The Banner Boy Scouts Afloat
George A. Warren
Part 2 out of 4
them from the bank,
"Say, what does he mean? For the life of me I can't glimpse anything
worth shucks; and the blooming old _Speedwell_ seems to be sticking tight
and fast, just the same way we are. Loosen up, Paul, and put us wise;
won't you?" pleaded Phil.
"I didn't mean that any living thing was going to hold out a hand to
us," remarked the smiling scout master; "but look aloft, boys, and see
With that they followed his instructions.
A general shout went up.
"Whee! rain a-comin' down on us! Get the curtains ready to button fast,
boys, or we'll have all our fine stuff soaked through and through."
Little Billie called, himself setting things in motion by seizing one of
the rolled curtains, and letting it come down, to be fastened around the
cockpit by means of gummets and screws.
"But Paul meant something else," declared Jud Elderkin, wisely. "You see,
if only that rain does come, and it's heavy enough, there's going to be
a lot more water in this old canal than we need to pull through with. You
know how quick the Bushkill River rises; and I guess it's the same way
with the Radway."
"Oh! don't we wish that there'll just be a little old cloud-burst!" cried
Gusty Bellows. "I could stand anything but staying here seven or ten
days, doin' nothing, only eat, and stare at this mud, and wish I was back
home. Come on, little clouds; get a move on you, and let's hear you growl
They had by now called the attention of the others to the prospects for
rain. Indeed, as soon as the first curtain fell, some of Jack's crew took
note of the significant fact, and they could be seen looking up at the
blackening heavens. There had been very few times in the past when those
boys had hoped it would rain. Perhaps, when they were kept home from a
picnic--for reasons--some of them may have secretly wished the clouds
would let down a little flood, so that those who had been lucky enough to
go, might not have such a laugh on them after all.
But certainly they never felt just as they did now, while watching the
play of those gathering storm clouds.
"And the best of the joke is," commented Jud, with a grin, "that lots of
the good folks at home right now are looking up at those same black
clouds, and pitying us boys. They don't realize how we're just praying
that the rain won't turn out a fizzle, after all. Wasn't that a drop I
[Transcriber's note: Beginning of sentence missing from original text]
till that gray gets nearly overhead," remarked Paul, pointing up
at a line marked across the heavens about half-way toward the horizon,
and in the direction of the wind.
"It's getting dark, anyway," remarked Nuthin, rather timidly; for truth
to tell, the small boy had never ceased to remember how, earlier in the
season, when in camp up near Rattlesnake Mountain, a terrible storm had
struck them and as he clung desperately to the tent they were trying to
hold down, he had actually been carried up into the branches of a tree,
from which position only the prompt work of his fellow scouts had finally
"And look at that flash of lightning, would you?" echoed Joe Clausin.
"Wow! that was a heavy bang; wasn't it? Tell you now, that bolt must 'a
struck somethin'! Always does, they say, when it comes quick like that."
"How's the cover; just as snug as you can make it, boys?" demanded Paul;
"because we'll likely get a bit of a blow first, before the rain comes,
and it'd be a bad job if we lost this whole business. Stand by to grab
hold wherever you can. After that, if we weather it all right, there'll
be no trouble."
"And say, she's coming licketty-split, believe me," called Jud. "I c'n
hear it hummin' through the trees over there like the mischief. Take
hold, everybody; and don't let it get away from you!"
"We'll all go up together this time, then!" muttered little Nuthin; but
with the grit that seemed a part of his nature, once he started in to do
anything, he also seized the canvas covering at the bottom, and set his
With a roar the wind struck them. Had it come from the right quarter Paul
believed it might have helped work them loose; but it happened
unfortunately that just the reverse was the case. If anything, they were
driven on the mud-bank all the harder.
But at any rate the tarpaulin canopy did not break loose, and that was
something to be satisfied with.
The wind whooped and howled for perhaps three minutes. Then it died down,
as if giving up the attempt to tear the boat's top out of the hands of
the determined boys.
"The worst's over, fellows!" called Paul, breathing hard.
"Hurrah! that's better'n saying it is yet to come. How'd the _Speedwell_
make out?" Jud asked, sinking back on a thwart, the better to find some
place to peep out.
"Seems to be all there," replied Nuthin, who had been quicker to look
than the more clumsy Jud. "She's got her cover on, and I guess that means
they're safe and sound; but she don't seem to be floatin' worth a cent.
"No more are we; but listen, there comes the rain. Now for it," observed
Paul, as with a rush the water began to descend, rattling on the roof of
the canopy cover.
"Fine! Keep right along that way for a while, and something's bound
to get a move on it, which I hope will be our two boats!" cried
"Did you ever hear it come down heavier than that?" demanded Old Dan
Tucker, as he looked anxiously around to see that none of the cargo was
exposed to the flood.
"Wonder if this old thing sheds water?" suggested Jud, looking up at the
heavy canopy as though he fancied that he felt a stream trickling down
the back of his neck.
"You can bank on it," declared Joe Clausin. "Anything Mr. Everett owns
has got to be gilt-edged. And he'd never stand for a leaky canopy.
What're you lookin' at out there, Paul?" for the scout master was leaning
a little out on the side away from their companion boat in misery.
"Why, you see," replied the scout master, drawing his head back, "I
fixed a little contrivance here, just before the storm broke, and I'm
looking now to see whether it shows the least gain in water. I marked
this pole with inches, and rammed it just so far in the mud. If the water
starts to rising any, I can tell as soon as I look."
"And is she going up yet?" asked Jud, eagerly,
"Well, it wouldn't be fair to expect that for some time yet," replied
Paul. "At the best I expect we'll have to stay here an hour or so, until
the water up-stream has a chance to come down. I hope it may surprise me,
and get here quicker than that. And boys, if we have to spend all that
time doing nothing, why we might try that little oil stove Mr. Everett
has, and see how it can get us a pot of coffee, with our cold lunch."
"What time is it now?" asked Jud; while Old Dan Tucker pricked up his
ears, at the prospect of "something doing" along his favorite line.
"Going on eleven; and I had my breakfast awful early!" remarked
"And I had hardly a bite--reckon I was too much excited to eat--so I'm
mighty near starved right now," declared Dan Tucker; but then the boys
had known him to put up that same sort of a plea only an hour after
devouring the biggest meal possible, so they did not expect to see him
collapse yet awhile from weakness through lack of food.
All the same, Paul agreed that it might serve to distract their minds if
they did have lunch. He also asked Jud to get in communication with those
on the other boat, if the rain had let up enough for them to exchange
signals, and by means of the flag, tell them what those on the _Comfort_
meant to do.
Just as Bobolink, who answered, had informed them that those under Jack
were about to follow the same course, Paul took another glance at his
rude water gauge.
When he drew in his head, Jud, who had been waiting to tell what the
others reported, saw that Paul was smiling as though pleased.
"What's doing, Commodore?" he asked.
"The water has risen half an inch, and is still going up," replied Paul.
At that there was a roar of delight--only Old Dan Tucker was so busy
watching the lunch being got ready, he did not seem to hear the
ON THE SWIFT RADWAY
"Let me work my flags a little, and tell the other boat the news!"
suggested Jud; and as no one objected he got busy.
It was good practice, and he had something worth while to communicate, so
Jud enjoyed the task.
By the time he was through, lunch was ready, the coffee having boiled
enough to please the most critical among the boys.
"Rain seems to be letting up some," remarked Gusty Bellows, as they
gathered around to discuss what was to be their first meal of the trip.
"Oh! I hope it isn't going to tantalize us, and raise our hopes only to
dash 'em down again," said Gusty.
"From the signs I don't think we're through with it all yet," Paul
observed; and as they had considerable faith in the acting scout master
as a weather prophet, there arose a sigh of satisfaction at this remark.
"Take a look, and see if she's still moving up the scale, Paul," begged
the anxious Phil Towns.
When this had been done, there was a look of eager expectancy on
"Over a full inch since the start," Paul reported.
"And that's nearly half an hour back," complained Gusty. "Gee! if it goes
up as slow as that, we'll be camping here at sun-down, sure, fellers."
"Oh! I don't know," Paul put in, confidently; "you must remember that
the rain has fallen all over the watershed that supplies both these
rivers; and this canal now serves as a link between the two. If either
one rises a good deal, we're just bound to get the benefit of that
little flood. Even at an inch an hour we could be moving out of this
before a great while. And I expect that the rise will do better than
that, presently. Just eat away, and wait. Nothing like keeping cool when
you just have to."
"Yes, when you tumble overboard, like I did once on a time," chuckled
Jud. "I kept perfectly cool; in fact, none of you ever saw a cooler
feller; because it was an ice-boat I dropped out of; and took a header
into an open place on the good old Bushkill. Oh! I can be as cool as a
cucumber--when I have to."
An hour later Paul announced that the rise had not only kept up as he
predicted, but was increasing.
"Here's good news for you, fellows," he remarked, after examining his
post, "if it keeps on rising like it's doing right now, we'll be starting
in less than another hour!"
"Whoopee! that suits me!" cried Gusty, enthusiastically.
"Ditto here," echoed Jud. "I never was born for inaction; like to be
doing something all the time."
"So do I," Paul observed, quietly; "but when I find myself blocked in one
direction I just turn in another, and take up some other work. In that
way I manage not only to keep busy, but to shunt off trouble as well. Try
it some time, Jud, and I give you my word you'll feel better."
But that next hour seemed very long to many of the impatient boys. They
even accused the owner of the watch of having failed to wind it on the
preceding night, just because it did not seem inclined to keep pace with
The water was rising steadily, if slowly, and some of them declared that
there was now a perceptible motion to the boat whenever they moved about.
