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Title: Fred Fenton on the Crew - or, The Young Oarsmen of Riverport School
Author: Chapman, Allen [pseud.]
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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[Illustration: "WE WIN! WE WIN! RIVERPORT TAKES THE RACE!"
_Fred Fenton on the Crew_                       _Page_ 196]



FRED FENTON ON THE CREW

Or

The Young Oarsmen of Riverport School



By

ALLEN CHAPMAN

OF "FRED FENTON THE PITCHER," "FRED FENTON IN LINE,"
"TOM FAIRFIELD SERIES," "THE CHUMS SERIES,"
"BOYS OF PLUCK SERIES," ETC.



ILLUSTRATED


NEW YORK
CUPPLES & LEON COMPANY
PUBLISHERS



BOOKS FOR BOYS

BY ALLEN CHAPMAN

FRED FENTON ATHLETIC SERIES
12mo.    Cloth.    Illustrated.

FRED FENTON THE PITCHER
FRED FENTON IN THE LINE
FRED FENTON ON THE CREW
FRED FENTON ON THE TRACK


TOM FAIRFIELD SERIES
12mo.    Cloth.    Illustrated.

TOM FAIRFIELD'S SCHOOLDAYS
TOM FAIRFIELD AT SEA
TOM FAIRFIELD IN CAMP
TOM FAIRFIELD'S PLUCK AND LUCK


THE DAREWELL CHUMS SERIES
12mo.    Cloth.    Illustrated.

THE DAREWELL CHUMS
THE DAREWELL CHUMS IN THE CITY
THE DAREWELL CHUMS IN THE WOODS
THE DAREWELL CHUMS ON A CRUISE
THE DAREWELL CHUMS IN A WINTER CAMP


BOYS OF PLUCK SERIES
12mo.    Cloth.    Illustrated.

THE YOUNG EXPRESS AGENT
TWO BOY PUBLISHERS
MAIL ORDER FRANK
A BUSINESS BOY'S PLUCK
THE YOUNG LAND AGENT

CUPPLES & LEON CO. PUBLISHERS, NEW YORK

Copyrighted 1913, by
CUPPLES & LEON COMPANY

FRED FENTON ON THE CREW

Printed in U. S. A.



CONTENTS

CHAPTER                                                PAGE

I.     The Finger of Suspicion                            1
II.    The Tricky Canoe                                   9
III.   A Boat Club Meeting                               17
IV.    In Camp on the Mohunk                             26
V.     Hoofs and Horns                                   33
VI.    A Sudden Awakening                                41
VII.   Ice Cold Waters                                   49
VIII.  A Surprise                                        56
IX.    A Lucky Win                                       63
X.     Fred's Home Coming                                71
XI.    News From Over Sea                                79
XII.   Bristles Has an Idea                              87
XIII.  A Call for Help                                   96
XIV.   The Missing Opals Again                          104
XV.    Fred's Brave Stand                               113
XVI.   The Trial Spin                                   121
XVII.  Snagged and Wrecked                              130
XVIII. Lying in Wait                                    138
XIX.   Nipped in the Bud                                147
XX.    In the Hollow Oak                                156
XXI.   A Plan to Catch the Thief                        165
XXII.  Telling the Good News                            173
XXIII. The Start of the Race                            181
XXIV.  A Great Victory                                  189
XXV.   Bright Skies                                     198



FRED FENTON ON THE CREW



CHAPTER I

THE FINGER OF SUSPICION


"Hello! there, Bristles!"

"Hello! yourself, Fred Fenton!"

"Why, what ails you this fine summer morning, Bristles? You don't look
as jolly as you might."

"Well, I was only waiting to see if you cared to speak to me, Fred."

"Why in the wide world shouldn't I, when you're one of my chums,
Bristles Carpenter?"

Andy Carpenter was known far and wide around the town of Riverport as
"Bristles," on account of the way in which his mop of hair stood
upright most of the time, much after the manner of the quills on a
fretful porcupine.

Usually he was a very good-natured sort of a chap, one of the
"give-and-take" kind, so universally liked among schoolboys. But, on
this particular early summer morning, with the peaceful Mohunk river
running close by, and all Nature smiling, Bristles look glum and
distressed, just as his friend Fred Fenton had declared.

"You haven't heard the latest news then?" remarked the boy with the
thick head of stiff, wiry hair; and he made a grimace as he spoke.

"If you mean anything about _you_, then I haven't, for a fact," Fred
replied, his wonder deepening into astonishment; for he now saw that
Bristles was not playing any kind of a joke, as he had at first
suspected.

"Huh! didn't know you had an awful _thief_ for a chum, did you, Fred?"
the other went on, laying emphasis on that one suggestive word, and
frowning.

"Rats! what sort of stuff are you giving me now, anyway, Bristles?"

"Well, some people think that way, Fred; you ask Miss Alicia Muster,
f'rinstance," grumbled the other, shaking his head dolefully.

"But she's your rich old aunt, Bristles!" cried Fred, more surprised
than ever.

"That doesn't make any difference," complained the boy who was in
trouble; "she believes I took 'em, all the same; 'cause, you see, I
just _happened_ to drop in to see her twice inside the last week, worse
luck for me; and, Fred, each time one of 'em disappeared the funniest
way ever."

"Go on and tell me what you mean; I can only guess that your aunt has
met with some sort of loss. But why should she try to lay it on you,
Bristles?"

"Huh! you don't know how good that makes me feel, Fred, just to think
that one feller isn't goin' to believe me a thief," the other boy went
on, drawing a long breath. "Why, even over at our house I seem to
notice 'em all lookin' kinder suspicious-like at me; just as if they
couldn't quite make up their minds whether I might 'a been tempted to
take 'em or not."

"Take what?" demanded Fred, determined to learn the cause of his chum's
trouble.

"Why," Bristles went on, "don't you remember that time I took you over
to see my queer old maiden aunt, who's got the rheumatics so bad, and
lives in the big house all alone with a colored woman, and all her
silly pets,--cats, squawkin' crows she cares for like they might be
humans; and with that big bulldog chained under her window?"

"Sure, I remember all that; keep going, now you've got started?" Fred
broke in.

"And don't you remember her showin' us that collection of pretty stones
she said were opals from a Mexican mine she had an interest in long
ago?" the other asked, almost breathlessly.

"That's right, Bristles; and you said they just about caught your eye
the worst kind," Fred observed. "Fact is, the old lady seemed to be
tickled because you showed such a fancy for those milky stones that
looked like 'moonlight,' as she called it."

"Gee! you remember too much, Fred," complained the other, with a
grimace. "Because you see, it was that silly remark of mine that's gone
and got me into a peck of trouble. I really didn't care so much for the
things as I let on; but you know, my aunt is as rich as all get out;
and it's kind of the fashion over to our house to make her feel good
when we can. That was why, I reckon, I made out to admire her
collection of opals like I did, though they were pretty enough. Wish
now I'd kept my tongue between my teeth; or that it'd been you who took
that notion to make out you was interested in 'em."

"And you mean she's lost some of the opals; is that it?" asked Fred.

"Two of 'em gone, she told me yesterday afternoon, when mother sent me
over to take her a cake she'd made," Bristles continued.

"And did she really have the nerve to accuse you of stealing them,
Bristles?"

"Well, hardly that," replied the other boy, gritting his teeth; "if she
had, I reckon I'd a flamed right out, and told her what I thought of
old maids that had vinegar natures--I've heard my mom say that, though
she told me never to repeat it to Aunt Alicia for anything. You see she
acted like she suspected me."

"Oh! and you felt bad on that account, eh?" questioned Fred.

"She told me she'd just been saying to Sallie Kemper, when she was in,
that it was the _queerest thing ever_ that twice her lovely little
opals disappeared when I visited her on my own account. And Fred, you
know as well as I do what Sallie is."

"Sure I do," returned the other, promptly; "I hadn't been in Riverport
a great many moons when I learned that she was considered the biggest
gossip in the place."

"That's right," Bristles went on. "Sallie went around right away, and
told how the rich Miss Muster suspected her own nephew of actually
taking some of her beautiful and valuable jewels. It kept gettin'
bigger as it was told from one to another, and I just guess my sister
Kate brought it home. Mom asked me if I'd done anything wrong, and I
said point blank that I'd sooner cut my hand off than steal Aunt
Alicia's opals, or touch anything she owned."

"Well, didn't that end it?" asked Fred, who had troubles of his own,
and could feel for his chum.

"Oh! nothin' more was said; but I saw mom and pop talkin' together
after supper; and when I went out I just know they rooted all around in
my room, 'cause things was upset. But Fred, it's just _awful_ to feel
everybody lookin' at you with a question in their eyes. I'll never be
happy again till I find out what did become of those silly jewels of my
aunt's."

"Oh! I wouldn't worry so much as that," counselled Fred. "Perhaps by
now she's found where she put the things. Cheer up, Bristles, and think
of the great times ahead of us boys of the Riverport school, with that
jolly shell coming to us, and the river in fine shape for rowing this
summer."

As they walked along the bank of the Mohunk, with Fred trying to cheer
his companion up, a few words concerning the young fellows might be in
place.

Fred Fenton had come to Riverport within the year. He lived with his
father and mother, together with three smaller sisters, in a cottage
not far removed from the bank of the river.

Mr. Fenton was employed by a concern in the town. He had at first been
connected with a large manufacturing firm in Mechanicsburg, which was
located some three miles up the river; but lost his position through
the influence of Squire Lemington, who had a reason for wishing him to
feel the biting pangs of poverty.

An uncle of Fred's had left some valuable property up in Alaska, which
would make the Fentons comfortable if they could only get hold of it.
Unfortunately a big syndicate, with which Sparks Lemington was
connected, pretended to have a claim on this mining property, and was
doing everything possible to keep Mr. Fenton out of it.

An important witness, whose evidence would have undoubtedly proved the
Fentons to be the genuine owners, had been mysteriously carried off.
His name was Hiram Masterson, and he was really a nephew of Sparks
Lemington. Mr. Fenton had gone to the city late in the preceding Fall,
under the belief that the missing witness was found; but arrived too
late, since Hiram had been "shanghaied" aboard a sailing vessel
belonging to the big syndicate, and carried away to unknown seas,
perhaps never to return.

So hope had gradually dwindled down to a very faint spark in the
breasts of the Fentons, though they still refused to utterly give up
dreaming that some day all would be made right.

Fred had soon made many friends among the boys of Riverport, and some
enemies as well. How he became the leading pitcher of the school team,
and played his part in the great games against Paulding and
Mechanicsburg, has been described in the first volume of this series,
entitled "Fred Fenton, the Pitcher; Or, The Rivals of Riverport
School."

The chief enemy of Fred was Buck Lemington, son of the Squire, who had
planned to ruin the Fentons' hopes for fortune. And just how the bully
of the town, taking pattern from his father's usual methods of
procedure, tried to get Fred disgraced, so that he could not play on
the football team that Fall, you will find described in the second
volume called: "Fred Fenton in the Line; Or, The Football Boys of
Riverport School."

During the Winter and early Spring Fred had continued to hold the good
opinions of most of his schoolmates; and with the summer now at hand he
was ready to join with a boy's enthusiasm in the new sports that the
season brought in its train.

Talking earnestly, the two lads were still walking along the edge of
the river some little distance above the town, when, just as they
turned a bend in the stream, they heard a sharp scream, accompanied by
much splashing in the water.

"Listen to that racket, would you, Fred?" cried Bristles, turning
toward his comrade, his face filled with alarm; "as sure as you live,
somebody's fallen into the river, and it sounds like a child, too."

"Come on!" was all Fred said in reply; indeed, even while throwing
these two words over his shoulder he was leaping down the bank of the
Mohunk.



CHAPTER II

THE TRICKY CANOE


Fred reached the edge of the water almost before his companion realized
what was going on. Throwing off his coat and discarding his shoes he
plunged headlong into the river.

A canoe had unset in the stream, and a small boy was struggling to
maintain his desperate clutch on the sloping side of the craft floating
with the current.

Fortunately the swift stream was bringing it toward Fred as he plunged
into the water. Had it been otherwise he would hardly have been able to
reach it before the boy sank for the last time.

Bristles Carpenter had by now recovered his wits, and about the time
Fred gave that mighty splash, when going headlong into the river, he
too was hurrying down the bank, trying in his clumsy fashion also to
discard his coat and shoes.

The Fenton boy had, meanwhile, struck out straight for the canoe, with
the little lad trying vainly to get hold of the bobbing gunwales,
disappearing under the surface several times, to come up again
spluttering, and choking.

Fred was a good swimmer, and never in all his past life had he known
such an occasion for making speed as then. He saw that the small boy
could not remain long above the water; and if he did go down, it might
be next to impossible to find him in time to get him ashore while life
remained.

Just as Bristles, panting for breath, and eager to lend a helping hand,
arrived at the brink of the water, he saw his chum reach out, and grasp
the sinking child by the shoulder.

"Whoo!"

That was Bristles, trying to give a cheer, but making a sad mess of it
because of shortness of breath.

He saw that Fred, by a great effort, had raised the little fellow, and
actually pushed him into the canoe, which had not overturned when it
threw its occupant into the treacherous river, though the craft was
much waterladen.

And now the rescuer was starting to swim back toward the shore, urging
the little craft along with him.

Bristles Carpenter had actually started into the river, and was already
almost up to his waist when he chanced to remember that he was
accounted one of the poorest swimmers among the Riverport boys.

"Don't come out, Bristles; stay there and try to give me a hand!"

From the way Fred called this, it was evident that his recent exertions
must have quite exhausted him; and that he felt the need of some
assistance, in order to get ashore with the canoe. The current was
particularly strong at this place, it being accounted one of the danger
spots of the Mohunk; and it seemed averse to letting its intended
victim get away from its grip.

Once Bristles had caught hold of Fred's arm he braced himself, and soon
the other was able to get his feet on the bottom.

Together they drew the canoe to the shore.

"Why, hello! here's a queer thing!" exclaimed Bristles, as, having
clambered out of the river he bent down to look at the half-drowned lad
in the canoe; "did you know it was little Billy Lemington you yanked
out of the water?"

"Yes, I knew it all along," replied Fred, as he squeezed some of the
water from his trousers, and then leaned over to see how the boy was
coming on.

Considering what a narrow escape little Billy had just had, he seemed
to be pretty well off. He had swallowed some water, it was true, and
his face was ashen white; but he could get up on his knees, and was
soon feeling better.

"It just kicked me out," he said, when Bristles asked him how the
accident had happened.

"Say, that's a way all canoes have, I understand," Bristles chuckled.
"They just watch till you're not lookin', and then chuck you overboard.
Some of 'em are worse than a bucking bronco at throwing a feller. But
looky here, Billy, how does it come you're in this cranky boat? I'd 'a
thought your dad would have told you to leave Buck's canoe alone."

"He did," replied the little fellow, with a half sob; "but I thought I
knowed how to manage it. But I'm never goin' to try again, no siree.
But won't I get it when they hear all about me bein' in the water! Wish
you wouldn't tell on me. Pop'll just give me hot cakes for not mindin'
him. _Please_ don't tell. I'll promise never to get in this old boat
again, sure I will!"

Fred and Bristles exchanged glances.

"What do you say, Fred?" asked the latter; "ought we keep still about
it?"

Under ordinary circumstances Fred would have said that the parents of
the boy ought to know what chances he had been taking; but the
conditions were rather peculiar just then. If he told, it would seem as
if he might be trying to "draw the teeth" of his enemy, Buck Lemington,
by boasting how he had saved the latter's little brother, of whom the
bully was especially fond. And Fred's pride rose at the idea of his
being considered that sort of a fellow.

"Oh! I'm willing to keep mum about it, Bristles, if you are," he said,
slowly, after having duly considered the matter. "He promises never to
get in this cranky canoe again. For the life of me I can't see how he
ever paddled it all the way up here."

"I didn't," spoke up Billy, quickly. "Buck lent it to Bob Armstrong,
and last night I heard him say he thought it funny Bob didn't drop down
with his boat. So I just thought to-day I'd walk up to Bob's and if he
was around, tell him I'd come for our canoe."

"And Bob was silly enough to let you have it, eh?" asked Bristles,
indignantly.

Billy was rapidly recovering his nerve. He even made a wry face as he
went on to answer the question put to him.

"Why no. You see Bob, he wasn't around; so, because I didn't want to
have my long walk all for nothin', I just hunted up the paddle in his
woodshed, and started for our house. I'd a made it, too, if I hadn't
leaned too far over when a rock bumped into us, and the old thing just
pitched me out."

"Well," said Fred, laughingly, "suppose you jump around a little, and
dry off before you go home, Billy. And neither of us will let on what
happened. I'll get the canoe down to your house in some fashion, though
I hope Buck will be away this morning."

"He's gone off with some of the fellers to Grafton, to look at somethin'
they want to buy," the small chap continued; "and he won't be back till
noon. That's just why I thought I'd help get his boat down
the river. You see Bob's with him, I guess."

So after they had seen Billy scamper away, keeping in the warm sun so
as to get his clothes dried, and avoiding the road so that he might not
meet inquisitive people who would wonder how he came to be so wet, Fred
and Bristles together entered the canoe, the latter having recovered
his shoes and coat.

They recovered the paddle and Fred pushed off, and went quietly along
down the river until finally he was able to bring the craft to the
shore at the place where Buck generally kept it housed in a small
shanty he had built.

They tied it up, and sauntered away. By this time their clothes had
dried fairly well.

They were just leaving the vicinity of the boat house where Buck kept
the canoe, when Bristles caught sight of a boy staring hard at them
from a little distance along the river bank.

"After all, Fred, I reckon that we'll hear something drop about this
little matter," he declared; "because, you see, there's Sam Jinks
watching us with his eyes just popping half out of his head. He wonders
what we've been doing with Buck's canoe, because he knows right well we
never borrowed it. And make up your mind Sam'll tell him all about it
the first chance he gets, because he wants to get in with that bunch."

"All right," replied Fred, with a shrug of his shoulders; "I don't see
where we've got any reason to worry about it. Just say we found the
boat drifting on the current of the river, which is the truth,
Bristles. Buck can carry on any way he likes; we won't give him any
satisfaction. And now, let's get back to what we were talking about
when all this rumpus came along; the chances for a boat club in
Riverport."



CHAPTER III

A BOAT CLUB MEETING


"Great news, Fred! Our boat's come!"

"Come on down to the railroad yards, and see her, Fred!"

Two boys stood outside the Fenton cottage, and shouted these words up
at Fred Fenton, who was leaning from the window of his room. It was
several days after the events narrated in the preceding chapters, and
Fred had meanwhile gone quietly on his way, saying not a word about the
accident, whereby little Billy Lemington would have surely lost his
life only for the good luck that brought Fred and Bristles to the river
in time.

Fred had not happened to run across Buck Lemington since, and hence did
not know whether or not the bully had been told about Bristles and
himself arriving with the canoe.

Of course Fred made haste to rush out of the house at hearing the news
brought by Bristles Carpenter and Sid Wells, the latter his most
particular chum.

"When did it arrive?" he demanded, adjusting his cap as he came up, and
immediately falling into step with the other eager fellows as they
hurried off.

"Last night, I reckon," replied Sid. "I just happened to wander down
there this morning, never thinking to run across a surprise, when what
did I see but a long crate, and inside that a splendid eight-oar shell,
just what we ordered with that money we earned in the winter, giving
minstrel shows and gymnastic performances. It's a great day for
Riverport school, fellows; and well have a dandy time this summer,
believe me!"

"I wish Mechanicsburg or Paulding would get a boat like ours, and give
us a race on the river," remarked Bristles, eagerly.

"Say, wouldn't that be just the best ever?" Sid went on; "we beat 'em
out at baseball, and on the gridiron; perhaps we might win another
victory on the water. The Mohunk is a good stream for rowing, at
certain times of the year."

"I suppose a lot of the boys are down there right now, all talking
about what a great time this summer will be for the nine lucky fellows,
and their substitutes?" remarked Fred, as they walked on into the town;
for the Fenton's lived a little way outside.

"Why, nearly the whole school is down there, and such jabbering you
never heard," laughed Sid.

Bristles tried to catch the eye of the third member of the group.

"Yes," he remarked, with emphasis, "and Buck Lemington, he's there on
deck, big as ever. To hear him talk you'd think he was already made
coxswain of the crew, and could lord it over the rest of us like a
king."

"That's always his way, to claim everything at the first, and then give
up a little, inch by inch," declared Sid. "There are just seventeen
members of the rowing club, all picked out as being the best in the
school. And who will be coxswain depends on the vote they'll take at
the meeting to-night. I know one right now who'll never vote; for Buck
Lemington."

"Make it two, just for luck," Bristles said, with a grin; "and there
are others to be heard from, also. Between you and me and the
lamp-post, boys, I reckon Buck will get just five votes, besides his
own; and they'll come from his cronies, Whitey, Clem Shocks, Oscar
Jones, Con Jimmerson and Ben Cushing. The rest will go in another
direction that I won't mention right now."

He and Sid exchanged winks and nods as though there might be a secret
between them; but Fred was paying no attention to this "wireless
telegraphy."

"Tell me, did you run across Buck, yourself, Bristles?"

"Sure I did," replied the other; "and that was just what I was goin' to
tell you about. He came swaggering up to me, just like he always does,
you know, and wanted to know what business I had in _his_ canoe--that
he heard you'n me was seen fastening up alongside his boathouse t'other
day."

"And what did you say?" demanded Fred, smiling at the aggressive manner
of the boy who had the mop of hair.

"Me? Oh! I pretended that we'd found the little boat driftin' down the
river, and waded in to get her," Bristles went on.

"Of course he didn't believe you?" Fred questioned.

"Not much. But I didn't get riled up worth a cent, Fred, just grinned
in his face, and kept on saying it _was_ so, and we _did_ find the boat
adrift. Then, what d'ye think, he says that Bob Armstrong told him the
paddle was all the while in the woodshed, so if the canoe did break
loose, however in the world could it have been with the boat, 'less we
took it?"

"We know, all right; don't we, Bristles? Oh! never mind winking, and
looking at Sid here, because I told him all about it, and he'll never
peach; will you, Sid?"

"Not much," replied the other, promptly; "all the same, I think you're
doing the wrong thing to keep so close-mouthed about it. I'd just glory
in telling Buck how his little brother Billy would have been drowned if
you hadn't happened to be nearby when he was pitched out of the canoe."

"Well, we made up our minds to keep quiet about it," Fred continued,
quietly; "and what Buck believes cuts mighty little figure in it. But
there's the railroad yard, and what a mob of boys and girls I've seen
since school closed. Whew! I should think every fellow in town had got
wind of it by this time; and I'm the last to know."

There was indeed great excitement around the spot where lay the long
shell, cased in its stout crate, having been lifted off the car upon
which it had come from the boat-building establishment.

Temporary quarters had been arranged for, until some later date, when
possibly a new boathouse might be erected, provided the town people
contributed the amount necessary.

That night, in the schoolhouse, there was called a meeting of the
members of the Riverport Boat Club in order to transact business of
great importance. Buck Lemington was more friendly than he had ever
before been known. But those boys who knew him so well understood what
his sudden conversion meant. He aspired to fill the important position
of coxswain on the crew, and was figuring to gain the votes of a
majority of those entitled to pass judgment and select officers.

It was well known that Brad Morton, the same boy who had carried the
football team to victory during the last season, as captain, had once
rowed in a racing shell when visiting a relative in a college town. And
his name had been mentioned pretty much in opposition to Buck, who also
claimed to have had experience.

And as the coxswain was to have the power of choosing the members of
his crew, it can be seen that the position was one carrying a certain
amount of influence with it. As only eight fellows could be given
places on the regular crew in the shell, and Buck's five cronies were
all eager to be ranked as members, they electioneered for him most
industriously.

Fred had been given the place as chairman of the meeting, and he tried
to carry out the duties of his position without fear or favor. What he
wished to see was a square deal, with the best man winning out.

After considerable talk, in which many of the boys joined, two
candidates for the position of coxswain were put in nomination, Buck
and Brad. And each had a noisy send-off when his backer started to tell
what virtues as a coxswain the candidate possessed.

"Move we vote!" shouted Bristles Carpenter, anxious to get the agony
over.

"Question! A motion that we proceed to vote has been made, Mr.
Chairman!" called out Corney Shays, whose father was an old college
man, and had once, many years back, rowed in a junior four-oared race.

"Any second?" asked the Chairman.

"I second the motion!" came from half a dozen throats.

It was carried with a rush; and then the tellers went around, giving
each one a slip of paper on which he was to write the name of the
candidate he preferred to serve as coxswain during the season that was
at hand.

A few minutes later the tellers collected the slips, which were
accurately counted, so that there should be no chance of fraud or
mistakes. Then the result was announced by the chairman, as written out
by the tellers.

"Whole number of votes cast, seventeen. For Buck Lemington, six votes;
for Brad Morton eleven. Which, being a majority, makes Brad Morton the
coxswain of the Riverport Boat Club."

Then a great uproar broke out, all of the boys shouting or cheering.
Those who had voted for Buck Lemington, taking cue from their leader,
declared that the election had not been fairly carried on; and that had
all those interested in the club been allowed to vote, and not just
those who expected to take part in the actual rowing, he would have
carried the day.

Buck himself was crimson with rage. He never could take defeat in a
manly way, but burst into a passion. Jumping up, he rallied his five
cronies around him. There was mutiny in the air, Fred saw, nor was he
in his heart at all sorry, for Buck had promised to be the disturbing
element in the association from the start.

"Cheat me out of the position, will you?" he shouted, shaking his fist
at the others, after the shouting had stopped, and everybody was
staring at him; "make Brad Morton coxswain when I know more about the
duties of the job in a minute than he can in a year! All right, I'm
going to wash my hands of the whole bunch; and here's five husky
fellers that'll go along with me. Keep your old boat, if you want to. I
expected somethin' like this'd happen; and let me tell you, fellers,
we've been up to Grafton to see an eight-oar shell that once won a
college race. We've got an option on her, too, and just understand
we'll buy her in, challenge your crowd to a race, and beat you to
flinders! Come along, fellers, we don't train with this crowd any
more," and the six stalked out of the building with sneers on their
faces, amid a dead silence.



