The Banner Boy Scouts Afloat
George A. Warren
Part 3 out of 4
"As we brought about all we need, there's no use of making another trip
to the boats," Paul remarked in a low tone; from which the others judged
that conversation was not going to be entirely cut out, only they must
not elevate their voices above a certain pitch, so long as things were as
quiet as at present.
Now began the task of getting the three tents in position again. And well
had the scouts learned their lesson in this particular; some of them even
going so far as to declare that they could do the job with their eyes
blindfolded, so familiar were they with every part of the operation.
"Like learning type-writin' by touch in school," Bobolink had said.
After all the tents had been raised, and the blankets placed inside, Paul
gave permission for a small cooking fire to be made.
To some boys a fire is always a fire, no matter what its intended use;
but the scout who has camped out soon gets to know that there is a vast
difference between a camp fire, for instance, and one meant only for
getting meals over.
The former may be composed of great logs and branches that send up a
cheery and brilliant blaze; but which is next to useless when the cook
wants to get close in, and attend to his various kettles and frying pans.
Sometimes a hole is scooped out of the ground, and the fire for cooking
made in that, especially when on level ground, and danger exists of
hostile eyes discovering the blaze, however small.
As a rule, however, such a fire is made about after this fashion: Two
logs may be used, if they have flat surfaces, having been more or less
squared off; but when stones can be procured they are to be preferred.
Two sides are fashioned out of flat stones, somewhat in the shape of the
letter V, only not having the line quite so pronounced. Thus a coffeepot
will rest snugly over the smaller end, while the big frying pan cozily
covers the larger.
The fire need only be small, but when the cooking commences, there
should be for the most part red embers in the fireplace, capable of
sending up great heat, with but a minimum of blaze. And there a cook
can work in comfort, without dodging back every time a fierce blaze
darts toward him, threatening to singe his eyebrows, and shorten his
crop of hair.
Jud knew just how to make such a fire, and as they would need several, in
order to cook for such a host, some of the other boys busied themselves
in copying what he did. They had seen him make such a stone fireplace
before, any way, and some of them had practiced the art in private, being
desirous of knowing how to do many of the things the leaders were so
Soon they had more light, when Jud got his fire started; and it was
then that the boys realized just how fitting that spot was for a hidden
camp. Their tents could not be seen thirty feet away; and as for the
small amount of light made by the three cooking fires, little danger of
it being noticed, unless some one were close by, and actually stumbled
on the spot.
In fact, the greatest chance they had of being discovered, as Paul well
knew, did not come from any sense of sight or hearing, but that of smell.
Should the odors from their supper chance to be carried across the
island, and in the direction of where these men were staying, they might
begin to suspect something was wrong, and start an investigation that
would lead to the discovery of the new camp.
But Paul had also noticed that the night breeze was doing them another
good service; it had helped him find his way back to the island through
the darkness resting on the big lake; and now, blowing toward the distant
shore, the odors of cooking coffee, and frying bass would be taken
And anyhow, there were eighteen half-starved scouts who had to be fed,
come what might. So the cooking went on apace, and in due time supper was
announced as ready. At which more than a few of the waiting lads heaved
sighs of satisfaction, and Old Dan Tucker, as usual, managed to be the
first to sit down.
PITCHING TENTS IN THE "SINK"
"This thing is giving us lots of good practice at making camp, and that's
something," Bobolink remarked while he ate, always taking care to keep
his voice down to a low pitch, so it would not carry far on the night
air; though for that matter the wind had increased by now and was making
quite some noise through the tops of the trees around them.
"I'd like to see anybody put up tents faster and better than we did right
here," declared Frank Savage; who had by now about recovered from the
feeling of sickness which came so near keeping him at home, when the
expedition was formed.
"And as for fires, these couldn't be beat," observed Spider Sexton, as
he began to catch glimpses of the bottom of his tin platter, after
making away with some of the food that had been piled high on it by the
cook of his mess.
"And talk about the grub--it just takes the cake," admitted Old Dan
Tucker; though no one seemed to pay the least attention to what he
thought, for they knew him of old, and that the present meal was always
the "best he had ever eaten, barring none."
Of course it was only natural that while the scouts were enjoying
their meal in this fashion, many looks betrayed an uneasiness on the
part of some among their number. Possibly they were wondering whether
it could be that hostile eyes were fixed upon them then and there, and
if so, what those strange, unknown men, who seemed to want to rule the
island, would do when they discovered that the scouts had disobeyed
their order to leave.
Would they resort to violence? It would not be an easy task to banish a
dozen and a half lively boys, they were thinking.
Paul had made up his mind with regard to certain things that must be
done. First of all, they ought to get their heads together, and decide on
a plan. Should they make any sort of attempt that night to explore the
island? He owned a splendid little hand electric torch, into which he had
slipped a fresh battery before starting out on the voyage along the two
rivers; and this might prove very useful in searching dark and gloomy
parts of the island. But on the whole, it seemed so foolish to think of
such a thing, Paul wanted the rest to settle the matter.
So, still cautioning them to speak only in whispers at the most, he
placed the whole matter before them; much as might the chairman of a
meeting, after which he asked in so many words:
"You've heard all I know about it; now, what is your pleasure, fellows?"
"So far as I'm concerned," said Bobolink, always the first to speak; "I'm
willing to do anything the rest say, or go wherever they want to head;
but to be honest, boys, I'd think we were off our base if we went
prowling around this queer old island at night time. There are a heap of
things about it that some people don't want us to know, it seems; and we
ought to take daylight to spear such facts."
Others were of the same opinion; and when Paul put the vote, it was
overwhelmingly the sentiment of the meeting that they simply take things
as easy as they could until dawn came, and then, with fourteen hours of
light ahead, do all the exploring they liked.
That settled it, since there could be no going behind the returns when a
majority favored any move. Accordingly, they made preparations for
passing the night as the conditions best allowed.
"Of course, we must have sentries posted to keep watch?" remarked Jack.
"All through the livelong night. They will have to be changed every
hour; and four can be on guard at a time. That'll give about two
turns to every scout, with a chance to get four hours sleep between
times on duty."
And having said his, Paul, as the acting scout master, proceeded to
assign each one to his post number. There was no confusion. They had
practiced this same movement many a time, and now that it was to be
carried out, the boys profited by their experience.
It could be seen that there was a condition of almost feverish excitement
under the surface, try as they might to conceal the fact by an appearance
of coolness. A real peril seemed to be hovering over them, since they had
chosen to disobey the mandate of the unknown who seemed to claim the
island as his private property. And if they were discovered during the
night, there would be no telling what might happen.
At the same time the boys were enjoying the novel experience. It seemed
to give them a peculiar thrill, not unlike that of a daring skater who
shoots boldly over thin, new ice, that crackles under him, and bends in a
dreadful way, but does not break, because his passage has been too swift.
In the morning Paul would pick out several of them, as he thought best;
and with this exploring party set out to learn what the island contained.
Meanwhile they would rest quietly in that rocky retreat, in the hope that
their return had not been noted by any observing eye, and that their
presence on the island was utterly unknown.
The sentries had been selected, and every boy knew just when his turn to
take a post would come around. Those who were ready to lie down and get
some rest were expected to arouse their successors, so that the thing was
calculated to run along as smoothly as though on a greased track.
If anything out of the ordinary came to pass, and there was time to
arouse the scout master, Paul wanted it done. He could not remain awake
himself more than any one of the others, much as he might wish to be on
the job all the time; but that need not prevent his keeping in touch with
Paul still had his shotgun, and had of course made sure to bring it from
the motorboat when he led his column of burden-bearers trailing through
the timber and rocks to that little sink in which the new camp had been
pitched. It had served him often and well, and he was accustomed to
placing the utmost confidence in the trusty little weapon. But he hoped
he would find no occasion to use it now, and against human beings. Only
as the very last resort would he turn to this.
Still, there are times when the presence of an empty gun has done
wonders; since imagination invests it with all the attributes of a loaded
weapon. And that was one of the many reasons why Paul kept the
double-barreled gun close to him, even when he crept into the tent to
which he was assigned, and lay down on his blanket to try and get a
Some of the other boys whispered for a while, as they lay with their
heads close together; but they were too sleepy to keep this up for long;
so that one by one they dropped off, until from their regular breathing
it was easy to guess that all had surrendered to the heavy hand of sleep.
Those on guard duty were not supposed to move about very much. They had
been posted at what might be called the four corners of the camp. Here
they could, between them, about cover all the space around the sink, for
their positions were on the more elevated ground.
And as the clouds were breaking at the time Paul crawled under the
tent, he felt pretty sure that before long they would have the
assistance of the moon, now more than half full, and which would not
set until after midnight.
Those who were the first on duty fulfilled their part of the programme
faithfully. After standing out their "spell," they proceeded to quietly
awaken those who were scheduled to follow after them. Each fellow knew
who his successor was, and it had been made a part of his duty to see
that this scout was not only awakened, but on the job; after which he
himself could crawl in under his blanket, and take it easy until his
second turn came, hours later.
Thus Bobolink was one of the second watch. In turn he would have the
pleasure of arousing the commander, and seeing that Paul took up his
duty; for in laying out the schedule Paul had not spared himself in
Bobolink was an imaginative boy. He could see many things that others
were apt to pass by without discovering anything out of the ordinary. It
was a weakness which Bobolink had to guard against; lest he discover
things that had no foundation in fact.
He sat there, listening and looking, for a long time. The music of the
breeze in the tree-tops made him a little nervous at first; but presently
he seemed to get more accustomed to the sounds, and then they made him
drowsy, so that he had to take himself sharply to task more than once
because his eyes found it so easy to shut.