Urged on by an almost unanimous call, Paul finally agreed to start the
motor again, and see what the result would be. So Jud sent the order to
the second boat by means of his signal flags.
When the cheerful popping of the _Comfort's_ exhaust made itself heard,
there was an almost simultaneous cheer from the scouts.
"We're off!" they shouted, in great glee.
"Goodbye, old mud bank!" cried Gusty, waving his hand in mock adieu
to the unlucky spot where so much precious time had been wasted. "See
"Not much we will!" echoed Joe Clausin. "I've got that spot marked with a
red cross in my mind, and if this boat ever gets close to it again,
you'll hear this chicken cackle right smart. It's been photographed on my
brain so that I'll see it lots of times when I wake up in the night."
"How about the other boat?" asked Paul, who was stooping down to fix
something connected with the motor at the time, and could not stop to
look for himself, although he could hear the throbbing of the
"Oh! she slid off easier than we did, I reckon," remarked Old Dan Tucker,
now snuggled down comfortably, and apparently in a mood to take things
easy, since it would be a long time between "eats."
"Tell them to go slow, all the same, Jud," Paul remarked.
"You don't seem to trust this creek as much as you might, Paul?"
chuckled Gusty, who was handling the wheel, during the minute that
Paul was busy.
"Well, after that experience I confess that I'm a little suspicious of
all kinds of mud banks. They're the easiest things to strike up an
acquaintance with, and a little the hardest to say goodbye to, of
anything I ever met. Give her a little twist to the left, Gusty. That
place dead ahead don't strike me as the channel. That's the ticket. I
guess we missed another slam into a waiting mud bank. Now I'll take the
wheel again, if you don't mind."
"Rain's over!" announced Little Billie.
"Looks like it, with that break up yonder," Jud remarked, glancing aloft.
"Hope so, anyhow. We've had all the water we needed, and if it kept on
coming we'd be apt to find things kind of damp up there at the island."
The mention of that word caused several of the boys to glance quickly at
each other. It was as though a shiver had chased up and down their spinal
columns. For Joe and Little Billie, and perhaps Gusty Bellows, were not
quite as easy in their minds about that "ghost-ridden" island as they
might have been; although, if taken to task, all would doubtless have
stoutly denied any belief in things supernatural.
The _Comfort_ acted as the pilot boat, and led the way, slowly but
surely, with the _Speedwell_ not far behind. The latter had one or two
little adventures with flirting mud banks, but nothing serious, although
on each occasion the cries of dismay from the crew could be plainly heard
aboard the leading craft.
And so they came in sight of a river that had a decided current, after
the smart shower had added considerably to its flow. By now the sun was
shining, and the rain clouds had about vanished, being "hull-down" in the
distance, as Jud expressed it; for since they were now on a voyage, he
said that they might as well make use of such nautical terms as they
"That's the roaring Radway, I take it," observed Gusty, as all of them
caught glimpses of the river through the trees ahead.
"Just what it is," replied Paul; "and as it has quite a strong current,
we're going to have our hands full, pushing up the miles that lie between
here and our camping place."
"But we c'n do it before dark; can't we, Paul?" asked Phil Towns.
"Sure we can, if nothing happens to knock us out," said Gusty, before the
other could reply. "Why, we've got several hours yet, if we did have such
tough luck in the blooming old canal."
"We ought to be mighty glad we got off as as easy as we did, that's
what!" declared Old Dan Tucker, who was something of a philosopher in
his way, and could look at the bright side as well as the next one,
always providing the food supply held out.
Ten minutes later the _Comfort_ was in Radway River, headed
up-stream. Just as Paul had said, the current proved very swift, and
while the little motor worked faithfully and well, their progress was
not very rapid.
Besides, it kept them always on the watch. No one was acquainted with
the channel, and the presence of rocks might not always be detected from
surface indications. Some of the treacherous snags were apt to lie out
of sight, but ready to give them a hard knock, and perhaps smash a hole
in the bow.
And so Paul stationed two boys in positions where they could watch for
every suspicious eddy, which was to be brought to his attention
immediately it was discovered.
An hour passed, and they were still moving steadily up the river. Paul,
in reply to many questions by his impatient comrades, announced that to
the best of his knowledge they ought to arrive at their destination an
hour and more before dark; which pacified the croakers, who had been
saying the chances were they would have to spend their first night on the
bank, short of the island by a mile or more.
"That's all right," Old Dan Tucker had remarked; "just so long as we get
ashore in time to build our cooking fire, it suits me."
Everything seemed to be moving along with clock-like regularity, the
boat breasting the current and throwing the spray in fine style, when
Jud gave a cry.
"Something's happened to the _Speedwell_!" he announced.
Of course every eye was instantly turned back, and they were just in time
to see something that announced the truth of Jud's assertion.
Andy Flinn stood up in the bow of the second boat, which no longer
chugged away as before, and he threw something out that splashed in
"It's their anchor!" cried Jud. "Either somebody's overboard, or else
their motor's broken down!"
"It's the motor, I guess," Paul observed. "Get out our anchor, and
DODGING THE SNAGS AND THE SNARES
A minute later both motorboats lay anchored in the middle of the
swift-flowing Radway, and about sixty feet apart.
"What's the matter?" shouted Jud, taking it upon himself to learn the
facts in the quickest possible time, so that signal flags were not used.
"Something's happened to our motor; but Jack thinks he can fix her up,
given a little time," came in the voice of Bobolink.
"Well, call on us if we can help out any," Paul shouted; for the slapping
of the water against the sides of the boat, as well as over the stones on
either hand, made it hard to hear plainly.
"What if they can't fix the motor up?" remarked Phil Towns; "I hope that
won't mean we've got to spend the whole night out here in the middle of
"Oh I if it comes to the worst, we can tow her ashore; and then it's camp
on the river bank for ours," announced Paul, cheerfully. He always seemed
to have plans made up in advance, as though anticipating every trouble
that could arise, and getting ready for it.
"Huh! that mightn't be so bad, after all," grunted Joe Clausin; and even
Gusty Bellows and Little Billie nodded their heads, as if agreeing that
there were things less desirable than camping on the bank.
The minutes dragged along, until half an hour had gone. Even Paul began
to show signs of restlessness. He finally made a megaphone of his hands,
and called to Bobolink:
"Tell Jack to step up; I'd like to ask him a question or two."
"Ay, ay, sir," replied the other, touching his forelock in true
man-o'-war style, and immediately the head of Jack appeared.
"What's the good word, Jack?" asked the Commodore of the expedition. "Can
you make the mend, d'ye think; and just about how long is it going to
"Between five and ten minutes, not more," came the reply; "I've got the
hang of it now, and the end's in sight."
"Whoopee! that sounds good to me!" shouted Gusty Bellows, waving his hat.
Five minutes had hardly passed before they heard the familiar pop-pop-pop
of the _Speedwell's_ motor exhaust.
"How is it?" called Paul once more.
"Fine and dandy," answered Bobolink, waving his bugle; and giving a few
vigorous blasts to indicate that victory was nigh.
"They're hauling in the anchor, which is a good sign," declared Nuthin.
Presently both boats were again breasting the stream. Apparently no
serious result had come from the accident, save that more than a good
half-hour had been wasted. But still Paul declared that he had hopes of
making their destination before darkness set in.
The sun was getting very low, and the river looked desolate indeed. It
was bordered by swampy land; and where the ground showed, there seemed to
be such a vast number of rocks that farming had never been attempted.
"What d'y'e suppose is in those marshes?" Gusty asked, after they had
passed about the fifth.
"I understand that a lot of cranberries are gathered here every Fall, and
sent down to the cities for the market," Jud Elderkin replied.
"And seems to me a bear was killed last year somewhere up here," Nuthin'
put in, rather timidly. "So I'm glad you brought that gun along, Paul. We
are not lookin' for a bear, because we never lost one; but if he _did_
come to camp it'd be nice to feel that we could give the old chap a warm
"Huh! I can see the warm reception he'd get," chuckled Jud.
"Seventeen trees would each one have a scout sitting up in the
branches as quick as hot cakes. Guess Paul would have to be the
reception committee all alone."
"Don't you believe it," remarked Gusty Bellows; "You'd see me making for
the axe in a _big_ hurry, I believe in an axe. It makes one of the
greatest weapons for defence you ever saw. I've practiced swinging it
around, and I know just how to strike."
"Well, we'll remember that; won't we, fellows?" remarked Jud, with a
laugh. "Plenty of axe exercise Gusty needs, to keep him in trim for
bears; and I can see now how our firewood is going to be attended to."
They kept pushing on all the while; and there was never a time that the
lookout did not have to keep his eyes on the alert, because of the traps
and snares that lay in wait for the voyagers up the rough Radway.
"Great river, I don't think!" Joe Clausin ventured to remark, after they
had done considerable dodging, to avoid a mass of rocks that blocked the
way in a direct line.
"Still, you'll notice that there's always a passage around," said Paul.
"It's that way with nearly everything. Lots of times we don't see the
opening till we get right on it, and then all of a sudden, there's the
"I guess you're right, Paul," observed Joe. "Things do happen to a fellow
sometimes, in a funny way, and just when he feels like giving up, he sees
the light. You remember a lot of trouble I had once, and how it turned
out splendidly? And so I learned my lesson, I sure did. I look at things
different now. It showed me how silly it is to worry over things that you
"But all the same," remarked Gusty, "I wish we had a squint at that same
old lake ahead. It's getting sunset, and beyond, Paul."
"I know it, and we must be pretty near the place now," replied the scout
master. "Unless we see it inside of ten minutes I'll have to give the
word to turn in to the shore at the next half-way decent landing, where
there seems to be enough water to float our boats."