CHAPTER IV

IN CAMP ON THE MOHUNK


On the day following the exciting meeting in the schoolhouse, the
members of the boat club connected with Riverport school were in camp
some miles up the Mohunk river, wishing to practice in their new shell,
where curious eyes might not watch them.

It was expected that they would stay several days in camp; so tents had
been taken along, as well as all sorts of supplies calculated to help
the cooks in their work.

The rebellion of Buck Lemington had not bothered Brad and his friends
very much. True, several of their best scullers had been lost by the
mutiny; but some of the more promising substitutes were moved up into
regular positions, and others taken on to fill the places thus vacated;
for there was no lack of candidates among the boys of Riverport school.

Ever since Buck had let out his secret the talk had been about the
possibility of the rival crew sending them a challenge, and an actual
race taking place somewhere near Riverport, with hundreds of cheering
people to watch the contest.

It thrilled the boys just to talk about such a happening.

"Don't get too gay, fellows," remarked a tall lad, whose name was
Colon, and who had always been a good friend of Fred Fenton, from the
day the latter first came to town. "Buck Lemington is a big bag of wind
when it comes to bragging about what he's going to do. I think I can
see him buying that shell over at Grafton, that Colonel Simms owns. His
boy who went to college rowed in her, you know. There isn't money
enough in Riverport to buy that boat."

"Oh! I don't know," broke in Dave Hanshaw, who had always been more or
less of a crack athlete on Riverport's teams; "I heard my father saying
only last night that the old Colonel had lost all his money, and was
selling out over in Grafton. So you see, perhaps he might be willing to
let that pet boat, in which his son rowed to victory, go for a certain
sum."

"And Buck," observed Colon, "must have got wind of it a while back. Oh!
he's a cute one, all right. He knows how to feather his nest. When he
came to count noses he understood that there wasn't a show for him to
be elected cox. in our club; so he gets ready to organize a little one
on his own account. Wise old Buck, he knows which side his bread is
buttered."

"Hey! look who's coming on his wheel over yonder!" called out Dick
Hendricks.

"Who is it?"

"Why, it looks like Sandy Richards. But what can he want up here, when
they all understood we didn't expect to have visitors?" Corney Shays
observed.

Some of the boys began to show signs of sudden nervousness. They were
not used to being away overnight from home, and could immediately
picture all sorts of things as having happened since their departure
very early that morning. Possibly to some of them it already seemed as
though they had been off for a week.

The younger boy on the wheel soon arrived at a point close to the camp.
Abandoning his bicycle at the roadside he climbed the fence, crossed
the field, and came to the fringe of timber.

"Who's it for, Sandy?" asked Brad; and possibly there was just a
trifling tremor in his own voice, though he tried to hide it in a
fashion.

"Got your name on it, Brad; and she's addressed to the Coxswain of the
Riverport Boat Club," answered the boy, promptly; looking around him
curiously at the camp, where he would very naturally have liked to
remain, simply because it was forbidden territory.

"A challenge, that's what!" yelled Bristles.

"Buck's made good already, just think of it!" cried Corney Shays,
throwing up his cap, and then jumping on it when it landed; a habit he
had of working off any excitement.

All eyes were turned on Brad as he tore off the end of the envelope.
They saw his eyebrows go up in a manner to indicate surprise; and there
also came a look of considerable satisfaction upon his honest face.

"Where'd you get this, Sandy?" he demanded, turning to the bicycle
rider.

"Why, you see, Felix Wagner brought it over; and they wouldn't think of
letting him come along up here, so I was sent with it," the boy
replied, promptly.

"Felix Wagner!" ejaculated Sid Wells; "say, has Buck had to go and
borrow a Mechanicsburg fellow to fill out his eight?"

"Hold on," interrupted Brad; "don't jump at things that way, Sid. This
isn't a challenge from Buck at all. It's from Mechanicsburg!"

"What's that?" shouted Colon; "are you telling me they've gone and got
a boat up at that town, and want to race us for the championship of the
Mohunk? That _would_ be the best news ever, fellows!"

"That's just what's happened," Brad went on. "This paper is signed by
Dub Jasper, who used to pitch for their baseball club, you remember
fellows. Well, he's the coxswain of the Mechanicsburg Boat Club crew.
He says they've got a shell on the way, and he hereby challenges us to
a match, to be rowed within a month from date, and according to regular
rules, the distance being marked off between their town and ours, in
just what happens to be the best water at the time. How about that?"

"Accept it, Brad!" several shouted, in great excitement.

"Say, things in the boating line are picking up ground here," Corney
Shays cried, laughingly. "Three shells on the river, to make things
lively. If this keeps on the Mohunk will become the most famous boat
course in this part of the country."

As a unanimous vote to accept the challenge followed, Brad retired to
his tent, where he wrote out a reply to the proposal made by
Mechanicsburg; details to be decided later on. Sandy was accordingly
dispatched with this missive, and requested to drop in again after he
had seen the rival young athletes of the neighboring town.

When Sandy returned, showing by the signs that he had made a swift
passage from Mechanicsburg, some miles down the river, all the boys
crowded around to ask him questions.

"Oh! they're all worked up over there about it," replied the panting
boy. "Seems like every feller in the old town is wild with the news
that they're a-goin' to have a boat like ours, a present from the big
manufacturer, Mr. Gobbler; and they all say they expect to lick the
stuffing out of poor old Riverport this time, because the boys in their
town have always been more like water ducks than we have, rowing boats,
skating, making ice-boats, and all such things."

"They're welcome to a think that way," laughed Corney Shays, apparently
delighted with the prospect; "but perhaps we Riverport boys aren't so
sleepy after all. We're just going to surprise 'em some; eh, fellers?"

Judging from the shouts that broke out, all of them believed the same
as the confident Corney. Sandy was soon sent back to the home town to
report that the members of the boat club were nicely fixed in camp, and
that none of their folks need worry a minute about them.

So evening found them, with the several appointed cooks busily engaged
in their work preparing supper. It was pronounced a fine meal, and as
every lad had brought his vacation appetite along with him, the inroad
they made upon the stock of provisions gave small hope that there would
be anything to take back, when the little camping and training trip was
over.

Afterwards they sat around the blazing logs, for the evening had turned
a bit cool, and it was pleasant near a cheerful camp fire. The
conversation changed from one thing to another; but always seemed to
return again to the exciting event of that day--when the challenge was
received from Mechanicsburg.

In imagination some of the young oarsmen doubtless already saw the
scene that would take place upon the banks of the Mohunk when the rival
towns cheered their pet crews on to victory, or defeat.

Into the midst of all this good-natured chaffing and chattering,
Bristles Carpenter suddenly burst, with his hair more on end than ever,
it seemed, and his face white with apprehension.

"Hey! wake up, fellers!" he cried. "There's some sneak down near our
boat, and just as like as not he's been trying to cut a hole in her, so
we can't row in any race! I saw him creeping around, when I stepped out
just now!"



CHAPTER V

HOOFS AND HORNS


"Get a move on, boys!" yelled Colon, as he unlimbered his long legs, on
which he had been coiled after the fashion of a tailor at work.

"Capture him!" shouted Corney Shays. "We ought to give him a licking if
he's hurt our boat!"

"First catch your rabbit!" warned another.

Everybody was on the jump, and it was a furious crowd that went rushing
down toward where the new shell had been laid, along the shore of the
river, at a point where a little beach offered an ideal spot for
launching.

"Where is he?" shouted several, as they drew near the spot, and failed
to discover the skulking figure of any enemy, trying to get away.

"I see him, fellow's; right there in that shadow!" cried Corney,
pointing.

"Surround the spot, boys; and if he makes a dash for it, Colon, we look
to you, with your sprinter legs, to overhaul the coward!" declared
Brad.

The lines were immediately extended so as to take in the dark spot
indicated; and every fellow gritted his teeth, indignant at the mean
trick being played by some unknown enemy, whereby perhaps harm was
intended their boat.

"Make him out yet, Corney?" asked one who was further removed.

"Sure I do," came the exultant answer. "We closed in around so fast he
didn't have sense enough to light out. Oh! we've got him cornered, all
right, boys. And won't we make him sick of his bargain though!"

"We ought to tie him up to a stake, and make him tell who sent him here
to stick a knife through our shell, ripping her wide open!" declared
Dick Hendricks, warmly.

"Is there more'n one feller in all Riverport that would get down low
enough to be back of a job like that?" asked Colon.

"Mebbe we don't know who you mean, but we think we do," sang out Sid
Wells; who had always been at loggersheads with Buck Lemington, from
the time they were, as Sid used to say, "knee high to grasshoppers."

"How about it now, Corney; is he there yet? Perhaps it was only a stump
you set eyes on," called another from the opposite side of the circle.

"Do stumps move, and duck their heads up and down?" asked Corney,
indignantly; "well, that's what this one is doing right now. Don't you
see him too, Brad?"

"I sure see something in that shadow, and it keeps right on moving,"
the one addressed replied, positively. "Hey Colon, suppose, now, you
run back to the fire and fetch us one of the blazing sticks you'll find
handy? We'll give this thief in the night a little illumination. He
thinks he can hide, does he; well, it's up to us to show him. Close up,
boys, and don't you let him have a chance to sneak it."

"He's our prisoner, all right, Brad; just you count on that," remarked
Corney, jubilantly. "Say, what we'll do to him will be aplenty. There,
didn't you see the way he yanked his head up that time? Reckon he's
beginning to get scared right now; and can you blame him."

"With all this crowd around," ventured Brad; "every fellow willing to
give him a punch to pay him up for what he tried to do to our
boat--well, I should guess not! Hurry along, Colon; that's the kind of
torch for you; just look at her blaze, will you?"

The long-legged boy came hurrying up, holding the burning stick in his
hand. And as he advanced closer to the spot where the suspected spy was
believed to be, the circle gradually narrowed, as the eager boys began
to push in.

"Wow! what do you think of that, now?" burst from Corney, as the light
gave a sudden flash, and plainly revealed the spot that had up to now
been in the shadows.

"It's an old red cow, and she's getting her dander up too, fellows,
because of all this noise, and the torch there! Look out if she charges
you; and run like everything! There she comes, fellows, like a tornado!
Run, boys! Scatter, to beat the band!"

It was Brad who gave this advice. He himself did not hesitate to take
it literally, for when the alarmed cow actually lowered her head,
whipped her tail around several times, and then made a lunge toward the
spot where Brad happened to be stationed, he whirled on his heels, and
fairly flew to place a tree between himself and the frightened animal.

Then there was a wild scene, every fellow being for himself. Colon
flung his blazing torch at the advancing beast, and with such good aim
that it actually came in contact with the cow's flank. Perhaps it
stung, or at any rate gave the beast a new spasm of fear, for there
immediately followed a fierce bellow, and the lunges grew more violent.

With flying tail and lowered horns the cow went charging past the
scattering boys. Luckily none of them was in her way, or they might
have been flung high in the air; since the most expert athlete among
them knew nothing about bull fighting.

"She's going to charge our tents!" shrieked Corney, who was part way up
a tree, so rapid had been his action after being warned by Brad of the
danger.

"Head her off, somebody!" whooped Colon, who, however, showed not the
least intention of doing anything in that line himself; for he had
found a convenient tree, that would afford plenty of shelter if
necessary, against the charge of half a dozen frightened cows.

If the animal headed directly toward the camp it was because she had
been so bewildered by the various shouts of the boys that she hardly
knew which way to turn, in order to escape from what she doubtless
considered an attack.

There came a crash.

"There goes one of the tents!" cried Colon; "that's because nobody
would do what I said, and head her off. Lots of you were closer than I
was. Anyhow, she's gone gallopin' away. Let's see what damage she did!"

Another torch was pulled from the fire; indeed, now that Colon had
shown the way, several of the others made haste to secure flaming
brands.

"Take care, there, and don't set anything afire!" warned Brad, seeing
that a few were inclined to be reckless; "there's quite a lot of dead
stuff around here, left over from last Fall. Look out how you handle
that torch boys!"

A hasty investigation disclosed the pleasing fact that no harm had come
to the racing shell through the wandering about of the grazing cow.
Then the campers set to work to get up the tent that had been knocked
over.

Of course the excitement died down presently, since there had been no
particular damage done, and the boat was uninjured. The boys sat around
for an hour or two, talking. Then some of them began to yawn, and to
examine the places inside the three tents where they had stowed their
blankets, carried along because the summer nights were apt to get cool
toward morning.

One by one they crept off, until by degrees the ranks were thinned down
to just three--Brad, Bristles and Fred. Even the captain of the club
finally declared he was done up with the exercise of the day, and might
as well "hunt up the soft side of a board," as he chose to remark;
though a soft blanket, doubled on the ground, was really the kind of
bed awaiting him.

Fred had a reason for waiting up. He had received a signal from
Bristles that the other wanted to speak with him in private; and
remembering that he had been made a sort of confident before by the boy
who was in trouble. Fred, though feeling very sleepy himself, sat it
out.

Bristles waited a few minutes after Brad had crawled into the nearest
tent. Apparently he did not want the others to overhear anything he
said to our hero. This caution on his part told the other that Bristles
must have more reason for feeling gloomy; though he had somehow kept
from saying anything all day.

Presently Fred saw him get up, and start around the now smouldering
camp fire, as if to join him; so he made a place on his blanket, which
he had brought out some time before, to sit upon.

"Did you want to see me about anything, Bristles?" Fred asked, as the
other dropped down close beside him.

"Yes, Fred," began the other, in a low voice; "you were so good to
stand up for me when I told you about those pesky opals, that I just
thought after all I'd let you know about some more that's happened."

Fred started, and looked uneasily at the other's long face.

"Does that mean, Bristles, your aunt has been missing more of her
precious stones?" he asked.

Bristles nodded his head in a forlorn fashion.

"Two of 'em gone this time, Fred, and I guess I'm the unluckiest feller
ever, because they disappeared yesterday afternoon; and mom sent me
over with a message to Aunt Alicia about four o'clock."



CHAPTER VI

A SUDDEN AWAKENING


"Well, that's a funny thing, Bristles," Fred remarked, as he allowed
the full force of the other's story to sink into his mind.

"Not so very funny for me, let me tell you, Fred," muttered Bristles.

"Why, of course I didn't mean it that way, you know, old fellow," Fred
hastened to say; "I meant that it was queer. Three times now you've
just happened to drop in to see your aunt, and every time one or more
of her precious stones have disappeared, as if they went up in smoke?"

"Say, perhaps they did!" the other went on, moodily. "Always smells
smoky to me in that house. Then again do you know, Fred, when I see
that old black crow perched on the back of aunty's chair, it somehow
makes me think of haunted houses, it's so spooky."

"Now what do you want me to believe--that the old colored woman sits on
the back of your aunt's chair, and smokes her pipe?" Fred asked,
chuckling a little.

"Oh! shucks! perhaps I am twisted up somehow in trying to tell you what
happened; but then," and Bristles' voice sank into a half whine, "I
just guess any feller would be rattled, if he'd bothered his head as
much as I have the last few days. I meant the old tame crow Aunty's
got, that talks sometimes to beat the band. Now do you know, Fred?"

"Sure I do," replied the other, promptly; "I've never forgotten how
Black Joe looked, blinking his eyes at us when we stood there talking
to your aunt. But you're wrong in one thing, Bristles; it isn't just a
plain, everyday crow at all. She said it was a raven, one of the wise
old kind you read about; and that she brought it across the water.
They're more cunning than our crows; and goodness knows I've always
found _them_ smart enough, when you had a gun."

"Oh! well, crow or raven, what does it matter to me?" grumbled
Bristles. "But as I was saying, Fred, my mom sent me over in the
afternoon. I didn't want to go; not much! That house gives me the
creeps; and aunty has such sharp, piercing eyes. But there wasn't any
getting out of it, so I went. But let me tell you, I was determined to
toe the mark, and not even give a think to the measly opals that once I
was silly enough to admire."

"Well?" said Fred, encouragingly, as the other paused for reflection.

"I gave my little message, and came away as quick as I could," Bristles
presently went on, with a big sigh. "All the rest of the afternoon I
was patting myself on the back, Fred, and saying the old lady would
have a chance to change her mind about little Andrew. But it didn't
wash, Fred, not a bit of it."

"You said, I believe, that two more of the opals had vanished; when did
you hear about that?" asked Fred, to hurry his chum along.

"Why, after I came in just before supper time, feeling better than for
several days. I saw with one eye that mom was bothered again over
something, and I understood what it was when she handed me a little
note she'd got late that afternoon from Aunt Alicia."

He fumbled about in his pockets for several minutes, until Fred grew
impatient.

"Never mind about the note," he remarked; "perhaps you handed it back,
or you may have lost it, Bristles. I should think you could tell me the
gist of it."

"You'd better guess I can!" burst forth the other, with renewed
feeling. "It ran about this way, Fred: She had the unpleasant duty to
perform of telling mother that two more of her opals had disappeared
that afternoon, and could not be found, high or low. She was not
accusing _anybody_ of taking them, oh! no, not for worlds; but it was
a _strange coincidence_, that was all."

"Whew! that sounds hot off the bat!" remarked Fred, with a low whistle
to indicate his feelings in the matter.

"Yes, she used that very word," Bristles went on; "and I guess it hit
the case right well, for it _is_ a coincidence, I give you my solemn
word, Fred, and nothing more."

"I believe you. Bristles; I'm as sure of it as if she suspected me of
taking her opals, and I knew I was innocent. But was that all the note
said?"

"Well, not quite, Fred. She went on to say that she would be very much
obliged to mom, if, after this, when she had to communicate with her
aunt--for that's what Miss Muster is to mom, you know--she'd send my
sister Kate; because you see, Andrew is an unpleasant boy to have
around!"

Bristles tried to laugh as though his heart were steeled against
showing any natural feeling; but Fred felt sure he was winking very
fast, and he had little difficulty in guessing why.

"It is a hard problem you're up against, Bristles," he went on to say,
while he laid a hand affectionately upon the other's quivering arm;
"but just perk up, and make sure that it's bound to come out right,
sooner or later. If you don't go to see your aunt again, after a bit,
another of her opals will disappear; and then the quick-tempered old
lady must see that it wasn't you after all."

Immediately Bristles raised his head, as though new life had come to
him.

"Say, I never thought of that, Fred!" he exclaimed. "It's a good idea,
too, and is sure to work, sooner or later. Whoever is taking her opals
will get tired of waiting for me to come around again, to be the
scapegoat; and crib another lot. Then won't Rome howl, though! If it
turns out to be the old mammy, she'll lose her steady job all right;
because Aunt Alicia is stern and unforgiving. I used to be her
favorite; but never again for me, after this."

"Well, if you feel better now, Bristles, and there's nothing more to
tell me, suppose we both crawl in, and get a little snooze? I'm as
tired as all get-out; and I reckon you're in the same boat."

"Just what I am," returned the other, actually yawning; "but you've
made me feel a hundred times better, Fred. It's a mighty good thing to
have a chum like you, once in a while, and that's the truth. You've got
a way about you that just makes the clouds seem to roll right off, and
the sunshine come again."

"Oh! I'm glad if I've been able to do you any good, Bristles; but let
me know if any more things come up, will you?"

"I just will, and no mistake," the boy who had found new hope replied,
while his face beamed.

"But don't think I'm going to forget all about it. No siree; if there's
any way I can learn whether a jeweler in Riverport or Mechanicsburg has
been buying an opal lately, I'm bound to get on the track."

"Be careful, that's all, when you make inquiries," cautioned Fred.

"Now, I don't get on to what you mean?" remarked Bristles.

"Why, don't you see, if your aunt should also choose to look around,
and heard that you were making inquiries about the value of opals, and
all that, of course she'd jump to the conclusion that you wanted to
learn how the market stood, so you'd be posted when you wanted to sell
the ones you'd hid away!"

"Granny! I never once thought of that, Fred!" gasped the other, lost in
astonishment.

"But it's so, don't you think now, Bristles?"

"That's right, it would look suspicious. But Fred, what ought I say if
I wanted to find out?"

"Tell Mr. Rhinehart, our jeweler, the exact truth, and what your object
is in asking about opals. He seems to be a pretty decent sort of a man,
and like as not he'll feel for you, Bristles. Anyhow, he can prove to
your aunt that you wanted to know if anybody offered opals for sale."

"That's just fine of you, Fred, and I'll do it as sure as anything. I'm
going to crawl in now, and get a few winks. I need 'em the worst kind,
because I rather think I didn't sleep any too much last night, I felt
so bad."

Both boys were soon under their blankets; and no doubt sleep quickly
came to banish all thoughts of opals, boat races, and all such things.

Fred's sleep was broken by dreams, and they were pretty well mixed up.
At one time he was swimming in the river again, trying to locate little
Billy Lemington, who had disappeared from sight, and could not be
found. Then again he seemed to be in a city, somewhere, when there was
great confusion, a rushing of heavy vehicles over the pavement, and
loud shouts that seemed to thrill him.

Fred sat upright.

For a second he believed his dream had been so vivid that it was
haunting him still; for he fancied that he could hear the rumbling of
engines over the granite blocks; and surely that was a wild alarm of
fire that broke upon his hearing.

Then like a flash it came to Fred that there was nothing of a dream
about it--some one _was_ shrieking the startling word "fire!" at the
top of his voice; and even in that dreadful moment the aroused sleeper
believed he could distinguish the well known tones of Bradley Morton.



CHAPTER VII

ICE COLD WATERS


"Fire! Fire! Wake up, everybody! Help! Help!"

So Brad was shouting at the top of his lusty young voice. Such an
upheaval as his thrilling cries brought about in the three tents! Every
one of the sixteen inmates scrambled out from under the blanket in
which he had been so snugly rolled.

They came flocking out just as they were, some in pajamas, others in
all sorts of apparel suited to sleeping; and not a few about half
disrobed, they having failed to provide for the night time.

Nobody needed to ask any questions, because they had eyes, and could
easily see what was the matter.

A fire was blazing in the pile of dead stuff over near where the new
boat lay. The sight gave every fellow a sensation of dread; for he
naturally thought of what a disaster it would be should the racing
craft be injured or destroyed.

"Save the boat, fellows!" shouted Fred, who seemed to be able to keep
his wits about him better than most of the others.

"Yes, rush in, and get hold of her!" added Brad. "I don't believe she's
been hurt yet. This way, boys! Everybody help!"

There was at least no lack of volunteers. It seemed as though everybody
felt anxious to have a hand in saving the boat, for there was a
concerted rush on the part of all.

One or two tripped, and fell down in their haste. Others stubbed their
toes on stones or roots, and doubled up, groaning with pain. But all of
a dozen managed to reach the vicinity of the shell, which rested there
so dangerously close to the roaring blaze.

"Take hold, all that can!" called Fred, as he himself clutched one of
the out-riggers, and made ready to lift. "All ready now? Yo heave 'o!
and away we go! That's the way to do it, boys! We've saved our boat,
and don't you forget it!"

With lusty cheers they carried the frail craft to a place of safety,
each fellow proud to be counted among the savers.

"Bully for us!" cried Colon, who was limping around as if he had struck
his foot against something hard.

"But look here, fellows, hurry and get some shoes on," Fred continued.
"We've got to put that fire out, or it may spread. Anyhow, it'll make
our camp a tough place if we let it burn itself out."

Several who had been wise enough to pull on their shoes before starting
out at once volunteered to get busy under Brad; and the balance hurried
to the tents to provide themselves with foot covering.

There were a couple of buckets in the camp, and these were immediately
pressed into service by the enthusiastic young fire-fighters. One
fellow stood down by the river, and dipped each bucket in as it came
back empty. Then in turn it was relayed along from hand to hand, until
finally either Brad or Fred received it.

They used their judgment as to where the water was to be thrown, and
with such good results that after a short time it was seen that the
fire did not burn so brilliantly as before.

"Hurrah! fellows, we're doing the business, all right!" shouted Corney,
who had been working like an industrious beaver all the time.

"It's dying out, and that's a fact!" cried Colon, the one who dipped up
the water at the other end of the line. "Getting much darker down here.
About time, too, I reckon, because I've just about emptied the whole
river!"

"Oh! quit your grumbling, Colon!" called out Sid, who was just above
the bank, receiving each bucket that the tall boy reached up to him.
"We ought to be sending up a regular chorus because we saved our boat."

"Don't believe for a minute that I'm growling, Sid," the long-legged
Colon gasped, for he began to feel winded by his exertion. "I'm only
bothered for fear there won't be enough river left for that boat race
to be pulled off."

"Plenty more coming from above, Colon; so brace up. Perhaps it'll rain
cats and dogs before the race comes off, and the river be bank full,"
and Dave Hanshaw tossed an empty bucket down to the boy at the brink of
the stream.

"A few more and we can let up, boys!" came the cheering news from Brad,
who, being close to the burning brush, ought to know.

And indeed, it did suddenly become gloomy as the fire failed to find
any more dry fuel to feed upon, so that it gasped fitfully, and
threatened to go out entirely.

So, presently, there was no further need of exertion on the part of the
now weary passers of water; and the boys began to gather around their
own blaze, which some one had rekindled with fresh wood.

Some of them were wet, and all more or less chilly after giving up
their exertions; so that they were glad to gather around the fire, with
coats on, or blankets thrown over their shoulders.

Sleep, for the time being, had been utterly banished from their eyes;
for one and all were desirous of comparing notes as to the origin of
the furious fire.

"Was it the work of some sneak, who wanted to burn our boat, Brad?"
asked Dick Hendricks.

"That's hard to say, Dick," was the reply. "I'd hate to think anybody
could be so mean as to want to do that."