Wishing to have something to think about, so as to keep his wits aroused,
Bobolink began to try and figure out just where his fellow sentinels were
located and imagine what they were doing. Could they be struggling, as he
was, to keep awake, one of the hardest things a boy can battle with?
What was that? Surely something moved out yonder among the scrub!
Bobolink sat straight up. He was no longer sleepy. This thing seemed to
have made his eyes fly wide open; and with his heart pumping at a
tremendous rate, sending the hot blood bounding through his veins, surely
he was now in no danger of sleeping on his post.
He watched the spot from which the sound had seemingly come. The moon
penetrated the bushes only faintly, because it was now nearing the
western horizon, its journey for the night almost done. Strive as
Bobolink might to see whether any one was crawling along there, he could
not for a time make sure.
Then he detected a movement that must mean something. And at the same
time he discovered what seemed to be twin glowworms in the darkness.
Bobolink had had some little experience in such things, and had read a
good deal on the subject. He knew that in the night time the eyes of many
wild animals, particularly of the cat tribe, can appear luminous, so
that, seen in a certain kind of gloom, they seem to be like yellow
globes. And that was what these were.
"Huh!" said Bobolink to himself, after he had watched these queer glowing
balls of fire move several times, that proved in his mind they must be
the eyes of an animal: "Guess I better give Paul the high sign, and let
him figure out what it is."
And with that he started to creep into the camp, leaving his post for
the time being unguarded; for with three other sentries on duty
Bobolink did not imagine there could be any danger in his withdrawing
from the line.
WHAT LAY IN THE BRUSH
"Wake up, Paul!"
Bobolink accompanied these whispered words by a gentle shake. He seemed
to know instinctively just where the scout master was lying; or else it
must have been, that all this had been systematically laid out
beforehand; and every fellow had a particular place where he was to curl
up in his blanket when not on duty.
Paul was awake instantly, even though he had been far gone in sleep at
the moment that hand touched his arm.
"All right, Bobolink," he said, in a low tone, so as not to arouse any of
the others. "I'm with you. Time up?"
"Not quite, Paul; but there's some sort of beast creeping around the
camp; and I thought you ought to know."
Paul sat up at once.
"You did the right thing, Bobolink," he remarked, quietly.
The sentry could hear him groping around, as if for something. Presently
Paul seemed to have found what he sought. Of course it was his shotgun.
Wildcats were to be found in some of the woods not many miles from
Stanhope. The scouts knew this, because they had experience with these
bold pests, who had been attracted by the smell of food in their camp.
Besides, there were sometimes packs of wild dogs roaming the woods
that might need to be taught a lesson, in case they gave the campers
So Paul had been wise to bring that double-barreled gun along. In a
pinch it would prove a handy thing to have with them. And no doubt it
gave Bobolink considerable satisfaction to realize that Paul had such a
Immediately the sentry started to crawl out of the tent again, with Paul
close at his heels. A head was raised, and one of the supposed sleepers
watched the dim figures retreating.
It was Nuthin, who had chanced to be restless, and was awake at the time
Bobolink came in to arouse the scout master. He had heard all that passed
between them, and of course felt a thrill at the idea of some ferocious
wild beast prowling around the tents.
Hardly had the other pair withdrawn before Nuthin started after them. He
might be a rather timid boy by nature; but when there was anything going
on Nuthin could not rest content unless he placed himself in a position
where he could see or hear--perhaps both.
Bobolink led the way back to the post he had been occupying at the time
he made his discovery. He hoped those luminous eyes would still be
there, because it might not look just right should he be able to show no
proof of his story; and boys will take occasion to make all sorts of
jeering remarks about a fellow falling asleep on his post, and dreaming
So it was with considerable anxiety that the sentry crept along to the
very spot which he remembered he had been occupying at the time.
Considerably to his dismay he could see nothing. There was the patch of
brush in which he had discovered those gleaming orbs, and from which had
arisen a low, threatening growl when he first moved off; but look as he
might Bobolink was unable to detect the first sign of a hostile presence.
He felt disgusted with himself. Luck seemed to be playing him all
manner of tricks of late, and nothing went right. There was that affair
of the queer boxes which had been bothering him so long; then the
mystery of the unknown men who had ordered the scouts to leave the
island in such a peremptory fashion, without giving the least reason
for their churlishness. And now, here, even this little matter could
not work straight.
"It's gone, Paul!" he felt compelled to mutter, after striving several
times to detect some sign, however faint, of those terrible yellow eyes.
"Just where did you see it, Bobolink?" asked the scout master, knowing
from his chum's manner how disappointed the sentry must feel that he was
thus unable to prove his assertion.
"Right in that brush yonder; you c'n see it looks darker than anything
else," replied Bobolink, eagerly; as if hoping that after all Paul's eyes
might prove better than his own, and pick up the lost glow.
"Well, it seems to have gone away, then," said the scout master.
"I'm afraid so," grumbled Bobolink, for all the world as though his whole
reputation for veracity depended on his showing the other that he had not
been imagining things when he gave his alarm.
"What did you see?" continued Paul.
"Two yellow eyes, and say, weren't they just awful, though? But seems
like the varmint has side-stepped, and vamoosed. Just my luck, hang it! I
wanted you to see 'em the worst kind, Paul."
"A pair of shining eyes, eh? When you moved, did you hear anything,
"Sure I did. It growled just like our dog does at home, when he's got a
bone, and anybody gets too near him," the sentry hastened to explain.
"Made you think of a dog, did it, and not a cat?" asked Paul, quickly.
"Why, yes, I reckon it did," replied Bobolink; "leastways, that's what
came into my mind. But then a big cat, a regular bobcat, I take it, could
growl that way, if it felt a notion to."
"You came straight in to wake me up, of course?" continued Paul,
wishing to figure on the time that might have elapsed since Bobolink
left his post.
"Crawled right in, and we got back here in a jiffy; but you see it was no
use when that jinx is on my trail, meanin' to loco everything I do. Now,
I reckon if it'd been any other feller in the bunch, the critter'd just
stood its ground, and I'd be vindicated. But me--I'm hoodooed of late,
and can't do a thing straight."
"Listen!" said Paul, a little sharply, as though he had no sympathy with
They strained their hearing for possibly a full minute. Then Bobolink,
who liked to talk, could no longer hold in.
"What'd you think you heard, Paul?" he whispered.
"A little rustling sound just alongside the brush you pointed out," the
scout master replied.
"But you didn't get it again; did you?" urged the other.
"No. But that needn't be proof that something isn't there, and watching
us, even if we don't glimpse his eyes," replied Paul.
"Oh!" ejaculated Bobolink, with a sudden sense of relief in his voice.
"You heard the rustling then; didn't you?" Paul demanded.
"I sure did, and right over back of the brush it seemed to be. P'raps
he's givin' the camp the shake, Paul; mebbe he's made up his mind it
ain't as healthy a place as he thought, after all."
"It couldn't be one of the other sentries moving around, I suppose?"
ventured Paul, at which his companion gave a low chuckle.
"With those glaring yellow eyes? Well, hardly, Paul. My stars! but if
you'd only seen 'em, you'd never say that. And besides, the boys were
ordered not to leave their posts, only to wake up the fellow that
came after 'em. Oh! put it down for me that isn't any of our bunch
"Then I must find out what it is!" said Paul, with a ring of
determination in his voice.
"Wow! d'ye mean to rush the beast, Paul, and try to knock him over with a
charge of Number Sevens?" demanded Bobolink.
"I've got something better than that to scare him off," replied Paul.
"You know we don't want to shoot a gun, if we can help it; because the
report would tell the men that we'd come back, and might bring trouble.
I've got my little electric hand torch with me, and if I flash that into
the face of any wild animal the chances are it'll give him a scare
that'll send him off about his business."
"Oh! I forgot all about that," said Bobolink. "It's just the thing, too.
How lucky you brought it along, Paul."
Bobolink looked on a good many things as "luck," one way or the other,
when of a truth they were really planned ahead. The scout master had
realized that such a useful little contrivance would be apt to come in
handy on many occasions, when camping out, and had made it a particular
point to put the torch in his pack before leaving home.
He had it beside him as he slept, but did not consider it wise to press
the button when awakened, lest the flash arouse the others who were
sleeping in the same tent.
Bobolink could feel him moving away, and not meaning to be left behind,
he started after. Bobolink possessed courage, even if he lacked
discretion. The possibility of an encounter with this doubtless savage
animal did not deter him from following his leader.
Again they heard that suspicious rustling in the bushes ahead, this time
louder than before. And quickly on the heels of this sound came a low,
threatening growl that, strangely enough, made Bobolink chuckle softly,
he was so pleased over having his announcement proven true to the
Commodore of the motorboat fleet.
"Look out, Paul," he whispered; "he's laying for you in those bushes.
Better keep your gun handy, and be ready to give him Hail Columbia!"
Paul did not answer. He had his gun held in such a way that it could be
fired with a second's warning. At the same time his left hand was
gripping the little electric torch, with his thumb pressed against the
trigger that would connect the battery, and send an intense ray of light
wherever he pointed.
When he heard another rustle, and a growl even more vicious than before,
he judged about the position of the sounds, and pointing the end of the
torch straight ahead, pressed the button.
As the vivid flash followed Paul saw something that looked like a
crouching panther staring at the dazzling glow of his torch--a hairy
beast that had rather a square head, and a tail that was lashing to and
fro, just as he had seen that of a domestic cat move with jerks, when a
hostile dog approached too close to suit her ideas of safety.