"There's a good place right now," declared Joe, pointing; "and we
mightn't run across as fine a landing again."
"Ten minutes, I said," repeated Paul, positively; because he believed
that there were certain signs to tell him they would come in sight of
the big lake, from which the Radway flowed, after they had turned the
Somehow the others seemed to guess what he had in mind, and all were
anxiously watching as they drew near the bend.
As the trees ceased to shut out their view, they gave a shout of delight,
for the lake was there, just as Paul had anticipated.
"Whew! she's a big place, all right!" declared Jud, as they looked toward
the distant shore, where the trees seemed lost in the shadows.
"I never dreamed there was a lake like this so near Stanhope," declared
Joe, as he stared. "That one up by Rattlesnake Mountain could be put in a
corner of Tokala, and wouldn't be missed. And say, that must be the
island over yonder; don't you think so, Paul?"
"Look and see if you can sight a cedar growing on the top of the hill
that they say stands in the middle of the island," suggested the scout
master, still busy at the wheel; for the danger was not yet all over, as
they had not entered the lake itself, though very near.
"It's there, all to the good!" announced Jud.
"Anybody could see that" added Gusty, who was a little jealous of the
superior eyesight of several of his comrades, he being a trifle
"Well, if we are going to make a job of it, the sooner it's over the
better," was the queer remark Joe made; but no one paid any particular
attention to his words, they were so taken up with watching the island.
And so the leading motorboat left the noisy waters of the Radway, and
glided into the smoother lake, much to the satisfaction of the crew; for
the boys had grown tired of the constant need of watchfulness in avoiding
reefs and snags.
Paul shut off power, and waited to see whether the companion boat
succeeded in reaching the calm waters of the big lake as successfully as
they had done. As it was now pretty close to dark, in spite of the
half-moon that hung overhead, seeing the partly hidden rocks was not an
And so he watched with not a little concern the progress of the
_Speedwell_ during those last few minutes. But Jack was alive to the
situation; and managed to bring his boat safely through, being greeted
with a cheer from those on board the waiting _Comfort_.
"Now it's straight for the island!" called out Bobolink, as the boats
drew together, and the motors started as cheerfully as if they had not
undergone a hard day's work from the time the voyagers left Stanhope.
"We'll have to make camp by firelight, that's plain," grumbled Gusty.
"What's the odds, so long as we get fairly comfortable for the night?"
Bobolink retorted, being one of the kind who can make the best of a bad
bargain when necessary. "All we want to do is to get the tents up and a
fire going, so we can cook something. Then in the morning we'll do all
the fancy fixing you can shake a stick at, and try out all the new
wrinkles every fellow's had in mind since our last camp. This is what I
like. A lake for me, with an island in it that nobody lives on, but
p'raps an old wildcat or a she bear with cubs."
"But they say something _does_ live on it, and that he's a terror too; a
real wild man that's got hair all over him like a big baboon--I heard it
from a man that saw him once, and he wouldn't lie about it either," Joe
Clausin called out.
Although the rest of the scouts mocked him, and pretended to jeer at the
idea of such a thing as a wild man existing so near Stanhope,
nevertheless, as the two motorboats gradually shortened the distance
separating them from the mysterious island, they gazed long at the dark
mass lying on the still water of the big lake and its gloomy appearance
Just as Joe Clausin had said, it had a real "spooky" air, that, at the
time, with night at hand, did not impress them very favorably.
THE CAMP ON CEDAR ISLAND
It was with extreme caution that the two motor-boats crept along the
shore of the island, with numerous eyes on the lookout for a good
"Seems to be plenty of water right here," remarked Jud, who was sounding
with one of the poles. "Eight feet, if an inch, Paul."
Paul shut off the power immediately.
"And this looks like the best sort of place to make our landing," he
said. "If we don't like it, or find a better for a permanent camp in the
morning, we can change. Get busy with the poles, fellows, and shove the
boat alongside that bank there."
This was readily done, and Jud was the first to jump ashore. He wanted to
be able to say that of the whole troop he had landed before any one else,
ghost or no ghost.
Soon the others followed suit, even if Joe and Little Billie--and yes,
Gusty Bellows also looked timidly around. There was Nuthin, always
reckoned a rather timorous chap, showing himself indifferent to spirits,
and all such things. What bothered Nuthin concerned material things, like
cats, and dogs, and wandering bears; he snapped his fingers at spooks,
because he had never seen one, and did not believe in "fairy stories," as
he called them, anyway.
As the second boat came alongside, and her crew swarmed over the side,
there were plenty of hands to do things, though they naturally looked to
Paul for orders.
"A fire, first, fellows!" called out the scout master; "so we can see
what we're doing. Because it's getting pretty dark around here, with
these trees overhead. Jud, you take charge of that part, and the rest
Many hands make light work, and in what Bobolink called a "jiffy" there
came plenty of wood of all kinds, from dead branches to small-sized logs.
Jud, like every true scout, knew just how to go about starting a fire.
True, the recent rain had wet pretty much all of the wood, so that a
tenderfoot would have had a difficult task getting the blaze started,
though after that trouble had been surmounted it would not be so bad. But
Jud knew just how to split open a log, and find the dry heart that would
take fire easily; and in a brief time he had his blaze springing up.
Then others began to bring some of the things ashore, particularly the
tents, in which they expected to sleep during their stay.
Most of the boys were deeply impressed by the size of both the lake and
the island; since they had not dreamed that things would be upon such a
Then there was that strange silence, broken only by the constant murmur
of the water passing out, where the Radway River had its source; and
perhaps, when a dry spell lowered the water of the lake, even this might
not be heard.
It seemed to some of the scouts as though they were isolated from all the
rest of the world, marooned in a desolate region, and with many miles
between themselves and other human beings.
However, when the white tents began to go up, as the several squads of
workers took hold in earnest, things began to look more cheerful. There
is nothing that chases away the "blues" quicker than a cheerful fire, and
the sight of "homey" tents.
"In the morning, if we feel like it, we can put up a flagstaff in front,
and fly not only our banner, but Old Glory as well," Paul observed. "And
now, suppose some of you fellows give me a hand here."
"What you going to do, Paul?" asked Old Dan Tucker, eagerly.
"Begin to get supper," came the answer.
"I'll give you a hand there," said the other.
"Me too," said Nat Smith, who was a clever cook.
And when the odor of coffee began to steal through the camp, the boys
felt amply repaid for all they had undergone in the rough trip from
Stanhope. They sniffed the air, and smiled, and seemed ready to declare
the expedition a great success.
More than that, the cooks being blessed with healthy appetites
themselves, had cut generous slices from one of the fine hams, and these
were also on the fire, sizzling away at a great rate, and throwing off
the most tempting odors imaginable.
It was a happy sight about that time, and showed the best side of camp
life. All of the boys belonging to the Red Fox Patrol at least, had been
through the mill before, and knew that there was another side to the
picture; when the rain descended, and the wind blew with hurricane force,
possibly tearing the canvas out of their hands, and leaving them exposed
to the storm, to be soaked through.
But of course they hoped nothing of that sort was going to happen to them
on this trip. Once a year ought to be enough.
If the season of preparation was delightful, what shall be said of that
time when the eighteen boys sat around in favorite attitudes, each with a
cup of steaming coffee beside him, to which he could add sugar and
condensed milk to suit his taste; while on his knees he held a
generous-sized tin pannikin, upon which was heaped a mess of friend
potatoes and ham, besides all the bread he could dispose of?
"This is the stuff; it's what I call living!" Bobolink remarked.
"You never said truer words." mumbled Old Dan Tucker, who was about as
busy as a beaver, his eyes sparkling with satisfaction.
"One thing sure!" declared Spider; "when Dan stops eating, he'll
"Huh! guess all of us will," added Curly Baxter.
They were in no hurry to finish the feast; and when the end did arrive,
it would take a microscope to discover any crumbs left over.
"The worst is yet to come," announced Jud, "and that's washing up."
But all these things had been arranged for beforehand, so that in due
course of time every fellow would have his share of camp duties. Today he
might have to assist in the cooking; tomorrow help wash dishes; the next
day be one of the wood-getters; and then perhaps on the fourth blissful
day, he would be at liberty to just loaf!
And no doubt that last day was the one most of them would be apt to
enjoy above all else; for otherwise they would hardly have been flesh
and blood boys.
While those whose duty lay in cleaning up after the meal were engaged,
some of the others joined Paul in bringing the blankets ashore, and
distributing them to the various tents.
There were three of the latter, which would allow of six boys to each,
perhaps a rather "full house"--but then they could curl up and not take
"Aren't we going to keep any watch, Paul?" asked Joe Clausin, when later
on some of the more tired talked of turning in.
"Watch for what?" demanded Bobolink.
"Guess Joe thinks Ted Slavin and his crowd might get over here, and throw
stones at our tents, like they did once before," suggested Nuthin.
"Well, they do say there's a wild man around here," declared Joe, in a
half hesitating way; for he was actually ashamed to expose his belief in
supernatural things for fear of being laughed at.
"Let Mr. Wild Man come around; who cares?" sang out Bobolink. "Why, the
circuses are always wantin' wild men, you know; and I guess we'd get a
pretty hefty sum now, if we could capture this wonderful critter that's
been living here so long covered with the skins of wild beasts he's ate
up. It's me to hit the rubber pillow I fetched along. And Joe, if you
want to watch, nobody is going to keep you from doing it"
And with these words Bobolink dodged into the tent that he knew his mess
belonged to; in which action he was followed by numerous other scouts.