"Huh! we happen to know one feller who wouldn't stop a minute,"
remarked Corney.

"There's another possibility that none of you seems to have thought
of," said Fred, breaking in just then.

"What's that, Fred?" demanded Brad, turning toward the speaker,
quickly.

"Why, perhaps it was an accident, after all," observed Fred.

"An accident!" echoed Colon.

"Well, _something_ started that fire, we all know that," Fred went on,
resolutely. "It never caught from a spark that came from the camp
blaze, because in the first place there hasn't been a single spark
flying for several hours; and then again you want to notice that the
wind is right from the opposite quarter."

"Then how could it catch by accident, I want to know?" asked Dave
Hanshaw.

"I'm on," sang out Sid. "He means Colon!"

All eyes were instantly turned on the tall boy.

"Well, I did throw that torch at the cow; I admit that much, fellows,"
he began; "but don't tell me it just kept on smouldering all this time
in that brush heap, to take fire after everybody'd gone to sleep! Why,
it must have been all of five hours ago. Shucks! you can't prove it;
and I won't admit a single thing."

"Well, it might have happened; and that's as near as we'll ever get to
finding out the truth," said Fred.

When they had talked it all over they began to feel sleepy once more;
and one by one again crawled into the tents. There was no further
alarm, and morning came to arouse the camp of the boat club.

The day promised to be a beautiful one, but rather sultry. Indeed, even
in the early morning the waters of the Mohunk looked inviting to the
boys, so that as they came out of the tents they made a bee-line for
the bank, to plunge in.

Soon there was a great splashing and shouting, such as a dozen and more
boys in swimming alone can produce. Bristles, remembering a promise he
had made to himself, pursued his lessons diligently, and was making
splendid progress, so that he began to grow quite encouraged.

"I'll be a swimmer right away," he told Fred, as the two of them sat on
the bank rubbing down, after coming from the water. "I'm getting to
have confidence in myself, Fred, and already I went more'n twenty feet
without touching bottom."

"Good for you, Bristles; I said you had it in you to make a swimmer, if
only you'd keep everlastingly at it. Every boy who goes on the water,
either in a boat, or to skate, ought to know how to swim. It may save
his life, or the life of a chum some day. But those fellows ought to
come out, or they'll get blue around their lips, for the water is icy
cold. Colon looked shivery the last time he was up on the bank for a
high dive!"

"There he is now, swimming across the river again, Fred. He ought not
to try that so often, seems to me. Why, look at him, will you; he's
making believe he's got a cramp or something!"

Fred sprang to his feet excitedly, exclaiming:

"There's no make-believe about that, Bristles; Colon _has_ got a cramp,
and right now he's in danger of drowning away out there in the middle
of the river. Quick! fellows, to the rescue! Colon is drowning!"



CHAPTER VIII

A SURPRISE


Fred's words created much excitement. Some of the boys stood and looked
out to where Colon was struggling desperately in the deep water,
seeming to be almost paralyzed with alarm. Others, who kept their wits
about them, started after Fred, who, plunging in, was already swimming
across the Mohunk.

Fred knew the danger that awaited them. When anyone is drowning, he or
she seems to lose all the good sense which at another time he may have
possessed. The instinct of self preservation is so strong that a
drowning boy will clutch at his dearest friend, and hold frantically to
him, not because he wants to pull the other down, but because he hopes
to be himself buoyed up.

"Help! help!" Colon was trying to scream, though the water, getting in
his mouth, muffled the sound considerably.

There was no need of his wasting what little breath he still possessed.
His chums were doing everything in their power to assist him before it
was too late.

Fred presently arrived close to Colon, who had been under water once,
and sank again even as his camp-mate arrived on the spot. It gave Fred
a sickening feeling to see the poor fellow threshing wildly with his
long arms, grasping at a floating chip, which, to his excited mind, was
magnified into a log.

Fred had made sure to be above the other when he arrived. He wanted the
benefit of the current in carrying out the plan he had in mind.

One last look he took to locate Colon. Then he dove out of sight, so
that the other might not see him coming, and try to clutch him. Once
those frenzied hands closed upon any part of his person, Fred knew that
he would have to strike Colon in the face, and stun him, before he
could break loose.

But he had figured well, for he came up just behind the struggling boy,
who was making one last effort to keep on the surface, ere going down
for the last time.

Quick as a flash Fred threw his arm around Colon, who, just as he
expected, tried desperately to seize him. This the other prevented with
all his strength.

All he wanted to do now was to continue to hold Colon until some of the
others arrived on the scene, when altogether they might be able to work
him to the shore.

Had he been alone with Colon, Fred feared he must have resorted to
other tactics if he hoped to get the other out of the river alive. But
Brad and several more of the strong swimmers had by now reached a point
close enough for them to ask what he wanted them to do. Even in that
moment they recognized the fact that Fred was the one to whom they
should look for orders, because he always knew just what to do in an
emergency.

"Each one of you get a grip on an arm; and be sure you don't let him
grab you," was what Fred said.

Brad readily carried out the instructions, and helped buoy up the
helpless boy; while Sid Wells took the other arm.

"He's dead!" cried the latter, seeing that Colon no longer struggled,
but lay like a log in the water.

"Don't you believe it," answered Fred, instantly. "He's swallowed a
whole lot of water, and is pretty far gone; but let's get him ashore,
and revive him!"

Others had by now come up, and between the lot poor Colon was hurried
to the bank, up which he was carried.

"Lay him here, face down, so I can straddle him with my knees!" Fred
called out. "Now, some of you begin, and work his arms back and forth
regularly, while I press down on his lungs so as to induce artificial
breathing. That's the only way to get things started, you see. A little
harder, Brad, please. And don't the rest of you look so scared. He's
going to come out of this. He wasn't under the water any time at all,
but just gave way because of the cramp and the scare."

So Fred talked as he worked, and all the while he was building up the
hopes of the fellows, who looked peaked and white, under the belief
that they had seen the last of their chum, the good-natured Colon.

And Fred was right.

In a very short time one of the boys who were working Colon's arms like
the piston rods of a locomotive cried out:

"He moved a little then, fellows!"

"And listen to that, would you?" exclaimed another delighted chum, as
Colon plainly sighed.

In five minutes Colon recovered enough to be helped back to camp, where
he was rubbed down until his skin fairly glowed, and then hustled
between a pair of blankets, to rest, while the others dressed, and got
breakfast ready.

Colon had learned his lesson. He would never again persist in remaining
in ice-cold water when he was shivering, and his lips turning blue.
Nature has a way of sending up a warning sign, that every intelligent
fellow ought to heed.

That day passed all too soon, and another night arrived, the last they
expected to spend in camp up on the Mohunk. The following day the wagon
belonging to Judge Colon, an uncle of the tall boy, and put at the
service of the young campers, would come to "tote" all the stuff back
to town again, and some of the boys in the bargain.

Of course nine of them would go back, as they had come, in the boat.
And this time there was no need of any secrecy, so they could expect to
excite more or less curiosity when they shot past Mechanicsburg.

The mere thought inspired the boys with eagerness. In imagination they
could already see the wondering faces lining the bank, and the people
running to see as the word was passed hurriedly along that the new
eight-oared shell of the Riverport crew was sighted up the river.

They had become very careful now about the boat, which was growing more
valuable in their eyes every hour, as they developed its capabilities.
Catch any of them throwing torches around promiscuously now; no one
ever touched the fire so that the sparks flew, but half a dozen pairs
of anxious eyes followed the course they took, and speculation arose as
to the chances of their doing any damage.

During the morning another trial spin was taken, with Colon again in
his place, and pulling a strong oar. Brad and Fred both declared that
the crew was coming on famously, and would be able to give a good
account of themselves when the time arrived to meet their old rivals of
Mechanicsburg.

Along about three in the afternoon the wagon arrived. As the tents had
been taken down, and all the camp things well packed, it took but a
short time to load up. Then the wagon started, escorted by the eight
fellows who could not find places in the boat.

The crew gave them a cheer for a send-off, and received as loud a
salute in return. After which they took their places in the long,
narrow boat, for the run of seven miles down the river home.

Brad was keenly alive to every little thing that took place. Like a
wise coxswain he felt that he ought to know each man's weakness, if he
had any, so as to build him up into a perfect part of the whole
machine. For a boat crew must act as though it were one unit, at the
nod and whim of the fellow who sits in the stern, doing the steering,
and by his motions increasing or diminishing the stroke. If one cog
fails to work perfectly, the entire thing collapses.

"Fine! Great work, fellows!" Brad was saying again and again after they
had passed over a couple of miles down-stream. "You're doing yourselves
proud; and honest now, I believe you could take a little faster stroke.
We must be doing our prettiest when we spurt past Mechanicsburg."

Brad had just finished saying this when he received one of the
surprises of his life. His eyes were the only ones that could see down
the river, and as he happened to glance over toward the left bank,
where there was something of a neck of land shutting a large bay out of
sight, judge of his amazement when he discovered the pointed prow of a
racing boat thrusting out, and headed toward the middle of the river.

And as Brad sat there, almost petrified, as he afterwards declared, the
boat shot into view, containing a crew of eight, and a coxswain, in the
latter of whom he recognized Buck Lemington.



CHAPTER IX

A LUCKY WIN


"Listen, boys!"

When the coxswain said this, every fellow as the oars strained his
hearing, under the belief that Brad had something mighty interesting to
communicate. Possibly some of them, having their eyes constantly on the
coxswain, had seen by his manner that Brad must have discovered
something down-stream. But no one dared try and twist his head around,
in order to see for himself.

"Don't anybody try to look," Brad went on; "but we're going to have a
little brush right now. Buck and his bunch have got that boat from
Grafton, and, finding out that we are expected to pass down the river
this afternoon, they've been lying in wait for us!"

Every fellow gave utterance to an exclamation, or a whistle, to
indicate both his astonishment, and pleasure as well.

"Now, keep on working regularly as you are, and brace yourselves, every
fellow, for a furious spurt, if we have to make one. Might as well
learn what our boat can do, first as last. Take care how you dip in,
because a crab would upset us all. They've struck the middle of the
river now, and are letting us catch up on them. I can see Whitey, Clem
Shooks, Jones, Jimmerson and Ben Gushing, anyway. And they're grinning
as if they meant to make monkeys of the Riverport Boat Club boys. Shall
we stand for it, fellows?"

Evidently Brad knew just how to key his crew up to doing their best;
for his question was instantly answered with a thunderous:

"Not much we won't!"

"Get ready, then, because we're bearing down on 'em fast now," the wary
coxswain continued, in a husky voice, caused by the excitement, no
doubt. "There, they've increased their stroke so that we will come up
slower, and not take the advantage from them at the start. It's a race,
fellows! Let's pitch in now, and overtake the outlaw crew!"

Brad knew that the greatest danger lay in one of the boys becoming so
worked up that he would miss a stroke, and "catch a crab," in boating
language. This would cause him to break the stroke of the entire crew,
if it did nothing more serious; and give the race to their rivals.

And so he continued to speak warning words to them as he regulated his
motions, and the stroke in turn.

"Easy there Sid, old fellow; don't try to rush things. Keep in line
with Fred, because he's the stroke oar, you know. That was a fine one.
Again and yet again, boys! Now we're on even terms with 'em, and we're
bound to go ahead, believe me!"

"Like fun you are!" called out Buck Lemington, being close enough to
catch what Brad was saying.

Perhaps Buck added just a little more speed to his motions, rendered
desperate by the fact that thus far he and his fellows had not been
able to keep the other shell from gradually cutting down the lead they
had in the beginning.

No matter what he did, he must have helped stop this gain on the part
of Brad's crew. Now the two boats were rushing swiftly down the river,
neck and neck, as it were, and going at a speed that seemed marvelous
to these boys, unused to anything of the sort.

For a short time both crews seemed to be working with clock-like
regularity; and it would have won the praise of an old boating man just
to have watched them. Of course this could hardly last, for they were
both sadly lacking in practice; and at almost any second one of the
sixteen lads was apt to be taken with a sudden cramp, or miss his
stroke, throwing his crew into confusion, and perhaps upsetting the
boat in the excitement.

But they could all swim now, even Bristles Carpenter; so the worst that
could happen, should such an accident overtake them, would be the loss
of the race, and the consequent disappointment.

To have those fellows with Buck Lemington crowing over them, would be a
bitter pill to Brad's crew. And they were really doing their level best
to avoid such a punishment.

There was the town of Mechanicsburg right ahead of them. Brad hoped
that the river might be quite free of boats that would interfere with
the passage of the two fleet racers. To have to dodge any pleasure
craft would mar the sport, and give one or the other an unfair
advantage.

It was a square race, and Brad wanted to see the best crew win.
Naturally he hoped it would fall to his side to arrive at the Riverport
bridge ahead; but it must be a clean, fair win to satisfy him; for
trickery and Brad Morton did not pull together very well.

Of course the two boats did not always keep exactly on even terms. As
one or the other crew exerted themselves a trifle beyond the ordinary
there would be a little change. Sometimes it was the outlaw crew that
made this gain; and then, on the other hand, Brad would do something to
not only even up, but take them a quarter of a boat's length ahead.

It was what might be called a heart-breaking row, and seemed to be
anybody's race at the time they shot past Mechanicsburg.

A few score of people were seen running to the river's edge, shouting
their astonishment and delight. Nobody paid the slightest heed to them,
however, for the warmth of the race occupied their attention.

And now there were only three more miles before they would arrive at
the railroad bridge, which must be accepted as the final goal.

Going down-stream, and at the amazing speed they were now traveling,
three miles could not take much time.

"Keep it up, fellows, and we win!" Brad said, again and again, almost
unconsciously; for he was watching the river ahead closely for signs of
a rock which he knew lay under the surface at a certain point, with an
eddy betraying its presence.

He hoped Buck was also aware of its being there, for really it would be
too bad if the other boat, with such a history back of it, should be
finally wrecked. Brad was almost tempted to shout out a warning, when
he saw with one look behind, that, judging from the change in course,
Buck was fighting shy of the dangerous quarter. He had been brought up
on the banks of the Mohunk, and ought to be acquainted with every foot
of ground and water in the vicinity.

The pace had now reached the limit. Neither of the young crews seemed
capable of doing any more. But Brad made a discovery that appalled him.
Colon was weakening! The boy had received such a shock on the previous
day, when he came so near being drowned in the river, that he was not
in as good condition for bearing the tremendous nervous strain as the
balance of the crew.

Brad recognized the signs, and feared the worst. Unless they could
relax presently Colon would have to give up exhausted. And, of course,
that would lose them the race.

It was too bad, and Brad, being a high-spirited lad, would feel the
defeat keenly; but he was determined not to take too great chances.
When he saw that Colon had reached the limit he meant to slacken the
pace, no matter what happened, nor how much the crew shouted at him for
a "quitter."

Buck's boat was coming on again now. Brad doubted whether they had been
able to put any fresh vim into their efforts, for that seemed next to
impossible, since already every fellow was straining his muscles to the
limit. It must be that the growing weakness of Colon was beginning to
make itself felt.

Well, what they could not cure they must endure. Colon was too good a
fellow to take chances of doing him an injury that would put him off
the crew indefinitely. They needed his strong back in that real race
with Mechanicsburg.

The others had by now discovered that the outlaw boat was slowly
forging ahead, and that, despite all their efforts, the gain continued.
Slowly they could see each opposing oarsman creeping along; and it was
discouraging to feel that after all Buck seemed to have the better
"stayers" in his crew.

Already they could hear the low, taunting remarks which the others were
calling out, and they stung. Defeat is hard enough to stand, when
pitted against honorable, high-minded fellows, whose first thought is
to give an encouraging cheer for their whipped rivals; but it is doubly
painful when forced to listen to all manner of insulting remarks from
rough lads devoid of decent feelings, and only bent upon "rubbing it
in."

Brad had really lost all hope. He was even about to throw up the
sponge, and slacken the pace to such an extent that the people of
Riverport, seeing the two boats coming down the river so far apart,
would never think they had been racing.

Then something happened, unexpectedly, as it always does in a boat
race.

Brad heard a sudden loud snap. He saw that the crew in the other boat
seemed to be floundering around in the utmost confusion. One fellow
even toppled overboard, though he immediately clutched hold of the
speeding boat, and was dragged along with it.

Like a race horse, the boat containing the regular Riverport crew shot
past the disabled outlaw craft. Buck was shouting in his disgust. He
even shook his fist at his rivals as they went on speeding down the
river; and they caught the tenor of his remarks.

"We had you beat good and plenty, never fear, only for that pesky
outrigger bustin' on us! Next time we'll rub it in all the harder. You
fellers had all the luck to-day. Just wait, that's all!"

And so good fortune saved the day for Brad and his crew, when all
seemed lost.



CHAPTER X

FRED'S HOME-COMING


"We win! We win!"

The shouts of the fellows who wielded the oars in the leading boat came
floating back to those who were still scrambling around in the cranky
outlaw craft.

Buck put his hands to his mouth, in order to make his voice carry the
better, and yelled disdainfully after them:

"Yes, you win, but only through a foul! Run into us, and broke one of
our outriggers to flinders! But just wait till we get a new one made,
we'll beat you to a frazzle! Wait!"

"It wasn't so, was it, Brad?" demanded Corney Shays indignantly; "we
never touched his boat, did we?"

"Well, I like his nerve!" cried Sid Wells, for all of them were taking
things easy, now that the race was over, and the victory won. "Why,
hang it, I don't believe we were within thirty feet of their old boat
any time."

"And you're right, Sid," added Brad. "I ought to know, because I was in
a position to see everything. When that outrigger smashed they were a
quarter of a length ahead. Anybody with half an eye can see that it was
the second oar that got in trouble. And boys, believe me, that
outrigger was away up opposite our stem, far out of reach of our oars,
end on end. It's too silly for anything!"

"But I think, from all I know of the fellow, that it's just like Buck
to say a thing like that?" suggested Fred.

"You're right there, Fred," declared Dick Hendricks; "he never yet lost
a game but what, quick as a flash, he made it a point to claim that it
was a foul, and the beat an unfair one. Isn't that so, fellows, all you
who've known Buck since he was a kid, and always a fighting bully?"

"You never said truer words, Dick," declared Sid. "And I ought to know,
because I've had a dozen fights with Buck in as many years. Fact is,
they say we went at each other before we were able to walk, and that he
pulled the only tuft of yellow hair out that I owned about then. He
used to joke me, and boast that he had that yellow lock at home, tied
with a string, just like an Indian would an enemy's scalplock. Oh!
we've been at it, hammer and tongs, ever since. And just as you say,
Dick, he never yet lost a fight or a race or a game but what he set up
a howl that the other fellow cheated, or took an unfair advantage of
him."

"But by this time the people of Riverport ought to be on to Mr. Buck,
and know how little truth there is in his whine," remarked Fred.

"Well, a lot of them do," answered Brad, scornfully, for he was
indignant over the small trick of the beaten coxswain; "but you know
how it is, Fred. You'll always find a certain percentage of people in
every place only too willing to think the worst of you, given half a
chance."

"Oh! well, we don't have to bother our heads about it, I suppose,"
remarked Sid. "It's the same old story, nine-tenths believing in our
side, and the others backing up Buck. But, fellows, we know what we
know. That race was won through a streak of luck for our side, perhaps,
and I'm sorry to even admit that; but there wasn't the first hint of
foul play on our part."

"And given half a chance," said Corney Shays, "Buck would have easily
punched a hole in our boat, if he really believed he was going to be
licked. I've known him to do things twice as bad as that, and get away
with it too, in the bargain. Accuse him of it, and he'd laugh in your
face, and ask how you could prove anything."

"Let's drop Buck and his ways for a while, and think of our chances
with those husky Mechanicsburg chaps," observed Brad, as they came in
sight of the outlying houses connected with the home town, scattered
along the river front.

"Oh! I know what you mean, Brad, all right," spoke up Colon, sensitive
to anything like criticism; "every one knows that I weakened toward the
end, and that's what threw us out of gear. Couldn't help it, if you
killed me. That little trouble I had with the river yesterday must have
still bothered me. Never had such a queer feeling grip me before, and
hope never to again."

"Oh! I wouldn't bother myself about that, Colon," Brad hastened to say,
consolingly; "given a few days to rest, and you'll be as tough as ever.
That strain was heart-breaking, and nobody could blame you for wilting
under it, after what you passed through yesterday. If I'd known we were
going to meet that bunch, all primed to give us a race, perhaps I'd
have thought it good policy to put Joe in the crew for the run home.
But it all turned out right after all."

"And we won, which was the best part of it!" crowed Corney.

"I differ with you there, Corney," declared Brad. "To me the best part
of it was the game quality the whole crew showed. That was an
eye-opener to me. I know now what you can stand; and next time won't be
so much afraid to push you to the limit, if I feel that every fellow is
fit."

"Another thing," remarked Fred, "that is pleasant to know, is the fact
that luck broke in our favor. It's been my experience always, in nearly
every game, when the teams are about even, that when luck takes to
turning one way, that side always wins out. Everything comes their way.
It's begun to like us, boys."

"And we sure have no kick coming," remarked Corney, with emphasis.

There were quite a few people waiting to see what was going to happen.
They had known of Buck and his outlaw crew going up the river in their
boat; and since the regular crew was expected down that afternoon, by
putting things together, they rather guessed a race might result.

Some of these people had field glasses, and from the wild way they
cheered Brad and his interested spectators of at least the conclusion
of the race; for the river ran about straight for some distance up
toward Mechanicsburg.

"Hello!" Brad called out to a party of five or crew, it might be
suspected that they had been six schoolboys who seemed to be trying to
crack their voices yelling, as they waved their hats, and one of them a
pair of glasses; "did you see us trim Buck's bunch, Lossing?"

"You just bet we did, and you showed 'em up handsomely too," came the
reply; "but what happened in their boat when they were in a dead heat
with you?"

"Why, they were a quarter of a length ahead at the time," answered
Brad, frankly. "We'd been sea-sawing it all the way down, first one
leading, then the other. All at once one of their outriggers snapped
off short, and that threw them into all sorts of confusion."

"Oh! that was it, eh? I had the glasses, but couldn't make out just
what happened. But you _did_ beat them anyhow, Brad?" called the other,
jubilantly.

"You'll hear a howl from Buck, all right, Lossing," Brad went on, as
they came in to the shore gently enough, this being their landing
place.

"Well, we reckoned on that," laughed the other. "It wouldn't be Buck
Lemington if he didn't make a kick. What was he yelling out after you,
Brad?"

"Had the nerve to say we fouled his boat, and broke that outrigger,
Lossing."

"Hasn't he the colossal nerve though?" the boy ashore shouted. "Why, I
know for a dead certainty that the boats were at least three lengths
apart at the time. That sure does make me snicker, Brad."

And before evening it might be set down as certain that two versions of
the race would be circulating all through Riverport, one believed by
nearly all the better element, and the other taken as truth by a few
select persons who, from various reasons, thought it policy to back up
anything done by Buck Lemington; or his father, the rich Squire, who
had interest in several factories, and was moreover quite a politician
in the community.

Fred waited around the boathouse until the Colon wagon arrived,
bringing the rest of the boat club, and all their ordinary clothes as
well.

Like the others of the crew, Fred dressed then, and along about dusk
started for home, knowing that it was well on toward supper time, and
his father must be in from his work.

Once more Fred was thinking of his own troubles, and heaving more than
one sigh, as he found himself wishing again and again that something
might happen to bring a new joy into the lives of his mother and
father. They seemed to be losing hope; and the cares that gathered were
beginning to make them look old before their time.

Oh! if only they could hear _something_ from Hiram Masterson, the miner
from Alaska, who had been so mysteriously spirited away just when he
had determined to testify against his own rascally uncle, Sparks
Lemington, and put the Fentons in possession of such information as
would enable them to win the suit for the mine.

"But I suppose that would be too great happiness," he mused, as he drew
near his home, in the window of which he could see the light placed
there by his mother.

He opened the door, and then stood there transfixed, because of what he
saw; for his mother was in the arms of his father, her head pillowed on
his shoulder, and she seemed to be weeping.

But when she raised her head at Fred's entrance the astonished and
delighted boy saw immediately that it must be great joy that brought
those tears, and caused this deep emotion, for upon that dear face he
could read a new-born happiness.

And again he remembered what he had said to his mates on the crew about
luck having chosen to hunt them out as favorites; for it even seemed to
wait him at home.



CHAPTER XI

NEWS FROM OVER SEA


"Oh Fred, it's come!" exclaimed his younger sister, Kate.

"What, news from Hiram?" demanded the boy, his heart beating rapidly
with the sudden excitement.

"That's it; and he says----" began the impulsive girl, when her
mother's voice restrained her:

"Wait, and let Fred read the letter for himself, Kate; he will
understand it much better, I am sure; for in your present condition I
doubt whether you are capable of making anything clear."

Releasing herself from the arms of her smiling husband, she held out a
crumpled sheet of paper to the eager Fred. He saw that there were only
a few lines of writing on it, and that even this was done unevenly, as
though the one who used the pen wrote under unfavorable conditions,
perhaps on the edge of his bunk aboard a sailing vessel.

This was just what Fred read:

    "On the way home by easy stages, and under an assumed name, so as
    not to arouse the suspicion of those who have kept me away.
    Determined to right a great wrong that has been done you. Willing
    to testify in your behalf. Be sure and keep secret, especially from
    the one you have to fear.

    "You Know Who."

"Where is the envelope this came in, mother?" Fred asked the first
thing; for he found nothing about the letter itself to indicate from
what part of the world it might have come.

"I was very careful to keep it, Fred," Mrs. Fenton replied; "for I knew
you would want to see it."

No sooner had Fred glanced hastily at the postmark than he whistled to
indicate his astonishment.

"Why, it was mailed at Hong Kong, and a whole month ago," he cried.

"Yes, away at the other side of the world," his father remarked. "And
from the tone of the letter I feel satisfied that our troubles will
soon be of the past; for Hiram Masterson is tired of being kept away
from his native land, just because he wants to tell the truth; and he
is coming soon to testify for us."

