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The Boy Scouts of the Eagle Patrol by Robert Drake

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to find out where the boat is."

As the wretched figure of the beach-comber appeared Jack hailed
him roughly.

"Where's that boat, Hank?"

"Been cruising off and on here since eleven o'clock," rejoined
the other sullenly, "ah! there she is now off to the sou'west."

He pointed and the boys saw a red light flash twice seaward as if
some one had passed their hands across it.

"All right, give him the answer," ordered Jack. "We've got to
hurry if we're to be back before the captain and those brats of
boys get after our trail."

Hank at Jack's order dived into the hut and now reappeared with
the smoky lantern. He waved it four times from side to side like
a brakeman and in a short time a steady "put-put!" told the
watchers that a motor boat was approaching.

"Now for your dinghy, Hank," urged Jack, "hurry up. You move
like a man a hundred and ninety years old, with the rheumatism."

"Well, come on, then," retorted Hank, "here's the boat," pointing
to a cobbled dinghy lying hauled up above the water line, "give
me a hand and we'll shove off."

The united strength of the three soon had the boat in the water
and with Hank at the oars they moved steadily toward the chugging
motor boat.

"Well, Sam, you're on the job, I see," remarked Jack as the two
craft ranged alongside and Sam cut off the engine.

"Oh, I'm on the job all right," rejoined Sam, feeling much braver
now that the other two had arrived, "have you got them all
right?"

"Right here in this bag, and some more in this, my bucko,"
chuckled Jack as he handed the two sacks over to Sam.

"Ha! ha! ha!" chortled Bill under his breath as he climbed out
of the cobble into the motor boat, "won't there be a fine row in
the morning."

"Well, come on; start up, Sam. We've no time to lose," ordered
Jack as he and Bill got aboard, "good night there, Hank."

"Good night," rejoined Hank quietly enough, as the motor boat
moved swiftly off over the moonlit sea. He added to himself, "It
won't be a very 'good night' for you, my lad, if you don't pay me
as handsomely as you promised."

And chuckling to himself till his shoulders shook, Hank resumed
his oars and rowed back to the miserable shanty he called home.

CHAPTER VIII

THE STOLEN UNIFORMS

Rob and his old friend lost no time the next morning in getting
down to the water-front to make inquiries about the captain's
missing boat. To their astonishment, however, almost the first
craft that caught their eyes as they arrived at the L wharf to
begin their search was the old sailor's motor dory, to all
appearances in exactly the same position she had occupied the
preceding night when the captain moored her.

"Have I clapped deadlights on my optics, or am I gone plumb
locoed?" bellowed the amazed captain, as he saw the little craft
dancing lightly on the sunny waters.

"You are certainly not mistaken in supposing that is your boat.
I'd know her among a thousand," Rob assured him. "Are you quite
certain that she was not here last night, captain?"

"Just as sure as I am that yer and me is standin' here," rejoined
the bewildered captain. "I've sailed the seven seas in my day,
and man and boy seen many queer things; but if this don't beat
cock fightin', I'm an inky Senegambian!"

The captain's voice had risen to a perfect roar as he uttered the
last words, and a sort of jack-of-all-trades about the wharf,
whose name was Hi Higgins, came shuffling up, asking what was the
trouble.

"Trouble," roared the hermit of Topsail Island. "Trouble enough
fer all hands and some left over fer the cat! Say, shipmate, yer
hangs about this here L wharf a lot. Did yer see any piratical
humans monkeyin' around my boat last night?"

"Why, what d'yer mean, cap'n," sniffled Hi Higgins. "I seen yer
tie up here, and there yer boat is now. What d'yer mean by
pira-pirawell, them parties yer mentioned? Yer mean some one
took it?"

"Took it--yes, yer hornswoggled longshore lubber!" bellowed the
captain. "I thought yer was hired as a sort uv watchman on this
wharf. A find watchman yer are!"

"Well, yer see, cap'n," returned Hi Higgins, really alarmed at
the captain's truculent tone, "I ain't here much after nine at
night or before five in the morning."

"Well, was my boat here at five this mornin'?" demanded the
captain.

"Sure it was," rejoined Hi Higgins, with a sniffle; "the fust
boat I seen."

"Rob, my boy, I'm goin' crazy in my old age!" gasped the captain.
"I'm as certain as I can be that the boat wasn't here when I came
down to the wharf last midnight, but the pre-pon-der-ance of
evidence is against me."

The captain shook his head gravely as he spoke. It was evident
that he was sorely puzzled and half inclined to doubt the
evidence of his own senses.

"Douse my toplights," he kept muttering, "if this don't beat a
flying Dutchman on wheels and with whiskers!"

"I certainly don't believe that your eyes deceived you, captain,"
put in Rob, in the midst of the captain's rumbling outbursts.
"It looks to me as if somebody really did borrow your boat last
night, and that the decoy note supposed to be from me had
something to do with it."

"By the great horn spoon, yer've got it, my boy!" roared the
captain. "And now yer come ter speak uv it, my mind misgives me
that all ain 't right at the island. I didn't tell yer, but I
left a tidy sum uv money in that old iron safe off the Sarah
Jane, the last ship I commanded, and all this what's puzzled us
so may be part uv some thievish scheme.

"I'm going ter hurry over ter the island and make certain sure,"
he went on the next minute. "The more I think uv it, the more
signs uv foul weather I see. Good-by, my lad, and good luck.
Will yer be out ter see me soon? The bluefish are running fine."

"We may be out this afternoon, captain," responded Rob. "I am
curious myself to see if any mischief has been done on your
island. If there has been," he added earnestly, "you can count
on the Eagle Patrol to help you out."

"Thanks, my boy!" exclaimed the old man, who was bending over his
gasoline tank. "Hullo!" he shouted suddenly. "I wasn't crazy!
This boat was took out last night. See here!"

He held up the gasoline measuring stick which he had grabbed up
and plunged into the tank. The instrument was almost dry. The
receptacle for fuel was nearly empty.

"And I filled her before I started out!" thundered the captain.
"Whoever took my boat must have run her a long ways."

Fresh fuel was soon obtained, and the captain, after more shouted
farewells, started for the island to try to obtain some clue to
the mysterious happenings of the night.

Rob, after watching him for a few moments, as he sped down the
blue waters of the sunlit inlet, turned away to return to his
home, just recollecting that, in their eagerness to search for
the boat, both he and the captain had entirely forgotten about
breakfast. He was in the middle of the meal, and eagerly
explaining to his interested parents the strange incidents of the
missing boat and the decoy note, when Merritt Crawford burst into
the room unannounced.

"Oh, I beg your pardon!" he apologized, abashed. "I didn't know
you were at breakfast. But, Mr. Blake--Rob--something has
happened that I just had to come and tell you about at once."

"Good gracious! More mysteries," Mr. Blake was beginning in a
jocular way, when the serious look on the boy's face checked him.
"What is it? What has happened, Merritt?" he asked soberly,
while Rob regarded the spectacle of his usually placid corporal's
excitement with round eyes.

"The uniforms are all gone!" burst out Merritt.

"What uniforms?"

"Ours--the Eagle Patrols'."

"What! Stolen?"

"That's right," hurried on Merritt. "I met old Mrs. Jones in a
terrible state of mind. You know, Mr. Blake, she's the old woman
who scrubs out the place in the morning. I asked what was the
matter, and she told me that when she went to the armory early
to-day, she found the lock forced and all the lockers broken open
and the uniforms gone!"

"Have you seen the place?" asked Mr. Blake.

"Yes, I followed her up. The room was turned upside down. The
locks had been ripped right off and the lockers rifled of
everything. Who can have done it?"

"I'll bet anything Jack Curtiss and his gang had something to do
with it, just as I believe they put up some crooked job on the
captain!" burst out Rob, greatly excited and his breakfast
entirely forgotten.

"Be careful how you make such a grave accusation," warned his
father.

"I know it's a tough thing to say," admitted Rob; "but you don't
know that bunch like we do. They'd--"

He was about to explain more of the characteristics of the bully
and his cronies when a fresh interruption occurred. This time it
was Hiram Nelson. He was almost as abashed as Merritt had been
when he found that his excitement had carried him into what
seemed a family conference.

"It's all right, Hiram. Come right in," said Mr. Blake
cheerfully. "Come on out with your news, for I can see you can
hardly keep it to yourself."

"It's going round the town like wildfire!" responded the panting
boy. The others nodded. "I see you know it already," he went
on. "Well, I think I've got a clue."

"You have! Come on, let's hear it quick," cried Rob.

"Well, I was up late with Paul Perkins last night, talking over
the aeroplane model competition, and didn't start home till about
midnight. As I was approaching the armory I thought I saw a
light in one of the windows. I couldn't be certain, however, and
I put it down to a trick that my eyes had played me."

"Well, that's all right as far as it goes," burst out Rob. "It
probably was a light. I wish you'd investigated."

"Wait a minute, Rob," said his father, noting Hiram's anxious
face. "There's more to come, isn't there, Hiram?"

"You bet! The most exciting part of it--the most important, I
mean," went on young Hiram, with an important air.

