Part 3 out of 4
"Well, I wish Mr. Whale, or whatever he is, would come up and let
us have a look at him!" exclaimed Tubby suddenly. "This is
getting pretty monotonous."
As he spoke the boy paid nut a little more line. He had only
just time to belay it round the cleat to avoid its being jerked
out of his hand, so fast was the creature they had hooked now
"Say, Tubby," spoke Merritt at length, "I'm beginning to think
myself that it might not be a bad idea to put back. Those clouds
over there on the horizon look as if they meant trouble."
"Oh, let's keep it on a little while longer pleaded Tubby;
cutting through the water like this, without any expenditure of
gasoline or power, is the real luxurious way of ocean traveling.
It beats the Mauretania. just think if liners could hitch a whole
team of things like whatever has got hold of us to their bows!
Why, the Atlantic would be crossed in four days."
For some time longer the boat shot along over the waves, towed by
its invisible force. The boys, with the exception of Tubby,
began to get anxious. The shores of the mainland were dim in the
distance behind them, and Topsail Island itself only showed as a
dark blue dot.
Suddenly the motion ceased.
"He's free of the line!" shouted Hiram, inwardly much relieved to
think they had got rid of what to him was an alarming situation.
"No, he's not," replied Tubby, bending over the line. "He's
still fast to us. The line's as tight as a fiddle string."
He was standing up as he spoke, and as the Flying Fish gave a
sudden, crazy jerk forward, he was almost thrown overboard. In
fact, he would have toppled into the sea if Merritt had not
bounded forward and grabbed the fleshy lad just as he was losing
"We're off again!" exclaimed Hiram, as the Flying Fish once more
began to move through the water.
But now the creature that had seized Tubby's big hook started to
move in circles. Round and round the Flying Fish was towed in
dizzy swings that made the heads of her young occupants swim.
"Start the engine on the reverse, and see if that will do any
good," said Tubby, bending anxiously over his line.
Merritt brought the reverse gear to "neutral," and then started
it up, gradually bringing back the lever governing the reversing
wheel till the Flying Fish was going second speed astern, and
finally at her full gait backward.
The tug thus exercised seemed to have no effect on the monster
that had caught Tubby's bait, however. With the exception that
the speed was diminished a trifle, the Flying Fish was still
powerless to shake off her opponent.
Suddenly, and without the slightest warning, a huge, shiny, wet
body shot out of the water almost directly in front of the amazed
and startled boys, and settled back with a mighty splash that
sent the spray flying in a salt-water shower bath over their
"Whatever was it?" gasped Hiram in awed tones.
"A shark," replied Merritt, "and a whopper, too. What are we
going to do, Tubby--keep on or cut loose?"
"Just a little longer," pleaded the other. "He must be tiring by
this time. If we can only wear him out, we can tow him ashore
and make a little money out of him. You know shark skin is
"I'd rather have a whole skin of my own," quavered Hiram, who had
been considerably alarmed by the momentary glimpse he had had of
"He's off again!" shouted Merritt, as the sea tiger started
straight ahead once more.
Suddenly the line slackened again.
"Look out!" Tubby had just time to shriek the warning before a
mighty shock threw them all off their feet in a heap on the
bottom of the boat.
The line twanged and snapped under the sudden strain, and a great
rush seaward showed the boys, as soon as they recovered their
senses, that they had lost their shark.
"And a good line," moaned Tubby.
"What are you kicking about?" demanded Merritt. "It's a lucky
thing the beast didn't start some plank of the boat when it
charged; but as far as I can see, the Flying Fish stood the shock
"It felt like an earthquake," murmured Hiram, whose face was
white and eyes frightened.
"Well, I suppose we'd better head for home," said Tubby at
length. "Those bluefish will go fine for supper."
"Spoken like a Tubby," laughed Merritt. "All right, I'll start
up. Hullo--" he looked up with a puzzled face from the reverse
lever. "I can't get her on the forward speed."
"What's the matter?" gasped Hiram.
"I don't know. Something's stuck. Shut off that engine, will
you, Tubby, while I see?"
Tubby promptly shut down the motor, and Merritt struggled with
the refractory lever. It was all in vain, however; he could not
get it on the forward speed.
"I've got to investigate," puffed the perspiring corporal;
"something must be wrong with the reversible propeller."
"Well, whatever you are going to do, hurry up about it," spoke
Tubby, with unwonted sharpness in his tones.
"Why, what's the--" began Merritt.
Tubby checked him with a finger on his lips.
"Don't scare the kid," he whispered, leaning forward, "but we're
in for a storm."
He pointed seaward.
Rolling toward them was a spreading wall of heavy clouds
traveling at seemingly great speed, while below the wrack the
water darkened ominously and became flecked with "white horses."
LOST IN THE STORM
"The trouble's in the reversible propeller. I always told Rob he
was foolish not to have a regular reverse gear on the shaft
itself and a solid wheel," said Merritt.
"Well, never mind that now," urged Tubby anxiously. "I'll shift
all the cushions and stuff up in the bow, and Hiram and I will
get as far forward as we can. That will raise the stern and you
can hang over and reach the wheel."
When the stout lad had done as he suggested there was quite a
perceptible tilt forward to the Flying Fish, and Merritt, hanging
over the stern, could feel about the propeller better.
"Just as I thought," he shouted presently. "That shark when he
came astern fouled that heavy line on the propeller."
He got out his knife, and in a few minutes succeeded in cutting
the entangling line free.
It was not any too soon. From far off there came a low sound,
something like the moaning of a large animal in pain. It grew
louder and closer, and with it came an advancing wall of water
crested with white foam. The sky, too, grew black, and air
filled with a sort of sulphurous smell.
"It's a thunder squall," shouted Tubby, as Merritt shoved over
the lever and started the engine.
As he spoke there came a low growl of thunder and the sky was
illumined with a livid glare.
"Here she comes!" yelled Merritt; "better get out those slickers
or we'll be soaked."
Tubby opened a locker and produced the yellow waterproof coats.
The boys had hardly thrust their arms into them before the big
sea struck them. Thanks to Tubby's steering, however, the Flying
Fish met it without shipping more than a few cupfuls of water.
The next minute the full fury of the storm enveloped the Boy
Scouts and the Flying Fish was laboring in a heaving wilderness
of lashed and tumbling water.
"Keep her head up!" roared Merritt, above the screaming of the
wind and the now almost continuous roar and rattle of the
thunder. It grew almost dark, so overcast was the sky, and under
the somber, driving cloud wrack the white wave crests gleamed
like savage teeth.
Hiram crouched on the bottom of the boat, too terrified to speak,
while Tubby and Merritt strove desperately to keep the little
craft from "broaching to," in which case she would have shipped
more water than would have been at all convenient, not to say
As if it were some vindictive live thing, seized with a sudden
spite against the boat and its occupants, the storm roared about
the dazed boys.
The Flying Fish, however, rode the sweeping seas gallantly,
breasting even the biggest combers bravely and buoyantly.
"It's getting worse," shouted Tubby, gazing back at Merritt, who
was bending over the laboring motor.
"Yes, you bet it is!" roared back the engineer; "and I'm afraid
of a short circuit if this rain keeps up."
"Cover up the engine with that spare slicker," suggested Tubby.
"That's a good idea," responded the other, rummaging in a stern
locker and producing the garment in question. In another moment
he had it over the engine, protecting the spark plugs and the
high-tension wires from the rain and spray. But the wind was too
high to permit of the covering remaining unfastened, and with a
ball of marlin the young engineer lashed the improvised motor
cover firmly in place.
Hiram, with a white face, now crawled up from the bottom of the
boat. In addition to being scared, he was seasick from the
eccentric motions of the storm-tossed craft.
"Do you think we'll ever get ashore again?" he asked, crawling to
"Sure," responded the corporal confidently. "'Come on, buck up,
Hiram! You know, a Boy Scout never says die. We'll be back in
camp in three hours' time, when this squall blows itself out."
"I--I don't want you to think me a coward, Merritt," quavered
Hiram, "but--but you know this is enough to scare any fellow."
Indeed, he seemed right. The Flying Fish appeared no more than a
tiny chip on the immense rollers the storm had blown up. Time
and again it looked as if she would never be able to climb the
huge walls of green water that towered above her; but every time
she did, and, as the storm raged on, the confidence of the boys
began to grow.
"She'll ride it out, Tubby!" yelled Merritt, dousing the engine
with more oil.
"Sure she will!" yelled back Tubby, with a confidence that was,
however, largely assumed. The stout youth had just been assailed
by an alarming thought that flashed across his mind.