"This is great news, mother, father!" declared Fred, tears standing in
his eyes as he contemplated the joyous faces of those he loved so well,
for the careworn expression had fled from the countenances of his
parents; and he thought both of them looked ten years younger, such is
the mission of happiness.

"I'll never hear the name of Hong Kong again in school, but what I'll
just love it," declared Kate, laughing and crying by turns; "because it
sounds so good right now."

"A month ago he wrote this," continued Fred, reflectively. "Why right
at this time Hiram must be on the way to America on his vessel, and may
show up here any old time. He says he is sailing under another name, so
they won't know him. After all, Hiram has turned out to be a good
friend of ours, father, even if he does belong to that Lemington family
that has given us so much trouble."

"Oh there may be good branches on even the poorest tree," remarked
gentle Mrs. Fenton. "So it is with families. There's little Billy, now,
Buck's brother; didn't you say he was as nice a youngster as you ever
met, Fred?"

"That's so, mother; and I'll try and not forget again. But I suppose we
ought to do what Hiram says, and keep quiet about this latest news.
Why, I believe that if people only knew we had a letter postmarked Hong
Kong, they'd talk about it; and if that suspicious Squire Lemington
heard, he'd put things together, so as to make out a true story."

"How that imagination of yours does take wings, son," said Mr. Fenton,
with a laugh. "But you're right about one thing; we must tell no one.
Remember, Kate, not a single word to your closest chum."

"Oh! don't be afraid I'll tell, father!" declared the girl.

"And I promise that not even Sid shall know," Fred put in; "though I'd
trust any secret with him, for he's as close-mouthed as an oyster, Sid
is."

"But even Sid might talk in his sleep, or let a hint fall," Kate
insisted; "and you know he's got a sister, Mame, who loves to gossip a
little--I kind of think all girls do," she added, with a little giggle,
and shrug of her shoulders.

"Won't Hiram have a story to tell when he gets back again?" observed
Fred, who, boy-like, thought of the adventures the kidnapped miner must
have passed through during his long enforced absence.

"I imagine," Mr. Fenton observed, "that the harsh treatment he has
endured at the hands of those who are in the pay of the company his
uncle controls must have had just the opposite effect upon Hiram to
what they intended. He feels very bitter toward them, and is more
determined than ever to beat them at their game. I was always told that
when evil men fall out honest ones get their due, and I believe it
now."

"I don't believe Hiram can be so very wicked," interposed Mrs. Fenton,
gently. "When he came down here from Alaska to help his uncle by giving
false testimony, he must have been laboring under some wrong notion of
how things stood. Since then he has seen a great light, and his better
nature has come to the front."

"Then it was what Fred did for him when he first came, that opened his
eyes," declared Kate. "You remember, mother, if it hadn't been for our
Fred, Mr. Masterson would have found himself in serious trouble."

"Yes, that must have been the entering wedge," Mr. Fenton remarked,
nodding his approval of the girl's idea. "It set Hiram to thinking; and
once a wavering man does that, the good in him gets a chance. But come,
this doesn't look like supper. I didn't think I was one bit hungry; but
now I'm fairly ravenous."

"And the splendid news has taken my desire to eat away," Mrs. Fenton
said; but she immediately started to get the meal on the table, her
face radiant with the new happiness that had come.

At the table Fred was seized with a sudden thought, pursuing which he
turned to his sister to ask a few questions.

"Do you remember who gave the letter to you at the office, Kate; was it
that red-headed clerk, Sam Smalling?"

"Why, to be sure; he always hands out the mail at the General Delivery
window," she replied, without hesitation.

"He's an inquisitive sort of a fellow, I've found," Fred went on; "and
I've even seen him reading post cards that pass through. Stop and
think, Kate, did he mention the fact to you that you were getting a
_foreign_ letter this time?"

"Why, yes, that is just what he did, Fred," Kate answered quickly; "how
could you guess such a thing now?"

"Oh! I just remembered hearing him make remarks to several persons when
they came for mail, which told me Mr. Sam Smalling kept tabs on about
all that went on in Riverport. It must keep his brain working all the
time, trying to remember when Susie Green expects a letter from her
aunt away up in Basking Ridge; and if Eph Smith has written home to his
ma regularly once a month. But joking aside, sis, what did he say to
you about it?"

"Why, as near as I can remember, Fred, he only remarked that he noticed
our far-away cousin in Hong Kong had finally taken a notion to write to
us. I thought he was trying to be smart, you know; and to carry the
joke along I laughed, and said it was too mean for anything the way
Cousin Jim had treated us for a long time; and that it was about time
he wrote."

"Splendid!" exclaimed Fred, laughing. "And what did he say to that,
Kate?"

"I didn't wait to hear," she replied; "but when I went out of the door
I looked back, and saw Mr. Smalling patting himself, as if he thought
he had the greatest mind ever, to be able to just guess everything."

"Well, I reckon you've spiked his guns, then," Fred went on. "You see,
he has a younger brother who trains with that crowd of Buck's; and I
didn't know but that Sam might make some mention of the mysterious
letter we got to-day from the other side of the world. And then, in
some way, it might get around to the ears of Buck, who would carry it
to his father; because, I guess every little thing about the Fentons is
of _some_ interest up there at the big house."

"Fred, if you make up your mind to be a lawyer, I think you have a
future ahead of you," declared his father, proudly; "because your
reasoning powers are first-class. But the chances of the post office
clerk mentioning the fact now are so remote, that we need not give it a
thought."

The evening that followed was one of the happiest the Fentons had known
for a long time. There was much to talk about, and a spirit of coming
joy seemed to pervade the very atmosphere of that humble cottage home,
that certainly never brooded over the much more pretentious
establishment of Sparks Lemington.

And when, rather later than usual, Fred went up to his small room close
under the rafters, where rainy nights he could listen to the patter of
the drops on the roof just over his head, he believed that he must be
the happiest boy in all Riverport.

And in his new found joy his thoughts turned to the chum who was
worrying so much over his troubles; so that Fred resolved on the morrow
to try and do something to help poor Bristles Carpenter.



CHAPTER XII

BRISTLES HAS AN IDEA


The following morning, as Fred was tinkering around, fixing up some of
his traps, he heard the whistle of one of his chums outside. Poking his
head out of the window, and wondering why, if it should be Sid, he did
not come upstairs without any knocking at the door, he saw to his
surprise that it was Bristles.

"Hello! Fred! Can I climb up, or will you come down here?" the latter
called out.

"Walk right into my parlor, said the spider to the fly," replied Fred,
being in rare good humor himself, and wishing he could do something to
help Bristles.

The other boy soon made his appearance in Fred's little den of a room;
which, however, was mighty comfortable, and as neat as wax. Mrs. Fenton
was a good housekeeper, and she had always trained her children to
never leave things "at sixes and sevens," as she termed it.

Fred saw that Bristles was considerably excited over something or
other. And of course the chances were that it must concern his own
personal affairs. Having made a confidant of Fred, and gained more or
less benefit because of his sympathy and advice, Bristles was rushing
over the first thing with further news.

"You look worked up, Bristles," Fred remarked, as the other threw his
cap on the table, and dropped down in the rocker.

"Well, I am, for a fact," the visitor replied, nodding his head to
emphasize his remark.

"Anything happened to make you feel better?" suggested Fred; "has there
been another mysterious robbery over at your aunt's house, so that she
can understand you didn't do it, because you were far away this time?"

Bristles heaved a big sigh.

"Huh! no such good luck as that, Fred," he remarked; "I only wish it
was that way. P'raps it will be, just as you say. But an idea hit me in
the night, when I was a-lyin' there, trying to get to sleep again. I
don't like to be awake when it's only three o'clock, you know. Makes me
feel bad in the morning. And I was tired as all get-out last night,
after what we did yesterday up at camp and on the way down, when we
beat Buck's bunch so neat in that race."

"Hold on, stick to the text," remarked Fred; "you're the greatest
fellow to ramble all over the lot when you start to telling anything.
Now you said you had run across an idea; let's hear it, then; for I
reckon it must have something to do with your trouble, Bristles?"

The other actually grinned, showing that he was feeling more hopeful on
this bright, sunshiny, summer morning, at any rate.

"That's right, Fred, it had a whole lot to do with it!" he burst out.
"Say, I've discovered who's been cribbing all those pretty little
stones up at my aunt's!"

"You don't mean it?" cried Fred, really taken aback.

"Yes, I do, now," went on the excited Bristles; "and you couldn't guess
it in a year of Sundays. It just seemed to pop into my head while I was
lying there on my back, grunting because I couldn't get to sleep, or
take my mind off Aunt Alicia and her queer old house."

"Now, don't stop like that, and chuckle, Bristles; but go on telling,
if you want me to sit here and listen." Fred prodded his chum with his
finger as he said this, to bring him to his senses.

"It's playing a mean game on the old lady, too, to take those opals so
slick, and give her all that bad feeling; but if she _will_ keep such
tricky pets, why she's got to pay for it, that's all, Fred."

"Pets!" burst out the other.

"Sure thing," laughed Bristles; "that wise old crow's the guilty
thief!"

"The black raven that she brought over from England, you mean?" Fred
went on, rather staggered himself by what Bristles had said, and yet
discovering an element of possible truth in it.

"Yes, the old chap that cocks his head on one side when you come in,
and examines you over from head to foot, just like he meant to say, 'If
you're not good looking you're not wanted here!' Oh! he's a gay old
villain, I just tell you! And, Fred, mark my words, he's the scamp
who's been taking Aunty's opals."

"Why, I do remember reading, more than a few times, that crows and
ravens have been known to fly away with bright spoons, and all sorts of
things that seem to catch their fancy; but I never heard of a bird
stealing from its mistress, and opals at that."

"Well, that's what this one is doing, you mark me," Bristles said,
positively. "Why, just see what a great chance the old boy has. He
finds the door open into the parlor once in a while, and just hops in,
takes up one of the shiny stones, and carries it away to some place
where he keeps his treasures. I just bet you now he's been carryin' on
that way a long time, and Aunty never noticed that things were
disappearing till I began to come over to see her."

"You think so, do you, Bristles?" remarked Fred, still pondering over
the matter, and wondering in his mind whether it could really be an
explanation for the peculiar little mystery that had given his chum so
much heart-pain.

"Why, it's a dead open-and-shut cinch that the answer to the conundrum
lies in that silly old black bunch of feathers," declared the other,
conviction in his voice. "I looked up all about ravens in our big
'cyclopædia as soon as I got downstairs this morning; and the more I
read, the stronger my mind got that Black Joe _must_ be the guilty
one."

"Will you go and tell your aunt, and ask her to make a search for his
hiding-place?" Fred inquired.

"Well--er--no; not just that," answered the other, slowly, and watching
Fred out of the tail of his eye; "fact is, I'm afraid she'd laugh at
me, and say it was only another excuse for me to get inside her house.
Now, if _you_ could drop in to see Aunt Alicia on some excuse or other,
Fred, perhaps you might get a chance to look around, and find out where
Black Joe keeps his little crop of treasures hid."

Fred burst out into a laugh.

"Oh! I see, you want me to be the one to take chances; is that it,
Bristles?" he demanded.

"Well, I didn't think you'd mind doing a little more for a poor fellow,
as you've been such a help already to me, Fred; and then, she won't
accuse you of wanting to do anything wrong like she might me. Fact is,"
he went on eagerly, so as to better carry his point, "she once said she
kind of liked your looks, after you'd been in there with me. I sure
believe you made a hit with Aunt Alicia; because, as a rule, she
doesn't care much for boys, you know."

"Hold on, Bristles," said Fred, laughingly; "that won't wash a bit.
You're giving me some taffy now, just to make me agree to visit your
aunt. But, honest, I don't care to take the chances. My reputation is
pretty good up to now; but it might go to flinders if anyone said I was
taking things that did not belong to me."

"But, good gracious! Fred, she wouldn't have any reason to accuse you!"
Bristles burst out, very much disappointed because his pet scheme
promised to meet with a hitch so early in its development.

"You forget one thing?" said Fred, soberly.

"Perhaps I have, because, you see, I'm all excited; and it isn't apt to
leave a fellow in decent trim for thinking. But what was it I forgot,
Fred; tell me that?"

"Why, perhaps one or two of the balance of those opals might take a
notion to disappear about the same time I dropped in to see your aunt,
without any invitation to do it. And in that case she'd just naturally
think you'd put me up to keeping the queer business going. I'd hate to
have her think that of me, and much worse send word to my father and
mother that I was a thief!"

"I should say so," declared Bristles, gloomily. "Bad enough to have her
say that I was; and that's all in the family, you see. I never once
thought of that, believe me, Fred. Wouldn't have asked you to take such
chances, if I had. 'Course it wouldn't be fair, and I'm a selfish
feller for hinting at it."

"I don't think so, Bristles," Fred went on, consolingly. "It looked
good to you, because you never thought of the chances of another raid
being made on your aunt's opals. But perhaps you might have your mother
go over and see Miss Alicia. She could mention what you thought, and
even if the old lady did pretend to scoff at the idea, it would put a
flea in her ear, so perhaps she'd keep an eye on Black Joe."

"I'll think about it, Fred. I don't fancy dragging my mother into the
game if it can be helped. I'd like to lift the lid myself, and then
have the laugh on Aunt Alicia. Some day, perhaps, she'll be sorry she
thought so mean of me, and wouldn't listen to my defense. You wait and
see. I'm going to get at the bottom of this thing if it takes me all
summer."

"Well, General Grant got there in the end, and let's hope you'll be as
lucky, old fellow," said Fred, cheerfully. "Anyhow, that was a bright
thought about Black Joe; and it would be a jolly story to tell if it
did turn out that way."

"Why, right now you more'n half believe it yourself, Fred!" cried
Bristles.

"It's worth thinking about," was the noncommittal answer Fred made.

"Oh! by the way," his visitor suddenly exclaimed, "while I was on my
way over here I met Corney, who said he'd heard the Mechanicsburg
fellows got their boat last night."

"Good for that," remarked Fred, with satisfaction. "Now both crews can
get busy, and whip themselves in shape for that big race later on. I
expect we'll do much better next time. Colon wasn't himself at all,
after being nearly drowned only the day before. But he'll come around
all right; and when he's in trim there isn't a huskier fellow in the
Riverport school."

"We practice again this afternoon, don't we?" asked Bristles.

"That was the programme last night, Brad told us," replied Fred.

"Well, I only hope I get relief from this cloud that's hangin' over my
head all the time," Bristles went on, sighing again. "It's just like
the toothache, Fred; you suffer, and know it means goin' to the
dentist's chair; but how you hate to go and get her yanked out! But
once you make up your mind, and the job's done, how glad you feel you
went; eh? Well, some bright day, I'm hoping, I'll feel just as happy as
if I'd had a tooth drawn," and Fred was compelled to smile at the
homely way his chum illustrated the condition of his feelings, though
he understood just how Bristles felt.



CHAPTER XIII

A CALL FOR HELP


"I hope you take a notion to get your mother to go around there some
time to-day," Fred went on to say, as his visitor got up to leave.

"Perhaps I might," Bristles admitted; though he shook his head as if
the idea did not wholly appeal to him.

"She could smooth things over a whole lot, you see," Fred continued;
"and then, if by some luck, another of the little gems has disappeared
since your aunt sent that note over, your mother would be able to show
Aunty how unjust she had been when she hinted that you'd taken the
others."

"Yes, it looks that way, Fred; and I'm obliged to you for giving me the
hint," said Bristles. "But I want to think this over again. I'm going
back home and stay there the whole morning, doing some high and lofty
work with my head. What's the use of having brains if you can't make
'em work for you. So-long, Fred. You're sure the handy boy when it
comes to making a feller see things in a new light. But I still believe
it's old Black Joe, the little villain!"

After he had gone, the matter was often in Fred's mind, and he really
began to grow quite excited while thinking about it.

"It may be stretching things a whole lot to believe a bird could be so
smart as to take those stones," he said to himself, seriously; "but
anyhow, the opportunity was there before Black Joe, if he wanted to try
it. I remember that when the old lady showed me those opals, and told
me how they were taken from a mine in Mexico where she had sunk a heap
of money, she put them back on the cabinet shelf, and they were just
lying in a little bowl with some other curiosities she had. Yes, Black
Joe could fly up there, and pick out what he wanted, sure enough."

Somehow the thought was still strong in Fred's mind when, later in the
morning, he started out to go over to see what Sid Wells might be
doing. And it even took him out of his way, so that instead of making
his usual short cut across lots to his chum's house, he passed along
the street where Miss Muster (the boys called her Miss Mustard on
account of her peppery temper) lived.

He even turned his head while passing, and looked in toward the rather
expensive building (for a small place like Riverport) where the old
maid lived alone with her colored "mammy" and her several pets.

He could see the big bulldog that was chained to his kennel, placed
under the windows of the room the maiden lady slept in. Yes, Beauty was
asleep on the top of his box then, curled up as if not "caring whether
school kept or not."

"Boy! boy, come over here! I want you!"

Fred at first thought that it was the talking bird calling to him in
this way, for he had heard Black Joe rattle along just like an educated
poll parrot. Then he recognized the shrill tones of Miss Muster; and at
the same moment caught sight of the maiden lady.

She was standing on her broad porch, and beckoning to him.

Being close to the gate, he pressed the latch, and passed through into
the yard, where there were a great many flowers. Possibly Fred felt a
queer little thrill as he walked toward the porch, where Miss Muster
awaited him. He remembered the proposal Bristles had made, and which he
had seen fit to turn down.

The old lady was peering at him through her glasses.

"Oh! you are the boy who was in here with my--er--nephew that time?"
she remarked; and at first Fred thought she was about to say she had no
use for anyone who would keep company with Bristles, but she did not,
much to his relief.

"Yes, ma'am, I remember being in here with Bris--er--Andy Carpenter,
once," Fred remarked. "And you were kind enough to show me a lot of
mighty interesting things, too, Miss Muster. What can I do for you this
morning, ma'am?"

The sharp face softened a little, and the faintest shadow of a smile
crept over the old maid's features.

"Let me see, what's your name?" she asked.

"Fred Fenton, ma'am. We have not been in Riverport much more than a
year. I think my mother said she met you a while ago, down in the
grocery, and had a nice talk with you."

"I remember, and a fine little lady Mrs. Fenton is, to be sure. If she
is your mother, boy, you've good cause to be satisfied. And I wouldn't
say that about many women, either. But I was just wanting a little
assistance, and called to the first person who happened to be passing
along the street. My old servant is laid up to-day with an attack of
lumbago; and the gardener is off on an errand that will take him two
hours. Could you give me a few minutes of your time, Fred?"

"Why, yes, ma'am, sure I can. I was only going over to look up a chum,
and talk about the chances we have in a boat race that is going to come
off soon. What do you want me to do, Miss Muster?"

She looked at him again, with that suspicious gleam in her eyes.
Somehow, Fred could not help feeling a little indignant. Because she
chose to think the worst of her poor innocent nephew was no reason why
Miss Muster should believe ill of every fellow.

He was almost tempted to say what he thought, and free his mind.
Perhaps, then, she might understand that even a boy has feelings, and
can suffer mentally, as well as bodily.

But on second thought Fred wisely kept his peace. There might be a
better way to teach the old maid a needed lesson than by sharp talk,
which would only serve to make her feel more bitter toward "upstart
boys" in general.

Evidently Miss Muster must have gained a favorable impression from her
survey of the lad, whom she had called inside.

"I guess after all there _is_ a difference in boys," she muttered, much
to the secret amusement of Fred, who could easily imagine that she was
comparing him with poor Bristles, and evidently much to the
disadvantage of the latter.

He waited for her to speak, and wondered whether she wanted him to do
something in the garden that possibly old Jake had neglected to look
after, before going upon his errand; or if he would get an invitation
to enter that big house again.

And as he involuntarily glanced toward the spot where the ugly-looking
bulldog, called Beauty by his mistress, was now stretching his
broad-beamed body, after his recent nap, Fred resolved to draw the line
there. If she wanted him to approach the defender of the manse, he
thought he would be showing the proper discretion if he politely but
positively declined.

"Are your shoes clean, Fred?" she finally asked, looking down at his
feet while putting the question.

"Why, yes, ma'am, they seem to be. There is no mud; and I'm in the
habit of keeping my shoes clean at home," he replied, understanding
from this remark that it must be the house, and not the garden, where
his task awaited him.

"Then come into the house with me," she continued, as if thoroughly
satisfied with her scrutiny.

Fred took off his cap and walked up the steps leading to the broad
veranda. He would not have been a real boy had he not speculated as to
what the lady wished with him. And it was in this frame of mind that he
followed her into the wide hall of the house, which was to Bristles the
home of mystery and the seat of all his trouble.

"Come right into this room, Fred," said Miss Muster, leading the way
into what he remembered to be her living room, where she sat most of
the time she was home, reading, writing letters, and paying attention
to her business matters; for she had considerable money invested, and
insisted on looking after the details herself, rather than trust a
lawyer with them.

The first thing Fred saw upon entering was the pet cat, a big Persian,
with long hair, and a handsome face. Then a restless movement from
above called his attention to the raven, perched upon a curtain
fixture, or pole, close to the ceiling, and, looking down wisely at
them as they entered.

Fred immediately wondered whether he could be looking at the sly thief,
who had been secretly making way with the old maid's treasures, as he
noted the cunning aspect of Black Joe.

Miss Muster shook her finger angrily at the bird.

"Now we'll see whether you can defy me so impudently, you sly baggage!"
she remarked, in rather a tart tone; and it burst upon Fred that,
singularly enough, his unexpected visit to the mansion of the rich old
maid was evidently in connection with something that had to, do with
Black Joe.

Why, it really looked as though the luck that had come to the Fentons
only the day before might still be following him, even in his desire to
do his chum a good turn.

Perhaps the golden opportunity to find out something about Black Joe's
tricks might be close at hand. How little he had dreamed of this when
leaving his home only a few minutes before.

"Once in a great while," the lady went on to explain, "Joe gets a
stubborn fit, and refuses to mind when I tell him to come to me. It
always exasperates me; and twice before I've sent for the gardener to
come and get the step-ladder, so that he can chase the rascal from
pillar to post until finally he would fall into my grasp. I punish him
by chaining him fast to that perch for a week; and as a rule he seems
to amend his ways for a long time. But the last occasion failed most
miserably, I must confess. Do you think you are strong enough to carry
the step-ladder up from the basement, Fred?"

Fred had some difficulty in keeping his face free from a smile. The
idea of her doubting his muscular ability, after all the athletic
exercises he practiced; but then of course Miss Muster would not know
that; so he only replied that he believed he would have no difficulty
in doing all she required.



CHAPTER XIV

THE MISSING OPALS AGAIN


Following out the injunctions of Miss Muster, Fred easily found where
the step-ladder was kept in the basement. Nor did he have the slightest
difficulty in carrying it up the stairs after he had discovered it.

He noticed that the lady was very particular to keep the door of the
living room closed; and remembered that it had been in that condition
at the time of their first arrival.

"The artful rogue," Miss Muster explained; "would be only too glad to
fly out, and scour the entire house, laughing at me, and mocking me as
though possessed of the spirit of evil our great poet Edgar Allan Poe
gave to the raven. But now that you have succeeded in getting the
ladder, we shall soon corner him."

Fred was highly amused at the comical way the old raven watched the
preparations being made, looking to his capture. He would cock his head
on one side, as he looked down, and occasionally utter some droll word
that seemed to fit the occasion exactly.

Having had considerable experience in chasing the mutinous bird all
over the big room, Miss Muster seemed to know just how to manage things
in order to get results with as little waste of time as possible.

"Fred, you take the ladder, and place it under this picture," she went
on to say; "he always comes back there after each little flight. Then,
with the broom I will shoo him off that curtain pole. He does get so
excited, and goes on at such a terrible rate. Why, I sometimes seem to
suspect that some of those strange words he uses may be what that
Portuguese sailor, from whom I purchased him while over in England,
taught him."

And indeed, once she started the bird flying wildly about, Black Joe
did shriek out all manner of phrases, some of which Fred could
understand, while others he was able to make nothing out of.

Fred knew the part he was expected to take in capturing the rebellious
raven. He crouched there on the step-ladder, waiting for his chance.
Trust a lively, wide-awake boy for being able to outwit any raven that
ever lived. Black Joe may have believed himself smart, but he could not
match wits with an up-to-date lad.

Fluttering his feathers indignantly, and still giving vent to a volume
of angry cries, the raven presently, just as his mistress had said
would be the case, settled on the top of the big picture frame.

Instantly a hand shot upward, and there was a squawk that seemed to be
choked off, as Fred's fingers closed around the body and neck of wily
Black Joe.

"Oh! please don't hurt him any, Fred!" cried the lady, dropping the
broom, and hurrying over to take the bird from Fred's hands.

Indeed, the boy was not sorry to get rid of the savage creature, which
was trying its best to give him vicious pecks, and struggling with
wings and claws to break away.

Once in the possession of Miss Muster, however, it seemed to become
very meek. She stroked it, murmuring endearing words, and proceeded to
fasten a nickeled chain about one of it's legs, so that it could not
fly away from the perch over in the corner by one of the windows, that
were covered with wire mosquito netting.

"That was very cleverly done, Fred," remarked Miss Muster, in a tone
that rather caused the boy to alter the opinion he had formed
concerning her. "Poor old Jake is so clumsy he makes half a dozen
attempts before he is able to catch the speedy bird. Once he upset the
step-ladder, and sprawled all over the floor. And upon my word, I have
always believed that sad wretch there laughed at him. It sounded like
it, at any rate."

She was beginning to thaw out, and Fred found himself wondering if,
after all, under the surface, Miss Muster might not have more feeling
than she chose to let people believe.