"Oh, well, get down to it," urged the impatient Rob. "What was
it?"

"Why, right after I'd seen the light," went on Hiram, "I thought
I saw a dark figure slip around the corner into that dark
street."

"A dark figure! Hum! Sounds like one of those old yellow--back
novels," remarked Mr. Blake, with a smile.

"But this was a figure I recognized, sir," exclaimed Hiram. "It
was Bill Bender!"

"Jack Curtiss' chum! They're as thick as two thieves," burst out
Merritt.

"And I believe they are two thieves," solemnly put in Rob.

"Well," went on Hiram, "the next minute Bill Bender came walking
round the corner as fast as if he were coming from somewhere in a
great hurry, and was hastening home. He told me he had been to a
birthday party at his aunt's."

"At his aunt's," echoed Mr. Blake. "Well, that's an important
point, for I happen to know that his aunt, Mrs. Graves, is out of
town. She visited the bank yesterday morning and drew some money
for her traveling expenses. She informed me that she expected to
be gone a week or more."

"I knew it, I knew it!" shouted Rob. "That fellow ought to be in
jail. He'll land there yet."

"Softly, softly, my boy," said Mr. Blake. "This is a grave
affair, and we cannot jump at conclusions."

"I'd jump him," declared Rob, "if I only knew for certain that he
was the thief!"

"I will inform the police myself and have an investigation made,"
Mr. Blake promised. "We will leave no stone unturned to find out
who has been guilty of such an outrage."

"And in the meantime the Eagle Patrol will carry on an
investigation of its own," declared Rob sturdily. "What do you
say, boys?"

"I'll bet every boy in the corps is with you on that," rejoined
Merritt heartily.

"Same here," chimed in Hiram.

"The first step is to take a run to Topsail Island and see if all
the queer things that happened last night have not some
connecting link between them," suggested Mr. Blake. "I am inclined,
after what you boys have told me, to think that they have."

"I am sure of it," echoed Rob.

CHAPTER IX

THE HYDROPLANE QUEERLY RECOVERED

Seldom had the Flying Fish been urged to greater speed than she
was a short time after the discovery of the looting of the
scouts' armory. She fairly flew across the smooth waters of the
inlet and out on to the Atlantic swells, leaving a clean,
sweeping bow-wave as she cut her way along. Her four young
occupants, for Tubby had been called on and notified of the
occurrences of the night, were, however, wrapped in slickers
borrowed from the yacht club, so that the showers of spray which
fell about them had little effect on them.

The run to Topsail Island was made in record time, and as they
drew near the little hummock of tree and shrub-covered land the
boys could perceive that something unusual had happened. A
figure which even at a distance they recognized as that of
Captain job Hudgins was down on the little wharf, and had
apparently been on the lookout there for some time. A closer
view revealed the captain waving frantically.

"Something's up, all right," remarked Tubby, above the roar of
the motor-boat's engine.

The others said nothing, but kept their gaze riveted on the
captain's figure. With the skill of a veteran boatman, Rob
brought the Flying Fish round in a graceful curve and ran her
cleanly up to the wharf without the slightest jolt or jar.

"Ahoy, lads, I'm glad yer've come!" exclaimed the captain, as he
caught the painter line thrown out to him by Merritt, and
skillfully made the boat fast.

"Why, what has happened?" demanded Rob, as he sprang on to the
wharf, followed by the others.

"Happened?" repeated the captain. "Well, in a manner of
speakin', about twenty things has happened at once. Lads, my
spirits and emotions are in a fair Chinese tornado--every which
way at once. In the first place, I'm seventy-five dollars poorer
than I was last night; in the second, poor old Skipper's been
given some kind av poison that's made him so sick I doubt he'll
get over it."

"You've been robbed?" gasped Merritt.

"That's it, my lad. That's the word. My poor old safe's been
scuttled and her hold overhauled. But I don't mind that so
much--it's poor old Skipper I'm worried about. But come on up
ter the house, lads, and see fer yerselves."

Followed by the sympathetic four, the old man hobbled up from his
little wharf to a small eminence on which stood his neatly
whitewashed hut. He opened the door and invited them in. A
first glance discovered nothing much the matter, but a second
look showed the boys poor old Skipper lying on the floor in front
of the open fireplace which was filled with fresh green boughs--
and evidently a very sick dog indeed. He gave the boys a
pathetic glance of recognition as they came in, and with a feeble
wag or two of his tail tried to show them he was glad to see
them; but this done, he seemed to be completely exhausted, and
once more laid his head between his forepaws and seemed to doze.

"Poor old dog," said the captain, shaking his head. "I doubt if
he'll ever get about again."

The safe now engaged the boys' attention. It is true that it was
a rickety old contrivance which might well have been forced open
with an, ordinary poker, but to the captain, up to this day, it
had been a repository as safe and secure as a big Wall Street
trust company's vaults.

"Look at that, boys!" cried the captain, with tragic emphasis,
pointing to the door, which had been forced clear off its rusty
hinges. "Just busted open like yer'd taken the crust off'n a
pie! Ah, if I could lay my hands on the fellers that done this,
I'd run 'em tip ter the yardarm afore a foc'sle hand could say
'Hard tack'!"

"Why, we think that--" began Tubby, when Rob checked him. The
captain, who had been bending over his dog, didn't hear the
remark, and Rob hastily whispered to Tubby:

"Don't breathe a word to anyone of our suspicions. Our only
chance to get hold of the real culprits is to not give them any
idea that we suspect them."

After a little more time spent on the island, the boys took their
leave, promising to come back soon again. First, however, Rob
and his corporal made a brief expedition to see if they could
make out the tracks of the marauders of the previous evening.
Whoever they had been, however--and the boys, as we know, had a
shrewd guess at their identity--they had been too cunning to take
the path, but had apparently, judging from the absence of all
footmarks, made their way to the house through the coarse grass
that grew on each side of the way.

"Well, what are we going to do about it?" Tubby inquired, as they
speeded back toward home.

"Just what I said," rejoined Rob. "Keep quiet and not let Jack
or his chums know that we suspect a thing. Give them enough
rope, and we'll get them in time. I'm certain of it."

How true his words were to prove, Rob at that time little
imagined, although he felt the wisdom of the course he had
advised.

As they neared the inlet, Rob, who was at the wheel and scanning
the channel pretty closely, for the tide was now running out,
gave a sudden shout and pointed ahead. As the others raised
their eyes and gazed in the direction their leader indicated
they, too, uttered a cry of astonishment. From the mouth of the
inlet there had stolen a long, low, black craft, gliding through
the water at tremendous speed.

In the strange craft the boy scouts had little difficulty in
recognizing Sam Redding's hydroplane.

"So he's got her back," exclaimed Merritt, recovering from his
first astonishment.

"Yes, and she seems little the worse for her experience,"
remarked Tubby. "It doesn't appear, though, that they are going
to profit by their lesson of the other day, for there they go out
to sea again."

"Probably consulted the glass this time," remarked Rob. "It read
'set fair' when we started out."

"Well, that's the only kind of weather for them," commented
Merritt; "though as both Jack and Bill can swim, I wouldn't mind
seeing them get a good ducking."

"I suppose the coincidence has struck you fellows, too?" remarked
Rob suddenly, as he skillfully twisted and turned the dancing
Flying Fish through the devious ways of the channel at low water.

"What on earth are you talking about?" demanded Merritt.

"Why, that it seems rather queer that Sam, who was round town
desperately trying to raise money with which to get his boat out
of pawn suddenly manages to redeem her, and that on the very day
after the robbery of Captain Hudgins hut."

"By hookey, that's right!" shouted Tubby. "I'll bet your guess
was correct, Rob--that gang of Jack's robbed the old captain."

"And stole our uniforms," put in Merritt.

"Yes; but how are we going to prove it?" was Rob's "cold water"
comment which silenced further speculation for the time being.
Each boy, however, determined then and there to do his share in
running down the persons responsible for the vandalism.

By the time they got back to Hampton the news had spread among
the entire Eagle Patrol, and an indignation meeting was called in
the devastated armory. Mr. Blake entered in the midst of it, and
offered, in conjunction with the rest of the local council, to
furnish new uniforms. On the matter being put to a vote,
however, the lads all agreed that it would be better not to
accept such an offer till they had made a determined effort to
run down the plunderers.

"Very well," said Mr. Blake; "your spirit does you great credit,
and if you need any help, don't fail to call upon me at any
time."

"Three cheers for Mr. Blake and the members of the council!"
shouted Merritt, jumping on a chair.

They were given with such roof-raising effect, that people
outside in the street, many of whom knew of the robbery, began to
think that the uniforms must have been recovered.

As the lads surged out of the armory, all talking at once about
the robbery and its likely results, whom should they encounter on
the street but Jack Curtiss and his two chums, evidently, from
the fact that they carried waterproof garments over their arms,
just back from their trip in Sam's newly-recovered hydroplane.