"Would the gasoline hold out?"
There was no opportunity on the plunging, bucking craft to
examine the tank, and all the boy could do was to make a rapid
mental calculation, based on what he knew of the consumption of
the engine. The tank, he knew, had been half full when they came
out, and that, under ordinary conditions, would have sufficed to
drive the Flying Fish for five or six hours.
But they were not ordinary conditions under which she was now
laboring. Tubby knew that Merritt was piling in every ounce of
gasoline the carburetor could take care of.
Suddenly, while the stout youth's mind was busied with these
thoughts, and without the slightest warning, there came a sort of
wheezing gasp from the motor.
Merritt leaned over it in alarm. He seized the timing lever and
shoved it over and opened the gasoline cock full tilt.
But there was no response from the motor.
It gasped out a cough a couple of times and turned over in a
dying fashion for a few revolutions and then stopped dead.
The boys were adrift in the teeth of the storm in a crippled boat.
"What's the matter?" roared back Tubby from the wheel. "She's
lost steerage way!"
"Motor's gone dead," howled back Merritt laconically.
"Great Scott, we are in for it now! What's the matter?"
"No gasolene," yelled Merritt.
A huge green wave climbed on to the Flying Fish's bow, shaking
her from stem to stern like a terrier shakes a rat.
"We've got to do something quick, or we'll be swamped!" roared
"The cockpit cover, quick!" shouted Tubby, steadying himself
in the bucking craft by a tight grasp on the bulwarks.
"That's it. Now the oars. Hurry up. Here, you Hiram, grab that
can and bail for all you're worth!"
The fat youth seemed transformed by the sudden emergency into
the most active of beings.
"What are you going to do?" yelled Merritt, framing his mouth
with his hands.
"Make a spray hood. Come forward here and give me a hand."
With the oars the two boys made a sort of arched framework, secured
with ropes, and over it spread the canvas cockpit cover, lashing
it down to the forward and side cleats. This work was not unattended
with danger and difficulty. Time and again as they worked the
boys had to lie flat on their stomachs and hang on while the Flying
Fish leaped a wave like a horse taking a barrier. At last, however,
their task was completed, and the improvised spray hood served
to some extent to break the waves that now threatened momentarily
to engulf the laboring craft.
"Now to get out a sea anchor!" shouted the indefatigable Tubby.
He seized up an old bait tub, a boat hook and a "swabbing-out"
broom, and lashed them all together in a sort of bridle. Then
he attached the Flying Fish's mooring cable to the contrivance
and paid it out for a hundred feet or more, while the
storm-battered craft drifted steadily backward. Instead,
however, of lying beam on to the big sea, she now headed up into
them, the "drag," as it is sometimes called, serving to keep her
bow swung up to the threatening combers.
"There, she'll ride for a while, anyhow," breathed Tubby, when
this was done.
"What's to be done now?" shouted Merritt in his car.
"Nothing," was the response; "we've got to lie here till this
thing blows over."
"It's breaking a little to the south now," exclaimed Merritt,
pointing to where a rift began to appear in the solid cloud
This was cheering news, and even the seasick but plucky Hiram,
who had been bailing for all he was worth, despite his misery,
began to cheer up.
"Hurrah! I guess the worst of our troubles are over," cried
Tubby. "It certainly looks as if the sea was beginning to go
down, and the wind has dropped, I'm sure."
That this was the case became apparent shortly. There was a
noticeable decrease in the size and height of the waves and the
wind abated in proportion. In half an hour after the rift had
been first noticed by Merritt, the black squall had passed, and
the late afternoon sun began to shine in a pallid way through the
driving cloud masses.
The lads, however, were still in a serious fix. They had been
driven so far out to sea that the land was blotted out
altogether. All about them was only the still heaving Atlantic.
The sun, too, was westering fast, and it would not be long before
Without gasoline and with no sail, they had no means of making
land. Worse still, they were in the track of the in and
out-bound steamers to and from New York--according to Tubby's
reckoning--and they had no lights.
"Well, we seem to have got out of the frying pan into the fire,"
said Merritt in a troubled voice. "It's the last time I'll ever
come out without lights and a mast and sail."
"That's what they all say," observed Tubby grimly. "The thing to
do now is to get back to shore somehow. Maybe we can rig up a
sail with the cockpit cover and the oars. We've got to try it,
After hauling in the sea anchor, the lads set to work to rig up
and lash the oars into an A shape. The canvas was lashed to each
of the arms of the A, and the contrivance then set up and secured
to the fore and aft cleats by the mooring line they had utilized
for the sea anchor.
"Well," remarked Tubby, as he surveyed his handiwork with some
satisfaction and pride, "we can go before the wind now, anyhow--even
if we do look like a lost, strayed or stolen Chinese junk."
"Say, I'm so hungry I could eat one of those fish raw!" exclaimed
Hiram, now quite recovered, as the Flying Fish, under her clumsy
sail, began to stagger along in the direction in which Tubby
believed the land lay, the wind fortunately being dead aft.
"Great Scott, the kid's right!" exclaimed Merritt. "We forgot
all about eating in the gloom but now I believe I could almost
follow Hiram's lead and eat some of those fellows as they are."
"Well, that's about all you'll get to eat for a long time,"
remarked Tubby, grimly casting an anxious eye aloft at the
ALMOST RUN DOWN
It grew dark rapidly and the night fell on three lonely, wet,
hungry boys, rolling along in a disabled boat under what was
surely one of the queerest rigs ever devised. It answered its
purpose, though, and under her "jury mast" the Flying Fish
actually made some headway through the water.
None of the boys said much, and Tubby, under the cover of the
darkness, tightened his capacious belt. It spoke volumes for his
Boy Scout training that, though he probably felt the pangs of
hunger as much or even more keenly than the others, he made no
complaint. Hiram, the second-class scout, complained a bit at
first, but soon quieted down under Merritt's stern looks; as for
the latter, as corporal of the Eagle Patrol, it was his duty to
try to keep as cheerful as possible; which, under the circumstances,
was about as hard a task as could well be imagined.
The eyes of all three were kept strained ahead for some sign of a
light, for they had been so tossed about in the squall that all
sense of direction had been lost, and they had no compass aboard,
which in itself was a piece of carelessness.
Suddenly, after about an hour of "going it blind" in this
fashion, young Hiram gave a shout.
"A light, a light!"
"Where?" demanded Tubby and Merritt sharply.
"Off there," cried the lad, pointing to the left, over the port
side of the boat.
Both the elder lads gazed sharply.
"That's not the direction in which land would lie," mused Tubby.
"The light's pretty high up, too, isn't it?" suggested Merritt.
"It might be a lighthouse. We may have been blown farther than
Tubby offered no opinion for a few seconds, but his ordinarily
round and smiling face grew grave. A sudden apprehension had
flashed into his mind.
"Tell me, Merritt," he said, "can you see any other lights?"
"No," replied Merritt, after peering with half closed eyes at the
"I can," suddenly shouted young Hiram.
"Yes; some distance below the white light I can see a green one
to the right and a red one on the left."
"Shades of Father Neptune!" groaned Tubby. "It's just as I
thought, Merritt--that light yonder is a steamer's mast lantern,
and the fact that Hiram can see both her port and starboard lamps
beneath shows that she's coming right for us."
This was alarming enough. Without lanterns, without the means of
making any noise sufficiently loud to attract the attention of
those on the approaching vessel, the occupants of the Plying Fish
were in about as serious a predicament as one could imagine. To
make matters worse, the wind began to drop and come in puffs
which only urged the Flying Fish ahead slowly. Tubby made a
rapid mental calculation, and decided that hardly anything short
of a miracle could save them from being run down, unless the
steamer saw them and changed her course.
"Can't we shout and make them hear us?" asked Hiram in an alarmed
voice. He saw from the troubled faces of both the elder lads
that something serious indeed was the matter.
"We might try it," responded Tubby, with a bitter shrug. "But
it's about as much use as a mouth organ in a symphony orchestra
would be. Better get on the life belts."
With hands that trembled with the sense of impending disaster,
the three boys strapped on the cork jackets.
"Now all shout together," said Merritt, when this was done.
Standing erect, the three young castaways placed their hands
funnel-wise to their mouths and roared out together:
"Ship ahoy! St-eam-er a-hoy!"
They were alarmed and not ashamed to admit it.
"No good," said Tubby, after they had roared themselves hoarse.
"When she strikes us, jump over the starboard bow and dive as
deep as you can. If you don't, the propellers are liable to
It was a grim prospect, and no wonder the boys grew white and
their faces strained as the impending peril bore down on them.
