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Title: Boy Scouts on Hudson Bay - The Disappearing Fleet
Author: Ralphson, G. Harvey (George Harvey), 1879-1940
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
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.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Boy Scouts on Hudson Bay - The Disappearing Fleet" ***

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[Illustration: "I see it, Ned!" suddenly said Jack, triumphantly.
Page 238--Boy Scouts on Hudson Bay.]

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BOY SCOUTS ON HUDSON BAY
OR
THE DISAPPEARING FLEET

By
G. HARVEY RALPHSON

Author of
Boy Scouts in the Canal Zone
Boy Scouts in the Northwest
Boy Scouts in a Motor Boat
Boy Scouts in a Submarine

Chicago
M. A. DONOHUE & COMPANY

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

Copyright 1914
M. A. Donohue & Company
Chicago

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

CONTENTS

   CHAPTER                                                PAGE
         I. The Five Chums in Camp                           7
        II. A Wild Charge                                   18
       III. Was It a Spy?                                   30
        IV. Down the Swift Rapids                           42
         V. Woodcraft                                       53
        VI. On the Shore of the Salty Sea                   65
       VII. The Mysterious Blur on the Horizon              77
      VIII. Two Kinds of Woodcraft                          89
        IX. "Salting" the Mine                             101
         X. Scout Tactics                                  113
        XI. A Successful Sortie                            125
       XII. The Talking Smoke                              136
      XIII. A Dreadful Calamity                            148
       XIV. Blinding the Trail                             159
        XV. The Brush Shelter                              171
       XVI. The Sea Fog                                    182
      XVII. On Board the Wreck                             193
     XVIII. After the Storm                                204
       XIX. The Battle of the Hulk                         216
        XX. Besieged                                       227
       XXI. Unexpected Help                                237
      XXII. The Mystery Solved--Conclusion                 247

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BOY SCOUTS ON HUDSON BAY;
or, The Disappearing Fleet.
By G. HARVEY RALPHSON

CHAPTER I.

THE FIVE CHUMS IN CAMP.


"Sure it's me that hopes we've seen the last tough old carry on this
same wild-goose chase up to the Frozen North!"

"Hello! there, is that you, Jimmy, letting out that yawp? I thought you
had more sporting blood in you than to throw up your hands like that!"

"Oh! well I sometimes say things that don't come from the heart, you
know, Jack. Wait, me boy, till I get good and rested up, and mebbe I'll
sing a different tune. Ask Ned here if it's me that often shows the
white flag when trouble comes."

"Well, I should say not, Jimmy McGraw. There never was a more stubborn
nature in all New York than you, once you'd set your mind on anything.
That talk of being discouraged is all on the surface. A thousand
cataracts wouldn't keep _you_ from getting to Hudson Bay in the end, if
you'd said you meant to reach open water. And Jack Bosworth knows that
as well as I do."

"That's right; I do," laughed the party mentioned as Jack, as he slapped
Jimmy on the back. "I've seen him tested and tried out many the time,
and never once did he squeal. I was only joking, Jimmy; you understand?"

"And sure that's what I was doing when I grunted about the carry. It was
next door to a picnic down Coney Island way, and I don't care how many
more times the lot of us have to pack canoes and duffle from one creek
to another. But Francois here is after saying we're getting near the end
of our long voyage, and Tamasjo, the red Injun, backs him up. So let's
try and forget our troubles, and settle down for a decent night's rest."

"First of all, we'll get the tent up, because it looks a little like it
might rain before morning," remarked the boy who had been designated as
Ned, and whom the other four seemed to look upon in the light of leader.

All of them were garbed in the familiar khaki of the Boy Scouts, and
from their actions it would seem as though long familiarity with outdoor
life had made this thing of pitching camp second nature with every one
of the five well-grown lads.

These boys with their guides were a long way from home. Hundreds upon
hundreds of miles separated them from the great metropolis of New York
City, where the troop to which they belonged had its headquarters.

Those readers who have had the pleasure of meeting the five husky scouts
in the pages of previous volumes of this series will not need any
introduction to them. But for the sake of those who are not as yet
acquainted with the chums, a few words of explanation may not come in
amiss.

They all belonged to the same lively troop, but Ned Nestor and his
shadow, Jimmy McGraw, were members of the Wolf Patrol, while Jack
Bosworth, Frank Shaw and Teddy Green belonged to the patrol that proudly
pointed to the head of an American black bear as its totem.

Ned Nestor had long been secretly in the employ of the United States
Government, and had won considerable renown in carrying to a successful
conclusion several difficult cases entrusted to his charge by the
authorities in command of the Secret Service.

Jimmy, who had once been a typical Bowery newsboy, but now "reformed,"
fairly worshiped Jack, and had been his faithful henchman for a long
time past. He was witty, brave, and as as true as the needle to the
pole.

Then there was Frank Shaw, whose father owned and edited one of the
great daily papers in New York; he had long ago shown a desire to be a
correspondent, and was always on the lookout for chances to visit
far-off corners of the world which did not happen to be well known, and
about which he might write interesting accounts for the columns of his
father's paper. He was a great admirer of the celebrated Frank
Carpenter, whom he had met many times in his father's office.

Jack Bosworth's father was a wealthy corporation lawyer and a capitalist
as well, always ready to invest in promising schemes of a legitimate
character. And it was really because of this venturesome nature of Mr.
Bosworth that these five lads had undertaken this tremendous journey,
away above the outskirts of Canadian civilization, many weary leagues
beyond the northern limits of Lake Superior, and with the almost unknown
shores of the great Hudson Bay as their objective point.

The last boy was Teddy Green. He had a well-known Harvard professor as
his father, and some day no doubt the lad anticipated following in the
footsteps of his parent. Just now his greatest ambition was to be an
explorer and endure some of the privations which such men as Stanley,
Livingstone, Dr. Kane and other renowned characters in history were said
to have met with in carrying out their tasks.

From the desolate character of their present surroundings it would seem
that Teddy was in a fair way to realize his boyish dream. For days now
they had not met with a living human being, even an Indian trapper far
away from his tepee in search of game. Mountains and valleys, plains
covered with scrub trees and seemingly endless bogs, and stretches of
moss-covered land surrounded them day after day.

They had ascended one river until they could paddle their three canoes
no further. At this point had come the first carry to another stream,
and from that day on it had been the hardest kind of work as time passed
on.

Already Jimmy had lost all track of direction, and often declared that
it would not surprise him if they finally turned up somewhere over in
Siberia, for to his mind it seemed as though they had come far enough to
have passed the North Pole, even though they had seen no ice packs.

The taciturn Indian guide, who went under the name of Tamasjo, and the
dusky voyageur, a French Canadian named Francois, assured them that all
was well, whenever one of the boys ventured to voice a suspicion that
they might have lost their way and wandered far past their objective
point.

Both guides claimed to have hunted all over this country in times past,
and the voyageur had even accompanied a noted explorer on a summer
wandering up here. Hence their confidence reassured Ned, who often
consulted a rude chart which had been placed in his hands before
starting out on this journey, and thus verified the statements made by
Francois.

Much paddling through rushing rapids and against the current of
boisterous rivers had made the muscles of the boys' arms seem like iron.
Every one of them appeared to be the picture of good health; because
there is absolutely nothing equal to this outdoor life to build up
sturdy constitutions.

Already all of them were at work. The tents went up so rapidly that it
was plain to be seen these lads would easily take the prize offered for
perfection in camp making, in a contest between rival patrols.

The canoes had been safely drawn up on the shelving beach, and doubly
secured; because it would be nothing short of a calamity to lose one of
the handy vessels while so far from civilization, and with no suitable
birch trees around from which another light boat might be fashioned by
the craft of the guides.

The day was nearly done, and when presently the smoke of their campfire
began to ascend in the still air, night crept slowly about them. As it
was the summer season and the days were very long up here in the Far
North, the hour was later than they had ever started in to make camp
before.

Plenty of supplies had apparently been carried along, to judge from the
fragrant odors that soon began to steal forth. All of these lads
belonged to families of wealth, so that at no time were they reduced to
limiting their outfit. Anything that money could buy, and which prudence
would allow to carry with them, was always at their service.

So the guns owned by Ned and his chums were of the latest pattern, and
capable of doing good service when properly handled. The boys, who had
been through campaigns in many parts of their own country, as well as
over the southern border, and in foreign lands as well, and for young
fellows who had not yet attained their majority, all of the scouts had
experienced thrills calculated to make men of mature age proud.

And yet in spite of all this they were genuine boys, with warm hearts,
and fond of practical joking. Seated around the jolly fire after
disposing of supper, while the two guides attended to cleaning up, Jimmy
entertained his mates with a series of rollicking songs, accompanied by
Teddy on his mandolin, which he had somehow managed to smuggle along, in
spite of a careful watch on the part of Ned, who did not wish to take a
single article that was not indispensable, for he knew the gigantic task
that lay ahead of them.

Jimmy has as usual been overboard during the late afternoon. It was not
a voluntary swim the comical chum had been enjoying, either; these
plunges never were, but it seemed as though Jimmy must lose his balance
once in so often just while the canoes were negotiating through some
wild rapids, and in consequence he had to make the passage clinging to
the gunwale.

His red sweater was hanging on a bush to dry in the heat of the fire. It
looked unusually brilliant as seen in the glow of the leaping flames.
Jimmy was very proud of that same old sweater, which had been with him
through so many campaigns that it showed signs of wear and tear. But
though he had another nice navy-blue one in his waterproof clothes bag,
Jimmy persisted in donning the ancient article every blessed day, in
spite of the appeals of his chums.

Ned as usual was poring over his well-thumbed chart. Every day he marked
the new ground they had covered, and very seldom had he found cause to
doubt the correctness of the two guides. And whenever this had happened
it turned out that they were right, and the map wrong.

"Well," Frank finally broke out with, "so far we haven't run across
anything in the shape of a rival expedition, though Ned seemed to think
in the start that was what would happen to us."

"I haven't changed my mind yet," observed the party mentioned, looking
up from examining his chart. "We understood that the syndicate that is
trying to unload this wonderful new mining tract they claim will be
richer than Mesauba on Jack's father as a speculation, knew about our
being sent up here on some secret mission. They could easily guess that
we meant to find out if half of the big claim they made was true, and
that on our report Mr. Bosworth would base any action he might take. Now
it was to be such a tremendously big deal that under the conditions, if
so be there was something crooked about the claims they made, you can
understand that it would pay them handsomely to shunt us off the track,
or else salt the mine, and make us think it would be as rich a
proposition as their prospectus set out."

"But," interrupted Jack, "who could they get to do their crooked work
away up here in this forlorn country, where we haven't run across a
living being since we met that trapper going south with his winter's
catch of pelts?"

"Oh! money will do lots of things," answered Ned. "Given a soft berth,
with good pay, and plenty to eat, and scores of Indian half-breeds,
timber cruisers, guides out of employment along the salmon fishing
streams of the Dominion, and trappers loafing through an off season,
would jump at the bait. There'd be plenty to enlist under the lead of a
bold man hired by the syndicate; if, as we more than half believe,
their claim is a great swindle which they mean to hang about Jack's
father's neck."

"Francois says we will always have to be prepared, and as that is the
motto of Boy Scouts all over the known world, it isn't likely to seem
new to us," Frank Shaw remarked, a little boastfully it must be
confessed, for having passed through so many strange happenings in times
past had given him a touch of what Jimmy was inclined to call the
"swelled head," though any one would have been justified for feeling
proud of such a record of wonderful things accomplished.

The scouts having started on the subject of their mission continued to
discuss it from various angles. In this way they often hit upon
suggestions, because one remark would bring out another until some
fellow chanced to open up a new field of conjecture.

They were deep in the matter, and all taking a hand in the discussion,
when Francois, the dark-faced voyageur, suddenly started to his knees
with a cry of warning. At the same time the boys became aware of the
fact that a strange rushing and pounding noise was rapidly bearing down
upon the little camp on the river bank.

Jimmy happened to be sitting cross-legged like a Turk, a favorite
attitude of his, and becoming excited he could not get up as rapidly as
his chums.

In consequence of this he seemed to be in the way of some huge body that
rushed the camp, scattering the fire, and rending the branches of the
tree under which the exploring party had settled for the night.

It was all over in a few seconds. The camp was in an uproar, one of the
tents down flat, the fire in danger of communicating to the brush, and
Jimmy squealing on his back, where the sudden rush of the mysterious
monster had thrown him.



CHAPTER II.

A WILD CHARGE.


"Help! Help!" Jimmy was shouting, kicking wildly as he roared. "Keep off
me, you wild elephant! Somebody shoot him, quick, before he steps on
me!"

"Here, stop that kicking, if you want to be helped up, do you hear,
Jimmy!" exclaimed Frank, who had hastened to the assistance of the
comrade in distress. "Are you much hurt; and did the beast trample on
you any?"

Jimmy began to feel of his legs and arms, and upon discovering himself
apparently as sound as a dollar, grinned sheepishly. Meanwhile the two
guides had hastened, with the help of Ned and Jack, to gather the fire
together again. Teddy had snatched up the nearest rifle and was down on
one knee, peering out through the semi-darkness as though anticipating a
return rush on the part of the unknown monster that had created such
confusion in the camp.

"No great damage done, after all, seems like, if Jimmy says he's all
right," remarked Ned, now beginning to let a broad smile creep over his
face, for seeing Jimmy doubled up and had been a ludicrous spectacle
not soon to be forgotten.

"But what in creation was it that put the kibosh all over me like that?"
demanded the one who had been knocked over by the mad rush of the
invader.

Ned glanced toward Francois, and the voyageur simply said:

"Bull moose--him very much mad, charge camp like that!"

"Well, I should think he must have been," Frank Shaw declared. "Why, if
we'd had a little more warning we might have met him with a volley of
hot lead that'd have laid him out dead. Now that Francois says so, I do
believe he looked pretty much on the order of a monstrous moose bull. I
certainly saw his horns, and they were full grown, because the rutting
season is long since past."

"But what makes a moose get his mad up?" Jack asked. "We didn't do a
single thing to rile him, that I know of, but were sitting here as easy
as you please, when all at once he charges through the camp. Why, say,
he nearly carried off some of our property, when he knocked down that
tent. Look at the rip his horns made in the tanned canvas, would you?
Some more sewing for Teddy here, to mend the rip."

"Francois, do bull moose often act in that way?" asked Teddy, still
gripping the repeating rifle, as though not fully convinced that their
would be no repetition of the savage onslaught.

The guide shook his head.

"Know only few times when it happen, and then there be reason. He carry
off on horns what makes him rush our camp. I saw the same with my own
eyes. Bull moose much like farm bull, and hate ze red color ver' mooch."

At hearing this several of the boys gave a shout.

"There, see what you get, Jimmy, for keeping that silly red sweater
around. The old bull saw it hanging there in the light of our fire, and
it made him so furious, as it has us lots of times, that he lowered his
head and just charged us."

"But he took it away with him, as sure as you live, fellows!" gasped
Jimmy, as a sense of his deep affliction came over him. "My dear sweater
that I loved so much."

"Bully for the moose!" cried Jack.

"He'd done us all a mighty good turn, even if he never meant to," added
Frank, "now we've seen the last of that terrible old garment, and
Jimmy'll just _have_ to get out the nice new one he's been carrying in
his bag."

"Just think of the old fool, would you, a-tearin' around the woods with
that red flag hanging from his horns," Jimmy wailed. "Don't I hope it
keeps him wild right along, so that he'll smash into a tree, and break
his blessed neck! But I'm glad he didn't take a notion to carry me off
along with my sweater, and that's no lie!"

The little excitement soon died away. Not much damage had been done
after all by that mad charge of the infuriated bull moose. The rent in
the canvas could be readily mended, and as for Jimmy's loss it was his
companions' gain, so that there would be no lament made save by the late
owner.

"I didn't know moose ever roamed as far north as this," remarked Ned.

"How about that, Francois?" asked Frank, who, it might be noticed, kept
his gun close beside him now, as though meaning to be ready in case
another cause for excitement arose.

"It is not often zat ze bull moose come up here," replied the French
Canadian, in his queer patois; "but sometimes in summer zey wander far
afield. I haf seen ze same so mooch as three hundred mile north from
here."

"One thing sure, there are plenty of caribou around," Teddy went on to
say; "and when the meat's tender, it suits me all right. I'm running
across new things every day up here, and don't feel sorry I came, so
far."

"New things seem to be running across us also," chuckled Frank; "for
instance, the monster that just invaded our camp. But as our supply of
red sweaters has given out now, we'll hope not to have a repeat of that
charge in a hurry."

"Me for a tree if ever I hear anything on four legs heading this way
again!" Jimmy told them. "Why, what would have happened to me if the old
four flusher had set his hoofs square on my stomach? I'd be feeling
pretty punk right now, believe me."

"I think I'll take to the tall timber myself if this thing gets common,"
was what Jack observed. "My stars! but he was a whopper. Looked like the
side of a house to me when he sizzled past, scattering the fire,
leveling our best tent, and kicking up a whole circus with a band wagon
attached."

"What was it we were talking about when we had that unexpected call?"
asked Teddy.

"Ned was telling us something more that trapper we met said to him about
the queer things that happen away up here in this uninhabited country,
which is so different from any other known land. Didn't he say something
about a phantom fleet of vessels that kept bobbing up every now and
then, only to speed away like ghosts. What did you make of that silly
rot, Ned?"

"I've been puzzling my head over it ever since," Ned replied, "but for
the life of me can't make head or tail of the story. I've almost come
to the conclusion that the trapper was a little dippy, and just imagined
he saw those vessels."

"Sounds like it to me, Ned," Jack declared. "Whatever would vessels of
any kind want up in Hudson Bay, if not to fish, or hunt whales, or
seals, or walrus? And why should they flit around like ghosts, as he
said? Chances are the old chap was using up his surplus stock of strong
drink, and saw things where they didn't exist."

"Well, anyway," Jimmy ventured, reflectively, "it's me that hopes we'll
run foul of this same queer disappearing fleet, because if we do it's a
pipe cinch we'll scrape all the mystery off the story. We always manage
that when we start into anything. It seems to be the scout way of doing
things."

"For my part," declared Frank, "I take little stock in that yarn of the
trapper. I imagine it's in a line with the big story of the mine
syndicate that wants to unload on Mr. Bosworth. This is the country for
whopping lies. Everything is on so big a scale up here, you know,
stories have to keep along with them."

"And moose are as big as houses," added Jimmy.

"How is it we don't see you busy with your fish lines to-night, Jimmy?"
asked Ned.

"Yes, it's been three mornings now since we had fresh fish for
breakfast, and as that job was handed over to you, we all want to know
what's gone wrong?" Jack added.

Jimmy shrugged his shoulders, and made a wry face.

"I've soured on me job, if that's what you want to know," he replied.
"I've pulled in so many fish since we started that me arm is sore with
the work. Besides, I've lost me taste for fresh fish. Them that feel an
itching for the diet c'n do the business. Here's me lines and hooks with
pleasure."

No one, however, seemed anxious to undertake the task on this particular
occasion. Truth to tell they were one and all pretty tired. It had been
an unusually arduous day, so that shoulders and legs ached more or less,
from packing all their possessions across country to the bank of the
river on which they now found themselves, and which Francois, yes, and
Tamasjo ditto, affirmed would carry them all the rest of the way to the
great inland sea known on the maps as Hudson Bay, in honor of the famous
explorer.

It felt good to lie there at their ease on blankets and enjoy the warmth
of the cheery campfire. There was more or less of a tang in the air most
of the time on account of being so far north; and this became more
evident when the sun had set, and the short night commenced, so that
the young explorers were glad to have tents and warm blankets along.

Once while they were talking Jack lifted his head and appeared to be
listening.

"A wolf pack hunting through the muskegs!" remarked Ned.

"Just what it must be," declared Jack. "And wherever we go it seems as
if there was no end to the hungry beasts. We ran up against them away
out in California, you remember; and they've given us no end of trouble
on this present trip."

"I only hope that swift bunch is hustling along on the trail of Mr. Bull
Moose, and that they overhaul the beggar right soon," grumbled Jimmy
viciously.

"What ails the little rascal now to make him feel so savage about that
moose?" laughed Frank.

"Huh! if you had something you thought the world of carried away on the
horns of a rotten old bull moose, mebbe it's you that would be feeling
sore on him too, me boy," growled Jimmy.

"Well, they say that one man's food is another's poison," observed
Frank; "and all of us feel that your loss is our gain. Red sweaters may
be all very well on a baseball field, but in the woods they don't cut
such a wide swath."

"Forget it," added Jack.

The two guides were looking after the canoes. It was their customary
habit to attend to the craft every night before lying down, because they
realized the great value that lay in the only means of making progress
that the expedition possessed; while no one dreamed of robbery, still,
the motto of a scout is to shut the door _before_ the horse is stolen,
and not afterwards. An ounce of prevention is always much better than a
pound of cure, so Ned was accustomed to saying, and he was an
experienced patrol leader.

While they left some things to the guides, still, the boys were pleased
to keep constantly in touch with whatever was transpiring around them.
Long ago they had learned to enjoy making fresh discoveries in the field
and forest whenever abroad. And in this new and to them unexplored
country they were running across numerous interesting things every day.

They had just two tents along, and as neither of the guides would
consent to be under cover save in a rain storm, it allowed the five
scouts a chance to sleep comfortably, three in one shelter and a couple
in the other. Ned and Jack occupied the smaller tent, while Jimmy bunked
with Teddy and Frank in the second one.

Presently the guides came into camp again, though they had been within
sight all the time, as the canoes lay well inside the circle of light
coming from the fire.

"All well with the boats, Francois?" asked Ned, who was hugging his
knees now, and had been joking Frank over several weird pictures the
photographer of the expedition had lately developed.

"Everything O. K.," replied the voyageur, as though satisfied with his
labor. "No danger we lose same this night, zat is sure. Still, Francois,
me, and ze ozzer guide we expect to sleep wiz ze one eye open."

"If you should happen to see some stranger meddling with our boats,
Francois--what would you do?" asked Frank.

The voyageur shrugged his broad shoulders in a very Frenchy fashion as
he replied.

"I sall call out and ask ze same what he do, sare; and if so be he try
to run away, pouf; I ze gun will fire, taking aim to vound ze rascal in
ze leg, and not kill."

"Sounds rather war-like, don't it, Ned?" remarked Jack.

"Well, you must remember that this is a wild country up here," the
leader of the expedition went on to say, soberly; "and that men are
accustomed to looking on all others as enemies until they prove to be
friends. A man who would sneak up and hover over our boats, on being
addressed, if he were honest would throw up his hand at once and come
into camp. Only a sneak thief would try and cut for it. And from my way
of looking at it Francois would be justified in giving him a bullet in
the leg, or a charge of Number Sevens in the last place he could see as
the man galloped away."

As several of the scouts were yawning at a prodigious rate it was now
concluded that the time had come to crawl under their blankets and get
some sleep. This going to bed was never a very long-drawn-out operation
with the scouts when in the open. Each boy would remove his shoes, after
taking off his leggings, then follow with his outer garments, and after
that just snuggle down under his warm covering, and forgetting all his
troubles until the summons came that breakfast was almost ready.

On this especial occasion they vanished inside the tents, leaving the
guides at the fire smoking their last pipe of tobacco, which both of
them had to indulge in before they could think of sleeping.

After that none of the boys knew a single thing until they were rudely
awakened by hearing some one call out roughly.

Immediately afterwards there came a peremptory hail, and then a loud
report that must have come from a gun.

Of course there was a hustle in both tents, and it was astonishing how
quickly each scout managed to get some of his clothes on. A
professional fireman could hardly have shown more expedition about
dressing than Ned and Jack did, though hampered more or less in the
operation by the darkness.

They had been very careful to remember just where their guns had been
placed, so that as soon as they donned clothes it was easy to snatch up
these weapons, after which they burst out of the tent.

The fire was beginning to revive, showing that some one must have tossed
fresh fuel upon the smouldering logs. One glance that way told Ned
several hours must have elapsed since he lay down, and that it was even
now long after midnight. He would have been able to tell within an hour
what time of night it was, had he been given a few seconds to look up at
the heavens to note the position of the new stars in sight.



CHAPTER III.

WAS IT A SPY?


The other fellows were coming crawling out from the larger tent when Ned
and Jack reached the open air. All of them were carrying guns, as though
laboring under an impression that the camp must be assailed by a rival
force.

They found the two guides standing there, and peering out toward a
certain quarter. Both were too old hands at this sort of thing to show
the least sign of excitement, but Jimmy made up for any lack on their
part.

"For the love of Mike where's the invader now? Did he trample all over
you, Francois, and is that the brand of his cloven hoof on your hunting
shirt now? Was it the same old bull moose, or a new kind of muskeg
giant, as big as a church? Show him to me, and see how quick I'll bowl
the critter over!"

"Keep still, will you, Jimmy, and let Ned do the talking," advised Jack.

"What did you fire at, Francois?" asked Ned, turning to the guide, for
somehow he seemed to naturally guess that it was the French Canadian who
had done the shooting, possibly because his voice had been heard raised
in a challenge.

"Man, at all I know, sare," replied the other, still looking out into
the semi-gloom wistfully.

"I heard you call out loud enough, just as you said you would do," Ned
continued; "and instead of answering, did he turn and run away?"

"Zat is just what happen," replied the guide. "He act mooch like ze spy,
and so I give heem ze shot."

"Do you think you hit him, Francois?" demanded Frank.

The other rolled up his shoulders, and made the usual "face" as he
answered:

"I do not know for sure, sare. Ze light it was mos' uncertain like. I
aim down low as I pull ze trigger. Zen he disappear, and I am unable to
say if so be he drop down just to sneak avay, or because he wounded."

"Well, we can soon find out," impulsive Jimmy exclaimed; "me to grab up
a fine torch, and lead the way. Some of the rest of you form a bodyguard
around me, and be ready to give 'em a volley if they so much as peep."

It was just what Ned had been about to propose, so as Jimmy thought of
the plan first he was allowed to have his way.

The fagot which Jimmy picked out of the fire was burning briskly by now,
at one end, and could be made to serve very well as a torch, if only one
knew how to handle it. Jimmy had taken lessons in this art, and first of
all he swung the brand swiftly around his head several times, so as to
make it burn more briskly.

"There, that will do, Jimmy," Jack told him; "and now lead us out, you
ferocious little monster. Hold the torch so it won't blind us, remember.
And if they open fire you be sure to duck, so we won't be shooting you
in the back."

"Oh! I'll side-step all right, if only you give me the tip," Jimmy went
on to say.

He was already starting out with Francois to show him the way to the
spot where the latter had his last glimpse of the supposed spy. All of
the scouts were fairly quivering with eagerness; and at the same time a
cold feeling began to creep over them at the thought of what they might
discover the next minute.

Francois had shot low, and only meant to wound, but then his bullet
might have glanced upward, and inflicted a fatal injury.

A dozen and more paces they went. Everyone was excited, and looking
this way and that, for who could say what the adventure might not mean?
If there was one prowler around there might be a dozen or a score. They
remembered what Ned had said concerning the possibility of the reckless
plotters composing the mining syndicate gathering together a lawless
crowd, and meaning to chase the explorers out of that section of
country, should they threaten to discover that a fraud was in the act
of being perpetrated.

"Was it about here, Francois, that you saw him vanish?" asked Ned, who
had been keeping an eye on the guide, and judged from his actions that
they must have arrived close to the suspected spot.

