Part 4 out of 4
"Looky here! there's a man!" suddenly exclaimed Bobolink.
The others had discovered the man at about the same time. They all lay
flat and hardly dared breathe, lest in some manner they attract the
attention of the stranger, who seemed to be not only a big man, but
rather a fierce-looking fellow in the bargain.
He was glancing all around at the heavens, as though wondering whether
the aeroplane was not coming back, whatever its mission in flying away
south could have been. Standing there, he shaded his eyes with his
hands and continued to look toward the south for several minutes. Then
he made a gesture as of disappointment, and vanished around the corner
of the shed.
"Never looked down this way once!" Bobolink said triumphantly, as though
their escape had caused his spirits to rise a little.
"That leaves the coast clear again, anyhow," said Tom Betts, as if he now
had a rather disagreeable duty to perform, which, since it had to be
done, had better be gotten through with as speedily as possible.
When leaving camp these brave scouts had never dreamed but that
spying upon the enemy would prove the most delightful task imaginable.
Even later on, when they had voted to keep moving forward, with so
much assurance, the picture had not begun to fade; but now it did not
seem the same.
As the shelter grew less and less, however, it became evident that
presently, if they continued to advance in this fashion, they must reach
a point where, in order to make progress, they must expose themselves to
hostile eyes, should any be on the watch.
Would even this cause one of the four scouts to "take water," as Bobolink
called it, and make the sign that he had had enough?
Paul knew them all pretty well, and he also realized the fact that every
fellow possessed a nature bordering on the stubborn. It was the dread of
being thought cowardly that kept them from taking the cue from Paul, and
ending this foolish advance.
They had gone over fifty feet since the last stop, and passed the last
large tree which could be looked on to give them any shelter.
It was just at this moment that once again the big man was seen coming
hastily around the corner of the shed.
At sight of him the boys stood still. There was no use trying to hide
now. Perhaps some faint hope took possession of them that they might be
unnoticed if they did not move; just as the still hunter, stalking a
feeding deer, will watch its short tail, and whenever he sees it twitch
he stands perfectly motionless; for he knows that the animal is about to
raise his head, and that he will probably be taken for a stump if he does
not move hand or foot.
But evidently the man had sighted the seven khaki-clad scouts. He seemed
almost petrified with amazement at first, and stood staring at them. As
if awaking from his trance, he began to make frantic motions with his
arms, and at the same time shouted hoarsely at them:
"Go back! Get out of that! You're crazy staying there! Run, I tell you,
while you have the chance! Get away! Get away, you fools!"
The scouts looked at each other in astonishment. What could it all mean?
Were all the men on this queer island stark, staring crazy? He called
them that, but it is always a rule for mad people to believe every one
else crazy but themselves.
"Say, what does the guy mean?" cried Bobolink, who seemed to be utterly
unable to understand a thing; "mebbe it's a small-pox hospital we've run
But Paul was beginning to see a light. Possibly the excited gestures, as
well as the urgent words of the big man, may have assisted him to arrive
at a conclusion.
He no longer felt so decided about not speaking the word that would
cause his little detachment to turn and retreat. There must be danger
hovering over them, danger in some terrible form, to make that unknown
man so urgent.
"Let's get out of this, boys!" he called, "every fellow turn, and streak
it as fast as he can. And get behind trees as quick as you can,
They had already started to obey the scout master, and possibly had
covered a few jumps when it seemed that the very earth shook and quivered
under them, as a fearful roar almost deafened every boy.
Just as you have seen a pack of cards, made into tent shape in a curving
row, go falling down when the first one is touched, so those seven scouts
were knocked flat by some concussion of the air.
They had hardly fallen than one and all scrambled to their feet, and fled
madly from the scene, as if fearful lest the whole end of the island
might be blown up behind them, and catch them in a trap from which there
could be no escape.
So it turned out after all that the scout master did not have to change
his mind, and give the order for retreat. When that dreadful panic
overwhelmed the scouts, it was really a case of "every one for himself."
Either by rare good luck, or some sort of instinct, the seven lads
managed to keep pretty well together as they ran. Not a single fellow
dreamed of allowing himself to get separated from his comrades. It seemed
to be a case of "united we stand, divided we fall," or "in union there is
If in their mad rush some of the boys collided with trees, or stumbled
over obstacles that they failed to discover in time, they were not of a
mind to let such trifles interfere with their making record time.
In such cases it was only necessary to scramble erect again, and put on a
little extra spurt in order to overhaul their comrades.
What had taken them half an hour to cover when they were "scouting" in
such approved fashion, was passed over in about five minutes.
It was Paul who came to his senses first. He realized that there was no
one chasing them and that, to tell the truth, not one of the boys could
have been seriously hurt by what had befallen.
So he began to laugh, and the sound reaching the ears of the others,
appeared to act on their excited minds like soothing balm.
Gradually the whole lot slackened their pace until they were going at a
jog trot; which in turn settled down to a walk.
Finally Bobolink came to a full stop.
"Whee! let's get a few decent breaths, fellows!" he managed to gasp.
The others were apparently nothing loth, and so they all drew up in a
bunch. A sorry lot they looked just then, to tell the truth. It seemed as
though nearly every fellow had some distinguishing mark.
Phil's rather aristocratic face had a long scratch that extended down the
right side, and gave him a queer look; Jack was caressing a lump on his
forehead, which he may have received from a tree, or else when he was
knocked down without warning by that singular explosion; Andy was trying
to quench a nose-bleed, and needed his face washed the worst way; Bluff's
left eye seemed partly closed, as if he had been too close to the
business end of an angry bee; while Bobolink had two or three small cuts
about his face that made him look as if he had been trying to tattoo
himself--with wretched success.
So they looked at one another, and each thought the balance of the crowd
had the appearance of a set of lunatics on the rampage.
Hardly had they stared at each other than they set to laughing.
"Oh! my stars! but aren't you a screamer though, Andy, with all that
blood smeared over your face; and Bluff, why he looks as if he'd been in
a prize fight!" was the way Bobolink expressed his feelings, bending over
as he laughed.
"Huh! you're not so very pretty yourself!" replied Bluff, with not the
slightest sign of an impediment in his speech--evidently it had been
frightened out of his system for the time being. "Anybody'd think you
were a South Sea Islander on the warpath. And wouldn't they cross over to
the other side of the road in a hurry if they met you! Say, if Mazie
Kenwood or Laura Carson could only see you now, they'd give you the cut
"Look at Jack's bump, would you?" Tom Betts exclaimed.
"Don't call attention to me any more than you can help," Jack remarked,
making a wry face, as he caressed the protuberance on his forehead; "it
feels as big as a walnut, let me tell you, and hurts like fun. The sooner
I'm back in camp, so I can slap some witch hazel on that lump, the better
it'll please me, boys."
After a little more laughing and grumbling, Paul, who had escaped without
any visible hurts, though he walked a little lame, remarked:
"Well, do we start right back again, and take a look-in on those men?
Don't everybody speak at once, now!"
All the same they did, and the burden of the united protest was that
circumstances alter cases; that they had arrived at the conclusion that
what those men were doing on the island could be no affair of honest,
law-abiding scouts; and that as for them, the camp in the sink offered
more attractions at that particular moment than anything else they
could think of.
Of course that settled it. The scouting was over for that occasion. They
had done themselves credit, as far as it went; but then, who would ever
dream that they would come within an ace of being blown sky-high with the
whole upper end of the island?
As if by common consent, they started to move forward again, and every
fellow seemed to know, as if by instinct, which was south, and
whereabouts the camp was, for they needed no pilot now.