They could now see that she was a large vessel--a liner, to judge
from the rows of lighted portholes on her steep black sides. Her
bow lights gleamed like the eye of some monster intent on
devouring the Flying Fish and her occupants. On and on she came.
The air trembled with the vibration of her mighty engines, and a
great white "'bone" foamed up at her sharp prow.
Not one of the boys spoke as the vessel came nearer and nearer,
although it speedily grew evident that unless a wind sprang up or
the lookout saw them, it was inevitable that they would be cut in
"Remember what I said," warned Tubby, in a strange, strained
voice. "Dive deep and stay tinder as long as you can."
And now the great vessel seemed scarcely more than two or three
boat lengths from the tiny cockleshell on which she was bearing
down. As a matter of fact, though, her towering bulk made her
appear much nearer than she actually was.
"Can't we do anything, Merritt?" gasped Hiram, with chattering
teeth. "We might try shouting once more," suggested Tubby in a
voice that quivered in spite of his efforts to keep it steady.
"All together now--come on!"
"Ship ahoy! You'll run us down! St-eam-er a-hoy!"
Suddenly there were signs of confusion on the bow of the big
vessel. Men could be seen running about and waving their arms.
"By hookey, they've seen us!" breathed Merritt, hardly daring to
believe it, however.
The others were speechless with suspense.
Suddenly from the bow of the oncoming steamer a great fan-shaped
ray of dazzling light shot out and enveloped the boys and their
boat in its bewildering radiance.
"Hard over, hard over!" the boys could hear the lookout roaring,
and the command rang hoarsely back along the decks to the
Slowly, very slowly, as if reluctant to give up her prey, the
bow of the mighty liner swung off, and the boys were safe.
"Look out for the wash," warned Merritt, as the great black bulk,
pierced with hundreds of glowing portholes, ploughed regally by
them, her deck crowded with curious passengers. A voice shouted
down from the bridge:
"What in blazing sea serpents are you doing out here in that
marine oil stove?"
The boys made no attempt to reply. They had all they could do to
hang on, as the Flying Fish danced about like a drifting cork in
the wash of the great vessel. They could see, however, that
several of her passengers were clustered at her stern rail,
gazing wonderingly down at them in great perplexity, no doubt, as
to what manner of craft it was that they had so narrowly escaped
sending to the bottom. For had the vessel even grazed the Flying
Fish, the small boat would have been annihilated without those on
board the liner even feeling a tremor. It would have been just
such a tragedy as happens frequently to the fishing dories on the
foggy Newfoundland banks.
"Wh-ew!" gasped Merritt, sinking down on a locker. "That was a
narrow escape if you like it!"
"I don't like it," remarked Tubby sententiously, mopping his
forehead, on which beads of cold perspiration had stood out while
their destruction had seemed inevitable. So thoroughly unnerved
were the lads, in fact, by their experience that it was some time
before they could do anything more than sit limply on the lockers
while the Flying Fish rolled aimlessly with an uncontrolled helm.
"Come on," said Tubby at length; "we've got to rouse ourselves.
In the first place, I've got an idea," he went on briskly. "I've
been thinking over that gasoline stoppage, and the more I think
of it the more I am inclined to believe that there's something
queer about it. It's worth looking into, anyhow."
"You mean you think there may be some fuel in the tank, after
all?" asked Merritt, looking up.
"It's possible. Have you tried the little valve forward of the
"Why, no," rejoined Merritt; "but I hardly think--"
"It wouldn't be the first time a carburetor had fouled,
particularly after what we went through in that squall," remarked
Tubby. "It's worth trying, anyhow."
He bent over the valve he had referred to, which was in the
gasoline feed pipe, just forward of the carburetor, and placed
there primarily for draining the tank when it was necessary.
"Look here!" he yelled, with a sudden shout of excitement. "No,"
he cried the next moment, "I don't want to waste it--but when I
opened the valve a stream of gasoline came out. There's plenty
of it. That stoppage is in the carburetor. Oh, what a bunch of
idiots we've been!"
"Better sound the tank," suggested Merritt; "what came out of the
valve might just be an accumulation in the pipe."
"Not much," rejoined the other, "it came out with too much force
for that, I tell you. It was flowing from the tank, all right."
"We'll soon find out," proclaimed Merritt. "Give me the sounding
stick out of that locker, Hiram."
Armed with the stick, Merritt rapidly unscrewed the cap of the
fuel tank and plunged the sounder into it.
"There's quite a lot of gasoline in there yet," he exclaimed,
with sparkling eyes, as he withdrew and felt the wet end of the
The carburetor was rapidly adjusted. The rough tossing about the
Flying Fish had received had jammed the needle valve, but that
was all. Presently all was in readiness to get under way once
more with the little boat's proper motive power. The "jury rig"
was speedily dismantled Merritt swung the flywheel over two or
three times, and a welcome "chug, chug!" responded.
"Hurray! she's working," cried Hiram.
"As well as ever," responded Merritt. "Now for the shore. By
the way," he broke off in a dismayed tone, "where is the shore?"
"I know now," rejoined Tubby in a confident tone. "Off there to
the right. You see, that steamer was hugging the coast
preparatory to heading seaward--at least, I'm pretty sure she
was, and that would put the shore on her port side, or on our
They chugged off in the direction Tubby indicated, and before
long a joyful cry from Hiram announced the sudden appearance of
"What are they?" asked Merritt.
"Don't know--they look like bonfires," rejoined the other lad.
"I wonder if we have been lucky enough to pick up Topsail
As they drew nearer the lads soon saw that it was the island that
they were approaching, and that the lights they had seen were
campfires ignited by order of the anxious young Patrol leader to
guide them back.
In a short time they had anchored the Flying Fish opposite the
camp, and jumped into the dinghy left at her moorings when they
"A fine scare you've given us," cried Rob, as they landed and
flung down their afternoon's catch. "We were afraid for a time
that you were lost in that black squall--it blew two of our,
tents down, and we were mighty anxious about you, I can tell
"You did not alarm our folks?" asked Hiram anxiously.
"No, I thought that it would be best to wait. Somehow, I thought
you'd turn up safe. Where on earth have you been and what has
happened? You look as pale as three ghosts."
"Towed to sea by a shark--caught in a squall--almost run down by
a liner--and so hungry we can't talk now," sputtered out Tubby
"All right; come on up to the fire and get dried out and pitch
into the grub."
After such a meal as it may be imagined the young scouts indulged
in, they told their whole yarn of their adventures to the
listening Patrol. A short time after they concluded--so long had
it taken to relate everything and answer all questions--the
mournful call of "Taps" sounded and it was time to turn in.
Little Digby alone, who was to do sentry service, remained on
Merritt's dreams were a strange jumble. It seemed to him that he
was being towed to sea on the back of a huge shark, by a big
liner with a row of blazing portholes that winked at him like
facetious eyes. Suddenly, just as it seem he was about to slip
off the marine monster's slippery back, he thought he heard a
loud cry of "Help, scouts!"
So vivid was the dream and so real the cry that he awoke
trembling, and listened intently while peering out through the
There was no sound, however, but the ripple of the waves on the
beach and the "hoot hoot" of an owl somewhere back in the woods
on the island.
"Funny," mused the boy, as he turned over and dozed off again,
"that certainly sounded loud enough to have been a real, sure
enough call for help."
JOE DIGBY MISSING
"Merritt! Merritt, wake up!"
The boy sleepily opened his eyes and saw bending over him the
pale features of Rob, whose voice quivered with suppressed
excitement as he shook the other's shoulder.
"I didn't hear reveille blow yet. What's up? Have I overslept?"
murmured the young corporal.
"No, it's not six-thirty yet--barely after half past four, in
fact. But young Digby--he had the night watch, you know--and was
to have been relieved at three o'clock. Well, Ernest Thompson,
his relief, roused out at that hour, but not a trace of Digby was
to be found!"
"What!" The sleepy boy was drowsy no longer. "Digby gone?"
"Hush! We don't know yet. Don't wake any of the others.
Thompson and I have skirmished around ever since it began to get
light, and we have not been able to find a trace of him."
Merritt was out of his cot while his leader was still speaking,
and ten minutes later, during which time the boys exchanged
excited questions and answers, he was in his uniform and outside
The sun was just poking his rim above the western horizon and the
chilly damp of early dawn lay over the island. The sea, as calm
almost as a lake, lay sullen and gray, scarcely heaving. Behind
the sleeping camp a few shreds of mist--the ghosts of the vapors
of the night were arising like smoke among the dim trees. At the
further end of the assemblage of tents, and beyond the smoldering
fire, stood a silent figure, that of Ernest Thompson.