He actually began to like her. And more than ever did he hope that
something might come along to enable him to bring about a better
understanding between the rich old maid and her once favorite nephew,
now under an unmerited cloud.

"Sit down a few minutes, Fred," she continued. "And get your breath
back after all the exertion of lugging that heavy ladder up here. Then
I'd like you to take it back to where you found it. And I think I've
got a book you'd like to own. I did mean to give it to Andrew on his
birthday next week, but I have changed my mind."

Fred did not exactly like the way she pursed up her thin lips when she
said this. She was doing Bristles an injustice, he felt sure. Of course
he could not decline to take the book she meant to present him with, as
pay for his services; but in his mind, as he was carrying back the
ladder, Fred was determined that he would consider that it belonged to
Bristles, and not himself.

Once more he entered the living room, where he found Miss Muster
waiting for him, seated in her easy chair. The raven sat on his perch,
with all his feathers ruffled up, as though he knew he was in disgrace
with his indulgent mistress.

"Here is the book I want you to accept from me, Fred, and I hope you
will enjoy reading it," and as she said this she held out a volume,
which he saw was just such as a boy who loved athletic games would most
enjoy.

"Thank you, ma'am," he hastened to say, seeing his opening. "I know I
will like it; but I feel bad because you meant it for Bristles--I mean
your nephew, Andrew."

She frowned at once.

"Please forget all about him just now, Fred," she said, decisively.
"It's hard work for me to keep him out of my mind; but I never could
bear deception; and, as for a sly little rascal, who looks you in the
face, and denies everything, when you know he is _positively_ guilty,
bah! I wash my hands of him forever. I could never believe him again,
never!"

"But Miss Muster, he is innocent," said Fred; at which she started
violently, and looked keenly at him.

"Then he has fooled you as well as me," she snapped. "I warrant you he
is chuckling in his sleeve right now because he managed to deceive me
so handily. Much he cares about my feelings, when I was beginning to
have a foolish old woman's dreams about Andrew inheriting all my money,
and making the name of Carpenter famous one of these days. Oh! it did
hurt me cruelly, boy."

"But you are mistaken, ma'am, when you think he doesn't care," Fred
went on hastily. "Why, he can't sleep nights, thinking about it."

"Well, that doesn't prove anything," Miss Muster remarked
sarcastically. "A guilty soul often writhes when being punished; and I
suppose my last note to my niece, his mother, brought him into a peck
of trouble. I suppose now he does lie awake nights, thinking. Perhaps
he wonders what he can do with my lovely opals, now he's got them. Or
he may be scheming how to lay hands on the balance."

"He was in to see me this morning, ma'am," Fred observed.

"Oh! is that so? And do you think, Fred, that nice little mother of
yours would like it, if she knew you were keeping company with a boy
who was suspected of abusing the confidence of, his fond aunt, and
helping himself to her possessions."

"I think," said Fred, stoutly, "that if she heard all Andy had to say,
and saw how he suffered, she'd believe just as I do, that he is
innocent, and never touched your opals, Miss Muster."

"Well, somebody did;" the old lady snapped; though evidently more or
less affected by the staunch way Fred stood up for his chum; "does he
have any idea who could have done it? Perhaps he thinks my old black
Mammy did; or poor, but honest, Jake Stall. He was always a fanciful
boy, and it might be he suspects I walk in my sleep, and go around
secreting my own property?"

"No, ma'am he has never hinted at any such thing; but he says, while
lying awake at three o'clock this morning, thinking and thinking how he
could prove his innocence, he suddenly seemed to guess who it might be
taking your pretty stones."

Fred turned and pointed toward the blinking raven as he spoke.

"Well, now," remarked Miss Muster, looking surprised, and then smiling
disdainfully; "if that isn't just like Andrew for all that's out, to
accuse my poor pet of doing so mean a thing. It is true, I know they
will steal, and secrete such things as they particularly fancy; but I
watch Joe closely. Besides, there is another good reason why he
couldn't have taken those opals."

"Yes, ma'am," said Fred, when she paused as if for breath.

"He has been chained to that perch for more than a week past, and I
only set him free this very morning. So you see how Andrew's brilliant
theory falls to the ground. He must think up something else, if he
hopes to prove his own innocence. I wish he could, indeed I do. My
heart feels very heavy these days, for I was beginning to have some
faith in boys. But say no more. If you are going, Fred, please come
into the other room with me. I want to show you a splendid specimen of
a saw, taken from a sawfish down in the West Indies, and sent to me. It
is more than three feet long. You will be interested, because nearly
all boys like everything pertaining to fishing."

So Fred followed her across the wide hall. She opened the door of the
parlor, in which he remembered he had been on that former visit, at the
time she showed him the little bowl containing the opals, and other
valuable curios.

After opening the door Miss Muster passed in, Fred followed, but
remained a respectful distance behind her, a fact for which he
afterwards had reason to be thankful.

Some sudden notion seemed to take possession of the old lady for
quickly crossing over she took down the little Japanese bowl, as if to
count the opals remaining. Fred heard her give a startled cry. Then she
hastily looked again, after which she set the bowl down on a table with
a hand that trembled violently, and turning angrily upon Fred, she
cried in her sharpest tones:

"He sent you here to follow up his miserable trick! All boys are
thieves, and in spite of the lovely little mother you have, Fred
Fenton, you are as bad as the rest of them!"

Fred could hardly believe his ears when thus accused. He stood there
for several seconds, no doubt turning red and white by turns, as he
tried to restrain the indignation that swept over him like a great
wave.



CHAPTER XV

FRED'S BRAVE STAND


"Excuse me, ma'am, but surely you do not believe that," Fred managed to
say in another minute; and his voice may have trembled a little with
emotion; though his manner was as frank and fearless as ever, as he
looked straight into the snappy black eyes of the angry old lady.

"Three more of the gems are gone, and they were here this morning,
because I took them out in my hand, and counted them," she declared,
furiously; yet beginning to feel uncomfortable under his steady look.

"But why should you even think that I took them, Miss Muster?" he
demanded.

"Because--you are the only person besides myself who has been in this
room the entire day. Mammy has been sick in bed since nine o'clock; and
Jake Stall did not put a foot inside the house to my personal
knowledge," but although she said this as if to signify that her mind
was made up, Fred could detect a little hesitation.

She already began to realize the absurdity of the accusation.

"Stop and think, ma'am, and I'm sure your own sense will tell you that
you are wronging me when you say that," the boy argued, with the same
positive air of conviction that had made his father declare he would
make a good lawyer, if ever he felt inclined to study for the bar.

"In what way, boy?" Miss Muster faltered.

"Because in the first place you called me into your house of your own
accord, when I was passing. I wouldn't have come, only that you said
you were in some sort of trouble, and needed help. Then, think again,
Miss Muster--you opened this door which had been shut all the time; you
hurried into this room, and over to that stand. You know, ma'am, I was
never within six feet of that little bowl. Right now I am half way
between the table and the door. My arms would have to be pretty long to
reach over there, wouldn't they now, Miss Muster?"

She saw his point. And indeed, even before he clinched the fact in this
ingenious way the old lady was ready to admit that she had been
unwisely hasty in making that passionate accusation.

"I beg your pardon, Fred," she hastened to say, holding out her hand,
which he did not hesitate to take. "I was entirely wrong, and acted
from a foolish impulse when I found that, in spite of all my
precautions, more of my opals had mysteriously disappeared. You could
not have taken them had you wanted to; and I do not believe you would
touch them if you had a dozen chances."

That was saying a good deal for Miss Muster; and Fred, who knew
considerable about her sharp tongue, felt that he could hardly have
been paid a higher compliment.

"Thank you, ma'am," he said, smiling in a satisfied way. "If you
please, then, we'll consider the thing closed. But that doesn't explain
where the opals have gone to; does it?"

"Indeed, it does not," she replied. "I have been deeply stirred by this
mystery; but Fred, believe me, it was not the value of the jewels one
quarter so much as the shock given to my faith in human nature. I
believed that the boy had been tempted beyond his power of resistance.
Perhaps he wanted a certain sum of money for some purpose, and
conceived the wicked idea that he could sell the stones, and get it
that way. Oh! I would have gladly given him five, yes ten times their
value, if only he had not given way to temptation."

"But Miss Muster," said Fred, quick to take advantage of his splendid
opportunity; "you were just as sure, right now, that I was the thief;
and yet how easy it was for me to prove my innocence. Wouldn't you be
glad if I could do the same for my chum, Brist--I mean Andy?"

"Indeed, I would, Fred," she replied, warmly. "Do that, and there will
be a whole shelf of boys' books come to your house, and an old woman's
blessing in the bargain. But I'm afraid you'll find it a harder task
than clearing your own skirts."

"But give me the chance, won't you, please, ma'am?" Fred insisted.

"Do you want to speak now about it, Fred?" she asked, eagerly enough.

"Why, yes, if you don't object, ma'am," he replied. "You know there's
an old saying that 'it's best to strike while the iron is hot'."

"And you think that I'm pretty warm just now; is that it?" she asked,
smiling a little in a way that made her thin face look almost friendly
to the boy's imagination.

"Well, while we were on the subject I thought I'd like to call your
attention to just one thing," Fred continued, persistently. "And after
you've heard what I want to say, I think you'll agree with me that
Bris--er, Andy, couldn't well have been guilty of taking these last
opals. Why, he surely hasn't been in your house this whole day, has he,
Miss Muster?"

"N--no, not that I know of, for a fact, Fred," she said, slowly.

"You keep the doors locked, don't you, ma'am, so Bristles, or any one
else for that matter, couldn't have come in this morning, _after_ you
counted those things?"

"Yes, the doors are always locked. I am very particular about that.
When the grocer's boy or the one from the butcher, come for orders,
they wait in the kitchen while Mammy comes to me here, and we talk over
what we need."

"Did that happen this morning, ma'am? Were both those boys inside here
to-day?" Fred asked.

The old lady looked sharply at him when he said this.

"Ah! now I see in what direction your suspicions lie, Fred," she
remarked, her face lighting up. "And if you can prove to my
satisfaction that one of those boys took my opals, and they are
returned to me, I will say nothing, do nothing, to prosecute the guilty
one. Perhaps I was foolish to leave the door of opportunity open; the
temptation within their reach. In that case the fault was partly mine."

"But I haven't accused anybody, ma'am; only I wondered whether one of
those tradesmen's boys could have done it," Fred went on. "I'm going to
look them up right away, and if I can recover the opals, and make the
thief confess before you, then that will end the affair, will it?"

"So far as he is concerned, it will," the old lady answered; "but I
shall never forgive myself for suspecting my niece's son of such a
thing. Fred, do you suppose he would come to see me if you took him a
message?"

"Who, Andrew?" exclaimed the delighted Fred. "Why, I'm as sure of it
as that I draw breath. He'd almost fly here, he'd be that glad you
believed him innocent. Do you want me to tell him, ma'am?"

"Wait, let it go for a little while. When I send you word, you may tell
him all that has occurred here to-day, and how a silly old woman had
her eyes opened to the truth by a clever boy. Meanwhile, please do not
say a word to any one, will you, Fred?"

He was a little disappointed, because it would have given him so much
pleasure to carry the joyful news to Bristles; but then, a little more
delay could not hurt. And besides, it would give him a chance to look
around, find out just what the habits of both the grocer's and the
butcher's boy were, and possibly make the guilty one confess, on
promise of immunity from punishment.

"I'll promise to do just whatever you say, ma'am, though I hope for the
sake of poor Bristles you won't keep me waiting long," he answered.

"Fred, shake hands with me again," said the old maid, surveying him
with kindling eyes. "I take back a lot of the mean things I've been
thinking about boys these few days. There _is_ something worth while in
some of them. My better nature told me so right along. They're not all
bad. I reckon now, you'd sooner do most anything than to break the fond
heart of that fine little mother of yours; wouldn't you, Fred?"

"Oh! I haven't always been above suspicion, ma'am," Fred hastened to
say, in confusion. "I'm no better than the average fellow, and I'm
afraid I haven't always been just the boy I ought to be, either. I
suppose I've made her feel bad a lot of times. But as to doing anything
real wicked like stealing things--the worst I ever did was to get in
some neighbor's orchard at night, when we had plenty of good apples at
home."

Miss Muster laughed at that frank admission, as though she thought it
quite an original plea for the boy in general.

"Oh! I understand all boys have failings like that," she said; "and
sensible people wouldn't have them grow up like little saints. But
Fred, I'm sure you'll never either as a boy, nor yet as a young man, do
anything that would grieve your mother's heart. I'm ashamed of what I
wrote my niece, and when I can muster up enough courage I'm going right
over to her house, and explain. It makes me feel that it's worth while
living, now that, through you, I've found that Andrew is innocent."

The way she said that last word told Fred that she was near the
breaking-down point, and he thought he had better leave. He went away
from that place with a heart that was considerably lighter than when he
first started to pass the fence behind which the property of Miss
Muster lay. He had had a wonderful experience, and from that time on
must feel differently toward the old maid, whom the boys of Riverport
always looked upon as hateful. She had shown him that, under the
surface, she was a lovable woman after all, and possessed of a woman's
heart, somewhat starved it is true, but still there.



CHAPTER XVI

THE TRIAL SPIN


"Which way are we going this afternoon for a practice spin?" asked
Corney Shays, as he came alongside Fred Fenton.

There was a lively crowd around the long, low shed in which the new
boat was temporarily quartered, while the new building, a start upon
which had already been made, was being erected.

Several score of persons had gathered to see the boys row, for it began
to look as if the whole community was going wild over the prospects of
another school victory coming to Riverport. Baseball and football, it
seemed, did not wholly satisfy the appetites of the now aroused
Riverport athletes. They had beaten both of their rivals again this
season on the diamond; and now, with Fall a long way off, this boating
fever had seized upon them in its full strength.

Of course most of those present were boys and girls, enthusiastic
believers in the fellows who carried the honor of good old Riverport
school in their hand. It goes without saying that every member of the
crew probably had at least one fair admirer present, who believed that
without _him_ the chances of victory must be mighty small indeed.

"Oh!" replied Fred, turning to greet Corney, who was a bit late in
arriving, but was now dressed ready for business; "down-river, of
course."

"Why do you say 'of course,' Fred?" persisted the other, who always
wanted to understand everything he talked about, and who would go into
details indefinitely until everything was plain. "There's a fine course
up-river. You remember we rushed it with Buck's crowd. And I understand
that it will like as not be made the official course when the great
boat race is pulled off."

"That's true, Corney," Fred continued; "but there are several reasons
why Brad has picked out the other side of the town for all our trial
spins. First of all, you know the big, broad channel the Mohunk has for
three miles between here and Paulding?"

"Sure I do; and a splendid place to make good speed, too," the other
admitted.

"Then, again, if we kept going up the river we'd be apt to interfere
with the practice of the Mechanicsburg fellows, who have no other
course but that one between the two towns."

"And they'd be more apt to get a line on what sort of time we were
making; isn't that so, Fred?"

"Just what I was going to add, Corney. Now you know about all the
reasons Brad has for going down the river to-day, and other days as
well."

"And is it true that he's got a three mile course all marked off?"
asked Corney.

"Brad says he was down there with Colon on their wheels this morning,"
Fred went on to say. "They carried a long tape line, and as the road
runs close to the bank of the river, they marked every eighth of a
mile."

"How did they do it?" questioned the other. "You see I want to be
posted, so I can get a pointer on our speed if I happen to look along
the bank while we're making a spurt."

"That's the time you'd better keep your eyes glued on the coxswain, and
the stroke oar, and not bother trying to find out for yourself what the
speed is. Brad will look out for all that, Corney."

"But if you know, you're going to tell me, I hope?" pursued the
tireless one.

"Oh!" Fred replied, with a laugh, "if you really want to know, I
understand that every eighth of a mile is marked with a single small
white rag; each quarter has a blue one; while the mile shows a plain
red one. I hope some meddlesome fellow doesn't go to changing the
signals on Brad, and make him think he's doing a record stunt. But I
believe he's got some other secret sign of his own to depend on besides
the flags."

He managed to break away just then; and as Corney saw that it was a
very pretty girl who had beckoned Fred over, he made no attempt to
question him further. In fact, Fred would have firmly declined to stay,
because it was Flo Temple who had signalled.

Flo was the prettiest girl in all Riverport. She and Fred had long been
the best of friends. It was he who always took her to singing school in
winter, and to the school dances, sometimes given in country barns,
where a long sleigh ride was necessary to reach the scene.

Once Buck Lemlngton had aspired to keep company, girl and boy fashion,
with Flo. She and Buck used to squabble frequently, and then come
together again for a short time. But with the arrival of Fred Fenton in
town all this had been changed. Which was another reason for the enmity
of Buck toward Fred.

Like some of the other girls Flo waved a little flag which was made of
purple and gold silk, the adopted school colors for Riverport. This she
used to considerable advantage; and Fred thought that when it came up
against her face the contrast with her rosy cheeks and sparkling hazel
eyes made her look prettier than ever.

"I suppose you will be getting away soon now, Fred?" she asked as he
joined her.

"In five minutes we will launch the boat, and be off," he replied; "you
see, all the subs are on hand, and ready to jump in if any one of the
regulars fails to show up, or is taken sick. They'll wait around an
hour or two while we're down-river. When we get back Brad's promised to
take them off for a spin, and some exercise."

"Yes," she remarked, with a merry laugh, "I've been listening to some
of them talking here. They do hope so much, poor fellows, that a chance
will come along to put them on the regular crew. Why, I fairly believe
they'd be happy if some of the rest of you had to leave town on
vacations. But Fred, take care!"

She raised her forefinger as if in warning, and looked about her in
quite a mysterious way when saying these last words in a low tone.

"What about, Flo?" he asked, not at all worried.

"I understand that the other crew went down the river an hour or two
ago," she continued; and he could guess who was meant without asking.

"Well," he answered, "there's plenty of room for half a dozen crews to
practice without interfering with each other. You remember the river
gets very wide between here and Paulding. In fact lots of people always
refer to it as 'the lake.'"

"But it would have to be an ocean that would be wide enough to keep
Buck Lemington from carrying out any of his pet schemes, Fred. And
somehow he seems to have picked on you as his especial enemy. It seems
so strange, when I know you've never gone out of your way to do him the
least harm."

The demure lassie looked at Fred out of the corners of her merry eyes
when she said this, and it was hard for him to refrain from declaring
that she ought to know that Buck's hatred for him began when she
started to bestow her favors on the new boy in Riverport. However, Fred
held himself in, and only remarked:

"It has happened that lots of times Buck and myself have been up
against each other in what should have been friendly rivalry. Because
fortune was generally kind to me, and allowed me to carry off
undeserved honors, he has made up his mind that I'm always trying to do
him out of everything he wants to win. And he never loses a chance to
let me know what he thinks of me."

"You haven't been the one to suffer _very_ much, up to now, Fred, if
half that I hear is true," Flo went on to say, with a pride in her
voice that somehow thrilled the boy, and made him very happy.

"Oh! I've had lots of good luck, I must say. But there's Brad
beckoning, and I'll have to be going, Flo. Will you be here when we get
back?"

"Perhaps," she answered. "I've an invitation to go in Judge Colon's new
auto, to watch the practice from the shore down below. If you happen to
see us waving, why please do your best to give us confidence. They say
those big Mechanicsburg boys are fearfully strong, and can pull a
professional stroke. And they have a coach, too, you know, Fred."

"We're going to have one too after to-day, for Corney's father used to
be on a big college crew, and has consented to train us."

With this Fred had to hurry off, but he turned and waved his hand to
_somebody_ in the crowd just as he took his place, a few minutes later,
in the eight-oared shell; nor did any one seem to doubt for whom the
good-bye signal was intended; at any rate there was an unusual flutter
to Flo Temple's purple and gold flag just about that time.

The crew quickly fell into the swing, and the boat fairly flew
down-stream under their vigorous strokes. Brad, however, was keeping
them down. He did not want to let everybody know just what Riverport
could do. Doubtless more than a few of Mechanicsburg's admirers would
be ready to take every opportunity possible to time the rival crew, so
as to get a pointer with regard to their capacity. That could not be
helped; but Brad was determined to be as cautious as possible.

Soon they were down to the broad stretch, where the little fluttering
rags of various hues close to the edge of the water told the parts of
the mile.

Here the coxswain thought it good policy to increase the stroke, and
they were soon hitting up a lively pace. How splendidly the delicate
boat flew over the water, just for all the world as a swallow skims
along the surface of a pond! The boys were enthusiastic over their
work, and Brad did not hesitate to give them the praise they deserved.

"We'll turn here, and pull up-stream," he said, as they rested for a
few minutes. "That will come harder, and try you more. But it's all a
part of the game. Once more, now, my hearties, with a will!"

They covered the distance up to what Brad had marked as the turning
point, in better time than he had believed possible. A buoy had been
floated to serve as the upper end of the course. Rounding this they
shot down the river with tremendous velocity, as though striving for
victory on the home stretch.

For some reason Brad took them down further than before, so that they
even drew near the sharp bend before he gave the signal to stop rowing.
The boat continued to glide along with the current, though gradually
easing up.

And it was just at that moment, when the young oarsmen of Riverport
were breathing hard after their recent exertions, that they heard a
sudden crash as of splintering wood, immediately accompanied by a
conglomeration of shouts, all in the plain, unmistakable voices of
boys.

Startled, they stared at each other, as if not knowing what to make of
it; and thrilled by the knowledge that danger must be threatening some
fellows around the bend just below.



CHAPTER XVII

SNAGGED AND WRECKED


"What in the world's that?" exclaimed Dave Hanshaw.

"Sounds like some fellows might be in a pickle. Listen to 'em howl;
would you?" cried Corney Shays.

"Isn't one of the lot whooping it up for help?" asked Fred.

"You're right, Fred; and we've got to get a move on, and turn that bend
yonder, when we can see what's what. Ready, boys!" called out Brad, at
which every young oarsman dropped back into his place; for they had
been turning half around at the time, desirous of seeing what it all
meant.

"Must be that Buck Lemington bunch!" sang out Sid, who perhaps had
recognized one of the loud voices; for he and the bully of Riverport
had been in conflict so often in the last twelve years, that it would
be very strange if the excited tones of the other might not be known
when heard.

"Then it's good-bye to that old college shell," declared Corney.

"You're right," asserted Dick Hendricks; "because that smash must have
ended its days of usefulness forever."

As the signal to drop oars and pull was given, the boat once more took
on new life, and rushed down upon the nearby bend. When they shot
around this, of course the coxswain was the only one who immediately
saw the exciting scene presented. And it certainly spoke well for the
discipline under which that novice crew labored that not a single one
of them tried to twist his head around, in order to gain advance
information.

They left details to Brad, knowing that they would quickly be upon the
scene, and able to see for themselves, without a breach of discipline.

What Brad saw was just what he anticipated, but all the same it must
have given the boy a thrill. Sure enough, the delicate boat which had
once won a big college race, and had been kept for some years by the
gentleman over in Grafton, simply because his dead son had rowed on the
winning crew, was piled up on some sort of a hidden snag, or concealed
rock, at a point where the swirling water must have warned any cautious
coxswain to keep away.

Several boys were clinging to the wreck. Others were swimming around
like rats deserting a sinking ship, two being already on the way to the
nearest shore. And about every fellow was letting his lungs give full
vent to his feelings; so that the racket was tremendous.

"Help! help! I can't keep up much longer! This way, fellers! Get hold
of me!" one of those in the river shouted; spluttering over the words,
as though he might already have swallowed a considerable quantity of
water.

"Aw! let up on that squawk, Clem Shooks; can't you?" shouted Buck
angrily, as he swam toward the fellow who declared that he was
exhausted, and sinking. "Want any of that bunch to give you a hand? I'd
see myself asking favors of Brad Morton or his crowd. We'll get you
ashore, all right, never fear. Hi! there, Whitey, this way, and you
too, Oscar. Give this ninny a helpin' hand and tow him to dry land."

Apparently Buck was in a towering rage. He had been steering the boat
when it struck the snag, and hence must be held responsible for the
accident that would deprive the outlaw crew of a racing craft for the
remainder of the season.

There was not one of Brad's chums, however, but who felt sure that
sooner or later the bully would try to put the blame on one of his
companions. That seemed to be the natural way with him; a scapegoat was
as necessary to Buck's manner of doing things as it was for him to take
all the credit when success came along.

Some of those who clung to the wreck were, however, not averse to
accepting assistance from the regulars of the Boat Club. Brad directed
them how to hang on, and in this way towed them close to the shore.

When the water shoaled enough to admit of their standing up, with it
only waist high he stopped the boat.

"That'll do for you, fellows," Brad said, pleasantly; "and we'll go
back now for the other pair."

"Aw! you needn't bother yourselves about them," broke out Buck, who had
managed, with the assistance of Whitey and Oscar, to get the weak-kneed
Clem Shooks in the shallow water; "they're on the way right now."

It turned out to be as Buck said. The last pair, realizing that they
would be apt to incur the anger of their leader if they waited to
accept favors from those Buck hated so bitterly, had indeed abandoned
the wreck, and were even then swimming toward the shore.

None of Brad's crew laughed, though the aspect of the wrecked ones was
most forlorn, and doubtless they wanted to make merry.

"We're sorry for your accident, Buck," Brad ventured to say, in as
pleasant a tone as he could ever use when addressing the boy he
detested so much deep down in his heart.

"Nobody wants you to be sorry!" grated the other, in an ugly humor.

"We've been talking about that race your bunch gave us yesterday, and
honestly we hoped it would be repeated," Brad went on to remark; for he
fancied he could understand how such a disaster must upset any fellow;
and he tried to make excuses for the surly temper Buck was displaying.

"Oh! let up on that sort of talk; won't you?" growled the other. "I
s'pose you'd just want to use us as a practice crew; hey? Well, it's
off, anyhow; and all owin' to Clem Shooks here taking a crab, just when
I was starting to steer clear of that nasty snag!"