That, of course, was Bobolink giving expression to his feelings when he
too saw the crouching figure of the ugly beast in the pile of brush.
He fully expected that Paul would now feel it necessary to raise his gun
to his shoulder, and fire, on the spur of the moment. Contrary to his
belief, he found that the scout master did nothing of the sort. Instead,
Paul took a deliberate step forward, straight toward the animal that lay
there, staring at the blinding light.
"Oh I my stars! he's going to scare him off with only that light!" said
Bobolink, talking to himself; and yet, strange to say, he followed close
at the heels of the advancing scout master, clutching his club tightly,
and doubtless fully determined that if they were attacked, he would make
the stout weapon give a good account of itself.
For a brief space it seemed an open question whether the animal would
turn tail and slink away, or openly attack the advancing boys. But there
was evidently something in that approaching dazzling light, and the
presence of human beings behind it, that proved too much for the beast.
He gave a sudden turn, and bounded off, vanishing in the denser scrub
beyond; and for a short time the listening Bobolink could hear the sound
of his retreat.
"Whew I that was the stuff, Paul!" cried Bobolink. "He just couldn't look
you in the eye; could he? That fierce little staring orb was too much for
him. But what was it, Paul, a panther?"
Some one laughed back of them, and turning, light in hand, Paul
"What ails you, and how did you get here?" demanded Bobolink.
"Heard what you said to Paul in the tent, and wanted to see what was up,
so I just crawled out," answered the smaller scout, still grinning, as
though he had discovered something comical in the adventure.
"Well, what ails you?" Bobolink demanded again, feeling irritated
"Panther! Well, I guess he hasn't got that wild, yet!" ejaculated Nuthin.
Paul began to understand something about it.
"See here, Nuthin," he said, sternly; "you know that was a dog, as well
as I do; have you ever seen him before? Do you know him?"
Nuthin laughed softly.
"Guess you fellows must have forgot that old mongrel dog, Lion, we used
to have," he went on. "Well, he disappeared a long time ago, and we never
knew what did become of him. There always was a sorter wild streak in the
critter. And now it seems that he's found, it nicer to live like a wolf
in the woods, than stay at home and be tied to a kennel. Because that was
Lion, I give you my word for it!"
"Mebbe he smelled you here, and wanted to make up again?"
"Don't you believe it," retorted Nuthin. "He never did like me, and my
dad wouldn't let me go near his kennel. When he skipped out we all felt
glad of it. And to think he'd show up here, of all places! What d'ye
reckon he's doin' over here on this island, Paul?"
"Listen. When he got away from you did he have a rope around his neck,
with six feet of it trailing on the ground?" Paul asked.
"Did he? Not any that I know about. We always kept him fastened with a
chain; and when he broke away, it was his collar that busted. I've got it
home yet," was the response.
"Well, that dog had the rope, just as I described. He's been tied up,
of late, and broke away," the scout master observed, with conviction in
"Then he must have been in the keep of these men who're doin' somethin'
queer over here on Cedar Island, and don't want a parcel of peepin'
scouts around; looks that way, don't it, Paul?" Nuthin inquired.
"I was wondering whether it could be that crowd, or the other," Paul
"D'ye mean the wild man?" asked Bobolink.
"It might be," replied Paul. "If your old dog, Nuthin, has taken to the
free life of the woods--gone back to the type of his ancestors, as I've
heard of dogs doing many a time--why, you see, he'd just seem to fit in
with a wild man who lived about like the savages used to away back."
"Wonder if he'll come again to bother us?" queried Bobolink.
"Honestly now, I don't think he will," Paul made answer. "That little
evil eye of the torch threw a scare into him he won't forget in a hurry.
I suppose he must have been roaming around, and got a sniff of our
cooking. That made him feel hungry, and he was creeping in closer and
closer, in hopes of stealing something, when we broke up his game. And
now, if it isn't time for me to go on duty, I'll crawl in again, and get
a few more winks of sleep."
"Say, Paul, don't you think it'd be about right to leave that little
flashlight with me, in case the dog comes around again?" asked Bobolink.
"I was going to say that very same thing; and when my turn comes you can
hand it over again. Here you are, Bobolink; and don't go to fooling with
it, unless you really hear something."
"I won't, Paul," replied the other. "But chances are, I'd better make the
rounds and tell the other fellers about what happened; because they must
have seen the flash, and heard us talkin' over here; which will throw 'em
into a cold fit, wantin' to know all about it."
"A good idea, Bobolink," observed the other, as he and Nuthin moved
toward the tents again.
The balance of the night passed without any further alarm. If the wild
dog came prowling around again, attracted by the presence of good things
to eat, which may have reminded him of other days when he was content to
remain chained up in the Cypher back yard, and take the leavings from his
master's table, he certainly did not betray his presence nor could he
muster up enough courage to crawl into the camp, when it was guarded by
such a terrible flashing eye.
Morning arrived in good time, and the boys were on the alert. This novel
experience was having its effect on them all. They showed that their
sleep could not have been as sound as appearances might indicate, for
many had red eyes, which were the cause of considerable comment, and not
a little good-natured chaff on the part of those who betrayed no such
telltale signs of wakefulness.
Breakfast was prepared about in the same fashion as the supper had been
on the preceding night. Fires were carefully lighted, and such fuel
chosen, which, in the opinion of the best judges, would be least apt to
send up heavy smoke, such as might betray their presence on the island.
All these little things were supposed to be a part of their education as
scouts and woodsmen. They aroused considerable interest among the boys,
many of whom had never bothered their heads before to discover that kinds
of wood burned in various ways; that one might give out only a light
brown smoke, hard to discern, while another would send up a dense smudge
that could not fail to attract the eye of any watcher.
Paul showed them that when they wanted to signal with smoke, as all
scouts are taught to do when learning the wigwag code, they must be
careful to select only this latter kind of wood, since the other would
not answer the purpose.
He had been thinking deeply over the matter, and had about made up his
mind as to what course they should pursue. Like most of his comrades,
Paul was averse to being driven away from Cedar Island by unknown
parties, without at least another effort to explore the mysterious
place, and making an attempt to discover what sort of business these men
were engaged in.
That it was something unlawful he was convinced, as much as any of his
chums. Indeed, everything would seem to point that way. Men do not often
hide themselves in an unfrequented section of the country, unless they
are engaged in some pursuit that will not stand the light of day.
At one time Paul had even suspected that these men might be some species
of game poachers, who wishing to defy the law that protected partridges,
and all feather and fur-bearing creatures in the woods, during the summer
season, had taken up their dwelling on lonely Cedar Island.
This was in the beginning. On thinking it over, however, he came to the
conclusion that there was hardly enough game of all kinds within fifty
miles of Stanhope to pay several men to spend their time snaring it; and
so on this account he had thrown that theory overboard.
As they ate their breakfast the boys talked of nothing else but the
mystery of the island, and many were the expressions of opinion that they
must not think of leaving without doing everything in their power to lift
They wanted to know who the strange men were who had brought some bulky
object across from the mainland in a rowboat; what business they were
engaged in there; who the wild man might be, and last of all whether he
had any connection with the others.
"You see," declared Bobolink, in his customary impressive way of talking,
"it looks to me as if they had him here to scare meddlers off. Who wants
to rub up against a wild man? Everybody would feel like giving the hairy
old fellow a wide berth, believe me. But Paul, if you make up a bunch to
explore this bally old island, please let me go along."
There were others just as anxious and then again some gave no expression
to indicate how they felt about it. So the wise scout master, not wishing
to have any half-hearted recruits with him on such an errand, observed
these signs, and made sure to pick only such as had pleaded for
"You can go along, Bobolink," he said, presently; "and I shall need five
others in addition. Jack, you're one; then there's Bluff, Tom Betts,
Phil, and Andy. Jud Elderkin will be left in full charge here, and every
scout is expected to look to him as the chief while I'm gone. Is that all
Everybody looked satisfied--those who had been selected because they
wanted to be with the party of exploration and the scouts who would
remain behind because they had no particular desire to prowl through that
dense undergrowth, looking for what might prove to be a jack-o'-lantern.
And as they continued to devour the food that had been cooked over the
little fires they exchanged confidences, all sorts of queer theories and
plans being suggested. For when eighteen wide awake scouts put their
heads together, it can be set down as positive that little remains unsaid
after they have debated any subject pro and con.
THE EXPLORING PARTY
Soon after breakfast was over, Paul began to make his arrangements. Like
a wise general he wanted to have all the details arranged beforehand, so
far as he could do so.
"I hope you'll take the gun along, Paul," remarked Bobolink, when those
who had been selected to accompany the leader were stowing some crackers
and cheese in sundry pockets, so that they might have a little lunch, in
case they were delayed longer than seemed probable.
"Yes, because we're more apt to find need for it than those who stay in
camp," the scout master had replied; which fact seemed to give Bobolink
He had not liked the looks of that big fellow which Nuthin claimed to
have recognized as his old Lion. If they chanced to run across the beast
again, it might feel disposed to attack them; and nothing would please
Bobolink more than to have Paul bowl the creature over with a single
shot. Any dog that did not have the sense to stay at home, and feed at
the hands of a kind master, deserved to get the limit, he thought.
"It isn't that alone," Bobolink had protested, when Paul took him to
task for showing such a bloodthirsty spirit; "I've been hearing lately
that some of the farmers up this way are complainin' about dogs killin'
their lambs this last spring. And chances are, this same Lion's been one
of the pack that did the mischief. Once they start in that way, nothin'
can cure 'em but cold lead. My father said that right out at table. So
you see, when dogs take to runnin' loose, they're just like boys, an'
get into bad ways."