"Have you explored the island thoroughly?" asked Merritt under
his breath. Somehow the dim hour and the situation seemed to
preclude the idea of loud talking.
"Of course not. Not yet," breathed the other in the same tones.
"We will break the news to the rest of the Patrol after
breakfast. It's no use alarming them yet."
"It isn't possible that he went off on an early fishing
For answer, Rob waved his hand toward the water, where the Flying
Fish lay rocking gently at her anchor. Ashore the dingy lay as
Merritt and his companions had left it the night before.
"But what can have happened to him?" burst out Merritt, as they
made their way over to Ernest Thompson's side.
"I cannot think. It is absolutely mystifying. I am going to
start for the captain's place now. He may be able to throw some
light on the affair."
Merritt shook his head.
"Hardly likely. If there is no trace of Joe Digby on this side
of the island, it is improbable that Captain Hudgins knows
anything about him."
"Well," rejoined Rob in a troubled voice, "we've got to try
everything. I am responsible for his safe keeping while he is in
camp. I blame myself for allowing the kid to go on sentry duty
"No use doing that," comforted Merritt; "there's one thing sure,
he can't have melted away. He must be somewhere on the island.
There are no wild beasts or anything like that here to carry him
off, so if we keep up the search we must come upon him sooner or
"That's what makes the whole affair the more mystifying,"
rejoined Rob. "What can have become of him?"
"Well, if he's on the island, we'll find him," he continued; "and
if he isn't--"
"We'll find him anyway," declared Merritt in a determined voice.
"That's the stuff!" warmly exclaimed the other. "And now I'm
going to take a cruise round to the other side of the island, and
see if I can find out anything there."
A few seconds later he was in the dinghy and sculling out over
the water to the speedy Flying Fish. In a short time he was off.
As the "chug chug" of the motor grew fainter, Merritt turned to
"Don't breathe a word of this to the others till we know for
certain that Digby has vanished," he said.
The other boy nodded.
"I understand," he said, and the look with which he accompanied
the words rendered Merritt perfectly confident that he would be
"And now let's rouse out Andy Bowles and get him busy with that
tin horn of his," cheerfully went on Merritt, walking toward
That youth was much surprised to find that it was morning, but
tumbled out of his cot in double-quick time, and soon the
cheerful notes of reveille were ringing out over the camp, on
which the sun's rays were now streaming down in that luminary's
cheerful morning way.
The soldier who immortalized himself by sing the words: "We can't
get 'em up, We can't get 'em up, We can't get 'em up in the
morning--, We can't get 'em up, We can't get 'em up, We can't
get'em up at a-a-l-l-l!" to the stirring notes of the army's
morning call had never been in a camp of Boy Scouts. If he had
he wouldn't have written them, for before the last notes had died
away the camp was alive and astir, with hurrying lads filling tin
washbasins and cleaning up.
The cook and "cookee" for the day--Jim Jeffords and Martin
Green--soon had their cooking fire going, and presently the
appetizing aroma of coffee and fried ham and eggs filled the
"Give the breakfast call, Andy," ordered Merritt, as the proud if
flush-faced cooks announced their labors complete, and with a
clatter and bang of tin dishes and cups the Boy Scouts sat down
"Where's Rob and Digby?" demanded Andy Bowles, as be dug his
spoon into an island of oatmeal completely surrounded by an ocean
of condensed milk thinned down with warm water.
The moment that Merritt had dreaded had arrived.
"Why, he and Rob went off early to see the captain," he said. "I
guess they'll be back soon."
"Pretty early for paying social calls," commented Andy, too busy
with his breakfast, however, to give the matter more attention,
for which Merritt was duly thankful.
After breakfast Merritt ordered a general airing of bedding, and
the side walls of the tents were raised to let the fresh air blow
through them. Still there was no sign of Rob. Merritt grew so
anxious that he could hardly keep from pacing up and down to
conceal his nervous state of mind. However, he stuck to his
duties and oversaw the first routine of the morning without
betraying his anxiety to any of the lads under his charge. At
last there came the awaited chug chug of the returning boat, for
which he had been so eagerly listening, and Rob appeared rounding
the little point below the camp. In the craft was another
figure, that of the captain himself.
Merritt's first hope when he saw the two persons in the boat--namely,
that one of them might be the missing boy--was promptly dashed, and
he instinctively guessed by Rob's silence as he dropped the anchor
and he and the captain tumbled into the dinghy that there had been
"No," said Rob, shaking his head dejectedly as they reached the
shore, "there isn't anything to tell. The captain is as much in
the dark as we."
"Well, you'd better have some breakfast," said Merritt, after he
and the captain had exchanged greetings, "then we can go ahead
and notify the others and institute a thorough search."
"That's the stuff, my boy," agreed the veteran. "Overhaul ship
from bilge ter royals, and if not found, then take a cruise in
Rob ate his meal with small appetite, but the captain, urging on
his young companion the necessity of "filling his hold," devoured
prodigious quantities of food, and then, arising, suggested that
the time had come to "pipe all hands aft and read orders."
The boys had been so busy about their morning tasks that
fortunately none of them, except Tubby, whom Merritt had told of
the disappearance, had found time to notice Rob's return or ask
questions; so that when he announced to them that Joe Digby was
missing it came as a stunning shock.
"Now, boys," said Rob, after he had communicated the full
details, so far as he knew them, of the circumstances of the
disappearance, "there is only one thing to do, and that is turn
this island inside out. It won't take long, but I want it done
thoroughly. Don't leave a stone unturned. If after a
painstaking search we find nothing on the island, we'll know we
have to look elsewhere. You are all fairly good woodsmen by this
time, and can trail by signs as effectively as first-class
scouts. Use your eyes, and good luck."
Merritt at once assigned searching parties, he and Rob and Tubby
taking the center of the island and the others being detailed to
search along the shores in two separate squads for any trace of
their missing comrade.
"Call me a lubber if this ain't the most mystifyin' thing I've
run my bow into since the Two Janes, uv Boston, brig, lost her
bearings in a fog and fetched up off Iceland," declared the
captain, who had elected to accompany the three leaders of the
Patrol. "But drown or swim, sail or sink, we'll find that kid if
he's on deck."
The searching parties construed this speech as a sort of
valedictory to them as, indeed, the captain intended it--and
greeted it with a cheer.
"The first scout that finds a trace of Joe is to light the four
'smokes', meaning come to council," was Rob's last order. "Light
them on as prominent a place as you can find and we will all meet
in camp to hear the news."
The searching parties at once separated, one striking off to the
right, the other to the left and the three young leaders and
their grizzled friend making a dead set for the center of the
If Joe Digby was to be found, the look of determination on the
face of each scout showed that it would not be the fault of his
young comrades if he were not.
In the meantime on a small island in the Upper Inlet a strange
conference was taking place. Three youths whom our readers will
recognize as Jack Curtiss, Bill Bender and Sam Redding; were in
earnest consultation with the unkempt and unsavory individual
whom we know as Hank Handcraft, the beach-comber.
"Well, the job's put through, all right," Hank was saying, as the
three sat outside a small tent in front of which was a smoldering
fire, about which the remnants of a meal were scattered.
"Yes, but now we've got to tackle the hardest part of it," said
Jack, knitting his brows. "I've got the letter written and here
it is." As he spoke he drew from his pocket a sheet of paper.
"The question is who to send for the money when the time comes."
"Oh, Hank is the man," said Ben, without an instant's hesitation.
"We must not appear in this at all."
"Oh, I am the man, am?" put in Hank, with no very gratified
inflexion in his voice; "and what if I am caught? I'm to go to
prison, I suppose, while you fellows get off scot-free."
"As for me," said Sam Redding, who was pale and looked scared,
and whose eyes, too, were red-rimmed and heavy as if from lack of
sleep, "you can count me out. I want nothing to do with it.
You've gone too far, Jack, in your schemes against the boys. I'm
through with the whole thing."
"Well, if you're that chicken-hearted, we don't want you in it at
all," sneered Jack, although he looked somewhat troubled at his
follower's defection. "All we want you to promise is not to
split on us."
"Oh, I won't peach," promised Sam readily.
"It will be better for you not to," warned Bill Bender; "and now
let's figure this thing out, and quickly, too. We haven't got
any too much time. They'll have discovered the kid has gone by
this time and the alarm will be spread broadcast."
"I thought, when he yelled like that last night, we were goners
sure," remarked Jack, scowling at the recollection. "It's a good
thing those kids sleep as hard as they do, or we'd have been in a
"Oh, well, no good going back to that now," dissented Bill. "How
was the young cub when you left him, Hank?" he asked abruptly.