"Why, I nev----" the astonished Clem started to exclaim, though he had
swallowed so much water that it was difficult for him to get his breath
as yet; when the irate bully turned on him like a flash, and shook his
big fist threateningly.

"Don't you go to denyin' it, now, Clem Shooks!" he roared, furiously.
"I ought to know, hadn't I, when I saw the whole thing? And didn't you
get throwed further than any of the rest? That was because you didn't
have any oar left to hold on to. You ought to be made to pay for the
boat, that's what. No back talk now, or else I'll show you who's boss
here. Button up your lips, d'you hear, Clem Shooks?"

And poor Clem, who was doubtless as innocent as he claimed, dared not
speak further. By degrees the blame would be settled on his shoulders,
without his venturing to protest in the hearing of the bully.

Fred and his chums exchanged significant looks. It was as much as
saying: "Didn't I tell you Buck would fix it all right?" They knew the
ways of the bully to perfection. And if Buck noticed the nods and sly
grins, he thought it good policy to pay no attention to them just then.

"Well, since we're not wanted here any longer, let's be going, boys,"
remarked Sid, as usual thoroughly disgusted with the actions of the
bully.

"Good-bye then!" sneered Buck, and Bristles noticed with a sudden
thrill that he looked at the trim boat belonging to the regulars with a
malicious gleam in those black eyes of his.

They once more backed into the deeper water, and were soon alongside
the wreck.

"Shall we tow it ashore for them, boys?" Asked Dick.

"What say?" Brad remarked.

"Better leave it alone, if you know what's good for you," Sid spoke up.
"Once you touch it, and there's no telling what Buck will try to tell
people. Perhaps he'd even say we ran into him, and did the damage. But
I reckon some people ashore saw it all; for there's Judge Colon's auto,
standing up yonder; and they've got their field-glass leveled this way.
It's Flo Temple, too, who's doing the looking."

"Better leave it alone then, fellows," Brad went on to say, being
convinced by the logic of Sid that it was dangerous business meddling
with anything belonging to Buck Lemington, even in a spirit of sporting
fairness. "It's so smashed anyway, that it'll never again be worth
fixing up. Too bad, too, for it was a boat with a history."

"How d'you reckon it happened?" asked Colon; "for of course Clem Shocks
never caught that crab, or some of the other fellows would have jumped
on him? Didn't you all see how silly they looked when Buck was accusing
Clem? They knew, as well as he did, that it wasn't so, but not a single
fellow had the grit to declare the truth."

"Oh!" Brad went on to remark, "Buck may have heard us coming around the
bend, and forgot for a few seconds to keep as bright a lookout for
snags as he ought. So they ran on this one at full speed. Say, wasn't
that a fierce crash, though?"

Once more rounding the bend that shut out all sight of the wreck, and
the forlorn members of the outlaw crew, who would have a walk of five
miles and more before they could get to town with their sad news, the
regulars put in some time in diligent practice.

"You're rounding out in fine shape, fellows," Brad declared
enthusiastically, as they finally started up-river, bound for home.
"To-morrow we're promised the valuable assistance of Mr. Shays, who
knows the ropes from beginning to end. He'll be apt to give us a heap
of valuable information, and correct a lot of our blunders; for I know
we can do better work than this, once we get on to the right swing."

It was in this happy frame of mind that they came in to the little
float that had been made by using a number of empty water-tight oil
barrels; and from which the boat was to be launched, as well as taken
from the water.

Every one of them felt thankful it had not been their craft that had
met with disaster on this sunny afternoon.

Of course, when the startling news was told to the crowd that lingered
around the boat shed, it created a big sensation. As Buck really had no
admirers present, few felt very sorry for him. He had long been the
terror of the town, and every decent boy and girl went in his company
as little as possible.



CHAPTER XVIII

LYING IN WAIT


Fred, after some time, saw that Bristles was lingering nearby while he
chatted with Flo and some of the others. He fancied that the boy with
the mop of hair was trying to catch him alone, as though he wanted to
say something in private.

That caused Fred to remember that he knew something which Bristles
would give considerable to hear; and it also pained him to think that
his promise to Miss Muster would prevent him from telling, until she
gave the word.

But then perhaps it might be something not so personal that Bristles
wished to say to him. Fred had noticed the way the other looked, at the
time they were leaving Buck and his shipwrecked crew down the river.
And perhaps he had made the same discovery that Bristles had.

Flo Temple, about that time, declared she must be running home, and
left, accompanied by some of the other girls, her chum, Cissy Anderson,
whom Sid liked; and Mame Wells, the little hoyden sister of Sid, who
seemed to be more than, half boy, because she dearly loved to play
baseball, ice hockey, go fishing, and even aspired to go hunting when
she got older, and her father would buy her a gun.

Thus Fred saw no reason why he should any longer hold aloof from
Bristles, who immediately came bustling up to him, with a mysterious
wink, and drew him aside.

"I made up my mind I ought to say something to a few of the fellows,
Fred," he began, by remarking; "and you're one of the select. Colon and
Corney I've seen already, and they're of the same opinion as myself."

"Well, what's all this row about, Bristles?" asked Fred, somewhat
amused; and at the same time pleased because the other did not seem
about to put questions to him which he might find it difficult to
dodge, without arousing suspicion.

"Why, about Buck, to be sure," replied the other, confidentially.

"But since his boat has gone to flinders, isn't he out of the game
altogether?" demanded Fred.

"That's just it, Buck being out of business is the kind of a fellow who
can't bear to see anybody else prospering. He won't have a boat for the
whole summer; and we have. All the fun's going to come our way. That
makes Buck grit his teeth, and feel ugly. Are you following me, Fred?"

"Sure I am, and it might be I understand what you're going to say
better than you think I do," answered the one addressed, with a smile
on his face.

"Looky here, did you see how Buck glared at our boat when we started
off, and did you notice the cunning expression, almost like a grin,
that came over his face? Tell me that, Fred Fenton."

"Yes, I saw all that," answered Fred.

"And what did you think it stood for?" queried Bristles.

"Oh! I just kind of thought Buck was wishing we'd run on a snag, the
same way he did, and lost our boat, too, replied Fred, promptly; at
which Bristles chuckled.

"I see you're on, all right, Fred," he continued; "but as you don't
know Buck quite as well as some of the rest of us, you're not on to his
curves as much. Now, I'm willing to risk my reputation on it that when
Buck eyed our boat, and then let that half grin come on his black face,
he was thinking how easy it would be to make sure that something
_did_ happen to upset all our calculations."

"Do you mean he'd put a snag in the course, so that Brad would run on
it, never dreaming there was such a thing there?" asked the indignant
Fred.

"Huh! worse than that," pursued Bristles with vehemence; "Buck wouldn't
stop a minute to hack our boat to pieces, or even set fire to that old
shed, if he believed he could do it on the sly, and not be caught!"

Fred saw that his chum meant every word of what he said. The idea was
startling.

"That's a pleasant lookout then, we've got before us, Bristles," he
observed.

"All right, it's what I believe, just the same," the other went on,
firmly. "If we let things just slide along I give you my word some fine
night we'll be aroused by the fire whistle, and get down here in time
to find the boathouse ablaze, and our new shell ruined for keeps."

"If that seems to be the opinion of several of the boys, we ought to do
something to prevent it," Fred declared, positively.

"That just brings me to the point," ventured Bristles. "Are you in with
our little bunch--Colon, Corney, perhaps Sid, and me?"

"I'm ready and willing to do anything I can to defend the boat, if that
is what you mean," came the ready response.

"Shake on it, then. Wait here till I send the other fellers around.
Then we'll just have a little confab, and see what we can fix up. I'll
sound Sid while we're coming along; though if you're in, he's sure to
say yes, because he always sticks by you like a plaster."

A minute later Colon arrived, wearing a serious look; and then Corney
followed. The three had just got started talking when Bristles hove in
sight, bearing Sid along with him.

"Here we are, now, the whole big five," Bristles said, loftily, as he
came up. "Now, let's go all over this thing, and see if we agree."

He again told what he had seemed to read upon the malignant face of
Buck at the time they left him standing knee-deep in the river.
Afterwards he called on Fred to describe what he had seen, and the
impression it made on him at the time.

"You see!" Bristles cried, triumphantly, in conclusion; "both of us
thought about the same thing. Buck is up to some meanness. He would be
just delighted if we lost our boat, because he doesn't like to see
anybody having a good time when he can't be doing the same. And as it
isn't likely we'll hit a snag, or set fire to the old shanty ourselves,
why, he might think to save us the trouble."

"Then there's only one thing to be done," said Colon, with set lips.

"We five must guard the boat each night!" declared Bristles.

"Right along?" exclaimed Corney, with something like dismay in his
voice; "sure I'm willing to do all I can, but I must sleep once in a
while!"

At that the others laughed.

"Don't be silly, Corney!" burst out Bristles. "Of course we'll take the
job by relays. We can draw for to-night, the two getting the short
straws bunking out in the house. After it gets dark blankets can be
smuggled down here. Don't say a single word to anybody, not even Brad
just now. Fred, you've got the key to the door; haven't you?"

"Yes, Brad asked me to keep it at our house for the present," replied
Fred.

"Now, let's draw, and see who has the honor of keeping the first
watch," and as he spoke Bristles hunted around until he had found five
straws, which he broke off until they were all different lengths.

Each of the other four drew, after Bristles had concealed one end in
the palm of his hand.

"Now measure and see. Oh! slush!" he continued, eagerly; "you left me
the longest, after all, when I was hoping it'd be me. And it turns out
to be Colon and Fred. Well, fellows, here's wishing you luck. To-morrow
night I'm just bound to do the camping-out act, anyhow."

When Fred got home he explained to his folks the necessity of some of
the crew guarding the boat. His father quite agreed with him, and
readily gave permission that he spend the night out.

So, a little later, Fred bundled up a blanket, and made his way down
along the river bank unseen. In due time he came to where the old
building, squatty and dilapidated, stood under the bank.

A dark figure arose in front of him. He heard the low whistle that he
and Colon had agreed upon as a signal each might recognize in the dark.

"Glad you came along," Colon declared; "was just getting tired waiting;
been here half an hour, 'cause I heard the church clock strike; but it
seemed like five times as long."

Fred opened the door carefully, and they entered the shed. A lantern
hung on a hook nearby, ready for use. They would need its light so as
to get things in readiness for passing the night. Besides, Colon had a
little idea of his own he wanted to put into practice; and which had
been suggested by the sight of a big empty hogshead that stood outside
the door, on the shelving beach.

"I'm going to lay a neat little trap, and see what luck I have," he
chuckled as Fred asked why he wanted the lantern, after they had fixed
their blankets and made ready for taking things easy.

Colon was gone quite some little time. Fred could hear him working away
like a beaver at something. And as a rope seemed to figure in the
affair he felt a little curiosity to know what sort of a trap the
ingenious fellow could be constructing, all by himself.

Finally tall Colon came in again.

"It's all fixed, and the door locked once more, Fred," he said.

"Then the quicker you blow that glim out the better," remarked the
other; "for you see, one of those fellows might come around to spy out
the land, and noticing a light in here, he'd be suspicious."

Colon took the hint, and put out the lantern, which, however, was kept
near, so that in case of a sudden alarm it could be quickly brought
into use again.

After that the two lads made themselves fairly comfortable, though they
did not remove their shoes. In case of trouble they wanted to be in
condition for active and immediate work.

Fred had filled several old buckets, so as to be ready to fight fire.
And for a little while they lay there, occasionally whispering to one
another.

Finally Colon went to sleep. Fred knew this from his steady breathing;
and since he was feeling more or less tired himself, after the
strenuous labor of rowing in the afternoon just passed, he too allowed
his senses to be lulled into the land of Nod.

How time passed Fred had not the remotest idea, when he was suddenly
awakened by a terrific clamor, that, to his excited imagination,
sounded like a railroad train running off the track, and smashing into
a kitchen, where the walls were lined with all manner of tinware.

Both he and Colon sat up suddenly.



CHAPTER XIX

NIPPED IN THE BUD


"Hear that, Fred?"

Of course it was foolish of Colon to ask such a question as this of his
companion. That racket was enough to awaken the soundest sleeper. But
then he was so excited he just felt that he had to say something.

Fred threw his blanket aside. Then he reached out for the lantern, and
his handy match-safe, so that they could get some light on the subject.

As soon as this little task had been accomplished, he and Colon started
for the door full-tilt. Opening this, they passed out.

The noise of falling tinpans had by now entirely ceased. Of course the
artful Colon had piled up all the waste cans he could find, so that if
they were toppled over they would make considerable racket. Once upon a
time there had been some sort of manufactory connected with the shed;
and back of it Colon had discovered a regular mine of what he wanted in
the way of rusty cans, large enough to suit his purpose, and make all
the noise heart could wish.

"Look! I got one!"

Colon pointed excitedly as he said this, and as Fred looked he burst
out into a loud laugh. Evidently Colon's trap had worked. A boy was
dangling by the heels, held up in the air by the loop of a rope, which
seemed to pass over a post connected with the building, and then extend
to the hogshead, partly filled with stones, and which was now half way
down the beach, the rope taut, and holding the victim in his elevated
position.

"It's Conrad Jimmerson!" exclaimed Colon, as they arrived close to the
boy, who was kicking furiously, and groaning dismally.

His coat hung down over his head in such fashion that he could not see
what was going on; Colon must have recognized him by his clothes, or
through some boyish instinct.

"Oh! get me down, quick!" moaned the trapped prowler. "All the blood's
agoin' to my head, and I'll be a dead one soon! Please cut me down,
fellers! I won't run!"

"I'm right sure you won't," remarked Colon, drily; "but while I've got
you held up so neat, I might as well make it doubly certain."

With, that he secured the other flourishing leg so that when Conrad was
lowered to the ground he could not move without their permission.

"Give us a hand here, Fred, and we'll get him out of the trap,"
remarked the proud inventor of the running-barrel game. "You see, he
stepped right up on this box, just as I figured, and touched the
trigger. With that he started the heavy barrel rolling down-grade; and
the loop caught him by one leg, instead of both, as I meant it should."

"But what was all the fierce noise that woke us up?" asked Fred, as he
assisted Colon to take the victim down, by dragging in on the rope, so
as to slacken the loop around the leg of the trapped one.

"Oh! shucks! just a pile of tin cans I built up, to be knocked over
when the barrel got to turning around. You see, I was a little afraid
that we mightn't hear when the trap was sprung, and I wouldn't want to
miss this funny sight for anything. Here, you are, Conrad; lie there
now, till we can drag you inside the house."

The boy was evidently very much frightened. He had thought his ankle in
the grasp of some unseen giant, when the loop tightened, and snatched
him upwards. No wonder he trembled and wheezed as he cowered there.

"We'd better go in right now, then," remarked Fred. "Some of that crowd
might take a notion to come back and see what has happened to Conrad.
Take hold of him on that side, Colon, while I look after this one."

"Oh! what you a-goin' to do with me?" queried the prisoner. "I haven't
done a single thing, fellers, cross my heart if I did. Just wanted to
see if anybody was a-sleepin' in the old shed. Buck told me to be sure
and not hurt the boat. He says that its bad enough because we lost
ours, without anything a-happenin' to yours. I wouldn't do a little
thing, sure I wouldn't. Hope you believe me boys. Don't lick me! I got
about all I ought to have already. I'm shiverin' to beat the band. Quit
jerkin' me that way, Chris Colon; I ain't hurt you!"

"Oh! come along, you silly!" said the tall boy, who had a contempt for
so great a sneak and coward as Conrad Jimmerson.

Fred closed and locked the door again after they had entered. The sound
of the key being turned in the lock started the frightened boy into
protesting again. He judged others by Buck's standard, and the bare
thought of finding himself alone and a prisoner, in the power of those
he would have injured, seemed to give him a case of the "trembles," as
Colon called it.

"Now I want you to take a look into his pockets," the tall boy
remarked.

Immediately he uttered a triumphant exclamation.

"See here, Fred, he had a whole lot of matches with him!" he called
out. "Looks like he was ready for business, all right."

"Say, I always carry matches with me, and you know it, Chris Colon,"
protested the alarmed prisoner, vigorously.

"Perhaps you do, but never so many as these," Colon went on. "I kind of
reckon you thought you'd have good need of 'em this night. But what're
you carrying under your arm that way, Fred? Saw you step over, and pick
somethin' up outside there. Find anything worth while; another feller's
cap, maybe?"

"No, it was this," and Fred held an object up.

"What's that? Looks like a bundle of old rags!" remarked Colon,
quickly; while the prisoner gasped and shivered worse than ever.

"There was something more; what do you think of this?" and for the
second time Fred elevated his hand, containing an object that made
Colon utter a cry of rage.

"A bottle!" he ejaculated. "What's in it, Fred? Three to one I c'n
guess. Kerosene!"

"That's just what it is," returned the other, gravely. "Some fellows
came here to-night prepared to throw this stuff over one end of the old
shed, and start a fire going. Perhaps they even meant to break in, and
scatter the oil over the boat, so nothing could save it, once the fire
got started. We've nipped as mean a little game in the bud as I ever
heard about."

Colon turned on the prisoner with a black face, and gritting teeth.

"Who set you on to this thing, Jimmerson?" he demanded. "You never
thought of it by yourself, because you haven't got the brains. Tell me
now, wasn't it Buck Lemington who got you to come here, and try to set
the shed afire?"

Conrad tried to look defiant, but somehow he lacked the spirit. He saw
those two frowning lads on either side of him, as he stood there
leaning against the wall of the boathouse, his ankles tied with the
rope; and he began to weaken.

"I never would a' thought of coming here to spy if it wasn't for----"
he had just started to say, when there came a loud whistle, twice
repeated, from outside, which must have been recognized by the fellow
as a terrible threat of what would happen to him if he opened his lips
to betray his cronies; for he shivered as if he had been showered with
ice water, nor could they influence him after that, either by threats
or promises, to say another word.

Fear of what Buck would do seemed to have a greater influence over him
than the possibility of punishment because of what he had tried to do.
One was sure, while the other might be set down as only a chance.

Besides, perhaps the fellow began to realize that Fred and Colon really
could not prove that he had been carrying that bundle of old rags, as
well as the bottle containing the kerosene. No court would decide that
because they had been found there on the ground, he had brought them.

Fred understood this and it was what made him say presently:

"Well, we might as well let this fellow loose, Colon. After all, the
proof, if there is any, must rest in these rags and this bottle. If we
can find out just where they came from, we'll be satisfied in our own
minds whom we have to thank for this midnight alarm."

"Just as if there could be any doubt about it!" scoffed Colon. "Didn't
we hear that whistle, and don't I know who gave it? Buck carries a
little silver whistle and likes to communicate with his bunch that way.
They've got a regular code, I've heard tell. And didn't you notice how
quick Conrad, here, buttoned up his lips when he heard that order to
keep mum?"

"Another night," said Fred, threateningly, "we'll have a shotgun handy;
and it'll go hard with prowlers, if we get a sight of them. Unfasten
his legs, Colon, and then show him the door."

The prisoner seemed to regain a little of his lost courage upon finding
that they did not mean to hurt him any.

"And you just stop pinching me when you do untie this rope, Chris
Colon," said Conrad. "I want you to know you don't own the earth. A
feller what lives in Riverport all his life ought to have the right to
walk along the river here without having tricks played on him, and
bein' yanked head-down up in the air. You'll pay for your fun yet, see
if you don't, Chris Colon."

"Shut up!" roared the exasperated Colon, shaking the other, whom he was
now escorting to the door, with the intention of ejecting him, just as
Fred had directed. "You ought to be tarred and feathered, if you got
your dues. Like to see our boat go up in smoke; would you? And Buck
aims to keep us from using the river, just because he was foolish
enough as to smash his own boat? You tell him to come himself the next
time. We'll be glad to see him; and perhaps he might meet with a
surprise worse than the one I sprung on you, Conrad. Now don't forget
to tell him; you hear me!"

Colon had managed to get the door open while speaking. Then he gave the
other a little push, as if to start him going. Conrad somehow seemed to
suspect what was coming, for he tried to hug close to the tall boy,
who, however, gave him a shove. So Conrad, thinking he had a chance,
made a bolt; but that long leg of Colon shot out, and caught him fairly
and squarely, sending him flying.

The boy who was thus thrown out picked himself up, and thinking he
heard his enemy coming toward him, fled into the darkness, howling in
mingled pain and fear.

Colon, laughing heartily, closed and fastened the door, after which he
rejoined his watch-mate, to see out the balance of the eventful night
in Fred's company.



CHAPTER XX

IN THE HOLLOW OAK


After that there was no further alarm, and the two watchers secured
quite a fair amount of sleep before the coming of dawn warned them to
hie away home. They left the blankets at the boathouse, for they had
purposely brought old ones; and hence, when it came time for the next
watch to take up their duties, there would be no occasion for them to
duplicate.

On second thought the boys had come to the conclusion that it might be
wise for them to tell Brad what had happened. The fact that the
vengeful Buck had not stopped at such a grave thing as setting fire to
the shed, worried them both.

So a little later they both met again, having had breakfast. Together
they hunted up the other three who were in the game; indeed, Bristles
was meanwhile searching the whole neighborhood for Fred, having called
at his house after he had gone.

"Well," he remarked, after he had caught up with Fred, Sid and Colon,
on their way to get Corney and himself; "seems to me you fellows are in
a big hurry this same morning."

"We are," replied Fred. "We wanted to get the entire committee
together, and go in a body to see Brad. He ought to know that the boat
is always going to be in danger unless something is done to curb Buck
Lemington."

"Say, was I right?" cried Bristles, exultantly.

"You were," replied Colon, solemnly.

"Then he _did_ try to break in, so's to cut the boat, and injure her?"
the other went on, eagerly.

"Worse than that!" said Colon.

"Far worse!" Fred added, looking mighty solemn himself.

"Oh! come, let up on that sort of thing; open up and tell me what
happened!" the excited boy demanded.

When they did give him the whole story he could hardly contain himself,
between his natural indignation because of the meanness of the act, and
his delight over the success of Colon's little trap.

"Caught that sneak Conrad Jimmerson, and strung him up like a trapped
'possum, did you?" he cried, clapping his hands in glee. "Gee! what
tough luck that I wasn't around to see it. Always my bad fortune,
seeing lots of game when I haven't got a gun; and never a thing when
I'm heeled for business."

"You see Colon and myself got to talking it over," said Fred; "and we
made up our minds that it was hardly fair to keep the thing from Brad.
He's our head in the boat club, and ought to know all that's going on.
Besides, when toughs begin to want to burn down houses just for spite,
that's going pretty far. Something ought to be done to stop it."

Brad was of course duly impressed when he heard the story. He laughed
heartily at the comical element connected with Colon's man-trap; but
took the other part seriously.

"I'm going over and see my uncle about it," he declared in the end.
"Being a lawyer, and a judge at that, he'll tell me what to do. I think
he'll say he wouldn't mention a single name; for you know all lawyers
are mighty cautious how they give cause for a suit for slander. But
he'll tell me we ought to scatter the story all over town, and also let
it be known that from now on there'll be somebody in that house every
night, armed, and ready to fire on trespassers. See you later,
fellows."

Fred found a chance a little later to get away from his other chums. He
really did have an errand for his mother in one of the stores, but he
remembered something besides that he had intended doing at the earliest
opportunity, and it was this that swayed him most.

Now, it chanced that the place he had to visit to leave an order was
the largest grocery store in Riverport. And one of the boys employed
there was Toby Farrell. Fred knew that he was generally sent out each
morning on a wheel, to visit a line of customers, and take down their
orders; though most of them had telephones for that matter, and could
have wired in their necessities.

Still, this grocer was enterprising, and instructed his boy clerk to
tell each customer just what new and attractive goods they had received
fresh that morning, possibly strawberries, vegetables and the like.

And in the course of his wheeling about Toby was accustomed to visit
the establishment of Miss Alicia Muster each and every day. In fact,
Toby was one of the two boys hired by trades-people whom Fred suspected
of being the person guilty of taking the old maid's opals from the
parlor.

Both of them were allowed to cool their heels in the kitchen for
possibly ten minutes at a time, while the aged "mammy" consulted her
mistress in her private room. And an inquisitive half-grown boy might
become so familiar with the premises that, in a spirit of curiosity, or
from some other reason, he would look around him a little at such
times.

Mr. Cleaver, the grocer, was in a good humor, and when Fred mentioned
that he knew someone who had shown an interest in his young clerk, he
immediately broke out in Toby's praise.

"Best boy, barring none, I ever had, Fred," he declared. "Never late in
the morning, neat in his work, obliging in his manners to my customers,
and willing to stay after hours if there is a rush. In fact I'm so well
satisfied with Toby that I expect to add a couple of dollars to his
wages this very next Saturday. And I'm told he's the idol of his
mother's eye. She's a widow, you know, with three small children, Toby
being the eldest. He shows signs of being like his father; and Matthew
Farrell was one of our leading citizens up to the time of his death. I
hope she gets his pension through; it'll mean several thousand dollars
for her. He died really of wounds received long ago in the war. Never
would apply for the pension he was entitled to. Toby's all right, you
tell your friend; and he's promised to stick right here. Some day he
might be a partner in this business, who knows?"

Well, after that, Fred was ready to throw up his hands in so far as
Toby was concerned. He felt that he could never strike pay dirt in that
quarter. There never was, and never would be again, quite such a
paragon as Toby Farrell. It would be wasting time to try and bark up
this tree. The scent had evidently led him in the wrong quarter.

Accordingly, he turned toward the butcher's, and here he fully
anticipated getting on the track of something. Gabe lived in an
outlying quarter, and when he went home in the evening, or at noon, he
took a short-cut through Ramsey's woods, where there was a convenient
path.

Now it happened that Fred knew this fact, for he had many a time seen
the butcher's boy going and coming. Gabe had a big whistle, and used to
amuse himself as he walked to and from home in trying to get the airs
from the popular ragtime songs of the day.