Paul thought this was a pretty good argument. He had himself made up his
mind that should they ever meet that animal again, and he showed a
disposition to attack any of the scouts, there was only one thing to do.
"How about getting into communication with you while you're gone?" asked
Jud, who was naturally feeling the new responsibilities of his position
more or less, and wished to be posted.
"It might be found a good thing," replied the scoutmaster; "and we could
do it easy enough by flags, if we managed to get to the top of that hill
where the lone cedar grows. So all the time we're away, Jud, be sure and
have a scout posted in a tree, where he can watch that cedar, keeping his
flag handy to answer, if he gets the signal.
"Guess that can be fixed, all right," declared Jud.
"Have him keep his eye out for smoke at the same time," continued Paul.
"We might want to tell you something, even without getting up to that
cedar tree. And in case you felt like sending back an answer, you'd
better have the boys collect a lot of that wood I showed you, that makes
a black smoke. You know our smoke code, Jud; no danger of our failing to
make good while you're handling the other end of the line."
That made Jud smile, and feel like doing everything in his power to
satisfy the scout master. A few drops of oil prevents a vast amount of
friction. Paul knew there are few boys who do not like to be appreciated;
and they will do double the amount of work if they feel that they possess
the full confidence of the one who has been placed in command over them.
When the word was finally given for the little expedition to leave camp,
and start into the unknown depths of the island, those who were to
remain behind insisted on shaking hands all around, and wishing them the
best of luck. Bobolink pretended to make light of it, and to laugh at
"Great Scott! you'd think we were going away off to Hudson's Bay, not to
come back again for many moons, if ever!" he scoffed. "Talk about
Stanley's farewell to Livingstone in the African jungle, why it wasn't
in the same class as this. Don't you dare try to embrace me, Dan Tucker.
What d'ye think I am, the pretty new girl that's come to town, and who
danced with you at our class spread? Hands off, now! And don't any of
you cry when we're gone. I declare if you aren't turnin' into a lot of
So the seven scouts strode away from the hidden camp in the sink,
plunging into the heavy growth of timber that covered most of the island.
Once only did they turn, to wave a goodbye to their watching companions,
who flourished their hats in response, but dared not give the cheer that
was in their hearts, because Paul had enjoined the strictest silence.
Paul and Jack had more than once tried to figure out what Cedar Island
must look like; but at the best it was only guess work. None of them had
ever been here before, and so far they had only roamed over a small
portion of one end of the island, so that they could not tell even its
That was one of the reasons why Paul wanted to climb the little hill on
which grew the cedar from which the island must have taken its name.
Once they gained this point, he fancied they might be able to see all
parts of the place, and in this manner get a comprehensive idea as what
it was like.
They kept pretty well together as they pushed through the brush and
timber. Paul instructed them to watch constantly on all sides, so that
nothing might escape their scrutiny; and as the little band of scouts
pushed deeper into the unknown depths of the mysterious island, they felt
more than ever a sense of the responsibility that rested upon their
As one of the boys had remarked before, this was good training. They
could look back to other occasions when they had roamed the woods, once
in search of a little chap who had been lost; but somehow these incidents
lacked the flavor of mystery that surrounded them now.
If these men should turn out to be what they already suspected, lawless
counterfeiters, would they not be apt to show a revengeful spirit if the
persistent boys interfered with their business to any extent?
Just how far he would be justified in leading his companions on, when
there was this element of danger in the affair, was a serious question,
which Paul had as yet not settled in his mind. He was waiting until
something more definite turned up, and when that occurred he expected to
be governed by circumstances to a great extent.
Of course they had frequent little shocks. These came when some small
animals rustled the bushes in fleeing before them, or a bird started out
of the thick branches of a tree.
The boys were keyed up to such a pitch that their nerves were on edge.
When a crow, that had been watching their coming with suspicious eye,
gave a series of harsh caws, and flapping his wings, took flight, Andy
caught hold of Bluff's sleeve, and gave it a tug.
"Q-q-quit t-t-that!" exclaimed Bluff, in a shrill whisper. "G-g-guess I'm
k-k-keyed up enough, without m-m-akin' me j-j-jump out of my s-s-skin!"
"Arrah but I thought it was that ould dog a-goin' to lape at us, so I
did!" muttered the Irish lad, shaking his head, and grasping his cudgel
All of them had been wise enough to arm themselves in some way before
starting out. And when seven fairly muscular boys wield that many clubs,
that have been tried and found true, they ought to be capable of doing
considerable execution. But in truth there were but six of the cudgels,
for Paul carried his gun only.
They had by now cleared quite considerable ground, even though their
progress was in anything but a direct line. On account of dense patches
of thorn bushes Paul found it necessary to make various detours; but then
this did not matter to any great extent; for while it added to the length
of their journey, at the same time it promised to reveal more of the
island to their search.
One thing surprised Paul. They found the trees so dense that most of
the time it was possible to obtain only glimpses of the sky above.
Fortunately the sun continued to shine. He thought it must be pretty
dingy here on a cloudy day. And the more he saw of Cedar Island the
less he wondered that some of the ignorant country people believed it
to be haunted.
Bobolink must have been allowing his mind to run in a similar groove, for
presently pushing up alongside Paul, he remarked in a whisper:
"Gee! did you ever see a more spooky place than this is, Paul? Now, if a
fellow _did_ believe in ghosts, which of course I don't, here's where
he'd expect to run across some of them. Look at that hollow over yonder,
would you? There goes a woodchuck dodging back into his hole in the bank.
Ain't it queer how all these animals ever got across from the mainland to
this island? Why, seemed like all of half a mile to me."
"Wait till we get on top of that hill, and perhaps the thing won't seem
so queer, after all," replied Paul. "I was thinking the same way; and
then it struck me that the land might be a whole lot closer to the island
on the northern side. Why, how do we know but what it's only a narrow
"I wonder, now," mused Bobolink, who always found much food for thought
in what information he extracted from the scout master.
They kept on for some five minutes longer, under about the same
conditions. Paul, however, began to believe that they must by now be
drawing somewhere near the foot of the little hill that arose near the
center of the island, as closely as they could figure from their camp at
the southern end.
The result of their watchfulness was made apparent when Tom Betts
suddenly declared that he had seen something that looked like a
blacksmith's forge just beyond a screen of bushes ahead of them.
Cautiously advancing, the seven scouts presently found themselves looking
upon the exact object Tom had mentioned, which proved that his powers of
observation were good. It was a forge of some sort, with a bellows
attached, and a wind screen, but no shelter over the top; which fact
would seem to indicate that it must be in the nature of a field smithy,
used for certain purposes to heat or melt metal.
There being no sign of life around, Paul and his six followers swarmed
out of the brush, and surrounded the forge, which was about as unlikely a
thing to be run across, away in this forsaken quarter of the country, as
anything they could imagine.
And as Paul examined the portable forge closer he made an interesting
A MYSTERY OF THE OPEN GLADE
"This has been used since we had that hard rain, fellows," Paul observed.
Some of the others had noticed him handling the ashes that marked where
the fire had been.
"Say, they are not warm, now, are they?" asked Phil, looking uneasily
around, as if half expecting to see some rough men come swarming out of
"Oh! I didn't mean that," replied the scout master. "But you can see
for yourselves that when it rains there's nothing to keep the water
from running down over this forge. In that case the ashes would be
soaked. If you look again you'll see these are perfectly dry, and have
never been wet."
Several of the scouts picked up some of the ashes, and found that it was
exactly as Paul stated. They were as dry as powder; and could certainly
never have been rained upon.
"That means the forge has been used since the storm that helped us get
through that muddy canal of Jackson's Creek; is that what you mean,
Paul?" asked Bobolink.
"Nothing else," replied the other, still continuing his investigations,
as if he hoped to make some further discovery, that might tell them what
the field forge was intended for, when these unknown men carried it to
this secluded island.
"Great governor, Paul!"
Bobolink had stooped, and picked something from the ground. This he was
now holding in his hand, and staring at it, as though he could hardly
believe his eyes.
The other scouts crowded around him, and their eyes, too, widened when
they discovered what it was.
"A quarter of a dollar!" exclaimed Jack.
"And a shining new one in the bargain," declared Tom Betts.
"What d'ye think of that, now?" said Phil.
Paul reached over, and took possession of the coin.
"Did you find that, Bobolink?" he asked, for sometimes the other was
known to play tricks.
"I sure did, Paul, right like this," and stooping over, Bobolink was
about to pretend to pick up something when he uttered a gasp.
He was holding a second coin in his hand, the exact duplicate, so far as
they could see, of the first one.
"Must grow here in flocks!" exclaimed Phil; "let's see if we can dig up a
whole bunch of 'em, boys!" But although they all started digging with the
toes of their shoes, no more shining coins came to light; and it began to
look as if Bobolink had been fortunate enough to pick up all there were.
Paul closely examined the two bright quarters.
"If those are queer ones then they'd fool me all right, let me tell you!"
"I never saw better in my life," Paul admitted.
The boys were looking pretty serious by now. It began to seem as though
that guess made by one of their number could not have been so wide of the
mark as at the time some of them believed. Here was pretty strong
evidence that these men were engaged in manufacturing spurious coins.
Ought they to consider they had gone far enough, and give up the
exploration of the island, returning home to sound the alarm, and
send word to the authorities, so that these men might be trapped as
Paul was tempted to consider that his duty lay that way. Still, there
were some things that puzzled him, and made him hesitate before
concluding to follow that idea.
Why should they keep the forge out here in the open, when some shelter
would seem to be the proper thing, if, as the scouts now believed, they
were using the fire to smelt metals, and blend them to the proper
consistency for the bad coins?