"Oh, he'd got through crying, and was lying nice and quiet on his
bunk," remarked Hank, with an amiable chuckle, as though he had
just performed some praiseworthy act, instead of having left
little Joe Digby locked in a deserted bungalow on an island some
little distance from the one on which the conversation related
above was taking place.
"Well, that's good," said Bill; "although crying, or yelling,
either, won't do him much good on that island. He could yell for
a week and no one would hear him."
"No; the water's too shallow for any motor boats to get up
there," agreed Hank. "I had a hard job getting through the
channel in the rowboat, even at high water."
"Is the house good and tight?" was Jack's next question.
"Tight--tight as the Tombs," was Hank's answer, the simile being
an apt one for him to use. "The door has that big bolt on the
outside that I put on, besides the lock, of which I carried away
the key, and the shutters are all nailed up. No danger of his
getting away till we want him to!"
"Couldn't be better," grinned Jack approvingly. "Now, here's the
letter. Tell me what you think of it?"
Opening the sheet of paper, the bully read aloud as follows:
"MR. AND MRS. DIGBY:
"Your son is safe and in good hands. I alone know where the men
who stole him have taken him. But I am a poor man, and think
that the information should be worth something to you. Suppose
you place two hundred dollars under the signpost at the Montauk
crossroads to-night. I will call and get it if you will mark the
spot at which you place it with a rock. Look under the same rock
in the morning and you will find directions how to get your boy
"What do you think of that?" inquired Jack complacently, as he
concluded the reading of his epistle.
"A bee-yoo-tiful piece of composition," said Hank approvingly,
with one of his throaty chuckles; "the only thing is--who is
"Why, so far as delivering the letter and getting the, money is
concerned, you are," said Jack decisively. "Eh, Bill?"
"Oh, by all means," assented Bill.
Sam was not included in the conversation, and gazed sullenly
straight in front of him as he lay where he had thrown himself on
the fine white sand.
"Oh, by no means," echoed Hank derisively. "Say, what do you
fellows take me for, the late lamented Mr. Easy Mark? If you do
you have another think coming."
"Now look here, Hank," argued Jack, "what's the objection? All
you've got to do is to take this note ashore, give it to some boy
to deliver, and then go to the crossroads at whatever time
to-night you see fit and get the money."
"Of course," Bill hastened to put in, "you've got to bring it to
us for proper division."
"Oh, I have, have I?" chuckled Hank. "Well, what do you think
of that? I'm to do all the work and you fellows are to get the
bacon! That's a fine idea--not! Four into two hundred doesn't
go very many times, you know."
"Not four," corrected Jack, "three. Sam is out of this. He's
too much of a coward to have anything to do with it," he added,
mimicking Sam's tone.
The boat-builder's son reddened, but said nothing in reply to the
"Well, three, then," went on Hank; "that's not percentage enough
for me. If I'm to have anything to do with this here job, I want
half the money. You fellows can split the rest between you!"
Jack and Bill exchanged blank looks.
"Now, look here, Hank, be reasonable," began Jack in a tone meant
to be conciliatory.
"Now, look here, Jack, be sensible," echoed Hank mockingly. "You
seem to forget that you owe me something for the job we did on
those uniforms the other night, and that other little errand you
performed on the island. You've got a very convenient memory,
you have. Why, I daresay those kids would have given me a nice
little wad of tobacco money to have told just who took their
Sunday-go-to-meetin' suits, but did I peach? No, you know I
didn't; but," he added, with rising emphasis, "if I don't get
what's coming to me pretty soon, I will."
"Well, you idiot," began Jack truculently; "haven't you got your
"If I choose to take it--yes," was the rejoinder; "but I don't
know as I will. It seems to me I hold all the trumps and you are
at my mercy."
"Why, you insolent dog!" bellowed Jack, rising to his feet from
the position in which he had been squatting. "For two cents I'd
knock your bewhiskered head off!"
He advanced threateningly, but Bill, seeing the turn matters were
taking, and realizing that more was to be gained by peaceful
"Now, Jack, shut up. Stow that nonsense," he ordered sharply.
"Look here, Hank, we'll accept your terms. Half to you if you
carry it out successfully."
"And if I don't?"
"Then we'll all have to shift for ourselves. This part of the
country will be too hot to hold us. I mean to go out West. I've
got a cousin who has a ranch, and I think I could get along all
right there if the worst comes to the worst."
"See here, I don't agree with your way of dividing the money,"
began Jack, an angry light in his eyes. "Look--"
"Look here, Jack," cut in Bill sharply, "if you don't like it, it
doesn't do you any good. If you object to it, keep out. Hank
and I form a majority. You chump" he added, quickly, under his
breath, as Hank turned away and began to "skip" flat stones over
the water, "don't you see he takes all the responsibility? It's
a cinch for us to get away if anything goes wrong."
"Yes, it's a cinch we get cheated out of our share of the money,"
argued Jack, with an angry glare in the direction of the
"Beggars can't be choosers," argued Bill. "You know, as well as
I do, that if we are implicated in this affair it means serious
trouble. Our parents wouldn't stand for it, and we should be
disgraced. By doing it this way we get some of the proceeds--I
admit not our fair share but what's to be done?"
"Well, I guess you are right, Bill," assented Jack, with a shrug.
"It's go ahead now; we've gone too far to draw back."
"That's the line of talk," grinned Bill, "and when we've each got
fifty dollars in our pockets, silenced Hank with a golden gag and
had our revenge on those kids, we'll be able to talk over future
plans. I'm sick of school. I hate the idea of going back there.
I've half a mind to strike out for the West anyway."
"Do you think I could get a job on your cousin's ranch?" asked
"I don't doubt it a bit," rejoined Bill. "You're a good, husky
chap, and brawn and muscle is what they need in the West."
"Yes, I'm husky, all right," conceded Jack modestly. "Sometimes
I think that I don't get full opportunities to expand here in
this wretched country hole."
"No, the West is the place," agreed Bill, with an inward smile,
"as the newspapers say--one can expand with the country out
Their conversation was broken in upon by Sam, who demanded in no
very gentle tones:
"Well, who's going ashore? I'm off."
"No hurry, Sam," said Jack in a more amiable tone than he had yet
used that morning. "Let's sit around here a while and enjoy the
sun--we might take a swim after a while."
"If you don't come now you'll have to swim ashore," grunted Sam,
arising and brushing the sand from himself. "I'm going back to
Hampton. I'm tired of camping out here."
He walked toward the beach and prepared to shove off the dinghy,
preparatory to sculling out to the hydroplane, which lay a few
rods off shore in the channel.
"Hold on, Sam," cried Bill; "we're coming. Don't go away sore."
"I'm not sore," rejoined Sam, in a tone which belied his words,
"but I don't think you fellows are doing the right thing when you
maroon a kid like Joe Digby on a lone island, in a deserted
bungalow in which you'd be scared to stop yourselves."
"Why, what's got into you, Sam?" protested Jack. "It's more a
lark than anything else."
"Fine lark," grunted Sam, "scaring a kid half to death and then
writing notes for money. It's dangerously near to kidnapping--
that's what I call it, and I'm glad I'm not in it."
Both the others looked rather uncomfortable at this presentation
of the matter, but Jack affected to laugh it off.
"Pshaw!" he exclaimed, "it's a little bit rough, I know, but such
things do a kid good. Teach him to be self-reliant and--and all
"Sure," agreed Bill, "you don't look at these things in the right
light, Sam--does he, Hank?"
Hank, who had shuffled toward the dinghy at the conclusion of
these edifying remarks, agreed with a chuckle that Sam had no
sense of humor, after which they all got into the dinghy and we
sculled off to the unlucky hydroplane.
It didn't take long to get under way, and the little craft was
soon scudding through the water at a good pace, towing the dinghy
"Better put us ashore before we get into Hampton," suggested
Bill. "We don't want to be seen about there more than can be
"That's where you are wrong," objected Jack. "We'll put Hank
ashore up the coast, but the more we are seen about the place the
better. It won't look as if we had anything to do with the Digby
kid--in case things do go wrong."
So it was agreed that Hank was to be landed in a small cove a few
miles farther down the coast, from which it was a short cut
across country to the neighborhood of the Digby farm.
Then he was to waylay the first likely-looking messenger and
entrust the note which Jack had read to him for delivery. After
that he was to spend the time as best he could in suitable
seclusion, and after dark conceal himself near the sign-post. He
was not to make any attempt to secure the money if any one
hovered about the place, but if the coast was clear he was to go
boldly in and take it.