Fred had heard it said that the boy who whistles is generally an honest
fellow, and that guilt and this disposition seldom, if ever, go hand in
hand. How much truth there was in this saying he did not know; but it
was on his mind now to try and find out.

Perhaps the fact that it was about ten minutes of twelve influenced
Fred in what he set out to do.

First he passed all the way through the strip of woods. It was not very
thickly grown, and there was really only a stretch of about one hundred
feet where he did not find himself in sight of some house or other.

Fred secreted himself about midway here. It was rather a gloomy spot,
considering that it happened to be so near a town. The trees grew
pretty thick all around the rambling path; and one big, old, giant oak
in particular caught Fred's attention, on account of the fact that it
seemed to be rapidly going into decay, being full of holes, where
perhaps squirrels, or it might be a raccoon, had a den.

Then he heard the whistle from the factory in town, immediately
followed by the ringing of the church bells. Noon had come, and if Gabe
carried out his regular programme he would soon be coming along the
trail.

Yes, that must be his whistle right now, turning off the latest air
that had caught his fancy. Fred wanted to see him at close quarters.
Perhaps he even had some faint idea of stepping out, and walking with
Gabe, to judge for himself whether the other had a guilty air or not.

But if such were his plans he soon found cause to change them. Gabe
came whistling along, looking behind him occasionally, and then all
around. Fred became deeply interested. He fancied that this must mean
something; and it did.

Suddenly the whistling stopped. Looking, he saw Gabe hurry over to the
old tree trunk. He seemed to thrust his hand in, and draw something
out. Fred, watching sharply, noticed that the boy was deeply interested
in what he had taken from the hollow trunk; and he could give a pretty
good guess as to what this must be.

But Fred did not move from his place of concealment. Lying snugly
hidden he saw Gabe replace the little package, after which he stepped
out into the trail, picked up the ragtime air just where he had dropped
it, and came walking smartly along, a satisfied grin on his face.

Waiting until he had passed out of sight around a bend in the path, and
his loud whistle began to grow fainter in the distance, Fred hurried
over to the big tree.

He had noted that particular crevice in the hollow trunk too well to
make any mistake now. A minute later and he had fished up a little
cardboard box, not over four inches in length, and secured with a
rubber band.

With trembling fingers Fred took this fastening away, and raised the
lid; just as Gabe had recently done, no doubt being consumed by a
desire to feast his eyes once more on the contents.

Fred gave a satisfied sigh. It was all right, and Bristles' reputation
had been cleared; for in that little cardboard box which Gabe Larkins
had secreted so carefully lay seven milk-white opals, doubtless of
considerable value.



CHAPTER XXI

A PLAN TO CATCH THE THIEF


"That settles it!"

Fred was saying these three words over several times to himself as he
stood and stared at the seven little opals. They had appeared rather
pretty when he looked at them in Miss Muster's best room, on the
occasion of his visit there in company with Bristles. They gave him a
shiver now; just because he knew that they had tempted weak Gabe
Larkins to commit a terrible wrong.

What had he better do about it?

Fred had, in fact, about made up his mind that there was only one
course open to him in case he found the opals. This was to go to Miss
Muster at once, and let her know what had come to pass.

She would be glad, for the sake of Bristles and his parents--yes, Fred
began to believe the old maid really had a heart of her own, and would
herself rejoice over the vindication of her nephew.

But should he take the opals along with him? He decided against this as
unwise. To fully prove his case, he should be able to catch Gabe in the
act of handling the precious stones, and with a witness present.

So he put the small cardboard box back into the cavity of the hollow
oak, just as near where he had found it as he could. Then, with a
cautious look along the trail, to make sure Gabe was not already
returning, Fred hurried away.

He was unusually quiet at lunch time, his mother and sister noticed.
They even asked him if he felt unwell; but Fred laughingly replied that
he never was better in all his life.

A little while later Fred took his way to the large house in which Miss
Muster lived. His heart beat high with satisfaction, because of the
fact that he had in so brief a time fully proved the innocence of
Bristles.

At sight of Fred it was remarkable what a sudden look of expectation
flashed over the thin face of Bristles' aunt. Apparently, then, she had
come to place considerable confidence in the boy, whose manly bearing
must have impressed her, as it did nearly everyone with whom Fred came
in contact.

"You are bringing me news, Fred!" she exclaimed, as she put out her
hand toward him. "Your smiling face tells me that, for you cannot hide
it. Oh! I hope I am not mistaken. Have you found my opals?"

"Yes, ma'am, the whole seven that you said you'd lost," he answered,
promptly.

"That is good news," the lady went on; "but tell me more; have you
learned who the thief is, Fred?"

A vein of anxiety might have been noticed now in her voice; for she
could not help fearing that after all it might prove to be her nephew.

"I saw him take a little cardboard box out of the hollow of a tree,"
Fred started to say, "look at what it held, and then stick it back.
After he went away, ma'am, I examined that same box, and found the
opals there."

"W--who was the boy?" she faltered, her hands shutting tightly as she
kept her eyes fastened on Fred.

"Gabe Larkins, ma'am!"

"Oh! the butcher's boy!" and she gave a great sigh, as of relief.

"Yes, ma'am. On the way home from the shop to get his lunch, he had to
stop and take a look at his treasures," Fred continued.

"He did not see you watching him, I suppose, Fred?"

"Oh! not a bit of it," replied the boy, smiling. "I looked out for
that."

"Have you the opals with you now, my dear boy?" she asked.

"No, ma'am," replied Fred. "You see, I thought it would be better if
you could see Gabe handling the things, and know by the evidence of
your own eyes he was the guilty one."

"That sounds very clever of you, Fred," Miss Muster remarked, with a
look of sincere admiration. "Perhaps now you may even have figured out
some sort of plan that would allow of my doing such a thing?"

"I have; that is, if you don't think it too much bother," he answered.

"Too much bother?" she echoed; "after what I have done in my haste to
bring sorrow into the happy home of my niece, nothing could ever be too
much trouble for me to attempt. And, besides, I should really like to
face that unhappy boy, to reproach him for his wrongdoing. I know his
mother, and she is a very good woman. Yes, tell me, Fred, what is your
plan?"

"It's simple enough, to be sure," observed the boy. "Just give Gabe an
extra chance to-morrow morning to slip into that parlor again. He's got
the habit, I guess, and can't resist, if he sees an opening. Then, at
noon, on his way home, why, of course, he'll stop at the big oak to add
what he took to the others. You will be hiding right there with me and
we can give Gabe the surprise of his life."

"I should think that would be a splendid idea, Fred," Miss Muster said,
nodding her head approvingly. "I suppose that it would be what they say
in the newspaper accounts of an arrest in the big cities, 'caught with
the goods on!'"

"Then you'll agree to do it, ma'am?" asked Fred, eagerly.

"Yes. I will give Master Gabe the finest chance he ever saw to slip
into my best room; and then about half-past eleven will meet you
wherever you say. And, Fred, after it is all over, you will have full
permission to tell Andrew; for my part, my first duty will be to go to
his home, and ask his mother to forgive a foolish old woman because of
her unjust suspicions."

The particulars were soon arranged. Fred mentioned a place where he
would be on hand the next day, rain or shine, at eleven-thirty; and
Miss Muster promised just as faithfully to keep the appointment.

After that they separated. Just as luck would have it, as Fred came out
of the house he heard his name called; and looking up saw his chum,
Bristles. Surprise was expressed upon the face of the other, to
discover Fred issuing from his aunt's home. A dozen questions could
also be seen there; but Fred put a damper on all these.

"Don't ask me a single thing, Bristles," he remarked mysteriously.
"I've taken hold of your case, and things are working splendidly. All
I'm going to tell you right now is that there's great hope you'll hear
something, say by to-morrow afternoon. You ask me when we meet, about
two or three, and perhaps I'll have some; news that'll surprise you.
Now let's talk about the race that's going to be pulled off pretty
soon. Have you had a line about what Mechanicsburg's doing?"

In this way, then, he closed his chum's mouth. Bristles was puzzled to
account for the actions of his friend; but at the same time he had so
much confidence in Fred Fenton that he accepted his explanation, and
even began to take on a more cheerful appearance.

That afternoon the boys had the benefit of a coach; for Corney's
father, the old college grad. and oarsman, gave them an hour of his
time. He corrected numerous little faults that, as amateurs, they had
naturally fallen into, and when finally Brad took his crew for a
three-mile working-out spin, he was tremendously pleased at hearing the
compliments bestowed upon them by Mr. Shays.

"You are doing finely, boys," declared the coach, in a tone as though
he meant all he said. "The improvement in your style of rowing is
decidedly worth seconds to you; and they count big in a race, you know.
I shall come out again the next time you want me, and show you some
more little faults in the way you recover after giving the stroke. I
can save several of you more or less unnecessary exertion, which in
turn means a concentration of energy for the final spurt that
accompanies every boat race."

The boys thoroughly enjoyed having so pleasant a coach, and went home
that evening convinced that their chances for victory in the coming
struggle had been increased fully twenty per cent.

"Don't forget your promise, Fred," said Bristles, rather pathetically,
as he parted from his chum where their ways separated.

"Depend on it, I just won't, Bristles," answered the other, positively.

It seemed a very long time until eleven o'clock the next morning; and
Fred kept around the house, for he did not want to run upon Bristles,
and have the other look at him in that eager way.

When he reached the place appointed for the meeting with Miss Muster he
found her there, a heavy veil hiding her face. Together they made their
way along the path that Gabe was accustomed to take as a short cut
home.

"Do you think he took another of the opals, ma'am?" Fred asked, as
they drew near the big hollow oak.

"I really had not the heart to look," she replied. "I gave him all the
opportunity he could ask; and when he talked with me later on, I
thought the boy looked confused; but I felt so sorry to think he had a
mother who would be heart-broken, that I would not go into the parlor
to examine. But guilt was written large on his face, or I am a poor
judge of boy nature. Perhaps I am, after the mistake I made about my
own nephew."

Fred soon found a spot where both of them could hide, and yet be very
close to the big tree; indeed, a few steps would carry them alongside
when the time came for action.

Then they settled down to wait. After a time the sound of bells told
that noon had come. A few minutes later, and Fred touched the arm of
his companion.

"That's Gabe coming now," he remarked.

And the trembling old maid could distinctly hear a very boisterous
whistle that kept getting louder and louder as the butcher's boy strode
jauntily along the path, heading in their direction.



CHAPTER XXII

TELLING THE GOOD NEWS


Gabe Larkins' big whistle suddenly stopped. The boy was looking
craftily around him, up and down the winding path, as though anxious to
make sure that no person was in sight.

Convinced of this act, he quickly stepped over to the big oak, and
thrust his arm into the hollow. Miss Muster fairly held her breath with
excitement as she saw him take out the little cardboard box, and
opening it, drop something in, which he had drawn from the depths of a
pocket.

Fred arose; and the lady, taking this as a signal, did likewise.
Together they began to advance upon the crouching Gabe. The boy seemed
to be so intent upon his business of admiring the gems that he was
unaware of the presence of others, until possibly the rustle of the
lady's dress startled him.

Then Gabe looked up, and his face turned ashy pale when he saw Miss
Muster. In that one terrible moment he knew that his thievery had been
found out. Nobody could ever know the thoughts that flashed through the
boy's mind with the rapidity of lightning.

"Give that to me!" said Miss Muster, holding out her hand toward Gabe.

He dared not refuse; and as she received the little cardboard box the
old maid, glancing in, counted ten of her opals there, just half of the
entire collection. Gabe had increased his "take" that morning, and
added three to his plunder. His apparent success was making him daily
bolder.

He tried to face the indignant, yet sorrowful, lady, but his eyes
quickly fell before her look.

"Have you ever stopped to think where you are going to land, if you
keep on this way, Gabe?" she asked slowly.

The boy made no reply. Perhaps he was inclined to be ugly and sullen;
but, on the other hand, as he was a young offender, It might be
conscience began to awaken. And Miss Muster believed that, since she
meant to let him off this time, she at least ought to impress a lesson
of some kind on him.

"It means the penitentiary for a boy who begins to steal, as you show
signs of doing, Gabe; yes, and a broken heart for your poor mother. Oh!
I do hope this will be a warning that you will keep before you always.
Because of that mother I am going to let you off this time, my boy; but
unless you mend your ways there is only one end before you. Fred here
will keep your secret also; you can depend on him. And make up your
mind, Gabe, that even though you think you have succeeded in doing some
evil deed in secret, the truth will sooner or later come out, Now you
can go. I shall not speak to your employer, nor tell your mother; but
from time to time I am going to have something to say to _you,_ my boy.
I want to be your friend."

Gabe had never opened his mouth to utter a single word, and when he
hurriedly took his departure Fred was not sure but what it was a wide
grin that appeared on his face; as though he fancied that he had gotten
off cheaply after all. Whether Gabe would take his lesson seriously and
reform, was a question in Fred's mind.

"That ends it, thank goodness!" remarked Miss Muster, after they had
seen Gabe turn the path in the direction of his own home. "And now,
Fred, you get your lunch. After Ive had my own I shall drop in to see
my niece, and confess all my shortcomings. I fancy she will be too
happy at learning her boy is innocent to hold any grudge against her
wretched old aunt."

"Thank you," said Fred, laughing; "I do feel kind of hungry now. Just
knowing what bully good news I've got for Bris--I mean Andy--seems to
give me an appetite. I'll get there just in time to sit down with
mother and Kate; because father doesn't come home at noon from the
works."

"And, Fred, believe me when I say that I'll never forget what you've
done for me and mine," were the parting words of the old spinster, as
she squeezed the boy's hand.

"I'm glad, because I just know you'll make it all up with Bris--that
is, Andy," he said; and she nodded her head in the affirmative.

And at the lunch table, after making them promise that it should go no
further than the head of the Fenton family, Fred interested his mother
and sister by a recital of the strange case of the disappearing opals.

"And remember, Kate," Fred went on, shaking his linger at his younger
sister; "you must never, under any circumstances, mention a single word
of all this to even one girl. Just forget you ever heard it I'm going
to make poor Bristles mighty happy this afternoon; and the thought of
it gives me so much delight that I guess I'll be off now to find him."

He hurried out of the room, followed by the admiring glances of those
who knew only too well what pleasure It gave Fred to be of value to a
chum.

Bristles was not at home, it turned out, having gone down to the river
to hang around the boat-house, and wait for Fred to join him; because
something seemed to tell him the other was going to bring good news.

But Fred did see Miss Muster coming down the road as he turned away;
and from what she had said, he understood that the determined old maid
meant to "eat humble pie," as Fred called it, by asking Bristles'
mother to forgive her mistake.

None of the other boys happened to be around when Fred came upon
Bristles. The latter was sitting on a pile of boards which were going
to form part of the new house being erected for the Riverport Boat
Club. As he heard the sound of approaching footsteps Bristles looked
up, and smiled broadly to see Fred.

"Now tell me what's on the bills, Fred," he entreated. "I just feel it
in my bones that you've got news for me. Have you found out where the
opals went?"

"That's right," replied Fred, promptly.

"Say, you don't mean to tell me you've got 'em back for Aunt Alicia?"
gasped Bristles, turning red, and then pale, by rapid turns, and
leaning weakly against the pile of boards.

"Every one," declared the other; "your aunt says there isn't a single
opal missing."

"And was it that cunning old bunch of feathers, Black Joe, after all;
was my guess good, and did you find out where the old bird was hiding
them?" continued Bristles, possibly pluming himself a little on having
conceived a very brilliant idea.

"'Not for Joseph, not for Joe,'" sang Fred, merrily. "Fact is, when I
told what you had in your mind to Miss Muster she said it was a fine
thought, but she was sorry to say in this case no raven need apply.
'Cause why--well, she'd chained Joe to his perch for a week because he
got sassy, and wouldn't mind; and so you see, if he had to stay there
all the time he couldn't hop or fly into the other room and get away
with the opals every other day or so."

"Shucks! I should say not," replied the grinning Bristles; "but do take
pity on a poor fellow, Fred, and tell me the whole story. Who stole the
opals?"

"Gabe Larkins, the butcher's boy," replied the other, soberly.

"You don't say?" was Bristles' comment, after he had given a whistle to
emphasize his astonishment. "And yet, after all, I oughtn't to be much
surprised, because I happen to know he's always reading the sporting
page of the city paper his mother takes; and I've heard him even
talking about horse races and betting. But, however in the wide world
did you get on to him; and does Aunt Alicia know it all?"

"I think she's with your mother at this minute, telling her how sorry
she is for suspecting you; and also what she means to do for you in the
future to make it up. Now listen, and I'll make your eyes open a
little, I reckon, Bristles."

"Never heard the like of it in all my life!" declared Bristles, when
the narrative had reached its conclusion with the detection of Gabe in
the act of adding his morning's spoils to the balance of the plunder
which he had hidden in the old hollow oak. "I'll never pass that tree
without thinking of what you've just told me. Gee! I'm glad I wasn't in
Gabe's shoes when Aunt Alicia caught him. I can just see the look of
fury in her snapping black eyes."

"You're wrong there, Bristles," said Fred, quickly. "Unless I'm mighty
much mistaken there were tears in her eyes, when she looked down at
Gabe cowering there. Your Aunt Alicia is a different woman these days
from what you used to believe her. She's seen a light. She knows there
are boys, and then again boys; and that not all of them are alike in
everything."

"But what can I say to you, Fred, for getting me out of this pickle?"
continued Bristles, with a quiver in his voice, as he squeezed the hand
of his chum. "Only for you, look what would have come to me? I owe you
a heap, sure I do; and I only hope the chance will come some day to
show you how much I feel it."

"Oh! let up on that sort of talk, Bristles," said Fred, laughingly.
"You'd have done just as much for me, or any of your chums, if the
chance came your way; and you know it."

"You just better believe I'm going to keep on the watch to pass this
along," declared the other, fervently.

"That's the way to talk," Fred remarked, looking pleased at being given
the opportunity to bring happiness to one he thought so much of as
Bristles; "and perhaps you'll be able to pull a better oar, now that
this load is off your mind."

"Why, Fred, believe me," said Bristles, soberly, "I feel right now as
though I'd be able to put more vim into my work than ever before in all
my life. Wow! if I had wings I could hardly seem more like flying, my
heart is that light!"



CHAPTER XXIII

THE START OF THE RACE


The great day of the boat race between Riverport and Mechanicsburg
opened with a clear sky. This made happy the hearts of the hundreds of
young people belonging to the two towns on the Mohunk River.

Daily the husky crew of the town up the river had been busily engaged
in practicing; and all sorts of ominous rumors were current among the
more timid Riverport boys and girls as to the astonishing speed they
had shown.

But when those who had faith in the ability of their own crew to come
in ahead heard these tales, they only laughed, and nodded, as though
they felt no fear. As to the ability of their rivals to "make circles"
around the boys of Riverport, did they not realize that these stories
were being industriously circulated for the very purpose of making them
count the race lost even before it was started?

The clever coach, Corney Shays' father, warned them against believing
anything of this sort. He said it was an old trick, and had been used
by college men as far back as he could remember.

"Just believe you can do the job up clean, and pay attention to
everything your coxswain tells you; and it'll come out right," he
declared.

Early in the afternoon crowds began to assemble along the banks of the
river, where the course had been marked off. Those in charge, being a
committee of older pupils from each school, had taken all necessary
precautions looking to having a clear course. They had also marked the
turning point, where the rival boats must start on the return trip
toward the home goal.

This latter was a boat anchored in the middle of the river, and bearing
a large red flag, with the words "Stake Boat" in white. Each contestant
had to turn this, without fouling, in heading for home; and the one
capable of accomplishing this with as little waste of time and distance
as possible would gain an advantage that might count heavily in the
final result.

It was indeed a gay scene about half-past three that afternoon; the
time of the race being scheduled for four exactly. Thousands of people
lined both banks of the river, for the entire country had become deeply
interested in the result, and taken sides, one way or the other.

While Paulding had no proper boat club as yet, evidently every boy and
girl attending school there, together with many older persons, had
flocked to witness the sight of a river regatta so near at hand.

School flags were waving everywhere, and class cheers accompanied their
appearance, as the young people gathered in groups, the better to chant
their patriotic songs.

When the long shell from above came speeding down to the starting
point, the occupants were given a rousing welcome from friends and foes
alike. For everybody admired the game, sportsmanlike qualities of those
Mechanicsburg fellows.

"Who are they all, Flo?" asked Cissy Anderson, as she cuddled down
alongside her chum, who was using a field glass; the girls being in the
midst of a group that had a particularly fine place for witnessing the
start and close of the race.

"Oh! we know everyone of them, because they've figured in the battles
on the diamond and the gridiron," replied Flo.

"Wagner, of course, is among them; they say he has been made the
coxswain of the Mechanicsburg crew; and then there must be Sherley, who
was such a dear captain in their football games last fall; yes, and
Waterman and Gould, too."

"That's right, Cissy," the girl with the glasses continued; "and
Hennessy is stroke oar, for I can tell him by his big, bushy crop of
hair. He makes me think of Bristles Carpenter, who, they say, is
pulling a wonderful oar these days. Let's see, there's Harkness, too,
and Boggs--how many is that, Cissy? Just six oarsmen, you say? Well, I
can see Smith there, I'm sure; and the other, why, of course it's that
fussy Bob Jones. Don't they look splendid; and how evenly they pull."

"You don't think now, for a minute, do you, Flo, that they can beat our
boys?" the other girl asked, somewhat fearfully.

"Of course I don't, silly," replied Flo, who had the utmost confidence
in the sterling ability of Fred and his fellows to hold their own, no
matter whether on the football field, the baseball diamond, in a hotly
contested hockey match on the ice, a snowball battle, or in athletic
sports; and consequently in aquatic matters as well.

"There comes Sid and the rest!" exclaimed Cissy; just as though, in her
eyes at least, the whole chance of success for the Riverport boys lay
in the stalwart figure of Sid Wells alone.

As Brad Morton led his eight sparsely-clad young oarsmen from the new
building, bearing the glistening and carefully kept shell on their
shoulders, a cheer started that gained force as it ran along the crowds
lining the banks of the river, until it died away far in the distance.

It had been decided to use the up-river course. And as the stake boat,
which was to mark both the start and finish, was directly opposite
Riverport, the turning point upstream must be just a mile and a half
away; for the course was intended to represent exactly three miles,
which was considered a long enough pull for young crews.

The first half would be against the strong current of the Mohunk, now
pretty high for the beginning of summer; but when the two rival boats
had made the turn, they could come down with greater speed. It was this
rush along the home stretch that all of the spectators were most
anxious to witness. And this accounted for the throngs on both shores
of the river near where the boat containing the judges of the race was
anchored.

It was now getting very close to four o'clock, and everybody began to
breathe with eagerness, and possibly a little anxiety. No matter how
loud the adherents of each school may have shouted for their colors,
when it came right down to a question of supremacy the opposing crew
began to loom up as a very dangerous factor; and they felt a faintness
come into their hearts while watching the splendid way the rival eight
carried themselves.

"They're getting them placed in line!" shouted a small fellow, who
carried a megaphone almost as long as himself, and through which his
voice carried as far as a mile, when he strained himself to give a
yell.

This was a cousin of tall, long-legged Colon, and whose name of
Harrison had long ago given way to that of Semi-Colon, to distinguish
him from his big relative.

"Look at poor old Buck Lemington; would you?" remarked another, close
to the bevy of girls around Flo Temple and Cissy Anderson. "He's in an
ugly humor to-day, because he threw away his chance to be pulling an
oar in our boat, and went off to get up a boat club of his own."

"And then smashed his shell on a snag the first thing," continued
Semi-Colon, who had heard what was said.

"Wasn't it just like him to try and say poor Clem Shooks was to blame,
when everybody knows it must have been only Buck's fault, because he
didn't remember about that stump under the water," one of the girls
remarked.

"And I even guess he'd have cared precious little if our boat had been
burned up, when some of those tramps, they say, tried to set things on
fire," a second girl broke out with; which remark appeared to amuse
Semi-Colon very much, for he roared through his megaphone the word:

"Tramps! Ha! Ha!"

Evidently, while officially it had been decided to keep secret the
facts connected with the finding of the bottle of kerosene and the
rags, at the time Conrad Jimmerson was caught in Colon's trap, enough
had leaked out among the boys connected with Riverport school to give
them a pretty fair idea Buck must have been the leading spirit behind
the miserable game.

"Silence there! the referee wants you to keep still while he says
something to the crews!" roared a heavy voice through a megaphone.

"He's going to advise 'em what not to do," broke out Semi-Colon, for
the benefit of the girls; "and that a willful foul with carry a
penalty. There goes Coach Shays in that little launch; he's going to
get in that car belonging to Judge Colon, and be whirled along the
road, which keeps pretty near the river all the way. So you see, he can
every little while shout out his directions to the coxswain."

"There, the referee is talking to them now," said Flo Temple, plainly
excited, since the critical moment was at hand. "Oh! don't I just hope
our boys will leave them away behind right in the beginning! Because,
they say that the first one around the turning boat will have a big
advantage. Every second on the down-current will put yards between
them, that the second boat may never be able to make up."

"Brad Morton knows that, make up your mind, girls; and he won't let
those Mechanicsburg fellows turn first, if he can help it," Semi-Colon
advised.

"That's it, if he can help it!" mocked a girl near by, who was boldly
waving the banner of the up-river town right in the stronghold of the
rival school.

"Watch, they're going to start!" cried Cissy Anderson, shrilly.

Every sound seemed to cease like magic, as doubtless thousands of eager
eyes saw that the decisive moment was at hand.

Then suddenly there came the sharp report of a pistol, which they all
knew was to be the signal that would send those two boats forward with
all the power that sixteen pairs of trained and muscular arms could
bring to bear in exact unison!

Immediately a roar arose.



CHAPTER XXIV

A GREAT VICTORY


"They're off!"

"Mechanicsburg leads!"