That was something that puzzled Paul greatly. It caused him to look
around in the neighborhood of the forge, in the hope that he might pick
up some other clue.
The ground was pretty well trampled over, as though a number of men had
been walking back and forth many times in their occupation, whatever it
could have been. Paul also saw a number of indentations in the earth,
which made him think some heavy object had rested in that open space.
"Whatever they brought here," remarked Jack, presently, "it looks like
they must have used some sort of vehicle to carry it; because these
tracks have the appearance of ruts made by wheels."
"Rubber tires, too," added Phil. "I've seen too many of 'em not to know;
for my father has a garage."
"Is that so?" exclaimed Bobolink, shaking his head, as if to say that
with each discovery the mystery, instead of getting lighter, only grew
"And look how close together they seem to be, would you; a pretty narrow
bed for a wagon, don't it seem?" asked Tom Betts.
"But they run off that way," observed Bobolink, "and there are so many of
the tracks you can hardly tell which are mates. There's Paul followin'
'em up; reckon we'd better keep with him, boys. We don't want to get
Paul soon came to a stop, and was joined by the others.
"Queer how the marks all seem to knock off about here," he remarked,
pointing to the ground. "You can't find one further on. And it isn't that
the ground suddenly gets hard, either. This looks the queerest thing of
them all. What do they run that thing with wheels up and down here for?
But silence was the only answer he received, since every one of the six
other scouts seemed to be scratching his head, and wrinkling his
forehead, as though deep in thought, yet unable to see light.
So they went back to the field forge, to look around again, though their
labor was all they had for their pains.
"Not even another lovely quarter to be picked up where it got spilled
when they made 'em here, p'raps by the bushel," grumbled Bobolink,
scratching the earth with his toe in vain.
He had recovered the coins from Paul, and jingled them in his pocket;
though the envious Bluff warned him that they might get him into a peck
of trouble, should he be caught by Secret Service men.
"Huh! guess you think you c'n scare me into droppin' them," declared
Bobolink, thrusting out his chin at Bluff. "Let me know if you see me
doin' it; will you? I c'n just see you falling all over yourself, tryin'
to grab these dandy coins, if I let 'em slip by me. Shoot a ball up
another alley, Bluff. Go hunt a fortune for yourself, and don't want to
grab mine. Hands off, see?"
"Do we go back now, Paul; or had we better keep on to the hill?" Jack
asked, as though he knew the other must have been settling this important
matter in his mind.
"I think as we've come this far, with the hill just ahead of us, it would
be a disappointment not to get up to that cedar tree," Paul replied; at
which every one of the other scouts nodded his head.
"W-w-want to s-s-see what the old p-p-place l-l-looks like," remarked
Bluff, in his positive way.
"And there's no use in our staying around here any longer, either, I
should think," ventured Phil. "How do we know but what some of the men
may just happen to butt in on us, while we're looking their old forge
over? And if they did, I just guess they'd make things hum for us. So I
say, into the woods again for me--the sooner the better."
"I hope we're doing the right thing by keeping on," Paul observed,
looking at his companions in a way they took as an invitation to
back him up.
"Who's got a better right to go where we feel like?" demanded Bobolink.
"Honest men wouldn't have any kick coming, just because a troop of Boy
Scouts happened to camp on their island; and it only goes to show
they're doing something shady, that's what. I say go on," Phil gave as
Jack, Andy, Bluff and Tom were quick to declare themselves opposed to any
change of plan, at least, until after they had reached their goal, which
was the foot of the cedar on top of the hill.
This decision seemed to give Paul more heart, and when they left the open
space he cast a last glance back at it, as though still puzzled.
The trees grew even more dense as they drew nearer the foot of that
peculiar rise in the ground which went to make up what they called a
hill. Indeed, the boys were astonished to find such an almost
"Isn't that some sort of shack you can see over yonder?" asked Phil,
As the rest looked, they agreed that it looked like a rude shelter, made
out of branches, and some boards fastened together in a crude way.
There was no sign of life about the place, and after making sure of this
the scouts grew bold enough to advance upon it from what seemed to be the
rear, though this could be settled only by the fact that the entrance to
the rustic hut appeared to be on the other side.
Creeping noiselessly up until they were alongside the shelter, the scouts
set about finding loopholes through which they might obtain a glimpse of
what lay on the other side of those frail walls.
Then one by one they drew back, and the looks they cast at each other
indicated that what they had seen was not a pleasant sight.
THE WIGWAG MESSAGE
The other side of the rough shack was partly open, so that
considerable light managed to gain admittance. This had enabled the
scouts to see a figure lying on some old blankets, together with the
skins of several animals.
It was without doubt the wild man who had given some of their troop such
a bad scare when he turned up near the camp soon after their arrival on
He seemed to be sound asleep, and none of them were at all anxious to
make any sound calculated to arouse him. Indeed, more than one put a
finger to his lips to indicate that they were sealed, as he turned and
looked anxiously at his comrades.
Paul made motions to let them know it would be just as well if they quit
the vicinity of that queer shack, where the crazy man, as they now deemed
him, had his home.
A few minutes later, when they had put enough distance between themselves
and the rude shelter to permit conversation, Bobolink could no longer
keep his opinions to himself.
"He was a jim-dandy, all right, and a genuine wild man of the woods!" he
remarked. "What are the circus fellows thinkin' of, to let such a fine
chance slip by to get a real 'What-is-it,' fresh from the jungles of
Borneo, half man, and the rest gorilla?"
"And he had Nuthin's dog, after all," observed Paul, quietly.
"What makes you say that, Paul?" asked Jack.
"Because, in the first place, I saw a lot of bones, picked as clean as a
whistle, lying on the ground over in a corner. Then there was a lair that
looked as if an animal slept in it. And if that wasn't enough, I noticed
a piece of broken rope fastened to a stake, close by that corner. You
remember I said the dog was dragging a piece of rope around with him,
when he came creeping up near our camp last night? He broke away, all
right; and I guess the wild man will be minus his dog after this."
"Well, that's one thing settled," asserted Phil "We know now, for sure,
there _is_ a wild man up here; and some of the officers will have to come
and capture him. My father is one of the county freeholders, and he's
overseer of the poor in the bargain; so I suppose it'll be up to him to
carry out the job. They can't afford to have people say there's a crazy
wild man at large, in our district, you see."
"Did any of you notice that there was a rude sort of table in the shack?"
asked Paul, as they kept on moving forward, wondering if a third
discovery might be made at any minute.
"Well, now, that's a fact," replied Bobolink. "I did see that, but
somehow didn't think it queer at the time, not enough to mention it,
anyhow. But come to think of it, it was kind of out of the way in the
shack of a wild man, eh?"
"There was something on the table that would seem stranger, if you'd
noticed it. I saw a battered old coffeepot there!" observed Paul,
"What?" ejaculated Bobolink. "A wild man liking coffee! Where d'ye
suppose he gets the roasted bean? It don't grow on the bushes up here;
and he sure don't look as if he had the cash to buy it. Oh! p'raps they
use him to pass some of this bogus coin they make! Mebbe he goes to
towns, and buys their supplies, all the time they're workin' like beavers
up here, makin' the stuff."
"I don't just agree with you there, Bobolink," said Paul. "In the first
place, as Phil will tell you, if such a scarecrow ever came into
Stanhope, or any other town in the country, the officers would be sure
to arrest him, and examine him to see if he oughtn't to be shut up in the
asylum. If he got the old pot and the coffee to go with it from these
men, then it was in the nature of a bribe not to interfere with their
business, as they wanted to stay here on his Island."
"Great brain, Paul; you seem to hit the right idea every time. And
chances are, that's just what happened," Bobolink remarked.
"That dog didn't come back," observed Tom Betts.
"And therefore he's still loose," added Phil, uneasily. "Hope we don't
run across the beggar again; but if we should, remember Paul, the country
expects you to do your duty. You must bag him, no matter what noise you
have to make doing it"
"Leave that to me," remarked the scout master. "Now that we know pretty
well how the land lies, and whose dog it is, perhaps I won't be so
squeamish about shooting the beast if the chance comes along."
"Here's the foot of the rise," Jack broke in.
"And the trees grow more thin as the ground ascends, you notice," Paul
went on. He called their attention to all such things, because he was
acting as scout master of the troop, and it seemed to him that he should
not allow any chance to pass whereby he might enlarge the horizon of
scout lore of the lads under him.
"Then it strikes me that we ought to be a bit careful not to show
ourselves too plain, as we go up," Jack suggested.
"You're right," added Bobolink. "For all we know, these fellows may
have a lookout in a tree, as well as we have, and he'd see us if we got
careless. That means we must dodge along, taking advantage of every
sort of shelter that crops up. Great fun, boys, and for one I'm just
tickled to death over the chance to prove that we learned our little
lesson O. K."
All were presently stooping at one moment, where the bushes grew sparse;
crawling in among some sheltering rocks at another, and even getting down
to wriggle along like so many snakes, when not even so much as a bush
offered a means of hiding from observation, in case hostile eyes happened
to be turned upwards toward the hilltop at the foot of the lone cedar.
It was not a great distance to cover, and before long they found
themselves close to their goal.
Already could they see over the southern side of the island; and after
they gained the cedar it would probably be easy to also survey the
northern half, the part which doubtless held more of interest to them
than any other, since they had reason to believe that the mysterious
dwellers on the isle were somewhere there.
"Five more minutes will do it," remarked Paul, when they had gathered in
a shallow depression which afforded shelter until they caught their
breath again for another climb.
