockland a few days."
Frank longed to ask questions, but he knew it would be an act of rudeness, and he refrained. However, Paula seemed to think that Inza's explanation was not sufficient, and she added:
"Yes, we decided to stop off here a day, and we are so interested with the city and the surrounding country that we will remain a little longer."
"That will be pleasant," said Frank. "We've just got in, and are rather salty now, but we mean to brace up and get some of the brine out of us. Perhaps we may have the pleasure of seeing you often while we remain here."
"I hope we may," put in Jack, quickly, looking earnestly at Paula, who let her eyes droop before his gaze.
"I am sure it will be agreeable to us," smiled Inza. "Tell us something about your voyage. Did you have a nice time?"
"Nice isn't any name for it," laughed Frank.
"That's right," nodded Jack; "it isn't."
"We have encountered excitements galore."
"Such as fogs and storms and steamboats and pirates."
"Well, they attempted to board us and seize the yacht."
"What did you do?"
"We gave them a jolly good welcome."
A uniformed policeman entered the hotel and stepped up to the boys.
"Which one of you is Frank Merriwell?" he asked.
"I am, sir," said Frank.
"Then," said the officer, "I shall have to take you."
"Take me?" cried Frank. "What do you mean?"
"I mean that you are under arrest."
A STIR IN LIMEROCK CITY.
Both girls uttered a little cry of amazement and alarm, and Paula shrank close to Inza, clasping her about the waist.
"Under arrest?" repeated Frank, slowly. "For what?"
"Stealing a yacht and resisting the real owner when he attempted to regain possession of it."
Merry laughed heartily.
"This is a joke!" he exclaimed.
The officer seemed puzzled, but he frowned at Frank, saying:
"You are not likely to find it a joke, young man. It is a serious offense, and, if you have not some rich folks who will settle handsomely for your little lark, you will go to jail."
"My dear sir," said Merriwell, with perfect coolness, "you are taking too much for granted. You are standing on the ground that the charge against me is true. It will be the easiest thing in the world to prove that it is not."
"You will have to prove that to the judge," said the officer, with his hand on Frank's shoulder. "Just now you'll have to accompany me. If you resist or make any trouble, it will be worse for you."
He produced handcuffs.
"What do you mean to do?" hoarsely demanded Diamond, his eyes bulging. "You're not going to handcuff him?"
"It is necessary. I am not taking any chances. A chap who will steal a yacht is liable to be pretty desperate."
"I will go along with you quietly," said Frank, paling a bit at the thought of being led shackled through the streets. "I give you my word on that."
"It's an outrage!" cried Diamond.
"I advise you to keep still," said the officer, sternly. "You may be arrested as an accomplice."
"I don't care if I am!" came fiercely from Jack's lips. "I say it is an outrage, and I will stand by it. Mr. Merriwell purchased the yacht and paid his money for it, as he can prove. He is the rightful owner of the boat."
"I am not going to discuss that."
The officer was about to put the irons on Frank, when Jack cut in with:
"Have a little decency about this, Mr. Officer. If you believe this young man such a desperate fellow, call an assistant. Surely two of you ought to be able to take him to the lockup without handcuffing him."
The policeman was angry, and Frank saw that what Jack was saying was not making things any better, so he asked his friend to be quiet. Then he said something in a low tone to the officer. The latter hesitated.
"Put yourself in my place," said Frank. "You are not sure this charge is true. Think how you would feel to be dragged along the street with irons on your wrists when you had not been guilty of committing a crime."
"And he tells you the truth, sir, when he says he bought the yacht," broke in Inza, fearlessly. "I know it! He purchased it of my friend's brother."
"That is true," spoke up Paula, with sudden braveness. "My brother sold him the yacht. He never stole it! Why, he is Frank Merriwell, of Yale, and everybody knows Frank Merriwell would not steal anything."
She was startled by her own boldness, but her words brought about a good result.
Of course, the arrest of Frank had attracted the attention of all who were in the office of the hotel, among whom were several commercial men. One of the latter stepped forward quickly.
"Frank Merriwell, of Yale?" he exclaimed. "Is this the famous Yale pitcher? By Jove, it is! I have seen him pitch several games, but I didn't know him in this yachting suit. Mr. Merriwell, I am glad to see you, but sorry you are in trouble. However, if I can aid you in any way, you may count on me."
"Thank you," said Frank. "It's pleasant to know I am not quite unknown and friendless down here."
"Unknown!" exclaimed another man. "If you are Frank Merriwell, we all know about you. We have read about you in the papers. You are the best known college man in this country. Officer, I don't believe this young gentleman is either a thief or a desperado. If he says he will go along with you, I'll vouch for him."
"If you say so, Mr. Franch——"
"I do. I will be responsible for him."
The officer put his handcuffs out of sight.
"All right," he said. "Come along, young man."