"Yes, she does, smarty; better look again! They're tied, neck and
neck!"

"But watch that stroke, will you; did you ever see anything so fine?
Oh! you poor Riverport, get your tear-rags ready to weep!"

"Wait a little. You'll be laughing out of the other side of your mouth,
Crabtree!"

So the various backers of the two teams bantered each other as they
kept their eyes fixed on the rival shells. Thef boats were pushing up
against the strong current of the Mohunk, steadily biting into it, and
increasing the distance between them and the stakeboat that was
presently to mark the closing scene of the river drama.

Steadily they kept on, nearing the bend that would shut them out from
the sight of the great crowds gathered on either bank near the judges'
boat. If the cheering diminished in volume at that point, it was taken
up above, until one long wave of sound arose, every conceivable noise
being used to create an uproar, from horns and whistles to megaphones,
and class yells from the various schools.

It was a time long looked forward to, and which would last for so short
a period that everyone seemed to think it necessary to exhaust himself
or herself as speedily as possible.

"There they are, turning the bend now!" declared the anxious Cissy.
"Oh! which one leads, Flo; tell me, please?"

"As near as I can make out, they seem to be running evenly," the other
girl replied, with the glasses to her eyes, as though she could not
drop them, or even gratify the curiosity of her best chum by allowing
her a peep.

"And do you see Sid, and is he showing all the others how to keep cool,
and hold himself in reserve against the last home quarter-stretch?"
demanded Cissy.

"Well, I like that, now!" exclaimed the indignant Flo, who, as we
chance to know, also had someone she admired in that school crew; "just
as if there didn't happen to be seven other fellows rowing alongside
Sid Wells. I know one at least who plays second fiddle to nobody."

"There they go around the bend!" cried another girl.

"And listen to the roars above there; will you?" called a boy passing
by, who was decked out in Riverport colors. "Why, there must be a whole
mob of people up to see 'em turn the other boat. I'd like to be there
right now, if I could jump back here to see the finish."

"Watch the signals!" now arose on every hand.

Everybody knew what this meant, and consequently the eyes of the entire
multitude began to be fastened on a particular place up at the bend.
Here arrangements had been made by those in charge of the race, whereby
the news would be flashed to those far down the stream which one of the
rival boats had managed to make the turn ahead.

"Which are the signals?" one boy asked, as though he had become
slightly confused, owing to the excited condition of his mind; and
which, after all, was not to be wondered at, with all that racket
around him, and his pulses thrilled with the hope he hugged to his
heart that Riverport might win.

"Red if Mechanicsburg is ahead, and blue if Riverport turns first!"
someone obligingly called out.

"There goes the flag up!" shrieked a voice just then.

There was a tall pole at the bend, and they could see some dark object
mounting rapidly upward. The flag was bunched in some manner, to be
released when it reached the top of the mast And how those few seconds
did seem like hours to the anxious hearts of the onlookers, who were
holding their very breath in suspense.

Then a mighty shout broke out that was like the great billows dashing
on a rock-bound coast:

"It's blue! Riverport turns first!"

"Oh! you Mechanicsburg, how we pity you right now!"

"A runaway! They'll never be in sight when we cross the line!"

"The easiest thing ever! Football, baseball, and now rowing; why,
you're not in it at all, Mechanicsburg!"

"Sure they are--in the soup!"

However, in spite of all this brave talk, those who taunted the
up-river boys understood that it was quite too soon to do much crowing.
What if Riverport had succeeded in getting the inside track of their
rivals, so as to turn the upper boat first, that did not mean the
others would lie down, and allow their old-time enemies of many a
hard-fought game to triumph over them. Mechanicsburg players had the
reputation of being stayers, who would not admit defeat until the last
man was out, or the concluding yard been passed over.

Doubtless both boats were even now coming down the river at a marvelous
pace. The question remained to be seen whether Mechanicsburg could
throw enough power into their strokes to cut down the lead their rivals
had obtained, and forge ahead as they drew near the goal.

"Will Colon overdo himself again?"

That was the question one white-faced Riverport boy put to a mate as
they stood there, with their eyes glued on the bend above, around which
the boats must come flying at any second now.

"Aw! come off with you, Tatters," was the immediate and scornful reply;
"you know mighty well what made him drop that other time. Hadn't he
been pretty near drowned the day before, so that his nerves shut up on
him like a jack-knife? He's fit as a fiddle now, they say; and Bristles
Carpenter is pulling like a race-horse. You watch and see. We're bound
to win this race in a walk."

"There they come!"

The boats shot around the bend, and it was seen that while Riverport
still held the lead, it was only by a margin of part of a length. As
yet, then, it might be called anybody's race, since a very slight thing
would serve to turn the tables.

On the river road could be seen the car belonging to Judge Colon,
racing along from point to point; and above all other sounds the
spectators could hear the sharp, shrill voice of Coach Shays as he
shouted words of cheer to his crew; or warned them against some
possible fatal blunder.

Despite the gruelling pull against the current that had marked the
first half of the fiercely contested race, both young crews seemed to
be keeping in perfect rhythm with the movements of their coxswains. And
doubtless those shrewd leaders were keenly on the alert for any
advantage that might come to them through either a quickening of the
pace, if they thought the rowers capable of standing it, or some other
change in the existing conditions.

Louder grew the shouts and songs as the two boats came flying down the
stream, the young oarsmen pulling like mad to either retain or secure
an advantage. Hope flickered up again in the hearts of the loyal
Mechanicsburg rooters, who had well nigh taken a slump when they
learned that their favorites were behind at the half-way boat.

How they did cheer their boys on! It was enough to almost make any
fellow try to perform impossibilities, and strain himself to the
breaking point, to hear how his comrades were banking all their hopes
on him in particular. Loud and dear sounded each name of the
Mechanicsburg rowers through a megaphone, backed by a voice that had
Semi-Colon's put out of the running:

"Hennessy--Sherley--Harkness--Gould--Smith--Boggs--Waterman--Jones--
Wagner--_everybody pull!_"

And they did certainly pull for all they were worth, desperately
anxious to overcome that half boat-length that still lay between them.

But, on the other, hand, an equal number of young athletes in the other
shell were just as doggedly determined not to yield one inch, if it
could be held by any power of theirs. Brad believed he could call for
just one more little advance in the stroke, and he was only waiting
until they reached a certain spot marked in his mind as the place where
the final spurt must be made.

"Now, Riverport, once more, and for the last time, _give way!_" came in
the shrill tones of the coach.

Immediately the final spurt was on. Mechanicsburg, too, had been
holding just a mite in reserve for this killing last quarter of a mile.
As a consequence, the two boats seemed to retain about the same
relative position as before, despite this change of stroke to a faster
one.

The excitement ashore, as they drew rapidly nearer the line, was
tremendous. Some fellows jumped up and down, waving their hats, and
shrieking; while girls swung their colored banners frantically any way,
in order to add to the confusion.

But there was not a single one who would remove their eyes for even a
second from the stirring spectacle of those two shells, spinning side
by side down the river, with only the little space of a second, as it
were, marking the difference between victory and defeat.

Now they were close on the line, and Mechanicsburg gave one mighty
pull, as if hoping to send their boat at least level with that of their
antagonists, so that the chances of a tie might be improved.

"Look at Riverport, would you? They've been keeping it back all the
time!"

"Oh! my, what a spurt! See 'em go, boys! We win! we win! Riverport
takes the race! Hurrah! whoop! R-i-v-e-r-p-o-r-t! Siss! boom! ah!"

Amidst the roar of uncounted voices, the booming of several cannon held
in readiness for just this very purpose, the bleating of horns, and
everything else that could be utilized to create a racket, the
Riverport shell shot pass the deciding stakeboat, fully a length ahead
of their rivals.

It had been a clean race, with not a single note of discord. Although
beaten, Mechamcsburg had carried their colors with honor; and a mighty
shout from friend and foe alike attested to the satisfaction felt by
all who had witnessed the close contest.



CHAPTER XXV

BRIGHT SKIES


Riverport went fairly wild that night over the success of the school
crew in the race against the crack oarsmen of Mechanicsburg. Perhaps
there were a few fellows who took little or no satisfaction in the
great victory. Buck Lemington might be set down as one of these;
because, as a rule, Buck never enjoyed seeing his school win, unless he
could be the central attraction, the hero to whom the plaudits of the
cheering throngs were mainly given.

But no one cared much what Buck Lemington thought. Surely Fred Fenton
was of a mind that the Lemingtons, father and son, were soon to be
routed, horse, foot and artillery, when the long missing Hiram
Masterson returned, as he had promised to do in that letter from far
away Hong Kong, and tell all that he knew about the scheme of those in
the syndicate to cheat Mr. Fenton out of his just rights.

And Bristles, too, was a happy fellow those days. He had known what it
was to taste of the bitterness of having unfounded suspicion cast upon
him. The pleasure of feeling that his name was fully cleared made him
secretly resolve that if he knew it, his mother would never have to
experience the sorrow that was evidently in store for Gabe Larkins'
parent, unless that tricky boy changed his ways.

Nor was Bristles apt to forget that he owed most of his present
condition of satisfaction to the earnest efforts of his good chum, Fred
Fenton. Who but Fred would have taken it upon himself to interview Miss
Muster, and get acquainted with the facts in the case? And who but he
could have guessed the identity of the guilty party; which he later on
proved so wonderfully well, in the presence of the old maid who had met
with the loss of her precious jewels?

Bristles never told what a siege of suspense he had passed through. And
if there were any curious ones among his mates, who took it upon
themselves to wonder why their usually lively, wide-awake comrade
moped, as he had done for a time, they had to take it out in guessing.

Fred did have one very pleasant little surprise sprung upon him, and
which made him feel more drawn to the old maid than ever.

On the very night of the boat race, when the atmosphere of all
Riverport was vibrating with parading crowds, and bonfires were already
springing up, to celebrate the great victory of the young oarsmen,
Fred, returning home about supper time, found a little packet beside
his plate.

It had not come by mail, and undoubtedly his mother knew something
about who sent or brought it; for there was a glow in her eyes as she
watched him handle it, with a questioning look in his own.

"Suppose you open it, Fred, instead of trying to guess," proposed his
sister Kate.

"Well," he replied, laughingly, "that does seem like a sensible thing
for you to say, Kate. Perhaps I am a little dazed or rattled; who
wouldn't be after taking part in such a grand race as that? You were
there, Mom; for I noticed you waving your pocket handkerchief; and I
wager now, you never saw anybody but the Fenton boy who was on the
crew. I say, now, what's all this mean?"

Father, mother, and sister all watching him, Fred had opened the little
packet; and out upon the table rolled three handsome opals, that seemed
to take on all the hues of the rainbow as the light of the evening lamp
fell upon them.

He also unrolled a sheet of paper on which were a few lines in a rather
crabbed hand; which Fred would once have said was just like the
character of the whimsical old maid herself, but which he now knew must
be caused by age.

    "Dear Boy:--I want you to accept these few tokens of my esteem, to
    know that I shall never forget what you have done to show me how
    necessary it always should be to look well before you leap. You
    will make me happy by keeping these, and saying nothing about the
    folly of

    "Your Old Maid Friend,

    "Alicia Muster."

"Just to think, she sends me these valuable opals, because I happened
to help prove that Bristles didn't take her gems," Fred said,
wonderingly, as he looked down at the handsome present that had been
given to him.

"Well, I think you earned them," remarked Mrs. Fenton, proudly; "and
when your father hears the whole story, which I have only kept from
telling him because I wanted you to have that pleasure, I'm sure he'll
agree with me. Yes, you ought to be a lawyer, Fred. You are cut out for
a successful one."

"And then to think that he was on the crew that beat those smart
Mechanicsburg fellows," Kate declared, as though to her mind that fact
dwarfed everything else; "but, Fred, they are beginning to talk already
how they mean to get even with Riverport this Fall. You know they had a
fine gymnasium given to them by a rich man, and already they have
started to practice all sorts of track events. I understand they mean
to challenge Riverport to a meet; and having the advantage of that
gymnasium, they expect to pay us back for the times we've beaten them."

"Oh! they do, eh?" remarked Fred, as though not greatly worried; "well,
there will be two who must have a say in that, Riverport as well as
Mechanicsburg. Perhaps they may turn out to have the better all-'round
athletes; time will tell."

And time did tell; for the proposed athletic meet came to pass in the
Fall. What stirring things happened along about that time, as well as
the inspiring incidents connected with the great meet itself, will be
recorded in the next story of this series, to be called: "Fred Fenton
on the Track; Or, The Athletics of Riverport School."

Of course the Fentons were looking eagerly forward to the time when
Hiram Masterson would redeem his promise to return and testify against
the overbearing syndicate that was endeavoring to get possession of
that rich Alaska mine, which had once belonged to Fred's uncle.

Days might pass, but each one meant in all probability that the missing
witness, abducted by orders of the powerful combination of capitalists,
was drawing closer; and every night on his return home Mr. Fenton fully
expected to find the man from Alaska sitting at the table awaiting his
coming.

True, he seemed to have so much knowledge of the almost unlimited
powers of he syndicate, with which Squire Lemington was connected in
some way, that Hiram had declared his intention of coming in some sort
of disguise, so that he could give his evidence under oath before his
unscrupulous uncle even knew that he was on this side of the ocean.

And so, on the whole, those summer days were times of almost unlimited
pleasure to Fred Fenton. After his unsuccessful attempt to burn the
racing boat of the Riverport schoolboys, Buck Lemington had remained a
long time quiet. Possibly he feared that his crony, Conrad Jimmerson,
when he was caught in Colon's quaint trap, might have told something of
the truth before his mouth was closed by hearing that threatening
signal outside. And Buck was waiting now to learn if anything was about
to be done, in order to bring him to punishment.

Of course such a nature as his could not remain very quiet for any
great length of time; and as the days grew into weeks doubtless his
resentment toward Fred would once more become hot.

Then there would be more exciting times; for when Buck really worked
himself up to a certain pitch, things were apt to happen.

The boys and girls of Riverport always did manage to have a good time
during the summer holidays. True, there could be no singing school, and
dances in the barn, such as winter brought along in its train; no
skating on the river, sleighing over country roads with a pretty girl
alongside, and the merry chime of bells in the air; but then picnics
were held every little while; and as for the group of boys who somehow
looked upon Fred as a sort of leader, there was hardly a weekday during
the entire vacation that they did not go fishing, or at least pay a
visit to the old "swimming hole."

When together, Bristles and Fred often talked about the affair of the
opals. The latter said that his aunt kept in constant touch with Gabe
Larkins, and seemed to be gaining considerable influence over the wild
lad.

"I don't just know whether he means to reform, or is only pulling the
wool over Aunt Alicia's eyes," Bristles declared; "but, anyhow, he
seems to be walking a straight line now. Why, his mother told mine just
yesterday that she didn't know what had come over Gabe, he was that
considerate of her feelings nowadays. She wondered if he could be
feeling ill, and expectin' to die. But maw just told her not to worry;
that she reckoned he was only feelin' sorry because he'd been so bad in
the past."

"I hope he means it," said Fred, with considerable earnestness in his
voice. "It's a pretty hard thing for the leopard to change his spots,
father says; but if Gabe does turn over a new leaf, he certainly ought
to be helped by everybody."

"Oh!" said Bristles, quickly, "I stopped and shook hands with him the
last time we met. And say, Fred, there did seem to be something a
little different about his eyes; looked me square in the face, and you
know he used to be seeing somethin' over your head every time before. I
wonder now does it mean anything?"

But that again was another thing that only time could prove. Whether
Gabe did really see a light, and mean to change his ways, or was
playing a foxy game for some purpose, there could be no way of telling,
until he chose to come out into the open.

Here, with the horizon looking so bright for those in whose fortunes we
have come to feel such a deep interest, it may be as well for us to say
good-bye for the present, and leave a further recital of their
adventures and contests to another time.


THE END



THE SADDLE BOYS SERIES

By CAPTAIN JAMES CARSON

12mo.    Illustrated.    Price per volume, 65 cents, postpaid.

All lads who love life in the open air and a good steed, will want to
peruse these books. Captain Carson knows his subject thoroughly, and
his stories are as pleasing as they are healthful and instructive.


THE SADDLE BOYS OF THE ROCKIES
  _or Lost on Thunder Mountain_

Telling how the lads started out to solve the mystery of a great noise
in the mountains--how they got lost--and of the things they discovered.


THE SADDLE BOYS IN THE GRAND CANYON
  _or The Hermit of the Cave_

A weird and wonderful story of the Grand Canyon of the Colorado, told
in a most absorbing manner. The Saddle Boys are to the front in a
manner to please all young readers.


THE SADDLE BOYS ON THE PLAINS
  _or After a Treasure of Gold_

In this story the scene is shifted to the great plains of the southwest
and then to the Mexican border. There is a stirring struggle for gold,
told as only Captain Carson can tell it.


THE SADDLE BOYS AT CIRCLE RANCH
  _or In at the Grand Round-up_

Here we have lively times at the ranch, and likewise the particulars of
a grand round-up of cattle and encounters with wild animals and also
cattle thieves. A story that breathes the very air of the plains.


THE SADDLE BOYS ON MEXICAN TRAILS
  _or In the Hands of the Enemy_

The scene is shifted in this volume to Mexico. The boys go on an
important errand, and are caught between the lines of the Mexican
soldiers. They are captured and for a while things look black for them;
but all ends happily.

CUPPLES & LEON CO., Publishers,    NEW YORK



THE SPEEDWELL BOYS SERIES

By ROY ROCKWOOD

Author of "The Dave Dashaway Series," "Great Marvel Series," etc.

12mo.    Illustrated.    Price per volume, 65 cents, postpaid.

All boys who love to be on the go will welcome the Speed well boys.
They are clean cut and loyal lads.


THE SPEEDWELL BOYS ON MOTOR CYCLES
  _or The Mystery of a Great Conflagration_

The lads were poor, but they did a rich man a great service and he
presented them with their motor cycles. What a great fire led to is
exceedingly well told.


THE SPEEDWELL BOYS AND THEIR RACING AUTO
  _or A Run for the Golden Cup_

A tale of automobiling and of intense rivalry on the road. There was an
endurance run and the boys entered the contest. On the run they rounded
up some men who were wanted by the law.


THE SPEEDWELL BOYS AND THEIR POWER LAUNCH
  _or To the Rescue of the Castaways_

Here is an unusual story. There was a wreck, and the lads, in their
power launch, set out to the rescue. A vivid picture of a great storm
adds to the interest of the tale.


THE SPEEDWELL BOYS IN A SUBMARINE
  _or The Lost Treasure of Rocky Cove_

An old sailor knows of a treasure lost under water because of a cliff
falling into the sea. The boys get a chance to go out in a submarine
and they make a hunt for the treasure.


THE SPEEDWELL BOYS AND THEIR ICE RACER
  _or The Perils of a Great Blizzard_

The boys had an idea for a new sort of iceboat, to be run by combined
wind and motor power. How they built the craft, and what fine times
they had on board of it, is well related.

CUPPLES & LEON CO., Publishers,    NEW YORK


THE FRED FENTON ATHLETIC SERIES

By ALLEN CHAPMAN

Author of "The Tom Fairfield Series," "The Boys of Pluck Series" and
"The Darewell Chums Series."

12mo.    Illustrated.    Price per volume, 65 cents, postpaid.

A line of tales embracing school athletics. Fred is a true type of the
American schoolboy of to-day.


FRED FENTON THE PITCHER
  _or The Rivals of Riverport School_

When Fred came to Riverport none of the school lads knew him, but he
speedily proved his worth in the baseball box. A true picture of school
baseball.


FRED FENTON IN THE LINE
  _or The Football Boys of Riverport School_

When Fall came in the thoughts of the boys turned to football. Fred
went in the line, and again proved his worth, making a run that helped
to win a great game.


FRED FENTON ON THE CREW
  _or The Young Oarsmen of Riverport School_

In this volume the scene is shifted to the river, and Fred and his
chums show how they can handle the oars. There are many other
adventures, all dear to the hearts of boys.


FRED FENTON ON THE TRACK
  _or The Athletes of Riverport School_

Track athletics form a subject of vast interest to many boys, and here
is a tale telling of great running races, high jumping, and the like.
Fred again proves himself a hero in the best sense of that term.


FRED FENTON: MARATHON RUNNER
  or _The Great Race at Riverport School_

Fred is taking a post-graduate course at the school when the subject of
Marathon running came up. A race is arranged, and Fred shows both his
friends and his enemies what he can do. An athletic story of special
merit.

CUPPLES & LEON CO., Publishers,    NEW YORK



THE TOM FAIRFIELD SERIES

By ALLEN CHAPMAN

Author of the "Fred Fenton Athletic Series," "The Boys of Pluck
Series," and "The Darewell Chums Series."

12mo.    Illustrated.    Price per volume, 65 cents, postpaid.

Tom Fairfield is a typical American lad, full of life and energy, a boy
who believes in doing things. To know Tom is to love him.


TOM FAIRFIELD'S SCHOOLDAYS
  _or The Chums of Elmwood Hall_

Tells of how Tom started for school, of the mystery surrounding one of
the Hall seniors, and of how the hero went to the rescue. The first
book in a line that is bound to become decidedly popular.


TOM FAIRFIELD AT SEA
  _or The Wreck of the Silver Star_

Tom's parents had gone to Australia and then been cast away somewhere
in the Pacific. Tom set out to find them and was himself cast away. A
thrilling picture of the perils of the deep.


TOM FAIRFIELD IN CAMP
  _or The Secret of the Old Mill_

The boys decided to go camping, and located near an old mill. A wild
man resided there and he made it decidedly lively for Tom and his
chums. The secret of the old mill adds to the interest of the volume.


TOM FAIRFIELD'S PLUCK AND LUCK
  _or Working to Clear His Name_

While Tom was back at school some of his enemies tried to get him into
trouble. Something unusual occurred and Tom was suspected of a crime.
How he set to work to clear his name is told in a manner to interest
all young readers.


TOM FAIRFIELD'S HUNTING TRIP
  _or Lost in the Wilderness_

Tom was only a schoolboy, but he loved to use a shotgun or a rifle. In
this volume we meet him on a hunting trip full of outdoor life and good
times around the camp-fire.

CUPPLES & LEON CO., Publishers,    NEW YORK



THE DAVE DASHAWAY SERIES

By ROY ROCKWOOD

Author of the "Speedwell Boys Series" and the "Great Marvel Series."

12mo.    Illustrated.    Price per volume, 65 cents, postpaid.

Never was there a more clever young aviator than Dave Dashaway. All
up-to-date lads will surely wish to read about him.


DAVE DASHAWAY THE YOUNG AVIATOR
  _or In the Clouds for Fame and Fortune_

This initial volume tells how the hero ran away from his miserly
guardian, fell in with a successful airman, and became a young aviator
of note.


DAVE DASHAWAY AND HIS HYDROPLANE
  _or Daring Adventures Over the Great Lakes_

Showing how Dave continued his career as a birdman and had many
adventures over the Great Lakes, and how he foiled the plans of some
Canadian smugglers.


DAVE DASHAWAY AND HIS GIANT AIRSHIP
  _or A Marvellous Trip Across the Atlantic_

How the giant airship was constructed and how the daring young aviator
and his friends made the hazardous journey through the clouds from the
new world to the old, is told in a way to hold the reader spellbound.


DAVE DASHAWAY AROUND THE WORLD
  _or A Young Yankee Aviator Among Many Nations_

An absorbing tale of a great air flight around the world, of adventures
in Alaska, Siberia and elsewhere. A true to life picture of what may be
accomplished in the near future.


DAVE DASHAWAY: AIR CHAMPION
  _or Wizard Work in the Clouds_

Dave makes several daring trips, and then enters a contest for a big
prize. An aviation tale thrilling in the extreme.

CUPPLES & LEON CO., Publishers,    NEW YORK



THE WEBSTER SERIES

By FRANK V. WEBSTER

Mr. WEBSTER'S style is very much like that of the boys' favorite
author, the late lamented Horatio Alger, Jr., but his tales are
thoroughly up-to-date.

Cloth.    12mo.    Over 200 pages each. Illustrated.    Stamped in various
colors.

Price per volume, 65 cents, postpaid.

Only A Farm Boy
  _or Dan Hardy's Rise in Life_

The Boy From The Ranch
  _or Roy Bradner's City Experiences_

The Young Treasure Hunter
  _or Fred Stanley's Trip to Alaska_

The Boy Pilot of the Lakes
  _or Nat Morton's Perils_

Tom The Telephone Boy
  _or The Mystery of a Message_

Bob The Castaway
  _or The Wreck of the Eagle_

The Newsboy Partners
  _or Who Was Dick Bost_

Two Boy Gold Miners
  _or Lost in the Mountains_

The Young Firemen of Lakeville
  _or Herbert Dare's Pluck_

The Boys of Bellwood School
  _or Frank Jordan's Triumph_

Jack the Runaway
  _or On the Road with a Circus_

Bob Chester's Grit
  _or From Ranch to Riches_

Airship Andy
  _or The Luck of a Brave Boy_

High School Rivals
  _or Fred Markham's Struggles_

Dairy The Life Saver
  _or The Heroes of the Coast_

Dick The Bank Boy
  _or A Missing Fortune_

Ben Hardy's Flying Machine
  _or Making a Record for Himself_

Harry Watson's High School Days
  _or The Rivals of Rivertown_

Comrades of the Saddle
  _or The Young Rough Riders of the Plains_

Tom Taylor at West Point
  _or The Old Army Officer's Secret_

The Boy Scouts of Lennox
  _or Hiking Over Big Bear Mountain_

The Boys of the Wireless
  _or a Stirring Rescue from the Deep_

Cowboy Dave
  _or The Round-up at Rolling River_

Jack of the Pony Express
  _or The Young Rider of the Mountain Trail_

The Boys of the Battleship
  _or For the Honor of Uncle Sam_

CUPPLES & LEON CO., Publishers,    NEW YORK





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