It might have been fancy, but as the eyes of the Boy Scouts met
those of the three lads who would have so much liked to belong to
the organization, Rob thought that a look of embarrassment spread
over Jack Curtiss' heavy features, and that even Bill Bender's
brazen face took on a shade of pallor. If this were so, however,
it could have been only momentary, for the next minute Jack, with
what seemed very much overdone cordiality, came forward with:

"Why, hullo, boys. I just heard about your loss. Any news?"

"No, not a word," chirped little Joe Digby, one of the few lads
in the Eagle Patrol who had never run afoul of the bully.

"Well," went on Jack, affecting not to notice the silence with
which his advances had been greeted, "I hope you find the fellows
who did it, whoever they were."

"Same here," chimed in Bill Bender, now quite at his ease,
"although, at that, I guess it was only a joke, and you'll get
'em back again before long."

"Do you think so, Bill?" asked Merritt, looking the bully's crony
steadily in the eye. "I hope so, I'm sure. By the way, Hiram
Nelson here says that he saw you hurrying up Main Street at just
about the time the robbery must have taken place. You didn't
hear any unusual sounds or see anything out of the way, did you?"

"I--why, no--I--you see, I was on my way home from my aunt's
home," stuttered Bill, seemingly taken off his guard.

"Yes; your aunt, who left home yesterday afternoon to be gone a
week," shot out Merritt.

"Queer that she should have changed her mind and come home in
such a hurry."

"Oh, come on, Bill," stuck in Sam, seeing that things were
getting very unpleasant. "We've got to hurry up if we're to get
out to Jack's in time."

Without another word, the three hurried off, seemingly not at all
unrelieved to escape from what Merritt was pretty sure were
embarrassing questions.

CHAPTER X

WINNING THE CONTEST

The day which was to witness the tests of the aeroplane models
for the prizes offered by the professor of aeronautics dawned
still and fair. It followed several days of storm, in which the
boys had been unable to make any excursions in their motor boat,
or into the country, or, indeed, even to devote any time to the
engrossing subject of tracing the theft of the uniforms to its
source.

Early in the morning a small field in the rear of Mr. Blake's
house was well filled with boys of all ages and sizes, watching
the contestants in the model contest trying out their craft. The
models were of all sorts and sizes. Some were freak craft that
had been constructed in a hurry from pictures, without any
attention being paid to scale or proportions, while others were
carefully made bits of mechanism.

Among the latter class were Paul Perkins' monoplane--Silver
Arrow, he called it,--Hiram Nelson's two models, the monoplane of
Tom Maloney, a lad of about sixteen, and Ed River's little
duplicate of a Curtiss biplane. The contest was to take place on
the Main Street of the town, in front of the bank, and in the
middle of the course two poles had been erected, one on each side
of the street, between which a brightly colored tape had then
been strung, forming a sort of aerial hurdle. The tape was fifty
feet above the ground, and to qualify at all it would be
necessary for the contesting models to clear it.

The lecture which took place in the village hall came first and
was well attended, most of the young folks of Hampton being
there. If the truth must be told, however, while the lecturer
was expounding his subject, illustrating it on the blackboard
with chalk drawings, the majority of his young hearers were
wishing that it was over and the contest really begun.

Especially was this true of the boys of the Eagle Patrol, who
were every one of them anxious to see what kind of aeroplanes
Jack Curtiss and Bill Bender would have produced. The lecture,
however, at last came to an end, and the gentlemen on the
platform shook hands with the professor and the professor shook
hands with them, and somebody called for three cheers for
"Hampton's distinguished son."

Everybody then lost no time in filing out into the afternoon
sunlight, where they found quite a crowd already on the streets,
and a small wooden grand stand, which had been erected near what
was expected to be the finishing line, seating several guests.
The committee and the professor, led by the Hampton brass band,
blaring away at patriotic airs, made their way to the front seats
in the structure, and everybody was requested to line up on each
side of the street, so as to make a clear lane for the models to
fly in.

The starting line was about a hundred yards from the red tape,
and the contestants were compelled to stand back of this. Mr.
Wingate, the president of the yacht club and member of the Boy
Scout Council, had already shuffled the numbers of the
contestants in a hat, and they were to fly their models in the
order in which they drew their figures.

Up to this time there had been no sign of Jack Curtiss or Bill
Bender, but the boys now saw them hastening up to a member of the
committee and whispering to him. A moment later a man, with a
megaphone boomed out from the grand stand:

"William Bender announces that he has withdrawn from the
contest."

"Aha! I'll bet Jack's got cold feet, too," whispered Hiram,
nudging Paul, who was kneeling down and winding up the long
rubber bands which drove the propellers of the Silver Arrow, an
Antoinette model.

But a short interval showed him to be mistaken, for Jack, with
his usual confident air, repaired to the buggy in which he had
driven into town from his father's farm, and speedily produced a
model that caused loud sighs of "Ohs!" and "Ahs!" to circulate
through the juvenile portion of the crowd.

However he had managed to accomplish it, the bully had certainly
produced a beautiful model. It was of the Bleriot type, and
finished perfectly down to the minutest detail. Every wire and
brace on it was silvered with aluminum paint, and it even bore a
small figure at its steering wheel. Beside it the other models
looked almost clumsy.

The faces of the Boy Scouts fell.

"If that machine can fly as well as she looks," said Rob to
Merritt, "she wins the first prize."

"Not a doubt of it," was Merritt's reply.

"Oh, well," put in Tubby, for the three inseparables were
standing together, "if he can win the prize fairly, don't knock
him. He certainly has built a beautiful machine. You've got to
give him credit for that."

And now, as Jack, with a triumphant smile at the glances of
admiration his model excited, strode to the starting point,
elbowing small boys aside, and drew from the hat, the man with
the megaphone once more arose. He held in his hand the result of
the drawing and the order in which the models would fly.

"The f-i-r-s-t model to com-pete for the big p-r-ize," he
bellowed, "will be that of Thomas Maloney--a Bler-i-ot!"

Poor Tom might have called his machine a Bleriot, but it is
doubtful if the designer of the original machine of that name
would have recognized the model as having any more than a distant
relationship to the famous type of monoplane. It was provided
with a large tin propeller, however, and seemed capable of at
least accomplishing a flight. In fact, at the trials in the
morning it had flown well, and by some of the lads was regarded
as a sort of "dark horse." As Tom was on the village team, as
opposed to the Boy Scout contingent, he was greeted with loud
cheers and whistles by his friends as he stepped to the starting
line, and, holding his already wound up machine in his hand, made
ready to launch it.

"Crack!" went the pistol.

At the same instant Tom, with a thrusting motion, released his
model; but, alas! instead of darting forward like the Sparrow
Hawk it was named after, the craft ingloriously wobbled about
eccentrically, and finally alighted on an old lady's bonnet,
causing her to exclaim as the propeller whizzed round and
entangled itself in her hair:

"No good'll ever come of teaching lads to meddle with these here
contraptions."

The model having finally been extricated, amid much laughter, and
poor Tom having offered mortified apologies, the announcer made
known that Hiram Nelson's Doodlebug monoplane would essay a
flight.

As the pistol sounded, Hiram launched his craft, and amid cheers
from the crowd it soared up, and, just clearing the red tape,
settled gracefully down a few feet the other side of the two
hundred foot line.

"Good for you, Hiram!" exclaimed Ernest Thompson, the bike scout,
who was acting as a patrol on the course. "Whose turn next?"

"You kids wait till I get my Bleriot started," sneered Jack.
Several small boys near him, who were mortally afraid of the big
fellow and rather admired him as being "manly," set up a cheer at
this.

"Wait for Jack's dandy model to fly!" they cried.

"Edward Rivers--model of a Curtiss biplane!" came the next
announcement through, the megaphone.

Another cheer greeted this, as young Rivers was also on the "town
team."

The little Curtiss darted into the air at the pistol crack and
flew straight as an arrow for the red tape. It cleared it easily
and skimmed on down past the grand stand, and alighted,
fluttering like a tired butterfly, beyond Hiram's model.

"Three hundred feet!" cried the announcer, amid a buzz of
approval, after the measurers of the course had done their work.

"Paul Perkins--Bleriot!" was the next announcement.

A hum of excitement went through the crowds that lined the track.
It began to look as if the record of Ed Rivers' machine would be
hard to beat, but from the determined look on his face and his
gritted teeth it was evident that Paul meant to try hard.

Before the report of the pistol had died out, the yellow-winged
Dragonfly soared upward from Paul's hand and darted like a streak
across the red tape, clearing it at the highest altitude yet
achieved by any of the models.

"Hurrah!" yelled the crowd.

On and on sped the little Bleriot, while Paul watched it with
pride-flushed cheeks. It was evident that it was going to
out-distance the record made by Ed Rivers' machine. The Boy
Scouts set up their Patrol cry:

"Kr-ee-ee-ee-ee!"

As the little machine settled to the ground, far beyond the grand
stand, the officials ran out with their tapes, and presently the
announcement came blaring down the packed ranks of the onlookers:

"Three hundred and fifty feet!"

What a cheer went up then.

"I guess you've got it won. Congratulations!" said Ed Rivers,
pressing forward to Paul's side.

