Part 1 out of 3
Produced by Richard Prairie, Charles Franks
and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team.
The Boy Scouts of the Air on Lost Island
BY GORDON STUART
I OVER THE DAM
II A HOPELESS SEARCH
III LOST ISLAND
IV MORE THRILLS
V A STARTLING CLEW
VI TO THE RESCUE!
VII THE FLYING EAGLE SCOUTS
VIII A VOYAGE IN THE DARK
IX A RESCUE THAT FAILED
X "TO-MORROW IS THE DAY!"
XI A MID-AIR MIRACLE
XII AN EMPTY RIFLE SHELL
XIII THE GAME BEGINS
XIV PATCHING THE "SKYROCKET"
XV A WILD NIGHT
XVI TRICKED AGAIN!
XVII THE BIG PLAY
XVIII A CLOSE FINISH
The Boy Scouts of the Air on Lost Island
OVER THE DAM
Three boys stood impatiently kicking the dew off the tall grass in
Ring's back yard, only pausing from their scanning of the beclouded,
dawn-hinting sky to peer through the lightening dusk toward the
clump of cedars that hid the Fulton house.
"He's not up yet, or there'd be a light showing," grumbled the
short, stocky one of the three.
"Humph--it's so late now he wouldn't be needing a light. Tod never
failed us yet, Frank, and he told me last night that he'd be right
"We'd ought to have gone down right off, Jerry, when we saw he
wasn't here. Frank and I would have stopped off for him, only we was
so sure he'd be the first one here--especially when you two were
elected to dig the worms."
"We dug the worms last night--a lard pail half full--down back of
his cabbage patch. And while we were sitting on the porch along
comes his father--you know how absent-minded he is--and reaches down
into the bucket and says, 'Guess I'll help myself to some of your
"Bet you that's why Tod isn't here, then."
"Why, Frank Ellery, seventh son of a seventh son? Coming so early in
the morning, your short-circuit brain shockers make us ordinary
folks dizzy. This double-action----"
"Double-action nothing, Dave Thomas! I heard Mr. Fulton tell Tod
yesterday he was to pick four quarts of blackberries and take them
over to your Aunt Jen. Tod forgot, and so his dad wouldn't let him
go fishing, that's all."
"Sun's up," announced Jerry Ring.
"So's Tod!" exclaimed Dave Thomas, who had climbed to the first high
limbs of a near-by elm and now slid suddenly down into the midst of
the piled-up fishing paraphernalia. "I just saw him coming in from
the berry patch--here he comes now."
A lanky, good-natured looking sixteen-year-old boy, in loose-fitting
overalls and pale blue shirt open at the throat, came loping down
"Gee, fellows," he panted, "I expect you're cussing mad--but I _had_
to pick those berries before I went, and it took me so long to
grouch out the green ones after it got light."
"I see you brought the very greenest one of all along," observed
"Oh, you here, too, little one?" as if seeing him for the first
time. "I didn't know kindergarten was closed for the day. I make one
guess who tipped over the bait can."
"Ask Frank," suggested Dave with pretended weariness; "he's got
"Don't need second sight to see that worm crawling up your pants
leg. We going to stand here all day! I move we get a hike on down to
the boat. Maybe we can hitch on behind Steve Porter's launch--he's
going up past Dead Tree Point--and that'll save us the long pull
through the slough."
The boys picked up the great load of luggage, which was not so big
when divided among four boys, and hustled out of the Ring yard and
down the dusty road. They were four of a size; that is, Tod Fulton
was tall and somewhat flattened out, while Frank Ellery was more or
less all in a bunch, as Jerry said, who was himself sturdily put
together. Dave Thomas was neither as tall as Tod nor as stocky as
Frank; He looked undersized, in fact. But his "red hair and readier
tongue," his friends declared, more than made up for any lack of
size. At any rate, no one ever offered a second time to carry the
heaviest end of the load.
Now, as they walked along through the back streets of Watertown,
rightly named as it was in the midst of lakes, creeks and rivers,
they began a discussion that never grew old with them. Tod began it.
"We've got plenty of worms, for once."
"Good!" cried Dave. "I've thought of a dandy scheme, but it'd take a
pile of bait."
"What's that?" asked Jerry, suspecting mischief.
"You know, you can stretch out a worm to about three inches. Tie
about a hundred together--allow an inch apiece for the knot--that
would make two hundred inches, or say seventeen feet. Put the back
end of the line about a foot up on the bank and the other end out in
the water. Along comes a carp--the only fish that eats _worms_--and
starts eating. He gets so excited following up his links of worm-
weenies, that he doesn't notice he's up on shore, when suddenly Tod
Fulton, mighty fisherman, grabs him by the tail and flips him----"
"Yes--where does he flip him?" Tod had dropped his share of the
luggage and now had Dave by the back of the neck.
"Back into the water and makes him eat another string of worms as
punishment for being a carp."
"You with your old dead minnows!" exclaimed Tod, giving Dave a push
that sent him staggering. "Last time we went, all you caught was a
dogfish and one starved bullhead. There's more real fish that'll
bite on worms than on any other bait. I've taken trout and even
black bass. Early in the morning I can land pickerel and croppies
where a minnow or a frog could sleep on the end of a six pounder's
nose. Don't tell me."
"Yes," put in Jerry, "and I can sit right between the two of you and
with my number two Skinner and a frog or a bacon rind pull 'em out
while you fellows go to sleep between nibbles."
"Bully!" exclaimed Frank. "Every time we go home after a trip, you
hang a sign on your back: 'Fish for Sale,' with both s's turned
backwards. I'm too modest to mention the name of the boy who caught
the largest black bass ever hooked in Plum Run, but I can tell you
the kind of fly the old boy took, all the same."
"Testimony's all in," laughed Tod, good-humoredly. "And here we are
at the dock of the 'Big Four.'"
"Yes, and there goes Porter up around the bend. We row our boat to-
day. We ought to get up a show or something and raise enough money
to buy a motor."
"I move we change our plans and leave Round Lake for another trip."
It was lazy Frank who made the proposal.
"What difference does it make to you? You never row anyway. Plum
Run's too high for anything but still fishing----"
"I saw Hunky Doran coming back from Parry's Dam day before yesterday
and he had a dandy string."
"Sure. He always does. Bet you he dopes his bait," declared Tod.
"Well, you spit on the worm yourself. The dam isn't half as far as
Dead Tree, and, besides, we can always walk across to Grass Lake.
Jerry votes for the dam, don't you, Jerry?"
But Jerry only shrugged his shoulders. Frank and Tod always
disagreed on fishing places, largely because their styles of angling
were different and consequently a good place for one was the poorest
place in the world for the other. So Jerry, who usually was the
peacemaker, said nothing but unlocked the padlock which secured the
boat, tossed the key-ring to Dave with, "Open the boathouse and get
two pair of oars. Tod, take a squint at the sun--five-thirty, isn't
it? An hour and a half to the Dead Tree, and an hour more to Round
Lake. What kind of fish can you take in old Roundy after eight
"Oh, I knew we were going to the dam, all right. I give in. But if
I've got to go where I don't want to, I'm going to have the boat to
"As if you didn't always have it!" snorted Frank. "The only one who
fishes in one place all day, but he's got to have the boat--and
forgets himself and walks right off it the minute he gets a real
Tod paid no attention to this insult. He and Jerry settled in their
places at the oars, with Frank at the stern for ballast, and Dave up
ahead to watch the channel, for Plum Run, unbelievably deep in
places, had a trick of shallowing at unlikely spots. More than once
had the _Big Four_ had her paint scraped off by a jagged shelf of
rock or shoal.
They were all in their places, the luggage stowed away, and Frank
was ready to push away from the dock, when he raised his hand and
said instead: "Understand me, boys, I'm the last one in the world to
kick--you know me. But there's one request I have to make of you
before the push of my fingers cuts us off from the last trace of
"'Sw'at?" cried the three.
"When we have embarked upon this perilous voyage, let no mournful
note swell out upon the breeze, to frighten beasts and men--and
fish--into believing that Dave Thomas is once more _trying_ to
Immediately a mournful yowling began in the bow of the boat, growing
louder as they drew away from shore. And then, amid the laughter of
his three companions, Dave ended his wail and instead broke into a
lively boating song, the others joining in at the chorus. For Dave's
singing was a source of pride to his friends.
So, Dave singing lustily and Tod and Jerry tugging at the oars in
time with the music, they swung away from the dock and out in the
center channel of Plum Run, a good hundred yards from shore. Once in
the current, they swung straight ahead down stream. Before long the
last house of Watertown, where people were fast beginning to stir,
had faded from view. They passed safely through the ripples of the
shoals above Barren Island, a great place for channel cat when the
water was lower. Through the West Branch they steered, holding close
to the island shore, for while the current was slower, at least the
water was deeper and safer.
A mile-long stretch of smooth rowing lay ahead of them now, after
which they entered Goose Slough, narrow and twisty, with half-hidden
snags, and sudden whirlpools. More than one fishing party had been
capsized in its treacherous quarter mile of boiling length. Then
came a so-called lake, Old Grass, with the real Grass Lake barely
visible through its circle of trees. A crystal-clear creek was its
outlet to Plum Run, a thousand gleaming sunfish and tiny bass
flashing through its purling rapids or sulking in deep, dark pools.