Hank was landed at the spot agreed upon, a short time later, and
the other three then resumed their journey for the hydroplane's
home port. As they turned seaward Jack pointed mockingly to
Topsail Island, which lay a short distance on their port bow.
"I'll bet there's plenty going on there right now," he grinned.
"Right you are," assented Bill.
"Hullo," he added hastily the next moment; "what's that?"
He pointed toward the island, and the occupants of the homing
hydroplane saw, slowly rising from it in the still air, four
straight columns of blue smoke.
"Looks like a signal of some kind," suggested Jack after a
"It's coming from about the place where we grabbed the kid,"
added Bill, a note of apprehension in his voice.
"I wonder what it signifies?" demanded Jack, whose face began to
bear a somewhat troubled look.
"I can tell you," said Sam shortly, turning round from the wheel.
"Well, hurry up, then--what does it mean?" Jack spoke sharply at
"It means," said Sam slowly, as if he wanted every word to sink
in, "that the Boy Scouts have picked up your trail."
THE HUNT FOR TENDERFOOT JOE
Rob, Merritt, Tubby Hopkins and Captain Hudgins rested,
perspiring under the noon-day heat, on a group of flat rocks at
the highest point of the island. Their search had been
fruitless, and their downcast faces showed it.
"How ever are we going to break the news to his parents?"
Merritt it was who voiced the question that had been troubling
all of them.
Before any one had time to frame a reply the captain, whose keen
eyes had been gazing about him, gave a sudden shout:
"There's that smoke yonder yer boys were lookin' fer," he
"Four columns of it," shouted Rob, "hurray, boys, that means
news! It's 'Come to counsel.' Come on, don't let's lose any
time in getting back."
Rapidly the boys stumbled and ran forward over the rocks and
pushed on among the dense growth that covered the hillside they
had climbed. They hardly noticed the obstacles, however, so
keenly were they bent on getting back to camp and learning the
news which they knew must be awaiting them. They covered the
distance in half the time it had taken them to ascend the
hillside and were met in the camp by the body of searchers--Andy
Bowles, Sim Jeffords and Ernest Thompson--who had swung off to
the left or mainland side of the island.
"Well, boys, what news?" breathlessly exclaimed Rob, "we saw the
counsel smoke and hurried down at top speed."
"Well, there's not very much, I'm afraid, Rob," began Andy, "but
we found something that may give us a clue. About half a mile
down the beach there's the distinct mark of a boat keel where it
was drawn up on the hard sand and the marks of three separate
pairs of feet."
"Good," exclaimed Rob, "that's something and half confirms my
suspicion. Go on, Andy, what else?"
"Well, we examined the marks carefully and found that two pairs
of feet wore good shoes and the third a very broken, disreputable
"Yes," exclaimed Rob, while the others listened breathlessly.
"Of course that indicated to us that three persons must have
carried Joe off--for I don't think there's much doubt now that he
was carried off, do you?"
"I don't," said Rob sadly, "but for what possible motive?"
"I have it," suddenly exclaimed Tubby Hopkins, snapping his
fingers, "you remember the day of the aeroplane model contest?"
"Yes, but what--" began Rob.
"Has that to do with it," finished Tubby for him. "Everything.
It was Joe who first told the committee that Jack's model was a
bought one and so lost him the fifty-dollar prize."
"By cracky, that's right!" assented Rob, "and you think that Jack
and his gang have carried him off in revenge for it?"
"Looks that way to me," nodded the stout youth.
"Why, they wouldn't dare," began Andy Bowles.
"Oh, yes, they would," amended Rob bitterly, "they'd dare
anything to get even on us for their fancied wrongs. But whose
could have been the broken ragged shoes?" he asked, suddenly
taking up another train of thought.
"Hank Handcrafts, the beach-comber's," suggested Tubby.
"Gee Whillikens! I'll bet a cracker that's the solution," cried
Andy, "and now I come to think of it I heard, before we left,
that Jack and his gang had gone camping."
"Up around the Upper Inlet somewhere. You know that's full of
islands and as there's no drinking water there few people ever
think of frequenting the place. If they wanted to do anything
like carrying off Joe that is where they would have been likely
"You may be right, Andy. It's worth looking into, anyway,"
declared Rob. "I'll leave a note here for the others and we'll
take a run over there in the Flying Fish. If Joe is there we'll
get him out."
"And in jig time, too," chimed in Ernest Thompson.
"Come on, boys, get some gasoline, hop in the dinghy and let's
get aboard. We've got to move fast if we're to accomplish
anything. You get the boat, Andy, while I write a line to tell
the others what we've gone after."
The young leader hastily ran into his tent and sitting down at
the table dashed off these lines:
"Boys, we think we have a clue to Joe's whereabouts. Have gone
after him. Keep camp in regular way while we are gone. Hiram
Nelson is leader, and Paul Perkins corporal, in our absence.
"ROB BLAKE, Leader,
"Eagle Patrol, B. S. of A."
With a piece of chalk the boy marked a rough square and an arrow
on a tree--the arrow pointing to a spot in the sand in which he
buried the letter.
"Now, then, come on," he shouted, dashing toward the boat, "shove
off, boys, and if Joe's in the Upper Inlet we'll find him."
"Hurray," cheered the others, much heartened by the prospect of
any trace of the missing boy, however slight.
"Give way, boys," bellowed the captain, who had insisted on
coming along armed with a huge horse pistol of ancient pattern
which he had strapped on himself in the morning when the news of
Joe Digby's disappearance reached him. "This reminds me uv the
time when I was A. B. on the Bonnie Bess and we smoked out a fine
mess of pirates in the Caribees."
"Regular pirates?" inquired Andy as Rob and Merritt bent to the
"Reg'lar piratical pirates, my boy," responded the old salt, "we
decorated the trees with 'em and they looked a lot handsomer
there than they did a-sailin' the blue main."
Further reminiscences of the captain's were cut short by their
arrival at the Flying Fish's side. They had hastily thrown two
cases of gasoline into the dinghy before they shoved off so that
all that remained to be done was to fill the fast craft's tank
and she was ready to be off.
"Hold on," warned Rob, as Tubby Hopkins was about to secure the
dinghy to the mooring buoy, "we'll tow her along. We may need
her. There's lots of shoal water in that Upper Inlet."
"Right yer are, my boy; there's nothin' like bein' forehanded,"
remarked the captain as Merritt bent over the flywheel and Rob
threw in the spark and turned on the gasoline. After a few
revolutions an explosion resulted and the Flying Fish was off on
the mission which might mean so much or so little to the anxious
hearts on board her.
"Do you know the channel," asked Merritt as Rob with his eyes
glued on the coast sent the Flying Fish through the waves, or
rather wavelets, for the sea was almost like a sheet of glass.
"I've been up here once or twice after duck," rejoined Rob, "but
it's a tricky sort of a place to get through. However, I guess
we'll make it."
As they drew nearer the shores the boys made out an opening
which Rob said was the Upper Inlet channel.
"Say, Tubby, get out the lead line and let's see how much water
we have," directed Rob as the color of the ocean began to change
from dark blue to a sort of greenish tinge, lightening in spots,
where the shoals were near to the surface, to a sandy yellow.
The stout lad took a position in the bow and swinging the lead
about his head cast it suddenly ahead of the Flying Fish's bow.
"Slow down," ordered Rob, and Merritt cut down the motor to not
more than two hundred revolutions a minute.
The lead line, tagged with different colored bits of flannel at
each fathom length, sang through the stout lad's fingers.
"By-a-quarter-three," he called out the next instant.
This meant that three fathoms and a quarter or eighteen feet
three inches of water was under the keel of the little craft.
"Nough fer a man-uv-war," grinned old Captain Hodgins.
Slowly the Flying Fish forged ahead till right under her bow lay
a patch of the yellow water.
"By-a-half-two," came a sharp hail from the fat youth, who had
once more heaved the lead.
"Cut her down some more," sharply ordered Rob, without turning
his head, "we draw only three feet so I guess we'll do nicely for
"Great hop-toads, there's regular shark's teeth ahead," commented
Captain Hudgins, pointing to the still shallower water indicated
by the lightening tint of the channel.
"By-one-by-a-quarter-one!" came sharply from Tubby, as the Flying
Fish seemed hardly to crawl along the water.
"By-a-half!" came an instant later, meaning that only three feet
of water lay right ahead.
"Stop her," roared out Rob.