Joe, finding himself left in the lurch, cast a fearful glance around at
the heavy growth of timber on one side the camp, the lake being on the
other; after which he shook his head as though the prospect of sitting
there by the dying fire did not appeal very much to him--and crawled
under the flap, too.
Perhaps it could hardly be said that silence rested on the scene; for
with a dozen and a half boys trying to get to sleep there is always more
or less horseplay. But an hour later, something like quiet settled down.
The fire was dying out, too, since they had no reason for keeping it
going, the night air being balmy.
Midnight came and went, and it must have been toward two o'clock in the
morning when every boy suddenly sat upright, as though a galvanic shock
had passed in and out of every tent.
So it had, for the very earth trembled under them, as a terrific
detonation sounded, just as though a bolt of lightning had struck a
nearby tree. And some of the scouts were ready to declare that the
shock had been accompanied by a brilliant electric flash, that almost
Immediately there began to be an upheaval, as blankets were tossed aside
and the scouts crawled or scrambled from under, uttering all sorts of
exclamations, and apparently too dazed to account for the phenomenon.
They began to swarm out of the tents, and loud were the outcries of
astonishment when they discovered not a cloud as big as a hand in the
WAS IT A BURSTING METEOR?
"Who hit me?" exclaimed Bobolink, rubbing his eyes as he gained his feet
and looked around at the dimly-seen forms of the other scouts; for the
moon had by now sunk behind the horizon.
"What busted?" demanded Nuthin. "I bet it was that bottle of raspberry
vinegar my sister put in my knapsack. It's gone sour, and exploded, sure
Strange to say, none of the others even bothered laughing at such a
foolish remark as this. They stared at the clear sky overhead, and the
twinkling stars looking down upon them, just as though winking to each
other, and enjoying the confusion of the valiant scouts.
Even Paul, who generally knew everything, seemed mystified.
"I declare if I can tell what it was," he said upon being appealed to by
some of the others in the group. "I was sound asleep, like the rest of
you, when all of a sudden it seemed as if the end of the world had come.
I felt the ground shake under me and as I opened my eyes it seemed as if
I was nearly blinded. The flash came and went just like lightning, and
that bang was what would pass for thunder in a storm; but for the life of
me I can't see any sign of trouble up there."
"And we don't hear anything more; do we?" demanded Jud.
"Sounded like a big cannon to me," remarked Jack.
"Couldn't be that the State troops are out, and having manoeuvres, with a
sham battle, could it?" questioned Gusty Bellows.
"Well, hardly, without somebody knowing about it. And they generally take
up that sort of thing later in the year. There's only one explanation
that sounds a bit reasonable to me," Paul went on.
"Tell us what that is, then?" asked Bobolink.
"I've heard about meteors falling, and exploding when they hit the
earth," the scout master went on to say.
"That's right!" echoed Jack; "and say, they're always accompanied by a
dazzling light, as they shoot through space, burning the air along with
them. Yes, siree, that must have been a big meteor stone."
"Then it struck the earth right close to our camp, mark me," vowed Jud.
"Ain't I glad it didn't pick out this spot to drop on," crowed
Nuthin. "Whew! guess we'd have been squashed flatter than that pancake
you hear about."
"What are meteors made up of--they drop from stars; don't they?"
asked Bob Tice.
"Oh! there's just millions and billions of 'em flying around loose," said
Phil Towns, who liked to read of astronomy at times. "Lots of 'em happen
to get caught in the envelope of air that surrounds the earth. Then they
fall victims to the force of gravitation, and come plunging down at such
speed that they do really burn the air, just like Jack said. You see,
they're made up for the most part of metals, and our old earth draws 'em
like a monster magnet."
"Is that what shooting stars are?" Bob went on to ask.
"Why, yes, they're really small meteors. We often pass through a mess of
'em. I've counted hundreds in a single night," Phil continued, always
willing to give any information he could along his favorite study.
"Well, they say lightning don't strike in the same place twice; and that
goes with your old buzzing meteors too, I reckon; so what's the use in
our staying up any longer?" remarked Bobolink, who seemed quite satisfied
with the explanation Paul had given of the queer noise, and the flash of
So they crawled back into their snug nests, and tried to compose
themselves for sleep. But it is extremely doubtful whether a single one
of those eighteen boys secured so much as a decent cat-nap between that
hour and dawn.
Despite their apparent belief in the explanation of the phenomenon
advanced by Paul, the boys could not get rid of the notion that that
tremendous crash had something to do with the strange things told about
the haunted island, and which helped to give it its bad name.
They were up pretty early, too. The first birds were beginning to chirp
in the brush when figures came crawling out of the tents, with a great
stretching of arms, and long yawns.
Then the lake tempted many of the boys, and a great splashing announced
that those who could swim were enjoying a morning dip while others were
taking a lesson in learning the first rudiments in the art; for Paul
wanted every scout in Stanhope Troop to be able to swim and dive before
the Fall came on.
The scout master himself watched the proceedings, hardly able to get his
own dip because of his anxiety concerning those who, for the time being,
had been placed in his charge.
This thing of being responsible for seventeen lively boys is not all that
it may be cracked up to be; especially if the acting scout master is a
conscientious chap, alive to his duties. Paul felt the weight of the
load; but he did not shrink.
Breakfast was presently under way, and nobody found any fault when
Bobolink announced that he meant to instruct Nat Smith and another boy
just how to go about making those delicious flapjacks for which he
himself had become famous.
In the cooking contests, at the time the Stanhope Troop carried off their
banner in competition with the troops of Manchester and Aldine, Bobolink
had easily outclassed all rivals when it came to the science of camp
cookery, and his flapjacks were admitted without a peer, so that ever
since, when the boys had an outing, there was always a shout when it was
found that Bobolink was willing to get a mess of cakes ready for their
Although most of the boys had looked a bit peaked, and even haggard, when
they first issued from the tents, this had long since vanished. The
frolic in the cool water, and now this feast in the open, proved the
finest tonics possible.
They were now filled with new energy and pluck. Nobody dreamed of being
frightened away from camp by such a little thing as a meteor bursting
near by, or any other strange happening. Perhaps, when night came around
again, this buoyant feeling might take wings, and fly away; but then,
there would be fourteen and more hours before darkness again assailed
them, and what was the use fretting over things so far removed?
All had made up their minds to do a lot of things while up at camp,
according to their various tastes. One began to look around for subjects
he could take snapshots of, having a liking for photography. Another got
a companion to take up a station along the shore, so that they could
exchange messages, using the flags and the code.
Then there were several who evinced a decided interest in finding the
tracks of wild animals, like a raccoon, or a rabbit, or even a squirrel,
when nothing better presented itself. These they minutely examined, and
applied all sorts of theories in forming the story of the trail. In many
cases these proved very entertaining indeed, and Paul was always pleased,
with Jack's assistance, to pass on such things, being adapted through
practical experience to correct errors, and set the beginner straight on
certain facts that he had mixed.
There were numerous other things to do also. One boy loved to hunt wild
flowers, and as soon as he could coax a mate to accompany him, since Paul
would not allow the scouts to go off alone, he busied himself in the
undergrowth, looking in mossy spots for some of the shy blossoms that
appealed to his collecting taste.
Another seemed to have a love for geology. He wanted to find specimens
of every sort of stone, and hinted of certain stories of mining having
been carried on in these regions a century or two ago. But as he did not
find any ore that contained precious minerals in paying quantities,
during their stay on Cedar Island, the chances are that his father will
still have to go right along paying his bills, even after he gets into
college later in life.
The morning was slipping away fast, and they had not found any better
place to settle on for a camp. It seemed that, by the merest chance, they
had hit upon the best spot for a short stay on the island.
Three of the boys wandered along the shore, fishing. Paul had seen them
pull in several good-sized bass, and began to make up his mind that after
all they were going to have a fish dinner, if the luck held. He was even
debating whether he dared leave camp for a while, and taking his jointed
rod, joined the trio who had wandered around the bend of the eastern
shore of the island; for Paul certainly did love to feel a lively fish at
the end of his line, and could not think of leaving Lake Tokala without
giving its finny inhabitants a chance to get acquainted with him.
Just as he had about decided that he could be spared for the hour that
still remained until noon, Paul thought he heard a shout. Now, the
scouts had more than a few times given tongue during the morning, when
engaged in some boisterous game; but it struck Paul, whose nerves were
always on the alert for such things, while this responsibility rested on
his shoulders, that there was certainly a note, as of alarm, about this
It seemed to come from around that bend, too, where he had seen the three
boys disappear. Even as he looked in that direction, he saw something
come in sight among the rocks that lay so thickly around. It was Gusty
Bellows, one of the anglers; yes, and there was Little Billie just behind
him, taking great leaps that promised to speedily leave the other far in
Paul's heart seemed to stand still. Where was Jud, who had been in the
company of the two? What could have happened?
The scout master dropped his rod, which he had been in the act of
jointing, and started on a run to meet the two fishermen; for he
could hear them shouting, though unable to distinguish just what they
THE FOOTPRINTS IN THE SAND
Then Paul felt a sensation of sudden relief pass over him. He had
discovered a third figure running, some distance in the rear of the other
scouts; and when he recognized this as Jud Elderkin, he knew that
whatever might have happened to frighten the fishermen, at least none of
them seemed to be in any immediate danger.
Of course, by this time scouts were springing up all around, and all
heading toward the common centre, which would be where Paul and the
fishermen must meet.
Little Billie was the first one to arrive, for, being possessed of long
legs, in spite of his name, he could get over ground at a prodigious
rate, given cause. And judging from his ashen face, he had plenty of that
"What is it?" demanded Paul, as the other came panting along.