By this time the report had gone abroad that there had been an arrest in the Thorndike, and a crowd was gathering outside the door. In the crowd were a number of excited small boys, for they had heard that the person arrested was the famous Yale football and baseball player, Frank Merriwell.
One of the boys in the crowd saw a friend on the opposite side of the street, and yelled:
"Hey, Charley, get a wiggle on an' come over here! W'at yer t'ink! Ther cop has nabbed that feller we've been readin' about—Frank Merriwell!"
"Aw! w'at yer givin' us!" flung back the other.
"This ain't no fust of April!"
"It's dead straight, Charley! Frank Merriwell is right here in ther Thorndike, an' Old Briggs has pinched him. Don't yer want ter see him?"
"Don't I?" gasped the one across the street, as he bolted from the sidewalk. "I'd rudder see Frank Merriwell than have a season ticket to der ball games!"
And he could not get over quick enough.
By the time the officer was ready to bring Frank out of the hotel, all the men and boys outside knew who had been arrested, and the excitement was great. The crowd grew swiftly, and everybody was eager to get a look at the Yale athlete of whom they had heard such wonderful stories.
The young men of the town were no less excited than the boys. There was scarcely one of them who did not know something about Frank Merriwell and his record, and, even before they could find out why he had been arrested, they denounced the arrest as an outrage.
Another policeman came along and attempted to clear the sidewalk in front of the hotel, but the crowd did not want to disperse.
The officer who had arrested Frank came out with Merriwell at his side, a hand on his arm.
"There he is!" was the cry that went up. "That is Frank Merriwell!"
Jack Diamond, who walked beside Frank, was amazed at the crowd and to hear them call Frank's name.
"They know you, Merriwell," he said.
"It seems so," said Frank, with a faint smile.
"It's a shame!" cried one of the young men. "What's he arrested for?"
"Don't know," admitted another; "but I'll bet my clothes he is all right! Frank Merriwell is on the level!"
"That's so!" shouted twenty voices.
The crowd followed the officer and his prisoner. Somebody proposed a cheer for Frank Merriwell, and it seemed that every human being in that following crowd cheered as loudly as he could.
Then somebody proposed three groans for Old Briggs, the officer, and the crowd groaned in a most dismal manner.
Some of the small boys grew so excited that they kept yelling at Briggs to let Frank go. But they were scarcely less excited than the lads of eighteen or twenty. A dozen of them got together and actually talked of taking Briggs' prisoner from him. In their enthusiasm they might have tried it, but for the coolness of one or two among them.
"It's a blamed shame to have this thing happen in Rockland!" declared one fellow. "What will Merriwell think of us? He will be dead sore on this town."
"He isn't a fool," said a cooler head. "If he is all right, it isn't likely that any harm will come to him. He can't blame Briggs for doing his duty if there is a warrant for his arrest."
So Frank was marched away to the lockup, but his arrest had created more excitement in the city than any other event since the opening game of baseball in the Knox County League, July Fourth.
Frank was locked in a cell. Jack did not leave him till the door had closed on his friend.
The boys had found out that the warrant for Frank's arrest was sworn out by Parker Flynn.
"He shall pay dearly for this piece of business!" muttered the young Virginian, as he left the lockup.
The crowd that still lingered in front of the building stared at Jack. They had seen him with Merriwell, and they knew he must be one of Frank's particular friends. The small boys envied him for that very reason.
Diamond had learned that Merriwell would have a hearing before a local judge at two o'clock that afternoon, and he resolved to do whatever he could for his friend before that time.
But Diamond had not left Frank thirty minutes before there were two visitors to see the prisoner. They were admitted by the guard, and Merriwell was staggered when he saw the face of one of them.
"Jack Benjamin?" he cried. "It can't be!"
"But it is," declared the little fellow, as he grasped Merry's hand and shook it warmly.
"You're astonished—exactly. I don't wonder. Folks at home think me on the way to Alaska. The governor thinks so. As long as he thinks that, he won't interfere with my little outing down this way."
"But the deception—I don't understand it."
"Expect I'd better make a clean breast to you," said Benjamin, blushing in a remarkable manner. "You see, it's this way: Last year at Newport I met a young lady on whom I got badly smashed. She's a star, Merriwell—she's the only one for me! But the old man—excuse me—the governor objected, said I was too young to know my mind, and all that rot. He found out the girl's folks were not very rich, and then he set about raising the high dinkey-dink with everything. Well, the result was that he did smash things for a time. This summer, when I wanted to spend my vacation down in Maine, he sat down on it hard. You see, he did so because the young lady lives here in Rockland. I was forced to give up the idea—apparently. But I began to talk about Alaska. Then I sold you the White Wings to get enough money for my summer outing, left word that I was off for Alaska, and came down here. That's the whole of it. Here I am."