There was good fishing in Grass Lake, but waist-high marsh grass,
saw-edged, barred the way for nearly half a mile.
But just ahead of them Plum Run had widened out once more to real
river size, its waters penned back by concrete, rock and timber dam,
with Parry's Mill on the east bank.
"Land me on the other side, above the big cottonwood," decided
Frank. "There's a weedy little bight up there where I predict a two-
pound bass in twenty minutes."
"I'll try the stretch just below, working toward the dam, I guess.
How about you, Jerry!" asked Dave.
"I'll stay with the boat awhile, I reckon. Where away, boatman?"
"Dam," grunted Tod.
"Not swearing, I take it?" inquired Jerry.
Dave and Frank were dropped out at the cottonwood, where they were
soon exchanging much sage advice concerning likely spots and proper
bait. Jerry and Tod chuckled as they rowed away. Tod himself was
keen on still fishing with worms or grubs; he liked to sit and dream
while the bait did the work; but his quarreling with Dave and Frank
was mostly make-believe. Jerry, the best fisherman of the four,
believed, as he said, in "making the bait fit the fish's mouth." His
tackle-box held every kind of hook and lure; his steel rod and
multiple reel were the best Timkin's Sporting Goods Store in town
could furnish; they had cost him a whole summer's savings.
Tod rather laughed at Jerry's equipment. His own cheap brass reel
and jointed cane pole, with heavy linen line, was only an excuse.
Throw-lines with a half dozen hooks were his favorites, and a big
catfish his highest aim. As soon as the boat hit the dam he began
getting out his lines. Jerry jumped lightly over the bow.
"Shall I tie you up?" he called over his shoulder.
"Never mind, Jerry. I think I'll work in toward the shore a bit
first, and, anyway, she can't drift upstream." So Jerry went on his
way out toward the middle of the dam.
It was really a monstrous affair, that dam. The old part was built
on and from solid rock, being really a jutting out of a lime stone
cliff which had stood high and dry before the water had been dammed
up by the heavy timber cribs cutting across the original stream.
Concrete abutments secured these timbers and linked the walls of
stone with the huge gates opening into the millrace that fed the
water to the ponderous undershot millwheel. Just now the gates were
open and the water rushed through with deafening force. Jerry made
his way across the stonework section, having a hard time in the
water-worn crevices, slimed over with recent overflows, for when the
millgates were closed, Plum Run thundered over this part of the dam
in a spectacular waterfall.
He had hardly reached the flat concrete before he noticed that the
roar from the millrace had ceased; the gates had been closed. All
the better; this part of the river was shallow; when the water rose,
big fish would be coming in to scour over the fresh feeding grounds.
So he moved a little nearer shore and quickly trimmed his lines. He
heard a hail from the bank as he made his first cast. It was from
"Mind if I come out and try my luck beside you?"
"Not at all. Water's coming up fast. Best try some grubs or worms,
though. No good for minnows here now."
"Sure," agreed Dave, settling comfortably beside him. "Water sure is
filling up, isn't she? Guess the Miller of the Dee dropped a
cogwheel into his wheat."
"Not wishing anybody any bad luck, but I hope they don't start up
again all day. This'll be a backwater as soon as the current starts
going over the dam. Another six inches--say! Look at Tod. If he
isn't fishing right above the flume. Wonder if he's noticed."
"Noticed? He's got a bite, that's what! Look at him bending to it.
It's a big one, you bet. Golly, did you see that!"
"I see more than that," exclaimed Jerry grimly, dropping his
precious pole and starting across the slippery rocks on the run. "If
he doesn't get out of there in about thirty seconds, he's going over
But just as Jerry mounted the last clump of rocks, just as Dave's
desperate shouts had aroused Tod to a realization of his danger,--
something happened. You have watched a big soap bubble swelling the
one last impossible breath; you have seen a camp coffee kettle
boiling higher and higher till _splush!_ the steaming brown mass
heaves itself into the fire--the bending, crowding mile-wide surface
of Plum Creek found a sudden outlet. And right in the center of that
outlet was a plunging tiny boat.
"Help!" rang out one choked-off cry, as in a great rush of suddenly
foaming flood, over the dam plunged a boat and a terrorized boy.
A HOPELESS SEARCH
In the brief instant that Jerry stood on the slippery point of rock
he had the queer feeling that it was all a horrible dream, or at
least only an impossible scene from a motion picture. Where a boat
had been a second before was now only a seething, tossing down-
tumbling wall of brownish foam.
But his stunned inaction was quickly gone. Down to the very edge of
the flood he raced, almost losing his balance and toppling in. At a
dangerous angle he leaned over and peered into the churning water-
Dave had come hurrying to his side, to miss his footing at the last
and plunge waist-deep into the current. A precious moment was lost
in rescuing him. When, both safe on the rocky ledge, they turned to
scan the depths of the fall, it was to see a dark object suddenly
pop up full fifty feet downstream. It was the boat--but no Tod.
"Did you see it!" cried Jerry excitedly. "Didn't it look like
something blackish in the bottom of the boat?"
"She's full of water, that's all. Tod's down there under the fall.
He's drowned, I tell you! What shall we do? What shall we do!"
Excitable Dave was fast losing his head.
"Come on!" shouted Jerry, aroused by the helplessness of his
companion. "We've got to get to the mill and have them turn the
water through the race. Then we've got to get a boat out there--
But he had not waited for Dave. Across the river just below the dam
was a house. If there was a telephone there--Jerry knew there was
one at the mill--something might yet be done in time. There was of
course no way of reaching the mill itself across that raging
torrent. There _was_ a telephone at the house, but it seemed hours
after Jerry reached it before he finally got a gruff "Hello" from
the mill manager, Mr. Aikens. But, fortunately, Aikens was not slow
to grasp the situation. In the midst of his explanations Jerry
realized that there was no one at the other end of the wire.
Out of the house he dashed and down to where in his wild race he had
seen a boat moored below the dam. The oars were still in place.
Barely waiting for the panting Dave to tumble in, he pushed off,
exultingly noting as he strained at the oars that already the volume
of water pouring over the falls had lessened. Before he reached the
main channel it had dwindled to a bare trickle.
"Take the oars!" he directed the helpless Dave, at the same time
stumbling to the bow of the boat and jerking off shoes, shirt and
trousers. Diving seemed a hopeless undertaking, but there was little
else to do. Again and again he plunged under, coming up each time
nearly spent but desperately determined to try again. Two boats put
out from the mill side of the river, capable Mr. Aikens in one of
them. A grappling hook trailing from the stern of the boat told that
such accidents as this were not unusual in treacherous Plum Run.
Then began a search that exhausted their every resource. The ill
word had speedily gone around among the nearer houses, and in the
course of an hour a great crowd of men appeared from Watertown
itself. The water was black with boats and alive with diving bodies.
Hastily constructed grappling hooks raked the narrow stream from
side to side. A big seine was even commandeered from a houseboat up
the river and dragged back and forth across the rough river bed till
the men were worn out.
But all to no avail. Every now and then a shout of discovery went
up, but the booty of the grappling hooks invariably proved to be
only watersoaked logs or mud-filled wreckage. Once they were all
electrified at a black-haired body dislodged by a clam-rake, that
came heavily to the surface and then sank, to be the subject of ten
minutes frantic dragging, only to be finally revealed as the body of
an unfortunate dog.
It was heart-breaking work, and the tension was not lessened with
the appearance on the scene of Mr. Fulton, Tod's father. He said
nothing, but his hopeless silence was more depressing than any words
of grief could have been. Jerry and Dave and Frank, feeling in some
queer way guilty of their friend's death, could not meet his eyes as
he asked dully how it had happened.
The dreary day dragged to a weary close, and the sun sank behind
heavy clouds black with more than one rumbling promise of storm. The
boys toiled doggedly on, weak from hunger, for their lunches had
gone over with the boat, and, anyway, they would not have had the
heart to swallow a bite. Lanky, good-natured Tod Fulton--drowned! It
simply couldn't be. But the fast darkening water, looking cruel now,
and menacing, where it had laughed and rippled only that morning,
gave the lie to their hopes. Hopes? The last one had gone when Mr.
Aikens had said:
"Never heard of anybody's being brought to after more than two hours
under water. Only thing we can hope for is to find the body. I'm
going to telephone to town and tell 'em to send out some dynamite."
It was already dusk when this decision was made, and it was after
nine o'clock before an automobile brought a supply of dynamite
sticks and detonating caps. In the meanwhile a powerful electric
searchlight had been brought over from the interurban tracks a scant
mile west of the river line, and the millwheel had been shafted to
the big dynamo and was generating current to flash dazzling rays of
light across the water.
Mayor Humphreys, from Watertown, and Mr. Aikens were chosen to set
off the dynamite, while watchers lined the shores, sharp-eyed in the
hope of catching sight of the body when it should come to the
muddied surface of Plum Run after the dynamite had done its work.