And as they journeyed they talked it all over. Every boy seemed to have
an opinion of his own with regard to what had happened, and they differed
"Tell you what," said Tom Betts, who had also escaped with only a few
minor injuries, because he was as quick as a cat, and must have fallen on
a soft piece of ground besides; "tell you what, I thought that old hill
had turned into a volcano, and just bust all to flinders."
"Well, now," Phil admitted, "I somehow had an idea that storm had chased
up when we didn't chance to be watching, and lightning had struck a tree
close to the place where we happened to be standing looking at that crazy
man wave his arms."
"Me?" Bobolink remarked; "why, I was dead sure what we guessed about a
war game bein' played up here between two pretended hostile armies was
right; and that one of 'em had blown up the fort of the other. You see,
that aeroplane had a sorter military air about it, even if I didn't see
it. And I'm not sure yet it isn't that."
"One thing sure," remarked Paul; "the man was trying to warn us to keep
back, for he knew some sort of mine was going to explode, and that we
might be killed. As it was, we got off pretty lucky, I think. This sprain
will heal in a day or two; but if a rock weighing a ton or two had
dropped down on me, I guess the chances of my ever seeing Stanhope again
would have been mighty slim."
"But tell me," Bobolink asked, "what in the world would counterfeiters
want with exploding mines, and doin' all that sort of thing? Just
remember that big bang we had the other night, that woke everybody up.
Shows it's a habit with 'em, and that this wasn't some freak accident.
Gee! my head's buzzing around so I can't think straight. Somebody do my
guessin' for me; won't you, please?"
"That's right," said Tom Betts, suddenly; "who are these men, anyway?
P'raps we didn't size 'em up straight when we made up our minds they were
bogus money-makers. Mebbe they happen to be a different sort of crowd
altogether. How about that, Paul; am I off my trolley when I say that?"
"I've been beginning to believe something was crooked in our guess for a
little while, Tom," replied the scout master; "but all the same, you've
got me up in the air when you ask who and what they are. I'm rattled more
than I've been in many a day, to be honest with you all."
Bobolink took out something from his pocket. He stared hard at the two
shining quarters, and jingled them in his hand.
"Look good to me," he was heard to say; "I'd pass 'em any time for
genuine. But what silly chump'd be throwing good money around like
that, tell me?"
"Or bad money either, Bobolink," remarked Paul; "so you see, it was an
accident in any case. You've lost money many a time out of your pocket;
well, this man was in the same boat. Chances are, that's straight goods."
"If that's so," he remarked calmly, "I'm in a half dollar, and that's
some satisfaction. But say, what a time we'll have tellin' the boys. Wow!
I can see the eyes of Little Billie, and Curly, and Nuthin just stickin'
out of their heads when they hear all we've run up against."
"And we'd better move along a little faster while about it,"
"Why? Hope you don't think any of those men are chasin' after us; or that
we'll run up against that wild man, or the big yellow dog again?"
Bobolink inquired, glancing fearfully about him.
"No, I was considering the feelings of the boys," replied the
"That's a fact," Jack went on, "they'll be worried about us, after
hearing that terrible report, and think something has happened to our
crowd. But we're not a great way from camp now, Paul."
"No, and if the distance was greater, I'd stop long enough to send up a
smoke signal that would tell Jud we were all right. But that'd take time,
and perhaps we'd better hurry along," and the scout master set a new
pace, even though limping slightly.
"Got hurt some yourself; did you, Paul?" Jack asked, solicitously.
"Oh! only a little sprain, but it happens to be on a muscle that I have
to use when I walk, and you know a fellow favors such a pain. But I can
see where the sink lies now; we'll be there in ten minutes, perhaps
They continued to push on. For the time being most of them forgot about
their personal troubles, in their anxiety to join their comrades. And
Bobolink, as he walked beside Jack, spoke what was on his mind:
"It was a grand old scare, all right, and one we won't ever forget,
believe me; but there's one thing that tickles me half to death, Jack. We
know _now_ where the queer old boxes went to, even if we are up in the
air about what was in them. And the chances are we may find that out
before we're done with this business; because those men ought to come
down and ask if anybody got hurt by their silly Fourth of July fireworks
display. There's the camp, boys. Whoopee!"
ANOTHER THREATENING PERIL
Loud cheers greeted the appearance of the seven scouts, as they hurried
forward into the camp. And when those who had remained with the tents saw
the various scratches, contusions and bumps that adorned most of the
returned boys' faces, they were burning with eagerness to hear the
details of the adventure.
Such a clatter of tongues as ensued, as every fellow tried to tell his
version of the happening. If half that was said were written down, it
would require many more chapters to give the details.
Gradually, however, each stay-at-home scout began to get a pretty clear
idea of the series of adventures that had befallen their mates in trying
to explore the mysteries of the island. They understood all about the
wild man, and what the consensus among the seven explorers seemed to be
concerning the strangers who occupied the island, and were conducting
such an amazing series of experiments, even making use of an aeroplane to
accomplish their ends.
The guesses that followed were legion, yet Paul, who listened patiently
to the most astounding theories, shook his head in the end.
"I don't believe any of us have hit on the right thing yet, fellows," he
said. "But there's meat in a number of the guesses you've made, and
perhaps we'll get the story after a while. But how about grub; we're as
hungry as bears?"
"Never expected to join you at lunch, for a fact," grinned Bobolink; "but
then, we made better time than we ever thought we could on the return
journey. Talk to me about a prize spurrin' a fellow on to do his level
best--the whip that does it is to put a first-class scare in him. Then
you're goin' to see some runnin' that takes the cake. Wheel didn't we
sprint, though? Bet you I jumped clear over a log that stood six feet
high from the ground--more or less."
It happened that the stay-at-home scouts had just prepared their noon
meal at the time the explosion occurred that made the whole island
tremble. That had startled them so much that they had not had the
heart to think of sitting down because of anxiety about the fate of
And so the dinner had remained untouched up to the time they heard the
"cooee" of the returning warriors; and then caught the bark of the fox,
that told them that Paul and his posse had returned.
There was enough for all, because the cooks were very liberal in making
up their messes. And over the dinner more suggestions were made as to
what their future course ought to be.
By now even the fire-eating Bobolink was ready to cry quits, and
back down; nor did he seem at all ashamed to admit the fact that he
"If those sillies mean to blow up the whole island, some way or other,
why, what's the use of us stayin' here, an' goin' up with it, I'd like to
know?" he said. "Tell you what, I've got another guess comin', and it's
this: P'raps they're meanin' to get rid of this island and lake, and have
started to do the job. Mebbe some big railroad wants a short line across
country, and this thing is right in their way. I've heard of 'em doin'
bigger things than just blowing up a little island; haven't you, Paul?"
He always appealed to the scout master when one of his brilliant thoughts
came along. Paul nodded his head.
"That sounds more reasonable than a whole lot of things I've been
listening to, Bobolink, for a fact," Paul admitted. "Still, we don't
know, and there's no way to find out the true story, right now.
"Thunder, away off, Paul; guess we've all got explosions on the brain,
because it gave me a start, too," said Jack, laughing.
"And if a storm's coming along," observed Jud Elderkin, who seemed vastly
pleased when he heard that his signalling had been so easily understood,
"why, I reckon we ought not to think of pulling down our good tents, and
getting out of here, till she's over."
It was plain from this that the scouts had determined to abandon their
dangerous island, and spend the balance of the outing by making a camp on
the mainland, where at least there was a reasonable expectation of not
being blown sky-high by some explosion.
"And since we're done eating perhaps we'd better take another look at the
tent pins, to make sure they'll hold when the wind strikes us. Some of
these summer storms have a lively advance breeze, you know, boys," Paul
"Little Billie and I'll go over to the boats, and see that the curtains
are buttoned down snug. Some of us can stay inside while its rainin' and
that'll give more room in the tents," Bobolink remarked, jumping to his
feet, with a return of his customary lively Way.