"Thanks, Ed," returned the other; "but 'there's many a slip,' you
know, and there are several others to be flown yet."

Now came in rapid succession several of the smaller models and
freak designs. Some of these wobbled through the air and landed
in the crowd. Others sailed blithely up toward the red tape and
just fell short of clearing it. Another landed right on the tape
and hung there, the target of irreverent remarks from the crowd.

While this was going on, Bill Bender, Jack Curtiss and Sam were
in close consultation.

"Remember, you promised that if you won the prize you'd give that
money back," Sam whispered to Jack, "and for goodness' sake,
don't forget it. I half believe that those boys suspect us
already."

"Nonsense," returned the bully. "And what if they do? We
covered up our tracks too well for them to have anything on us.
They can't prove anything, can they?"

"I--I--I don't know," stammered Sam, and was about to say more,
but the clarion voice of the announcer was heard informing the
crowd that:

"John Curtiss' Bleriot model will now make a flight for the great
prize."

With a confident smile on his face, Jack stepped forward and held
his model ready. The murmur of admiration that had greeted its
first appearance was repeated as he held it high in the sunlight
and the afternoon rays glinted and shimmered on its fittings and
wings.

"That's the model for my money," remarked a man in the crowd.

"It's going to win, too," said Jack confidently.

Just at that moment the pistol cracked, and Jack released his
much-admired air craft.

Its flight showed that it was as capable of making as beautiful a
soaring excursion as its graceful outlines and careful finish
seemed to indicate. In a long, sweeping glide, it arose and
cleared the red tape by a greater margin than had Paul Perkins'
model.

"Jack Curtiss wins!" yelled the crowd, as the machine soared
right on and did not begin its downward swoop for some distance.
After it had alighted and the measurers had laid their tapes on
the course, the announcer megaphoned, amid a perfect tornado of
roars and cheers:

"The last flight, ladies and gentlemen--and apparently the
winning one--accomplished the remarkable distance of four hundred
and fifty feet--four hundred and fifty feet."

"Three cheers for Jack Curtiss!" shouted Bill Bender, slapping
Jack heartily on the back and giving most of the cheers himself.

"I guess those cubs won't be quite so stuck up now," commented
Sam, shaking Jack's hand warmly.

"I was pretty sure I'd win," modestly remarked the bully, as he
began shouldering his way through the press toward the judges'
stand. He was closely followed by the boys, as it looked as if
Paul Perkins might have won the second prize and Ed Rivers the
third.

Urged by Bill Bender, the band began puffing away at "See, the
Conquering Hero Comes," and Jack, nothing averse to appearing in
such a role, bowed gracefully right and left to the admiring
throngs.

The professor shook hands warmly with the victorious Jack, and
remarked:

"You are to be congratulated, young man. I have rarely seen a
better model, and your skill does you great credit. Are you
thinking of taking up aeronautics seriously?"

The bully, his face very red, stammered that he had entertained
some such thoughts.

The professor was about to reply, when there came a sudden sound
of confusion among that portion of the crowd which had surrounded
the delegates deputed to pick up the aeroplanes and bring them to
the stand. This was in order that they might be exhibited as
each prize was awarded. A small boy with a very excited face was
seen struggling to get through the mass, and he finally gained
the judges' stand. As he faced the congratulatory professor he
stuttered out:

"Please, sir, there's something wrong about Jack Curtiss'
machine."

"What do you mean, you impudent young shaver!" shouted the bully,
turning white, nevertheless.

"Let the lad speak," said Mr. Blake, who as one of the committee
was standing beside the professor. "What is it, my boy? Let me
see. You're Joe Digby, of the Eagle Patrol, aren't you."

"Yes, sir; and I live out on a farm near Jack Curtiss. I was
watching him fly his machine this morning, from behind a hedge,
and I heard them saying something about 'their store-made machine
beating any country boy's model.'"

"He's a young liar! Pay no attention to him," stammered Jack,
licking his dry lips.

"Silence, sir!" said Mr. Blake gravely. "Let us listen to what
this boy has to say. If he is not speaking the truth, you can
easily disprove it. Go on, my boy."

"Well, I guess that's about all I know about it: but I thought I
ought to tell you, sir," confusedly concluded the small lad.

"You young runt, I'll half kill you if I catch you alone!"
breathed Jack, under his breath, as the lad sped off to join his
companions.

"Of course, you are not going to pay any attention to that
kid's--I mean boy's--story," demanded Jack, addressing the
professor. "It's made out of whole cloth, I assure you."

In the meantime the machines had been brought to the grand stand
and were being examined. Naturally, after young Digby's
statement, Jack's was one of the first to be scrutinized. The
committee turned it over and over, and were about to pass on it,
when Mr. Wingate, who had been bending attentively over the
bully's model, gave a sudden exclamation.

"Look here, gentlemen," he cried, pointing to a small tag which
Jack had evidently forgotten to remove, "I think this is
conclusive evidence. Here is the label of the 'Manhattan Model
Works' pasted right under this wing."

"Somebody must have put it there. It's a job those Boy Scouts
put up on me," protested Tack. "I made that model every bit
myself."

"I regret to say that we must regard the price tag as conclusive
evidence that this machine comes from a store," said the
professor sternly, handing Jack his unlucky model. "You are
disqualified for entering a machine not of your own workmanship.

"Stand back, please," he went on, as Jack tried to protest. "I
want to say," he went on in a loud tone, holding up his hand to
command attention, "that there has been a grave mistake made.
The machine which actually flew the longest distance is
disqualified, as it was made at a New York model factory. The
first prize of fifty dollars, therefore, goes to Paul Perkins, of
the Boy Scouts, the second to Edward Rivers, of Hampton, and the
third to Hiram Green, also of the Boy Scouts.

"Hold on one minute," he shouted, as the crowd began to cheer and
hoot. "There is an additional announcement to be made. The
committee has decided to offer a further reward of five dollars
to Thomas Maloney, whose model shows evidence of praiseworthy and
painstaking work."

As the cheers broke loose once more, Jack Curtiss and his cronies
slunk off through the crowd, and having placed the rejected model
in the buggy, drove off into the country in no very amiable or
enviable frame of mind.

"Well, you made a fine mess of it," grumbled Bill Bender
savagely. "I told you to look carefully and see that all the
tags were off it."

"It's no more my fault than yours," grated out Jack, lashing the
horse savagely, to work off some of his rage. "It's all the
fault of those young cubs of Rob Blake's. Let them look out,
though, for I'll get even with them before long, and in a way
that will make them sit up and take notice."

"Don't forget that young mischief maker, Joe Digby," suggested
Bill Bender. "It was all his fault--the young spy!"

"Oh, I'll attend to him," Jack assured his chum, with a grating
laugh that boded no good for the youngest member of the Eagle
Patrol.

CHAPTER XI

A FORTUNATE DISCOVERY

"Want to go fishing?" Rob inquired over the telephone of Merritt
Crawford a few days later.

"Sure," was the response.

"We can run into Topsail Island and get a site for the camp
picked at the same time," suggested Rob.

"Bully! I'll meet you at the wharf. Going to bring Tubby?"

"You bet! We'll be there in ten minutes."

"All right. Good-by."

At the time set the three boys met on the wharf of the yacht
club, and were speedily ready to start on their trip. Rob
brought along bluefish squids and lines, and Tubby--never at a
loss to scare up a hurried lunch--had a basket full of good
things to eat.

The run to the island was made without incident, and the boys
were glad to see that, contrary to the captain's fears, his dog
Skipper was all right again, for the animal came bounding and
barking down the wharf as they drew near, in token of his
gladness to see them.

Attracted by his dog's barking, the old captain, who was at work
in a small potato patch he cultivated, came hobbling to meet the
boys as they tied up and disembarked.

"Well, well, boys; come ter stay?" he cheerily remarked, as the
three lads shook hands.

"No, we're off after 'blues,"' said Rob; "but we thought we'd
drop in and see how things are coming along with you, and if you
have heard any news yet concerning the robbery."

"Not a thing, boys, not a thing," said the old man. "In fact, I
haven't left the island since my old safe was busted open.
Skipper, as yer see, got over his sickness. It's my belief that
them fellers fed him poisoned meat or something."

"I shouldn't wonder," remarked Rob dryly. "It would be quite in
their line."

"By the way," exclaimed the old man suddenly, "a queer thing
happened the other day. Skipper had been a-skirmishin' round the
other side uv the island after rabbits and critters, and he
brought home this-- Wait a minute and I'll show it to yer."

After some fumbling in his pocket, the old man produced a torn
strip of yellow material with a brass button attached to it.

"I wonder where that come from," he remarked, as he handed the
fragment to Rob for his inspection.

"Why, it's khaki," exclaimed Rob, as he felt it. "And, by
hokey!" he ejaculated the next instant, "it's a piece of a Boy
Scout uniform!"

Old Skipper was jumping about in great excitement, and
endeavoring to sniff the bit of torn material as Rob examined it,
and a sudden idea struck the boy.

"I wonder if Skipper could pilot us to where he found this bit of
material."