Charge after charge was set off, and countless hundreds of fish were
stunned or killed by the terrific force of the explosive, but no
body of a hapless sixteen-year-old boy rewarded the anxious
searchers. Up and down the river combed the dynamiters, and glare
and crash rent the night for a mile down the stream. It began to
look as if other means would have to be resorted to--the saddest of
all, perhaps--time. Sometime, somewhere, after days or even weeks,
ten, twenty, fifty, a hundred miles down the river, a sodden,
unrecognizable body would be washed up on sand-bar or mud-bank. It
was a sickening thought.
"Have all the river towns been telegraphed?" asked a bystander, of
the mayor. A nod of the head was his only answer.
"We may as well go home," was the final reluctant verdict. "We can
come back in the morning." Mr. Fulton alone refused to abandon the
search, and Mr. Aikens kindly offered to bear him company till
daybreak brought others to take his place. When all had gone save
these two and the three boys, Jerry approached and tried to draw Mr.
"Do you suppose," he began with a kind of despairing eagerness,
"that he could have stayed in the boat?"
Aikens shook his head. "Not a chance in the world," he declared.
"But I thought----" began Jerry, to be interrupted by Mr. Aikens,
who finally contented himself with merely repeating:
"Not a chance in the world." They were silent until at last Mr.
Aikens, moved by some impulse of kindliness, for he could hardly
help guessing how miserable the boy's thoughts must be, added:
"You thought what, lad?"
"The boat was full of water, of course, but when she popped up, it
looked like there was something black in the bottom----"
"You saw the boat go over, didn't you! It must have turned over and
over a dozen times down there in that whirlpool, even if he had
stayed in till she lit. But he couldn't have. And even if----"
"Yes" urged Jerry, but without enthusiasm.
"If he _was_ in the bottom of the boat he would have been drowned
just the same, knocked senseless as he probably was by the terrific
force of the fall and the tons of water plunging on top of him. Mind
you, I don't think there was one chance in a million but that he was
dashed out long before the boat hit bottom."
"But where's the--the body, then?" objected Jerry miserably.
"If grappling hooks and seines and dynamite couldn't answer that
question, don't expect me to. Look here, lad, I know you feel all
cut up over it, but think of how his poor father feels----"
"I am--that's what makes me feel as if it was partly my fault."
"Now--now--don't take it like that. Man and boy I've lived on this
and other rivers a good many years over forty, and a drowning I've
known for every one of those years. The water's a treacherous dame--
she smiles at you in the sunshine, and the little waves kiss each
other and play around your boat, but the shadows lurk deep and
they're waiting, waiting, I tell you. The old river takes her toll.
It happened to be _your_ friend, that's all. But it wasn't anybody's
fault. Mr. Fulton would be the last one in the world to think so."
Jerry looked over at Mr. Fulton, who had finally ended his mute
pacing up and down, and now sat, chin in hand, staring out across
the water. A sudden impulse made the boy go over and stand for
awhile, silent, beside the grief-stricken man. He wanted to say
something, but the words would not come. So, after a little, he
walked upstream to where Dave and Frank huddled against an
overturned boat; the night was growing a bit chill.
"Moon's coming up," remarked Frank as Jerry settled down beside
them. No one answered.
"It's awful to sit around and not move a finger to find him,"
shivered Dave at last. "Seems as if there ought to be something we
"Do you know what I think?" replied Jerry, almost eagerly. "I think
I was right about that boat. I've been trying to remember what we
left in the boat that could have looked like--like what I saw when
she came up. There wasn't a thing in the boat--not a thing. It was
Tod I saw--I know it was!"
"But he never could have stayed in," objected Frank.
"That's what Mr. Aikens said--and everybody else. But tell me what
else it could have been I saw. I saw _some_thing, _that_ I know."
"We ought to have gone after the boat," admitted Dave, slowly. "We
didn't do a bit of good here, that's sure."
"But we didn't know that at the time," Frank argued. "Everybody'd
have blamed us if we'd gone on a wild goose chase down the river
after an empty boat----"
"But nobody would have said a word if we'd found him in the bottom
of a boat everybody else thought was empty. If the moon was only
"You don't catch me drilling off down Plum Bun at night, moon or no
moon. There's a rattlesnake or copperhead for every hundred yards!"
It was Frank who took up Jerry's thought. "Besides, it would be
different if we hadn't waited so long. Tod--Tod's--he's dead now,"
voicing at last the feeling they had never before put into words.
There was a gruffness in Jerry's voice as he answered, a gruffness
that tried hard to mask the trembling of his tones. "I know it, but--
but--I want to do something for Mr. Fulton. Won't you fellows go
along with me? I guess I--I'll go."
"Down river?" asked both boys, but without eagerness.
"Till we find the boat."
"It's no use," said Frank. "Our folks'll cane us now when we get
home. Going along, Dave--with me?"
"How far do you s'pose the boat's drifted by now, Jerry?" asked Dave
instead of answering Frank.
"Can't tell. She's probably stuck on a sandbar or a snag, anywhere
from five to twenty-five miles down. Don't go along, Dave, unless
you want to."
"Better come home with me," urged Frank.
"Do you _need_ me along, Jerry?" queried Dave uncertainly.
"No--" shortly--"no _I_ don't. Mr. Fulton does--Tod does."
Jerry rose stiffly to his feet and started slowly off in the faint
moonlight, without so much as a look behind.
"So long, Jerry," called Frank. "Come on, Dave."
But Dave slowly shook his head and reluctantly followed the
footsteps of his chum.
"Hold on a minute, old man; I'll stick with you."
It was only a thin edge of a moon that now stood barely above the
low line of tree-covered hills beyond the east bank of the river.
The light it gave was a misty, watery sort of ray that was a
doubtful help in walking over the broken shore line. The two boys
were too occupied in watching their footing to do much talking.
Jerry led the way, bearing to the water's edge, finally stopping
where a light rowboat had been pulled well up on the rocky beach.
"We'll have to divide forces, I guess. In this uncertain light we
never could be sure of seeing the boat if she was on the other side.
I'll cut across while you go down this bank."
"Why not take the boat and go down the middle?"
"Too hard work getting through the shallows, and, besides, this way
we're closest to the place where the boat would most likely have
been snagged. We can go lots faster on foot. We'll keep about
opposite each other; we can yell across once in a while and it won't
be quite so lonesome. You go ahead till you get below the riffles,
and wait there till I catch up with you."
Jerry stepped into the boat and took up the oars. Dave gave the boat
a mighty shove that almost put the stern under the water.
"Hey! What you kids doing?" bellowed a gruff voice that the boys
hardly recognized as being that of Mr. Aikens.
"Just duck and say nothing," called Jerry guardedly to Dave. "He
might try to stop us."
So Dave scurried into the shadows of near-by trees, while Jerry bent
low over his oars and noiselessly shot the boat out into safe
waters. It was the work of only a few minutes to push the nose of
his boat high and dry on the sand of the opposite shore. He was in
the heavy shadow of a big cottonwood and felt safe from peering
eyes, so without wasting time to mask his movements he jumped out
and scurried along the bank. A level stretch of a hundred yards
carried him around a bend; he stopped for a brief rest and a glance
toward the other side, where a great crashing of bushes told him
that Dave was safely out of sight and well on his way toward the
A chuckle almost escaped Jerry as he listened to the thrashing
about, but remembrance of their errand killed the laughter. In fact,
the chuckle turned to a genuine sob, for Tod Fulton was his closest
chum. So, without an instant's pause, he made his way to the foot of
the riffles, where their search would really begin. How soon it
would end, there was no telling; it might be one mile; it might be
twenty. But Jerry grimly determined that he would carry the
undertaking through to the end.
The riffles was really a succession of pools of treacherous depths,
joined by foaming, rock-broken rapids. The bank was lined with great
boulders through which a day-time path wound a difficult way. Jerry
wasted no time in trying to follow it, but skirted far around
through a waist-high cornfield. A barb-wire fence held him prisoner
long enough to allow Dave to break cover first on the opposite shore
and send a vigorous but quavery "hello" across the water.
"I'm stuck on the fence!" shouted Jerry in return. "Go ahead. I'll
be along directly."
But he noticed that Dave stood waiting on the shore when he finally
managed to release himself and broke through the thin fringe of
willows. "All right, Dave," he urged. "Let's not be losing any
For a while the going was much easier. On Jerry's side a wide reach
of sand lay smooth and firm in the pale moonlight. On Dave's side a
few yards of sand lay between a steep bank and the water's edge, but
every few hundred feet a shallow creek broke through and forced
There was no chance for the boat to have stranded here, and the boys
hurried along. Within a mile the character of the ground changed.
Now the water lapped along under high, steep banks, with tiny,
willow-covered islands alternating with bass-haunted snags of
dislodged trees barricaded with driftwood. The moon cast queer
shadows and more than once Jerry's heart felt a wild thrill as he
fancied he saw a boat hull outlined against the silvered current.
Every few hundred yards the two boys stopped and sent encouraging
shouts across the widening water. It was a lonesome, disheartening
task, with every step making the task all the harder. Deep bays cut
into the shore line; the feeder creeks grew wider and deeper. The
night air was chill on their dripping shoulders. Plum Run was no
longer a run--it was a real river, and Dave's voice sounded far off
when he came out on some bare point to shout his constant:
They were now on a part of the river that was comparatively strange
to them. Jerry had more than once followed the Plum this far south,
but it had always been by boat, or at best on the west bank, Dave's
territory, where a chain of lakes followed the course of the river.