Paul was looking hard at something far beyond the lake. Bobolink, of
course, being attracted by his scrutiny, also allowed his gaze to wander
in that quarter; but all he saw was what he took to be a buzzard, almost
out of sight--a dim speck in the heavens, and about to pass out of sight
altogether where clouds hovered above the southern horizon.
"I c'n see about where our camp is," Phil was saying, "and I think I know
which tree the signal corps is stationed in. Anyhow, I seem to glimpse
something white moving among the green leaves, which, I take it, is a
flag being held ready to wave at us."
"I reckon Paul will soon let 'em know we're still on the map," observed
Bobolink. "But won't they be s'prised when they learn that we saw the
terrible wild man in his own den; and ran across the plant where those
rascals make their bogus coin, that looks as bright and good as any Uncle
Sam stamps out?"
Just then the leader gave the signal for another advance, and the six
scouts who followed set about completing the last leg of the climb.
They finally found themselves at the roots of the cedar tree that crowned
the elevation, and which proved of a size far beyond what any of the
scouts had imagined.
"Well, here we are at last," said Phil, breathing hard after his
"And," added Bobolink, also badly winded, though he would chatter; "now
to see Paul get one of the other fellows on the line, to wig his wag at
us, or do something that sounds that way. There he goes at it. And looky
there, they've been watching us climb, I reckon, because almost before
Paul made the first sign, that other fellow began sendin'."
They watched the fluttering red flag with the white centre. Some of them
had taken more or less interest in sending and receiving messages; but
the boy in the tree proved too fast for any of them to follow. They
suspected that it was Jud Elderkin himself; for outside of Paul and Jack,
he was the best hand at that sort of thing.
"My stars! he keeps right along doing it; don't he?" muttered Bobolink.
"Must be some message, too, believe me," added Phil.
"N-n-now, what d'ye s-s-suppose has happened at c-c-camp since we
q-q-quit?" remarked Bluff, anxiously waiting for the message to be
Not once did Paul break in on the sending of the message. He sat there,
close to the base of the big cedar which sheltered his back from the
north side of the island; and seemed to be wholly engrossed in
transcribing the various signs of the flag code.
They could not see the boy in the branches of the tree; but from their
elevated position the white and red flag was in plain view. Up and down,
and crosswise, it continued to write its message, that was doubtless like
printed letters to Paul and Jack, while unintelligible to those who had
never taken lessons in wigwagging.
Finally came the well known sign that the message was done; and that the
sender awaited the wishes of the party with whom he was in communication.
Paul turned upon his comrades. They saw that the frown had come back
again to his usually smooth forehead, as though he had learned
something to add to the perplexities of the problem they were trying so
diligently to solve.
"It's Jud," he said, simply, "and he's just sent an astonishing
message. This is the way it ran, boys: 'Presence here known. Man in
aeroplane passed over camp. Went down lake half hour ago. Out of sight
No wonder Bobolink fairly held his breath, and the other five scouts
looked at each other, as though they could hardly believe their ears. For
a full minute they sat there and stared; while Bobolink remembered the
far-away black object that, at the time, he had thought to be a buzzard.
STILL FLOUNDERING IN THE MIRE
It was, of course, Bobolink who gave utterance to this characteristic
Like most of the others, he had been so stunned by the message
read by Paul, that for the moment he failed to find words to
express his feelings.
An aeroplane had passed over the camp! And heading south, which would
take it toward the quarter where Stanhope lay!
Here they had thought themselves so far removed from civilization that
the only persons within a range of miles might be set down as a wild man
and some lawless counterfeiters, who had chosen this region because of
And now they had learned that one of the latest inventions of the day had
been moving above the island, with the pilot actually looking down on the
camp, and so discovering the fact of the Boy Scouts having returned after
their banishment from the place.
No wonder they all stared at each other, and that speech was denied them
for a time.
Jack was the first to speak. He had read the message, being nearly as
good a signalman as Paul or Jud.
"Things seem to be picking up at a pretty lively clip for us; eh,
fellows?" was the way he put it.
"Picking up?" gasped Bobolink; "Seems to me they're getting to the red
hot stage about as fast as they can. An aeroplane! And up here on our
desert island at that, which folks said was given over to spooks and
wild men! That _is_ the limit, sure! Hold me, somebody; I think I'm
going to faint!"
But as nobody made any movement in that direction, Bobolink
changed his mind.
"Let's look into this thing a little closer, fellows," said Paul, always
prompt to set an investigation going.
"That's what!" echoed Bluff, surprising himself by not stammering a
particle, even though he was still quivering with excitement.
"Jud says an aeroplane passed over the camp; but he didn't tell whether
it rose from the island or not, though the chances are that it did," Paul
"Why do you say that as if you felt sure?" demanded Tom Betts.
"Yes," put in Phil, eagerly, "you've got on to something, Paul; give us
a chance to grab it, too, please."
"Sure I will," complied the scout master, cheerfully. "And I'm only
surprised that one of you, always so quick to see such things, hasn't
jumped on to this little game as soon as I have. Look back a short time,
and you'll remember how we were scratching our heads over the tracks of
wheels down in that big opening!"
"Wheels!" exclaimed Bobolink, with fresh excitement. "Well, I should say
yes; and looks to me like we had 'em in our heads too, where the brains
ought to be. Wheels, yes, and rubber-tired wheels too! Remember how they
seemed to run up and down a regular track, and just went so far, when
they gave out? Whoop! why, it's as easy as two and two make four. Anybody
ought to have guessed that."
"Huh!" remarked Tom Betts, scornfully; "that's what they said, you
recollect, when Columbus discovered America. After you know, everything
looks easy. In my mind Paul goes up head. He's in a class by himself."
"And that forge might have been used, among other things, for doing all
sorts of mending metal pieces connected with an aeroplane," Paul went on,
smiling at Tom's tribute of praise.
"Not forgetting these sort of things," Bobolink observed, positively,
as he took out a pair of bright new quarters, and jingled them
musically in his hand.
"Well, we haven't had any reason to change our minds about that
thing,--yet," said Paul. "But what strikes me as the queerest of all is
the fact that while we must have been pretty close by when that aeroplane
went up, how was it none of us heard the throbbing of the engine?"
They looked at each other in bewilderment. Paul's query had opened up a
vast field of conjecture. One and all shook their heads.
"I pass," declared Tom.
"Me too," added Phil.
"Must 'a got some new kind of motor aboard that is silent,"
"J-j-just a-goin' to s-s-say that, when Jack t-t-took the w-w-words out
of m-m-my m-m-mouth," Bluff exploded.
"No trouble doin' that, Bluff," laughed Bobolink. "If that aeroplane did
climb up out of that field, while we pushed through the heavy timber, and
none of us heard a thing, let me tell you, boys, they've got a
cracker-jack of a motor, that's what!"
"But arrah! would ye be thinkin' that a lot of bog-trottin'
counterfeiters'd be havin' a rale aeroplane?" burst out Andy Flinn, who
had up to now been unable to give any expression to his feelings.
"I'd say these fellers must be a pretty tony lot, that's all,"
"Whatever do you suppose they use such a machine for?" asked Tom.
Again all eyes were turned upon Paul, as the oracle of the group of
wondering scouts. He shrugged his shoulders, as if he thought he had as
much right as any of the others to admit that he was puzzled.
"Well, we'd have to make a stab at guessing that," he observed. "Any one
thing of half a dozen might be the truth. An aeroplane could be used for
carrying the stuff they make up here to a distant market. Then again, it
might be only a sort of plaything, or hobby, of the chief money-maker;
something he amuses himself with, to take his mind off business. All men
have hobbies--fishing, hunting, horse racing, golf--why couldn't this
chap take to flying for his fun?"
"That sounds good to me," declared Bobolink; "anyhow, we know he must be
a kind of high-flier."
"Seems like our mystery bulges bigger than ever," remarked Phil,
"It does, for a fact," admitted Tom; "instead of finding out things,
we're getting deeper in the mud all the time."
"Oh! I don't know," Paul said, musingly; and although the rest instantly
turned upon him, fully expecting that the scout master would have some
sort of communication to make, he did not think it worth while, at that
time, to explain what he meant.
"Say, I wonder, now, if we could see anything of those fellows from up
here?" remarked Bobolink, suddenly.
"That's so," echoed Phil, perceiving what the other intended to convey;
"we can see the whole of the island now; and if they're camped somewhere
on the north end, perhaps we might get a glimpse of canvas."
"What makes you think these men have their headquarters on the north end,
rather than anywhere else?" asked Paul, quickly.
"Why, when we got up here, I noticed that smoke was climbing up over
there; and smoke means a fire; which also tells that some person must be
around to look after it," replied Phil, promptly.
"Pretty good reasoning," said Paul, nodding his head toward Phil; for if
anything gave him pleasure as scout master of the troop, it was to see a
boy using his head.
All now looked over the crown of the hill, toward the upper end of the
island. The first thing they saw, of course, was the thin column of
smoke which Phil had mentioned. Then Bobolink burst out with:
"And you were right, Paul, when you said that the chances were the island
was close to the north side of the lake, so animals could swim across.
Why, only a narrow streak of water separates 'em there, sure enough."
"Oh! that was only a guess on my part," Paul confessed. "I saw about how
far away the mainland trended up there, and supposed that our island must
run near it in places. I'm pleased to see that I hit the mark, for once
at least, in this mixed-up mess."
Paul was evidently more or less provoked because he had been unable to
understand many of the strange things that had happened since their
arrival on Cedar Island. And the others knew that he was taking himself
to task because of his dullness; but what of them, if the scout master
needed to be wakened up--where did they come in?