"I am think so, ver' mooch," admitted Francois, eagerly, and then after
taking a backward look toward the campfire, he added: "Yes, it ees so,
sare. I gif you ze word of a man zat ought to know, zat he was here when
I fire ze shot."

"Well, it looks as though you didn't knock him over, Francois," observed
Frank, "because there was nobody lying amidst the brush."

Without replying, the French Canadian and the Indian guide fell on their
knees, and seemed to be closely examining the ground upon which none of
the party had as yet set afoot.

"Tamasjo has found something," observed Teddy quickly, as he saw the
Indian lower his head closer to the ground, and evidently examine some
object with eagerness.

Ned was down beside him almost instantly.

"It's a plain footprint, all right," he announced as soon as he had been
able to take a quick observation.

"That proves Francois _did_ see a skulker then, and wasn't dreaming,"
Jack was heard to say, as though he may have been entertaining some
doubt on the subject up to that moment.

"He scared him off, even if his lead was thrown away," Jimmy ventured,
with a slight touch of scorn in his manner, as though he fancied he
could have given a better account of himself, had the chance come his
way.

"Hold on, don't be in such a rushing big hurry to say he wasted his
lead," Ned warned him.

"What's that, Ned; did he hit the sneak after all?" Jack demanded.

"Well, spots of fresh blood don't grow on the bushes up here, even if we
do seem to run across lots of queer things," Ned went on to say, as he
pointed to where they could all see that it was so.

This fact added to the excitement. If the unknown whom they looked on as
some species of spy, had been wounded, it looked like a serious piece of
business for the little party of explorers. He must have friends not far
away, and after the gantlet of defiance had been thrown down by this
shot, these men might lose all restraint and show that they were
disposed to act in an ugly way.

It meant that the former sense of security and indifference was a thing
of the past. From this time on the scouts must keep constantly on the
alert to guard against a sudden surprise. They must learn to watch for
danger in every quarter, and not allow themselves to sleep on post.

All this change was caused by the discovery of that one small spot of
shed blood. Even the usually talkative Jimmy seemed to have become dumb
for the time being, as though realizing the gravity of the situation.

"Do we try to track the fellow, Ned?" asked Teddy.

"I don't think that would be a wise thing to attempt," came the reply.
"In the first place we couldn't make any headway without a light; and
that would expose the lot of us to his fire, if he found himself being
overtaken, and was still smarting under the pain of his wound. Then
again, we don't know who he may be, or what friends he may have close
by. No, the best thing for us to do is to go back to our camp, and try
to get a little more sleep. We'll put out the fire, and one of the
guides will sit up for two hours with me. Then we'll wake another
couple, and in that way pass the rest of the night."

"Sounds like business at the old stand," remarked Jimmy, "Many's the
time the lot of us have done that same thing. And, Ned, I'm in hopes
you'll be after lettin' me sit up with you. Never a bit of sleep is
there in me eyes at this minute. I'm staring like any old hoot owl in a
Virginia swamp. Don't tell me to beat it if you love me the least bit.
My lamps won't go shut, that's flat, and I might as well sit up with you
as lie down, and just stare and stare."

"Oh! suit yourself, Jimmy," Ned told the urgent one; "though of course
I'll be only too glad to have your company, if, only you'll remember to
keep still. When we have to serve as guards to the camp it's a still
tongue that counts for the most."

"I'll promise to be as dumb as an oyster, Ned," pleaded the other; and
so it was settled that he could help to stand the first watch.

The balance of the expedition once more settled down. Jack crawled alone
into the smaller tent, while Frank and Teddy occupied the other.
Francois and the Indian consulted with Ned, and then the fire was wholly
extinguished. Tamasjo went over to sleep in one of the canoes, for if
there should be any attack on the camp it was believed that it would
begin in this quarter, as the frail craft might be reckoned their
weakest and most vulnerable point.

Ned Nestor had often sat out a watch, and in the midst of a wilderness,
too; but somehow the conditions seemed vastly different now from
anything he had ever known before. In most other cases he could listen
to the various well-known voices of the night--from katydids and
crickets, to frogs in the marsh, night birds seeking their prey, or it
might be the small animals of the forest barking or giving tongue.

Away up here in the vast Northern solitudes a dreadful silence seemed to
hang upon all Nature. Insects there were none, of a species to cause a
humming sound, and save for croaking of frogs some distance away the
stillness remained unbroken for a long time.

The wolf pack broke loose again, doubtless hot on the track of a fleeing
caribou, perhaps the unfortunate one that had been wounded by Jimmy on
the preceding day when Frank knocked over the fine animal from which
their late supper had come. Ned listened to the chorus, and allowed his
thoughts to roam to other and more distant scenes, where he had had
exciting experiences with the hungry animals himself, calculated to
cause a shudder just to remember.

The time passed slowly. Several louder bursts of wolfish tongues told
when the hunting pack chanced to draw nearer the camp, but only to grow
fainter again in the distance, as the chase led the animals over barrens
where the caribou herd fed, and across wild cranberry bogs, such as the
boys could remember seeing up in Northern New York State when camping in
the Adirondacks.

When Ned reckoned that his time was up he woke Jimmy, who had long ago
gone to sleep as sweetly as you please, with his head leaning against
the butt of a tree. Ned told him he might just as well crawl under the
tent and get the benefit of a warm blanket; and after giving that advice
called Frank and Jack out.

Teddy never so much as moved when Jimmy crept in to warm up under his
woolen cover, for Teddy was a very good sleeper on any and all
occasions, it seemed. Since there was no especial need of more sentries
than the two, with the Indian and Francois to back them, Ned did not
have the heart to arouse Teddy, even though he knew very well the other
would reproach him for neglecting to do so.

There was no further alarm on that night, for which doubtless all of the
boys were thankful, though Jimmy later on loudly bewailed the fact that
he had been given no chance to make use of his faithful gun. Jimmy was
not at all bloodthirsty, though any one hearing him talk, and not
knowing his humorous nature, might be inclined to think so. But after a
most venomous harangue he would very likely wink his eye drolly at the
fellow scout he was addressing, and softly remark:

"But it isn't in my heart, and you know that!"

Jack declared that once during his watch he fancied he caught some sound
out on the bosom of the dark river that might have been a big fish
leaping, but which he was inclined to believe was made by a carelessly
used paddle.

Of course there was no way of verifying this suspicion, because water
unfortunately leaves no trail. Frank advanced the idea that it might
have been the same spy who had been prowling around their camp.

"Suppose he had a canoe handy," he went on to suggest. "I can't imagine
any living soul being away up in this country without some kind of a
boat so as to get around. Now which way would he be likely to go, do you
think, Ned?"

"If what Jack heard, and you didn't, was the sound of a working paddle,"
Ned told him, "I should say that the party went up the river. If moving
with the current, you understand, there would be no need to swing his
paddle at all, but simply let his boat float along till past our camp."

Francois, who had been listening to all this talk while cooking
breakfast, nodded his head approvingly.

"Zat it so, sare," he ventured to observe. "Eef you ask me I haf to say
ze same t'ing. Mebbe it was canoe, mebbe it was some seal zat come all
ze way up zis rifer from zat big ocean zey call Hudson Bay, and which
zey tell me ees six hundred mile from one shore to ze other."

"A real genuine seal, does he mean, Ned?" exclaimed Jimmy; "now I would
like to set eyes on one of the glossy little chaps like those I've fed
in the museum down at the Battery in little old New York."

"Made enough noise to have been a hippopotamus, if only such
warm-blooded Nile amphibious animals lived in these Arctic rivers," Jack
declared; "but after all it doesn't matter, only if the spy went up the
stream we're better be off, because that would show his crowd would be
found there, and not below."

"And I suppose that after this, while we sail on through cataracts, and
along the smoother stretches we've got to keep our eyes peeled for signs
of an ambuscade," Teddy observed. "Well, luckily we've got some pretty
sharp-eyed fellows along with us; and then there are the experienced
guides. Who cares for expenses? As long as I can poke into unknown
sections where few white men have ever set foot, and Frank can write
stunning letters to his paper about the strange things we run across, it
doesn't matter a cookey. We'll get to our destination, and we're bound
to find out all we came to see, because the scouts always do succeed."

It was in this same confident spirit that the little party embarked
shortly afterwards. Not one of them felt faint-hearted as the unknown
future loomed up before them. Nevertheless, could they have known just
then of the astonishing experiences through which they were shortly
fated to pass, possibly their pulses must have quickened under the
strain.

The sun was well above the far-eastern horizon when they entered the
three canoes, having carefully loaded the same with an eye to rough
rapids ahead, and pushing out, trolling a Canadian boat song Francois
had taught them, started on the day's voyage.



CHAPTER IV.

DOWN THE SWIFT RAPIDS.


"Sounds pretty wild ahead there!" bawled Jimmy, a couple of hours later.

He happened to be in the leading canoe at the time, along with the Cree
Indian guide, Tamasjo, and also Frank Shaw. Ned and Jack paddled the
second boat, and did it splendidly, too, for they had had considerable
practice at this sort of thing, so that as Ned expressed it, both had
"caught the hang of it." In the rear were the other two, Francois, and
Teddy Green, the ambitious explorer of unknown lands.

All this time they had seen nothing in any quarter to indicate that
there was a living human being in all that far-off country. Now and then
they had glimpsed herds of caribou peacefully feeding where the grass
grew most luxuriantly, or else like the reindeer of Lapland browsing off
the Arctic moss that clung to the rocks in myriads of places, and
contained the nourishment required. Birds were scarce, though in some
places they had come upon countless numbers of ducks, geese and swan
that seek these distant regions in summer to breed.

The others had possibly noticed that increasing murmur in the near
distance, indicating the presence of a roaring cataract, even if they
had not called attention to the same.

The Indian, seeing that the scouts would very likely want to hold a
conference, dallied with his paddle, and Frank, who sat in the bow of
the boat, followed suit. He did not altogether like the sound of that as
yet unseen rough place in the river that flowed northward toward Hudson
Bay; and felt that before trusting themselves in its clutch they should
talk it over, getting what pointers they could from the two guides.

Accordingly the three canoes drifted along on the rather swift current,
while those in them talked. From time to time the paddlers would delay
their progress by well known means, so that they might not be carried on
at too fast a pace, and find themselves in the surge of the rapids
before their plans were fully matured.

"I bet you that one beats any we've struck yet, if sound goes for much!"
Jimmy gave as his opinion.

"No question about that," added Jack.

"It sure makes a heap of noise," Teddy declared.

"And I can imagine the whitecaps jumping like crazy things as the
current hits up against the sharp-pointed snags and rocks that stick up
like horns all over!" Frank went on to say.

"Still, there are few rapids that don't have a safe channel through the
worst places," Ned told them; "anyway, I've never seen one that didn't.
How about that, Francois; you've been through here, you say, and in a
canoe?"

"Twice, sare," came the answer.

"And didn't meet with an accident either time, I warrant," Jack avowed,
confidently.

"Nevaire!" replied the guide, positively.

"And like as not, when you took the first plunge you had never seen the
rapids before, Francois?" continued Ned, striving to reach a point he
wanted to make.

"It was the first time I haf ever set eyes on ze same, as you say,
sare."

"You just used your gumption, and tackled the job as you would any other
rapids, depending on your quick eye, a firm wrist with the paddle, and
general good sense, wasn't that it, Francois?" Ned asked him.

"I get through easy, but zere was a warm time of it," the other
answered, shaking his head at the remembrance of difficulties overcome.

"Well, if you could pass through safely without ever having seen the
rapids before it was much easier the second time, eh?" ventured the
patrol leader.

"Oh! mooch easier, that time," the guide assured him.

"And now it's likely to become a habit with you," Ned remarked,
smilingly. "Guess we needn't bother any great shakes, boys. Francois
will take the lead, and Jack and myself bring up the rear."

"That leaves me in the middle, don't it?" asked Jimmy.

"Just what it does," Ned told him.

"You wouldn't think for a minute we'd allow you to lead, or much less
come trailing along as the wind-up of the crowd," jeered Jack. "Chances
are you'll be up to your old tricks again, and tumbling overboard. I've
got the boathook ready to lay hold of you if that happens."

"For goodness sake, Jimmy, make up your mind to sit still and get
through one of these husky rapids with a dry jacket," pleaded Teddy.

"Yes," added Frank, who, it may be remembered, was in the same boat with
Jimmy; "you might upset us all if you get to wiggling around, or trying
any of your silly pranks while we're in the middle of the push. And
think of what we'd lose if an accident like that happened."

"You've got all the self-raising flour in your tub, Jimmy," Teddy
continued, as a clinching argument; "and if that goes, good-bye to any
more flapjacks while we're up around the Hudson Bay country."

"Hadn't you better transfer that stuff to one of the other boats, and
give us something that won't spoil if it gets wet?" Jimmy had the
impudence to suggest; at which Ned shook his finger at him, and, looking
as severe as he could, went on to lay down the law, as he had a perfect
right to do, being Jimmy's superior in the patrol; and besides, using
the other as an assistant in his work for the Government.

"Unless you give me your solemn promise to reform, and sit as still as
anything in that canoe, I'm going to have a halt called, and tie you in
so you can't move. The only trouble is that if the boat does go over
after all, you'd surely drown like a musk rat in a trap. Do you get that
straight, Jimmy?"

Apparently the lively scout realized that his chums would not put up
with any further pranks, especially when danger menaced them, as it
always did at times when cataracts had to be negotiated. He threw up
both hands in token of absolute surrender.

"I promise you on my word of honor as a true scout, Ned, not to budge
an inch as long as the bally old boat stays on its keel. 'Course if
Tamasjo pitches me out you'll let me swim for it, and get hold of your
gunnel, won't you?"

"That's what we would expect you to do," Ned told him. "On the whole, as
this rapid is much worse than anything we've tackled up to now, I reckon
we'd better run into shore for a short stay, while we overhaul our
cargoes, and make sure everything is tied fast to the supports of the
canoes."

"Good idea," grunted Frank. "I believe in locking the door while you've
still got the horse. Lots of folks wait till the animal has been stolen,
and then wake up to the necessity of putting up the bars."

Accordingly, they landed near by on a promising point. Here they busied
themselves for some time minutely examining the way in which guns,
provisions, blankets, tents, cooking utensils, and all other things
going to make up the cargo of the three canoes was secured.

Of course they hardly anticipated an upset, but did this only as a sort
of insurance, just as a man takes out a fire risk on his house, though
never fancying for a single minute that it is going to go up in flames
and smoke.

After that the start was made. Francois paddled along in the lead, with
Teddy holding a position in the bow, for Teddy had learned to swing a
paddle fairly well on this trip. Of course, the one who sat in the stern
manipulated things as he wished, being the controlling power. Teddy's
duties would for the most part be to fend off from threatening rocks.

It was intended that the other boats should follow close enough to give
their pilots a chance to profit by the knowledge Francois had of the
currents and most dangerous places. At the same time, they must not come
within a certain distance lest they foul each other.

Faster and faster did the swift current bear them on its bosom. They
could now see it surging on toward the abrupt bend, around which the
dangerous rapid lay.

Every fellow shut his teeth hard together. Sleeves had been rolled up,
so that nothing might interfere with the heavy work ahead of them.

Jimmy was the soul watcher, he alone having no part in making that
perilous passage of the cataract. Gripping the two sides of the canoe,
as he squatted amidships, Jimmy stared with bulging eyes as the bend was
turned, and he could see that foamy track ahead. All of the way across
the river the ugly jagged rocks thrust their sharp points above the
surface of the swift water, and for a distance of nearly a quarter of a
mile it seemed as though only by a miracle could a frail canoe safely
pass among these evil genii of the rapids.

But a careful and practiced eye could pick out an avenue of
comparatively smooth water that ran from top to bottom of the rapid. It
often curved sharply, so that it made a very irregular line. Quick
action would be necessary in many instances, so as to avoid contact with
some snag that lay in wait for a victim.

Francois went boldly in. He sat there like a carved statue, only that
the upper part of his body was in constant action, as he drove his
magical blade deeply into the water, and caused the canoe to obey his
dominant will as he pleased.

After him came the bronzed Cree Indian guide, copying every movement of
the other, much as Japanese workman would a design given into his hands
to duplicate even to the minutest detail.

It was a glorious dash, and one the scouts would certainly never forget.
Their blood leaped madly in their veins as they saw the tumbling,
boiling water all about them, acting as though fairly wild to get them
in its power.

Several times Ned and Jack found themselves put to their best efforts in
order to stem the tide, and keep from meeting with shipwreck.
Fortunately, their muscles were sound, and their heads clear, so that in
every instance they recovered the advantage almost lost. When the foot
of the cataract was reached nothing of a serious nature had happened,
though all of the boys who had taken part in the labor of fighting the
erratic current of the river were breathing heavily.

"Hurrah! that's the time we did it!" shouted Jimmy, apparently as proud
as if he had handled a paddle himself; nor did any of the others
begrudge him that slight satisfaction, since the glory was big enough to
go around.

Ned gave the signal for a halt here.

"We want to rest up a bit," he explained; "and besides, didn't you hear
Francois say that there were some dandy trout and grayling hanging about
here at the foot of the rapids? Seems to me I'd like a mess for dinner
to-day. Any objections?"

Not a single contrary word was heard, and apparently all of them were of
the same mind. So they put in toward the shore again, Francois leading
the way, since he had been here before, and "knew the ropes."

Tackle was soon made ready. Ned had even fetched a jointed rod along,
for he liked to fish in a thoroughly sportsmanlike way, when the game
was as royal in its nature as these big trout of the Canadian rivers.
Grayling he had never caught, though told that they even exceed trout in
desperate fighting tactics.

The fun soon became fast and furious, for there were plenty of fish, and
the conditions seemed just right for them to jump at every sort of lure,
from an artificial fly to a copy of an insect, or a phantom minnow such
as Jimmy usually patronized, he not being equal to handling a fly rod
with dexterity.

They soon had all the fish they could use. Ned continued the sport,
because he was using his fly rod, and really did not injure the captures
he made, so that he could toss them back after having had the fun of
playing them, and seeing the desperate efforts the captives made to
break away.

In the end, Ned had the luck to strike a good-sized grayling, that,
making for a smaller rapid just below, gave the young sportsman all the
excitement he could hope for before allowing itself to be netted. They
all admired its build, and, as it was the only one of its kind taken
just then, they decided to keep it, so as to say they had eaten
grayling.

The interrupted voyage was thereupon resumed, and a while later they
landed once more to cook a meal; for somehow all declared themselves
hungry for trout, and Francois had admitted that one of the best camping
places along the lower river invited them.

Jimmy, having had nothing else to do while they navigated the stream had
amused himself preparing the catch for the frying pan. Nobody objected
in the least; for although every scout dearly loved to eat trout, none
of them ever seemed particularly anxious to clean the fish. Consequently
that duty generally devolved upon good-natured Jimmy, who could be
easily duped into believing that it was a high honor they were according
him in allowing this privilege.

Ned, after halting by his canoe to attend to some little thing that
happened to catch his attention, and which needed fixing, sauntered up
the bank to find a fire had already been started by the guides.

"How is this, Francois, that you chose a place to make your fire that
looks as if it might be second-best? According to my notion, over yonder
is an ideal site for cooking fire."

When Ned said this the French-Canadian voyageur looked up and nodded.

"Eet is surely as you say heem be, but when I deescover zat zere haf
been a pig party stop here mebbe last night, I tink you might vant me to
look closer, and see vat ze signs say."

From his manner Ned understood that somehow Francois scented danger
because of the presence of these men in this region. They might of
course only prove to be miners sent up here by the syndicate that had
obtained the right to the new mining region said to exceed in richness
the famous Mesauba country. On the other hand, it was possible that they
were minions of unscrupulous capitalists, sent here to block any effort
on the part of the scouts to learn the truth with regard to the nature
of the great fraud, if the claim put up to Mr. Bosworth proved to be
such.

And Ned knew that the guide had acted wisely in leaving the cold ashes
alone.



CHAPTER V.

WOODCRAFT.


Nothing more was said about the ashes of the dead fire left behind by
some party that had recently been there, until the trout had been
deliciously cooked and eaten. All of them declared that they had never
tasted finer flavored fish than those big gamey fellows of that Far
North river. It really seemed that the further they journeyed toward the
Arctic Circle the sweeter the trout became.

"They were pretty big fellows, too," Frank Shaw said, as they sat there
filling up with dinner.

"Never saw larger ones, only in the Lake Superior region," Ned
confessed; "and eight-pounders are common along the northern shore where
several small rivers empty into the lake. I saw a bunch of that size at
the Government fish hatchery at the Soo when I passed through there on a
steamboat, and shot the rapids with the Indian guides. They were
dandies, I tell you, boys. Think of it, genuine speckled trout weighing
eight pounds, and every ounce of them fighting weight too."

Finally, when they were all ready to cry quits, having had a glorious
meal, Ned thought of what the veteran guide had said about that dead
fire.

"Now suppose you and Tamasjo take a good look at the ashes, and the lay
of the land around, so as to tell us what you can read there," he told
the voyageur.

At that some of the other boys began to stare, for they had heard
nothing up to then about the late presence of others on the spot. But
they knew Ned well enough to be sure that he had some good object in
saying what he did; and accordingly all of them flocked after the two
guides when they made for the nearby spot where even Jimmy had noticed
the remains of a fire.

The scouts remained quiet while Francois and the Cree got down on hands
and knees the better to examine into the signs. Ned and some of his
chums would themselves have been easily able to read certain things in
connection with these ashes. For instance, remembering that it had
rained most of the second day before, and there was no sign of water
about the ashes, they would have set it down as positive that the fire
had been made _afterwards_. That was an easy thing to make out; and
perhaps there were others they could figure; but when in the presence of
veterans Ned was only too willing to observe all that was done, and
profit by it.

The two men did not confine themselves to sifting the ashes through
their fingers, and comparing notes in a jargon which the boys could not
understand, but which they imagined must be Cree talk.

They moved further away, and looked the ground over.

"I noticed that there were plenty of hoof tracks around here," Jimmy up
and declared; "but say, it never flagged me that a fellow could learn a
heap from just stickin' his nose down close to such. 'Tis a safe bet
we'll know everything but the names of the gossoons before Francois and
his red pal quit."

Some of the others were feeling the same way. They too had noticed that
there were plenty of footprints around, but being more interested in the
feast then being prepared, they had not thought fit to bother about
giving the same more than a casual glance.

On Ned's part, he would have devoted some of his time to this business
only for the promise of the voyageur to read the signs after they had
eaten.

After some little time had passed Francois came and stood before them.
His face was almost as inscrutable as that of the Sphinx, or a Cree
Indian. Whatever the character of his finding, it did not show
outwardly.

"Well, how about these men, Francois; they must have been here last
night, you think, don't you?" Ned started to ask him.

"Eet is so, sare. Zey leave zis place just same time we be saying
_bon jour_ to our own camp up ze rivaire."

"How many were they?" was Ned's next question; for Francois could not
tell his story at length, but seemed to wait to have it drawn from him
piece-meal as though he might be a willing witness in the box.

"Thirteen, all men at zat."

"Hunters, trappers, miners, or prospectors?" demanded Ned.

That caused the other to give one of his suggestive shrugs.

"Nozzing like zat right now, sare," he went on to declare, so positively
that it was evident he had found the Indian also agreed with him. "Some
of zat crowd zey wear ze moccasin ze same as Tamasjo here. Ozzers have
boots wiz ze heel. But zey carry no traps along wiz zem, I tell you zat,
sare."

"And if they were miners intending to work in the holdings of the
syndicate they would have carried tools along, picks, shovels and the
like?" remarked Jack.

Francois shook his head in the negative.

"Nozzing like zat, pelieve me, sare," he urged.

"Well, go on and tell us what you think they may be," Ned pursued.

"I zink they pe a pad crowd," answered the guide. "Zis tells ze tale,"
and he held up some greasy cards which he must have gathered in the
bushes behind the rocks near which the dead ashes lay.

Tamasjo also stooped and lifted something that glittered in the
sunlight. When the scouts saw that it was a suspicious looking black
bottle, they could guess as to what the nature of its recent contents
had been. Nevertheless, it was passed around and every fellow had a
chance to take a sniff at it.

"Deadly stuff, sure as you're born!" Jimmy pronounced, making a wry
face.

"Whisky or old rye or something like that," Frank declared; and it spoke
well for those five boys that no one was positively able to identify the
odor, though well knowing its general character as an aid to
drunkenness.

"That seems to settle it, so far as the tough kind of men they were,"
Ned continued; "and now we want to try and find out if they were looking
for us to come down the river; and also, try and guess where they've
gone to. They had boats, of course, Francois?"

The guide held up two fingers.

"Batteau, plenty room in same for all. Tamasjo and me, we tink zey haf
gone down stream. Pig bay lie only half-day's journey zat way. Eef we go
on, mebbe so we arrive zere by night. Better hold up, and make ze last
part of ze trip in ze dark, so zat zey no see us."

"I understand what you mean, Francois," the patrol leader hastened to
say; "and it sounds good to me, I admit. When we do go down to the salt
water we will take advantage of your advice."

"What's that, Ned," broke in Jack; "you don't mean to say there's any
doubt about our going down, sooner or later, do you?"

"Oh! no, we're bound to see the famous Hudson Bay before we leave this
section," the other assured him; "but I've been thinking things over,
and come to a certain conclusion."

"Let's hear what it is, won't you, Ned?" Jimmy besought him.

"Yes, that is if Francois is through telling us about these parties."

"How about that, Francois?" Ned asked, turning to the voyageur.

"Eet is about all zat is worth knowing, sare. Of course, we haf learn
zat zis man who is captaine to ze bunch, he is mooch pig, a giant, and
zere is sooch a man I know whose name eet is Sol. Greggs; heem it might
be who is conducting zis gang. He is a pad man, a thief who robbed
traps many times, and so he gif me zis scar on ze cheek when we fight
eet out."

"That sounds just like the kind of a rascal the syndicate would send up
here to run things, if they were trying to work a tremendous swindle and
expected to keep curious people from investigating," Jack boldly
declared.

"But how about you telling what your plans are, Ned?" queried Frank.

"It's only fair you should know," replied the other; "so listen to what
my idea is. In the first place, according to the map we have of the
country up here, we believe that this supposed-to-be-wonderful mine must
lie somewhere to the left of the mouth of this very river. Now it struck
me that perhaps we might carry out our plans better if we hid our boats
somewhere near by, and took a scout off in that direction."

"That does sound mighty sensible, Ned!" admitted Jack Bosworth, after
considering the suggestion for a brief time.

"Suppose we try it," Frank added.

"One thing I like about the plan," Jimmy spoke up, "is that it will give
us a chance to stretch our legs some. To tell you the truth, I'm getting
tired of squatting there like a squaw in the tepee, with little or
nothing to do. I like to carry out my share of the work; but you somehow
seem afraid to let me paddle, just as if a reformed joker like me would
be careless, or actually _try_ to upset the old canoe. So I put my vote
in as wanting to look for the mine over land."

Each of the other scouts quickly let it be known that they were in full
sympathy with Ned's suddenly sprung plan. Of course, this would make
some changes in their arrangements; but the more they looked it over,
the better they all liked the idea.

"I'm chuckling to think how that bunch will keep on waiting for us to
come down-stream," Frank observed, as they prepared to again enter the
boats, since Ned did not mean to abandon the river craft until they had
gone some distance further.

"There's only thing I hope won't happen," remarked Jack.

"And what might it be, if you don't mind telling?" Jimmy asked.