Each new twist and turn sent a shiver of nervous dread through him.
Many the story of rattlers and copperheads he had heard from
fishermen and campers--and the night was filled with unexpected and
disturbing noises, overhead and underfoot. Of course he knew that
snakes are not abroad at night, but the knowledge did not help his
Moreover, they were drawing near Lost Island, and no boy of
Watertown had ever been known to cast a line within half a mile of
that dreaded spot. For Lost Island was the "haunted castle" of the
neighborhood. It was nothing more than a large, weed-and-willow-
covered five acres, a wrecked dam jutting out from the east bank,
and a great gaunt pile of foundation masonry standing high and dry
on a bare knoll at the north end.
It had a history--never twice told the same. The dam had been
dynamited, that much was sure. By whom, no one knew. The house, if
ever a house had been built over those rain-bleached rocks, had been
struck by lightning, hurricane, blown up by giant powder, rotted
away--a dozen other tragic ends, as the whim of the story-teller
dictated. The owner had been murdered, lynched, had committed
suicide--no one knew, but everyone was positive that there was
something fearfully, terribly wrong with Lost Island.
It was one of the few islands in Plum Run which was not flooded over
by the spring freshets, and the land was fertile, yet no one had
ever been known to live there through a season; this in spite of the
fact that Lost Island was known as "squatter's land," open to
settlement by anyone who desired it.
And Lost Island lay barely half a mile farther down the river. Jerry
fervently hoped that their search would be ended before they were in
the shadow of that forsaken territory. His nerves were not calmed
any by the tremble in Dave's voice as he shouted across:
"Lost Island's just below us, Jerry. Shall we go on?"
"Sure thing, Dave!" called Jerry with a confidence he did not feel.
"It can't be any worse than what we've already gone through--and
we've gone through _that_ all right."
"Supposing," hesitated Dave, "supposing the boat's grounded on Lost
"It's the boat we're looking for, isn't it?" But Jerry knew as he
spoke, that, hard as the going was, he would be well satisfied to
discover the boat five weary miles farther on.
Once more they plodded along, the dark, forbidding hulk of Lost
Island looming nearer and nearer. Just before passing behind the
northern point Jerry came out to the water's edge and had cupped his
hands about his mouth for a final reassuring shout, when a sudden
discovery made him pause. A shout, that seemed to split in mid-air,
convinced him that Dave too had just then caught sight of the
It was a gleaming, flickering, ruddy light, and it came from the
very center of Lost Island!
Jerry's first thought was fright. But that soon gave way to the
wildest of conjectures. Suppose Tod had been in the boat. Suppose he
had come to in time, but too weak to do more than remain in the boat
till it grounded here on Lost Island. A waterproof match-safe easily
accounted for the fire. Jerry refused to allow himself to reason any
further. There might be a dozen reasons why Tod had not swum the
scant hundred yards to shore.
"Do you see it!" finally came a shout from the other side.
"It's a camp fire," called Jerry. "Do you suppose it could possibly
"It couldn't be Tod, _could_ it!" came the answer, showing the same
wild hope that had surged through Jerry.
"Oh--_Tod!_" rang out from two trembly throats on both sides of the
There was no reply. At least there came no answering shout. But the
next instant Jerry rubbed his eyes in bewilderment. The camp fire
had been blotted out as if by magic. Only the deep gloom of thick-
set willows lay before him.
"The fire's gone!" came in alarmed tones from Dave.
"_Tod--Oh, Tod!_" rang out once more through the still night air.
This time there was an answer, but not the one the boys expected. A
gruff voice demanded angrily:
"Say, you idiots--what in the thunder you want!"
"We're looking for a boy who was drowned up at----" began Jerry, who
was closest to the high point where a man was presently seen
stalking through the fringe of bushes.
"Boy who was drowned? _Calling_ for him! Ye crazy loons!"
interrupted the man.
"We don't know whether he was drowned or not," answered Jerry hotly.
"Well I'll never tell you," was the surly response. With a disgusted
shrug of the shoulders the great hulk of a man slouched back toward
the center of the island, pausing just before he disappeared once
more in the wilderness to warn:
"Any more of that howling's going to bring a charge of buckshot, and
I don't care which of you I hit."
"Do you care if we come over and look along the shore of the
island?" shouted Dave at the retreating figure.
The answer, which was more like a growl than a human response, left
no doubt of the man's meaning. Neither boy felt the slightest desire
to swim across to Lost Island. Instead Jerry waved his arms over his
head and then pointed downstream.
So once more they trudged along, disheartened more than ever, for
somehow the actions of that weird figure on Lost Island had made
their search look more of a wild goose chase than ever. The island
was soon passed, but Jerry found himself peering hopelessly across a
sluggish, muddy-bottomed slough that promised many a weary minute of
wading before he could hope to establish communication with his
So it was with a great feeling of relief that, once more on solid
ground, he heard Dave's call.
"Say, Jerry, we're pretty near down to Tomlinson's wagon bridge.
What you say that we hustle on down and meet halfway across--and
wait there for daylight. I'm about woozified."
"Good!" agreed Jerry, pleased that the suggestion had come from
Dave. "Even the thought of it rests my old legs till they feel like
new. I'll just race you to it!"
But it was a slow sort of race, for neither boy was willing to take
a chance in passing the most innocent shadow--which always turned
out to be a water-soaked log or a back-eddied swirl of foam.
Nevertheless, it was a spent Dave who sank gasping to the rough
plank floor of the middle span of the wagon bridge a scant second
ahead of another puffing boy.
A good ten minutes they lay there, breathing hard. Then both rose
and walked over to the edge and leaned heavily against the girders
as they looked gloomily down the river.
"Looks almost hopeless, doesn't it!" admitted Jerry, finally.
"Worst of it is we don't really know whether she's down below yet or
if we've passed it. She was riding pretty low."
"Wonder what that man was doing on Lost Island?" speculated Jerry,
crossing wearily to the north edge of the bridge and peering through
the gray dawn-mist toward the island, barely visible now. A mere
twinkle of light showed among the trees, and he stood there for a
long minute. Dave come to his side, and the two waited in silence
for the dawn. Jerry had almost fallen asleep standing up, when a
sudden clutch at his arm nearly overbalanced him and sent him
tumbling off the dizzy height.
"Look!" gasped Dave.
"What is it?" exclaimed Jerry, turning to his companion, all sleep
"I'll swear it's the boat--right under us!"
It was only a bare few seconds before the floating object had passed
within the shadow of the bridge, but there could be no doubt about
it; it was a boat, riding so low that only her outline showed. Jerry
rubbed his eyes in disbelief, but for only an instant. Then he
sprang to the other side of the bridge, shedding hat, coat,
trousers, shirt and shoes, on the way. So, at least, it seemed to
Dave, who caught his chum's arm, as Jerry poised himself, his body
white and gleaming in the moonlight, on the high rail that ran along
"What you going to do, Jerry? It's a good thirty feet to the water--
and you don't know how deep it is down there."
"I'm diving shallow, Dave; two feet is all I ask below. We can't
take any chances of losing her. Carry my clothes along the bank,
will you? I'll try to make the east side--it looks a little closer."
In the few seconds they had talked, the boat had drifted under the
bridge and now cut through the silver-edged shadow of the last
There was a quiver of the flimsy railing, a slender body cut through
the moonlight, parted the water with a clean _sush!_ and bobbed up
almost immediately, within three feet of the boat. Jerry Ring did
not have the reputation of being the best diver in Watertown for
Now ensued a great kicking and churning as Jerry's legs transformed
themselves into propellers for the salvaged "_Big Four_." Progress
was slow; the waterlogged craft lay in the river like so much
cordwood. More than once Jerry had to stop for a few minutes' rest.
But little by little he neared shore, encouraged by Dave, who
impatiently awaited the landing, wading out finally waist-deep to
Neither one said a word as the boat was at last beached. No more
than the barest glance was needed to tell that there was nothing in
the boat but water. Theirs had been a fruitless chase.
"Well," said Dave, slowly, after a long silence, "I guess that ends
our last hope."
"I'm afraid you're right," agreed Jerry dejectedly. "But there's one
thing that puzzles me--do you notice how much water there is in the
boat? It's a good ten inches from the top--how full would it have
been when she popped up from under the falls at the dam?"
"She'd have been right up to the top, I suppose. Why?"
"Well, what I want to know is: How did it get out? And, what's more,
I'd like to know how it would have taken the boat all these hours to
float those few miles. Plum Run's got a six mile an hour current up
above, and it's at least four here. There's something mighty funny
about it all to me."
"But mightn't it just have been snagged or shoaled up above, and
finally worked loose?"
"Sure, I know that. But I know the boat was drifting about as fast
as we were walking, and that being the case, she must have cleared
Lost Island just about three minutes after we talked with that man!"
"You're getting excited, Jerry--over nothing."
"Nothing! You call the water that was _baled_ out of the boat
nothing. It _was_ baled out, I tell you. And look at that rope--it
was _cut_ loose. Somebody was in too big a hurry to untie knots,
that's my guess."
"But, Jerry, what in the world are you driving at, anyway!"