"Are you sure it's a bit of uniform?" asked Tubby doubtfully.

"Certain of it. No one else wears khaki in these parts. Hey,
Skipper, hey, good dog! Sic 'em, sic 'em!" cried Rob, holding up
the khaki for the intelligent creature to see.

The animal seemed to be greatly excited and gave short, quick
barks as he danced about the boys.

"Well, we might try and see if he will lead us anywhere."
remarked Merritt somewhat dubiously. "At any rate, there's no
harm done, except wasting a little time; and if we can get on the
track of our uniforms, it's not such a much of a waste, after
all."

"He sure wants ter be off somewhere," observed the old captain,
watching the antics of his dog, whom he regarded in the light of
a human being. "He never acts nor talks that way unless he's got
suthin' on his mind. Yer boys follow him, and I'll bet he'll
lead yer ter suthin'. It may be nothin' more than a dead rabbit,
and it may be what ye think. I'll stay here an' dig my
pertaters, fer my rheumatiz is powerful bad today."

"Very well, captain. We shan't be long," rejoined Rob, calling
to the dog. "Hey, Skipper, hey, old boy! After 'em, Skipper--after
'em!"

The dog bounded on ahead of the three boys, occasionally looking
back to see if they were following and then plunging on again.

"As the Captain said, he 'sure has got suthin' on his mind'!"
laughed Merritt.

After traversing about a mile of beach, the dog suddenly bounded
into a thicket overhanging the shore and began barking furiously.

"He's treed something, all right," remarked Rob, pushing the
branches aside.

The next minute he gave a loud shout of triumph.

"Look there, boys! Old Skipper sure did 'have suthin' on his
mind'!"

Peering over Rob's shoulder, the other two were able to make out
two hidden sacks, the mouth of one of which had been torn open,
evidently by the investigating Skipper.

From the aperture appeared the torn sleeve of a Boy Scout's
uniform, and a brief searching of the sacks after they had been
lugged out on the beach revealed the entire stolen equipment.

"Bones for you, Skipper, for the rest of your life!" promised
Tubby, as the dog, evidently well pleased with the petting he
received and the admiration showered upon him, pranced about on
the beach and indulged in a hundred antics.

The only one of the uniforms damaged was the one that Skipper had
torn. The others were all intact, but badly crumpled, having
been hastily thrust into the sacks, and, as it appeared, tamped
down to make them fit more compactly.

"Well, what do you know about that?" was Merritt's astonished
exclamation, as one by one Rob drew forth the regimentals and
laid them on the beach.

"You mean what does Jack Curtiss and Company know about that,"
seriously returned Rob.

"However, we found them--that's one thing to be enthusiastic
over," observed Tubby sagely.

"I'd like just as well almost to find out exactly who hid them
there," was Merritt's reply.

"The same folks that stole the old captain's seventy-five
dollars, I guess," returned Rob, thrusting the garments back into
the sacks preparatory to carrying them to the boat. "Here,
Tubby, you carry this one--it'll take some of that fat off you to
do a hike along the beach with it. I'll shoulder this one."

"Well, boys, yer certainly made a haul, thanks ter old Skipper
here," declared Captain Job, after the delighted boys had made
known their discovery. "He's a smart one, I tell yer. No better
dog ever lived."

"That's what we think," agreed Merritt warmly, patting old
Skipper's black and white head.

The recovery of the uniforms had quite put all thoughts of blue
or any other fishing out of the boys' heads, and after bidding
farewell to the captain, who promised to point out to them a good
site for a camp on their next visit, they made their best speed
back to Hampton. On their way to the armory they spread the news
of their discovery broadcast, so that in a short time the town
was buzzing with the information that the Boy Scouts' lost
uniforms had been found under most surprising circumstances; and
the editor of the Hampton News, who was just going to press, held
his paper up till he could get in an item about it.

It was this item that caught Jack Curtiss' eye, the next morning
as he and Bill Bender and Sam were seated in Bill's "club room."

"Confound those brats, they seem always to be putting a spike in
our schemes!" muttered Jack, as he handed the paper to Bill for
that worthy's perusal. "Which reminds me," he went on, "that we
haven't attended to the case of that young Digby yet."

"I wish you'd leave those kids alone for a while, Jack," objected
Sam, in his usual whining tones. "You've had your fun with them.
They've had to do without their uniforms for a long time. Now
let up on them, won't you?"

"Oh, you're feeling friendly toward 'em, now, are you?" sneered
Jack.

"Oh, no, it isn't that," Sam hastened to assure him; "nothing of
the kind. What I mean is that we are liable to get into serious
trouble if we keep on this way. I saw Hank Handcraft the other
day, and I can tell you he's in no very amiable mood. He wants
his money for the other night, he says, and he intimated that if
he didn't get it he'd make things hot for us."

"He'd better not," glowered Bill Bender, looking up from his
paper. "We know a few things about friend Hank."

"Yes, and he knows a good deal about us that wouldn't look well
in print," retorted Sam gloomily. "I wish I'd never gone into
that thing the other night."

"Pshaw, it was just borrowing a little money from the old man,
wasn't it?" snorted Jack. "We'll pay it back some time."

"When we get it," rejoined Sam more gloomily than ever; "and I
don't see much immediate chance of that."

"Oh, well, cheer up; we'll get it all right somehow," Jack
assured him. "And in connection with that I've got a scheme.
Why shouldn't we three fellows go camping after the motor-boat
races?"

"Go camping--where?" asked Bill, looking up surprised.

"Well, I would have suggested Topsail Island, but those
pestiferous kids are going there, I hear. However, there are
plenty of other islands right inside the Upper Inlet. What's the
matter with our taking possession of one of those?"

The Upper Inlet was a sort of narrow and shallow bay a short
distance above Topsail Island, and was well known to both Bill
and Jack, who had been there in the winter on frequent ducking
expeditions.

"We might as well do something like that before school opens,"
said Sam. "I think that Jack's suggestion is a pretty good one."

"I don't know that it's so bad myself," patronizingly admitted
Bill; "but what connection has that with your scheme for getting
money, Jack?"

"A whole lot," replied the bully. "I'm going to get even with
that young Digby if it takes me a year. He cost me the
fifty-dollar prize, and, beside that, all the kids in the village
now call me 'cheater,' and hardly anybody will have anything to
do with me."

"Well, how do you propose to get even by going camping?" inquired
Bill.

"I plan to take that Digby kid with me," rejoined Jack calmly.

"You're crazy!" exclaimed Bill. "Why, we'd have the whole
country after us for kidnapping."

"Oh, I've got a better plan than that," laughed Jack coolly, "and
we won't need to be mixed up in it at all. It'll all come back
on Hank Handcraft, I owe him a grudge for bothering me about
money, anyhow, the old beach-combing nuisance!"

"But where do we come in to get any benefit out of it?" demanded
Sam.

"I'll explain that to you later," said Jack grandiloquently. "I
haven't quite worked out all the details yet; but if you'll meet
me here this evening I'll have them all hot and smoking for you."

CHAPTER XII

JACK FORMS A PLOT

The next morning Jack lost no time in making his way toward Hank
Handcraft's tumble-down abode. He found its owner in, and
likewise disposed to be quarrelsome.

"'Oh, here you are at last!" exclaimed the hairy and unkempt
outcast, as the bully approached heavily through the yielding
sand. "I'd about given you up, and was seriously contemplating
making a visit to your home--"

"If you ever did," breathed Jack threateningly.

"Well," grinned Hank impudently, with his most malicious chuckle,
"if I did, what then?"

"I'd have you thrown out of the house," calmly replied Jack,
seating himself on a big log of driftwood, once the rib of a
schooner that went ashore on the dangerous shoals off Hampton and
pounded herself to pieces.

"Oh, no; you wouldn't have me thrown out!" chuckled Hank,
resuming his task of scaling a mackerel. "Cause if you did, I'd
go to the chief of police and tell him something about the
robbery of the armory and the cracking of old man Hudgins' safe."

"You wouldn't dare to do that!" sneered Jack. "You are
implicated in that as badly as we are."

"That's a matter of opinion," rejoined Hank, industriously
scraping away at his fish, and showing no trace of any emotion in
his pale eyes. "Anyhow, what I want right now is some cash. You
agreed to pay me well for what I did the other night, and I
haven't seen the money yet."

"Be a little patient, can't you?" irritably retorted the other.
"Money doesn't grow on trees. Now listen, Hank. How would you
like to get a nice little sum of money--more than I could give
you--for camping out on Kidd's Island, in the Upper Inlet, for a
few days?"

Hank's fishy eyes showed some trace of feeling at this.

"What do you mean?" he asked. "Is this a new joke you're putting
up on me?"

"No, I am perfectly serious. You can make a good sum by
following our directions, and I'll see that you get into no
trouble over it."

"Well, if you can do that, I'll keep my mouth shut," chuckled
Hank in his mirthless way; "but if I don't get some money pretty
quick, I'm going to make trouble fer somebody, I tell you!"

"Haven't you got some place where we can talk that is less
exposed than this?" said Jack, looking about him apprehensively.