"Wild man!" gasped Little Billie.
"Whee!" exclaimed Bobolink, who had managed to get near enough to catch
what was said.
"'Fraid he nabbed poor Jud!" said Gusty, now reaching the spot, and just
about at his last gasp.
"Not much he didn't, because there he comes now!" ejaculated Bobolink.
"Oh! mercy!" exclaimed Little Billie, evidently thinking he meant
the wild man.
"It's Jud, and all to the good; but even he looks white around the gills,
too, Paul. They must have seen _something_, to give 'em all such a
scare," Bobolink went on to say.
"You just bet we did; ask Jud!" declared Gusty, just as though he
imagined the others might question their veracity, but would believe the
patrol leader, who was now coming along with great leaps and bounds.
And presently Jud Elderkin halted at the group. He looked first at Gusty,
and then at Little Billie. There was a question in his eye.
"Sure, we saw it, too, Jud!" declared Gusty, holding up his quivering
hand just as though he were in the witness box; but then, as his father
was a lawyer, possibly Gusty often experimented on himself, since he
meant to either take up the same pursuit in life, or give his magnificent
voice a chance to earn him a living in the role of an auctioneer.
"Me too; and say, wasn't it a terror, though?" the tall scout declared.
"Well, I didn't wait long enough to have any words with the Thing,"
admitted Jud. "You see, I happened to be further away from home than the
other fellows, and I knew I'd have more space to cover. So, after letting
out a yell to sort of warn 'em, why I just put for cover. Never ran
faster even between bases. Thought he'd get me sure before I rounded that
bend; but when I looked back, blessed if he wasn't grabbin' up our
strings of fish like fun, and making off with 'em. I don't know right now
whether I'm just scared, or only boiling mad. Tell me, somebody!"
"A little of both, I guess!" declared Bobolink, grinning.
"Say, then, it wasn't just a big yarn about that wild man, after all; was
it?" said Tom Betts.
"How about that, Little Billie; did you see him?" demanded Jud.
"Did I? Think I was runnin' for my health? Why, he looked all of seven
feet high to me, and covered with long hair. Talk about your Robinson
Crusoe making him a coat of an old nanny goat, that feller was in the
same class; eh, Gusty?" loudly asserted the tall boy.
"I saw him, all right, don't you forget it," declared the one
addressed. "And I certain sure thought he was after _me_. But if Jud
says he took our nice string of bass, why that changes the thing, and
makes me mad as hops. Think of us workin' all that time, only to fill
up a crazy crank. Next time I go fishin' I'm meanin' to sit home, and
do it off the door step."
Paul was revolving many things in his mind and trying to understand.
"I want several of you to go back with me," he said, presently; "the rest
head for camp or go about whatever you were doing."
"Want to take a squint at his tracks; eh, Paul?" asked Jud.
"No harm done if we do," remarked Bobolink, thus declaring his intention
of being one of those who were to accompany the leader.
Jack also went along, and Jud, making four in all; but the last mentioned
refused to budge a foot until he had obtained a healthy-looking club,
which he tucked under his arm.
"Now, I want to warn that same critter to keep his distance from me," Jud
said, as he led off with long strides. "He gave me one scare, and I
promise you that if he tries that game again there's going to be a warm
time around these regions. But I reckon he's satisfied with all our nice
fish, and we won't see anything of him until he gets good and hungry
again. Wonder if he eats 'em raw, Chinese fashion, or has some way of
making a fire?"
"What's that over yonder?" asked Paul.
"Where?" gasped Jud, brandishing his club.
"Looks like a string of fish; and so, you see, the wild man didn't get
_all_ you fellows caught. We'll just pick that lot up, and trot along,"
"He got mine, all right; these must have been what one of the other
fellows had. You see, they were so badly rattled they just cut and run,
and held on to their rods only. Yep, there's a second string of fish, and
that accounts for both; but you needn't think mine'll be laying around,
for he got 'em.
"Well, show me just about where he was when you saw him last,"
Jud could easily do this. They found the print of human feet in the
earth. It must have been an unusually large foot that made the marks; and
this tallied with what had been said about the height of the wild man.
"You're not goin' to try and follow him, I hope, Paul?" asked Jud,
uneasily, as if he drew the line at certain things, ready and willing as
he might be to back the scout master in most ventures.
"Oh! it wouldn't pay us," retorted Paul. "As one of the boys said, we
haven't lost any wild man; and so far as I know there's no one missing
around Stanhope, so it can't be some man from there. I think we'd do well
to mind our own business in this affair; don't you, fellows?"
"Yes, I do," replied Jack, "but I was wondering whether this thing will
crop up to give us a heap of bother while we're camping up here."
"How's that?" asked Bobolink. "There's only one thing that gives me any
carking care, and you know what that is, Jack, old boy. If I only knew
about those boxes, I'd be so much easier in my mind."
"Well," said Paul, "if this crazy man would steal our fish, he'd just as
lief take anything else we've got that's good to eat. When he smells our
coffee cooking it'll call up some long-forgotten craving for the Java
bean; and first thing you know he'll be invading our camp every night,
hunting around for any old thing he can steal."
"Now, I like that," said Bobolink, satirically. "Nice prospect, ain't it,
not to be able to step out of the tent of nights, without bumping noses
with that awful Man Friday in wild animal shows? P'raps in self-defense
we may have to do that grand capture act after all, Paul."
"Well, there's nothing more to learn here, so we might as well turn back
again. As I don't see anything of your string of fish, Jud, I calculate
that he must have gotten away with 'em. We can add a few more to these,
and have enough for a regular feast. Come on, boys, back to camp for us."
Some way or other it was noticed that during the early afternoon most of
the boys hung around the camp. It seemed to have an especial attraction
for them all. One busied himself sorting over the collection of the
morning in the way of plants. A second was polishing up certain specimens
of quartz he had found, after cracking some of the round stones that had
washed on the island during a flood, possibly many years back. A third
developed his pictures, having brought along his daylight tank.
And so it went, until Paul smiled to observe what a busy colony he had in
his charge. On his part, he took a rod and line, with some bait, and went
off with Jack to add to the number of fish, so that there would be enough
for all at supper time. And as the others had fished in one direction,
Paul and his chum decided to move in the other.
They put in an hour with very fair success, considering that it was not
the best part of the day for fishing.
Of course, as they walked along, keeping close to one another,
occasionally Paul and Jack would chat on various subjects. They also kept
their eyes open, not wishing to be taken by surprise, should that hairy
individual, who seemed to have a craving for fish, rush out at them.
And more than that, Paul had copied the example set by Jud. It was
fashionable about that time not to walk forth without a nice little Irish
shillelah under one's arm, with which a head could be made to sing
unmercifully, in case of necessity.
Paul had just had a pretty lively time with a good fish, and had
succeeded in bringing his prize to land, when he happened to look down at
the beach on which he was standing. Bobolink and Tom Betts were coming
along, as though curious to see how fast the stock of provisions for
supper was increasing.
So Paul bent down to examine something that had caught his attention. The
other three coming up, Jack having joined Bobolink and Tom, found the
scout master still on his hands and knees.
"Hello! found something, have you?" asked Bobolink.
"Mebbe the footprints of the ghost!" chuckled Tom, meaning to be
But Jack saw that his chum was very serious; and as he dropped down
beside Paul, he let his eyes fall upon the sand.
"What's this, Paul?" he remarked, immediately. "Looks like the prow of a
rowboat had been pulled up here--why, that's a dead certainty, because
look at the plain prints of boots here, and several different kinds,
too. Shows that somebody landed here on the island; and Paul, it must
have been _after_ that rain storm, for these marks don't seem to be
washed, as they would be if the rain had beat down on them. What in the
world d'ye suppose it means? Are there people on this queer old Cedar
Island? If there are, who can they be, and why should they hide from
everybody like this?"
As Jack said this he looked up. Bobolink and Tom were staring at the
plain marks in the sand, with wonderment written on their faces; and even
Paul shook his head.
TRYING TO FIGURE IT ALL OUT
"We'll have to look into this thing," said Paul, finally, seeing that his
three chums were waiting for an opinion from the one they looked up to as
"But what I said was pretty close to the truth; wasn't it, Paul?"
"Every word of it" came the ready response, for Paul was always willing
to give every fellow his meed of praise. "The only trouble is, it stops
right where you left off. None of us can say a word after that."
"How many men were there in the crowd?" asked Tom Betts.
"I could make out four," replied Jack; "you take another look, Paul, and
see if that's correct."
"I know it is," remarked the scout master, nodding, "because I counted
them before I called you. And they seemed to lift something heavy from
the boat, which they carried away into the bushes here."
"Whee! something heavy, eh?" burst out the impetuous Bobolink; "and they
carried it between them, two and two; was it, Paul?"
"Why, yes, two on each side; if you look close, you can see where they
stepped into each other's footprints," assented the patrol leader.
"That's so," agreed Bobolink, after bending down hastily; "just
like--er--you've seen the pall-bearers at a funeral!"
"Oh!" exclaimed Tom, turning a little white at the idea.
"Of course, that isn't saying it _was_ a funeral," remarked Bobolink,
hastily, as he noticed that Paul glanced at Jack, and the two shook their
heads a trifle, as though the idea failed to impress them favorably. "But
whatever it was, they seemed to find it heavy, the way their toes dug
into the sand here."
"Yes, it was heavy, all right," admitted Paul. "I think, from the way the
rear men stepped into the prints of the one up head, that whatever they
were carrying could not have been very lengthy; in fact, it must have
been short, but rather broad."
"Well, that's a smart idea of yours, Paul, and I c'n see how you hit on
it," Bobolink was quick to say, with a look of sincere admiration.