"I don't know. Something about the way that man back there on Lost
Island acted set me thinking away in the back of my head. I didn't
realize what it was that was going on in my cranium until I noticed
this cut rope and say!" Jerry's voice rose in high excitement.
"_Dave!_ Dave--do you remember? The _bucket!_"
Dave only stared at his friend in bewilderment. "Wha--what bucket?"
he at last managed to gasp.
"You remember last week when we were out, and the storm caught us
and pretty nearly swamped the boat? Tod said he'd bet we'd never be
caught without a bailing can again--and he put a lard pail on a snap
hook under the back seat. It's gone!"
"But what if--why, pshaw, it could easy have worked loose and
floated away. I don't see what there is to be so worked up about."
"But, Dave, don't you see----" Jerry was trembling with excitement.
"Suppose Tod _had_ stayed in the boat, and he came to, and he didn't
have any oars. First off he'd try to bale her out, wouldn't he? He'd
bale out just enough so she'd ride easy, and then he'd try to get to
shore. Maybe he landed on Lost Island. Suppose he did, and suppose
that ruffian we saw didn't want him to get off again. What else
would the man do but cut loose the boat when we came along!"
"Jerry, don't you think we'd better be getting on home?"
"What's the matter with you, Dave?"
"Why, nothing, Jerry----"
"Then what you talking about going on home when I'm running down a
clew like that?"
"It's almost morning, Jerry, and you've had a hard day and been up
all night--and the lonesome chase through the dark----"
"Now look here, Davie! If you think I'm getting soft in the head,
just forget it. I never was more in earnest in my life. Don't you
understand? I think Tod's alive--_back there on Lost Island!_"
"But we don't know he was in the boat----"
"Look here, Dave, if you were falling, what'd be the first thing
you'd do? You'd grab at the nearest thing to you, wouldn't you! And
if you got hold of that boat-seat, for instance, you'd pretty near
hang on, wouldn't you? I saw _something_ in the bottom of the boat
when she came up."
"Yes, but we don't know the boat touched Lost Island----"
"No, of course not. But most always when I see a sign that says 'No
fishing allowed,' I know there's fish there."
"You certainly talk as if you were out of your head. What's fishing
got to do with it?"
"The man was not overly anxious to have us come out and make a
search of _his_ island. I'm going back up there and I'm going to
swim across or _get_ across and I'm going to find out what he has
there he doesn't want us to see. Are you game to go along?"
"But supposing there's nothing there, and the man----"
"That island doesn't belong to anybody. We've got as much right
there as he has. The worst he can do is to kick us off, and there's
only one of him against _two_ of us. Come on."
Before they left, however, they tipped their boat over and emptied
out nearly all the water. Then, as they had no oars to row her back,
they tied her by the short length of rope left, to a stout willow.
Jerry resumed his clothing, and shivering a bit in the cool morning
air, was eager to warm up with a good brisk walk.
They were on the east side of the river, and the trail would have
been hard enough even in broad daylight, but Jerry would waste no
time in crossing over when a few minutes later they halted at the
bridge. Home lay on the other side of the river, and Dave, still
unconvinced, stubbornly insisted on following the west bank, but
Jerry soon cut short the argument by striding off in disgust. After
a minute of uncertainty Dave tagged along behind. Neither spoke; to
tell the truth, they were both decidedly cold, hungry and cross. The
damp, fishy smell of the river somehow set their nerves on edge, and
the long drill through swamps and across creeks and sloughs appeared
none too enticing.
"I say, Jerry," called Davie finally, "let's stop for a breath of
air; I'm about petered out."
"Can't," replied Jerry shortly. "Sky's getting gray now. We've got
to get _there_ before daylight. If we can catch our friend on the
island asleep it'll make things a lot easier. Pull your belt up a
notch and see if you can't put the notch into your legs."
Dave grumbled but obediently hastened his gait. In single file they
cut across the last stretch of knee-deep mud and halted opposite
Lost Island. There it lay, beyond the narrow stretch of steaming,
misty black water, dark and forbidding. There was something shivery
about its low-lying-heavy outline, with nothing visible beyond the
border of thick willow growth.
"Looks like some big crouching animal, doesn't it?" remarked Dave as
they stood an instant peering across.
"Well, we know it can't spring--and it won't bite, I guess."
"I'm not so sure. How are we going to get over?"
"Swim it, unless--no, I guess we won't swim--not, at least, if
there's a pair of oars in that flat-boat I see yonder. Funny we
didn't stumble over it when we came down."
"Maybe it wasn't here then. Maybe the man came over in it. We better
not stand here in the open. We don't know what minute he might be
"Well, if it is his boat, at least we don't need to worry about
running onto him over there on the island."
"You're going to swim over, aren't you, Jerry? If the man came along
and found his boat gone, he'd know _we_ were over there and----"
"And he'd be stranded on this side until we were so kind as to bring
back his boat. You can bet _he_ isn't going to swim over, and I bet
you I don't either."
The boat proved to be a cumbersome flat-boat of the type used by
clam-fishers. In fact the smell that simply swirled up from its oozy
bottom left no doubt that the boat had been used for that purpose. A
pair of unbelievably heavy oars, cut from a sapling with a hand-axe,
trailed in the water from "loose oarlocks." Dave gave a gasp of
dismay as he "hefted" the rough implements.
"Let's swim it, Jerry," he said disgustedly. "The boat'll never hold
up the oars and us too. They weigh a ton."
"Pile in," answered Jerry, with the first laugh since that tragic
moment when he had seen a different boat swept over the dam many
weary miles up the river. "We'll each take an oar and try some two-
handed rowing. This craft was built for ocean-going service. Hold
tight; we're off."
But they weren't. Jerry's mighty push ended in a grunt. "Come on;
get out here and shove."
"Maybe if we took the oars out we could start her," Dave jibed. "I
hope you've got a freight-hauling license."
"Get out and push. Your witty remarks are about as light as those
young tree-trunks we have for paddles. All together now!" as Dave
bent over beside him. A lurch, a grinding, thumping slide, and the
flat-boat slid free of shore.
"It's a mighty good thing if that man isn't on the island," remarked
Dave as he took up his half of the propelling mechanism. "Because
when our craft took the water she certainly did 'wake the echoes of
yon wooded glen,' as the poet says."
"Poetry's got nothing to do with this boat. It doesn't rhyme with
anything but blisters. Let's see if we can move her."
Thanks to some tremendous tugging, the flat-boat moved slowly out
from shore. Inch by inch, it seemed, they gained on the current.
"The old tub's got speed in her," grunted Jerry, between sweeps of
"Ought to have it _in_ her," returned Dave. "I'll bet you nobody
ever got it _out_ of her. Ugh!"
"Always grunt out toward the back of the boat--keep your head
turned. It helps us along."
"I've only got one grunt left; I'm saving it. How far have we gone?"
"All of ten feet. I'll tell you when we hit the island. Lift your
oar out of water when you bring it back. The idea is to move the
boat, not merely to stir up the water."
So they joked each other, but their hearts were heavy enough, for
always in the back of their minds was the thought of their friend,
who, in spite of the wild hope that Jerry had built up, might--
_must_, Dave was sure--be lying at the bottom of treacherous Plum
Run somewhere, drowned.
At last they seemed to be nearly halfway across, and they rested a
brief spell, for every inch of their progress had to be fought for.
"All right," said Jerry, taking up his oar, "let's give her another
But Dave did not move, although he still hunched over his oar.
"Come on, Dave," urged his friend. "We don't want to lose any time.
The sun ought to be up almost any minute now."
"Look behind you, old man. Right where we're headed, and tell me
what you see."
Jerry turned in his seat. He took one quick glance toward Lost
Island, now less than a hundred feet away, and then gave a low cry
A STARTLING CLEW
There was a streak of light in the western sky, whether caused by
the low-hanging, mist-hidden moon or a freak reflection of the
coming dawn. Against that patch of brightness the northern headland
of Lost Island loomed up high and barren save for its one tall tree.
But it was neither headland nor tree that caught Jerry's attention
and caused the gasp of dismay.
Standing there, bold and menacing, looking like a giant against the
queer light, was a man.
Whether it was the same one who had hailed them earlier in the
morning, the boys could not of course know. But there was no doubt
about the equal unfriendliness of his attitude, for through the
crook of one elbow he carried a shotgun, while even as Jerry turned
in his seat, the other arm was raised and a big fist shaken.
The next instant they were assured that this was the same man as had
warned them away before. There was no mistaking the voice that
bellowed across the water. Neither was there any mistaking the
meaning of the brief sentence:
"Get to thunder out o' here!"
Jerry stood up in the boat and waved a friendly hand in the general
direction of the angry man, and called pleasantly:
"We were just coming over to see about a boy we think landed on
_your_ island last night or early this morning. We found his boat
down at the bridge and we figured that he must have----"
As Jerry talked, Dave had been slyly urging the boat closer to
shore, but at a sudden interruption from the island, both he and
"You come another foot closer, you young idiots, and I'll fill you
full of rock salt. I loaded up especial for you when you raised that
rumpus last night; I knew durned well you'd be coming back."
"Have you seen anything of our friend?" cried Dave anxiously, trying
to smooth things over by being civil.
"If he's anything like you two, I hope I never do."
"You've got no right to keep us off Lost Island," began Jerry hotly.