But he was too late. Instantly, almost as Merritt's hand had
flown to the lever, the nose of the Flying Fish poked into the
sandbank and her motor with a gentle sigh came to a stop.
"Hard a-ground!" roared the captain, "too bad and with a fallin'
"Full speed astern," came the next order.
The propeller churned up the water aft into a white turmoil. The
Flying Fish trembled in her every timber, and began to slide
slowly backward from the treacherous shoal.
"Safe, by the great horn spoon!" roared the captain, fetching
Andy Bowles a slap on the back that almost toppled the small
bugler into the water.
"For a time," said Rob quietly, "come ahead a bit, Merritt."
Slowly the little vessel slid ahead once more. Rob seemed fairly
to feel his way through the narrow channel he had picked out and
finally the Flying Fish, after as much coaxing as is usually
bestowed on a balky horse, floated in the deep water beyond the
Eagerly the boys looked about them as they "opened up," as
sailors call it, the narrow stretch of water known as the Upper
Inlet. It did not take them long to spy the island with the tent
on it in which the conversation between Jack and his cronies, and
the mutineer to his plans, had taken place.
"There's their camp!" shouted Rob, eagerly sending the Flying
Fish ahead at full speed, "now we'll find out something."
"And, maybe, use this." The captain, as he spoke, grimly produced
his formidable weapon and flourished it about.
"No, none of that," sternly rejoined Rob, "the Boy Scouts can
take care of those fellows--without using firearms."
"You bet," rejoined Merritt, grimly "musling up," "we'll show 'em
if it comes to a fight."
But bitter disappointment awaited the boys. As we know, the camp
was deserted and no trace or clue of the whereabouts of its
occupants was to be found. In the tent, however, lay a piece of
blotting paper with ink-marks on it. It was the material with
which Jack had dried his letter.
"Anybody got a mirror?" asked Rob. "This blotter may help some
if we can read what's on it."
"I've got a pocket one," said Andy Bowles, who was somewhat
particular about his person and always carried a small toilet
"That will do; let's have it."
Rob seized the bit of looking glass and held the blotter to it.
"Just as I thought," he exclaimed a minute later, with a cry of
triumph. "It's Jack Curtiss' writing, though he has tried to
disguise it, and they've got Joe hidden somewhere. Look here,
they want $200 for his return."
"Yes, but what good does it do us to know that," objected
Merritt, when the sensation this announcement caused had
subsided. "They evidently had him here overnight and then
deserted the camp for fear we'd pick up their trail. They've
taken Joe with them."
"By the great sea-serpent, that's right," grunted the captain,
"it's a blind trail, boys!"
SAVED BY "SMOKE MORSE"
Each member of the party regarded the other blankly.
The captain was right. The deserted camp was only a blind trail
and they had all their work to do over again.
"The first people to communicate with are Joe's parents," mused
Rob. "That note will be delivered very shortly, as the longer
they delay the more dangerous it will be for them."
"That's right," agreed Merritt, "Jack and his gang will not let
the grass grow under their feet now that they know the chase must
be on. What can they have done with Joe?"
Rob had been looking about him with the instinct of the Boy
Scout. He was anxious to ascertain if there were not something
tangible, some clue on which they could base a search for the
missing member of the Patrol. Suddenly something remarkable
struck him about the tracks that lay about the tent.
They were all four those, of persons of larger growth than Joe
Digby and mingling with them unmistakably was the broken-shoed
track of Hank, the beach-comber.
"Boys," announced Rob suddenly, "Joe has not been here at all."
"Not been here at all," echoed Merritt, amazedly.
"I mean what I say. Look at these tracks. There is not a
footmark here that could by any chance be his."
The others scrutinized the maze of foot-prints with the same care
as had Rob and were forced to come to the same conclusion. There
was no question about it--they would have to seek elsewhere for a
trace of the lad.
They gazed about them at the stretch of lone bay or inlet, the
sparse scrub grass and vegetation fringing it on the shore side
and wheeling sea-gulls swooping and soaring above the shoal
Then Rob's gaze rested carelessly on a closed and seemingly
deserted bungalow, occupying the island above them. As his eyes
fell on it they suddenly became riveted and then grew wide with
A stream of smoke was issuing from the fieldstone chimney roughly
constructed at one end of the apparently deserted dwelling.
"There's some one living in that bungalow," he exclaimed, as he
made the discovery, "maybe whoever it is can give us some clue to
where Joe Digby is."
They all gazed intently at the weather-beaten old house from
which the paint was scaling, adding to the note of desertion
sounded by its closed shutters and forlorn-looking yard.
As they looked, astonished at the idea that the barren structure
should actually house a human being, a sudden thought struck
"Suppose Jack Curtiss and his gang are there?" he said.
"Hardly likely," rejoined Rob, "however, we'll get over there and
find out just who is making that smoke."
Suddenly the old captain, who had been watching the smoke
closely, gave an astonished snort.
"What's the matter, captain?" asked Rob, who was about to walk to
the water's edge and get ready to shove off the dinghy.
"Why, there's somethin' queer about that thar smoke," responded
the old salt.
"Queer--how do you mean?"
"Well, watch it a minute--there--see! now stops--now it starts
ag'in--then it stops--wha, do yer suppose is happenin' to it?"
Rob knitted his brows and watched the phenomenon to which the
captain had called attention with narrowed eyes.
There was no question about it the smoke was certainly behaving
"queerly" as the captain put it.
The blue vapor emerged from the chimney now in a copious puff and
then, for a space, would cease, only to roll forth once more in
larger volume. The boys watched it in some astonishment.
"What can they be doing, do you suppose?" Merritt asked.
"I have no idea. It's past me to say," responded Rob, "it comes
out in puffs like--like--by hookey! I've got it!" he broke off
with a shout, "like the Morse code!"
"Somebody signaling?" stammered Merritt.
The smoke, which had not been visible for some seconds, now
emerged from the stone chimney once more and the boys,
fascinated, watched it closely with burning eyes. There was no
doubt whatever about it now. It was signaling.
Four short puffs.
"Four dots--that's H," exclaimed Rob, trembling with excitement.
The smoke ceased.
"Here comes some more," shouted Merritt.
One short puff from the chimney.
"E, one dot, that's E sure enough," translated Rob.
The others stood like figures carved in stone as their leader
read off the strange signals.
Puff! A longer period of smoking by the chimney--then two sharp
"That's L," interpreted the leader of the Eagles. Before they
could say a word the chimney took up its message once more.
Puff--a long puff--another long one, and then a short one.
"Dot--dash--dash--dot," exclaimed Rob.
"That's the letter P," put in Merritt.
"That's right, old man," shouted Rob, slapping him on the back,
"and we've found Joe Digby. That smoke signal spelled Help in
the Morse code."
"You're right," shouted Merritt, "come on, Cap, come on, boys,
we've got to get a move on and get it on quick!"
They dashed toward the dinghy and a few seconds later had once
more embarked and were speeding toward the desolate and forsaken
bungalow. Somehow they managed to get ashore in the dinghy
without anyone being spilled over the side in their desperate
hurry and a minute later were pounding at the door.
"Joe--Joe Digby," shouted Rob in a strange, strained voice.
"Here," came back the answer in a feeble tone, "oh, boys, I'm
glad you've come."
Furiously Rob shook the door.
"It's locked," came the voice from inside, "I tried to break it
down. Too weak, I guess. Try the shutters."
At each window in turn the Boy Scouts sought to effect an
entrance, but in vain. The owner of the place had screwed up the
window coverings too tightly for them to be opened without tools.
The rescue party came to a momentary halt.
"I've got it," shouted the captain suddenly, "we'll have him out
uv there in two shakes uv a drake's tail."
He produced his formidable old pistol and waved it grimly.
"Come on, boys," he yelled, darting round to the front of the
house--the side on which the door was.
"What are you going to do?" demanded Rob, as much mystified as
the rest at the old eccentric actions.
"Watch me," grinned the captain as he gained the door.
"Stand clear!" he bawled at the top of his lungs, "stand clear uv
the door inside there, Joe!"
"All right," came back the reply, "I'm in a corner."
"Now, stand by ter receive boarders!" roared the veteran as he
placed the muzzle weapon at the lock and pulled the trigger.
There was a roaring explosion from the wide mouthed weapon and a
cloud of smoke filled the air. But simultaneously there came a
sound of ripping, tearing and splintering and the lock of the
door, shot clean out by the heavy charge, clattered down to the
floor on the inside of the room.
An instant later Joe Digby, pale and trembling from privation,
surprise and happiness all mingled in one, was in the midst of
his friends and fellow scouts.