"And in this sink we'll be protected from any wind coming from the south,
don't you think, Paul?" Jack ventured.
"Couldn't be better," was the reply. "Those trees and bushes, as well as
the rise in the ground, will help a lot. But get busy, fellows, with
those tent pins. I'll take the axe, and go the rounds myself, to make
doubly sure. It's not the nicest thing in the world to have your canvas
blow away--eh, Nuthin?"
"You're right, it isn't," replied the little scout, "'specially when it
lifts you right up with it into a tree, and has you tied up there in the
snarls of a clothes line. I know all about that, and none of the rest of
you ever tried it. Excuse me from another balloon ride like that."
In a short time everything was done that could be thought of to render
things storm-proof. Then the boys went over to the edge of the water to
watch the advance of the black clouds, which those at the boats in the
little cove declared was a sight worth seeing.
And it certainly was, all the scouts admitted. Some of them were filled
with a certain awe, as they saw how inky the clouds looked. But what boy,
or man either, for that matter, is there who has not felt this sensation
when watching scurrying clouds that tell of an approaching storm?
By degrees the boys began to drift back to the camp. Every sort of excuse
was given for leaving the beach. One fellow suddenly remembered that he
had left his coat hanging on a bush, another had forgotten to fasten his
knapsack, while a third wished to tie his blanket in a roll, in case the
water did find a way to get into the sink.
Paul, Jack, Bobolink and Jud remained until they saw the rough water away
down near the southern shore of the lake, and understood that the first
squall must be swooping upon them. Then they too gave up the vigil, for
the chances were the rain would come with the first breeze.
With a howl and a roar the storm broke upon them. Cowering in the tents,
about four in each, as the others had taken to the boats, they waited
with more or less suspense what might happen.
The wind made the canvas shake at a lively clip, and the fastenings on
the southern side were sorely tried; but they had been well taken care of
and Paul called out that he believed they were going to hold.
For half an hour the rain beat down in torrents. None of them remembered
ever hearing such a deluge descend, but perhaps their imaginations were
excited on account of the peculiar conditions that surrounded them. All
the same it rained, and then rained some more, until a very large
quantity of water must have fallen, all of them decided.
With Paul and Jack in the tent that was nearest to the lake were
Bobolink, Tom Betts and Nuthin.
"Seems to me it's gettin' kind of damp in here," remarked Bobolink,
when the clamor outside had died down somewhat, and they could hear each
"That's a fact," declared Paul; "and after all it's just as well that we
made sure our blankets and other things were tied up and hung away from
the ground. But seems to me I hear one of the fellows in the boat
shouting to us."
When he opened the flap he found that the rain had almost stopped, as
well as the wind to a great extent. Perhaps the storm was over.
"Hello!" Paul called out.
"Hey! that you, Paul?" came in a voice he recognized as belonging to Jud,
who had been one of those in charge of the nearby boats.
"Yes, what's wrong?" asked the scout master.
"Can't you come over here? Going to be the dickens to pay, I reckon. The
bally old lake's rising like fun. Looks like the outlet must have got
stopped up somehow. You're sure going to have to move your tents mighty
quick. Coming, Paul?"
"All right," answered the other, as he crawled out, and started under the
dripping trees for the spot where the two motorboats lay in the cove,
sheltered from the waves that had been dashing against the shore
When he reached the spot he found that all of the boys who had been
sheltered in the boats were lined up on the shore, where they could see
down the lake. Jud himself seemed to be watching the water steal up a
stick he had thrust into the sand.
"Gee! she's mounting like fun!" he exclaimed. "Water must be pouring into
the old lake from every side, and little gettin' out. Say, if this keeps
on, the whole island, except that hill up yonder, will be under water
before night. It sets rather low, you understand, Paul."
The scout master was naturally thrilled by these words. He knew that the
leader of the Gray Fox Patrol was no alarmist, and that he seldom lost
his head in times of excitement.
And so it was with considerable apprehension that Paul stooped down so he
might see just how fast the lake was rising. And when he noticed that it
actually crept up the stick before his very eyes, he knew that what Jud
had said about the whole island being covered might not be such a silly
assertion after all.
It began to look as though the adventures of the scouts had not yet
reached an end, and that they were in for another thrilling experience.
PREPARED FOR THE WORST
"She's just walking up hand over fist; eh, Paul?" asked Jud.
"No question about it, Jud," came the reply as the scout master cast an
apprehensive look across the half-mile of water that separated them from
the outlet of the lake. "I'd give something to know what's happened down
there, to dam this water up, and just how far it's going to rise on us."
"Tell you what," said Bobolink, who had followed Paul when he left the
tent, as had also the rest of the occupants, "I wouldn't be a bit
surprised if that awful explosion shook the shoulder of earth and rock
down, that we saw hanging above the mouth of the Radway River where she
leaves the lake."
"You've hit it, I do believe!" cried Paul, exultantly; "and that's just
what did happen, chances are, fellows."
"But if the outlet is filled up," said Jud, "and this water keeps pouring
in on four sides, it's dead sure the blooming lake will fill up in short
order. What had we better do, Paul?"
"That's just what I'm trying to figure on, Jud," answered the other;
"it's one of two things--either hike out for the hill, where we'll be
safe until the water goes down; or else get our things aboard the boats,
and stay here."
"That last strikes me as the best of all!" declared Jack.
"Besides," broke in Nuthin, "we don't want to lose those boats, you know.
They were loaned to us and if we let 'em go to smash, wouldn't it take us
a long time to pay the bill, though? Besides, we'll need 'em to get away
"That isn't the worst of it," remarked Paul, who was very serious.
"Why, what is there besides?" demanded Bobolink.
"Suppose the water does get up so as to cover the island, all but the
hill," the scout master went on deliberately, as though making sure of
his ground as he talked; "and then, all of a sudden the weight of it
broke through the dam; don't you see the suction, as the water rushed
out, would be something _terrific_. No rope ever made, I reckon, could
hold these boats back. They'd sure be drawn through the gap, and carried
on the flood, any old way, even upside-down, maybe."
"Whew!" whistled Bobolink; and as for some of the other fellows, they
began to lose their usual color as they realized what Paul was saying.
"Now, that's just an idea that came into my mind," Paul went on, seeing
that he had alarmed some of the scouts. "It may never happen, you
understand. But you know the motto we believe in is 'be prepared!' That
means never to take things for granted. Keep your eyes and ears always on
guard, and see lots of things, even before they swoop down on you. So,
it's up to us, fellows, to get our tents and other fixings loaded up as
soon as we can. After that we'll go aboard ourselves, and try to prepare
against a sudden break in the dam."
"And lookin' at that water creeping up," remarked Jud, "the sooner we get
busy, the better."
Accordingly, they all hastened back to the camp. It was found that
already the water seemed to be creeping into the sink. Those in the other
two tents were talking it over, and wondering what was about to happen.
When they heard the latest news, their faces indicated both astonishment
and not a little alarm. But under the direction of the scout master, they
started to convey all their belongings to the boats.
First the blankets and clothes bags were taken over; then the food and
cooking utensils; and finally the tents came down in a hurry, for the
boys were working in water almost up to their knees when this last part
of the job was concluded.
Once out of the sink, they found plenty of high ground to walk on, while
carrying the wet tents to the landing where the boats were lying.
After they were all aboard, the scouts packed the stuff as best they
could, so that it would take up as little space as possible. Meanwhile
Paul and Jack, with both the other patrol leaders, were trying to figure
out just what would be the best course for them to pursue.
"Makes me think of old Noah, when he went aboard the ark, and the animals
they followed two by two," said Bobolink, with a chuckle.