"We must be sure to hide our boats, so that there will be small chance
of their being discovered by anybody," Jack continued, seriously. "Think
what a dickens of a scrape we'd be in if we had to go back all the way
afoot. It would take us many weeks, and chances are we'd be overtaken by
winter before we got to civilization."

"Our ammunition wouldn't hold out that long," broke in Jimmy, visibly
disturbed at the thought "and glory be, whatever would we do for grub
to eat? It may be true that the rivers are full of fine trout, but me
stomach would go back on me if so be I had to eat them every solitary
day, week in and out."

"Oh! what would be the use of our being scouts if we didn't know how to
trap animals and birds," Ned told him, reprovingly. "In fact, while, of
course, I wouldn't say I'd like to have the experience, there's no doubt
in my mind but that it would be a great education to the lot of us. And
if we pulled through we'd feel as if we were fitted to go anywhere,
under any conditions."

"Huh! after all we've experienced on our little trips," said Frank,
"seems to me as if that would be only a walkover. For one, it doesn't
faze me a whit. If Ned gave the word I'd start out with him to walk
around the world, and with never a single cent in our pockets to begin
with. Chances are we'd land back in New York inside of two years
millionaires. That would be just like it. All the same I think we ought
to cover our canoes, and keep them from falling into the hands of
enemies. It is a pretty husky tramp from here to Montreal, and over
tough country at that, with rivers to cross, and bogs miles around to
avoid."

"Excuse me, if you please," muttered Jimmy, whose desire for a chance to
stretch his legs did not contemplate such an extended trip as walking
all the way to the metropolis on the St. Lawrence.

They were soon speeding down-stream again. Other small rapids they came
upon, but none of the same dimensions as the cataract lately passed.

Jimmy was presently observed making gestures, and having drawn the
attention of those in the nearby canoes to himself, he called out:

"Sure it's a connecting link with home!"

"What is?" demanded Jack.

"Be after dipping your hand over the side, and tastin' the water!"
replied the scout who was in the boat with Tamasjo and Frank.

Upon doing so, Ned, who had quickly guessed what Jimmy meant, found that
there was indeed a brackish taste to the water, as though the influence
of the great tides of Hudson Bay might be felt this far up the stream;
it would have gone much further only for the numerous rifts that told of
a descent of several feet in the drop of the river.

Ned concluded that they had gone quite far enough for the present. Upon
asking the voyageur, he learned that they could reach the mouth of the
river inside of a couple of hours, if they chose to use their paddles in
addition to the set of the now sluggish current of the widening stream.

"Keep on the watch for a suitable hiding place for the boats," he told
the others, "and remember, it must be on the larboard side, because
that's the way we expect to tramp in search of the wonderful copper
mine."

Every one after that kept on the alert for such a place as would be
suitable for the purpose to which they intended to put it. Of all the
five scouts, it seemed the irony of fate that Jimmy should actually be
the one to first make a discovery.

"I'm only a dub at this business, I know," he said after a while, with a
grin on his freckled face, that was almost as red as his hair, thanks to
the action of the summer sun and the winds they had encountered; "yes,
only a tyro, so to speak; but d'ye know it strikes me that over yonder
amongst the canes the canoes would lie so snug and unbeknown that
nothin'd bring harm to the same, while we chanct to be awanderin'
around."

Ned being close by gave one look and then laughed.

"Jimmy, I want to tell you right now," he remarked, "that if you'd only
devote more of your time to scout lore you'd be a wonder. That growth of
thick reeds is just a dandy place to do the business, and on the proper
side of the river at that. We can push in, each following exactly in the
wake of the preceding boat. Jack and myself will bring up the rear, and
carefully fix the reeds again, so that no one on the river ten feet
away would dream that boats had made a passage there. Head in, fellows,
and pick out your way carefully, making only one track or channel."

This, those in the foremost canoe did, and close behind them came the
second boat, the paddler using his blade with extreme caution, so as not
to disturb the reeds more than was absolutely necessary. Finally, Jack
and Ned wound up the procession, the latter kneeling in the stern of the
canoe, where he could use his hands dextrously and swiftly cause the
bent-over canes to resume their former position. In this fashion then
they finally came to the land, still surrounded by the little wilderness
of reeds, out of which they could emerge as soon as the boats were
securely fastened.



CHAPTER VI.

ON THE SHORE OF THE SALTY SEA.


"Tell me about that, will you?" remarked Jimmy, as he carefully stepped
ashore; "according to my mind it was cleverly done, if I do say it that
oughtn't."

You would certainly have thought the little chap had covered himself
with glory, and that the success of the whole undertaking depended on
him. But then the other scouts knew Jimmy from the ground up, and seldom
took offense at anything he said, because they realized that much of his
bragging and "joshing" did not "spring from the heart," as he naively
confessed many a time.

Ned was wise enough to see that each canoe, before being abandoned there
amidst the friendly rushes, was securely staked, so that it could not
drift away, through the action of wind or current.

"Seems to me that is about all we have to do here," Jack remarked, after
these matters had been carefully attended to.

"And the next thing on the programme is to hike out in search of a
wonderful old copper mine that, chances are, doesn't exist at all
outside the minds of that lot of fakirs," Frank observed; for he had
never taken much stock in the alleged "proofs" shown to Jack's father by
the parties who were exploiting this new and sensational discovery of
amazingly rich ore.

Ned gave a last look around. He was careful at all times to make doubly
sure; and, since they intended cutting loose from their boats for a
while at least, he wanted to make no mistake that would cost them
dearly.

"It's all right," he told his mates, "and we seem to have everything
necessary. Of course we're going as light as we can, and no blankets are
allowed, or tents either; but we've looked after the eating part of the
game; and besides, we've got our guns, in case we have to knock over a
caribou or other game to help out."

"Then say the word, governor, and we'll be beating it," Jimmy advised.

So Ned raised his hand, and made a sign that the others easily
understood. In the scout language it meant "go ahead!" Even Francois and
the Cree chief so interpreted the sign, for they immediately started
forth.

They left the reed patch in a sinuous line, each stepping directly into
the tracks of the one preceding him. In this fashion their passage
caused very little disturbance amongst the "bullrushes," as Jimmy
persisted in calling the thick growth. And Tamasjo, coming now in the
rear, did much to smooth over the trail, so that it would take a pair
of unusually keen eyes to have guessed that one or more persons had
issued forth at this point.

Having left the tall reeds behind them, the little party now found the
woods in front. The ground rose abruptly, and they were standing where
they could have a fair view of the river.

Ned gave a last look up and down the stream. As far as he could see
there was not a sign of human life in either direction, only the calm
peaceful flow of water moving majestically toward the great bay that
undoubtedly lay not a great distance away.

Thus they started off, Ned having arranged his plan of campaign so as to
confuse the enemy, possibly awaiting their coming further down the
stream.

It was no idle saunter through the Northern woods. The leader of the
Wolf Patrol had conferred with Francois, and arranged matters so that
they would be able to return this way when ready.

Under ordinary conditions this might be easily accomplished by using a
camp hatchet, and "blazing" a tree occasionally. In this manner the
pilgrim would be able to always sight a white mark ahead, and pick his
way without difficulty. But for numerous reasons they did not wish to
attempt this well-known method now; since it might excite the curiosity
of any one chancing to run across a freshly blazed tree, causing him to
start in and follow the cuts all the way to the concealed canoes.

Consequently, Francois picked out certain features of the landscape
which he occasionally pointed out to Ned, who in turn impressed them on
the attention of his chums.

An odd looking bunch of birches that could not be easily mistaken told
them in the first place that the reed bed was only a few hundred feet
away. Then, shortly afterwards, it was a rock that had the appearance of
"round table," which Jimmy insisted on calling it. They jotted this down
on the tablets of their memories, as the second striking feature of the
trail.

So it went on. Scouts as a rule have good memories, because they have
been shown early in their career when joining the organization how
useful it is to be able to recollect a host of things without confusion.
Indeed, one of the requisites to gaining advance marks in the patrol is
the possession of this faculty. A tenderfoot will be given a chance to
stand in front of a window containing hundreds of small objects,
possibly connected with a hardware establishment in town. After
impressing the picture on his mind, after a certain fashion for a full
minute or so, he must walk away, and later on write out a list of every
object he can remember.

Practicing after this manner boys have learned to widen the scope of
their memories so that they become able to describe an array of things
never seen before to an extent that is astonishing.

This was the practice that became valuable to Ned and his chums as soon
as they started through that Canadian "bush." Each fellow began in a
systematic way to make a list of the various "signs," so that when
called upon to give his opinion he would be able to repeat the entire
assortment, just as a sailor, forward or backward, is able to rattle off
the thirty-two points of the mariner's compass.

There were many other features connected with that hike, which brought
out their knowledge of scoutcraft. They noticed everything around them,
as they moved along in a steady fashion. Never an arctic hare sprang up
and bounded away, but the eye of every scout was instantly fastened on
the little animal; and each boy mentally figured out how it must have
been peaceful in this section of the woods, or that timid little
creature would not have been lying asleep there, to be disturbed by
their coming.

"We're heading almost due north, ain't we?" Jimmy asked, when some
twenty minutes had elapsed since the start.

"About as near that as we can go," answered Ned.

"I knew it by the lay of the sun, and the way the moss hangs to one side
of nearly all the trees, the northwest, where most every storm comes
from," was what Jimmy went on to say, as though desirous of letting the
leader know he had never forgotten valuable lessons learned long ago.

"You can tell direction from the general slant of the trees, if you
notice them close enough," Jack Bosworth ventured; "because in the long
run they are bound to show some deviation from a straight perpendicular,
on account of these same storms. There's a good example of what I say
right before you, Jimmy; that big tree standing high up above all the
rest. See what I mean?"

"'Tis an easy mark you'd be taking me for, Jack, if I couldn't grab that
idea and pull it down," the other remarked.

"Fact is," put in Frank, "a wide-awake scout need never get lost, if only
he keeps his wits about him. I've even told direction by using my watch.
And there isn't one of the bunch but who carries some sort of a compass
along with him, unless Jimmy here, who forgets so many times, has left
his with the duffle in the boats."

"You're off your trolley there if you think that, Frank," chuckled the
scout in question, as he tapped his pocket suggestively. "I've
experienced the fun of gettin' lost twice in me life, and I don't mean
to ever take chances again. Goin' without a bite of grub from one
sunset to the next was a lesson to me I'll not soon forget. I thought I
was bound to starve to death."

"Well, let's talk less and look more," advised Ned, who knew how easily
Jimmy could be drawn into an argument, or be induced to start one of his
stories that concerned strange things experienced in the past.

After that they moved along almost in silence. Once in a while, Ned
would think it the part of wisdom to call their attention to something
that was apt to impress itself on their memories, so as to be easily
recalled later on. He did this in a quiet way, for Ned disliked any show
of authority. As the leader of the strange expedition into these
Northern wilds, he was in complete charge of the little party; but,
then, these other young fellows were boon comrades, with whom he had
encountered numerous perils in times gone by, so that he hid the iron
hand under the velvet glove as much as possible.

All of them could speedily see that the character of the country was
gradually changing as they continued to advance. This gave Ned assurance
that his theory was founded on correct lines, and that they must be
drawing very near the shore of the great bay to which his mission had
drawn him.

Up to now they had not discovered the first actual trace of others
besides themselves in that region; though twice the Indian had hovered
over half-washed-out footprints, showing that at least they were not the
first ones to pass along under these trees.

Ned was all this time observing the nature of the land, with the design
of making up his mind concerning the chances of rich copper deposits
being found there.

It did not seem altogether unlikely, from what he knew of such things.
Before he left home he had been shown all sorts of copper ore; and on
the way the patrol leader had stored up in his mind many minute
descriptions he had read of the famous country north of Superior, where
such valuable mines were being worked. Thus, he was pretty well posted
on the subject, though, of course, one who had had actual practical
experience in copper mines might have put him in possession of many
other useful facts.

So far as he could tell the rocks looked very like those around the
Mesauba region, and samples of which he carried along with him for
comparison when the proper time arrived.

If this affair were indeed a gigantic swindle, then those who were
running the game had been smart enough to pick out as the field of their
operations a country that at least gave outward evidences of being
capable of producing a high grade of copper ore. Ned had at one time
fancied the whole thing was a myth, but now he realized that the
supposed owners of the new discovery had at least been on the ground.
They had carefully selected their site to conform with such conditions
as would at least be required, should an expert secretly visit the
scene.

Ned was satisfied with the way things were working. If only he could
find where the mine was located, and make his investigations secretly,
without the others being aware of his presence, he believed he would
have no complaint to foster.

An encounter with armed guards who would be hostile to his mission was
the last thing he wanted to have happen; though, of course, should this
come about he believed he could depend on his chums to give a good
account of themselves. They had in the past stuck to him on many
occasions through thick and thin. Not one of them but who had done his
part manfully, in season and out. The record of their past achievements
had been one of almost unbroken successes. He had every reason to expect
that this latest enterprise would be along the same order, and that the
little party of explorers might return again to the metropolis, bearing
with them such a concise and complete report, that Mr. Bosworth, and
those interested in the proposed new mine, would have all the
information required in order to know just how to act.

Most of the scouts were by this time beginning to look ahead with the
idea of being the first to discover the big water that they knew must
lie near by. Ned could have undoubtedly made the discovery some time
back, because he carried his field glasses slung over his shoulder, by
means of a strap; but he preferred to let one of his chums enjoy the
sensation.

Jimmy was craning his neck more or less, for being shorter than any of
his companions he felt that he labored under a disadvantage. The growth
of trees was of a nature to hide what lay beyond, yet all of them could
actually feel the presence of salt water. Besides, if other evidences
were lacking, their ears told them of waves running up on the shore, to
gently break there; though the breeze was from a poor quarter to carry
these sounds to them.

All of these lads, living in New York, were accustomed to seeing the
ocean, and familiar with the "tang" that usually accompanies the
presence of an arm of the sea. For weeks now they had been moving over
the interior, and the prospect of sighting this Northern sea, that had
ever been the home of mystery to all mariners, thrilled every boyish
heart.

In the course of their various travels they had gazed upon strange
scenes. Once not so very long before, fortune had been kind enough to
take them to the regions of the Polar ice, in carrying out a mission
entrusted to their charge; so that this would not be their first
introduction to the Northern ocean. But they had heard so much about
the unexplained things that took place in Hudson Bay, that one and all
grew more anxious, the nearer they drew to their destination.

Ned had already made a discovery that gave him a thrill. He had found
that some of the landmarks set down in the description of the wonderful
mine were right before his eyes, and this fact gave him renewed
confidence in his plan of campaign. The climax must be close _at hand_.
Before many hours had passed by, he would be in a position to know the
truth; whether this affair were a gigantic swindle gotten up and
engineered by the combine, with the idea of loading a worthless property
on Mr. Bosworth; or, actually what it claimed to be--a rich deposit of
copper ore that seemed to lie in vast quantities among the rocks above
the shore of Hudson Bay, and with shipping facilities at the very door
of the proposed mine.

After all it was Teddy, the explorer, who turned out to be the fortunate
one fated to be the first to glimpse the water. He happened to see a
small opening to one side and ahead, to which he immediately called the
attention of his mates.

"There's the sun glinting on something out there, boys," was the way he
put it, "that looks mighty like water to me. Yes, you can see it seems
to move up and down, just like we've often seen the ocean do over Long
Island way. How about it, Ned; do I count first blood?"

"It's the bay, all right, Teddy," remarked the other, quietly, after
giving one look in the direction Teddy was pointing.

Five minutes later and they stood on the border of the tree line,
staring out over the vast heaving salty sea that they knew must be the
far-famed Hudson Bay.



CHAPTER VII.

THE MYSTERIOUS BLUR ON THE HORIZON.


"I just thought it'd turn out to be a whopper of a yarn!" said Jimmy,
frowning as if grievously disappointed all the same.

"What's that?" asked Frank.

"Why, all that tommyrot about the queer old fleet of boats that vanished
right before your eyes, and then bobbed up somewhere else, like a flock
of submarines, or a school of blooming porpoises," returned the
disgusted one.

At that Jack laughed.

"Why, it sounds like Jimmy really believed the whole thing," he
remarked; "and has been expecting the mysterious fleet at anchor the
very minute he glimpsed Hudson Bay."

"But I did expect to hit on something different from this," said Jimmy.
"Somebody, tell me, would you please, what's so remarkable about this
thing? I've seen many a stretch of salt water that looked just like it,
shore line and all."

"Why not?" observed Ned; "I never thought we'd find Hudson Bay country
any different from other Northern lands. There are the same trees,
moss-covered rocks, peculiar sedge grass, and the like. But don't be so
quick to jump at conclusions, Jimmy. Give me half a chance to take a
look through my field glasses here, and perhaps I can tell you something
interesting."

With those words Ned unslung the glasses, and adjusted the same to his
eyes. The others of the party, standing there knee-deep in the rank
grass that grew along the border of the woods, watched him with renewed
interest. They even forgot about the wild fowl that were sporting in
flocks out where the waves broke upon a line of rocks, with a subdued
roar.

Carefully did Ned train his powerful field-glasses on a certain part of
the horizon. Looking in that quarter some of the others began to rub
their eyes.

"Seems to me there is something there," remarked Frank, straining his
eyes in the endeavor to make sure.

"It may be a low-lying cloud on the water-line of the horizon," Teddy
added.

"Anyhow, it's too far away for us to tell with the naked eye," Jack
announced; "and so we'll have to depend on Ned to give us the
information."

Just then the leader lowered the glasses.

"Take a look for yourself, Jack," he said; and there was a slight smile
on his face while speaking, that told of a discovery of some sort.

While Jack was fixing the glasses to suit his needs, for everybody's
eyes are not just alike, Jimmy was trying to make use of his doubled-up
hands in order to help his vision.

"'Tis meself that believes it's smoke!" he declared, with animation.

"How about it, Jack?" demanded Teddy.

The one indicated did not keep them in suspense needlessly.

"Yes, Jimmy hit the bull's-eye that time," he remarked.

"Then it _is_ smoke?" queried Frank.

"Not only that, but I can make out what seem to be a number of small
objects that must be vessels of some sort," Jack went on to say.

"The disappearing fleet!" gasped Jimmy.

"Well, they haven't skipped out of sight yet," continued Jack, chuckling
as he handed the glasses over to Frank to have a try.

In turn all of them took a look, and no one found reason to differ from
what Jack had ventured to declare in the beginning. They were, without
question, looking then and there on the clump of boats about which there
had been so much talk made. Of course, at that distance there was no way
of finding out the character of the several boats, or more than guess at
what they were doing, away out from the shore.

"Strikes me that it might be some queer sort of mirage, like that you
sometimes see on the sandy desert." Teddy suggested, after he had gazed
intently at the picture for a full minute through the lenses of the
field-glasses.

"Oh! they have the same sort of deception at sea," declared Jack; "only
sailors call it the _fata morgana_. When you're on the desert, it
generally takes the form of a lovely running stream of water, which
you're crazy to reach and suck up. But the shipwrecked tar always sees
a vessel coming to his relief, which keeps on rushing through the water,
right up over reef and everything and disappears over the island leaving
him broken-hearted at the deception caused by conditions in the
atmosphere."

Jack knew considerable about these things, for he had been in strange
lands, even before he took to roaming around with Ned, when the latter
entered the employ of the Government Secret Service.

"All you say is true enough, Jack," the patrol leader told him, "but in
this case it isn't a deception. All of us can see the smoke hanging low
down, that tells of steam vessels of some type out there, possibly
trawlers, fishing. But we didn't enlist in this business intending to
solve any riddles connected with Hudson Bay. I've been told that there
is no place in Northern latitudes where so many strange stories have
originated, as this same big sheet of salt water. Four-fifths of it have
never been fully explored, so that they do not yet know what may be
here."

Jimmy had been silent while all this talk was going on. But it could be
readily believed that his restless mind was not inactive. He proved this
by suddenly nodding his head, and looking up at Ned in that shrewd way
he had of doing, whenever a particularly brilliant idea appealed to him.

"Chances are they're a blooming bad lot, that's what," he went on to
say, as if he meant every word of it. "I wouldn't be a bit surprised if
they turned out to be bloody pirates after all."

"Oh! perhaps Captain Kidd and his men come back to life again, eh,
Jimmy?" suggested Teddy, with a laugh.

Jimmy turned and gave the speaker a scornful look.

"Think you're smart to get that off on me, don't you, Teddy?" he
remarked; "but how're you goin' to prove that it ain't even as bad as
that? Don't they say this here fleet comes and goes like ghosts of the
past? Mebbe they are the spirits of Kidd, Blackbeard, Morgan, Lafitte,
and all that gay crowd of buccaneers that flourished in the early days
of our country. Supposin' I said I believed that way, it'd be up to you
to prove me wrong, wouldn't it? Let's see you do it. Call 'em up on the
wireless limited or the telephone and interview the commodore. Bah!
don't be so quick to poke fun at everybody that's got an idea you happen
to think stretched. I'll even say that I've got half a sneakin' notion
that it might be old Kidd himself, come back to see how the pickings are
these fine days."

When Jimmy showed this fighting disposition the others were generally
careful not to knock the chip off his shoulder. He had acquired habits
when living on the Bowery long ago as a bootblack that could not be
easily shaken off; though any one formerly acquainted with Jimmy would
never have recognized him nowadays.

"It would be worth coming all the way up here if we could run across
something like that, wouldn't it now?" remarked Jack, trying to look
sober. "Think of how we could take the breath away from the rest of the
troop at home, when we told them of meeting up with a lot of those old
huskies, we've all read about in history. Jimmy's been devouring one of
Clark Russell's stories, '_The Frozen Pirate_,' while on the train
coming through Canada, and that's what makes him think of that crowd.
But as we haven't any boats, and the smoke keeps on hanging miles away,
likely enough we won't get any chance to know what kind of men are
aboard those vessels out yonder."

"Besides," put in Ned, "we mustn't forget that we've got some serious
business on hand of a different character from looking up pirates. Land
sharks are enough for me to tackle just now. I'm wondering whether we'll
be lucky enough to find where this mine is located near here. Once we
get on the track of that and things are likely to warm up a bit."

"Then I reckon we'll just have to comb the whole country roundabout, so
as to learn what's what," suggested Jack, always a hard one to give up
anything on which he had set his mind.

"The sooner we begin that job the better," added Frank, anxious to be
doing something that would count.

That was the way with these energetic fellows. Whenever they had a
charge committed to their care, they were eager to get it moving. Ned
often had to hold them in check, for fear lest they show too much
ambition.

He looked around in the endeavor to decide which direction they had
better choose, in order to seek traces of the working which was marked
on the map so plainly. It was given such prominence that one might
easily believe he would find all manner of shafts, sunk, with machinery
throbbing busily, and scores of brawny miners hard at work, bringing out
the rich deposit of copper ore.

Ned, however, did not deceive himself into such a belief. He had had
some little experience with stories of this type, and knew the vast
difference between the reality and the wonderful things prospective
sellers were apt to mark upon the maps they had prepared. These usually
described things as they might appear in case all went well, and the
mine turned out a splendid success.

So far as indications went, Ned believed that they would have a better
chance of success, if they turned abruptly to the left and made up the
shore. At least, the character of the rocky country favored this idea.
As far as he could see, it grew more and more inviting, looked at from
the viewpoint of a miner, or a prospector for precious minerals.

The others were watching him closely. They guessed something of the
nature of what must be passing through Ned's mind, for both Jack and
Teddy followed his gaze up the uneven shore. Jimmy had the glasses
again, and was busily engaged in scrutinizing the blur on the distant
horizon, which all of them had agreed must be smoke hovering close to
the water. Perhaps he half-believed the fanciful suggestion made by
Teddy, with reference to Captain Kidd, and was wildly hoping to discover
some positive sign that would stamp this fairy story with truth. All the
previous adventures that had befallen himself and chums would sink into
utter insignificance, could they go back home and show evidences of
having made such a romantic discovery up there in the Hudson Bay
country.

"See the feather they say he always wore in his hat, Jimmy?" asked
Frank.

"Nothing doin' _yet_ that way," replied the other, without allowing even
the ghost of a smile to appear on his freckled face; "so if you please,
we'll let the matter drop for the time bein'. Who knows what may happen
before we get back to New York? 'Tis a great old country, so they say,
for all sorts of queer things to crop up. You needn't be surprised at
anything here, they tell me. And I've made up me mind to take it as it
comes, and not let anything faze me. Put that in your pipe and smoke
it, Teddy."

"And I'm wondering," mused the one particularly addressed, "what that
ancient but bold explorer, Hendrick Hudson, said when he had sailed all
the way around this great bay, and found that it was after all a
land-locked arm of the sea. When he first entered it, history tells us
he had great hopes that he had found what Columbus was searching for
when he made his western voyage, a way of reaching the East Indies by a
water route. It must have been a keen disappointment when Hendrick had
to turn north, and then east again, always fended off by the land."

Ned had by now determined that they ought to turn to the left in
continuing the forward movement. He next looked for some landmark, by
means of which on their return that they might know just where they
should plunge into the woods, so as to follow their trail back to where
the precious canoes were secreted.

As though he found nothing in the arrangement of the shore or the trees
themselves to stamp it different from other places, Ned stooped down and
placed several stones upon each other at the foot of a stunted oak.

That was an old trick among the scouts. Many such a stone cairn had they
fashioned when playing some game of fox and geese, to serve as a sign to
those who were following in their wake.

"We ought to see this, and remember that it tells us where we struck the
beach," he explained to his chums, as he rose up again after completing
his work.

Both guides had been watching what he did with more or less interest. Of
course, they understood that the scouts had learned many of the ways
practiced by woodsmen, for by now the real meaning of the khaki uniforms
worn by the boys had been fully grasped by Francois and the Cree; though
for a long time they had had hard work to understand why Ned and his
chums were not to be looked upon as soldiers.

"Zere ees nozzing better zan a pile of stones to mark ze way," admitted
the voyageur. "I haf myself used zat many times. But be sure zat you
notice other things besides. It may be, an enemy he move ze stones some
ozzer place, and if zat be so you all get twist up when you try to come
back."

Ned nodded, as though he had already covered this ground.

"I had thought of that very same thing, Francois," he said, "and see,
here is where I made a little gash in the trunk of the tree. I expected
to look for that on the return trip. If I failed to find it I should
understand there was something gone wrong."

"Zat ees well, sare; ze one who gets ze better of you must wake up early
in ze morning, I am think!" he said softly, but in a way that told he
meant every word.

"So say we all of us," added Jack.

"Ned generally looks out for snags!" Frank declared.

"We'd have met up with many a wreck only for his watchfulness," came
from Teddy.

Jimmy did not like to be left out when there was any exchange of
sentiments. He had a great admiration for the gifts of Ned Nestor, and
wanted every one to understand what his sentiments were. So he started
to open his mouth to say something, when Ned lifted a hand and gave a
low sibilant hiss.

"'Sh! don't say anything more, but drop down in this grass and lie low;
because I'm sure I heard voices right then, also a husky cigarette
cough. Down it is, boys!"

He set them a good example by dropping flat and hugging the ground. They
had at the time been standing more than knee deep in lush grass that
grew beyond the woods, and where the salt water never reached, save in
flying spray possibly. All that was necessary, therefore, in order to
conceal themselves, was to fall on their knees and then straighten out
at full length. Even the two guides did this same thing, for they must
have caught the sound of approaching voices at about the same time Ned
Nestor did.



CHAPTER VIII.

TWO KINDS OF WOODCRAFT.