"But whatever do you reckon would bring four men up here to this lonely
island, carrying some heavy object in a rowboat?" Tom Betts went on.
"That's where we have to do our guessing," Paul replied. "We don't know;
and as they haven't been obliging enough to write it out, and fasten the
card to a tree, why, we've just got to put on our thinking caps, as my
mother would say."
"Well, we've had some experience in the past with hoboes; think they
could be a batch of Weary Willies, Paul?" remarked Tom Betts.
"I'm not ready to say off-hand that they're not," replied the other,
slowly; "but it hardly seems likely. In the first place, every one of
them seemed to be wearing sound shoes. Did you ever know four tramps
to do that?"
"Well, I should say not," replied Bobolink, scornfully. "It'd be a wonder
if one out of four had shoes that'd hold on without a lot of rope. You
clinched that idea the first thing, Paul."
"Then what'd you say they were?" demanded Tom.
Bobolink rubbed his chin reflectively.
"A heap of difference between plain tramps, and the kind they call yeggs;
isn't there, Paul?" he asked, presently.
"Everybody says so," came the answer. "Yegg-men are supposed to be the
toughest members of the tramp tribe. They're really burglars or
safe-blowers, who pretend to be hoboes so they can prowl around country
towns, looking up easy snaps about the banks and stores that ought to be
good picking. And so you think these four men might belong to that crowd,
do you, Bobolink?"
"It's barely possible, anyhow," the one addressed went on, doggedly. "And
I was just trying to remember if I'd heard of any robbery lately. There
was a store broke into over at Marshall two weeks ago, and the thieves
carried off a lot of stuff. But seems to me, the men got nabbed later on.
I'm a little hazy about it, though. But supposin' now, that these four
men had made a rich haul somewhere, and wanted to hide their stuff in a
good place, could they find a better one than up here on Cedar Island?"
The other three exchanged glances.
"I guess that's about right," admitted Tom.
"It's certainly quiet enough to suit anybody; and chances are they
wouldn't be disturbed in a coon's age," declared Jack. "Our coming here
was a freak. It mightn't happen again in many years."
"And this old island's already got a bad name; hasn't it?"
Bobolink went on.
"That would help keep people away," admitted Paul. "I've heard of men
coming up in this region winters, trapping the muskrats that swarm in the
marshes; but up to cranberry picking time it's almost deserted."
"Jack, you must have had an idea, too?" remarked Bobolink.
"Well, I did; but perhaps the rest of you'll only give me the laugh if I
mention it," replied Jack.
"All the same, it isn't fair to keep anything back," Tom declared. "My
guess didn't pan out much, and you couldn't have worse luck than that.
So tell us."
"Yes, go on, Jack, and give us the benefit of your think-box. I've known
you to get away up head more'n a few times, when it came to a live race.
And mebbe some of the rest of us mightn't think so badly of your idea as
you do yourself," and as he said this Bobolink sat down on the sand to
listen, all the while eyeing those mysterious tracks as though he half
expected them to give tongue, and tell the true story of their origin.
"Oh! well, that seems only fair, so here goes," Jack began. "Somehow I
happened to remember that once on a time I read about some counterfeiters
who had their nest in an old haunted mill, away up in the country."
"Whee!" Bobolink said, sitting bolt upright.
"None of the country people would ever go near the place, you see; and
when a light happened to be seen in it at night time, they talked about
the ghost walking, and all that," Jack continued.
"Huh! that must have been when the boss was paying off his hands,"
chuckled Bobolink. "I always heard that was the time the ghost walked."
"In this case the truth was only found out by some accident," Jack went
on to say, without paying any heed to the interruption. "I think a hunter
was overtaken by darkness, having lost himself in the woods. He was a
stranger, and had never heard about the haunted mill. So, seeing a light,
he went up to ask his way, or if he could get a chance of a bed that
night, I forget which. He saw enough to give him a suspicion; and when he
did get back to the tavern he was stopping at, he sent word to the
Government authorities. A raid resulted, and they caught four
counterfeiters hard at work."
"_Four,_ you said, Jack!" echoed Tom.
"Yes, just the same number there seems to be here; but then that's only a
coincidence, because those others are serving ten-year sentences in the
penitentiary. Now, you see, I guess the fact of Cedar Island being said
to have a real ghost got me into the idea of thinking about that story I
read in the paper. Of course it's a silly idea all around."
"Well, I don't know," said Paul, slowly.
"You don't mean to say you think it might happen that way here?" demanded
Jack, seeming to be the only one desirous of "shooting holes" in the
proposition he had himself advanced, as Bobolink expressed it later on.
"It's possible," Paul said, simply.
"Huh! for my part," spoke up Bobolink, "I think it's more than that,
even. If you asked me straight now, I'd be inclined to say it's
"Same here," remarked Tom Betts, eagerly.
Jack laughed as if pleased.
"I declare, I really expected to hear you knock my idea all to flinders,"
"But what under the sun could they be carrying in that big box?" asked
"Box!" muttered Bobolink, frowning, as though the word recalled to his
mind a matter that had been puzzling him greatly of late; but he did not
think to say anything further on that subject.
"Well, sometimes machinery comes that way," suggested Paul. "If these
strange men did turn out to be what Jack said, they might be getting
a press of some kind up here, to do their printing with. I never saw
an outfit, but seems to me they must have such a thing, to make the
"That's right," added Tom. "I read all about it not long ago. Wallace
Carberry's so interested in everything about books and printing, that he
clips all sorts of articles. And this one described a kind of press that
had been taken in a raid on some bogus money-makers. Yep, it must have
been machinery they were lugging off here. Whew! just to think of us
bein' mixed up in such a business. I wonder, now, if the Government ever
pays a reward for information about such things."
"Oh! rats! that's the last thing a scout should bother his head about,"
said Bobolink, scornfully. "He ought to see his duty, and do it. Though,
of course, if a nice little present happens along afterwards, why, I
guess there's no law against a scout acceptin' it; eh, Paul?"
"Certainly not," replied the other, "you've got the idea down pretty
fine, Bobolink. But let's see if we can guess anything else. Then we'd
better go back to camp, and start the rest of the fellows thinking about
it. Perhaps Jud or Andy or Nuthin might dig up something that never
occurred to any of us."
But although they talked it over for some little time they did not seem
able to conjure up any new idea; everything advanced proved to hinge upon
one of the explanations already spoken of. And in the end they were
forced to admit that they had apparently exhausted the subject.
"Let's pick up our fish, and stroll back, fellows," proposed Paul,
"Lucky to have any fish, with that hog around," remarked Bobolink.
"Now you're meaning the wild man, I take it?" said Jack.
"No other; the fellow that drops in on you when you ain't expectin'
company, and just swipes your string of fish like he did Jud's. I might
'a thought Jud was giving us a yarn to explain why he didn't have
anything to show for his morning's work; but both Little Billie and Gusty
saw the same thing. Say, that's another link we got to straighten out.
What's a crazy man doing up here; and is he in the same bunch that made
"That's something we don't know," admitted Paul.
"But we mean to find out," asserted Bobolink, with a determined snapping
of his jaws.
"Perhaps so--anyhow, we'll make a brave try for it," Paul declared.
"He wasn't one of these four, that's flat," said Tom Betts. "We all saw
what a big foot the wild man had; and besides, he goes without shoes."
"Glad to see you noticed all that," commented Paul, who always felt
pleased when any of the troop exhibited powers of observation, since it
proved that the lessons he was endeavoring to impress upon their minds
had taken root.
They turned their faces toward the camp, and Paul made sure to pick up
the fish he and Jack had caught.
"With what we'e already cleaned, they'll make a fine mess for the
crowd," he remarked, pointing out an unusually big fellow that had given
him all the fun he wanted, before consenting to be dragged ashore.
"I notice that you both kill your fish as you get 'em," remarked Tom.
"I wouldn't think of doing anything else," replied Jack. "It only takes a
smart rap with a club on the head to end their sufferings. I'd hate to
think of even a fish dying by inches, and flapping all over the boat or
the ground, as it gasps its life away. That's one of the things scouts
are taught--to be humane sportsmen, giving the game a chance, whether
fish, flesh or fowl, and not inflicting any unnecessary suffering."
"Wonder if anything's happened in camp since we came away; because
Bobolink and I have been gone nearly an hour," remarked Tom Betts, to
change the subject; for his conscience reproved him with regard to the
matter Jack was speaking about.
"What makes you think that?" asked Paul, suspiciously.
"Oh! nothing; only things seem to be on the jump with us right now; and a
fellow can't turn around without bumping into a wild man, or some bogus
money-makers, it seems. P'raps the ghost'll show up next. Listen! wasn't
that somebody trying to blow your bugle, Bobolink, that you left hung up
in the tent?"
"It sure was, for a fact. Let's start on a run, fellows. Mebbe they've
gone and grabbed that wild man! P'raps he was bent on carryin' off the
whole outfit this time. You never can tell what a crazy man'll do next;
that's the hard part of being a keeper in a queer house, where they keep
a lot of that kind; anyhow a man told me that once who'd been there. But
listen to that scout trying to sound the recall, would you? Whoop her up,
boys; there's _something_ happened, as sure as you live!"
It was about four o'clock in the afternoon of this, the first day of
their intended stay on Cedar Island, when Paul and his three comrades
came running around the bend of the shore above the camp, and saw some of
the scouts beckoning wildly to them.
"They've gone and grabbed him, sure as shooting!" gasped Bobolink,
But Jack and Paul noted that while there teemed to be a cluster of the
boys no strange form could be seen among them. In fact, they appeared to
be greatly excited over something Jud Elderkin was holding.