"I don't need any right; I've got a shotgun. You two just pick up
your paddles and blow back to shore--and be sure you tie up that
boat good and tight or I'll have the law on you. Git, now!"
There didn't seem to be anything else to do. The two boys muttered
to each other, and neither one was willing to admit believing that
the man would really shoot, but somehow they were unwilling to put
it to the test. Reluctantly they took up the oars again and turned
the nose of the boat back toward the east bank.
Facing the man now, Jerry sent one last appeal across the slowly
"We didn't mean any harm. A friend of ours was drowned yesterday, we
think. We're looking for him--or his body. All we want is to know if
you've seen anything of him."
"I told you this morning I hadn't."
"But why don't you let us look on the island? We're almost sure our
boat was stranded there a long while. He _might_ have been in it. If
you'd just let us look, we'd be satisfied."
"I guess you'll be satisfied anyway, youngster. Just keep on rowing.
Where was young Fulton drowned, anyway?"
Jerry made no answer. When Dave undertook to shout a reply, Jerry
silenced him with a savage look. Then he stood up on his seat.
Making a megaphone of his hands he yelled derisively:
"Yah! He _wasn't drowned!_"
Then he sat down again and caught up his oar and began lunging
desperately at the water. "Hurry, Dave, hurry!" he commanded
"What's got into you?" exclaimed Dave impatiently. "You've been
flying off on about forty different angles lately. What new bug has
"Bug! Dave, do you mean to tell me you didn't hear what the man
"Course I did--but we're going, aren't we? He didn't say he'd shoot
unless we kept on coming ahead."
"Oh--_that!_ Well, you've been up all night, so no wonder you're
half asleep. Didn't you hear him say: 'Where was young Fulton
"Well what? What in thunder's got into you? Why shouldn't he ask
"He should have. He should have asked it the first time we talked to
him. But, gee whiz, Dave, he shouldn't have known it was _young
Fulton_ unless--unless it was young Fulton himself who told him.
Dave--Dave! Don't you see? We never mentioned his name."
"Great guns!" gasped Dave.
That was all he said, and for that matter, all that either one said.
The man stood on the point of Lost Island till he was satisfied that
the boys had tied the boat safely and did not mean to loiter in the
neighborhood. Then he disappeared among the trees of the lower part
of the island. But the boys did not pay much attention to their late
antagonist, save for a bare glance as they topped the high ridge
that followed the river course.
Miles to the north they could see a big square white building that
they knew as Carter's Mills, really only a grain storage elevator.
Almost due west of that was the milldam, which was about the only
place they could hope to be able to cross Plum Run--and Watertown
lay on the other side. Of course, they might follow the river bank
on the chance of meeting some good-hearted fisherman or camper who
would row them across. But the chance was too slim. They decided to
cut across country till they reached the mill.
It was a long, hard drill on an empty stomach. Up hill and down
dale, and every step kept time to by a pang from the inner man.
"Do you think it's a sin to steal?" This from Dave.
"Apples? A sin? Not if you know where there are any. Lead me to
"Oh, I don't know where any are. I just wondered what you thought of
"Do you think it's wrong to punish criminals?" This from Jerry.
"Put 'em in jail you mean?"
"Well, whatever way seems best."
"No, I can't say as I do. Why, Jerry?"
"I'm going to thump you good and plenty for fooling me about those
apples, that's why."
"Catching comes before thumping!" and Dave was off with all the
speed his weary legs could muster. Fortunately Jerry's legs were in
no better shape, so the race, while exciting enough, was a long,
slow one. Before Jerry was able to overhaul his chum, he was so
tired out that anything so strenuous as thumping was quite out of
"If you'd just kept running straight ahead, instead of ducking and
dodging, we'd be home by now," he complained as he released the
But at that they had made good time through their chase and within a
very few minutes the last bend of the river showed them the milldam.
The place was deserted.
"I guess Mr. Aikens persuaded Tod's father to go back home and get
breakfast and rest up a bit," remarked Dave. "If there doesn't
happen to be a boat on this side of the river we may have to wait
some time for that breakfast you've been promising me the last
ninety-eight miles. We sure can't get across the dam, with all that
water rushing over."
"I'll swim it before I wait," grimly declared Jerry. "Do you suppose
Mr. Aikens took the mill boat?"
"Most likely. Where'll you try it, below or above? Swimming, I
"No chance below, with that current. But I guess we won't need to. I
see Pete Galpin's clam-boat down at his dock. It leaks like sin, but
if one bails while the other rows I guess we can make it."
No one was astir at Galpin's shanty, a houseboat pulled high and dry
on shore, and almost hidden by great piles of driftwood snagged upon
the bank to serve as winter fuel. Old Pete Galpin lived there all
alone, fishing and clamming and occasionally taking a wood-cutting
contract to help out through the scant winter months. Once he had
been known to work with an ice-cutting gang, but quit because he was
afraid he'd make so much money that it would tempt somebody to rob
The flat-boat that was moored down at Galpin's "dock"--four railroad
ties roped together--was none too substantial looking, having been
built by Galpin himself from odds and ends picked up from scrap
heaps and driftage. As Galpin himself said, the only whole part
about the boat was the name, which had been painted in red on a
single thin board sticking a full two feet past the stern--
But the boys did not waste a great deal of time in admiring the
beautiful lines of their borrowed craft. Jerry made at once for the
oar seat, leaving Dave to untie and push off. For all the tremendous
leak which at once developed, the boat responded easily to the
strenuous tugs of Jerry's muscular arms and back.
They beached the boat and made their way up the bank and across a
field where oats had just been cut, the bundles lying yellow as gold
in the early morning sunlight. Just beyond was a narrow, plum-
thicket bordered lane, which in turn led into the newly graveled
"county" road. The boys found the walking much easier in a path that
twisted along next to the fence. However, within a mile, along came
a farmer, hauling a load of early potatoes to town, and the boys
gladly accepted his invitation to "hop on."
Within a quarter of a mile both were sound asleep, nor did they
waken until the springless wagon rattled over the interurban tracks
less than two blocks from Dave's home. Rubbing their eyes in a vain
attempt to drive out the sleep, they stumbled along the quiet
"Where will I find you after breakfast?" asked Jerry, as Dave turned
in at his gate.
"In bed. I'll be lucky if I stay awake till after breakfast."
"But we've got to tell Mr. Fulton."
"You tell him, Jerry. I just know he won't pay any attention to what
we say--I don't more'n half believe it now myself----" Dave had to
stop for a tremendous yawn.
"If that's the case, you might just as well sleep." Jerry was out of
patience, but Dave was too sleepy to care very much.
"I'll see you--see you--later, Jerry," he said drowsily as he turned
and staggered up the walk.
Jerry, after an undecided second or two, faced about and began to
retrace his steps. He cut through the Ellery back yard and came out
on the cross street at whose corner the Fultons lived. The house was
a big ramshackle affair of a dozen rooms or so, far too large a
place for the Fultons, since there had been only the two of them,
Tod's mother having died when he was only a little tad. Indeed, as
Tod said, they only used three rooms, the kitchen and two bedrooms.
But that was hardly true; there was a big basement under all the
house, the most of it used as a workroom, and here it was that the
two of them spent the better part of their waking hours.
Mr. Fulton was an odd sort of man, a bit inclined to think his
business his own business. But it was no secret among his neighbors
that all sorts of queer contrivances were planned and made in that
combination machine shop, carpenter shop, forge and foundry below
Mr. Fulton was an inventor. True, for the most part he invented
useless things; he had inherited money and did not need to make any
more. But the boys, who were allowed to roam through the workshop at
will, were wildly enthusiastic over the ingenious devices schemed
out by father and son, for Tod was a chip off the old block.
Now, Jerry did not go up to the front door, even though it was
standing ajar. Instead he hurried to the little side porch and
reached high up under the eaves, where an electric button was
concealed. He pushed it, hard, well knowing that if Mr. Fulton were
anywhere in the house he would hear that bell. That was why it had
been so well hidden.
But there was no response. Again Jerry rang; he could hear the
shrill br-r-r-r of the bell. After a long time he heard footsteps,
but something told him they were not those of Mr. Fulton. The door
swung open. There stood Mr. Aikens.
"Is Mr. Fulton here," demanded Jerry.
"Asleep," nodded Mr. Aikens.
"I've got to see him."
"All right--if you don't wake him up."
"I've got to talk to him--I've got big news."
"Big news? Of--of Tod?" Big Mr. Aikens was not the kind of man to
become easily excited, but his manner was eager enough.
"Of Tod--yes!" cried Jerry.
"What is it? Have you found his--his body?"
"Better than that, Mr. Aikens--Oh, I'm almost dead sure!"
Jerry was so excited himself that his voice shook. As for Mr.
Aikens, he leaped over and caught Jerry's arm and was shaking it
wildly up and down. Neither one noticed that a white-faced man stood
in the opposite doorway, and that his eyes were simply blazing with
"What do you mean? What _can_ you mean!" demanded Mr. Aikens.
"I believe that Tod Fulton is----"
"Not alive?" almost screamed a voice from across the room. "Not
"Alive and on Lost Island!"
TO THE RESCUE!