All of them lay there motionless. Long practice in this trick had made
the boys almost perfect. What they had learned in play when in camp came
into good service under other and more strenuous conditions, as is often
the case. No boy can ever tell when the information he picks up day by
day as a scout may prove a valuable asset, determining some knotty
problem he faces.

As Ned had said, the sound of voices could be plainly heard now. It came
in the shape of a murmur that differed from the noise of the fretting
sea near by. And no doubt each scout made up his mind that it must be
carried to their ears with the breeze, which, coming from almost behind
them, would indicate that the unknown parties were advancing from that
quarter.

Louder grew the sounds. Then there was a plain rustling of the
undergrowth; and when Jack cautiously raised his head just a little, he
was enabled to glimpse a trio of men standing there on the border of the
wood, looking seaward.

Perhaps they, too, had seen the far-distant blur that marked the
position of the mysterious fleet, and were exchanging comments about
it. None of the concealed boys could say as to this, because, while they
could hear the murmur of their heavy voices, it was next to impossible
to make out more than a word here and there.

One thing pleased Ned very much. When he first noted the direction from
whence these three rough men had come, he feared lest they may have run
upon the trail of his party and were following the same. He now knew
that in so far as this was concerned his fears were without foundation,
and that the strangers did not dream of others being in the near
vicinity.

One seemed to be the boss of the lot. He was an unusually big man, with
a way of striking his fist into the palm of his other hand that told of
authority. His face was covered with a heavy black beard that gave him a
sinister appearance. Indeed, as Jack admitted to himself, put this man
in some of the queer garments of the old times, when Kidd flourished
along the Atlantic seacoast, and he would make an ideal buccaneer. His
face was cruel, his manner that of a tyrant, and besides he seemed to be
carrying a whole arsenal of weapons around with him.

Jimmy lay there, with his neck stretched to a fearful extent, for he was
bound to see whatever was going on around him. He was possibly sizing
this giant up, and trying to decide in his own mind, whether the dead
ever do come back to revisit the scenes of their long-past triumphs and
struggles; and if so, could this man with the hair all over his face be
the noted Blackbeard?

Just then Ned gave a low signal. It was only the chirp of a cricket, and
might pass unnoticed by any one not in the secret; but Jack and the
other three scouts understood what it meant.

Ned was warning them to be careful and duck their heads again, because
he fancied the men were about to start their way.

Hardly had the boys flattened themselves out again, than they heard the
crunch of passing footsteps. It was lucky that the three strangers chose
to pass by on the beach, as the walking was better there than close to
the trees. Because of this fact the presence of the concealed
adventurers was not discovered; and to their satisfaction the party
passed by.

Each scout had gripped his gun, as he shut his jaws hard together, under
the belief that discovery was very close. Had it come they would be
compelled to spring out and try to hold up the trio of desperate looking
characters. Such men will, as a rule, manifest a disposition to fight
"at the drop of the hat;" and Ned, therefore, was just as well satisfied
to see their backs. They were not up there to do any fighting if it
could possibly be avoided. The rules of the organization to which they
belonged positively forbade their seeking trouble along such lines;
though allowing scouts the privilege of defending themselves if
attacked, and there seemed to be no honorable way of escaping without a
fight.

"What's the next word, governor?" whispered Jimmy, his voice trembling
with the nervous tension.

The men had by now gone far enough along the beach to prevent any chance
of low conversation being overheard; though Ned kept on the alert all
the while, lest by some mischance there might others come along, who
would take them by surprise.

"We must follow them up," said Ned, without hesitation.

"Not out on the open beach, of course, when the woods are handy?"
observed Jack.

"Move back into shelter, and we'll get busy," the leader told them.

Stooping so as to run less risk of being seen, in case one of the men
happened to turn his head from any reason, the little party of seven
hardy souls again entered among the trees.

They did not linger, because the men were making up the shore at a fair
rate of speed, and they did not wish to lose track of them.

While no one had taken the trouble to ask Ned what his plan of campaign
might be, they saw indications all around to give them a pretty good
idea as to what he hoped to gain by thus following in the wake of the
three strangers.

The men looked like hard cases, of that all the scouts were determined.
One had the appearance of a miner; a second wore moccasins and was
dressed after the manner of a woodsman, possibly a trapper, Indian
trader, or something in the line of a hunter; while the big man struck
Jack as a logger, or a timber cruiser, one of those spies who roam far
and wide seeking new investments for some lumber company, or else a
chance to steal valuable Government timber that is unwatched.

In talking matters over the comrades had made up their minds that these
types represented the class of men they might expect to find gathered in
this region, paid by the money of the mine syndicate, and ready to carry
out the will of the swindlers, if such the operators proved to be.

As before, the guides led the way. Both men had taken a great fancy to
Ned and his lively chums, and in case any trouble developed, as the
result of their venture into this unknown country, Francois and Tamasjo
might be counted on as ready and willing to back the boys up to the
limit.

They pushed resolutely on, across fallen trees, through tangled
thickets, and even climbing over rocks that lay in the way. The men
ahead knew what they were about in choosing the beach to make their
advance.

Often partly out of breath, with the effort to keep a certain distance
behind those they were pursuing, the scouts pressed on. Jimmy seemed to
have a harder time than any of the others, but then that was nearly
always the way; for if there was any hole to flounder into, or thorny
thicket to get stuck in, Jimmy could be depended on to do his share of
the adventure. Not that he purposely chose to get mixed up in all these
skirmishes with unpleasant things; but he was one of those unlucky chaps
whose blundering feet so often led him into a peck of troubles.

It would have taken much more than this to have discouraged Jimmy,
however. He was made of stubborn material. Difficulties played fast and
loose with him, but they never daunted the boy, who would only close
those firm jaws of his more tightly than ever, and say that "after
fifty-nine comes sixty," and if he had to go to twice that number he'd
get there in the end.

One good thing about all this hustle, was the fact that, as Jimmy found
himself, for the most part in the rear, he could not make any excuse to
start in talking, because he did not dare call out, after what Ned had
said.

They could hear him muttering savagely to himself every time a root
tripped him up, or he found a swinging vine trying to lift him off his
feet by means of his neck. That was a small matter, because, of course,
Jimmy had to have some way of letting off superfluous steam, and it
really did no harm.

Ned looked around quite frequently. He did not wish Jimmy to get into
any serious trouble, because, in spite of his weakness for blundering,
the McGraw boy was a faithful companion, who could always be depended on
to stick to his friends, no matter what threatened. And he and Ned had
seen some pretty lively times all told, in times gone by. This
association in peril does more to cement the bonds of real friendship
than anything else known. And that was why Ned wanted Jimmy along on
this trip, also why he kept a wary eye out after the safety of the
other.

Now and then Francois would step aside. On these occasions they knew he
was making sure that the two men were still going on ahead, and had not
either halted or turned aside into the rocky shore recesses.

They had kept up this sort of thing for nearly half an hour, and some of
the boys were secretly telling themselves they had about reached the
limit of their endurance, when Francois made motions with his hands to
tell them that some sort of change had occurred since last he took an
observation.

"Say, they're gone!" muttered Jimmy, coming up just then; and from the
mystified look on his face, one would half believe he thought the men
had taken wings and flown away, or else the ground had opened up and
swallowed them; for a fellow who could put the least shred of faith in
the reincarnation of Captain Kidd, dead for several centuries, would
believe anything, Teddy privately told himself.

"Did they turn aside and enter the woods, Francois?" questioned Ned, at
the same time holding up a warning finger toward Jimmy, by this means
seeking to remind him they were in no position to enter into any
discussion.

"Zat iss what zey haf do," replied the French Canadian voyageur,
promptly.

"You don't think they're lying low to wait for us--that it is a trap?"
continued the patrol leader.

"Zere iss no reason to zink so," answered Francois. "I do not belief zey
haf see us; and if not, zen why lay trap? But it iss always better to be
sure zat ze road it be clear; so let ze chief heem go on and find
trail."

It was a good suggestion. None could do that duty quite so well as the
red brother, even though those boys had learned many bright things in
connection with woodcraft, since joining the ranks of the scouts. They
hardly felt like being able to enter into competition with a son of the
forest, who from infancy had been taught in the wide fields of actual
experience what they had of late been learning, partly from crude
theory.

"Go on ahead, Tamasjo, and find the trail," said Ned to the waiting
Cree.

"Find same, give blue-jay cry," Tamasjo told them; and it was so rarely
he ever spoke at all, that the other scouts had to smile and nod to each
other; for Jimmy had on one occasion even gone so far as to declare his
belief that the Indian must be a genuine "dummy" and unable to
articulate at all, which, of course, was not true.

They waited for him there, being in no particular hurry. If the trail of
the three men could be picked up that was all they wanted. They could
hardly have ventured to keep on the heels of those men through the
woods, where sounds might be carried to their ears that would put them
on the alert, and bring about a sudden climax, perhaps a battle royal.

The Cree vanished from their sight. So silently did he go that
afterwards the scouts exchanged views concerning the way in which he had
done it; nor could they fully understand how he could move deftly along,
without making the least sound.

But Tamasjo had been born and bred in the woods, and did not have to
overcome the barriers that civilization hampers its votaries with. He
had learned all he knew from watching the creeping wildcat leap upon its
prey; or else observing how the hungry wolf followed the wounded deer
over hill and through valley.

He had not been gone more than five minutes, when they plainly heard the
angry discordant note of the blue-jay.

"That means everything is lovely, and the goose hangs high," muttered
Jimmy, not daring to speak much above a whisper, while he saw Ned
keeping a wary eye in his direction.

The leader at once gave the signal for an immediate advance, and the
entire party started off. Even then, Ned and Francois, possibly Jack
also, turned from side to side, determined that they should not be taken
by surprise through any shrewd trick played by the men they had been
tracking.

Upon coming up with the dusky son of the Northern forests, they were
assured by him in a breath that all was well, and that the strangers had
swung directly into the woods, following what seemed to be a well-beaten
trail. This told the story, and went far to convince Ned that they had
nothing to fear just then through discovery by these parties.

So the Indian, backed by the other guide, was put on the trail. The boys
could have followed this with utmost ease, and even Jimmy would have
found little real trouble in keeping to that broad track.

Every once in so often, Tamasjo would stop, to get down close to the
ground. His actions excited the deepest curiosity of Jimmy, who,
pulling Ned's head close down to his own lips, asked softly:

"Now, what in the mischief is the feller doin' when he stoops low like
that? If you asked me, I'd say he was smellin' of the tracks of the
three men; but since when was a heathen Injun given a scent like a
hound, tell me, Ned."

"If you watch closer, Jimmy," replied the other scout, "you'll see that
each time he bends down he is watching some blade of grass spring back
to place; or else a small root that has been pressed down under the foot
of that giant righting itself again. He can read those signs like a
book. They tell him accurately just how long ago the foot pressed that
root or blade of grass down. And so he knows what time has elapsed since
the enemy passed along here."

"Gee! it would take me a week to learn that sort of readin' signs,"
Jimmy confessed; and Teddy, who was close enough to catch all that
passed, snickered as he muttered, as though talking to himself:

"A week? Just one little stretch of seven days? Huh! you mean a year,
rather."

Winding in and out in this way, the party bore deeper into the woods.
The trail led among the rocks that were now piled up on every hand. Ned,
on hastily examining some of these he passed, was forced to admit that
at least they bore all the "ear-marks" of containing copper. If the
syndicate had engineered a big swindle, at least, they must be given
credit for picking out a likely site for a mine.

But there was Tamasjo pointing ahead, and giving his young employer to
understand that they had arrived at the end of the broad trail leading
from the shore of Hudson Bay into this wild stretch of rocky territory.



CHAPTER IX.

"SALTING" THE MINE.


The Cree Indian showed by his manner that there was need of great care
in advancing any further. When the boys came creeping up to where he
crouched, they understood the meaning of his gestures of warning.

Smoke was rising, and they could see a number of dingy tents grouped in
a depression among the rocks. Evidently it was a camp of some sort,
though just then besides the three men they had tracked there hardly
seemed to be anybody around.

It was plain enough to Ned why this should be so, for he remembered
about the dozen men who had spent the preceding night at the river camp,
waiting for the coming of the canoes with the explorers. Those parties
undoubtedly belonged here, and were even now in hiding further down the
river, intending to play some prearranged scheme, with the idea of
either frightening the scouts off, or else hoodwinking the investigators
in some fashion.

"Ginger! but that was a good move of yours, Ned, to think of quitting
the boats and coming across lots to find the old mine," said Frank, in
a voice that could not be heard ten feet away.

The miners' camp was located on a brawling stream that came noisily down
the rough face of the rocks. This created more or less racket, so that
there was small danger of any hostile ears discovering the intruders
through any sound they were likely to make.

"I second the motion," added Jack. "Think how neat we left the crowd in
the lurch, and now we've found where the opening of this wonderful mine
is, we can take a look in, while the bunch is waiting for us to drop
down the river."

"That's what I meant to do when I started on this flank movement," Ned
assured them. "And I only hope we'll be able to learn all we want,
before the main lot make a change of base. It wouldn't be nice to have
them come tumbling in on us while we were inside the workings--if there
_is_ any hole in the ground at all."

"I reckon we'll find there is, all right," said Jack, confidently.

"Why d'ye say that, Jack?" asked Jimmy, who never allowed an opportunity
to quiz his chums pass by unimproved.

"Because I can see where a heap of rock has been dumped down a slide, so
chances are they've been doing some little work up here, enough to make
a showing, in case a party is sent up to investigate before buying
shares," was what Jack explained.

"You're right there," admitted Teddy, as he took another look toward the
side of the rocky hill close to the tent colony; "and after they'd
opened up the mine, it wouldn't be a hard job to shoot it, I should
think."

"What's that, shoot the mine, do you say?" asked Jimmy.

"Oh! that's only a term they use in mining countries when dishonest men
want to salt a mine, so as to deceive a prospective customer. Some say
they shoot gold or copper ore into crevices, where it will be taken out
later and shown."

At this point Ned gave them to understand that it was no time to enter
into any discussion concerning the methods of conducting frauds in
mining. They had work before them, and had better be about it without
any more delay, since there could be no telling at what time the absent
men might show up. Once they returned to the camp, of course, the
chances of the scouts accomplishing much began to dwindle enormously.

From where they lay, screened by some thin brush, the scouts were able
to observe the ground, and Ned could form his plan of campaign. He never
wasted much time when his hand had been placed to the plow. Following
the line of loose rock that had undoubtedly been carried out of some
working in the hillside, he believed he could settle on the exact
position of the opening.

They would have to make a detour and approach from above. Here it was to
be hoped they would find enough cover to enable them to make what Jimmy
called a "grand sneak" into the mouth of the mine.

In as few words as possible Ned explained this to the others, as they
clustered around him, hanging upon his every word. Jimmy could hardly be
restrained from hurrying off at once, so anxious did he seem to get
started. But when Ned took hold of his assistant's arm, and gave him one
of those looks which Jimmy knew so well, the little fellow subsided
immediately.

"Oh! I'm on to the curves, all right, Ned, sure I am," he hastened to
mutter. "I want to scratch gravel as soon as anybody else, but I'm not
going to get off my base while the other feller's got the ball, not
much. My place is to follow wherever _you_ lead; and I understand my
business too, believe me."

They crawled back some little distance, until there seemed to be a good
chance to climb the hillside without being discovered. Now and then the
Indian, who led the column again, would pause to take his bearings, and
cast a quick, apprehensive look all around him. Plainly, Tamasjo did not
mean to forfeit the confidence which he knew the young white commander
placed in his ability as a cautious guide.

When they had gone far enough along the side of the rough hill, made up
for the most part of rocks that the Cree led them around as a rule,
rather than to attempt to scale them at the risk of being seen, they
once more changed their course, and headed to strike the place where all
that loose stone had come from.

A signal from Ned caused the other four scouts to take particular notice
of what they were coming to. It was certainly a black opening among the
rocks, with all the signs of a mine before it, even to some discarded
picks and shovels lying in confusion close by.

They could just see the tent colony below. Some of the boys were anxious
to get inside that opening, so as to find out what its secret might be;
Ned, however, did not wholly like the looks of things.

"I wish I knew where those three men had gone," he muttered so that Jack
heard, and looked at him inquiringly.

"Why, what's gone wrong now?" he inquired.

"Those men we tracked here have disappeared since we started to pass
around the camp," said the other. "I've been looking to get a glimpse of
them, and so far without any success."

"H'm! so much the better," whispered Jimmy, who was, of course, hovering
near, anxious to know everything that was going on. "I must say I
didn't like their looks, and particularly old Blackbeard. He had an iron
jaw and a scowl that would send a cold chill to your heart. Oh! if
they've gone away, let's laugh in our sleeves. I'd call it a good
riddance of very bad rubbish."

"And so far as I'm concerned," added Frank, "I wouldn't drop a single
tear if the whole shooting match of rascals dropped into Hudson Bay, and
couldn't swim a stroke."

"What's to pay, Ned?" persisted Jack, who knew that the other would not
feel the way he did without some good cause.

"It's only this," continued the leader of the explorers, "we're bound to
enter the mine, now that we've come so many hundred miles, just to find
out the truth. Well, if those men are in there working, we stand a
chance of running across the lot, and that would spell trouble, you
know."

"For them, yes," remarked Jimmy, as he fondled the repeating rifle he
was carrying so proudly.

"Well," admitted Jack, "seems to me that we'll have to take the chances.
We certainly don't mean to throw up the sponge, when we're so near the
end of the race."

"I should say not!" breathed Teddy, who had considerable pugnacity in
his makeup, although not really what you would call a fighter, like
Jimmy.

"What's the use hanging around here, when that black opening invites us
to come on in?" Jimmy wanted to know.

"We'd better carry out our scheme, and trust to luck to see us through,"
Frank gave as his opinion.

Ned saw that all of his chums were apparently of one mind. Really, he
himself had not the least idea of backing down; his only thought had
been to consider what they were likely to run across, so as to be
prepared, like true scouts.

"You are all right," he observed, "and while we don't want to run up
against any new trouble, we mustn't let that stand in our way. Francois,
you and the chief lead off. And remember, everybody, to get down low
enough, so that you can't see a single tent. That's the only way to make
sure that some one in their camp won't see us."

Jimmy nodded his head, as if pleased that they did not mean to back
down; though he should have known Ned better than to suspect the other
of timidity.

The two guides started for the opening, with the rest trailing after
them, so that the column looked very much like a long snake in motion.

Of course, every fellow felt his nerves on edge with apprehension. It
was impossible to foretell what might happen. For all they knew, the
three men may have suspected that they had been followed, and were now
laying a clever trap, in order to take the explorers off their guard.

As they drew closer to the yawning mouth of the mine among the rocks,
Jimmy fancied that he saw a slight movement there. He could not make
sure, nor did he find it possible to prove his suspicion, and on this
account dared not try to attract the attention of Ned.

Perhaps, after all it was only some loose stone falling, or a small
animal brushing past, that had caught his eye. While Jimmy thus
reassured his rapidly beating heart, and gripped his gun with feverish
zeal; at the same time, he breathed a sigh of relief after they had
really gained the shelter of the grim opening, and there was no wild
crash of guns, or hoarse demand for their surrender, with threats of
terrible consequences in case of refusal.

And now they were sheltered by the mouth of the mine, so that they felt
more confident of being able to take care of themselves, in case
anything violent came to pass.

Ned, always on the alert to notice things, saw at once that the opening
was partly natural. It looked as though the men who claimed to have made
this wonderful discovery of rich copper-bearing quartz had also found a
fissure in the rocks splendidly fitted for their purposes, since it
allowed them to pass far into the side of the hill before they were
compelled to blast and hew passages.

So much for a starter, Ned thought. He was taking note of all such
things, thinking to incorporate them in his report. Although they might
seem trifling in a way, he realized that they would have considerable
bearing in settling the matter with Mr. Bosworth, and those associated
with him in the big company that proposed to purchase a controlling
interest in these new mines, should the report seem favorable.

The next thing was to pass into the mine.

Ned had come well prepared for this venture. Just as he and his chums
carried guns with which to defend themselves in case of an attack--just
as he had produced field-glasses when they were sorely needed--in the
same way the scouts now had a clever means at hand for lighting their
road, once they left the sunlight behind them.

Not only Ned, but every one of the five, produced a splendid little
pocket searchlight. Extra batteries were also carried, so that they need
not worry over the possibility of the power giving out at a critical
moment.

The two guides were evidently well pleased when they saw this display of
illumination; though they must have known something about it before
then. Ned concluded that there was really no need of so much light,
which would only add to the danger of discovery. One light, or two at
most, would give them ample means for seeing the way, and avoiding any
pitfalls.

Accordingly he asked the others to shut off their batteries and follow
him. Now that the guides had done their part in bringing the party into
the mine, Ned meant to resume his natural place in the van, as the
leader of the expedition.

As they moved along it was seen that very little labor had been required
thus far to make an opening quite large enough for all practical
purposes. The mass of rock that lay in the dump outside was probably ore
that showed signs of being valuable. It was intended to impress any one
with an exalted idea of the fabulous richness of the discovery, and had
doubtless been well planted for that purpose.

Ned stopped every little while to examine the walls close by. He was
looking for signs of unusual wealth, because the company owning the mine
had declared in no uncertain way that even the sides of the passages
were rich, beyond all conception, in copper.

His examinations thus far did not justify such extravagant terms of
description. There were to be sure signs of the mineral in the rock, and
possibly in quantities that might have paid for mining under ordinary
conditions; but when the vast distance from civilization was taken into
consideration, there would be nothing in the business, unless ore at
least three times more sustaining were shown.

More and more was Ned coming to the conclusion that the affair was a
gigantic swindle, and that the company which Mr. Bosworth headed was in
for a grand plucking, unless warned in time. These men were playing for
high stakes, and squandering lots of money, fully expecting to recoup
themselves a dozen times.

The boys had been moving along in this leisurely fashion for possibly
five minutes, and so far nothing had occurred to break the monotony. Ned
had even begun to fancy that the inspection of the wonderful copper lode
was going to be an easy matter when, as they started to turn a bend in
the passage, he made a discovery that caused him to instantly press the
button of his hand electric light, causing darkness to instantly
surround them.

This gave them an opportunity for observing the movements of several men
who by the light of lanterns seemed to be busily working a short
distance ahead.

Even though the illumination did not seem very good, all of the scouts
could see that these were the trio of miners whom they had tracked from
the shore of the bay.

"Whatever are they doing, Ned?" whispered the irrepressible Jimmy,
apparently greatly perplexed by the strange actions of the men who,
unconscious of the fact that they were being watched, continued their
labors.

"They are hurrying to do just what I said they might," Ned replied, also
in the lowest of tones. "Perhaps the order has gone out to get things
ready for us, in case we managed to slip by the river guard and arrived
here unexpectedly. In other words, Jimmy, they are salting the mine with
rich copper ore!"



CHAPTER X.

SCOUT TACTICS.


"Gee! that ought to settle the business!" breathed Jimmy, as he
continued to stare at the three workers.

These men seemed as busy as beavers, passing from crevice to crevice,
and managing in some way to insert what were very likely pieces of rich
copper ore, brought from some distant and well-known mine, for the
purpose of deceiving any one sent up to inspect this new venture.

Ned himself felt that he could have no better evidence of fraud than was
exhibited in the actions of these laborers. He knew that if this scene
was incorporated in his report, it would sound the doom of the intended
big deal, whereby a million, perhaps many of them, was to pass into the
hands of the swindlers.

And knowing this, Ned was also aware of the fact that should the
employees of the company running the game learn that the scouts had
actually been inside the mine, and watched its being so beautifully
"salted," they would realize that desperate tactics must be employed in
order to silence the spies.

That might mean either their speedy dispatch, or being kept prisoners
in that region so far away from civilization until the deal had been put
through, and the vast amount of cash changed hands.

He could easily enough imagine these desperate scoundrels making him
sign a glowing report declaring that the property was fabulously rich.
Plainly, then, it would be greatly to the advantage of the scouts to get
out of the mine without being discovered.

"Well, do we go on and see what the fellows have to say for themselves?"
asked Frank, chafing under the delay.

"If we have to do that, please let me take care of old Blackbeard, Ned,"
urged Jimmy, who seemed to have taken an especial dislike toward the
giant, whom he had been comparing with the old-time pirate.

"We'll back out!" said Ned, shortly.

"Seem to have seen enough, eh?" Jack whispered, with a little vein of
disappointment back of his words, just as though he had really been
hoping they might see some lively action, while up in this "neck of the
woods."

"When your father learns about this job, he'll want to throw up his
hands and wash them of the whole business," the other assured him.

"Then it's no use going deeper," admitted Jack.

Of course, all this conversation was carried on very cautiously. No one
dared to raise his voice above the softest sort of whisper; and usually
spoke directly into the ear of the chum he wanted to address. On this
account, the workers not far away did not suspect the presence of
interlopers, or that their actions were being carefully noted.

Ned managed to let the two guides know that it was now up to the party
to execute a masterly retreat. If they could quit the mine as easily as
they had entered, it would be a big feather in their caps.

All of them were immediately in motion, and after the bend in the
passage had been negotiated they could once more use a light. As before,
Ned brought his means of illumination into service, and guided by the
soft white glow ahead, that showed up all inequalities of the path, they
set out for the exit.

They had gone perhaps half-way, when Ned stopped to listen. All of them
could hear what had come to his ears. Shouts without were sounding the
alarm. Plainly, something must have occurred to excite the few who had
been in the tented settlement. Perhaps after all some one witnessed
their entrance to the mine, and had hurried to the camp with the news.
There were two or three men there, as Ned had noted before; and these
were now trying to communicate their discovery to the three miners
engaged in "salting" the works.

There seemed to be only one course open to the scouts, and this was to
make all haste possible to attain the exit. Here, they might sally
forth, and by taking advantage of the confusion cause the few guards to
disperse, by firing a volley over their heads.

This plan flashed into the head of the young leader of the explorers, as
he listened to the shouts that were ringing forth.

"Hurry along, fellows!" he urged his companions, knowing only too well
the value of prompt action in a case like this. "We must rush the
opening, and scatter that howling bunch like wolves. Shoot to frighten,
then if that doesn't work, try to cut them in the legs. Understand?"

They all answered in the affirmative, even Jimmy showing that he had
caught the idea. And bent upon carrying it out, without the loss of even
a second, the party pressed forward eagerly.

Just for another minute, and then they met with a sudden surprise, that
came as unexpectedly as lightning might from a clear sky.

As though some giant hand had brushed them all over into a heap, so the
five scouts and their two husky guides were sent headlong to the rocks,
some of them receiving bumps that would prove more or less painful later
on.

There was no mystery about the matter, because accompanying their upset
had come a loud explosion that sounded doubly severe to them, since they
were underground.

Plainly the conspirators had looked far enough ahead to make ready to
entomb any prowling visitors who might succeed in gaining access to the
mine, and learn something of its secrets. They had a charge of blasting
powder, or possibly a dynamite cartridge, placed so that it could be
fired with ease.

"Wow!" exclaimed Jimmy, struggling half erect, "who hit me with that
brick?"

"What happened, Ned?" asked Teddy, almost dazed from the way his head
had collided with a hard rock, causing him to see about a million
flashing stars in that one second of time.

"They've fired some sort of explosive, to seal up the exit of the mine!"
broke from Jack, who was quick to guess the appalling truth.

"Then we're shut up here like rats in a trap, is that it?" persisted
Jimmy, now so astonished that he even forgot to rub the back of his head
where the seat of the pain seemed to be located.