"Sure, there's my mansion," grinned Hank, pointing over his
shoulder with a fishy thumb.

"That's the place," said Jack, "although I wish you'd clean it
out occasionally. Now listen, Hank, here's the plan--"

Still talking, the ill-assorted pair entered the ruinous shack.

* * * * * *

Motor-boat engines were popping everywhere. The club house was
dressed in bright-colored bunting from veranda rail to ridge
pole. Ladies strolled about beneath their parasols with
correctly dressed yachtsmen, asking all sorts of absurd questions
about the various boats that lay ready to take part in the
various events. It was the day of the Hampton Yacht Club's
regatta.

Among the throng the Boy Scouts threaded their way, watching with
interest the events as they were run off, one after the other.
But their minds were centered on the race for the trophy which,
although there were several other entries, had been practically
conceded to Sam Redding's hydroplane.

"She's a wonder," said one of the onlookers, pointing from the
porch to the float, where Jack Curtiss, Bill Bender and Sam were
leaning over their speedy craft, stripping her of every bit of
weight not absolutely necessary. On the opposite side of the
float the crew of the Flying Fish, the Snark, the Bonita and the
Albacore were equally busy over their craft.

"Douse the engine with oil," directed Rob, as Merritt gave the
piece of machinery a final inspection; "and how about that extra
set of batteries?"

"They're aboard," rejoined Tubby, who was perspiringly removing
cushions and other surplus gear from the fleet boat.

"That's right; if it comes to an emergency, we may need them,"
said Rob. "Nothing like being prepared."

"Do you think we have any show?" asked Tubby, who was to be a
sort of general utility man in the crew. Rob was to steer.

"I don't see why not," rejoined the other, wiping his oily hands
on a bit of waste. "The race is a handicap one, and we get an
allowance on account of our engine not being as powerful as the
hydroplane's."

The course to be run was a sort of elongated, or isosceles
triangle. The turning point was at the head of the inlet, a buoy
with a big red ball on it being placed just inside the rough
waters of the bar. It made a course of about five miles. The
race for the Hampton Motor Boat Club's cup, for which the boys
and the others were entered, was twice round.

The waters about the club house were so dotted with motor craft
which darted about in every direction that Commodore Wingate of
the club and the other regatta officials had a hard time keeping
the course clear for the contestants. On the threat, however,
that the races would be called off if a clear course was not
kept, order was finally obtained.

The boys were too busy to pay much attention to the results of
the other races, but a member of the club who had won the Blake
trophy for the cabin cruiser boats, warned the boys to beware of
the turn above the far buoy.

"It's choppy as the dickens there," he said, as he made his way
to the club house, "and you want to take the turn easily. Don't
'bank' it, or you'll lose more than you gain."

The boys thanked him for his advice, and laid it to heart to be
used when the race was on.

Sam's boat having been tuned up to the last notch of readiness,
Jack Curtiss strolled consequentially about on the float, making
bets freely on the hydroplane's chance of winning.

"I'll bet you twenty-five to any odds you like that the
hydroplane wins the race," he said, addressing Colin Maxwell, the
son of a well-to-do merchant from a neighboring town. Young
Maxwell had heard nothing of Jack's mean trick in the aeroplane
contest, and therefore didn't mind talking to him.

"I like the look of the Flying Fish pretty well," was the
response, "and I'll take you up. You'll have to give me odds,
though."

"Oh, certainly," responded the bully, with a confident grin;
"twenty-five to thirty, say."

"Make it thirty-five."

"All right; done," said Jack. "You know me, of course; no
necessity of putting up the money."

"Oh, not the least," rejoined the other politely, though had he
known the state of Jack's finances he might have thought
differently.

The bully went about making several bets at similar odds, until
finally Bill Bender came up behind him and in a low voice warned
him to be careful.

"What are you going to do if we lose?" he breathed. "You haven't
got a cent to pay with."

"Oh, it's like taking gum from a busted slot machine," rejoined
the bully, with a laugh. "They can't win. We know what their
boat can do, and the race is practically conceded to us.
Besides--" he placed his hand close to Bill's ear and whispered a
few minutes. "I guess that's a bad scheme, eh?" he resumed in a
louder tone, though his voice was still pitched too low for those
about to hear him. "If it's done right, we'll ram them and it'll
never be noticed."

"Hum, I'm not so sure," grunted Bill. "However, if we really
perceive we are losing, I don't see what else we are to do. Are
you going to steer?"

"Sure. Sam lost his nerve at the last moment--like him, eh?
It's a good thing, though, I'm to be at the wheel, because I
don't think Sam would have had the courage to carry out my plan."

"Not he," said Bill, with a shrug. "He's got the backbone of a
snail."

More of this interesting conversation was cut short by the "bang"
of the pistol which warned the contestants of the racing boats to
get ready.

"The race for the Hampton Yacht Club's trophy will take place in
five minutes!" cried the announcer.

The five contestants cast off from the float and slowly chugged
out to a position in the rear of the starting line and behind the
committee boat. Then came the nervous work of awaiting the
starting gun. The boys had all donned slickers, and the crew of
the hydroplane wore rubber coats which covered them completely.
A sort of spray hood had been erected over the hydroplane's
engines.

"That means she's going to do her best," remarked Rob, pointing
to this indication that great speed was expected. "That's what
we want to do, too, isn't it?"

At last came the gun that started off the Snark, the Bonita and
the Albacore, which were all of about the same speed.

"Our turn next," said Rob, who had previously received his
instructions from the committee.

"Well, I'm all ready," said Merritt, nervously twisting a grease
cup.

CHAPTER XIII

THE "FLYING FISH" ON HER METTLE

"Bang!"

With a nervous twitch, Rob threw in the first speed clutch, for
the engine had been kept running on her neutral speed, and was
able to take up way as soon as the propeller began to "bite."

Rapidly the boy increased the speed up to the third "forward,"
and the Flying Fish darted through the water like a pickerel
after a fat frog.

"Bang!" came behind them once more, as the sound of the cheers
which greeted them as they shot across the line grew faint.

"Crouch low!" shouted Rob back to his crew. "We'll need every
inch of advantage we can get."

The white spray shot in a perfect fountain from the sharp bow of
the Flying Fish, and her every frame and plank quivered under the
vibration of her powerful engine.

"She's doing better than she ever did!" shouted Merritt to Tubby,
who crouched in the center of the boat, ready to take any part in
an emergency.

The other nodded and kept his eyes ahead on the white wake of the
other three craft.

Suddenly the Albacore began to fall back. As the Flying Fish
roared by her, Rob heard a shout of something about "missing
fire."

A steady downpour of spray was drenching the occupants of the
racer, but they paid scant heed to it. Rob dived in his pockets
and put on a pair of goggles. The spray was blinding him. He
waved to Tubby to go further astern and keep the rear part of the
boat well down when they made the sharp turn at the red buoy.

In an incredibly short time, it seemed, the turning buoy faced
them. Rob set his wheel over and spun the Flying Fish through the
rougher water at the mouth of the inlet at as sharp an angle as
he dared. In a few seconds more they had passed the Snark and
the Bonita, which were racing bow and bow. The crew of the
Flying Fish, though, knew that both boats had a time allowance
over them, so that the mere passing didn't mean much, unless they
could increase the lead.

Faster and faster the boy's craft forged ahead. A thrill shot
through Rob's frame. The Flying Fish was showing what she was
made of.

But as he turned his head swiftly he saw that the hydroplane had
rounded the stake and was coming down the straight stretch of
water like an express train. A great wave of water shot out on
either side of her bow. So low in the water had her powerful
engines dragged her that she seemed to be barely on the surface,
and yet, as the boys knew, she was actually "coasting" over the
surface.

Try as he would, Rob could not get an ounce more speed out of the
Flying Fish, and as the speedy hydroplane roared by them they
heard a mocking shout from her crew.

Rob, more determined than ever to stick it out, sent the Flying
Fish plunging at top speed through the wash of the speedy craft,
hoping to keep up the distance between them at least equal. But
as he saw the hydroplane gradually drawing away and heard the
great roar that went up from the thrilled spectators as she shot
by the club house, his heart sank.

It looked as if the Plying Fish was beaten. And now the club
house loomed near once more.

"Go on, Plying Fish, go on!"

"You've got a time allowance on her!"

"Push along, Rob!"

"Kr-ee-ee-ee-ee!"

A tumult of other shouts roared in Rob's ears as they tore past
the crowded porch.

"Kr-ee-ee-ee-ee!" screamed back Merritt and Tubby, with waves of
the hand to the brown uniformed figures they could see perched on
every point of vantage.

Suddenly the Flying Fish began to creep up on the hydroplane,
which had slowed down for some reason.

"Hurrah! We've got'em now!" shouted Merritt, as he saw, far
ahead, Jack and the other two occupants of the seeming winner
leaning over the craft's engine, the hood having been raised.

Rob said nothing, but with burning eyes clung to the wheel and
shot the Flying Fish straight ahead on her course.