"Huh, call yourself a kangaroo, or a monkey, if you like," spoke up Old
Dan Tucker, "but as for me I'd rather play the part of Ham, or one of the
"Sure thing!" assented Bobolink, cheerfully; "never saw the time yet
when you raised any kick about takin' the part of Ham. Sounds good,
don't it, Dan?"
It was pretty hard to keep the spirits of Bobolink from sizzling and
gushing forth like a fountain when the water is turned on. He could joke,
even while the several leaders of the expedition were consulting gravely
about their chances of holding the boats against the frightful suction of
the current, when the obstructions in the outlet of the lake gave way,
which they hoped would not be suddenly, but by degrees.
It was certainly a condition that confronted them, and not a theory. Paul
was really more worried than he showed; for he kept his feelings under
control, knowing that if some of the others realized how much he was
concerned, the fact might create a panic.
"If I really thought the worst would come," Paul said, in a low tone, to
Jack, after it had been concluded that they would stay by the boats, and
do the best they could, "why I'd be tempted to give the order to just cut
for the hill, and leave everything but some food behind. Once up there,
we would be safe, and that's what we can't say is the case now."
"But even if the water goes out with a rush, it can't tear a tree like
this one up by the roots; can it?" asked Jack, pointing to where the
cables of the boats had been secured as strongly as possible.
"That's so," replied the scout master; "but then, think of the ropes, and
what a terrible strain would come on them. I'm afraid both would snap
like pipe-stems. To hold tight, we'd need a big chain; or a hawser like
that one the switching engine on the railroad uses to drag cars on a
parallel track. But then, the water may be nearly as high, right now, as
it will get We'll hope so, anyhow."
That was Paul's way of trying to look on the bright side, although he
never failed to prepare for the worst, even while expecting the best.
"If we could only think up some way to help ease the strain, it would be
a good thing," observed Jack, thoughtfully.
"I wish you could. It would ease my mind more than I care to tell you,"
was Paul's answer.
"One thing, the storm is over," called out Jud, just then; "see, there's
a break in the clouds, and I reckon the sun will be peepin' out soon."
"But the water will keep on rushing down the sides of the hills away off
yonder," Paul remarked, "and filling up this cup until it runs over. They
say that the Radway River drains three times the amount of country that
our own Bushkill does. And by the way the water comes in here, I believe
it. Look out there on the lake, will you; it shows that it's getting
wider right now."
"Why, in another half hour, if it keeps on the same way, it's going to
lap over pretty much all the lower part of the island," Jack declared.
Everything else was neglected now, and the scouts gathered along the side
of each boat, watching the lake. It was as if they half expected to see
the water suddenly take to rushing toward the spot where they knew the
peculiar outlet lay, not more than twenty feet across, and with abrupt
sides, one of which had been partly overhanging the water at the time
It was, of course, this section which must have been dislodged by the
blast which shook the surrounding territory, filling the bed of the
stream, and causing the rapidly accumulating waters of the lake to back
up, since they could find no place to discharge, as usual.
It was while they were moodily watching the waste of waters that one of
the scouts, who had wandered across to the other side of the _Comfortt_
suddenly sounded a fresh alarm, that sent another thrill to the hearts of
the already excited boys.
"Hey! here's a lot of men comin' down on us, fellows I They're meanin' to
capture our boats, just like pirates. Boarders ahoy! Get busy everybody.
Clubs are trumps!"
As they rushed to the other side, some having to clamber over the heaps
of duffle that took up so much room aboard, the scouts saw that it was no
false alarm. A number of men were hurrying toward them, splashing through
water that was in places almost knee deep, even when they took the upper
levels. Should they make a blunder, and stray off the ridges, it was
likely they would speedily have to swim for it.
Paul was considerably aroused at first. They did not know very much
about these mysterious people of the island; and after their recent
rough experience, most of the boys were decidedly averse to knowing
anything more of them. And yet, here they were hurrying toward the
two motor-boats, as though they might indeed have some desperate
idea in view.
Perhaps they meant to capture the boats, so as to insure their escape
from the rising waters. And then again, it seemed at least possible
that they might want to keep the scouts from telling what strange
things they had seen.
So the first thing Paul did when he had that glimpse of the oncoming men,
was to hasten to possess himself of his double-barreled shotgun. Not that
he expected that there would be any necessity for firing it, but it was
apt to inspire a certain amount of respect.
And the balance of the scouts had made haste to arm themselves with
whatever they could find that would help hold the enemy at bay. Some had
brought their clubs aboard, others seized upon the push poles, while one
grabbed up the camp axe, and another seized upon the hatchet.
When eighteen husky and determined lads line the sides of two boats,
prepared to give a good account of themselves, it must needs be brave men
who would dare try to clamber aboard.
And it was about this time, when things were looking rather
squally around the floating homes of the scouts, that Paul noticed
LIFTING THE LID
Three men could be seen splashing desperately through the water; and they
seemed to be carrying a fourth, who was lying on a rude sort of litter,
as though he might either be sick, or badly hurt.
And so it flashed through Paul's mind that perhaps after all their
mission was not one of conquest, or even hostility, but that they were
"Hold up, fellows," he hastened to say; "we'll have to let them come
aboard now, because they never could get back to the hill again, with the
water rising so fast. Besides, I think they've got a wounded man along,
and need help. Don't forget we're scouts, and always ready to hold out a
"That's the ticket!" declared the impulsive Bobolink, forgetting his
warlike disposition when he saw the man on the litter.
So Paul beckoned to the men to approach. He had already made the
discovery that one of those who bore the litter was the big man who had
waved them away with such violent gestures, just before the terrible
explosion, when they happened to get too near the mine that was being
fired for some strange purpose.
Two minutes later, and still splashing through water that came almost up
to their hips, those who bore the injured man arrived close to the boats.
"Why, it's Professor Hackett who's being carried!" exclaimed Jack.
The small man on the litter, who looked very white, lifted his head with
an effort, and tried to wave his hand.
"Yes, that's who it is; and you're Jack Stormways; aren't you? Oh! I hope
that chum of yours can do something to stop this bleeding; I made them
carry me down here as a last chance. My man who was sent for a doctor in
our aeroplane, has not come back, and we're afraid he had an accident.
Can some of you boys help lift me aboard? I'm very weak from loss of
blood, and nearly gone."
His voice was as faint as a whisper; and indeed, it was a wonder that he
managed to speak at all.
The scouts had quite forgotten everything but that there was some one in
trouble. Tender hands immediately were forthcoming to assist in raising
litter and man over the side of the boat. Then the three attendants
climbed aboard, and strange to say the scouts seemed to have forgotten
all their fear of the men they had believed to be lawbreakers. For now
they saw that they were an intelligent lot of men, who bore little
resemblance to such criminals as they had seemed to be.
Paul had long been interested in surgery. His father was the leading
doctor of Stanhope, and had always encouraged this fancy in the boy. It
seemed that the professor chanced to remember that he had been told about
the ability of Jack Stormways' chum; and when matters began to look
desperate, since none of his assistants could seem to stop the flow of
blood that followed his accident, as a last resort he had forced them to
put him on a litter, and make for the spot where they knew the scouts had
their camp, the man in the aeroplane having signaled the fact back to
them, just as Paul suspected.
Of course they had not dreamed of such a thing as the lake rising, until
they had gone too far to retreat; and then they took desperate chances of
finding the boys still there, where they had boats with which they could
go to the mainland.
Paul busied himself immediately. It was a pretty bad wound that the
little man had received, and his left arm would be practically useless
the balance of time; but he cared not for this, if only his life might
Jack and Jud assisted whenever their services were needed and in the end
Paul had not only stopped the flow of blood, but had the injured arm
neatly bandaged--as well, the professor weakly declared, as any surgeon
could have done.