"I don't know," said Ned, "but we can soon settle that by pushing on."

"What if another bomb lets go?" Teddy inquired.

"Small danger of that happening," the leader assured him; "but anyhow
we'll have to take the chances. Come along, everybody!"

That was Ned's way of doing things, and proved him to be the right type
of leader, capable of winning the respect of his patrol. Seldom had any
of the scouts heard him tell them to "go on" when there was a spice of
peril in the air.

They were not long in finding out the dismal truth. Indeed, as they
advanced along the tortuous passage, the air became more and more foul
with the odor of burnt powder. And, finally, the light from the several
electric hand-torches disclosed the presence ahead of a mass of fallen
rock and dirt that effectually filled the narrow passage.

The boys stared at the barrier in more or less dismay. It effectually
cut them off from making their exit, and so far as they knew there was
no other means of leaving the mine.

Jimmy started in to lifting several of the rocks and tossing them aside.
With his customary zeal, he fancied that if they all got to work they
might in a short time bore through the barrier.

"Be careful there!" warned Jack, as the action of the "busy bee"
dislodged several other masses of rock, and Jimmy had a narrow escape
from being crushed.

"Yes," added Ned, hastily, "better leave that alone for the present,
Jimmy. For every pound you take away three will drop down, because you
can see how the shock has loosened everything above you."

"But my stars! we ain't goin' to stand for being sealed up here like a
lot of old mummies, are we?" gasped Jimmy. "Why, whatever would we do
for grub; and then a feller wants to have a fresh drink every once in a
while? Ned, we've just _got_ to break out of this!"

"You bet we do!" added Frank, who did not like the bitter prospect any
more than the one who was putting up such a savage protest.

"Tell me, how you're going to do it then," said Teddy.

Neither of the scouts answered. The fact of the matter was that while
they were so vehement in their declaration not to stand, they did not
have the least idea how the trouble might be remedied.

As usually happened, it became more and more evident that they must
depend on Ned to lead them out of the wilderness. Instead of talking he
had been doing some hard thinking; and was now able to suggest a plan.

"I don't know whether there can be anything in it boys," Ned started in
to say, "but it seems queer that they should shut their companions up in
here with us, if there wasn't some other means for escaping. Our plan
then is to hurry back, and try to get in touch with that giant and his
bunch. By now they'll have taken warning, and be hustling for the open
air."

"Whee! then we'd better be on the jump," Jimmy jerked out.

All of them saw the necessity for prompt action. Now that Ned had
suggested such a possibility they could understand how it might be just
as he said. And if those toilers were already making in hot haste for
the second exit, the sooner the scouts got close in touch with them the
better.

They had already been over this ground two times, so that they should
know it fairly by now. Every fellow had his electric light in service,
gripping it in one hand, while his gun was held in the other.

In this fashion, then, they reached the bend around which they had
peered at the trio of industrious "salt" workers.

All was as black as a pocket there now.

"Why, they're gone!" burst out Jimmy, just as though he had an idea the
miners, after hearing the horrible crash of the explosion, would be kind
enough to linger there, so as to show the intruders the back door of the
mine.

"Keep right on going," said Ned, "we've got to overtake them, if we can
do it."

"Guess, that'll save more or less trouble in the end," admitted Jack;
while Teddy and Frank were heard to mutter their approval of the
scheme.

Indeed, it was a rare occurrence for any of the scouts to radically
differ from their leader. Somehow, Ned Nestor seemed capable of judging
things just right, and these comrades tried and true had come to rely on
his way of looking at the solving of knotty problems as well nigh
perfect.

They passed the place where the men had been working. Perhaps some of
the lads might have been glad of a chance to stop and see how this
clever trick of making a mine appear ten times more valuable than it
really was, could be carried out; but there was no time for delay now.

On they rushed.

The channel seemed to be so fashioned up to now that they were not
compelled to make any choice between rival passages. There had been no
such thing as going astray. But shortly afterwards they came to a fork,
where a second fissure gaped before them.

Now came the question, which way had the three men gone in order to
reach the friendly exit they were acquainted with? Jimmy would have
perhaps thrown up a copper cent and trusted to "heads or tails" to
settle the matter for him; but this was not the happy-go-lucky way Ned
had of deciding.

Of course, it would have been an easy thing for him to have settled in
his mind which way the workings of the mine lay. All that was necessary
was to look and see which passage showed many marks of loads of ore
having been carried along it, portions of which had fallen from the
wheel-barrows.

But this would not tell them whether the men had fled by that passage or
along the other one. Just then they were bent on chasing after the three
miners, and not hunting for the spot from which ore had been taken.

Ned had an idea. These usually came to him like flashes of light, and
might almost be called happy inspirations.

He remembered that just after the tremendous crash several of the boys
had been half choked by the cloud of dust in the air. He himself had had
some difficulty in breathing, and refraining with an effort from
coughing. That gave him the thought upon which he hastened to act; and
it was here that his Boy Scout training stood him in good stead.

Immediately bending down he held his electric torch to the flat rock
that constituted the floor of the passage where it forked, and just as
he suspected would be the case, he discovered that a very thin layer of
dust had covered the place after the explosion.

While there was not much of this, at the same time, it would allow a
pair of keen eyes to discover footprints, providing they had been made
_after_ the layer had settled.

Ned's chums watched his every move almost breathlessly. They immediately
understood what he expected to do, and while not very sanguine of
success, still they hoped for the best.

They saw Ned start to move slowly along. He continued to hold his light
close to the rock, and waved it slightly from side to side, as though
bent on covering as much ground as possible. But the fact that he did
advance showed them that he must be meeting with some success.

Another step did Ned take, then a third and a fourth. The boys began to
breathe freely again, for hope had once more taken root in their
breasts. They saw that he was showing confidence, as though he had no
longer any doubt of his ability to decide the enigma.

Even Jimmy remembered reading about the visit of the Queen of Sheba to
the wise Solomon, when he ruled as king, bearing a wreath of natural
flowers in one hand and another that was artificial, but so skilfully
done that no eye could detect the difference, and then asked him to
decide. The wise king had simply ordered a window to be opened, and a
lot of bees, searching for honey, soon settled on the right flowers.

That was the commonsense way in which Ned Nestor usually settled knotty
problems.

"The trail in the dust runs along the smaller passage, that does not
lead to the worked part of the mine," he said; "and so it's up to us to
hustle after the three men. So come on boys, and let's hope we get to
the open air soon!"



CHAPTER XI.

A SUCCESSFUL SORTIE.


The success which had attended Ned's efforts thus far encouraged the
scouts very much indeed. Little things often carry considerable weight,
especially when boys are concerned. Besides, there are times when even a
thistle down will point to the way the wind is blowing. And a small
success spelled greater things in store for them.

Accordingly, they all hurried as fast as the conditions would allow.
Fortunately, there were few obstructions in the way to give them cause
for trouble. Here and there they discovered a slight fissure, in which
Ned warned them to be careful not to catch a foot, lest they get a bad
wrench that might even amount to a sprain.

Once or twice Ned thought it best to make doubly sure by halting long
enough to lower his light, and take another quick look at the floor.
What he saw appeared to encourage him greatly; at least the other scouts
knew when he once more continued the forward progress, that it was all
right.

And it may be easily believed that the two experienced guides had
watched all these goings-on with considerable curiosity, as well as
satisfaction. It was in a line with their practical woods education, so
that they could appreciate what Ned set out to accomplish.

The Indian had grunted his approval as soon as he saw the boy get down
on his knees to look for a trail in the slight layer of dust; while
Francois could have been heard chuckling to himself at a great rate,
showing how tickled he felt over the smartness of the patrol leader.

"Say, don't you feel something like a breath of fresh air?" asked Jimmy,
when they had been pushing along for several minutes in this rapid
manner.

"Yes, you're right about that," admitted Jack.

"Oh, I felt it before Jimmy said a single word," Teddy remarked. "I was
sucking it in for all I was worth, because after that dust got to going,
it's been hard to breathe at all."

"Must be the outlet, don't you think, Ned?" questioned Frank.

"We'll all hope so," came the reply from the leader.

"P'raps the three men may be hanging around meaning to keep us from
rushing the exit, if we happen to come along that way?" Jimmy next
advanced; for his mind was so fashioned that he could think of more
objections in a minute than would occur to any one else in an hour.

"Well, they'll wish they had'nt, then," said Jack, belligerently. "All
told, we're seven against three; and what with our guns, we ought to put
up a pretty stiff sort of a battle."

"Well, I guess so," grunted Jimmy, immediately appeased by the prospect
of action, which always satisfied a certain longing in his soul; for
doubtless the ancestors of the Irish boy had once fought at Donnybrook
Fair in the Old Country.

The atmosphere certainly grew fresher as they continued to push forward.
This fact told them they must be approaching an opening where the outer
air managed to gain ingress to the fissure.

Then they noticed that it was no longer so intensely dark as it had
heretofore been. Ned concluded that it would be policy for them to
lessen the illumination they were making with their torches.

"Shut off your light, Jimmy, Teddy and Frank," he told them.

Nobody asked why this must be done. They had learned the lesson of
implicit obedience to those in authority, as every scout has to do
before he can qualify for any honors, or medals, or rise from being a
tenderfoot to the place of a second or first-class scout.

Indeed, doubtless, most of the boys guessed the answer as soon as Ned
gave the order, for they were a quick-witted lot. They could reason it
out that the less illumination they caused, the more chance for them to
attain their end, which was to burst out of the back door of the mine,
and make their escape.

"I see it!" Jack exclaimed, as he caught sight of a dazzling mark ahead,
which must be the sunlight shining beyond the black tunnel or fissure.

The prospect of a speedy release cheered them wonderfully. It served to
even quicken their steps, though they had already been making fair
progress.

"Only one thing to bother about now, eh, Ned?" Frank asked.

"That's all," came the terse reply, for Ned was busily engaged keeping
his eyes fixed on the opening, that was gradually growing wider, and
possibly trying to make up his mind what chance there was of finding it
unguarded.

"If those three huskies are waiting beyond, ready to give us a volley
when we poke our noses out, we'll have a battle royal on our hands, let
me tell you," Teddy announced as his opinion.

There was nothing new in that, for all the others had guessed the same
thing, before he spoke. At the same time it caused them to clutch
their weapons with more determination than ever, after Teddy had voiced
their sentiments in this way. They were now so near the exit that Ned
first asked Jack to "douse his glim," and shortly afterwards followed
suit himself.

There was no further necessity for artificial light, since enough of the
natural kind sifted in through that opening.

Ned gave a word of caution just then.

"Carefully, now!"

They fairly crept up to the gap in the rocks, and looked out. It was
possible to see for some little distance beyond the opening. They saw
bushes, and piled-up rocks in abundance, behind which there might be
enemies hiding.

Ned turned to Francois.

"Find out if there is anybody waiting there, Francois!" he simply said,
knowing that the other was perfectly capable of doing what he was told.

It pleased the old voyageur to be called upon in a crisis. He
immediately crept forward on hands and knees. They saw him take his
slouch hat from his head and fix it on the end of his gun barrel; after
which he thrust it forward until it was in plain sight without the exit
of the mine.

A prompt response met this challenge. They heard the sudden spiteful
crack of a gun, but as Ned had cautioned them to seek shelter behind
various outcropping spurs of rock, no damage was done.

"Gee! it knocked Francois' hat off all right, believe me!" exclaimed
Jimmy, after he had raised his head cautiously, much as a turtle would
have done.

The guide made no effort to recover his headgear. He had instantly
looked out after the shot came, as meaning to learn where the marksman
was located, so that he could return the compliment of his fire.

A puff of gray smoke told him this fact, and without even waiting for
orders Francois leveled his own gun and blazed away.

"Oh! listen to that, would you?" cried Jimmy, as they heard a bellow of
mingled pain and rage break forth from the thicket into which the bullet
from the voyageur's rifle had sped like a flash.

"Down again, mebbe more shoot!" the Cree guide was heard to call out;
and _apparently_ he read the signs correctly, for hardly had the scouts
"ducked" once more than there was a crash of two guns, telling that the
entire force of the enemy must be opposed to them.

This time Jimmy could not be restrained. He had been fairly burning to
get in some active work, and without even waiting for orders, he began
to rattle off the shots from his repeating gun, in rapid-fire style.

He had taken pattern from the method adopted by Francois, and sent his
lead in the direction where he saw wreaths of smoke curling forth. Teddy
and Frank also felt savage enough at being fired on without warning to
give back a single shot apiece, but the other two held their
ammunition.

If they meant to rush the exit now was the time to do it, Ned knew. It
would be folly to wait until the enemy had recovered from the confusion
into which they may have been thrown by this volley.

"Now, charge, and scatter all you can; so as to keep from being hit!"
called out Ned, as he sprang for the opening.

They burst out with a cheer, as though under the impression that in this
way it might be possible to send further dismay into the hearts of the
three men who had, of course, been compelled to either fly, or else lie
low while the shooting was going on.

There were a couple of shots, but sent in under such conditions that
they failed to find a billet, and were wasted. Those who fired were
possibly more concerned about their own safety just then, than the
chances of cutting down any of the exploring party.

Led by Ned, they swept over the open space and plunged into the
wilderness of rocks and scraggy brush beyond. One look the patrol leader
gave, after they found themselves in the shelter of the screening
bushes.

"Anybody hit?" he asked, anxiously.

"Don't know for sure," spoke up Frank, "but something seemed to burn my
leg, at the time they fired; and, by George! look what happened to my
fine kahki trousers, would you?"

He pointed to a tear that could be plainly seen, showing where a bullet
had gashed the tough material in passing.

"Sure you're not badly hurt, Frank?" asked Jack, solicitously.

"Hardly brought blood!" declared the wounded scout, with a tinge of
delight in his voice, for it was worth while to know that you had been
touched by a bullet, and even have the evidence to show for it, without
any painful consequences to follow.

"Lucky feller!" said Jimmy, somewhat jealous of the honor this was going
to bestow upon the other, when the story of the raid was told later on.

"But we mustn't stay here," Ned told them. "Keep your eyes all around,
and if you are sure you glimpse anybody following after us, give him
your compliments; only remember that you're scouts, and make it as easy
as you can for the poor wretch."

"He won't know it if I hit him!" Jimmy went on to say; nor did anybody
stop to ask him to explain more fully what he meant.

The fact that they were leaving the mine for good did not seem to cause
any of the party the least distress of mind. They had come and looked it
over, and Ned had learned all he wanted, in order to make a
comprehensive report. The sooner they left the vicinity, the better all
of them would be pleased.

To reach their canoes again, they would have to cover considerable
ground; and that caused Jimmy to wince, for he was not reckoned as good
a walker as most of his mates.

Secretly, he was hoping that some other plan might appeal to Ned, such
as hiding their trail, and resting up in some snug retreat over night,
when they would be in good shape to complete the journey in the morning.

It was now a question as to just how they were to conduct their retreat
so as to avoid the risk of being pelted with bullets by the three
miners, reinforced by any others who may have been in the tent village.

Ned was only too glad to leave this pretty much in the hands of
Francois, whose practical experience was worth much more than any theory
that could be studied out of scout books.

The French Canadian voyageur quickly understood what was expected of
him, after he had received the signal. Although the boys had been in his
company for weeks now, they had never seen him so alert and active. He
seemed to be watching every angle of the compass at the same moment, and
twice raised his gun and fired backward, as though he had discovered
some lurking foe.

That this was far from imagination they saw when the second shot came;
for hardly had it echoed through the hills than a form was seen to rush
into view, and a man in rough clothes flashed across an open space,
holding to his left arm, as though he might have received the guide's
lead in that shoulder.

"You pinked him, Francois, sure you did that time!" cried Jimmy
excitedly; "don't I just wish I had your quick eyes, though? I didn't
see a single thing moving up there; but you did, Francois. Old Eagle Eye
I'm going to call you after this. Oh! why don't one of 'em step out, and
let me take a snapshot at him?"

It seemed as though the others were not that obliging, for while several
shots were fired, without doing the explorers any damage, Jimmy could
see nothing of the men who used their guns. He, finally, being unable to
stand it any longer, sent a couple of shots at the spot where he saw
smoke rising, after another fusilade had come.

"Guess I'm on the blink when it comes to sharpshooting," bemoaned Jimmy;
"why, at this rate, I'll never get the stock of my trusty rifle covered
with notches, to show the number of ferocious pirates I've bowled over.
It's a measly shame, that's all."

At any rate, they seemed to be making a successful "getaway," as Jack
called it; because they were gradually leaving these hidden marksmen
further and further behind. The next shot showed that the handler of the
gun was quite some distance away. He must have taken more pains to aim,
however, than up to now had been the case, for immediately the "ping" of
the bullet was plainly heard as it winged its flight only a short
distance above their heads, flattening out against the face of the rock
beyond.

This thing of being under fire was no new experience with these scouts.
They had on several occasions heard lead sing past their ears; but, all
the same, none of them enjoyed the sensation very much. It was apt to
cause a shiver or a feeling as of being put in connection with a
galvanic battery.

"Seems like we've left that crowd in the lurch," Teddy remarked, a few
minutes later, as they began to reach more regular ground, where the
going promised to be considerably easier.

"Yes," added Jack, "and the most we have to fear after this is meeting
up with the other lot that waited for us on the lower river. They may
have grown tired of laying around, or else got wind of our change of
plans, so that right now they are crossing to the mine!"

"Look!" said the Cree guide, pointing backward; and immediately the
scouts saw three columns of very black smoke ascending straight toward
the sky.



CHAPTER XII.

THE TALKING SMOKE.


"Well, I declare if they don't use the same sort of signals the scouts
do down our way!" exclaimed Jimmy, looking rather disgusted, as though
he had caught some one stealing his thunder.

Ned had to laugh at the blank expression of his assistant's face.

"Why, Jimmy," he said, "you forget that the scout movement is only half
a dozen years old. It began after the Boer war, when General
Baden-Powell saw what a great thing it would be for the whole British
Nation, if every boy learned a thousand things about all creation,
useful things at that. And, Jimmy, don't forget that smoke was used to
signal with for hundreds of years before ever the white man landed on
the shores of America."

"Say, that's right, Ned, they always made fires with their flints,
didn't they? And these men up here, hunters, trappers, or whatever they
may be, inherited the Injun way of sending messages. Sure, I knew it all
along. The only trouble with me is I go and forget things. But what
d'ye think they are doin' sending out that old smoke signal?"

"They've got friends within seeing distance, because smoke can be
sighted many miles away, especially when it rises as straight as it's
doing now," Jack ventured to interpose.

"The crowd over on the Harricanaw River, you mean?" demanded Jimmy.

"Yes."

"Then they'll be apt to know we gave 'em the slip, won't they?" the
freckled faced scout continued.

"I suppose they will, because you notice that every now and then the
smoke seems to stop," Ned answered. "As a scout in good standing, Jimmy,
you ought to know how that's done."

"Two fellers swing a blanket over the smoking wood and smother it for a
bit, to send up another big puff. Yes, that's what they call talking.
Letters are formed by the puffs of smoke, just as we do the same with
the wigwag flags, or the piece of looking-glass in the sun, when we
heliograph."

"And right now, somewhere or other, one or more of those men must be
reading out the message, letter by letter," said the patrol leader
seriously, while they continued to walk on.

"It won't take long to tell how we happened to show up at the mine, and
took a nice little saunter through the same, seeing how fine it was
being cured--I mean salted," Teddy interrupted, thinking that Jimmy had
done more than his full share of the cross questioning, and ought to
give place to some one else.

"I shouldn't think it would," agreed Ned.

"I wonder now if the men over on the river will guess what happened, and
how we must have left our boats secreted somewhere above?" ventured
Frank.

"That is something we have no means of telling," Ned informed him; "but
since it might happen, we'll have to keep a sharp lookout on the way
across country. We might fall into ambush, and either be shot down or
else made prisoners."

"I don't know which would be worse," grumbled Jimmy.

"Whew! what if they should happen on our, canoes, after all the trouble
we took to hide the same?" suggested Jack, looking as solemn as an owl.

"The walking is fairly decent all the way from Hudson Bay to Montreal,
barring a dozen rivers to cross, a score of bogs miles and miles around,
some pretty hefty mountain chains to pass over, and some more troubles
too silly to mention," was the way Jimmy made light of the possible
calamity.

Ned himself knew that it would be a terrible mishap should anything like
this come to pass. He had thought it all over more than once, and even
mapped out several plans for their guidance in case of such an event.

Walking back was next to an utter impossibility. They might manage with
the aid of Francios and the Cree Indian to manufacture some sort of
canoes, providing the proper kind of bark was to be procured this far
north, which he doubted very much. Besides this, there was a slender
chance that they might signal to some whaling vessel on the great bay
and procure a berth for each of them aboard, so as to be landed at
Halifax or Montreal, anywhere so that they could use the telegraph, and
keep Mr. Bosworth and his company from investing a dollar in the
wonderful copper mine, until the scouts reached home again.

So Ned, having looked further ahead than any of his chums, was not so
much impressed by the gravity of the threatening evil, in case they did
lose their highly valued canoes. He would begrudge the loss of his
blanket and some other articles more than anything else, as they had
memories connected with them of dead and gone events, in which he and
some of the other boys of the trip had figured.

As they pushed on every little while they could catch glimpses of the
talking smoke signals in the rear. Doubtless the fire that was supplying
the smoke for this method of communicating with the distant posse had
been built on the side of the hill in which the mine lay. That would
account for their being able to see it for such length of time.

"Must be giving a whole history of the _awful_ disaster," Jimmy
muttered, after he had turned for the sixth time to see the smoke still
waving in fantastic wreaths against the sky.

"Slow-pokes, that's what," ventured Teddy. "Why, when I was a mere
tenderfoot I could send messages better than that."

"Don't find fault," advised Jack. "The longer it takes the signal man to
send on his news, the better chance we'll have of slipping away before
any trap can be laid or sprung, don't you see?"

"And as we're first-class scouts," said Jimmy, boastfully, "why, we're
able to beat such dubs, with one hand tied behind our backs."

Perhaps all the others agreed with the speaker, even though no one
voiced his sentiments just then. Jimmy was well calculated to do all the
boasting for an entire party on occasion; but then he meant all he said.

Pretty soon Frank made a discovery that caused him to break loose and
voice his surprise.

"Why, Ned, we don't seem to be heading down towards the big bay?" he
observed.

"That's right, Frank," came the quiet answer.

"But I thought we'd surely have to follow the trail back there, just as
we came?" Frank continued, as though sorely perplexed.

"We would," the patrol leader informed him, "if we were going back the
same way we came, because it would be necessary to get in touch with our
blazed trail, meaning all those landmarks we noted so carefully when
coming on."

"What's that, did we have all that trouble for nixey?" blurted out
Jimmy.

"Don't say for nothing, Jimmy," urged Ned; "because when you've gone to
work and stored a lot of things up in your mind like we did, you've been
exercising your memory, and that's always a splendid thing to do. We
certainly noticed a bunch of queer growths in the woods as we came
along, though it's hardly likely any of us will ever set eyes on them
again."

"But why the change, Ned, if you don't object to telling us?" asked
Jack.

"It's only right you should know why I took it on myself to do this,"
replied the other, modestly; "and then if anybody objects, and explains
on what grounds he bases his kick, perhaps it won't be too late to turn
out and find the blazed trail yet."

"Proceed, please," urged Frank.

"I thought that since our presence here is known, that those at the mine
would be able in some way to communicate with the dozen or more rascals
over at the river. And there would always be a pretty strong chance of
our being waylaid while on the road back to the boats. If any one found
our trail that would make it a foregone conclusion. And so I thought
we'd be wise to start in fresh."

"I saw you consulting your compass many times, while on the way over,
Ned," and this remark from Frank caused the patrol leader to smile and
nod in the affirmative.

"Which tells me you've got your location all down pat," continued Frank,
energetically. "Right now, if I asked you, chances are you'd be able to
point straight in the direction where the river lies; yes, and straight
at our boats. Is that correct, Ned?"

For answer, the other raised his hand and pointed.

"What direction would you say lies right there, Frank?" he asked.

Frank had to turn his head and observe the position of the sun, as well
as do considerable mental figuring, before feeling able to make answer;
which would indicate that he had been caught napping, and was not so
well prepared as a wide-awake scout should always be.

"Let's see," he went on to say, slowly; "according to my calculations
that ought to be not more than a point away from due east."

"It is exactly east, and the river lies there;" Ned pursued,
confidently; and no one had ever been able to catch him in an error
when it came to topography, for the patrol leader had very few equals in
studying the lay of the land. "Of course, our canoes lie some little
distance above; so that pretty soon we'll begin to shift our line of
travel more to the southeast. I have strong hopes that when we do strike
the Harricanaw, it will be close to the boats."

"And going this way is shorter than following the back trail away down
to the bay, and then picking up our other course from there?" Teddy
ventured to say; nor was his proposition disputed by even the one who
objected so often, Jimmy.

"I'm only sorry for one thing," this latter scout said, presently.

"I bet you now he's going to tip off that silly, old story again about
the vanishing fleet of vessels out on Hudson Bay, and say he did hope we
might crack that hard nut while we were up here," Frank told them,
whereat Jimmy slapped him vigorously on the back, and exclaimed:

"You'd better get a punkin and hollow out half for a skull cap, Frank.
Then you could go and sit in the market-place and pass for a seer;
because now and then you do have a bright thought, and actually guess
something. That was just what bothered Jimmy McGraw, sure it was. If we
go away from here and leave that mystery unsolved, who's ever agoin' to
do it, tell me that? Don't they kinder look to the scouts to do
anything and everything these here days, that other folks can't just
manage. Huh! ain't ever a child wanders away from home and gets lost in
the woods, but what they send out a call, not for the fire company, like
they used to do; but it's 'the scouts c'n find poor little Jennie; let
the scouts get on the track, and in three shakes of a lamb's tail,
they'll have the child safe at home!'"

"Well, there's a whole lot of truth in what you say, Jimmy, though none
of us ought to be given to boasting," Jack declared, proudly; "I've
helped find three lost children, two old men who were out of their
minds and had wandered away from home, about sixteen stray cows, a
horse, too, and even had a hand in killing that big mad dog that came
down the street of the Long Island town where I spent one of my
vacations some years ago."

"Good for the Black Bear Patrol," said Jimmy; "which makes me feel
sicker than ever, because we've got to go back home, without having a
shot at that punk old mystery of Hudson Bay. We could find out all about
it, you take my word for it, Jack. Put five fellers as smart as this
bunch onto anything that's cooked up, for some reason or other, and
they're bound to unearth the game. Once I helped gather in the biggest
lot of bogus money-makers, with Ned here, that you ever set your lamps
on. D'ye know, deep down in my heart, I've got a hunch that this queer
fleet that comes and goes like it was made up of ghost craft, will turn
out to be something like that. You'll sure find that men are back of it
that don't want to be seen at too close range; though what under the sun
they're adoin' away up here gets me."

About this time Ned gave the signal that called for less noise; and
Jimmy was, in consequence, compelled to bottle up some of wonder and
disappointment. He had perhaps, hoped to get a "rise" after his dextrous
cast, and in this way learn what one or more of his mates thought about
the matter. As it was he continued to ponder, look solemn, and
occasionally shake his head, as though unable to decide on any settled
course.

"Don't believe we'll have any more jogging from those three men we
tracked," Teddy went on to say, a little later; "because two of them
must have got hurt, if yells speak for anything. I wonder if Jimmy's
black pirate chieftain was one of the potted victims."