As they thundered past the hydroplane, the slender craft lay
almost motionless on the water, with a great cloud of blue smoke
tumbling out of her exhausts.

"Looks like they've flooded her cylinder," said Merritt,
observing these signs.

"Kr-ee-ee-ee-ee!"

It was Tubby giving utterance triumphantly to the Eagle scream.

Jack Curtiss straightened up angrily as he heard, his face black
and greasy from his researches into the engine. He shook a
menacing fist at the others as they tore by. The next minute,
however, a quick look back by Rob showed that the hydroplane was
coming ahead again, and that the engine trouble, whatever it was,
had been adjusted.

As they neared the turning point, Rob saw, to his dismay, that
the hydroplane was creeping up faster and faster. It was the
last lap, and if Sam Redding's boat passed them at the stake the
race was as good as over.

"Come on, Flying Fish! Come on!" shouted Rob, as the hydroplane
crept ever nearer and nearer to his boat's stern.

Rob noticed, as he swung a trifle wide of the stake raft, that it
seemed to be the intention of Jack Curtiss, who was at the wheel,
to swing the hydroplane round the sharp angle of the course
inside of the Flying Fish. Guessing that this would mean disaster
to her ill-advised occupants, he waved his hand at them to keep
out.

"When we need your advice we'll send for it. This is the time
we've got you!" yelled Jack Curtiss, bending low over his wheel,
as he grazed by the Flying Fish's stern to take the inside
course.

At the same instant, so quickly that the boys did not even get a
mental picture of it, the hydroplane overturned.

Taking the curve at such a speed and at such a sharp angle had,
as Jack had surmised, proved too much for her stability. Her
occupants were pitched struggling into the water.

"Shall we pick them up?" yelled Merritt.

"No," shouted Rob; "they've all got life belts on. A launch from
the club will get them."

Indeed, as he spoke a launch was seen putting off to the rescue.
The accident had been witnessed from the club, and as the water
was warm, the boys were satisfied that no harm would come to the
three from their immersion.

But the delay almost proved fatal to the Flying Fish's chance of
winning. Close behind her now came creeping up the speedy
Albacore.

But a few hundred feet before the finish the Flying Fish darted
ahead once more, and shook off her opponent amid a great roar of
yells and whoops and cheers. An instant later she shot across
the line--a winner.

"Bang!" went the gun, in token that the race was finished.

"I congratulate you," said Commodore Wingate, as the boys brought
their craft up to the float. "It was a well-fought race."

And now came the captains of the Albacore, Snark and Bonita.

"You won the race fairly and squarely," said the former, shaking
Rob's hand. "I presume, commodore, the time was taken?"

"It has been," replied that official. "The Flying Fish wins by
one minute and four and seven hundredths seconds."

More cheers greeted this announcement, mingled with laughter and
some sympathy, as the club launch, towing the capsized
hydroplane, puffed up to the float. From the launch emerged
three crestfallen figures with dripping garments. But wet as he
was, Jack Curtiss was not going to surrender the race without a
protest.

"A foul! We claim a foul! The Flying Fish fouled us!" he
shouted.

"My dear young man," calmly replied the commodore, "I was
watching you every foot of the way through binoculars, and I
should rather say that you fouled the Flying Fish. Anyhow, you
should have better sense than to try to shave round that turn so
closely."

More mortified, and angrier than ever, Jack strode off to put on
dry clothes, followed by his equally chagrined companions, who,
however, had sense enough now not to make any protests. They
knew well enough that Jack, in his hurry to grab the prize, had
attempted a foolish and dangerous thing which had cost them the
race.

"A great race, a great race," said Mr. Blake, as the boys,
followed by the crowd, entered the club house, where the awards
were to be distributed. "You boys certainly covered yourselves
with glory," he went on.

"Yes, and here is your reward. I hope it will stimulate you to
put up a fine defense for it next year," said Commodore Wingate,
handing to the elated boys a fine engraved silver cup, the trophy
of the Hampton Yacht Club.

"Get up and make a speech!" shouted some one.

The boys felt inclined to run for it.

"Go ahead! Make some sort of a talk," urged Rob, helping Tubby
on to the platform from which the prizes had been handed out.

"Ladies and gentlemen," puffed the stout youth, "we want to thank
you for your congratulations and thank the club for the fine cup.
Er--er--er--we thank you."

And having made what was perhaps quite as good a speech as some
of his elders', Tubby stepped down amid loud and prolonged
cheering.

Up in the dressing room Jack and his cronies, changing into
other, garments, heard the sounds of applause.

"It's high time something was done," said Bill, as he gazed from
a window at several of the yacht club attendants bailing out the
unlucky hydroplane. "Those young beggars will be owning the town
next."

CHAPTER XIV

THE EAGLES IN CAMP

The next few days were full of excitement and preparation for the
Boy Scouts. Their headquarters resounded all day to the tramp of
feet, and the Manual of Instructions was consulted day and night.
The official tents had arrived, and every boy in the Patrol was
eager for the time to arrive to put them up. So much so that two
or three confessed that they could hardly sleep at night in their
impatience for the hour when the embarkation for Topsail Island
was to take place.

Besides the tents, there was much other equipment to be
overhauled and set in order, for, before their departure, the
boys were to be reviewed by their scout master and a field
secretary from New York. There were haversack straps to be
replaced, laces mended, axes sharpened, "Billys" polished and
made to shine like new tin, and a hundred and one things to be
done. At last, however--although it seemed that it would never
come--the eventful Monday arrived, as eventful days of all kinds
have a habit of doing; and the Eagle Patrol, spick and span and
shining from tan boots to campaign hats, fell in line behind the
band. Proudly they paraded up the street, with their green and
black Eagle Patrol sign fluttering gallantly in the van.

The "reviewing stand" was the post-office steps, around which
most of the citizens of Hampton and the proud parents and
relatives of the young scouts were assembled.

Plenty of applause greeted them, as, in response to Rob's orders,
given in the sharp, military manner, they drew up in line and
gave the Boy Scout's salute. This done, the young scouts went
through a smart drill with the staffs they carried. Then, after
saluting once more, and being warmly complimented on their
appearance by the field secretary, they marched off to the wharf
where they were to embark for their camp.

The day before Merritt, Hiram Nelson, Paul Perkins and the three
"tender feet"--Martin Green, Walter Lonsdale and Joe Digby--had
been told off by Rob as on "pioneer service"; that is to say,
that they had gone down to the island in the Flying Fish.
Arrived there, they selected a good spot for the camp, aided by
Commodore Wingate's and Captain Hudgins' suggestions, and set up
the tents and made the other necessary preparations. The camp
was therefore practically ready, for the "army" to move into.

At Tubby's special request, a list of the rations for the week's
camp had been made out by Rob and affixed to the bulletin board
in the headquarters of the Eagles. As perhaps some of my young
readers may care to know what to take on a similar expedition, is
the list, exclusive of meat, which was to be brought from the
mainland, and fish, which they expected to catch themselves:

Oatmeal, 8 lbs.;
rice, 4 lbs.;
crackers, 35 lbs.;
chocolate, 1 1-2 lbs.;
tea, 3 lbs;
coffee, 1 lb.;
lard, 6 lbs.;
sugar, 8 lbs.;
condensed milk, 10 cans;
butter, 4 lbs.;
eggs, 12 dozen;
bacon, 20 lbs.;
preserves, 14 jars;
prunes, 8 lbs.;
maple syrup and molasses, 4 quarts;
potatoes, 1 bushel;
white beans, 6 quarts;
canned corn, 6 tins;
canned tomatoes, 6 tins;
flour, 35 lbs.;
baking powder, 2 lbs.;
salt, 4 lbs.;
pepper, 2 ounces.

"Well," Tubby had remarked, as he gazed attentively at the list,
"we won't starve, anyhow."

"I should say not," laughed Rob; "and besides all that, I've got
lots of lines and squids, and the blues and mackerel are running
good."

"Can't I take along my twenty-two rifle--that island's just
swarming with rabbits, and I think I heard some quail when we
were there the other day," pleaded Merritt.

"Not in season," answered Rob laconically. "Laws not up on them
till November."

"Oh, bother the law!" blurted out Merritt. "However, I suppose
if there wasn't one there wouldn't be any rabbits left."

"I guess you're right," agreed Tubby. "Still, it does seem hard
to have to look at them skip about and not be able to take a shot
at them."

"Maybe we can set a springle and snare some," hopefully suggested
Tubby, as a way out of the difficulty; "that wouldn't be as bad
as shooting them, you know, and I can build a springle that will
strangle them instantaneously."

"No fair, Tubby," laughed Rob. "You know, a boy scout promises
to obey the law, and the game law is as much a law as any other."

Arrived at the L wharf, the boys found the Flying Fish and
Captain Hudgins' Barracuda waiting for them. With much laughter
they piled in--their light-heartedness and constant joking
reminding such onlookers, as had ever seen the spectacle, of a
band of real soldiers going to the front or embarking for foreign
stations.

With three ear-splitting cheers and a final yell of,
"Kr-ee-ee-ee-ee!" the little flotilla got under way.