"And now," said Paul, turning on the big man, who had hovered around
anxiously, watching what was being done, as though he thought a great
deal of the professor; "in return for what we've done, won't you please
tell us who and what you are, and why you're doing all these queer stunts
away up here on this lonely island, where nobody can see you? We're all
mixed up, and don't know what to think. At first we believed you must be
a lot of counterfeiters hiding from the Government agents; but what with
these explosions, and such things as aeroplanes, I'm getting it in my
head that it means you're trying out some big sensations that are going
to be sprung on the Coney Island public next season."
"And that's where you made a pretty clever guess, my boy," said the big
man, as he settled down to take it a bit more easily after his recent
hard work; "Professor Hackett has invented most of the biggest sensations
seen at seaside resorts these last ten years. He expects to excel his
record next season, and then retire; and I tell you, now, I began to
think he'd retire another way, if he lost much more blood from that
wound, which he got by accident this morning."
The scouts looked at each other, and a broad smile appeared on many a
face that only a short time before had been pale with apprehension.
When a thing that has seemed a dark mystery is finally explained, it
often looks so easy and simple that all of us wonder how we ever could
have bothered our heads over such a puzzle. And so it was in this case.
Why did it come that no one had guessed the true explanation before, when
it was so easy?
They began to tell the big man all about their experiences, and how so
many things seemed to make it appear that the strangers were hiding
"How about that fellow who was hanging around my father's mill that night
you had your two big boxes stored there?" Jack asked.
"He represented a rival inventor, who has always been jealous of
Professor Hackett, and is forever trying to find out what he has on the
stocks," replied the big man, whose name they learned was Mr. Jameson, an
able assistant to the inventor of aerial bombs, brilliant exploding
mines, and a dozen other wonders that thrill audiences at the seashore
"But wouldn't he be likely to follow the wagon when it took the boxes
away in the morning?" the boy continued to ask.
"Oh! we put him on a false scent, by shipping two other boxes away on a
train," was the reply. "He must have gone two hundred miles before he
discovered his mistake; and I doubt very much if he knows yet, but is
watching those cases to see what we do with them, away out in western New
"Er, how about these?" asked Bobolink, jingling the two shining quarters
in his hand. "I picked 'em up close to that field smithy you have on the
island. We thought they were the best counterfeits we ever saw. I guess
"I lost a bunch of small change through a hole in my pocket," laughed the
man, "and so I judge those are a part of it. But keep them as souvenirs
of your wonderful adventures on Cedar Island. Every time you look at them
you'll remember that narrow escape you and your friends had when you came
near stepping on a mine, the fuse of which had been lighted; for
Professor Hackett, even while he was wounded, would not hear of us
stopping our work."
"Thanks," replied the gratified Bobolink, again pocketing the quarters
that had been the cause of so much speculation among the seven scouts;
"I'll be glad to accept your kind offer. But there's another thing we'd
like to know."
"Speak up, then, and I'll be pleased to accommodate you, if the
knowledge is in my power to bestow. This flood bids fair to bring our
experiments to an end for the time being, even if the professor's
weakness hadn't made it necessary that we get to some place where he can
receive the right kind of care, to build up his strength. What's
bothering you now, my boy?"
"How about the wild man?" asked Bobolink.
"Oh! he was here when we came, and we made friends with him," the other
replied, promptly. "You see, some of us have been up here for a month. We
had some new stuff shipped in those big cases; but it'll all be rusted
now by this water. The poor fellow is harmless, for all he looks so
fierce. Why, at the smell of coffee the tears trickled down his dirty
cheeks like rain; it seemed to be just one last link that bound his
flitting memory to something in the far-away past. We gave him an old
saucepan to cook it in, and showed him how. Ever since he's visited us
often, and we supplied him with food, because it seemed as though he was
the one who had first right to this island."
"I hope the poor old chap has the good sense to climb that hill, and get
away from the rising water," remarked Jack, with some feeling. "Have you
any idea who he can be, or where he came from?"
"We made up our minds that he had been out of his head a long time, and
perhaps had escaped from some institution. He mentioned the name of John
Pennington once, and we think it must have been his. The professor
intended to make inquiries, later on, and if possible have him returned
to his home, wherever it might be."
"Did he have a big yellow dog tied up at his shack?" asked Nuthin,
eagerly, as though he wished to settle that point, because the animal in
question had once belonged to the Cypher family.
"Yes," answered Mr. Jameson, "but it got away from him one night, by
breaking the rope, and he's been making a great fuss about it ever since.
But from the ugly looks of the beast, I'd sooner put a bullet in him than
try to make friends."
"Well, that about finishes the list of questions we've been nearly dying
to ask somebody," remarked Bobolink, "and seems like everything's been
explained. What we want to know now, and there isn't a livin' soul c'n
tell the answer to that, I reckon, is, how high is this old lake goin' to
get before she commences to fall again? And how in Sam Hill are we
expectin' to ride those motor-boats over that pile of rocks and mud, that
lies in the outlet? Anybody know the answer? I'd like to hear it."
But they shook their heads. Nobody could say, although all sorts
of guesses ran the rounds, for the scouts were good hands at that
sort of thing.
The water was still rising, and apparently just as fast as ever. Already
it had encroached upon the main part of the island; and Mr. Jameson
declared that he was sure it must be all around the shed where they kept
their machinery, that had been brought secretly to this isolated spot,
where they hoped to complete the greatest marvel in the way of sensations
ever known to curious crowds at watering places.
"It'll be badly hurt, unless the water goes down soon," remarked the
big man; "but that doesn't seem to be the worst thing that can happen,
if what your Doctor Paul here, says, turns out to be true, and the
water goes out of the lake in a raging torrent that may drag boats and
all with it."
GOOD-BYE TO CEDAR ISLAND
They passed a most anxious hour, after the coming of the professor and
his assistants. The lake kept on rising until pretty much all of the
island except the hill was under water. Of course the trees stood out,
but most of their roots were under ten feet or more of water.
It would not last much longer, that they knew, for the supply must be
falling short, and besides there was always a chance that the fearful
force exerted by such a mass of pent-up water would break away the
obstruction that clogged the outlet.
Paul had done everything he could think of to add to their security in
case the worst came. Some of the scouts were even perched in the
neighboring trees. These were the more timid, who Paul knew were
shivering from anxiety, and watching the spot where the lake water
ordinarily escaped, as though dreading lest at any second they should see
a sudden heave that would mean the beginning of the end.
"Good news, Paul!" sang out Jud Elderkin, to whom had been delegated the
duty of keeping watch on the rise of the flood. "She's stationary at last
Never rose a bit the last ten minutes. And believe me, I honestly think
she's begun to go down just a little."
The other boys let out a cheer at this news. That was what they were all
hoping for--that the water would go down gradually, so as not to endanger
Just how the craft were to get out of the lake, if the exit remained
closed, no one could say; but then they might look to Paul to open a way
somehow. He could make use of some dynamite to blow up the obstructions,
so Mr. Jameson had suggested, and it sounded all right.
Five minutes later Jud was quite positive that the tide was on the ebb.
"Two inches lower than she was at the highest point. Paul!" he called
"Hurrah! that sounds good to me!" exclaimed Bobolink, swinging his
campaign hat vigorously about his head, as he sat in the bow of the
_Comfort_, it being a part of his task to watch the cable, and if the
worst came to ease up on it so that there would be less likelihood of a
"But we're not out of danger yet, remember," cautioned the scout master.
Presently the water was lowering at a still faster rate.
"Looks like the opening might be getting larger," said Jack, when this
fact was made clear beyond any doubt.