"He wasn't that one we saw come out holding on to his arm, like he
thought he'd be likely to lose the same," Jimmy informed him. "That was
the man dressed like a hunter, wearing a buckskin coat and fringed
trousers. Gee! I thought that sort of stuff had all gone up the spout
since khaki came in for woods' use?"

"Oh! well," Jack reminded him, "just remember where you are, and that
there are men up here who still think Queen Victoria is sitting on the
English throne, because they never get in touch with civilization. Life
with them is only eat and sleep, and sell a few furs in the spring, to
the factor at a post of the Hudson Bay Company, which they spend for
ammunition, whiskey and such necessities. The skins they take, furnish
them with clothes, moccasins, and even caps. Can you beat it, for a life
without worry?"

"Give me the white man's burden, every time; if a lot of other things go
with it, like we get at a supper down at Coney Island in the good old
summer time," was Frank's idea.

Strange, how boys will let their thoughts stray back to other fields,
even when facing peril in the Canada bush. To hear these lads talk, one
would never think that they were at the same time keeping a constant
lookout for enemies, who would be apt to deal harshly with them because
Ned and his chums had outwitted the shrewd schemers owning the fake
mine.

It was nearly half an hour later, when they discovered that smoke was
also rising directly in the east. Evidently some of the men, over on the
Harricanaw, were sending back an answer to the message in smoke, which
had been thrown out against the sky, by those guarding the mine.

"Mebbe I don't wish I could read their old signals," declared Jimmy;
"but, I just can't. They've got a different code to the one the scouts
use, which makes it all Chocktaw to me. If anybody can give a guess what
they're saying, put us wise, please."



CHAPTER XIII.

A DREADFUL CALAMITY.


Apparently, no one among the scouts was able to favor Jimmy with regard
to telling what the smoke signals meant. Whoever might be responsible
for the code used by all scouts, it had evidently not been founded on
that in use up here in the Far North, by these trappers and
woodsrangers.

"I've been trying to get the hang of it myself," Jack acknowledged; "but
must say, I'm like a man up a tree. When I begin to think I'm coming on,
there's a slip, and it's all off again. How about you, Ned?"

They had stopped to talk it over. All of them were in need of a
breathing spell, at any rate; and this might turn out to be a matter
well worth investigating.

The patrol leader shook his head in the negative.

"Just the same with me, Jack," he returned. "I'm mixed up enough not to
be able to say what it means, though I've got an idea they may be
telling the parties at the mine what they expect to do. But we haven't
thought of one chance we've got to read the message."

"What might that be, Ned?" asked Frank.

"I don't reckon that you're carrying a lovely little code book along
with you, now; that'll tell all about the different ways people have of
signaling with smoke puffs?" Jimmy wanted to know.

"Perhaps Tamasjo might tell us," was all Ned said; and his simple
explanation caused a general look of eager curiosity to be turned in the
direction of the Cree Indian.

Why, to be sure, Tamasjo had been born and raised in this Northern
country, and very likely he had communicated with his own people many a
time, when returning from a hunt, and by just such means as those men
over on the Harricanaw were now using.

How silly that some one had not thought of the old Cree before. It was
as simple as turning one's hand over. Jack chuckled when he heard Teddy
mutter to that effect; because he remembered that when Columbus
returned, after discovering the Western Hemisphere, the envious Spanish
courtiers made remarks along the same lines. It is always easy to see a
thing _after_ it has been pointed out.

Frank was already turning toward Tamasjo. He found the Indian standing
there calmly watching the floating columns of smoke that were
interrupted frequently, as those responsible for their existence
manipulated the blankets over the fires.

"What do they say, Tamasjo?" asked Frank.

The Cree guide talked fairly good English, though with something of an
effort. When indulging in any extended conversation with Francois, he
invariably resorted to his native tongue.

Turning to Francois now, he rattled off a lot of talk that sounded
almost like gibberish to the scouts, who waited for the voyageur to
translate it.

"He says zat ze smoke tell heem most of ze men haf already started over
to ze mine. Eet also say zat zey will have us all in ze trap soon,"
explained the French Canadian.

The boys looked at each other blankly.

"The dickens they do!" burst out Jimmy. "They'll have to get up right
early in the morning to find us asleep. Say, he didn't tell what they
expected to do when they sprung that fine trap, did he, Francois?"

"Nozzings, sare," responded the other, with a negative shake of his
head. "I myself haf also read ze signs pret well, but zey do not tell
vat it ees zey haf do to cage us. Zere, you see ze smoke ett haf done. I
zink zey must be put ze fires out."

"That leaves us nearly as much in the air as before, don't it, Ned?"
Jack complained.

"Only that we've learned the men are on the way across somewhere," Frank
objected.

"And that they think they've got us up a tree, though we haven't the
least notion what kind of tree," added Teddy, thoughtfully.

Ned looked serious, but if he had ideas of his own, he did not mention
them just then. Perhaps he thought his chums had troubles enough as it
was, without assuming any imaginary ones that might turn out to be false
alarms.

"We'd better be pushing on again, boys," he remarked, "if all of you
have swallowed what water you want from this fine spring here."

Apparently they had, for presently the column was in motion again.
Somehow, even Jimmy had sobered more or less. Something about the
passing back and forth of the smoke communications must have put a
damper on his spirits; though, a short time before, he had been fairly
bubbling over with joy, because of the success that had recently come
their way.

It would have been all very well for the scouts to have depended wholly
on themselves had they been alone at this time; but having two
experienced guides along, Ned was not conceited enough to think that he
knew it all, and could utterly dispense with their advice.

Consequently, he did not hesitate to ask questions of Francois whenever
a situation confronted them that seemed to offer two solutions. A
mistake, at this stage of the game, was likely to cost them dear; and
they could really not afford to take chances of such a slip-up.

On this account, then, he kept Francois close by, and was frequently
seen to be exchanging words with the voyageur.

It was apparent to all of them when the change of direction was made,
for the sun began to loom up more to the rear, as they headed into the
southeast.

This meant that the river must lie straight ahead now, and if their
calculation did not go amiss, they should strike it in the vicinity of
the place where the growth of friendly reeds concealed their boats.

Habit was strong with the boys. They had for a long time now accustomed
themselves to noticing everything of interest around them on all
occasions. So it was that while they paid some attention to what lay in
front much of the time, they kept pointing out objects of interest to
one another as they walked along.

Now it might be a splendid chance to bag a feeding caribou, seen in a
glade off to the right, and to windward, which accounted for his not
having scented the presence of human enemies.

A little later some frisky squirrel, or it might be a sly Arctic fox,
was pointed out. Birds were few in number, and consisted for the most
part of the species of partridge that can be found up in this far-away
region. Not a single song-bird did they see or hear, and a silence like
unto death lay upon the "bush," as the wilderness is always called
throughout Canada.

Far up in some of the trees, noisy crows had sometimes been seen,
holding a caucus; but just then even these seemed strangely absent.

These boys had known what it was to pass through a tropical jungle with
its confusion of sounds that at times almost deafened one; so that the
contrast was very strong. They could understand what was meant when
explorers talked of the "silent North;" and told how painfully quiet it
was at all times, save when some Arctic storm caused the ice floes to
grind together, and portions of the bergs to crash down from their lofty
heights.

"Seems to me we must be getting somewhere near that old stream," Jimmy
finally remarked, with a half-hidden groan, for he was undoubtedly
beginning to feel exceedingly tired.

Somehow, the boys turned inquiring eyes on Ned. They knew that he had
all the while been keeping a record of the distance covered, and could,
therefore, give some sort of estimate as to how far away the river might
lie.

Seeing that he was expected to make an announcement, the patrol leader
appeared to do some mental calculating before giving his opinion.

"If you can keep going for about ten or fifteen minutes longer, Jimmy,"
he finally remarked, cheerily, "I think, you'll find that we've arrived.
Once or twice, I noticed something in the lay of things ahead, when an
opening came, that seemed to tell of the river. The trees always grow
higher along the course of such a stream, you know, and often you can
follow the direction of the river, without ever glimpsing the water
itself once."

"That's good news, Ned, and I'm going to get a new hustle on for the
last lap," Jimmy announced, heaving a sigh of relief that swelled from
the very depths of his heart.

Their progress after that was not quite so rapid. This in itself was
convincing proof to Ned that his prediction was going to be fulfilled,
because, as they gradually reached the lowlands, vegetation increased,
making it more difficult to push through.

"The ten minutes are up, Ned," announced Teddy, who had been taking sly
peeps at his little nickel watch from time to time.

"Well, what would you call that over there through the break in the
trees?" asked Jack, triumphantly, just as though it was his prediction
that was being fulfilled.

"The river, as sure as anything!" admitted Teddy.

"Thank goodness!" sighed Jimmy. "The only thing that's been helping me
keep up is the picture I've been drawing of a feller about my heft,
squattin' amidships in that bully canoe, and bucking up against the
current of the old Harricanaw. How far do you think we ought to go,
before making our first camp, Ned; and will we be able to cook any
supper, before turning in under our warm blankets?"

"Don't count your chickens before they're hatched!" said Frank.

"Now, what makes you try to throw cold water on a feller all the time?"
complained Jimmy. "I like to see the silver linin' of the cloud, and
think of things going good. Besides, we've got to eat, haven't we; and
we left a pile of good grub along with the boats? If Ned says the word,
I'm meanin' to dish up a supper that'll make us forget we're tired to
death. We c'n hide the fire, like Injuns do when in a hostile country,
by makin' the same in a hole, so the light won't show any distance.
How's that, Ned; am I on?"

"Wait and see," was the only comfort the other would give the
enthusiastic one, and with this, Jimmy had to rest content.

With the river in plain sight, they hurried their steps. The presence of
the water acted like an inspiration to every scout; so that no one would
believe they had just been complaining of weariness.

Ned grew more wary the closer they came to the river. All he wanted to
make sure of was the location, so that he might be able to know whether
they were above or below the place of the reeds.

Constant practice makes perfect, and Ned had so accustomed himself to
fastening the prominent features of the landscape upon his memory that
once he saw a place he never forgot it again.

In this case, if he failed to recognize anything along the bank of the
river it would prove conclusively that he had never set eyes on it
before. In that event, they could take it for granted that this was
below the place where they had left the canoes.

Finally the others stopping, watched Ned scrutinizing the shore of the
stream. Of course, they understood what his object must be, and
nervously awaited his verdict, hoping, meanwhile, that it would be
favorable, and that they were near the objects of their search.

He was only a fraction of a minute in deciding, for presently he turned
to his companions and nodded.

"We've struck the river just above the reeds," he went on to say. "I
remember noticing that tree leaning over the water. A kingfisher was
sitting on it, when we came along, and flew off with a screech. And,
according to my mind, the reeds will show up just around that bend
there."

"Oh! joy, bliss, and everything else that spells happiness!" declared
Jimmy, waxing enthusiastic all of a sudden, when the suspense seemed to
be at an end.

They pushed on, full of hope, for after this long hike it would be
something worth while to find themselves once more seated in the canoes
and gliding over the surface of the river, homeward bound, their great
mission completed.

"There they are!" exclaimed Frank, who had impetuously pushed along
ahead of the rest, in his desire to be the first to glimpse the reeds.

There could be no mistake about it, for all of them recognized the
conformation of the ground in the immediate neighborhood, since they had
taken particular pains to impress the same on their minds before leaving
the spot.

Presently they had reached the border of the reed bed, with Frank still
leading, though the rest of the scouts pressed close on his heels.

Already was the first of the explorers commencing to separate the reeds,
under the impression that he could take them straight to the spot where
they had left the boats.

But Frank soon began to think he had started on the wrong tack, for he
failed to make the anticipated discovery. He stopped and looked blankly
around him.

"Well, I declare!" he emitted, with a grunt. "I sure thought I knew this
old place, and could take you straight to the canoes; but seems like
I've got twisted around some. Things look different when you start to
observe them from the back."

"Perhaps it isn't just what you think," said Ned, quietly.

"Is there anything wrong?" demanded Jack, while poor Jimmy's lower jaw
fell, and he could only stand there and stare.

"The worst almost that could have happened to us," Ned replied sadly.

"The boats were here then, and have been stolen?" asked Frank
breathlessly, while he as well as the other boys turned pale with
apprehension, for it was a genuine calamity that faced them now.

"Look there and there, and you'll see where they rested among the
reeds," Ned told them. "Yes, and here's a piece of greasy paper I
remember seeing Jimmy toss overboard, when he was getting out of his
boat. We've struck our one bad streak, after all, boys, I'm sorry to
say. They ran on our boats, and we're left in the lurch up here, five
hundred miles from anywhere!"



CHAPTER XIV.

BLINDING THE TRAIL.


For almost a full minute nobody said a word. Indeed, the tremendous
nature of this discovery seemed to have very nearly paralyzed them, so
that one and all could only stand there and stare at the places where
they could tell their prized canoes had recently rested.

Jimmy was the first one to arouse himself, and it was hot anger that
caused him to show so much activity.

"P'raps they haven't gone far, Ned, and if we got a hustle on we might
manage to ketch up with the measly skunks. If they try to pack our boats
through the woods, they'll have a time of it, let me tell you. Are we
agoin' to give chase? Oh! I'm as fresh as a daisy right now. Seems like
I could run for hours, if I had an idea I'd overtake the canoe thieves."

Ned shook his head.

"No use, Jimmy," he told the furious scout; "because they haven't
carried our boats ashore. If you look, you'll see where they paddled out
on to the river. You remember, we hid all traces of our own passage, yet
here you can see a wide swath among the reeds, bending them back."

They saw that he spoke the truth, even Jimmy admitting the sad facts
with a groan that seemed to well up from his shoes, it was so
disconsolate.

"Five hundred miles--_five_ hundred of 'em! Gosh!" he was heard to tell
himself, as he stood there, rubbing the side of his head, as though he
felt like one in a stupor or a dream.

"And as we haven't a single boat, of course we can't pursue them,"
remarked Jack between his clinched teeth, while his eyes glittered
angrily.

"Oh! what wouldn't I have given to have come on the rascals just in the
act of getting away with our boats!" breathed Frank, as he shook his
rifle, after the manner of a scout who has thrown discretion to the
winds.

"Well, let's not whimper and cry over spilt milk, anyway," said Ned, who
could always be depended on to bring the boys to their proper senses.

"That's so," echoed Jack, quick to see the importance of keeping their
senses about them in this dilemma. "We've got to do _something_, that's
sure, and so let's get to talking it over sensibly."

"But, what can we do?" pleaded Teddy, who was not apt to prove equal to
a sudden strain like this, and must depend on others more vigorous of
mind.

"Oh! before we're done considering things," promised Ned, "you'll find
that we've got a choice of a whole lot of plans. I hope we're all made
of sterner stuff than to throw out the white flag of surrender, just
because something has gone wrong."

"Well, I should say not," declared Frank, grinding his teeth together.
"We're like the Old Guard, we can die, but never surrender."

"That's the stuff!" cried Jimmy, suddenly beginning to brighten up
again, as the stunning effect of the first rude shock passed away.
"Remember what Phil Sheridan did at Cedar Creek, when he met his army,
smashed and running away? What was it he told 'em as he galloped along
the road, headed for the battlefield? 'Face the other way, boys; face
the other way! We'll lick 'em out of their boots! We'll get back those
camps again!' All right, and it's me that says it; well get back our
boats again, by hook or crook!"

"I hope you turn out to be a true prophet, Jimmy," said Ned. "That's one
of the plans I spoke about. Another would be to make for the shore of
the big bay, and try to get in touch with some vessel passing, that
might carry us to Halifax, or some other northern port, where we could
send a message to Jack's father not to put a dollar into these fake
mines."

"Sounds good to me," Teddy remarked, sucking it all in eagerly.

"Then there's another thing we might manage to do if the worst came,"
proceeded Ned. "Up here there are lonely trading posts run by the Hudson
Bay Company, at each of which you'll find a factor in charge. If we
could only run across one of these posts, I reckon, there would be some
way found for getting us down to civilization inside of a month or so."

"That long?" observed Teddy.

"What would it matter, so that we didn't have to do the grand hike?"
Jimmy asked, afflicted with dizzy visions of five hundred miles of
tramping over rough country, supporting themselves, meanwhile, in the
most primitive fashion by shooting game, and cooking the same over fires
made with flint and steel, or the bow and stick method known to scouts
generally.

"Of course," added Frank, somewhat satirically, "Teddy would like to
have one of those Zeppelin airships come along and give us a lift. I
guess all of us would be glad if that happened; but the chances are so
small, we don't want to consider 'em, do we, Ned? So here we are, facing
a puzzle that's going to give us no end of trouble and work. If it was
hard to get in, it's going to be a much bigger job to get out again."

"It's getting late, as it is," remarked Jack, as he looked toward the
west where the sun was hovering over the horizon, and ready to take the
final plunge, though, of course, it would not be dark for a long time
afterwards, thanks to the length of the Northern twilight in midsummer.

"First, let's get where we can look up and down the river, principally
down," was Ned's advice, "though there's a mighty slim chance that we'll
see anything of our stolen canoes."

This proved to be the case, for when they had found an elevated
position, where it was possible to see far down the stream, there was
not a thing in sight, save a mother duck teaching her little brood to
swim and find food.

"No use, seems like; they've gone a long time back," said Jimmy.

"I wonder if that was what they told the fellows over at the mine, when
they mentioned a trap?" observed Frank, seriously, glancing hastily
around him at the same time, as though half expecting to see a dozen
ugly-faced men appear from the bushes and rocks.

"Not while Tamasjo was reading the smoke signs," Ned assured him, "or he
would have learned enough to tell us what to expect when we got here.
But, first of all, we ought to move off."

"You think they'll come here later on, when they learn how we got out of
the old mine and headed across country--is that it, Ned?" Jack queried.

"I expect it is about like this," the patrol leader replied; "one or two
men must have found our boats. For the life of me, I don't understand
how it happened, except that they were paddling along on the river, and
wanting to go ashore took exactly the same notion we did--that the reeds
would make a good hiding place for their craft. And, as luck would have
it, they ran on our canoes."

"No signs here to tell Francois or the Cree about how long back this
thing happened, I reckon?" Frank put in just then.

"That's where we get a hard knock," Ned continued, with a tinge of
regret in his voice; "because, as you all know, water leaves no trace.
When men are fleeing from enemies, the first thing they think of is to
get into a creek, and throw their pursuers, dogs and all, off the scent.
So, even as clever a trailer as Tamasjo couldn't tell any better than
Jimmy here whether this robbery occurred an hour ago or three of the
same."

"We're sure enough up against it this time, boys," Teddy affirmed.

"And have been on other occasions, remember, when things came out all
right, and we won in the end." Jack reminded the doubter.

"Let's make up our minds we're going to beat these chaps at their own
game, and that'll be half the battle," Frank told them.

"But I think Ned is all right when he says, 'we ought to cut stick and
get away from here as soon as we can,'" Jack gave as his opinion.

In fact, the guides were manifesting more or less impatience. They
apparently understood that the enemy would be apt to turn up here again,
sooner or later; and could not comprehend why the scouts should always
want to compare notes, before doing anything like making a change of
base. Francois and the Cree were accustomed to making most of their
moves through instinct; while with the scouts those same things did not
come naturally, but had to be reasoned out, which made considerable
difference.

One last look did they give toward the reeds that had promised to be so
friendly, only to betray the confidence the boys had placed in them; and
after that the little party moved off.

"But say, won't they follow after us, Ned?" asked Jimmy, when he failed
to see the guides getting busy with trying to destroy all evidences of
their passage, as he had fully expected would be the case.

Some of the other scouts showed by their expectant manner that they were
also wondering what it all meant. Ned took it upon himself to enlighten
them.

"If I read their meaning right," he ventured, "that is just what they
want to do at first, make the men believe we've started to tramp back
over all those hundreds of miles of ground. Before long, they'll do
something to hide the trail so only a wolf's keen scent could find it;
and then we'll turn around again, so as to face toward Hudson Bay. How,
Francois?"

The old voyageur had listened to the explanation offered by Ned. He
grinned and wagged his head, as though quite tickled at the idea of the
boy understanding so well what the little game was.

"Zat ees so, sare," he said. "If Jimmy he be able hold out so long,
mebbe we also eat supper far away from zis place."

Hearing his name mentioned, Jimmy was up in arms. He had a reserve stock
of nerve for occasions like this, which could be summoned to the fore.

"Don't bother about Jimmy, please," he told them. "Sure, when it comes
to a pinch, don't he always get there with the goods? My feet can ache
all they want to; but, all the same, they'll do what I say. If it's a
mile or six of the same, I'm good for it. But I wish I had something to
gnaw on meanwhile, because I'm as hungry as a starved wolf, so I am."

Frank produced a handful of crackers from his little pack, which he
willingly turned over to the other. This seemed to satisfy Jimmy; at
least, he stopped groaning and telling of his aches and pains. When they
could get his jaws to working in this fashion, he seldom allowed himself
to enter any complaint. Jimmy could be bribed to do a good many things
by the promise of a feast at the other end.

They continued on for some little time, and then it became apparent that
Francois and the Cree had decided the blind trail had been carried far
enough.

They were seen to confer, after which the leader stepped upon a long log
that lay conveniently near by. Walking part way along this, the Indian
suddenly leaped upon a bare rock, stepped its length, found another log,
passed along it and so continued, leaving not the slightest trace of a
trail that could be followed, unless dogs were placed upon the scent.

"You go next, Jack," urged Ned, who wished to satisfy himself that all
of the scouts were able to qualify in this round of concealing the
trail; though they had practiced it many a time when in camp.

Jack had observed every move of the agile old Indian, so that once he
started over the same course he made short work of it.

"Teddy, you're next!" the scout leader announced.

Possibly it was with more or less trepidation that the one singled out
began to cover the ground. But then Teddy was not a tenderfoot, even if
he did not know as much as some of the others about woodcraft. He walked
along the log, made the jump successfully, though falling flat on his
face when he gained the rock; managed to gain the second tree trunk, and
conducted himself so cleverly on the whole that Ned gave him a wave of
approval after he had joined the others some distance away.

Frank and Jimmy copied the actions of those who had gone before, and so
far as could be seen they did not leave any trace of their passage,
though, of course, the old voyageur would look out for all that when he
came to cross, and examine the ground carefully in so doing.

Ned found no difficulty in following the rest, and then they stood on a
stone foundation, watching with considerable interest, while Francois
scrutinized the track to make sure they had not left some sort of
footprint, or disturbed any object, however small, that might catch a
trained eye and betray their little game to the enemy.

As far as possible for some little time, they were instructed to take
advantage of every opportunity that cropped up to advance, without
leaving tell-tale imprints behind them. That is the measure of success
in "blinding a trail," and if anybody ever had it down to a science,
surely a Cree Indian might be expected to. Still there was no telling
what might happen. Discovery was always in the air, and they must be
forever on their guard against it.

Jimmy did seem to revive under the influence of his little bite, for he
kept resolutely on, with set jaws and a look of grim determination
written large upon his freckled and rosy face.

They were heading straight toward salt water now, all of them knew;
because stars had crept into view, and these boys had long since learned
to tell direction, by means of the lights in the sky, by day or night.
The Polar Star shone dimly, as always, nearly directly ahead of them.
Other stars they could see, such as are never gazed upon by people
living in the temperate climes, constellations peculiar to the northern
region of ice and snow.

"Eet is here we rest and eat!" announced Francois, after a long and
arduous siege of this tramping and stumbling had been endured.

Jimmy wanted very much to make out that it was a matter of small
importance to him whether they stopped or continued right on; but
nevertheless he could not keep back the happy sigh that would well
forth; and they could hear him champing his jaws, as though trying to
learn whether they were still in condition for service, because that one
word "eat" had told him they expected to break their fast. Shortly
afterwards they were making themselves as comfortable as possible,
though destitute of blankets and many other things; while the two guides
started a little cooking fire in a depression where it could not be seen
thirty feet away.



CHAPTER XV.

THE BRUSH SHELTER.


"After all, this isn't so bad!" Teddy was saying, after they had got the
supper started, and most of them were lying around in comfortable
attitudes, enjoying the cheery conditions, for the air was a bit cool,
and even the warmth of the small cooking fire felt good.

"It might be worse," admitted Jimmy, sniffing the fragrant air, as a war
horse might the pungent powder-smoke of battle--Jimmy was always ready
for the fray in the line of disposing of surplus "grub."

They did not have a very extensive meal. The conditions hardly warranted
their trying to put on any "style," as Jimmy called it. So as appetites
were appeased, and the food tasted good, nobody was apt to complain.
Indeed, these fellows had been through so much in times gone by that
they knew how to make the most of a bad bargain, and adapt themselves to
circumstances as they found them.

When a Boy Scout can do that he has achieved the best that any one could
expect of him, for he has conquered himself, always the hardest fight of
all.

Presently Francois announced that the simple bill-of-fare was ready. It
consisted of hard-tack, coffee, and some caribou meat cooked in regular
camp style. What mattered it if in places the venison was slightly
scorched, or underdone; the wood smoke gave it a flavor all its own, and
there were vigorous appetites on hand to overlook these minor faults.

Quantity appeals to boys more than quality, generally speaking, and
never a single complaint was heard as they munched away.

"Getting off better than we expected, ain't we?" Jimmy observed, with
his mouth so full that his words were fairly mumbled.

"Oh! this is just prime!" Frank declared. "I'm more bothered about not
having my good blanket to snuggle down into than anything else."

"Please don't mention it till we've done eating, anyway," pleaded Teddy.
"Makes a cold chill run up and down my spinal column every time I think
what we've got to face, with tents and blankets all gone."

"Another experience, that's all," remarked Jack, trying to look
cheerful, as if these things should not bother any one worthy of calling
himself a scout.

"Well, we've seen a heap of 'em, all told," was the consoling remark of
Jimmy, "and we're still in the circus ring, right side up with care.
Fact is, it takes an awful lot to knock a scout out, because he's
learned so many ways to dodge, just like a cat does."

"There you go, comparing us to a bunch of tomcats," chuckled Frank.

"I do hope, though," Teddy went on to say, with a sigh, as he
contemplated the little blaze before him, "that later on we'll be able
to have jolly camp fires every night. There is a chance of that
happening, ain't there, Ned?"

"Why, I should hope so, Teddy," replied the other; "I'd hate to think
that we'd have to stand for this sort of thing long. As soon as it looks
like we've dropped that crowd, I don't see any reason why we shouldn't
have all the fire we want, so long as we don't start the bush to
burning. And as every scout knows how to get sparks from flint and
steel, not to mention other ways of doing the same, why, we needn't
bother ourselves about matches."

In this way they chatted in low tones, and their spirits were kept from
drooping. Association does considerable toward making boys, or men, see
the bright lining to the cloud. It is like rubbing metal fragments
together in a turning cylinder, with the result that every separate
piece receives more or less of a luster from the constant friction. So
difficulties brighten the minds of scouts who know enough to take
advantage of their opportunities.

All sorts of suggestions were being made from time to time, looking to
the betterment of their conditions. Some of these did not seem
practical, and were immediately dropped. Others deserved more careful
consideration, and, in these cases, the boys gave each other the benefit
of their opinions.

During the course of this talk, Jack brought up the subject of bettering
their sleeping quarters.

"As we don't expect to keep this little fire going through the whole
night," he told them, "and so won't get the benefit of its warmth,
what's to hinder out looking around to find a place where the brush is
thick enough to let us stack up a woods' shelter?"