This much of the interview was perfectly clear to Jerry afterwards,
but what followed he could not quite understand at the time or
later. For a moment it was almost laughable. There stood Aikens
fiercely clutching one arm and waving it up and down as if to pump
further information from him. Mr. Fulton, after the first dazed
instant, darted across the room and grabbed Jerry's other arm.
"_Where_ is he? Tell me--quick!" he demanded.
Then it was that Jerry could not understand, for the look that came
over Mr. Fulton's face at his reply was neither belief nor doubt.
His eyebrows almost met in a frown as he repeated mechanically:
"On Lost Island, you say? But--but--how do you know? You weren't
_on_ Lost Island, were you?"
"No--o," answered Jerry slowly.
A look of relief, quickly hidden, came to Mr. Fulton's face, but
Jerry saw it, and wondered.
"Did someone tell you he was there, then?"
"Someone told me he _wasn't_ there----" began Jerry, when the ting-
a-ling of a telephone bell cut him short.
"Oh!" exclaimed Mr. Fulton and hurried from the room. His muffled
voice could be heard in a lengthy conversation. Jerry impatiently
awaited his return, anxious to tell the rest of his story. Imagine
then his surprise when Tod's father delayed his return unreasonably,
and his only response to Jerry's eager sentences was, "Yes, yes, I
Jerry's heart sank unaccountably--he sensed the fact that Mr. Fulton
was not listening, was only waiting, in fact, till the boy should
finish and he could decently get rid of Jerry. The story was
consequently hurried through. Disappointed beyond description, Jerry
left the house, not even noticing that Mr. Fulton had left the room
even before Jerry had reached the door.
Something was wrong somewhere; Jerry had expected that his story
would be literally snatched out of his mouth; instead it had been
smothered under the dampest kind of wet blanket. Feeling not a
little sore over his failure to impress the two men with the
importance of his discoveries, Jerry plodded along home, determined
that as soon as he had gulped down a little breakfast he would hike
back to Lost Island alone and make one more attempt to gain the
cover of its wooded banks.
Even that plan was doomed to disappointment. Jerry's mother had
saved a goodly breakfast for him, and bustled about making him
comfortable. Contrary to Jerry's expectations, she had no word of
blame for his having remained away overnight without asking consent,
and even listened with sympathetic ear to the story of his
adventures. But just at the moment when Jerry was about to announce
his intention to return, Mrs. Ring was called to the back door, to
return a few minutes later with the announcement that it had been
Mr. Aikens, and that Jerry was not to worry any more about Lost
"But I've simply got to go back, ma," sputtered Jerry, his mouth
uncomfortably full of pancake. "Mr. Fulton isn't going to--well, he
didn't show much interest in my theories---"
"But Mr. Aikens seemed to think he did. You just rest easy, son. If
two grown men can't take care of your Lost Islander--and your
theories, too, why, well--you just get ready to pile into bed,
"But, ma--there's the boat."
"It'll take care of itself till you get there."
"Hush up, now. Into bed with you."
"But can I go after the boat when I----"
Mrs. Ring caught up a flat piece of wood from the back of the
kitchen range, and laughingly but firmly put an end to the coaxing,
Jerry retreating hastily to the shelter of his bedroom.
Both Jerry and his father stood in awe of tiny Mrs. Ring, who barely
reached to overgrown Jerry's shoulder.
"Wake me up at twelve, will you, ma?" called Jerry, in his most
wheedling voice. His mother only laughed, but Jerry felt sure she
would. Besides, there was his dollar alarm clock.
Jerry repented his request when sharp at twelve o'clock he was
called for noonday dinner. He was sleepy and cross and not a bit
hungry. His muscles were sore, and the drill to Lost Island did not
have quite the romance by broad daylight that it had had a few hours
Jerry watched his father put on his hat and hurry back to work, with
a great deal of relief. His mother was much easier to handle in a
case of this sort.
"You won't mind if I don't get back till late?" he asked, hoping she
would give her unqualified consent to his remaining away as long as
he saw fit. "You promised me I could go camping this summer--let me
take it now, _please_, ma."
"Will you promise me to come back and let me pick the birdshot out
of you after you've made a landing on Lost Island?" she asked in
mock anxiety. As a matter of fact, Mrs. Ring was about as proud of
her big boy as a mother well could be without making herself a
nuisance to the neighbors. From his earliest boyhood she had
cultivated the independence of spirit he showed with his first pair
of real trousers, and now she often strained a point to let him
exercise it. To be sure, she sometimes wondered how much was genuine
self-confidence and how much was a reckless love of adventure.
Now she raised her eyebrows in denial, but at the eager look on the
boy's face she relented. "Trot along, Jerry," she agreed, with a
quick pat at his shoulder--the Rings were not much at kissing each
other. "If you can't take care of yourself by now, you never will be
able to. I know you're as anxious as you can be about Tod--I do hope
it turns out that you are right about him."
With a muttered, "I've got to be right," Jerry set about making
himself a couple of substantial sandwiches and stuffing them in the
pocket of his canvas hunting coat, which he took along for
emergencies. "Good-bye, ma," he called over his shoulder. "I'll be
back as soon as I can bring Tod with me."
Once outside, he wasted no time but struck off at once cross-lots to
rout out Dave Thomas and Frank Ellery. Fortunately Frank came first,
otherwise Jerry might not have been equal to the task of waking up
Dave. They tried everything they had ever heard of. They tickled his
feet; they set off a brass-lunged alarm clock under his very nose;
they dumped him roughly out of his bed, but even on the bare floor
he slumbered peacefully on. Cold water brought only temporary
success. They were in despair.
It was Frank who finally solved the problem. Seating himself on the
foot of the bed, he raised his head much in the fashion of a hound
baying at the moon--the sound that issued from his throat would put
to shame the most ambitious hound that ever howled. Jerry caught up
a pillow and would have shied it at the head of the offender, but
the perfectly serious look on Frank's face withheld his arm.
Gradually it dawned on him that the boy was trying to sing--and,
more than that, it was one of Dave's favorite songs he was
Then it was that Jerry understood Frank's strategy. The bed-clothes
began to heave; they had piled them all atop Dave as he lay on the
floor. Frank began on the chorus. A wriggling leg emerged from
beneath the comforts. Jerry joined in, his voice a villainous
imitation of Frank's discords. Another leg came to view.
They began to repeat the chorus, further off key than before. One
line was all they were suffered to torture. A catapult of boy,
bedclothes and pillows bounded from the floor and sent Frank
spinning into the bed, while Jerry barely saved himself from a spill
on the floor.
"You will yowl like a lot of bob-tailed tomcats, will yuh!" yelled
Dave, dancing up and down on one foot--he had stubbed his toe
against one of his shoes in his charge across the room.
"You will snore away like six buzz-saws on circus day, huh?" snorted
Frank, neatly catching Dave in the pit of the stomach with a pillow
caught up from the floor.
For a second it looked like a free-for-all, but Jerry had no time to
"Get your clothes on--hustle. We're going back to Lost Island."
"Suppose my mother won't let me?"
"Suppose you tell her we've got to go and get our boat? She'll let
you go all right. You just want to get back to bed, that's all
that's worrying you. Hustle, Dave. We can't lose a minute."
"But didn't you tell Tod's dad about what we--found out?" Dave
hesitated over the last. It was plain to be seen that he was none
too sure in his own mind of the importance of their discovery.
"I did, and he--well, he acted so queer about it that I don't know
what to think. I wouldn't be a bit surprised if they--he and Mr.
Aikens, you know--never went near Lost Island. They think we're just
"But we don't really _know_ anything, Jerry; we're only just
"Guessing, huh? Well, I'm only just guessing that you're wasting a
lot of time about getting your clothes on, but in about half a
minute I'm going to climb all over you."
At that Dave bristled up a bit, but his fingers became spryer with
buttons and hooks and very shortly he stood fully dressed and ready
to go downstairs. Jerry had already made peace with Mrs. Thomas, so
little time was lost in waiting for Dave to snatch a bite to eat and
be on his way.
"I've got four bits loose in my pocket," announced Jerry, once they
were out on the street. "If we don't let any grass grow on the side
streets while we're moving we can make the two-five express on the
Dellwood Interurban. We can drop off when they slow down at Downers
Crossing; that must be almost opposite Lost Island. It's hard going
through the swamps to get to Plum Run, but I guess we're good for
They made the two-five--with about three seconds to spare. Their car
was empty, so each dropped into a seat and sprawled out comfortably.
Jerry smiled grimly to himself as he looked back perhaps five
minutes later and saw how the two had slumped down in their seats.
It did not need a throaty gurgle from Dave to convince him that the
pair were sound asleep. "A fine pair of adventurers," he muttered to
himself, not entirely without some feeling of resentment. It was
well enough to be the leader, but--well, he wouldn't have minded a
little snooze himself.
He did not feel quite so critical, however, when, perhaps a half
hour later, at a terrific jolt of the train, he was roused from the
doze into which he too had fallen. A hasty glance out the window
told him that they were at Downers Crossing. With a yell that would
have done credit to a whole war-party of Comanches, he pounced upon
the two sleepers and dragged and pushed and pommeled them out onto
the platform of the car. The train was beginning to move, so their
descent was none too dignified.