"Watch over there," said Paul, "and see if there's any sudden rush,
though already the water is escaping so fast that I begin to believe we
might hold on here, even if the whole pile of earth and rocks were washed
away, leaving the channel clear."
Five, ten, fifteen minutes crept along, and all the while the water kept
going steadily down until much of the island could be seen again under
"Oh! look, there she goes!" cried Bobolink, without warning, and thereby
causing some of the fellows who had descended from the trees to wish they
were aloft again.
Over in the vicinity of the outlet they could see something of a
commotion. The water seemed to be running down hill, as it struggled to
pour out through the now cleared passage.
Immediately the boats felt the suction, which must have been very strong
indeed. They strained at their ropes, and those who had the cables in
charge obeyed the instructions given to them, allowing a certain length
of line to slip, thus easing the fearful drag.
"Whoop! they're going to hold!" exclaimed Bobolink, in great glee.
Paul believed so himself, and a smile came to his face that up to now had
looked careworn and anxious; for a dreadful catastrophe had been hovering
over them, he felt certain.
And the ropes did make good, holding in spite of that fierce drag. The
water soon got down to about its normal level, when the pull upon the
hawsers ceased, and everything seemed to settle back into the old rut.
But the boys had had quite enough of Cedar Island. It was water-soaked
now, and offered little attraction to them for camping. Paul suggested
that they leave the cove and head for a certain section of the main shore
which, on account of being much higher than the island, had not been
There was not a single voice raised in opposition, and so they started
the motors and with a series of derisive sounds that seemed almost like
chuckles the boats said goodbye to Cedar Island. Landing they found a
splendid spot for the erection of the tents, and before the coming of
night the scouts were as snugly fixed as though nothing had happened to
The injured professor declared that he meant to stick by Paul until his
messenger arrived with a carriage and a doctor by way of the road, which
ran only a half mile away from the lake.
He expressed himself satisfied with the work Paul had done on his arm,
and believed it to be the right thing.
They hoped to spend a quiet night. There would be no bomb explosions in
the heavens to disturb them, at least. Mr. Jameson had already
explained to the boys that, if they had happened to be awake at the
time of that first tremendous shock, they must have seen by the glare
in the heavens that it was a new kind of aerial bomb that had been
fired; and possibly under such conditions some one of the scouts would
have guessed the truth. But when they crept out of the tents there was
nothing to be seen aloft.
Luckily, these wide-awake boys could accommodate themselves to their
surroundings. Their former experiences had made most of them
quickwitted, resolute and cheerful under difficulties that might have
daunted most lads.
Although they had received a tremendous shock because of the numerous
remarkable occurrences that had taken place since their landing on Cedar
Island, now that their troubles seemed to have departed, most of the
scouts were just as full of life and good-natured "chaff" as ever.
Bluff seemed to never tire of entertaining those who had not been
fortunate enough to be among the valiant band of explorers with
wonderful accounts of all they had seen. He had them holding their
very breath with awe, as he described, in his own way, how they first
of all crept up to the shack in the thicket and looked in upon the
wild man asleep.
But when Bluff told of how he and his comrades had been warned off in
such a dramatic manner by the unknown man, and immediately afterwards
found themselves knocked down by that tremendous concussion, as the
explosion took place, he had them hanging on his every sentence.
But words failed Bluff when he tried to picture the wild scene that had
followed. That furious scamper through the wooded part of the island must
remain pretty much in the nature of a nightmare with the boys.
Phil and Bobolink and Andy all eagerly chimed in, trying to do the
subject justice, but after all it seemed beyond their powers. They could
only end by holding up both hands, rolling their eyes, shrugging their
shoulders, and then mutely pointing to the various cuts, scratches and
contusions that decorated their faces. The rest had to be left to the
Fortunately there was an abundance of witch hazel ointment along, so that
every sufferer was able to anoint his hurts. The whole bunch seemed to
fairly _glisten_ from the time of their arrival at the boats. Indeed,
there never had been such a wholesale raid made upon the medical
department since the Stanhope Troup of Banner Boy Scouts was organized.
But after all was said and done they had come out of the whole affair at
least with honor. And now that the peril was a thing of the past they
could well afford to laugh at their adventures on Cedar Island.
A SCOUT'S DUTY
"Seems like a dream; don't it, Paul?"
Jack dropped down beside the acting scout master as he made this
remark. He had just stepped out from the new camp on the mainland, and
found Paul sitting upon a log, looking across the water in the
direction they had come.
The sun was just setting, and a rosy flush filled the western heavens. It
seemed to fall softly upon mysterious Cedar Island, nestling there in the
midst of the now tranquil waters.
Paul looked up with a smile, as he made room on the log for his chum, who
had always been so willing to stand by him through thick and thin.
"Well, do you know, Jack," he spoke, "that was just exactly what seemed
to strike me. I was staring hard at the island, and wondering if I had
been asleep and dreamed all those queer happenings. Fact is, just before
you spoke I even pinched my leg to see if I was really wide awake."
The other laughed at this.
"Oh! you're awake, all right, Paul," he remarked. "You seemed to get off
without any show of damage to your good-looking face. As for the rest of
us, if ever we begin to think we've been and dreamed it, we've got a
remedy better than pinching. All we have to do is to bend down over a
still pool of water and take a look at our faces. That'll convince us in
a hurry we _did_ have a lively time of it."
Paul pointed across the lake to where the island lay bathed in that
wonderful afterglow that shone from the painted heavens.
"Did you ever see a prettier sight?" he asked. "It looks as peaceful as
any picture could be. You wouldn't think a bunch of fellows could run up
against such a lot of trouble over on such a fine little place as Cedar
Island; would you, now?"
"I feel the same way you do, Paul; and I'd say we never ought to have
left it, only after the flood it'd be a muddy place, and we wouldn't take
any pleasure getting around."
"Oh! well," Paul rejoined cheerfully, "after all, perhaps it isn't our
last visit up this way. Who knows but what we may have another chance to
come over here and look around. It was a good scheme, I'm thinking, Jack,
and we'll never be sorry we came."
"I should say not," remarked the other, quickly; "just turn around and
take a look back into our camp. See where Professor Hackett is lying
propped up with pillows from the boats. Well, suppose we'd never come
over this way, what d'ye think would have happened to him? He says he
owes his life to your skill, Paul, and that, try as they would, Mr.
Jameson and the other assistants couldn't seem to stop the bleeding. That
alone pays us for all we've gone through, Paul."
"I guess it does," Paul admitted, readily, "because he's a smart man, and
has done a lot to entertain the crowds that go to the seashore to rest
and forget their troubles. But I'm glad none of the boys seem to have
suffered any serious damage from the effect of the explosion or that mad
"Yes, we ought to call ourselves lucky, and let it go at that,"
"When you think about all that might have happened, I tell you we've got
lots of reason to be thankful," Paul went on, with considerable feeling.
"Sure we have," added Jack. "Instead of that stick taking me in the
cheek, it might have struck my eye and injured my sight for life."
"And where I got only a wrench that may make me limp a little for a few
days, I could have broken a leg," said Paul.
"That's one of the rules scouts have to keep in mind, you know," Jack
continued; "always be cheerful and look on the bright side of things. I
reckon there never comes a time when you can't find a rainbow of promise
if you look far enough. Things are never as bad as they might be."
"The boys seem to have settled down here just as if they meant to enjoy
the rest of the stay," Paul observed, as he turned his head again, so as
to look at the bustling camp close by.
"Yes, and even the very air seems to tell of peace and plenty," said
Jack, with a little laugh, as he sniffed the appetizing odors that were
beginning to announce that preparations for the evening meal had started.