"I don't know what made me think of it," he explained in answer
to eager questions about the smoke telegraph message. "It was
what the books call an inspiration, I guess. There were plenty
of loose boards--fragments of old packing cases lying about, and
luckily they had not taken my matches. I built a blaze and then,
while it was still smoldering, I covered it with an old strip of
sacking that I wetted with some water out of the bottle they left
"It made about as good a signal, as one could want," responded
Rob warmly, "but now tell us about your capture, Joe, how did it
"Why, you see," exclaimed the lad, his voice growing stronger as
he proceeded, "I was just thinking it was about time to wake my
relief when I heard a rustling noise in the bushes back of the
camp. I walked up there to investigate, for I thought it might
be some animals--maybe the captain's pigs."
"Keel haul them lubberly swine," from the captain.
"But, as you shall hear, I was mistaken. Hardly had I reached
the edge of the dark shadows than I was seized and a hand put
over my mouth. I had only time to let out one yell for help."
"The one that woke me," put in Merritt, in parenthesis.
"That was it; I guess," went on the small lad, "well, I was
picked up and carried some little distance to where they had a
boat, and thrown into it. Then the three men who were in the
boat rowed to an island with a tent on it and there two of them
got out. The other, a fellow with a big beard and very dirty,
then rowed over to this place with me and, after putting some
bread and a bottle of water inside the door, closed and locked
"I carried on like a baby, I guess. I cried for a long time and
shouted, but no one came. Then I grew quieter and tried to find
some way of escape but the shutters were all fastened and the
door was too strong for me. I tried to clamber up the chimney
once but I had to give it up. Then suddenly the thought of
making a smoke came to me and then I improved on that idea and
used the Morse code that Rob has been drumming into me. I never
thought that I might be able to use it to save my life maybe--or
at least a lot of hunger and misery."
"Could you recognize the men who took you if you saw them again?"
asked Rob earnestly.
"I'm not sure," responded the small lad, "one of them I would
know--the one with the beard. The other two wore masks. But I
think their voices sounded like Bill's and Jack's. I'm sure of
the man with the beard though."
"Hank Handcraft," exclaimed Merritt.
"Oh, that's who it was," cried the small lad, "I thought somehow
the voice and something about the man seemed familiar. He's that
old beach comber who lives outside Hampton."
"That's the son uv a sea-swab," roared the captain, "oh, if I
could only get my hands on him, I'd--"
The fate the captain had reserved for Hank was doomed not to be
known, for as he was speaking Paul Perkins gave a sudden shout:
"Look--look there!" he cried, pointing.
Sneaking up to the tented island was the familiar outline of Sam
THE ESCAPE OF THE BULLY
The group standing about the newly rescued lad on the veranda of
the deserted bungalow galvanized into instant action.
"Jack Curtiss and Bill Bender are in her!" shouted Rob, "come on,
scouts, we'll get after them while we can."
With a shout the Boy Scouts ran for the boat and speedily pulled
out to the Flying Fish. Hastily as they executed this move,
however, the two in the other boat had had time to head her about
and start at top speed for the mouth of the inlet.
"Clap on more sail, my hearties," roared the captain, almost
beside himself with excitement, "I want ter get my hands on them
two piratical craft."
Rob, with a look of grim determination on his usually pleasant
face, held the Flying Fish true on her course, but, heavily laden
as she was, she could not make her usual speed and the hydroplane
soon distanced her. Jack Curtiss stood in her stern and waved a
mocking hand at the Boy Scouts as the light-draft craft shot over
the shoals and shallows with case while the Flying Fish had to
lose much time and way by threading in and out seeking the deeper
"Douse my toplights, I can't stand that," bellowed the irate
Captain Hudgins. "I'll put a shot in that jackanapes' locker."
With these words, and before any of the boys could stop him, he
rose to his feet and sent a bullet from his ponderous revolver
flying in the direction of the fleeing motor boat. It missed and
hit the water near by, sending up a little fountain of spray.
Even at the distance they were the occupants of the Flying Fish
could see the fear which this warlike move inspired in the bully
and his companion. They threw themselves flat in their boat till
only the hands of Bill, who was steering, were visible.
They need not have feared, however. The captain's hasty move
brought down on his head Rob's wrath, though the young leader
could not find it in his heart to be really angry with the old
man who had been irritated past endurance by the bully's mocking
"Shiver my garboard strake," he exclaimed contritely, when Rob
pointed out to him that he might have killed one of the occupants
of the hydroplane, "shiver my garboard strake, lad, I saw red fer
a minute just like I did that time the Chinese pirates boarded
the Sarah Jane Butts in the Yellow River."
Although there was not much hope of catching the two, Rob stuck
to the chase even when he realized the scouts were outdistanced,
and in fact kept his attention so closely riveted on the other
craft that when there came a sudden jar and jolt and the Flying
Fish stopped with a grunt and a wheeze, he realized with a start
that he had not been watching the treacherous channel and was
once more fast on a sand bar.
With a last shout and a yell of defiance the bully and his
companion, who had by now got over their fright, shot out on to
the ocean and rapidly vanished.
"There goes our hope of catching those two crooks," cried Tubby
angrily, while the engine of the Flying Fish was set at reverse.
"It's all off now. They know that we have rescued Joe and
they'll fly the coop for some other part of the country."
"I suppose they came down here to get their tent, not realizing
we'd be here so soon," observed Andy, which indeed was the fact.
Fortunately the Flying Fish was not very hard aground and a
little manipulation got her off into deep water once more.
"I guess those two chaps are almost in Hampton by this time and
getting ready to leave town," observed Rob as the motor boat
forged ahead, once more.
"This will be the safest thing for them to do," exclaimed
Merritt, "they are in a serious position this time. Kidnapping
is a dire offense."
"I wonder what they came back for?" said Tubby suddenly.
"No doubt to get their tent and the few things they had left on
the island," vouchsafed Rob, skillfully dodging a shoal as he
spoke, "maybe, too, they intended to see how Joe was making out."
"I wasn't making out at all," said the small lad, with a shudder
at the recollection of his imprisonment.
"Never mind, Joe, that's all over now," put in Merritt.
"I'm glad it is," answered the small lad, "and just think, if I
hadn't been a Boy Scout and understood that code I might have
been there yet."
"That's true enough," said Rob, "for we had about made up our
minds that the bungalow was deserted, and were not going to
bother investigating it, till we saw the smoke."
About an hour later the boys landed once more in camp, where
their reception by the others may be well imagined by my young
"And now comes the final chapter in the career of Messrs. Jack
Curtiss and Bill Bender," said Rob decisively, "I'm going to take
a run up to Hampton. Joe, you'll come along, and you, Merritt,
and Tubby. If that letter was delivered, as I imagine it was,
Joe's parents must be in a terrible state of anxiety by now and
we must hurry up and see them at once."
"Right," agreed Merritt, and a few moments later, having left the
captain and the others ashore, the Boy Scouts and their young
leader were speeding toward Hampton. With the craft lightened as
she was, they made good time and arrived at the yacht club pier
News of the events which had transpired at the island had
evidently reached the town, for Mr. Wingate himself, with Mr.
Blake and Merritt's father were at the landing as the Flying Fish
glided up to it.
The three elders were almost as enthusiastic as the boys had been
over the safe recovery of Joe, the details attendant on which Rob
rapidly sketched to them. He had hardly concluded and had not
had time to ask how they knew of the kidnapping when a wild-eyed
man in faded old farm clothes, accompanied by an equally
distracted woman, came rushing down to the wharf.
"Where's them Boy Scouts? I allers knew no good would come of my
son joining 'em," the man shouted. "I'll give a hundred dollars
fer a boat that'll take me ter Topsail Island in ten minutes."
"'No need of that, Mr. Digby," said Rob quietly stepping forward
with his hand on Joe's shoulder, "here is Joe safe and sound."
"Great hopping watermelons!" yelled the farmer, rushing at his
son followed by his wife. Together the worthy souls almost
squashed the small lad like a butterfly under a harrow. But at
last the first greetings were over and the farmer turned to the
somewhat amused group of boys and men who were looking on.
"My, what a fright we had," exclaimed Mrs. Digby, a
motherly-looking woman, dabbing at her eyes with capacious pocket
handkerchief, "we gets a letter tellin' us that our boy be
"Yes we know all about that, Mrs. Digby," put in Mr. Blake, "you
recollect your husband telephoned to the chief of police here
about it, and expecting news from the island, we came down here."
"So he did, so he did," cried Mrs. Digby, "oh, dear me, Mr.
Blake, I'm in such a takin! I hardly know what I'm sayin'."