"I can't be sure about it," observed Phil, who had been looking intently
at one particular spot; "but it seems as if I could make out the roof of
a shed of some kind, over yonder, close to where the smoke rises."
This set them all to looking again. Andy, who had very good eyes,
declared he could make it out, and that it was a roof of some kind; one
or two of the others, after their attention had been called to the spot,
also admitted that it did look a little that way, though they could not
say for a certainty.
"Anyhow, I reckon that's where these men live," Paul declared; "and now
the question is, are we going to turn back here; or keep right on
exploring this queer old Cedar Island?"
Bobolink, who was busy cutting his initials in the bark of the big cedar
that topped the squatty hill, spoke first of all; for being an impetuous
fellow, he seldom thought twice before airing his opinions.
"Me to push right on," he said. "What difference does it make to us that
some other fellows chance to be camping on the same island? It's free to
all. We aren't going to bother them one whit, if only they leave us
alone. But they began wrong, you see, when they told us to get off the
earth. That riled me. I never did like to be sat on by anybody. It just
seems like something inside gets to workin' overtime, and all my badness
begins to rise up, like mom's yeast in a batch of dough. Count my vote to
go on ahead, Paul."
"Well, who's next?" asked the scout master "and remember, that when
it comes to a matter like this, I always try and do what the
"I'm willing to do what the rest say," came from Jack.
"Go right on, and make a clean job of it," said Tom Betts, grimly.
"S-s-same here!" jerked out Bluff.
"That spakes my mind to a dot, so it do," Andy followed.
Paul threw up his hand.
"Enough said; that makes four in favor already, and settles the matter. I
won't tell you which way I would have voted, because the thing's been
taken from my hands. And besides, I would only have considered your
welfare in making my decision, and not my own desire."
"Which manes he would have said yis for himsilf, and no for the rist of
us," declared the Irish boy, exultantly; "so it's glad I am we've made up
our minds to go on. Whin do we shtart, Paul, darlint?"
"Right away," replied the one addressed. "There's no use staying any
longer up here, unless you think I'd better get Jud again, and wigwag him
all that we've learned up to now."
"It'll keep," said Phil, hastily, for he wanted to see the faces of those
other scouts when the several astonishing pieces of news were told;
especially about the finding of the real wild man asleep, the discovery
of the field forge in the open glade and the picking up of the two silver
quarters, which last he felt sure would give them all a surprise.
"A11 right!" the scout master announced, "I think pretty much the same
way; and besides, it would take a long while sending all that news.
But perhaps I ought to let the boys know we're going on further; and
that they needn't expect us much before the middle of the afternoon.
That'll give us plenty of time to roam around, and perhaps come back
So he started once more to catch the attention of Jud, perched high up in
that tree above the sink near the lower end of the island, where he could
have an uninterrupted view of the cedar on the top of the hill.
Then there was a fluttering of the signal flag and briefly the scout
master informed the other as to what their intentions were.
"That job's done," Paul remarked, presently, when Jud replied with a
gesture that implied his understanding the message; "and now to move
down-hill again. We're taking some big chances in what we're expecting to
do, fellows, and I only hope it won't prove a mistake. Come along!"
"There's one thing that I think we haven't bothered our heads much about,
Paul," remarked Jack, just before they quitted the vicinity of the big
cedar on top of the hill.
"What?" asked Bobolink, cocking his head on one side to see how well his
initials looked in the bark of the tree from which Cedar Island took its
name; and which would tell later explorers that others had been there
ahead of them.
"Why, it seems to me those clouds down there on the southern horizon have
a look that spells storm," Jack continued.
"Wow! wonder if we will strike another rainy spell?" said Bobolink, so
quickly that none of the others had a chance to get a word in; "that last
one helped us get out of the mud in the canal; if another comes will it
be as accommodatin', or turn on us, and whoop things up, carrying our
tents away over the island, and losing 'em in the swamps beyond there?"
"Oh! say, don't imagine so much, Bobolink," interrupted Phil. "You're
the greatest fellow I ever saw for figuring all sorts of bad things out
long before they ever get a chance to start. What Jack means is, will we
be apt to get caught in the rain, and be soaked?"
"That's the main thing," added Tom Betts, who was rather particular about
how his khaki suit looked on him, for Tom was a bit of a "dresser," as
some of the others, less careful with regard to their looks, called it.
"I've noticed that it's grown pretty close and muggy," Paul went on.
"I should say it had," added Bobolink. "I kept moppin' my face most of
the way up the rise. Thought we'd sure get a fine breeze after reachin'
the top; but nixey, nothing doing. It's as dead as a door nail; or Julius
Caesar ever was. Yes, that spells rain before night, I'd like to risk my
reputation as a weather prophet in saying."
"Still, we go on?" Paul asked.
"Well, we'd be a fine lot of scouts," blurted out Bobolink, "if the
chance of getting our backs wet made us give up a plan we'd decided on."
"Lead the way, Paul; they're bent on finding out something more about
these men. And feeling that way, as Bobolink says, a little rain storm
wouldn't make them change their minds," and Jack, while speaking, started
after the scout master, who had commenced to descend the hill.
They did not immediately turn toward the north side. There seemed no use
in deliberately making their presence known to any one stationed over at
the north end of the island, providing the mysterious men were not
already aware of it.
Paul, when doing his wigwag act, had been careful to keep the crest of
the hill between his flag and that suspicious quarter where the smoke
column was lazily creeping up, as smoke has a habit of doing just before
Of course it might be possible that the man in the aeroplane, after
discovering the tents in the sink, may have made some sort of signal
that would tell his comrades the fact of the scouts having returned in
Paul wished, now that it was too late, he had thought to ask Jud about
that point. It might be of some benefit to them to know whether the men
were aware of their presence; or rested serene in the belief that they
were the only occupants of the island, besides the wild man.
After the scouts had gone down a little way, Paul began to change his
course. He was now turning toward the north. The trees grew much more
thickly here, and would surely screen them from observation.
The boys had resumed their former habit of observing everything that came
in their way, as true scouts always should. They turned their heads from
right to left and Bobolink even looked back of him more than a few times.
Perhaps he remembered that there was a wild man at large who might take a
notion to awake from his sleep, and, discovering the scout patrol, think
it his business to follow them.
And then, to be sure, they ought to keep in mind the fact concerning that
wild dog that had gone back to the habits of its ancestors, preferring to
live by hunting, rather than take food from the hand of man. It would be
far from pleasant to have old Lion suddenly sneak up on them, and give
them a scare.
But everything seemed peaceful around them. Now and then a bird would fly
out of a thicket, or give a little burst of song from the branch of some
tree. A red-headed woodpecker tapped boisterously on the dead top of a
beech near by, trying hard to arouse the curiosity of the worms that
lived there, so as to cause them to poke out their heads to see who was
so noisy at their front doors; when of course the feathered hammerer
stood ready to gobble them up.
"Oh!" gasped Bobolink, when there was a sudden whirring sound of wings,
and they had a furtive glimpse of something flashing through the
undergrowth near by.
"It's only a partridge; don't be worried!" remarked Phil.
"Sure it was," muttered Bobolink, with scorn; "any fellow with only one
eye'd know that _now_; but all the same, the thing gave me a bad turn,
I'm that keyed up."
"And that's a cotton-tail looking at us over yonder, so don't throw
another fit when he takes a notion to skip out," Phil continued, pointing
with his cudgel to where a rabbit sat, observing the intruders, as though
wondering what business any human beings had coming to the island that
had been left alone so long.
Presently the little animal skipped off a few paces and then stopped
again. As the scouts advanced, it repeated these tactics; indeed, so
tame did it seem that any of them could have easily hit the rabbit with
a stone, had they felt so inclined, which, as scouts, they could not
think of doing.
"Looks like she's got a litter of young ones close by here," said
Bobolink; "and is playing lame just to lead us away from the bunch. I've
seen rabbits do that before now. The cuteness of the thing! Look at her,
would you, just beggin' us to run after, and try to capture her?"
"I've seen a partridge act as if she had a broken wing," Jack remarked,
quietly; "and flutter along the ground in a way that couldn't help but
make one try to catch her; but if you chased after her, it would be to
see the old bird take wing pretty soon, and go off like a rocket."
"Same here," declared Paul; "and going back, I flushed a whole covey of
the prettiest little birds you ever saw. They'd been crouching under a
bush while the old one played lame; just as if she'd told them all about
it. But I heard her calling in the brush later on, and of course she got
them all together again."
"There goes your lame rabbit now, Bobolink; and say, look at the way she
jumps over the ground," remarked Phil, chuckling.
"Not so loud, boys," cautioned the scout master. "These things are all
mighty interesting; but we mustn't forget what we're here for nor yet the
fact that we've got a pretty good hunch there are some men close by who
would be just as mad as hops if they knew we meant to stalk their camp
and spy on them. If you have to say anything, whisper it softly,
At that they all fell silent. It was true that they had forgotten for the
moment that they were doing scouting work; and under such conditions
talking was not allowed, especially above the lowest tone.
All of them noticed that it was getting very close now, for they had to
use the red bandanna handkerchiefs they carried, and quite frequently at
that, to wipe away the perspiration that oozed from their foreheads.
"Lucky we left our coats in camp; isn't it?" remarked Phil.
"Looks that way now, but if that rain does strike us, we may wish we had
'em on," Tom Betts replied; showing that he at least had not been able to
put out of his head the possibility of a storm.
"Seems to me we must be getting somewhere," Phil observed.
"It can't be very much further," Paul answered, feeling that the remark
was addressed to him as the pilot of the expedition."