"You're right," agreed Paul, "I guess there's nothing more 'homey' than
the smell of onions frying. I never get a whiff of it on the street of a
winter evening but what I seem to see some of the camps I've been in. And
then, just think how it gets your appetite on edge, till you can hardly
wait for the cook to call out that supper's ready. But I was thinking of
some other things when you came up."
"I reckon I could mention one of them," said Jack.
"Let's hear, then," the other demanded.
Jack swept his hand down the lake in the direction of the outlet.
"You're worrying about that," he said.
"Well, that's just about the size of it, Jack. We know the lake's gone
down to about what it was before the storm hit us; but what if a great
big rock blocks the passage?"
"You know what Mr. Jameson said you could do?" Jack remarked.
"About the dynamite, to blast an opening big enough for our boats to get
through? Yes, Jack, I suppose that could be done."
"And he says he'll stand by to see that it _is_ done," the other
continued. "As Mr. Jameson is an expert at all sorts of explosives, you
can just make up your mind we'll have no trouble getting away. Besides,
Paul, I've got a feeling that when we go down in the morning to take a
survey, we'll be more than pleased with the way things look."
"Which all sounds good to me," Paul hastened to declare. "Anyhow, I'm
going to believe it's bound to turn out as you say. In spite of our
troubles we've been a pretty lucky lot."
"But you talked as though the getting away part of the business was only
a part of what you had on your mind," Jack went on.
"There was something else," the other scout admitted.
"Suppose you open up and tell me, Paul; because somehow I don't seem to
be able to get what you mean."
"It seems to me," the patrol leader remarked, seriously, "that while all
of us scouts, and the professor's party in the bargain, have been shaking
hands with each other over the lucky escape we had, we've pretty near
forgotten one poor chap."
Jack gave a start, and then whistled softly.
"That's right, Paul," he said, "for I take it you mean the crazy
"How do we know what happened to him?" Paul continued.
"But Mr. Jameson seemed to feel sure he would take to the hill when the
flood came," Jack replied. "And he also told us, you remember, that some
of their food was at a higher point than the water could have reached.
So, if the crazy man wanders about that camp, there's no need of his
going hungry long."
"I guess that's about so," Paul agreed, as though these words from his
chum took away some of his anxiety. "From what they say, it seems as if
he has come to look on them as friends. So, chances are ten to one he'd
go to their different camps after the flood went down."
"Queer how he came to be here," Jack remarked.
"Oh, I don't know," the other observed; "there's no telling what a crazy
person will do. His coming to this island must have been with the hazy
notion that any one searching for him couldn't find him here."
"Searching for him, Paul?"
"Well, you remember Mr. Jameson said he had an idea the poor fellow must
have escaped from some institution," Jack continued.
"Yes, he did say that; and for all he looks so big and fierce, with his
long hair and beard, he's harmless. But, Jack, between us now, do you
think we could go back home when our little vacation trip is over and
feel that we'd done _all_ our duty as true scouts, when that poor chap
had been left up here--perhaps to starve on Cedar Island?"
"Whew! You're the greatest boy I ever saw, Paul, to get a grip on a
situation and remember things."
"But--answer my question," persisted the other.
"Well, what you said must be so," Jack acknowledged; "and it makes me
feel pretty small to remember that, while we've all been feeling so merry
over our wonderful escape, I'd forgotten all about _him_."
"Jack, it's too late to do anything tonight, you know."
"I reckon it is, Paul," replied the other, looking a bit anxiously across
the water to where the glow was commencing to give way to shadows along
the wooded shore of Cedar Island; "but if you thought best, I'd be
willing to take the lantern and cross over with you."
Paul thrust out his hand impulsively.
"Shake on that, old chum," he exclaimed. "Your heart's as big as a bushel
basket, and in the right place every time. But on the whole, Jack, I
don't believe it would be the wise thing for us to do."
"Just as you say, Paul; only I wanted you to know I was ready to back you
up in anything."
"We're both tired, and sore in the bargain," continued the scout
"Yes," Jack admitted, unconsciously caressing his painful bruises.
"The island is in a bad state just now, after being flooded," Paul
"That's right, I can jolly well believe it," his chum agreed.
"And if the wild man hasn't been drowned, he'll surely be able to look
out for himself a while longer. Mr. Jameson felt sure he wouldn't starve,
with all the food they left behind."
"Then it won't hurt to let it go till tomorrow, eh, Paul?"
"I had made up my mind that we'd organize another party, this time taking
some of the fellows who have been kept in camp, and comb Cedar Island
from end to end to find that man."
"A good plan, Paul," said the other scout; "but do you think he'll make
friends with us, even when we find him?"
"Mr. Jameson says he understands the peace sign," the scout master
continued, "and must really have had a bright mind at some time. He told
me he had an idea the man may have met with some injury that had
unsettled his reason. He seemed to be greatly interested in all they were
doing, and several times even made suggestions that startled the
"I remember that much, too," said Jack, "and Mr. Jameson also said he
meant to try and learn if anybody knew about a John Pennington. That was
the name the man spoke once in his rambling talk."
"Well, perhaps we may be able in some way to do the poor fellow a good
turn, Jack. I hope so, anyhow. My! how those boys are trying to beat the
record at getting up a grand supper. Seems to me my appetite is growing
at the rate of a mile a minute."
"If it keeps on that way, good-bye to our stock of provisions," laughed
Jack; "but, to tell the truth, I feel pretty much the same. The most
welcome sound I could hear right now would be Bluff calling everybody to
get a share of that fine mess."
"Then you won't have to wait long, I guess," his chum declared,
"because from all the signs of dishing out I imagine they're about ready
Paul proved a true prophet, for immediately Bluff began to ding-dong upon
a sheet iron frying pan, using a big spoon to produce a discord that, in
the ears of the hungry boys, was the sweetest music in the world.
Gathering around, the scouts made a merry group as they proceeded to
demolish the stacks of savory food that had been heaped upon their tin
plates; and drink to each other's health in the fragrant coffee that
steamed in the generous cups, also of tin, belonging to their mess chest.
After supper the scouts sat around, and while some of them worked at
various things in which they were particularly interested, such as
developing the films that would give a dozen views of the great flood,
others sang songs or listened to Mr. Jameson tell strange stories.
The man had been to the corners of the world during a busy lifetime,
often with scientific parties sent out by societies interested in
geography, natural history or astronomy. And hence it had fallen to the
lot of Mr. Jameson to experience some remarkable adventures. The boys
felt that he was the most interesting talker they had ever met.
After several hours had slipped by, some of the scouts, notably those
who had been among the bold explorers band, were discovered to be nodding
drowsily. Indeed, Andy and Tom Betts had gone sound asleep, just as they
lay curled up before the fire. The warmth of the blaze, together with the
unusual exertions of the day, had been too much for the boys.
And so the bugler was told to sound "taps" to signify that it was time
they crawled under their blankets.
A few chose to sleep aboard the motor boats, which, of course, relieved
the tents from overcrowding. Professor Hackett and his assistants had
been lodged in one of the tents, which fact had something to do with the
lack of room.
But presently all these things had been arranged. Paul himself intended
to pass the night in the open. He declared he would really enjoy the
experience; and two others insisted on keeping him company--little Nuthin
So Paul, who knew a lot about these things, showed them just how to wrap
themselves up like mummies in their blankets, and then lie with their
feet to the fire. He said old hunters and cowboys always slept that way
when camping in the open.
Paul was awakened by feeling something nudging him in the ribs. It was
Bobolink's elbow; and, thinking at first that it might be an accident,
the scout master made no move.
But again he received a severe jolt. And at the same time came a whisper
close in his ear:
"Paul! Are you awake?" Bobolink was saying, so low that any one six feet
away could not have heard his voice.
"What ails you?" asked Paul.