"A good idea, Jack!" was the comment of the patrol leader.

"It would shelter us from the night breeze, anyway," Teddy observed.

"And, say, I think I can put you on to the very place," Jimmy
unexpectedly announced; which remark, so unlike Jimmy, caused the others
to "sit up and take notice," under the impression that their comrade
must certainly be waking up to the occasion.

"Show me!" said Frank, scrambling to his feet; "because I'm getting
sleepy right now, sitting here so close to the fire; and, according to
my mind, we can't fix up our beds any too soon."

"Oh! how can we talk about beds, when we haven't got any blankets?"
wailed Teddy.

"Like as not, we'll find some hemlock trees around, for they grow away
up here, we know," Jack argued. "And by laying close to each other we'll
manage to keep half-way warm, let's hope."

Teddy began to laugh softly to himself.

"What ails you now?" demanded Jimmy; "because it strikes me the prospect
ain't so very cheerful as to make a feller laugh."

"Oh! excuse me," replied Teddy, "but I just happened to think how funny
it would seem for the whole five of us to be lying like sardines in a
box, every fellow's knees doubled up, and stuck in the back of the
next one. Then, whenever one got tired of lying on his right side,
he'd call out 'turn!' and the whole line would have to wiggle around, so
as to flop over on their left sides."

"Just about what we'll have to do," Jack assured him.

"And you won't think it so very funny either after a while," said Frank.

Jimmy led them back a little way, and sure enough they found just the
conditions they required for making a bough and brush shelter. Ned
immediately told the observant one that he had done well to notice the
conditions, with an eye to future possibilities.

"While we're at it," Ned continued, "perhaps we'd better make as
rain-proof a shelter as we can."

"Gee whiz! I hope you don't think it's going to come down on us
to-night, and me with my raincoat which was left in the canoe?" Teddy
exclaimed.

"Feels sort of damp to me," Frank admitted.

"Let's hope for the best," added Jack. "But I think that what Ned said
would be the proper caper for us. And now get busy, everybody. Show what
you know about constructing a bough shelter, for if ever we needed one,
it's right now."

They worked like a pack of beavers. Indeed, Jimmy declared that it
seemed like a shame they all belonged to two patrols known as the Wolf
and Black Bear, when they were such an industrious lot, and deserved
better totems.

The guides also entered into the spirit of the thing, though apparently
more careless or indifferent about their comfort than the boys. Still,
they appreciated the prospect of having a shelter, in case of a heavy
downpour, and added their contributions towards making it a worth-while
affair.

When, finally, it was pronounced finished, all of them were of the
opinion that it did their knowledge of woodcraft credit.

"Show me the scouts who could have done a better job, under the same
conditions, will you?" demanded Frank, proudly.

"They would be hard to find!" declared Ned.

"Next thing is to hustle and find some sort of browse to make beds out
of," Jack told them, "and the thicker it is for a mattress the better,
because it causes a certain amount of warmth, and keeps the dampness of
the ground off."

"Yes, and if there happen to be a few old roots sticking up under you,
they don't hurt," added Jimmy, who had been through the experience he
described many times in the past, and ought to know the inconvenience
resulting from it.

When five lively fellows get busy, they can gather quite a quantity of
browse, in case the right sort of trees are handy; and before long Frank
threw himself down on the mattress, with a grunt of satisfaction.

"How does she go?" asked Teddy, solicitously.

"Bunkum," came the answer, accompanied with a mighty yawn; "try it for
yourself."

"Guess I will, Frank," and Teddy accordingly stretched himself out at
full length, alongside the other scout.

So they all found a place, and there was room enough also for the
guides. These worthies insisted upon taking the outermost nooks. The
voyageur explained that they might want to be up several times before
dawn, to look around and make sure that all was well; nor could the
scouts find any objection to this programme, since it was intended to
add to their comfort and security.

If they had not all been so very drowsy, possibly the boys might have
found considerable difficulty in forgetting themselves, under such
unusual conditions; but as a rule, the average boy can sleep under
abnormal surroundings that would keep an older person awake all night;
for trouble sets lightly on their minds, fortunately enough.

Ned was the only one who knew how Francois and the Cree had agreed
between themselves to keep "watch and watch" throughout the whole night.
After the scouts had apparently managed to get to sleep, the voyageur
silently arose, and removing to a little distance, placed his back
against a tree. There he sat, like a dim statue as time crept on, his
rifle on his knees, and doubtless all his senses constantly on the alert
for signs that would indicate the coming of the enemy.

When, according to his way of thinking, he had stood watch for half of
the night, Francois crept around to the other end of the shelter, and
touched the form of the old Cree. Not a single word was exchanged
between them, but Tamasjo, crawling out, took the other's place, as
though it were a part of his business to sit up nights.

What if there was no alarm, the boys enjoyed better security while they
slept, and secured more energy for the following day's work. Men do not
always anticipate trouble when they place a guard over the camp; but, in
case it does come, there is always the consciousness of having taken all
needful precautions. It is on the same principle that a wise man insures
his house, though never believing that a fire is going to visit him. He
wants to make sure, that is all.

Had some of the scouts been on post during that night, they might have
experienced several little alarms, through noises they would hear, which
were strange to their ears. Not so the guides, who had spent all their
lives amidst these Northern scenes, so that every minute denizen of the
woods was as familiar to them as the game of baseball might be to Jimmy,
versed, as he was, in all its fine points.

To them the various fretful voices of the little animals, who doubtless
wondered what business these two-legged pilgrims had stopping on their
preserves, were to be looked on as only a means of safety. So long as
they continued to hear them near by, they knew that all was well. A
sudden silence would have made either one of the guides suspicious,
because these sharp-eared rodents could catch the movement of creeping
men much sooner than any biped was capable of doing; and hence, a
cessation of their complaining would indicate danger to the sleeping
camp.

When Jimmy opened his eyes he saw that the morning had come. It did not
look as cheerful as he would have liked, for the sky was threatening,
and what seemed like a cold fog was stealing through the woods, drifting
in probably from the great salty bay, so near at hand.

Of course, the waking of one was the signal for the entire five to be
stirring. Indeed, once they opened their eyes, the boys were only too
glad to creep out from their shelter and stretch their cramped limbs.

"It didn't rain, after all," Jimmy remarked; and there was something of
a grievance in his tone, as though he rather begrudged going to all that
useless labor for nothing.

"Well, if we'd known as much last night as we do now," commented Jack,
"perhaps we wouldn't have bothered about this shelter. I often wonder
what a lot of things some fellows would shirk if their foresight was as
good as their hindsight."

"For one thing," spoke up Teddy, briskly, "we'd be having our bully
canoes and blankets, and tents, and all that raft of grub right now,
instead of having to do without it."

"That's so, we would," Jimmy echoed, making a comical face. "And let me
tell you fellers, after this I'm going to devote a lot of time tryin'
to see into the future. My father was a seventh son, and they say that
makes a weather-sharp. I've tried it a few times, and hit the truth once
out of three."

"I'd call that a poor percentage," Teddy sneered. "Why, any
happy-go-lucky guess ought to strike it half the time, anyway."

"Do we eat again this morning, or is it a case of saving the grub?"
Jimmy asked, turning to Ned.

"It's too early yet to go on half-rations," the patrol leader assured
him. "What we're going to come to after a little is another question. So
let's get busy and have a cooking fire started."

Jimmy hastened to be the one to attend to this. Truth to tell, he was
shivering in the raw morning air, and wanted heat almost as much as hot
food, in order to make himself feel comfortable.

"No changes in our plans overnight, are there, Ned?" inquired Jack, as
they hovered around the blaze after it had been started, each fellow
apparently anxious to have a hand in the simple preparation of
breakfast, though really wanting to warm his hands.

"No," came the reply, "we'll keep straight on, and reach the bay before
changing our course. Then we'll have to head to the west, and do what we
can to reach the nearest trading post, unless we have the good luck to
strike some sealer or whaling vessel that will take us aboard."



CHAPTER XVI.

THE SEA FOG.


"I wonder if we'll see anything of that mystery of Hudson Bay?" Teddy
chanced to remark, while they were eating later on.

"'Tis me that cares mighty little whether we do or not," Jimmy admitted,
which change of tone caused the other to turn upon him and say:

"What's all this mean, Jimmy? A little while back you were telling us
that you sure hoped we'd run up against a mystery, because we've always
been so lucky in solving such things in the days gone by. Now you seem
to have changed your song."

"Lots of things have changed since you heard me pipe up that way,"
suggested Jimmy, as he poured himself another cup of coffee, which was
taken black, since they had no milk, all of the condensed kind having
gone with the canoes.

"But don't you feel anxious about that queer, disappearing fleet?"
demanded Teddy.

"I'm a heap sight more concerned right now about the disappearing grub,"
he was informed. "The shape we're putting it away tells how soon it'll
be down to the last crumb. If we keep on as we're doing, I figure we've
got just enough for, say two more days. Then it's going to be a case of
hustle, or go hungry."

"Oh! with our bully guns, and such clever shots along, we'll get all the
meat we want, I shouldn't wonder. Coffee we'll have to do without;
likewise, lots of other good things. But we won't starve, Jimmy."

"As an explorer, Teddy, I reckon you've read that often Dr. Kane and his
Arctic expedition had to cut up their deerskin boots, and make soup out
of the same. S'pose'n we had to come to that now, how'd you like it?"
and Jimmy chuckled, as he saw the other shudder.

The meal ended, and the small fire was extinguished, for these scouts
had long ago learned never under any circumstances to leave a
smouldering fire when breaking camp. They knew only too well that often
a sudden wind arising has carried live coals from such into the dead
leaves near by, and started most disastrous conflagrations.

"One good thing about this hike is that we go light," Ned told them, as
they began to gather their few belongings together.

"Nothing like seeing the silver lining to the cloud," added Jack;
"though, if it was put to a vote right now, I rather think every scout
would agree to tote even a tent on his back, if we could in that way get
our belongings again."

"Just try me, that's what," said Jimmy. "All that fine grub wasted on a
measly lot of half-breeds, who can't appreciate a jar of orange
marmalade any more'n they can olives or imported cheese. But then
there's no use crying over spilt milk, and it might have been worse."

"Yes, think of what a pickle we'd be in right now, if they'd managed to
hook our guns as well as the boats and blankets?" suggested Teddy. "We'd
just have to throw up our hands and surrender, then, I suppose."

"Not till we'd tried everything we could think up to beat them at their
game," was Frank's way of showing his determined nature.

Of course, once they had finished eating, there was really nothing to
keep them there; and as they had no tents to take down, or dunnage to
pack, it was an easy task to get started.

Francois led them straight into the south. They felt sure that they must
arrive on the shore of the bay before a great while, for there was a
decided salty tang to the air that greeted them, very gratifying to boys
who had been brought up near the ocean, as these scouts had.

So far nothing had been seen or heard of the miners, whom they looked
upon as their enemies. At the same time, the boys believed that the
others must be diligently searching for them, and should they happen to
come across their trail, a warm pursuit must follow.

In consequence of this fact, they were advised by Ned to keep on the
alert.

"Let every fellow have his eyes open to discover suspicious movements,"
he told them, "and report the same to me without a second's delay.
There's no telling how serious it might turn out to be. But, Jimmy,
don't fancy every frisky squirrel or curious old coon, if you glimpse
any, is a spy hiding behind a tree, and ready to let loose on us with
his battery."

"You'll find that when I sound the alarm, it's going to mean business,"
Jimmy retorted, drawing himself up proudly.

It was hard to entirely crush their boyish spirits, and while the future
did not look so very bright, still they felt that they had accomplished
the main object that had drawn the expedition to these parts, and could
not complain. So every now and then some half-humorous remark would be
made calculated to draw out an answer. Thus, in a measure their troubles
were forgotten, though no one ventured to troll a ditty, as might have
been the case under ordinary conditions.

The character of the country was changing again, and from what they had
noticed on the former occasion, they knew that they must be drawing near
the water.

There was no air stirring to blow away the damp fog wave that grew more
and more dense as they advanced.

"If it rains down on us here we'll just have to grin and bear it," Jimmy
was saying, as he tripped along beside the other scouts.

"No hollow trees to crawl in, because none of these would be nearly big
enough, even if we found one that was partly rotten," added Teddy.

"Make up your minds that it isn't going to rain any until the wind comes
up and drives this mist away," Jack informed them, and as he claimed to
be something of a weather prophet they believed him.

"I'm wet, as it is, from the fog," said Frank.

"Listen!" exclaimed Jack, just then.

Jimmy started to turn his head around so fast that it seemed in danger
of coming loose.

"Where, what, why, how?" he spluttered, as he half-raised his rifle, as
though taking the alarm.

"Oh! I only meant that I could get the lazy wash of the water rolling up
on the sandy beach," replied Jack, grinning to see how his innocent
exclamation had excited Jimmy.

"Next time," mumbled the other, "I'd thank you to tell what you mean
right away. It would save a poor feller from havin' palpitation of the
heart, which they tell me is bad for the appetite."

"Then let's all get it, Jimmy," chuckled Frank, "because no appetite
means that we wouldn't have to bother looking up new supplies of grub.
But that is the sea you hear running up on the shore, Jack, which shows
how close we are to the bay."

A minute later and they could see signs of the salt water, though the
fog was so dense that it was impossible to look out further than a dozen
or two yards.

"I suppose that happens quite a lot of times up here?" remarked Jack, as
they stood on the bank and stared out into that sea of mist, which hid
everything as with a blanket.

"They have fogs along off the coast of New Foundland, where the cod
banks lie," Ned observed, "which comes from the fact that the cold
currents of air from the Arctic meet with the warm Gulf Stream there, as
it turns and heads toward Europe. That makes the fog, you know; but I
never ran across a thicker one than this."

"Huh! looks like pea soup to me," suggested Teddy.

"Well, pea soup is a mighty fine dish, don't you forget it," retorted
Jimmy, "and if I could get a bucket of the same as easy as I can this
old fog, I wouldn't be doin' any kicking, believe me, boys."

"You said we must turn to the left, didn't you, Ned?" inquired Frank,
who did not see the sense of wasting any time in standing there and
staring into that impenetrable sea of gray fog.

"That would seem to be our best and only course," was the reply. "In the
first place, it will save our crossing the mouth of the Harricanaw,
and, as we have no boat, that counts for something. Then, from what I
can see on my chart, by crossing one small river, called the Masakany,
we ought to reach a place called Moose Factory. I don't know positively,
but I've reasons to think that we'll find some sort of post there where
we can get help. It's situated on a bay that several other rivers empty
into. I believe that's our one best chance, and that's why I'm taking
it."

"If you say it's so, we believe it, Ned," remarked Jack, with emphasis;
and it was such confidence as this, placed in him by his chums, that had
helped Ned accomplish so many things in the past.

"That mining camp was situated on a creek, wasn't it?" asked Frank.

"Yes, I haven't forgotten that, and I see what you mean, Frank," the
patrol leader assured him; "but it was only a narrow affair, and I
figure on finding a fallen tree trunk that we could throw across to
serve us as a bridge."

"Always a way where there's a will," chanted Teddy, as they once more
started off, with the mist-shrouded bay on their right.

The going was not all that heart could have wished. Lots of obstacles
arose to give them trouble, though as a rule these were of a minor
character, and easily surmounted. In some places the land was inclined
to be marshy, so that they were compelled to go back some distance in
order to get around. Then, again, they found that the ground rose into
rocky elevations, with the bay lapping their bases; and here again the
scouts were put to more or less exertions, in order to keep moving
toward the west.

On one of these elevations they paused for a brief rest. The fog held as
densely as ever, and out there where the great body of salt water lay it
was an utter impossibility to see any distance. A whole armada of
vessels might be anchored, not half a mile from the shore, and no one be
any the wiser for it.

"Is this the real Hudson Bay proper?" asked Frank, while they stood
thus, recovering their breath, after the last climb.

"Well, it's the lower part of it," explained Ned, "and called James Bay.
There are a great many islands to be run across in this section, and
I've heard that seals have rookeries on some of them, if they haven't
all been killed off."

"Well, we've seen seals and Polar bears and the big walrus--all in their
native haunts, haven't we?" remarked Jimmy, turning to Frank, who with
Ned had been on a long jaunt through Arctic ice floes some time before.

"And all of us stand a fair chance to see some more of the same, unless
we get out of this country before the summer ends," Teddy chimed in.

"We'll find a way, all right," Jack told him; for it was always a hard
thing to crush the spirit of the boy who could write such glowing
accounts of trips and things for the readers of his father's big paper.

"Since we've rested up, suppose we make a fresh start," proposed Ned.

"We ought to soon come to where we followed that creek up and reached
the tent colony about the mine opening," Jack was saying, as they
started walking again.

"Unless I'm mighty much mistaken," Ned remarked, "we'll run across the
same when we get to the bottom of this rise. I think I remember seeing
this place before as we came along."

It turned out that Ned was right, for ere much more time had passed, the
little expedition stood on the bank of the creek.

"Broader than you thought, ain't it, Ned?" questioned Frank, as he eyed
the stretch of water dubiously.

"Oh! we wouldn't expect to bridge it over here," was the answer the
patrol leader made. "By following it up for a little ways, we'll find
that it narrows considerably; and that's where we want to look sharp for
a log that'll come in handy."

"Yes, I remember now that it wasn't over ten or twenty feet across at
most, where we struck it last time," Teddy piped up, for he was keeping
an accurate account of all that occurred, and hence had the figures down
pat.

As soon as they found that the creek bed had come down to respectable
proportions, the scouts began to scurry around, hunting for a fallen
tree that might be made to answer for a bridge. This was soon found and
carried to the spot selected, as the most suitable for their purpose.

There was only one way in which they could drop the bridge over and find
an anchorage on the other shore. This was by raising it to a
perpendicular position on the near bank and, then giving it a shove,
have it fall on the other.

It required the combined strength of the scouts, backed up by the more
powerful guides, to accomplish this feat in bridge building. Ned had
figured to a fraction, it seemed, for when the log fell it rested at
least a foot on either bank.

After that it was easy for them to cross over, though Teddy had to get
down and crawl, he being addicted to dizzy spells when at any height,
and not in the humor for taking a dip in the cold water of the creek.

The boys were for starting on immediately; first of all, Ned had them
shove the friendly log from its mooring ashore, so that it floated on
the surface of the creek.

"You see," he went on to explain, "if any of those men happened along
here and saw that bridge spanning the creek, they'd know we'd come this
way. Now that we've thrown it into the water, it will float off and
never give us away, anyhow."

They began to make more satisfactory progress after getting on the
western side of the creek. All of them felt much encouraged though the
morning remained dull and heavy, and there was always a chance that it
might begin to rain.

Many times did they turn curious glances toward the mist-covered bay, as
though speculating on what mysteries that fog might conceal.

As a rule it was seldom Teddy who made any discovery; but on this
occasion the credit belonged to him. He suddenly drew the attention of
the rest to something strange that had attracted his attention.

"I may be off my base, fellows," was the way he put it, "but I'm sure I
heard people talking right then. And it came from out there, too, sure
it did," with which he pointed straight toward the bay.

Jimmy might have laughed at such a suggestion, but before he could think
to do anything like this, all of them plainly heard a human voice well
up from the fog.



CHAPTER XVII.

ON BOARD THE WRECK.


Everybody could hear the sounds now. The conditions must have been
favorable for carrying a human voice far over the water, because fog is
a good conductor of sound.

Men were talking apparently, though the rumble of their voices alone
came over the surface of the water, and no actual words could be
distinguished.

"What's that other noise?" asked Teddy, as though puzzled.

"Must be oars working in the rowlocks," suggested Jack.

"Of course," declared the explorer, "how foolish of me to ask such a
silly question. But seems I don't get the give-away sounds as clear as I
did a minute or so ago."

"Good reason then," Frank told him; "because the boat they're rowing is
heading out on to the bay."

"Then you think there must be some sort of vessel there, do you, Frank?"
asked Teddy, eagerly, as he tried in vain to penetrate the blanket of
mist.

"I reckon there might be," replied Frank, "though, of course, we can't
see anything of the same right now. That rowboat wouldn't be setting out
into the big sheet of water, unless heading for a vessel."

"Could it have anything to do with that wonderful fleet that is always
on the move, coming and going, according to the weather? How about that,
Ned?" demanded Teddy.

Ned shook his head, to indicate that he did not know. There were some
things calculated to spring up from time to time, which, as leader of
the Wolf Patrol, he did not claim to know. This was one of them.

Fainter grew the rumble of voices belonging to the unseen sailors; and
the click-clack of oars working in the rowlocks also began to die away.

Francois had listened with the rest. Being only an ignorant voyageur,
with very little knowledge save along his chosen lines, of course the
French Canadian was apt to have more or less superstition in his system.
It was a heritage he had imbibed with his mother's milk.

Francois had heard more or less about this weird, disappearing fleet of
vessels that, for some time now, had been acting so mysteriously along
the coast of the big bay. Like most of his class, he believed that they
were unreal, and possibly but the ghosts of brave vessels that in years
gone by may have ploughed the green waters of Hudson Bay.

Although he said little or nothing on the subject, Francois did
considerable thinking along those lines. He cast frequent uneasy looks
away out through the mist, as though fearful lest he suddenly come face
to face with some terrible mystery.

To him those voices were anything but natural. Possibly, he even
pictured some ghostly figures sitting in a phantom boat, and speeding
over the surface of the historical sheet of water, about which so much
that is remarkable has been written, and, also, handed down from father
to son, among the rangers and caribou hunters of the Canadian bush.

It had died away completely by now. To the scouts, this simply signified
that the men in the boat had probably drawn so far away from the shore
that their voices no longer carried across the water as before; but to
Francois it meant that the phantoms had chosen to withdraw, it might be
sinking beneath the surface of the bay.

After this little adventure the boys fell to thinking again about the
stories they had heard about the fleet that seemed to continually hover
along the shore of Hudson Bay, now appearing, and then vanishing in the
most remarkable manner.

Just because Ned did not seem fit to announce that they would come to a
halt and endeavor to get in communication with the vessel, to which the
men in the rowboat undoubtedly belonged, Teddy and Jimmy jumped to the
conclusion that he, too, must be uneasy about the character of that
ship.

The truth of the matter was that Ned had begun to notice certain signs
going to tell him there was soon about to come a change in the
conditions of the weather. He felt a slight puff of air on his cheek,
and coming from the south at that. It was only a breath, but straws show
which way the wind blows, they say; and when the next puff marked a
slight increase, Ned knew what would happen before a great while.

Once the wind did rise, and the fog would be blown out to sea, so that
in all probability they would be able to discover what manner of vessel
it was that had sent a boat ashore, for some purpose or other.

But Ned knew that when this came to pass, the rain would also start in.
It was his hope to discover some sort of retreat as they went along,
such as might serve them as a shelter against the storm.

Once, when a gun was fired at some little distance away and further in
shore, Jimmy ducked his head in a ludicrous fashion.

"Whee! that nearly got me!" he remarked, looking a little uneasy.

The others stared at him in bewilderment; but Ned quickly took him in
hand.

"See here, Jimmy, are you saying that just to make us think you had a
narrow escape, or did a bullet really swing past you?" he demanded.

The freckled-faced boy looked a little confused. When Ned took him to
task, in this way, Jimmy could never hold out. He would first of all
hedge, and then, if the accusation continued, his next step would be to
throw out the white flag of complete surrender.

"Why, you see, I thought I sure heard the whine of something like a
bullet, when I took the count," he started in to say.

"But was it a bullet passing that you heard?" persisted the patrol
leader, who knew that this was the only sure way to pin Jimmy down to
facts.

"Well, er, since you put it to me that way, Ned, I guess, after all it
must have been imagination. You see my brain was filled with all sorts
of stuff, and when that gun went bang! it struck me I was being fired
at, so I ducked and something went 'sh! 'sh! just then, so's to make me
get mixed up for a minute, and think it was flying lead. I know now it
was one of them little snipe zipping past. They fooled me a few times a
while ago, too."

"I knew that it must be a mistake," said Ned, "for a very good reason.
You noticed that shot was a long ways off, perhaps as far as a quarter
of a mile. Well, how in all creation could the shooter see us down here,
when we can't glimpse a solitary thing sixty yards off? It was some
hunter, more than likely, getting meat for the mining camp."

"Another narrow squeak for you, Jimmy," remarked Teddy, with a touch of
fine scorn in his voice. "Everything seems to be coming your way
nowadays."

"Huh! then let's hope those canoes and blankets and grub will follow
suit; for it'd sure tickle me to be able to restore the same to the
right owners. I keep on hopin' that Ned here won't think of leavin' this
neck of the woods without makin' a real des'prate effort to recover what
we lost."

Ned did not take the bait, and proclaim what his intentions might be;
though it went without saying that he would have been just as glad to
see their stolen property returned as the next one.

"If that 'coon' happened to come down to the bay along here, wouldn't he
run across our trail?" asked Frank.

"Perhaps so," Ned replied, "but we have to take our chances there. You
see we couldn't waste the time to try and hide it all the while. Let's
hope that if he does come on our tracks, he'll think they've been made
by some of his friends up at the camp."

"All the same," advised Jimmy, "I'm going to keep my eye peeled for any
sign of the chappie. After doing the great stunts we have already, it'd
be a shame to have our plans knocked galley-west through a blunder, or
an accident."

"No shooting at anything you happen to think must be a man aiming a
gun," was what the leader told Jimmie; for such a thing had really
happened on a former occasion, causing much embarrassment to Jimmy, and
almost breaking up the clever plan of his superior.

"Wish I may die if I do," mumbled the other, always ready to give all
the assurance desired, even though unable to sustain the position thus
taken.

The forward progress was resumed. No more shots floated to their ears,
which was pretty good evidence that none were fired; because that south
wind, constantly rising, must surely have carried the sounds to their
ears.

"The dickens!" exclaimed Jack, presently.

"Ha! you felt it too, did you?" observed Teddy. "When I went to look up
to see how the fog was lifting, a drop hit me square in the eye, but I
waited to see if anybody else caught on."

"It's begun to rain, for a fact!" exclaimed Frank, dejectedly.

"And say, look where we are, would you?" Jimmy added. "Down on the flat
shore, with only a growth of stunted oaks growing above us. Wherever
d'ye believe we'll be able to find a sign of shelter, I'd like to know?"

"In for a ducking, boys, looks like," said Teddy. "And the worst of it
is, you always feel so terribly cold when your clothes stick to your
back. We'll just have to take chances, and make a heaping fire. Who
cares if those men do see it, and come sneaking around? What've we
carried guns up here for, if we can't defend ourselves in a pinch? Seems
to me, I'd rather get in a hot box with that crowd, than shake to pieces
with a chill. I had pneumonia once, and don't hanker after trying it
again, if I know it."

Still Ned said not a word, only increased his pace, if such a thing were
possible. The others came trailing along after him, almost out of breath
with trying to talk, and at the same time keep pace with their leader.

There was no longer any doubt but that the rain was starting in. The
breeze had increased imperceptibly, so that it was now blowing quite
stiffly. Looking out over the water, they found that the fog was quickly
thinning out. Already could they see several times as far as before, and
the distance was widening constantly.

"There is a vessel out there!" cried Teddy. "I saw her as plain as your
hat just then, when the fog lifted a little. Watch over there, and see.
How's that, Ned? Was I right?"

"She's there, without a question, Teddy, and I give you credit for
having sharper eyes than anybody believed," the patrol leader told him,
only too well pleased to find an opportunity to compliment the explorer.