"I should say not," came from Bluff, as chipper as a bird's song, and
without the least sign of halt or break; "if we go on much more, we'll
walk off the end of the island."
Bobolink patted him on the back, as if to encourage him in well doing.
"That's the stuff, Bluff; you c'n do it when you try," he whispered; "but
as to steppin' into the lake, I guess we aren't that near the north end
yet, by a good sight."
Paul nodded his head, but said nothing; from that Bobolink knew the scout
master agreed with him. They could go considerably longer without being
halted by coming to the water's edge.
Jack called the attention of his chums just then to something ahead.
"Seems to me I smell smoke," he said, "and if you bend down here, so you
can look under the branches of the trees, you'll see something that's got
the shape of a shed, or cabin, off yonder."
The others, upon making a try, agreed with Jack that it did seem that
"Oh! we're right on top of the nest, all right" chattered Bobolink, but
showing his wisdom by keeping his voice down to its lowest note; "and
now, if we c'n duplicate that little dodge we played at the shack of the
wild man, it's goin' to be as easy as turning over off a spring-board,
with a ten foot drop."
"But if we're caught we might get shot at," suggested Phil, as if the
idea had struck him for the first time that they were really playing with
fire, in thus bearding desperate lawbreakers in their den.
"We aren't going to get caught," said Bobolink; "who's afraid? Not I.
Lead along, Paul. I want to get this thing out of my system, so I c'n
have a little rest up here," and he placed a hand on his brow.
Although himself doubtful as to the wisdom of the move, Paul could not
back down now, after allowing the boys to vote on the matter. Perhaps he
was more or less sorry that at the time he had not exercised his
privilege as scout master to put his foot down on their taking any more
chances, just to satisfy such curiosity as reckless fellows like Bobolink
might feel, with regard to the unknown men.
It was too late now. Until some of the boys themselves manifested a
desire to call the retreat, he must go on; although it began to seem more
than ever audacious--this creeping up on a den of men who were hiding
from the eye of the law in order to carry on their nefarious trade.
And so they started to creep forward, now dodging behind trees, and
crawling back of friendly patches of bushes whenever the chance presented
itself. It was all exciting enough, to be sure, and doubtless gave the
boys many a delightful little thrill.
In this fashion they came upon a larger clump of trees and bushes, which,
instead of trying to round, they concluded to pass through.
It was just as they gained a point inside this clump that they were
brought up with a round turn by discovering a couple of objects standing
there, as though they had been left behind when the valuable contents
which they formerly encased had been taken out.
These were two large packing cases, of unusual shape, and made of heavy
Some of the scouts looked at them carelessly, for to them these objects
did not carry any particular meaning. Not so Jack, Tom Betts and
Bobolink. Those three boys had received a shock, as severe as it was
They recognized those cases as being the identical ones which had only
lately reposed snugly in the planing mill of Jack's father in Stanhope,
and to guard which one Hans Waggoner had been hired by the man who owned
them, Professor Hackett! And as they stood there and gaped, doubtless
among the many things that flashed into the minds of those three lads was
the fact that _somebody_ had been trying to get to see what the contents
of those mysterious cases might be; which person they now knew must have
been a Government Secret Service man, a detective from Washington, on the
track of the bold counterfeiting gang!
All these things, and much more, flashed through the minds of Jack and
his chums, as they stood there in that thicket, and stared hard at the
two big cases bound around with twisted wire, but which had now been
relieved of their unknown contents, for they stood empty.
And the others, realizing that something had occurred out of the regular
channel, waited for them to speak, and explain what they had discovered.
TIME TO GO BACK
"What is it, Bobolink--Jack?" asked the scout master.
"The boxes yonder!" Bobolink managed to exclaim.
"You evidently have seen them before; tell me, Jack, are they the ones
you said your father stored for that man?" continued Paul.
"They certainly look mighty like them," replied the other; "and you know,
they were taken away that morning early. They must have been carried
across country to the shore of the lake, and then ferried over in a
rowboat. That was what we saw the marks of, and the four men walked off
with these between them."
"Whee! did you ever?" gasped the still bewildered Bobolink. "Yes, here
you c'n see the markin' on the lid they threw away when they opened this
one--'Professor Hackett, In care of John Stormways, Stanhope,' all as
plain as anything. And to think how after all my worryin' the old boxes
have bobbed up here. Don't it beat the Dutch how things turn out?"
That seemed to be the one thing that gripped Bobolink's attention--the
strange way in which those two heavy boxes with the twisted wire binding
had happened to cross his path again.
But Paul was thinking of other things, that might have a more serious
bearing on the case. He turned to Jack again.
"What do you know about this so-called professor?" he asked.
"Me? Why, next to nothing, only that he comes from down near New York
City at a place called Coney Island, where lots of fakirs hold out; and
plenty of men too, in the summer season, who would want to circulate a
little money that did not bear the Government stamp."
"But your father seems to have known him; or at any rate believed he was
a law-abiding citizen," pursued Paul; "otherwise he would hardly have
given him the privilege of storing his cases in his mill over night."
"Oh! my father is that easy-going, nearly anybody could pull the wool
over his eyes. He believed the yarn this pretended professor told him,
I've no doubt, and thought it next door to nothing to let him keep the
boxes in the mill for a short time. You know, my father is the
best-hearted man in Stanhope, barring none. But I agree with the rest of
you that this time he must have got stung. The professor is sure a bad
egg. I must put my dad wise as soon as I get half a chance."
"Perhaps it's already too late to save him from getting stuck with a lot
of the stuff they manufacture?" suggested Tom Betts.
"Oh! that could hardly be so," Jack replied, cheerfully. "When these
bogus money-makers want to get rid of some of their stock they always
have go-betweens do the job for them. It would be too easy tracing things
if they passed the stuff themselves. So I guess my dad hasn't taken in
any great amount of the counterfeits."
Bobolink was down on his knees. He even crawled into one of the
overturned boxes, as though trying hard to ascertain from sundry marks
what could have been contained under that wooden cover.
He came out, shaking his head, as though his efforts had not been
attended by success.
"Looks like machinery of some kind, that's all I c'n tell," he admitted.
"But of course, they'd need a press of some sort to work off the paper
money on. Now, chances are, it's bein' put up right in that long shed
yonder, that we c'n see. Question is, how're we goin' to get close enough
to peek through a crack, and find out what's goin' on in there?"
Again did most of the boys look uneasily at each other. Paul believed
that, now the great test had arrived, they were beginning to weaken a
little. No doubt it did not seem so glorious a thing when you got close
up, this spying on a band of lawless men, who would be apt to deal
harshly with eavesdroppers, if caught in the act.
Still, he would not give the order to retreat unless they asked for it.
They had been allowed to settle that matter when they voted; it was up to
Bobolink, Tom, Bluff or Andy to start the ball rolling, if they began to
reconsider their hasty conclusion of a while back.
Bobolink looked toward the low, long shed, now plainly seen, in something
of a rocky opening, with glimpses of water beyond which told how close to
the shore it had been built. But he did not act as though as anxious to
rush matters as before.
"Why d'ye believe they ever landed those boxes where they did, and toted
'em all the way up here, heavy as they were, when there's the water close
by?" asked Jack.
"I was thinking about that a minute ago," replied Paul; "and the only
explanation I can find is this: Perhaps the water is mighty shallow all
around up at the north end of the island. I can see that the shore is
rocky, and if that's so, then no boat with a heavy load could get close
enough in to land the stuff. And so they had to get busy, and carry the
boxes, one at a time."
"Sounds reasonable, and we'll let her go at that," commented Bobolink,
who, as a rule, was contented to take Paul's opinion.
Paul himself stooped down to take a look into the cases. He did not make
any remark as he straightened up again, nor did any of the others think
to ask his opinion; which possibly may have been lucky, for perhaps Paul
would not have liked to commit himself just then. If he had found
anything that gave him a new clue, he was evidently keeping it to himself
until he could get more proof.
"S'pose we ought to make a fresh start," suggested Bobolink, but with a
lack of eagerness that was plainly noticeable; it was as though the
discovery of those two mysterious boxes under such strange conditions had
rather cooled his ardor.
"That's so," remarked Tom.
"We've g-g-got so n-n-near now, we ought to f-f-finish!" Bluff declared.
And yet none of them made the slightest movement looking to an advance, a
fact that Paul could not help but notice, and which warned him they were
close to the point of a change of policy. A suggestion that they give up
the spy business at this stage, and retreat in good order to their camp,
would doubtless have met with favor, and been sure of a unanimous vote.
But still Paul, having his own notions of such matters, when dealing with
boys, declined to say anything. If one of the four who were mainly
responsible for their being there should take it upon himself to offer
such a motion, he would only too gladly put it to a vote. Until such time
came he must continue to remain silent.
"Just as you say, boys; I'm carrying out your plans," he remarked,
quietly, wishing to let them know that they had it in their own power to
alter conditions at any time they so desired.
They all finally moved after the scout master, even if some feet did lag
a little. Bluff and Phil particularly were conscious of a strange sinking
sensation in the region of their hearts, which they mistrusted signified
fear; and rather than have any of their comrades suspect that they had a
cold hand pressing there, they shut their teeth hard together, and
determined that under no circumstances would they show the white feather.
So Paul led them on.
Again they tried to conceal themselves as best they might in devious
ways. Here the wide and generous trunk of a friendly tree afforded them
a certain amount of shelter; a little further on a small pile of rocks
answered the same benevolent purpose; but always the main idea was to
hide from any curious eyes that might be on the lookout in the
vicinity of that queer looking shed--newly made, if the fresh boards
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