"Why in thunder didn't you wake us in time so I could have got a
drink?" complained Frank.
Jerry said nothing; he felt too guilty to risk any answer. After
they had cut across to the wagon road that led in the general
direction of the river, he consoled his chum with: "Downer's farm is
only about half a mile in, and we can get all the buttermilk we want
there----" adding mischievously: "----on Wednesdays, when they
Both Dave and Frank promised instant murder for that, so he had to
admit that they would reach the best spring in Winthrop County
within three minutes.
"Saved your hide by just twenty-nine seconds," declared Dave as he
plunged his face into the bubbling surface of the clearest, coldest
kind of a hillside spring.
Their gait was much livelier after that, and in less than ten
minutes Plum Run was sighted, But they did not come out as close to
Lost Island as Jerry had predicted. In fact, they were not certain
in which direction it lay, for to the north lay a cluster of trees
apparently surrounded by water, and which might well be the place
they sought. To the south lay another green spot away from shore.
"It's north of here," declared both Dave and Frank, but Jerry
exclaimed triumphantly, after the first tangle of argument:
"It must be south. If Lost Island was north the wagon bridge'd be
between us and it."
So south they went; and as they drew nearer they saw that the patch
of green was indeed Lost Island. Once they were within close sight
of it, they went forward with all caution. The last hundred yards or
so they made on hands and knees, finding cover in every clump of
bushes or willows on the way.
But finally they were ready to break through the last fringe of
willow and spy out the prospect. Jerry, who was ahead, waited for
his two companions to catch up with him.
"Not a sound, now," he cautioned as they crouched beside him.
Stealthily they pushed aside the leaves that obscured their view.
Suddenly, from behind them a yell, blood-curdling, absolutely hair-
raising, rang out through the stillness. The three turned.
But it was too late. Breaking cover at the same instant, a half-
dozen husky young chaps charged on the surprised trio.
"Up and at them, fellows!" came a roar. "They're part of the gang!"
THE FLYING EAGLE SCOUTS
For a minute or two it was hard for the three boys to understand
just what had happened. They were pounced upon and hurled roughly to
the ground, in spite of their violent struggles, and there they were
pommeled unmercifully. They fought back, but they were hopelessly
outnumbered. It was no adventure-story fight where the lone hero
engages a dozen husky brutes and by superior science and strength
lays his assailants out one by one.
Too bewildered to be really angry, the three found themselves pinned
to the ground. Then they were able to take stock of their attackers.
Six boys they were, of about the same size and age as Dave, Jerry
and Frank, They were dressed in some odd sort of uniform, like
brownish canvas. Just now their faces wore triumphant grins.
"Here comes Phil," remarked one of the three who were standing,
coming over to sit on Jerry's legs, Jerry having seized a favorable
opportunity to attempt escape.
"What's the idea?" inquired the newcomer, a tall but well-knit chap
with a broad, sunburned face and a mop of black hair showing under
the forward brim of his wide hat.
"We caught them trying to sneak up on us, so we fooled them and
jumped on them instead. It's part of that Lost Island gang,"
volunteered Dave's captor.
"We're not either," exploded Dave.
"Shut up!" exclaimed the one astride his stomach. "Didn't we see you
slinking along through the bushes?"
"Well, so were you. But we didn't try any wild Indian game on you
just on that account."
"Good reason why. You didn't see us," crowed the one on top, giving
Dave a vigorous poke in the ribs to emphasize the point.
That was too much for Dave. His usual good nature had been oozing
out with every passing second. Now he gave a sudden twist, heaved,
turned, heaved again, and in less time than it was told, was on his
feet and presenting a pair of promising looking fists to the two
others who had quickly come to their comrade's assistance.
"Hold on a minute," suggested the one they had called Phil. "Let's
get the straight of this thing first and fight afterwards. You say
you don't belong on the island?" he asked, turning to Dave.
"We certainly don't. We were trying to get onto it without being
seen. That's why we were skulking along that way."
"Trying to get onto it? You haven't any boat."
"We could swim, couldn't we?"
"But what do you want to get onto the island for? Where are you
"None of your particular business," snapped Dave, but Jerry answered
as well as he could with his shortness of breath--he too was
"stomached" by a stout boy of his own size:
"Know anybody there by the name of Tod Fulton? He's a cousin of
mine--why, what's the matter?" for the three boys had cried out in
"Why--why--he's the boy we're after. He's our chum," stammered Jerry
"Then what you after him for--if he's your chum?"
"Well, he's--he's----" began Jerry, and Dave blurted out:
"What!" cried the whole crew at that. "Tod Fulton drowned!"
"We don't know for sure. That's why we're trying to get onto Lost
Then the story came out, piecemeal, for all three insisted on
telling it. Phil stood as if stunned. At the end he said simply:
"He's my cousin. I'm Phil Fulton. We live at Chester. That's about
ten miles south of here. We're the Flying Eagle Patrol of Boy
Scouts--maybe you noticed our suits."
"Thought you were some kind of bushwhackers the way you dropped on
us," complained Frank. "But what was the idea in thumping us because
you thought we were from the island?"
"We had good reasons enough," declared Phil. "We left town at
midnight last night, hiked all the way to our boat-landing two miles
up the river, and made the long pull up the Plum in the dark just
for the sake of getting an early morning chance at the best bass
rock you ever heard of--just to get chased out at the point of a
shotgun after we'd landed the first one--a three pounder too. Can
you blame us for being sore?"
"On Lost Island?" asked Jerry eagerly.
"No, _off_ Lost Island. A big burly ruffian blew down on us, cussing
a streak, and wouldn't hardly let us get into our boat. Chucked
stones at us all the way across and promised us a mess of birdshot
if we came back. Do you blame us for wanting to lay you out?" It was
Dave's conqueror who spoke.
"If that's what you do on suspicion, I don't want to be around when
you're sure of yourself. My ribs'll be sore for a week."
The boys had been talking excitedly; each one was wrought up over
the fate of poor Tod and this was the only way they were willing to
show their feelings. It was Phil who brought them back to earth.
"Well, fellows," he suggested, "let's get acquainted first, and then
let's see if we can't frame up some way of getting across and going
over that island from end to end. Line up, Scouts, and be
The Scouts lined up in two columns.
"This is Sid Walmsly, nicknamed 'the worm,' partly because that's
the way we pronounce his name, but mostly because it's a long worm
that has no turn, and Sid says he's always the one to be left out.
You can remember him by the wart on his left knuckle. Next is Dick
Garrett; he's assistant Patrol Leader. This thin, long-drawn-out
morsel of sweet temper is Fred Nelson. We tried to nickname him
"Angel" but he licked everyone that tried it on him. Now comes our
joker, we'd call him Trixie if we dared. His ma calls him Algy
Brown. Frank Willis stands first in the behind row. He goes by the
name of "Budge," chiefly because he _won't_ unless he wants to.
Barney Knowles, the littlest giant in the world--the one in the red
sweater. He wears a sweater in July and shirt-sleeves in December.
And last of all, but not least--far from it--Ted Lewis, the only
grouchy fat man in captivity. Smile for us, Teddy." Teddy growled.
Jerry introduced himself and his two chums, and then turned
anxiously to Phil. "Got any plan?"
"Why not just get into our boat and row over? We can tell that chump
"Thought you told us good Scouts were always respectful to our
elders?" interrupted Ted, he of the "grouch."
"Respectful where respect is _due_," came the quick response. "We
can tell the gentleman that we have sent the rest of the gang back
for the sheriff----"
"And good Scouts never tell lies----" This from Ted again.
"Be still or I'll make it the truth by sending you back after him.
We ought to make the try, anyway, because that makes our next move
easier. If we can't get on the island in the open, we've got to use
a little strategy. If we just could get our boat around to the other
side of the island----"
"I've got it!" cried Dave. "Our boat's down the river. While the
bunch of us keep up a demonstration along the shore here, two of us
could slip down and get the boat and sneak in at the lower end."
"Good. We'd best waste no time about it because it's going to be
coming on dark before we know it. Who's going along with me?"
"To the island? I'll go. The man knows _me_," agreed Jerry. "Where's
The rest waited in the cover of the bushes while Phil and Jerry
quietly made their way down the river bank to where the Scout boat
was moored. They sprang in at once, Phil pushing off and hopping
lightly to the oars. There was only one pair, but he sent the boat
skimming across the ripples. No one was in sight on the island, and
they were in hopes of making a landing unobserved, but just as their
boat touched shore the willows parted and the man stepped out on the
"Back again?" he demanded gruffly.
"Oh, yes," replied Phil easily. "We came back to see if you'd let us
look for a box of tackle one of the boys thinks he left down where
we were fishing this morning."
"Oh! And you," said the man sarcastically, turning to Jerry. "I
suppose you came to look for a lock of hair from your drowned
The man's tone was so unfeeling that Jerry simply gasped, but Phil
boiled over at once.
"I'll have you know that that boy was my cousin. We have good reason
for believing that he's on this island and _we're going to search
"Oh, indeed!" and Jerry could have sworn that there was a twinkle in
the man's eye for all there was no mistaking the threat in his
voice. "Well, I can promise you a full-sized spanking unless you
make yourselves scarce in just about one half minute. This makes the
third time I've had to chase you off--and third time's the charm,