They arrived at the camping ground at the northeast end of the
island before noon, and found that the "pioneers" appointed by
Rob had done their work well. Each tent was placed securely on a
level patch of sandy ground, cleared from brush and stamped flat.
The pegs were driven extra deep in anticipation of a gale, and an
open cook tent, with flaps that could be fastened down in bad
weather, stood to one side.

A small spring had been excavated by the pioneers, and an old
barrel sunk in place, which had filled in the night and now
presented sparkling depths of cool, clear water.

"I suppose that water is all right, captain?" inquired Leader
Rob, with a true officer's regard for his troops.

"Sweet as a butternut, son," rejoined the old man. "Makes the
sick strong and the strong stronger, as the medicine
advertisements say."

For the present, the cooking was to be done on a regular camp
fire which was built between two green logs laid lengthwise and
converging toward the end. The tops of these had, under
Commodore Wingate's directions, been slightly flattened with an
axe. At each end a forked branch had been set upright in the
ground, with a green limb laid between them. From this limb hung
"cooking hooks," consisting of green branches with hooked ends at
one extremity to hang over the long timber, and a nail driven in
the other from which to hang the pots.

"That's the best form of camp fire, boys," said Commodore--or
perhaps we would better call him scout master now--Wingate, who
had accompanied the boys to see them settled. "Now, then, the
next thing to do is to run up the Stars and Stripes and plant the
Eagle flag. Then you'll be all O.K."

Little Andy Bowles made the woods behind them echo with the
stirring call of "assembly," and halliards were reeved on a
previously cut pole, about fifteen feet in height. The Stars and
Stripes were attached, and while the whole company stood at
attention and gave the scout salute, Scout Master Wingate raised
the colors. Three loud, shrill cheers greeted Old Glory as it
blew bravely out against the cloudless blue.

"That's a pretty sight now, shiver my timbers if it ain't,"
observed old Captain Hudgins, who had stood, hat in hand, during
the ceremony. "I've seen Old Glory in many a foreign port, and
felt like takin' off my hat and givin' three cheers fer the old
flag; but I never seen her look better or finer than she does
a-streakin' out from that there bit of timber."

"Now, Patrol cooks," was Scout Master Wingate's next command,
"it's only an hour to dinner time, and we want the first mess to
be right. Come on, and we'll get the pot boiling."

Cook duty fell that day to Hiram Nelson and Walter Lonsdale, and
under the scout master's directions they soon had potatoes
peeled, beans in water, and a big piece of stew meat chopped up
with vegetables in a capacious pot.

After every errand to the store tent, Walter was anxious to know
if it was not yet time to light the fire.

"Never be in a hurry to light your fire when you are in the
woods," rejoined the scout master; "otherwise you will be so busy
tending the fire you won't be able to prepare your food for
cooking. Now we're all ready for the fire, though, and you can
bring me some dry bark and small sticks from that pile of wood
the pioneers laid in yesterday."

This was promptly done, and the lads watched the next step with
interest. They saw the scout master take a tiny pile of the
sticks and then light a roll of bark and thrust it into them.

"I thought you piled them up all criss-cross," remarked Hiram.

"No woodsman does that, my boy," was the rejoinder. "Now get me
some larger timber from that pile, and I'll show you how to go
about it like regular trappers."

The fire builder shoved the ends of the sticks into the blaze and
then the bean pot was hung in place.

"We won't put the potatoes on now, as they take less time," he
remarked; "those beans will take the longest."

Soon the heat was leaping up about the pots, and the cheerful
crackle and incense of the camp fire filled the air. As the
sticks burned down the scout master shoved the ends farther into
the blaze, instead of throwing them on top of it.

"Now, then, boys, you've had your first lesson in camp fire
making and cooking," he announced. "Now go ahead, and let's see
what kind of a dinner you can produce. I'm going for a tour of
exploration of the island."

Among the other things the pioneers had accomplished was the
building of a table large enough to seat the entire Patrol, with
planks set on logs as seats. Hiram put Walter to setting this,
while he burned his fingers and smudged his face over his
cookery. Long before the beans seemed any nearer to what
experience taught the young cook they ought to be, Walter
announced that the table was all set, with its tin cups and
dishes and steel knives and forks.

Suddenly, while Hiram was considering putting the potatoes on
their hook, there came from the rear of the store tent the most
appalling succession of squeals and screams the boy had ever
heard. Springing to his feet, he dashed to the scene of the
conflict--for such it seemed to be though not without a heart
that beat rather faster than usual. He bad no idea what the
creatures could be that were producing all the uproar, and for
all he knew they might have been bears.

Behind him came Walter, rather pale, but determined to do his
best as a Boy Scout to fight off any wild beasts that might be
attacking the camp. As he dashed behind the tent, however, Hiram
was impelled to give a loud laugh. The contestants--for he had
rightly judged they were in high dispute--were two small black
pigs which had looted a bag of oatmeal from under the flap of the
store tent and were busily engaged in fighting over their spoils.

"Get out, you brutes! Scat!" shouted the boy, bringing down a
long-handled spoon he carried over the backs of the disputants.

The spoon, being almost red-hot, the clamor of the porkers
redoubled, and with indignant squeals and grumblings they dashed
off into the dense growth of scrub oak and pine that covered the
island in its interior. At the same moment the captain, who had
been taking a snooze under some small bushes, awoke with a start.

"Eh--eh--eh! What's all that?" he exclaimed, hearing the yells.
"Why, it's that plagued Betsy and Jane, my two young sows," he
cried the next moment. "Consarn and keelhaul the critters,
they're breakin' out all the time. I reckon they're headed fer
home now," he added, when Hiram related how he had scared them.

"I'm glad that they were nothing but pigs, captain," said Hiram,
going back with flushed cheeks to his cookery. "I was afraid for
a minute they were I hardly know what. We'll have to fix that
store tent more snugly in future."

"And I'll have ter take a double reef in my pig Pen," chuckled
the captain.

CHAPTER XV

THE CHUMS IN PERIL

Even the epicurean Tubby Hopkins voted dinner that day a great
success, and Hiram, with becoming modesty, took his congratulations
blushingly. In mid-afternoon, after seeing that the camp was in
good working order, the scout masters started for the home shore
in Captain Hudgins's boat, which was also to bring back some
additional supplies for the next day.

After dinner Rob had assigned Merritt and Tubby to form a
"fishing squad," to range seaward in the Flying Fish and "halt
and detain" all the bluefish they could apprehend. The others
were given the afternoon to range the island and practice up
their woodcraft and landmark work, while Rob busied himself in
his tent, which was equipped with a small folding camp table, in
filling out his pink blank reports which were to be forwarded to
Commodore Wingate and dispatched by him to the headquarters of
the Boy Scouts in New York.

Merritt and Tubby were both ardent fishermen, and in response to
Hiram's pleadings, they allowed him to accompany them on their
expedition. The fish were running well, and the boys cast and
pulled in some time without particularly noticing how far out to
sea they had gone.

Suddenly the stout youth, who was fishing with an unusually heavy
line and hook, felt a hard tug on his apparatus, so powerful a
tweak, in fact, that it almost pulled him overboard. He tried to
haul in, but the resistance on the other end of his line was so
great that he was compelled to twist it about a cleat in order to
avoid either letting go or being dragged into the sea.

"What in the name of Sam Hill have you hooked?" gasped Merritt,
as the Flying Fish began to move through the water faster than
even her engine could propel her.

"I've not the least idea," remarked Tubby placidly, "but I rather
think it must be a whale."

"Whale nothing!" exclaimed Merritt scornfully and with superior
wisdom. "Whales sound, don't they?"

"Well, there's not been a sound out of this one so far,"
truthfully observed Hiram.

"What kind of a sound do they make, corporal?"

"Oh, you chump," responded Merritt good-naturedly, "you've lived
by the sea all your life, and you don't know how a whale sounds.
Sound means when a whale blows, spouts, sends up a big fountain
of water."

"Oh, I see," responded Hiram, much enlightened. "But see here,
Merritt, whatever we are fast to is beginning to pick up speed
pretty rapidly. Don't you think we'd better cut the line or try
to haul in?"

"Haul in! Not much!" exclaimed Tubby indignantly. "We'll just
hang on till we tire him out, that's what we'll do, and then haul
in."

"But we're getting a good way out from shore," objected Hiram,
who, however much at home he was at the key of a wireless
apparatus, had no great relish for blue water in a small motor
boat.

"Don't you worry, sonny," put in Merritt patronizingly. "We'll
be all right. My, that was a plunge!"

As he spoke the bow of the Flying Fish dipped till she shipped a
few gallons of green water.

"I'll pay out some more line," said the unperturbed Tubby. "I
guess whatever we're onto begins to believe that he has swallowed
something pretty indigestible."

Faster and faster the Flying Fish began to cut through the sea.
The water sprayed out from both sides of her cutwater in a steady
stream.

"She's doing as well as she did the day of the race," said
Merritt, with a laugh, gazing at Hiram's rather pale face. The
wireless youth was casting longing glances at the shore.

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