And in this manner then did the quartette reach the camp.
"Where is he; got him tied up good and hard?" demanded Bobolink, speaking
with difficulty, from lack of breath.
Nobody paid the slightest attention to what he was saying; and so
Bobolink, happening to notice that it was Curly Baxter who had been
taking liberties with his precious bugle, quietly possessed himself of
it, and examined it carefully, to make sure that it had not been dented.
"Take a look at this, Paul," said Jud, as he held out the fluttering
piece of paper that had evidently caused all the excitement.
Written upon this the scout master saw only a few words, but they
possessed considerable significance, when viewed in the light of the
strange happenings of the recent past.
"_Leave this island at once_!"
Just five words in all. Whoever wrote that order must be a man who did
not believe in wasting anything. There was no penalty attached, and they
were at liberty to believe anything they chose; just the plain command to
get out, and somehow it seemed more impressive because of its brevity.
Paul looked at Jack, and then around at the anxious faces of the other
scouts. He saw only blank ignorance there. Nobody could imagine what this
strange order meant. The island might have an owner, but at the best it
was only a worthless bit of property, and their camping on its shore for
a week could not be considered in the light of trespass.
"Where did you get this, Jud?" asked the scout master.
"Why, Old Dan Tucker brought it to me," replied the leader of the Gray
Fox Patrol, promptly.
"And where did _you_ find it, Dan?" continued Paul, turning on the scout
in question, who seemed only too willing to tell all he knew--which, it
turned out, was precious little at best.
"Why, you see, I had a dispute with Nuthin about the number of hams
fetched on the trip. He vowed there was two, and I said three, countin'
the one we'd cut into last night. So to prove it, I just happened to step
into the tent where we've got some of the grub piled up. It was three,
all right, just as I said. But I found this paper pinned to one of the
whole hams, which, you know, are sewed up in covers right from the
packers. I couldn't make out what it meant. First I thought Nuthin was
playin' a joke on me; but he denied it. So I took the paper to Jud,
seein' that you were away, Paul."
"It was pinned to one of the hams, was it?" asked the scout
"Sure, and the pin's still stickin' in it," answered Dan, positively.
Paul looked around.
"I want to settle one thing right at the start, before we bother any more
about this matter," he remarked. "Did any one of you write this, or have
you ever seen it before Dan brought it to Jud?"
"He showed it to me," exclaimed Nuthin; "but it was the first time I
ever glimpsed that paper or writin', Paul, I give you my word."
"If anybody else has seen it before, I want him to hold up his hand,"
continued the scout master, knowing how prone boys are to play pranks.
The boys glanced at each other; but not a single hand went up.
"Well, that settles one thing, then," declared Paul. "This note came
from some one not belonging to our camp. He must have crawled into the
tent from the rear, taking advantage of our being busy. Yes, there's a
bunch of scrub close enough to give him more or less shelter, if he
crawled on all fours. Let's see if one or two of the tent pins haven't
been drawn up."
Followed by the rest, Paul strode over to the tent where a quantity of
the provisions were kept. Entering this, he quickly saw that it was
exactly as he had suggested. Three of the tent pins, which the boys had
pounded down with the camp axe, had been pulled up, and this slack
allowed the intruder to crawl under the now loose canvas.
"I can see the place he shuffled along, and where his toes dug into the
earth," declared Jack, as he bent over.
"We'll try and follow it up presently, and see where he got on his feet
to move off," Paul remarked. "I'd like to find out whether his shoes
make a mark anything like some of those we were looking at up the
"Whew!" exclaimed Bobolink, who was again deeply interested in what was
going on, since he had found his precious bugle unharmed.
"Let's look at that paper again," resumed Paul. "The writing was done
with a fountain pen, I should say. That seems to tell that the owner was
no common hobo. And the writing is as clear as the print in our copybooks
at school. The man who did that was a penman, believe me. 'Leave this
island at once!' Just like that, short and crisp. Not a threat about what
will happen if we don't, you see; we're expected to just imagine all
sorts of terrible things, unless we skip out right away. One thing sure,
Jud, your wild man never wrote that note, or even pinned it on our ham,
because the crawler wore shoes."
"That's right," muttered Jud, his face betraying the admiration he felt
for the scout master who knew so well how to patch things together, so
that they seemed to be almost as plain as print.
"Now, the rest of you just stay around while I take Jack and Bobolink
with me along this trail. We want to settle one thing, and that'll come
when we hit the place where this party got up on his feet to move off."
So saying, Paul himself got down and deliberately crawled under the
canvas the same way the trespasser had. Jack and Bobolink hastened to
follow his example, only too well pleased to be selected to accompany
It was no great task to follow the marks made by the crawling man. His
toes had dug into the soil, going and coming, for apparently he had used
the same trail both ways.
"Here we are, boys; now, take a look!" said Paul, presently.
They were by this time in the midst of the timber with which this end of
the island was covered. Glimpses of the tents could be seen between the
trees; but any intruder might feel himself reasonably justified in rising
to his full height when he had made a point so well screened from
This man had done so, at any rate. The plain print of his shoes was
visible in a number of places. Both Jack and Bobolink gave utterance to
exclamations as soon as they saw these.
"One of the four, that's dead sure!" the former declared, positively.
"I'll be badgered if it ain't!" muttered Bobolink, staring at the tracks.
"So you see, we've settled one thing right at the start," said Paul.
"That's what we have," observed Bobolink. "It's those fellows who carried
the heavy load from the rowboat, after landin' on the island, after the
rain storm, that want our room more'n our company. The nerve of that
bunch to tell us to clear out, when chances are we've got just as much
right here as they have--p'raps a heap sight more."
"That doesn't sound much like you wanted to make a change of base,
Bobolink?" remarked Paul, smiling.
"No more do I," quickly replied the other. "I'm not used to bein' ordered
around as if I was a slave. What if there are four of them, aren't
eighteen husky scouts equal to such a crowd? No, siree, if you left it to
me, I'd say stick it out till the last horn blows. Give 'em the defi
right from the shoulder. Tell 'em to go hang, for all we care. We c'n
take care of ourselves, mebbe; and mind our own business in the bargain."
"But it's something else that makes you want to stay?" Paul suggested.
"How well you know my cut, Paul," declared the other. "You reckon I never
can stand a mystery. It gets on my nerves, keeps me awake nights, and
plays hob with my think-box all the time. Now, there was those boxes--but
I guess I'll try and forget all about that matter now, because we've got
a sure enough puzzle to solve right on our hands. Who are these four men;
what are they hiding on Cedar Island for; why should they want to chase
us away if they weren't afraid we'd find out _somethin_' they're a-doin'
here, that ain't just accordin' to the law?"
"You've got it pretty straight, Bobolink," admitted Paul. "But since
we've learned all we wanted to find out, suppose we go back to the rest
of the boys. We must talk this thing over, and decide what's to be done."
"Do you mean about skipping out, Paul?" Bobolink exclaimed. "Oh! I hope
now, you won't do anything like that. I'd feel dreadfully mean to sneak
away. Always did hate to see a cur dog do that, with his tail between
"Still, it might seem best to leave here by dark," said Paul.
Something in his manner gave Jack a clue as to the meaning back of these
words. He knew the scout master better than did any other fellow in the
troop, and was accustomed to reading his motives in his look or manner.
"I take it that means we might _pretend_ to clear out, and come back
under cover of the night, to make another camp; eh, Paul?" Jack now
"That was what I had in mind," admitted the other; "but of course it'll
be up to the boys to settle such a question. I believe in every fellow
having a voice in things that have to do with the general business of
the camp. But majority rules when once the vote is taken--stay, or go
"Glad to hear you say so," ventured Bobolink. "Because here's three votes
that will be cast for sticking it out; and if I know anything about Jud
and Nuthin and Bluff, together with several more, the majority will want
to stick. But I mean to give them a hint that we think that way. Several
weak-kneed brothers are always ready to vote the way the leaders do. When
the scout master takes snuff they start to sneezing right away."
"And for that very reason, Bobolink, I don't want you to say a word in
advance to any of the fellows. When we have a vote, it should be the free
opinion of every scout, without his being influenced by another. But what
do you think of the idea, Jack?"
"I think it's just great," answered his chum. "And by the way, if we
should conclude to come back to the island again in the night, I know the
finest kind of a place where we could hide the motorboats."
"Where is that?" asked the scout master, quickly.
"You haven't been around on the side of the island where the shore curves
into a little bay, like. The trees grow so close that their branches
overhang the water. If the boats were left in there, and some green stuff
drawn around them, I don't believe they'd ever be noticed, unless some
one was hunting every foot of the island over for them."
"Yes, I think I know where you mean," said Paul. "I wasn't down by the
little inlet you speak of; but back on the shore there's a dandy place
among the rocks and trees, where we could pitch a new camp, and keep
pretty well hidden, unless we happened to make a lot of noise, which
we won't do if we can help it But everything depends on how the boys
look at it."
"Anyhow," said Bobolink, resolutely; "I feel that we ought to put it up
to them that way; tell 'em how easy it will be to screen the boats, and
have a hidden camp. You'll let me tell about that, Paul, I hope, even if
I mustn't say you mean to vote to come back?"
"I suppose that would be fair enough, because we ought to hold up our
side of the question," the scout master replied, as they drew near the
place where the three tents stood, and several groups of chattering
scouts could be seen, doubtless earnestly discussing this mysterious
thing that had come about; for, of course, Tom Betts had already told all
about the suspicious tracks of the four men who had carried a heavy
burden into the brush.
They looked eagerly toward the advancing three, as though expecting that
Paul would now take them fully into his confidence.