He might have imagined that the other had been taken ill, from over
feeding, perhaps, and wanted Paul, as the doctor of the troop, to give
him some medicine. But on second thought Paul realized that there was too
much mystery about the action of Bobolink to admit of such an
"Listen, Paul," the other went on, still whispering, "there's some sort
of wild beast goin' to raid the camp!"
"What's that?" asked the scout master, a little sternly, for, knowing
the weakness of Bobolink in the line of practical joking, he suspected
that the other might be up to some of his old tricks.
And Bobolink must have detected an air of doubt in the manner in which
Paul spoke those two words, for he immediately resumed:
"Honest Injun, Paul, I ain't foolin'! Say, do they have panthers around
here? Because that's what I think it must be."
"Where'd you see it?"
As Paul put this question he was working his arms free from the folds of
his blanket. When he lay down, more through force of habit than because
he thought there would be any need of such a thing, Paul had placed his
shotgun on the ground beside him. And no sooner was his right hand at
liberty than, groping around, he took possession of it.
"Up in that big oak tree," Bobolink went on. "You watch where that limb
hangs out over the camp and you'll see somethin' move; or I've been
dreamin', that's all."
Paul did not have to twist his head very far around in order to see the
spot in question. He watched it as the seconds began to troop along,
until almost a fell minute had gone.
And Paul was just about to believe Bobolink must have been dreaming, when
he, too, saw the bunch of leaves violently agitated.
Undoubtedly some tree-climbing animal was up there. Paul felt a thrill
pass through him. Unconsciously, perhaps, his fingers tightened their
grip upon the shotgun, which was apt to prove a tower of strength in case
the worst that could happen came to pass.
Straining his eyes, as he partly lifted his head, Paul believed he could
just make out a shadowy form stretched upon the large oak limb.
He was more than puzzled.
Wild animals were not altogether unknown within the twenty-mile limit
around Stanhope. A bear might be seen occasionally--or at least the
tracks of one, for the timid beast knew enough to hide in the daytime in
one of the numerous swamps.
But this did not seem large enough for a bear, which would have surely
made a more bulky object clinging to the limb. Moreover, bears were not
reckoned bold, and no hunter had ever known one to come spying around a
camp. As soon as the trail of human beings is run across by a bear, the
animal always takes the alarm and hastens to its den, to lie low until
the danger has passed.
But Bobolink had mentioned the magic word "panther," and this caused the
other aroused scout to look more closely at the dimly seen object Sure
enough it did seem to be flattened out on the limb, much as Paul
imagined a big cat might lie.
"What'd we better do about it, Paul--give a yell and jump up?" Bobolink
asked, his voice quivering, perhaps with excitement, or it might be under
stress of alarm; for it was not the nicest thing in the world to be lying
there helpless with a hungry panther crouching above.
"Wait, and let's make sure," replied the careful Paul.
Some impetuous boys would have thought, the very first thing, of bringing
that double-barrelled gun to bear on the dark, shadowy figure, and
cutting loose, perhaps even firing both charges at once.
At such close range, less than thirty feet, a shell containing even bird
shot is apt to be projected with all the destructive qualities of a large
bullet. Paul knew all about this, and also had faith in the hard-hitting
qualities of his long tested gun; but he was not the one to be tempted
into any rash action.
"Be sure you're right; then go ahead," was a motto which Paul always
tried to practice. He had certainly found it worth while on more than one
occasion in the past, and it was likely to serve him well now.
And so he waited, ready for a sudden emergency, but not allowing himself
to be hurried.
He soon had reason to feel very thankful that his good sense had
prevailed, for presently the leaves were again set to shaking and, as
they parted, Paul saw something that gave him a shock.
"Oh! what d'ye think of that, now? It's the wild man of Cedar Island!"
gasped Bobolink, actually sitting up in his excitement.
And Paul had already made certain of this fact as soon as his eyes
fell upon the hairy face seen among the branches. The shudder that
passed through his frame had nothing to do with fear. Paul was only
horrified to realize what might have happened had he taken Bobolink's
suggestion for the truth, and fully believed the figure in the oak to
be a savage panther.
"We'd better let Mr. Jameson know," Paul remarked, as he also sat up and
cleared his legs of the blanket.
"Yes, he'll know how to get him down. I bet you, Paul, the feller went
and swam across from the island. But how would he guess we were here?"
"Oh! he could see the boats in the day time; and don't forget we've had a
fire burning all night, so far," said the scout master.
When Mr. Jameson came out of the tent, in answer to Paul's low summons,
and learned what had happened, he readily agreed to influence the wild
man to come down. The poor fellow had learned to look on Mr. Jameson as
a friend, and, realizing that he had abandoned the island, doubtless it
was his desire to see him again that had induced this visit.
He proved to be harmless, and upon being given food ate ravenously. Later
on it was discovered that he had launched a log and made his way to the
mainland by means of this crude craft, with a branch for a paddle.
Mr. Jameson declared that he would take the stranger to Stanhope when the
vehicle came for the professor, and do all in his power to learn just who
he was, as well as get him safely back among his friends.
To dispose of the wild man of Cedar Island once and for all, it might be
said right here that Mr. Jameson kept his word. The name John Pennington
served as a clue, and in the end he learned that was his name. He had
lost his mind through an accident and, though his case was deemed
hopeless, occasionally he was apt to have little flashes of his former
cleverness. He was returned to the sanitarium from which he had escaped,
and the boys never heard of him again. But the memory of the wild man
would always be associated with Cedar Island.
On the following day Paul and Jack managed to get around to the outlet,
for the scout master was anxious to learn what the chances of their
leaving the lake, when they were ready, might be.
They found that, just as had been believed that shoulder of rock and
earth had been shaken loose by the tremor of the earth at the time of the
big shock, when the professor was experimenting with some new explosive.
In falling, it had indeed dammed the outlet, and the storm coming so soon
after, of course the water in the lake had risen at a frightful rate. In
the end the obstruction had commenced to disappear; but luckily for all
concerned, it had held fairly well until much of the water had escaped,
when finally it had given way.
The channel was as good as ever; indeed, Paul seemed to think that
it offered fewer impediments to a passage now than before all this
That eased the minds of the scouts, and they could go back again to their
camp with good news for the others.
A carriage came that day for the professor, and his assistants managed to
carry him across country to the road; just as they had undoubtedly done
the two big boxes of material that came from Mr. Stormways' mill that
He shook hands with each and every scout before leaving, and promised to
remember them always for what they had done. When he came to Paul, he
clung to his hand, and there were tears in the eyes of the little
professor as he, said:
"I honestly believe that you saved my life, my boy, and I trust that
through your ability I may be spared a few more years. And depend on it,
I'm never going to let you get out of touch with me, Paul Morrison. I
hope to live to see you a great surgeon, some day."
The scouts filled out the balance of their vacation at the lake, and
considered that they had had some of the strangest experiences that could
happen to a group of boys; but although at the time they could not
suspect it, there were still more interesting things in store for Paul
and his comrades of Stanhope Troop of Boy Scouts. What these were, you
will find related in the next volume of this series, to be called, "The
Banner Boy Scouts Snowbound; Or, A Tour on Skates and Iceboats."
When the time came for them to start back, it was with more or less
anxiety that they came to the canal connecting the waters of the two
rivers flowing parallel for a few miles, and only a short distance apart.
But they need not have borrowed trouble, for the Bushkill was still
higher than usual at this season of the year and all through the
disused canal they found plenty of water, so that neither of the boats
stuck in the mud.
In good time, then, the Banner Boy Scouts arrived home, to thrill the
lads who had not been fortunate enough to accompany them on their trip
afloat, with wonderful accounts of all the remarkable things which had
happened to them while in camp on Cedar Island.