This he proceeded to do without further delay; and it was worth while
observing the various shades of emotion that flitted across the faces of
the listeners while the scout master was talking. Some seemed alarmed,
others disposed to be provoked, while not a few, Bobolink noted with
secret glee, allowed a frown to mark their foreheads, as though they were
growing angry at being so summarily ordered off the island by these
unknown men, who did not even have the decency to present their command
of dismissal in person.
He knew these fellows could be counted on to vote the right way when the
question came up as to what they should do.
When the entire thing had been explained, so that they all understood it,
Paul asked for a vote as to whether they clear out altogether, or appear
to do so, only to come back again.
And, just as the sanguine Bobolink had expected, it resulted in thirteen
declaring it to be their idea that they should come back, and try to find
out what all these queer goings-on meant. When the result of the vote was
made known, even the five who had voted to go moved that it be made
Perhaps they came to the conclusion that since a return was decided on it
would be safer to be with the rest on the haunted island, than off by
themselves in a lone tent on the distant shore, where no assistance could
"Well, we'd better have an early supper, then, and get away; or since it
is getting dark now, perhaps we'll have to put off the eating part until
later," Paul suggested.
"Any old time will do for that," declared Bobolink, carelessly, whereupon
Old Dan Tucker gave him a look of dismay, and sadly shook his head, as
though he did not indorse such a foolish theory at all.
So, when the others were carrying things to the boats, and showing
considerable nervousness while doing it, Old Dan managed to fill his
pockets with crackers, which he hoped might stave off starvation for a
little while at least.
Acting on the suggestion of Jack, the scouts gave all sorts of
exhibitions of alarm as they busied themselves taking down the tents, and
loading their traps aboard the two motorboats. Every now and then one of
them would point somewhere up or down the shore, as though he thought he
saw signs of the enemy coming, whereupon a knot of the boys would gather,
and stare, and then scatter, to work more feverishly than ever.
They really enjoyed acting the part, too. It seemed to appeal to their
fondness for a joke. And the best of it was, they always fancied that
somewhere or other at least one pair of hostile eyes must be observing
these signs of panic with satisfaction.
Just as darkness began to creep over water and island, clouds shutting
out the moonlight again, all was pronounced ready. And then the cheery
"chug" of the motors sounded, for the boys purposely made all the noise
they could, under the impression that it might seem to add to the
appearance of a hasty flight.
In this manner did the troop of scouts break camp before they had been on
Cedar Island more than twenty-four hours; and, so far as appearances
went, deserted the place of the evil name for good and all.
UNDER COVER OF DARKNESS
Paul had settled it all in his mind as to what their course should
be. He drew a mental map of the island, and its surroundings; and
also remembered certain conclusions he had previously entertained
connected with the depth of water on all sides, between their late
camp and the mainland.
So the _Comfort_ set the pace, which was not very fast; for they wanted
darkness to settle fully over the lake, in order that they might move
around without being seen from the island.
"Tell me when the island is out of sight, Jud," remarked Paul; for some
of the time the two boats were side by side, and nothing interfered with
a clear view in the rear.
"Why, it's swallowed up already in the night mist; I can just make out
that old cedar that stands on top of the little hill," came Jud's reply.
"Good. Then we'll have an easy time slipping back, I reckon," said Paul.
"Going all the way over to the shore; are you?" asked the other.
"Might as well; though we'll have to feel our way. Pretty shallow; ain't
it, Jud?" for the scout master had set the other to work sounding with
one of the setting poles, by dropping it over every little while.
"Touch bottom every time but seems to be plenty of water. Guess this
lake ain't near so deep as that other one up by Rattlesnake Mountain,"
"Oh! it's many times deeper on the other side of the island," observed
Paul. "I picked out this way across for a good reason."
"I suppose you did," Jud said, with a sublime confidence that was
"Because, you see," added Paul, "when we start back again, we'll have to
do without the help of our motors, for, muffle them as we might, they'd
make enough noise to betray us."
"Oh! I see now," declared Jud, chuckling. "In place of the motor business
we'll use good hard muscle with these setting poles. And so long as we
can touch bottom right along, it ain't going to be a very hard job
getting back to the island. You don't think it's more'n half a mile; do
"Not much more, and we can take our time, Jud. The one thing above all
others we've got to keep in mind is silence. Nobody ought to knock a
pole against the side of a boat under penalty of being given black marks.
And as for talking, it'll have to be in whispers, when at all."
"S-s-sounds g-g-good to m-m-me," said Bluff, who somehow seemed to have
gone back to his old stuttering ways; though it might be the excitement
that caused the lapse.
Nothing more was said on the way over, though doubtless the boys kept up
considerable thinking. They were tremendously worked up over the
situation. This scheme proposed by the scout leader seemed to appeal to
the spirit of adventure which nearly every boy who has red blood in his
veins feels to be a part of his nature.
There was one among them, however, who was silent because of another
reason; for Old Dan Tucker always declared it a very bad and injurious
plan to try and converse when one's mouth was crammed full; and crackers,
too, being apt to get in the wind-pipe, may do all manner of choking
stunts. So he said never a word.
They presently could see the other shore looming up, though it was
getting very dark, just as though a storm might be threatening to again
"Getting more shoal, Paul," warned the pole heaver.
"How much water have you now?" demanded the leader, ready to give the
signal for bringing both motorboats to a stop, when it seemed necessary.
"Eight feet, last time; now it's about seven, short," announced Jud.
"Keep on sounding, and when it gets down to three, let me know,"
They were creeping along at a snail's pace now, so even should either
boat strike mud bottom, which Jud had declared it to be, no particular
damage would result.
The shore was very close, and still Jud admitted that there was
plenty of water.
"Keeps up in great shape, Commodore," he remarked, "reckon we could go
ashore here if we felt that way."
"Which we don't," declared Gusty Bellows, in a low tone.
And not a single voice was raised in favor of such a proceeding; if there
were any timid souls present, they failed to exhibit their weakness,
either through fear of boyish ridicule, or some other reason.
Then Paul shut off power, and when he no longer heard the sound of the
_Comfort's_ exhaust, Jack followed suit.
"We'll hang out here for half an hour, and then head back,"
"The outlet isn't far away from here; is it?" Joe Clausin asked.
"Not very far--on the right," Paul replied. "I had that in mind when
choosing to come this way. You see, if we were intending to only go
ashore, they'd expect to see a fire burning somewhere. As it is, they'll
be sure to think we've dropped down into the Radway, preferring to risk
all sorts of danger from the rocks and snags there, rather than stay here
"Makes me think of Napoleon's retreat from Moscow," remarked Nat Smith in
the other motorboat.
"Oh! come off, will you?" ridiculed Bobolink. "Napoleon was a good one,
but not in the same class with _us_. He never came back, like we're going
to do. This retreat is only a fine piece of strategy, remember, while his
was in deadly earnest."
They talked in low tones that were cousins to whispers, and certainly
could not be heard half way over to the mysterious island, even
though water does make the finest conductor of sound possible, as
every boy knows.
Finally, when about half an hour had gone, Paul said it was time to make
a fresh start. He had thought it all out, and while taking one pole
himself, asked the expert, Jud, to handle the other in their boat.
Jack and Tom Betts were to look after those in the _Speedwell_; for the
scout master knew that Tom could be very careful, given a job that
They took their time, and by degrees Paul led the way across the shallow
part of the lake. Bobolink had aptly described their movement, when he
said it reminded him of the words in the song: "He came right in, and
turned around and walked right out again."
Now it was so dark that most of the scouts found themselves confused as
to their bearings, the minute they lost sight of the trees along the
shore. Some wondered how Paul was going to go straight back over their
recent course, when he did not have even the stars to guide him.
But then, there were many other things he did have, one of which was the
slight breeze that blew in his face, and which had been directly behind
them at the time they left the island.
Slowly and laboriously, in comparison with their other trip, the scouts
crossed the stretch of water. And when finally those who were so eagerly
watching out for that cedar on the top of the little elevation in the
middle of the island whispered to Paul that it was dead ahead, they
realized with wonder that the pilot had led them in a direct line back
over their course.
Now they altered the line of advance a little. This was in order to
approach the island about the place where the little bay extended into
its side, as described by Jack. And Paul allowed the other to take the
lead, since Jack would be more familiar with the locality than he himself
Noiselessly did the two boats enter that miniature bay, and glide along
until close to the bank, where the overhanging trees afforded the
protection they wanted, in order to conceal the craft.
Landing was next in order, and then all their things must again be taken
ashore, from tents and blankets, to cooking kettles and eatables.
By now the scouts had reduced many of these things to a system. Every boy
knew just what was expected of him; and presently there was a procession
of burden bearers carrying things into the brush along a certain trail,
once in a while perhaps stumbling a little, but keeping strict silence.
They seemed to enjoy it hugely, too. Their nerves tingled while carrying
out this part of the programme--at least, Bobolink said he had such a
feeling, and doubtless several more were in the same condition.
Of course there were those who trembled with anticipation of some sudden
alarm. And then again, others might be beginning to think they would soon
nearly "cave away" with the empty feeling they had; that was what Old
Dan Tucker confided in a whisper to Joe Clausin, resting firm in the
belief that none of the others knew about the pocket full of crackers,
that he called "life preservers"--which, alas, were all gone now, to the
Paul led the line and picked out the easiest method of reaching the
place he had selected for the new camp among the rocks and trees. It was
in a depression, too, the others noticed, when he told them to drop
their bundles. That would enable them to have a little fire, since it
could not be seen as it would be if they were on a level, or an
elevation. And really, a fire was necessary, if Paul meant they should
have any supper at all.
Back to Full Books