"What kind of a vessel would you call her, Ned?" asked Jimmy; while
Francois stood and stared and listened, still believing that the boat
must be a phantom, such as was likely to vanish before their very eyes,
as might a wisp of trailing fog.

"I've seen whalers and sealers built like her," was the verdict of the
leader.

The fog was being carried away more rapidly now, and the boys soon made
another discovery that interested them. This was nothing more nor less
than the fact that a second, yes, a third and even a fourth vessel of
apparently the same tonnage lay at anchor further away, possibly a
couple of miles from shore.

"Take a good look while you can, fellows," Ned told them "because I
reckon that the wonderful disappearing fleet is before you right now. We
can say we've set eyes on the mystery of Hudson Bay, even if we never
learn what the answer is."

They all stared as hard as they could.

Meanwhile, Ned had unslung his glasses and was adjusting them to his
eyes. There was enough of the fog still floating around to make seeing
something of a labor; so that he did not get much satisfaction from the
observation taken.

"I can see men aboard of all the vessels," he announced; "and there is a
boat being taken up on the davits of the nearest craft, which must have
been ashore in the fog, for some reason or other."

"Why can't we signal to them to come in and take us off?" asked Teddy,
struck with a brilliant idea.

"There's the answer," replied Ned, when all of the vessels making up the
anchored fleet vanished utterly from view, as another bank of fog crept
up.

He turned and swept the shore beyond with the glasses.

"Just what we want," they heard him say; and looking in the quarter that
had chained his attention they discovered some dark object half-hidden
in the wisps of blowing mist.

"What is it, Ned; a fishing shanty, a stranded whale, or what?" demanded
Teddy.

At that Jimmy laughed in scorn.

"You must think you're down on the Jamaica marshes near Brooklyn, where
they do happen to have fishing shanties. Bet you now that's an old
wreck!" he exclaimed.

"Just what it is," admitted Ned, as he led them along the shore. "Some
whaler or sealer has gone ashore a while back. Perhaps she was crushed
by the ice, and carried up on the land when the spring break-up came.
But there's a chance we may be able to find some sort of shelter from
this rain that's coming down on us."

"Hurry up, then," said Teddy, "and we may be able to save our jackets
yet. I don't want to get soaked, unless I have to."

"I'd like to know who does?" asked Jimmy; "though for the matter of
that, none of us are made of salt. And with a camp hatchet, I reckon now
we'll be able to chop away enough wood aboard the wreck to have a decent
fire going."

"If there's going to be any sort of storm, you don't think we'll be in
danger of getting carried out to sea, do you, Ned?" questioned Teddy.
"Not that I'd object to a cruise through this five-hundred-mile bay, the
biggest thing of its kind in all the world; but I'd want to have
something sound under me, and not a wreck of a boat, ready to sink any
old time."

"Don't waste so much breath talking, but hurry!" advised Jack.

At that they put on an additional spurt, and drew closer to the wreck,
which was half out of the water. Reaching the stern, part way up the
beach, the boys found that a break allowed them an easy chance to climb
aboard; and with hope beating high in their breasts, they hastened to
clamber up the rough passage, glad of the opportunity to find possible
shelter from the coming rain.



CHAPTER XVIII.

AFTER THE STORM.


"Sure she's deserted, are you?" asked the cautious Teddy, as he followed
the other members of the little party aboard, the old Cree Indian guide
bringing up the rear.

"Not a sign of any living thing here," came the answer, as Ned peered
about.

"Sometimes, I understand, that you can run across all sorts of horrible
sights on one of these same wrecks," continued Teddy. "Sailors get
drowned, you know, down in the hold or in the forecastle. I hope we
don't discover anything like that now. I never did fancy sights as
ghastly as that."

"And I don't think you need bother your head about it," Ned told him,
"because, in the first place, this wreck has been here quite some time;
and, then again, you can see that wreckers have been aboard and stripped
nearly all the iron and brass and copper out, because it was valuable.
Perhaps there may be some Esquimaux living along the shore of Hudson
Bay; or else it was the men up at the mine who did it. What we want to
do is to find out what state the cabin happens to be in. A dry roof
would be about the best we could ask to-day."

They made a rush toward the stairs that led down, which in most vessels
would be known as the companionway. A shout went up as they looked into
the cabin. It was almost destitute of anything that might serve as a
comfort, but a broken stove gave promise of a fire, with all the delight
that this carried in its train.

"We bunk here, all right," said Frank, as soon as he had sighted that
stove; it was really a sorry object, but then everything depends on the
conditions surrounding one when rendering judgment--at home, they would
have never given such a dilapidated thing house room; but shipwrecked
mariners are not likely to be critical, and that broken stove was still
capable of carrying fire.

"Get busy with your hatchets, those who have them, and lay in a supply
of wood for burning," Jack called out, suiting his own actions to the
words, and beginning to chop away vigorously.

"I don't suppose it matters a cent where you bang," remarked Jimmy,
following the example set by the other scout; "and if we stay here long
enough, we might burn up the whole bally ship. All she's good for,
anyhow, to give a bunch of fellers that have lost their blankets a lift
in a rain storm. Whack away, boys; nobody ain't goin' to say a word
what you do, only cut wood."

"We didn't get in here any too soon," Frank told them; and upon
listening they could hear the rain falling heavily on the broken deck of
the derelict.

When one is securely sheltered that sound never strikes awe to the soul;
in fact, it seems almost a merry tune, like that played upon the attic
roof, in the good old days when you visited grandpa out on the farm, and
could lie in bed, feeling glad you were not out in that downpour.

"Let her rain all she wants to," said Teddy; "it can't hurt us, because
I don't think any kind of a downpour would raise the whole bay enough to
float us off this sandy beach."

The others laughed at his remark. Teddy was so ready to conjure up
troubles that never could have any real excuse for existing.

"What I'm provoked about," Jack ventured, "is that we didn't get a
chance to signal to that nearest vessel before the fog cut her out
again. But let's hope they'll hang around somewhere till the rain's
over, and we can let them know the fix we're in."

"Huh! s'pose they don't know anything about wigwagging with the flags?"
Jimmy put in. "Vessels have a way of talking across miles of water, but
then their code is a whole lot different from the one scouts use ashore.
We might be able to let 'em know we wanted some help, and would pay
well for it. Money talks when a lot of other things are like mud."

Willing hands made light work, and a fire was soon burning in the old
remnant of a stove that had once done duty in the midst of ice-packs,
when the wreck was a gallant vessel in search of oil or, perhaps,
sealskins.

After all, they had little reason to complain. The rain pattered on the
deck, and, in a few places, leaked through; but there was plenty of dry
space, so that none of the boys need get sprinkled. As for fuel, they
had abundance of it, so long as their camp hatchets kept an edge, and
their muscles held out for service.

"Not so bad, is it, Jimmy?" Teddy wanted to know, as they tried to make
themselves as comfortable as possible, by hunting up all sorts of things
capable of being turned into rough seats.

Of course, these were of no value whatever, for in frequent raids on the
part of wreckers, whoever they may have been, everything worth taking
had long since been carried away. Indeed, Frank declared he was puzzled
to know why they had overlooked the broken stove; and all of them agreed
it must have been by mistake.

"Well, I should say not," was the reply, on the part of the
freckled-face lad, as he sighed and looked around him. "D'ye know I was
just thinking how happy we could be in this palace if only we had those
lovely blankets along; yes, and all that good stuff to eat. I think I'd
be apt to pick up some weight here, if we had a cinch like that. But now
every meal we enjoy means we're that much closer to the end. Mebbe we'll
have to do what shipwrecked sailors do, draw lots for a sacrifice. I see
my finish, if ever it comes to that, because I always get the wrong end
of the deal or the stick."

"I pity the one who has to take a bite out of such a tough case as you,"
Teddy frankly told him; and somehow Jimmy seemed to consider that he had
been given a bouquet, for he bowed and smiled and looked pleased.

"Tell the rest that," he whispered to Teddy "and I'll be safe."

The rain kept coming down steadily as the hours wore on.

"Tell me about your tropical showers," Jimmy remarked, as noon came and
found no change in the conditions, "right up here on the border of the
Arctic regions, when it takes a notion to rain, it does make up for lost
time. Why, I wouldn't be surprised if it kept the plug out of the rain
barrel for a week now."

"It's bound to make the going worse for us," Frank grumbled.

"Why, all the marshes will be flooded, and we'll have a high old time
trying to navigate through the same. What do you think, Ned?" Teddy
wanted to know.

The patrol leader looked at them, and smiled.

"I think history is repeating itself, and that you fellows are crossing
bridges again before you get to them," he replied.

"Do you mean that there's a chance we won't have to tramp through these
bogs and cross the salt water marshes?" demanded Jimmy.

"Well, we're here right now, and fairly comfortable," Ned told him.
"What will happen next is something none of us can more than guess; but,
as long as some of those vessels keep hovering around out on the bay,
I'll hug a hope that we'll find some way of getting in touch with them."

"Which I take it means you firmly believe they're real, and not Flying
Dutchmen, like they tell about in yarns of the sea?" Jimmy asked.

"I believe what my eyes tell me," answered the other, "and through the
glass I saw men on those vessels, going about their regular daily tasks.
Whatever they may be doing up here in Hudson Bay, take my word for it,
there's nothing of the phantom about that fleet. They have some good
reason for coming and going so mysteriously. Perhaps we'll know what it
is before we get away from here."

Jimmy and Teddy, the pair of doubters, seemed to feel somewhat better
after this little heart-to-heart talk with Ned. The leader of the Wolf
Patrol had a happy faculty for inspiring others with some of his own
confidence, which is one of the finest qualities a scout can possess.

There was a watch being kept to guard against any unexpected happening.
As was to be expected, the two guides took it upon themselves to look
after this part of the business. One of them was on duty at a time, and
it could be so arranged that the sentry did not necessarily have to
expose himself to the inclemency of the weather, in order to stand
guard.

Nothing came to pass, and the long, dreary day gradually neared its end.

"Never knew such a terribly monotonous time in all me life," Jimmy
grumbled; for he would not have been happy unless he could find an
occasional chance to "let off steam," as Teddy called it.

"Well," said Jack, "it's nearly night now, and let me tell you a great
secret."

"Go on!" exclaimed the other, looking interested.

"The rain's stopped!" Jack explained.

"Well, I declare, if that isn't true for you, Jack!" cried Jimmy; "and
to think that after me waiting for hours to be the first to tell the
joyful tidings, I had to get thinking so deeply about our affairs that I
clean forgot all about it. But it may not last. Sometimes there's a
break, and then the old storm comes back again, worse nor ever."

"Clouds zey be break right now, over zere," and Francois, who had just
come in from the sheltered nook where watch was kept, pointed as he
spoke toward the southwest, where the storm had been coming from.

"Oh! if that's the case," added Jimmy, thinking it best to cheer up,
"I'll take back what I said. And let's hope a lot of this water'll soak
away before we have to put our best foot forward again in the morning."

"I suppose we'll have to eat again," remarked Frank.

"Please don't force yourself," Jimmy told him. "It's a bad plan to eat
when you don't feel like it. And, by the same token, your loss will be
our gain."

It was a good thing that the scouts could joke among themselves, even
when facing desperate conditions. They had enough of gloom around them
without allowing it to seize upon their spirits.

By this time their stock of food was getting down to such a low ebb that
there was little choice when it came to preparing a meal. True, Jimmy
would run over a long list of things that appealed especially to his
clamorous appetite; but after all was said and done, it might be
noticed that each meal was very much a repetition of those that had gone
before.

Indeed, even at that, no one would have complained of the sameness of
their food, if only the supply looked more promising.

Jimmy, who helped get supper ready, heaved many a heavy sigh, as he
figured that at this rate the larder would be bare by the next evening.

"And after that, what?" he went around asking every one; but they only
laughed at his fears, and told him to remember that in the past luck
always came their way when the skies looked darkest.

"Something will happen, see if it don't," Frank observed, with a faith
that had solid foundation; because they had just been talking of many
occasions when circumstances had suddenly arisen to bring them a
glorious success.

"And, anyhow, we'll often look back to this hotel on the beach with a
smile," was what Teddy observed, as he turned his head and glanced at
the dilapidated cabin of the wrecked whaling vessel, seen by the fitful
flashes of light from the fire, at which Francois was cooking supper.

"We'll miss the mattress of hemlock browse to-night, I reckon," Ned
hinted, as he looked down at the hard floor of the cabin.

"Look out for lame limbs to-morrow morning, then," Jack chuckled. "I
expect to see a lot of limping cripples start out the first thing.
Sleeping on boards may be better than nothing, but it's little rest I
expect to get."

"I've heard of fellers sleepin' standin' up," Jimmy informed him.
"There's that old veteran, Daddy Spellmire, who tells such yarns about
the old days when he 'fit in the war with Siegel.' He says some of them
were so dead tired that when they were marching they'd press close up
together; and often he's slept while moving his legs in a mechanical
way, held up by his comrades all around."

"We might try that if everything else fails," said Frank.

Supper being ready they started in and enjoyed it. Boys are not prone to
worry very much about the future. The present is enough in their
estimation to look after. What might happen was for them to handle when
it came to pass; only Jimmy, at times, liked to grumble and complain
that he was not getting a square deal.

When they had finished eating, it was night. Though stars had peeped out
here and there, it still looked somewhat gloomy, even if the mist was
clearing away to seaward. The breeze had shifted around, so that with
the incoming tide the waves ran far up on the beach now, and there was
considerable of a roar in the air as these curled over and broke upon
reaching shallow places.

Time was beginning to hang heavy on the hands of the five scouts. They
missed the delightful surroundings which they had enjoyed while camping
each night, during the time they were moving northward in the canoes. It
was so different here in this dingy old cabin, when they would have
enjoyed seeing the trees waving above their heads, and felt the
springing turf underneath their bodies, as the time came to seek their
blankets under the shelter of the khaki-colored waterproof tents, now
alas, gone no doubt forever.

Frank, seeing that his chums were not feeling in a very merry mood as
they tried to settle down as comfortably as they could, wandered outside
to the sloping deck to talk with Francois, who had taken the Indian
guide's place on watch.

He had hardly been gone three minutes when they heard him coming down
the companionway in great haste. Somehow, everyone of the others seemed
to understand that the terrible stagnation was about to be broken up.

When Frank burst into the cabin his face told the story. He was bringing
them news of some sort, for his eyes were glowing and his face flushed.

"What ails you, Frank?" asked Jack, as they scrambled to their feet.

"After all, it begins to look like we needn't bother about how we're
going to sleep to-night, standing or sitting!" the newcomer announced,
breathlessly.

"How is that?" asked Jimmy.

"Why, there are lights coming along the shore right now--lanterns I
should say, at a rough guess," Frank went on; "chances are the miners
have learned about our being aboard this old wreck, and mean to gather
us in before morning!"



CHAPTER XIX.

THE BATTLE OF THE HULK.


There was an immediate rush for the guns, which had been placed in a
corner of the cabin. From the actions of the scouts, it could be
imagined that no one dreamed of giving in, without a desperate
resistance.

"If we do have to stand 'em off," declared Jimmy, as he examined his
repeating rifle, in order to make sure that it was in condition for
business; "sure we couldn't ask for a better fort than this same old
wreck. Seven of us, all told, and well armed at that, ought to be able
to do the work. If they know what's good for them, they'll go mighty
slow about trying to storm this place."

"Why," said Teddy, "it'd be pretty hard to climb up the sides anywhere,
so all we have to do is to defend the break in the stern where we got
aboard."

They all looked to Ned to find out what his opinion might be.

"I'm not thinking so much about the chances of keeping them out," the
scout leader went on to say, "as what will happen afterwards."

"Do you mean when we try to leave here to-morrow, Ned?" questioned Frank.

"I mean that the chances are, after they've had a good try and find they
can't rush the wreck, with so many guns defending it, those men will
start in to keep us in a state of siege."

"Holy smoke!" burst from Jimmy, as he looked horrified; "and us with
only grub enough on hand for two skimpy meals. What under the sun will
we do? No chance to knock over a caribou or a moose, and fill up the
empty larder! Was there ever such hard luck?"

"Many times, Jimmy," replied Ned, "and we always managed to pull
through, somehow or other. We will again, as sure as anything, even if I
can't tell you just how it's going to happen. Besides a scarcity of
food, we have to face a water famine, you must remember."

"With all the sea knockin' at our door, too," groaned Jimmy. "And think
of the amount that's been runnin' to waste off our deck all day. What a
pity we didn't think to find a cask, and fill the same when we had the
chance. To tell you the truth, I'm getting more and more thirsty as I
think of how we'll suffer."

"Well, the men with the lanterns are coming right along all the time you
fellows are talking here," Frank advised them.

"And our first duty is to get on deck, so as to be ready to repel
boarders," Ned declared.

"Boarders!" echoed Jimmy, "well, I should say we ought to repel them,
when right now we ain't got enough food for our own family table."

They hurried out of the cabin, Ned making sure that the fire in the
stove was so far extinguished that its light might not betray the fact
of the wreck being peopled.

As soon as they arrived on deck they had no difficulty in discovering
the approaching peril. Indeed, the moving lanterns were close by, and
coming right along, as though those who were carrying them had arrived
at the conclusion that the exploring party might have taken temporary
refuge from the rain aboard the old wreck.

Doubtless its possibilities as a shelter were well known to them; and
they could easily understand how the boys would eagerly welcome a chance
to keep their jackets dry.

"There are three of the lanterns, Ned," Jack was saying, as all of them
strained their eyes to see.

"Yes, and back of the same, I can get glimpses of other fellers walkin'
along at a smart clip," Jimmy announced.

"Yes, there must be nearly a dozen in that bunch," Frank gave as his
opinion.

"Enough to give us two apiece all around," Jimmy told them, just as
though he might be a very bloodthirsty individual, instead of a
peace-loving scout, if let alone. "And it'd be a saving of ammunition,
if we could fix things so that one bullet would do for both. Because I
take it you mean to open fire, if so be they persist in tryin' to board
with us, eh, Ned?"

"We have no other course open to us," replied the leader of the scouts,
sadly; for he did not at all fancy being forced into a fight against his
will. "But everybody, remember to be as careful as you can, and not shed
blood unless there is nothing else to be done. Then aim to wound all you
can. I'd hate to have to think I'd taken any man's life, no matter how
much he deserved it."

"H'm! mebbe that's all right," grumbled Jimmy; "but when your back's up
agin the wall, and you got to do it, or go under yourself, what's to
hinder? We want to be let alone, and go our way. If they won't agree,
but try to knock us over, or make us prisoners, so they can keep us here
month in and month out on a steady diet of fish and water why, for one,
I ain't agoin' to stand for it, you hear me. Ned, you tell that bad lot
they'd better hold up if they know what's good for 'em; because I've got
me gun ready, and there's light enough for us to see where to aim."

The men with the lanterns had by this time come so close to the wreck
lying half out on the beach, and with the incoming waves lapping the
rest of the bulk, that another minute would have seen them starting to
clamber aboard.

They were heading straight for the break in the stern, which would
indicate that all of them must be familiar with their surroundings. No
doubt, they had been on the stranded whaler many a time since it was
cast up there on the beach.

So Ned called out, trying to throw as much of authority in his voice as
was possible at the time.

"Stop where you are, men!" he shouted, abruptly.

The lanterns no longer advanced. Evidently those who carried them were
trying to see the party who had given this peremptory command. They
could be heard talking together in low and husky tones, some urging a
precipitate rush, others counciling caution and diplomacy, in order to
accomplish their ends.

"Hello! there, on the wreck!" some one, doubtless vested with authority,
called out.

"Well, what do you want?" asked Ned.

"Are you the party that was up at the mine, and did you come here in
canoes?" continued the unseen leader of the group below.

"We had our boats stolen, and now we're about to head to the south on
foot," was what the patrol leader announced, possibly thinking that it
might influence these hardy men somewhat, if they knew that the scouts
intended to quit that region without delay.

Some more low talking went on below on the beach.

"Be ready, boys," warned Jack; "there's a movement on foot, and like as
not they'll start to try and rush the gangway. Keep low down, because
they might start firing on us!"

"That's right, Jack," said Ned, who had just been about to issue the
same sort of warning himself. "When you're dealing with men like these,
look out for treachery."

Just then the man below shouted again. He had a very rough, raspy voice,
and seemed to be of an ugly disposition, though possibly he was hoping
to impress the boy with the idea that he would brook no foolishness.

"Well, you've got to surrender to us, that's all," he went on to say.
"You went and spied on what mining was being done up here, and we've
orders not to let you get away till the word comes. Might as well make
up your minds to that, youngsters, and it'll save ye lots of trouble.
Throw down what guns ye got."

At that Jimmy burst out into a loud laugh.

"Will ye be after hearin' him give his orders, fellers?" he exclaimed.
"Just like he was the boss of the barnyard, too. Listen to me, you down
there! We are seven, all told, and with as many guns of the latest model
that can throw lead through ten inches of hard wood. If ye want the
guns, come up and take the same. I give ye my word, it'll be the hottest
time any of ye ever struck in the course of your lives. A dozen of ye,
are there? Well, after the first volley, we'll cut the count down just
one-half. Don't all speak at once, but pull the latchstring, and come on
into our little parlor!"

It was simply impossible to stop Jimmy, once he got started, unless you
took him in hand and clapped a gag over his mouth. As there was no
chance of doing this now, Ned let him have his say. It could do little
harm, after all; in fact, perhaps, it might even do some good, since the
men on the beach would have received ample warning, with regard to the
intentions of the scouts, and if they ventured to try and clamber aboard
the wreck, it would be at their own peril.

Apparently, more talking was going on below.

"That may all be a blind," Jack ventured to say, as they lined up along
the side of the wreck, with their guns ready.

"Yes, because unless I miss my guess several of the bunch slipped away,
as if they had their orders," Frank declared.

"It may be they know of another way to get aboard," said Ned, "and while
the rest keep on parleying with us, they mean to try and slip around, so
as to take us by surprise. Jack, you and Teddy keep tabs of the rear,
and shoot if you see the least suspicious movement."

"Ay, ay! sir!" said Jack, immediately wheeling so as to keep his rifle
pointed toward the threatened spot. "Drop low down, Teddy, so as not to
show against the sky-line. And when I say, 'let drive,' give several
shots. The noise of the bombardment will help scare 'em off, I reckon."

The man who seemed to be leader again hailed them.

"You can't get away from here, and you might's well know that same first
as last," he went on to say, positively. "You learned too much for yer
own good that time, an' we ain't going to allow of your getting out of
this region in a hurry. If ye surrender, we'll treat ye white, give ye
my word on that. All we want is that ye shouldn't get to Montreal till
we hears from the boss. Show your good sense, boys, by makin' the best
of a bad bargain."

"You might as well save your breath, whoever you are," said Ned, firmly;
"we know what it all means, and why you want to hold us here prisoners,
without any right to do the same. And understand now that we refuse to
stand for it. Try and rush this wreck, and some of you will get hurt.
The same applies to the three men you sent around to try and take us in
the rear. We're on to your tricks, mister, and, if you know what's good
for you, just turn around and leave us alone. We mean to fight, and
fight hard! That's the last word of warning I'm going to give you, and
the next move will call for lead. Do you get that straight?"

Ned could be quite belligerent when he chose. He realized that he was
dealing with hard characters in these men, and that any sign of weakness
on his part was only going to make things the more difficult for himself
and chums.

He understood that what he had just said must be looked on as a sort of
challenge by the miners on the beach. There could be no more parleying
after that defiance had been given. It meant war.

Consequently, Ned was not at all surprised to hear the dimly seen men
break out into an angry roar of shouts, and to see them start toward the
stern of the wreck, with the evident intention of swarming aboard.

There were several flashes as firearms sounded, so that altogether it
looked as if the battle had opened.

After that it was folly to dream that they could pull through peaceably,
when these hired minions of the fraudulent mining corporation were so
bent on carrying out their own plans and which consisted of making the
boys prisoners.

Ned gave the word, and immediately the scouts commenced shooting. They
could see the advancing figures fairly well in the half darkness, and at
such short range it would have had to be a pretty poor marksman who
could not have hit his target had he really wanted to do so. But the
scouts were not ferociously inclined. Ned had begged them not to resort
to stern measures, unless it were absolutely necessary, and something
desperate had to be done in order to prevent the enemy from
accomplishing the capture of the old hulk.

So while they rattled away merrily with their repeating guns, they took
care not to mow the advancing men down. This was easily accomplished by
shooting so as to send their bullets into the sand of the beach; and as
the assailants could not tell what the sanguinary result of the furious
fire might be, they no doubt imagined that terrible execution was being
wrought in their ranks.

Some of them managed to reach the stern of the wreck; others stumbling
over flotsam and jetsam on the beach were crawling around, seeking
shelter from the blaze of fire that leaped all along the bulwarks above.

It was a pretty warm time while it lasted, and even Jack and Teddy
seemed to be engaged, for the roar of their guns chimed in with the
rest. If those three men, who had slipped away from the rest, had
managed to climb aboard, by means of some dangling rope, they,
doubtless, speedily realized that it was not a safe place in which to
linger.

"Stop firing!" cried Ned, suddenly, "they've fallen back, and the first
round goes to us."

"That was the easiest licked squad I ever ran across!" boasted Jimmy;
"and, while I'm about it, I might as well confess that I had to crease
one feller in the leg, for he was pushing right into the opening. Sure
he fell back, and the last I saw of the bog trotter, he was crawling
away, draggin' that left leg after him."

Ned sighed. He had hoped to accomplish this business for Mr Bosworth
without being compelled to do violence; but it seemed that this could
not be. As scouts, he and his chums objected to such things; but, as a
last resort, even members of the organization must be allowed the
liberty of defending themselves against the assaults of hired ruffians.

"Do you know where those three men got aboard, Jack?" he asked.

"I think we'll find a piece of rope hanging over the side," replied the
other; yes, "here it is, Ned. Shall I cut it loose, so as to stop that
gap?"

"Of course," came the answer; "and then take one of the electric torches
and see if any of them stayed aboard, after the firing was over. Jimmy,
you go along; and be careful not to get held up. We don't want to have a
treacherous foe hiding near us, and ready to do something desperate at
any minute. Sing out, if you find one, and want any help to throw him
overboard!"



CHAPTER XX.

BESIEGED.


The two scouts hurried away to execute the orders of their chief. They
were so accustomed to having Ned tell them what to do that any command
he might give was always cheerfully carried out.

The balance of the party remained there where they could command the
break in the stern of the wreck, and which the enemy had once vainly
attempted to rush. If presently another attack were made they would be
in position to pour down a hot fire on the assailants; and perhaps
taking pattern by Jimmy, the rest of the defenders might begin to give
wounds that would gradually put the miners out of the game.

Before three minutes had passed Ned and those with him heard a
tremendous row going on down the deck. This was followed by a great
scrambling, and then came a loud splash.

"Say, they must have found one of the three sneaks!" exclaimed Teddy,
jubilantly.

"Here comes Jack now to report," added Frank.

Jack was breathing hard, but chuckling at the same time, as he came up.

"I have the honor to report, sir, that we discovered a spy aboard, and
made him walk the plank," he started in to say, with all the airs of a
second officer aboard a liner, giving in his account of duties
performed. "He didn't want to make the jump but Jimmy helped him over
the side, while I covered him and kept his hands up. We've looked
everywhere now, and think he was the only one that stayed aboard."

"I hope you didn't drown the fellow, Jack," said Ned.

"Small danger of that," laughed the other; "where he fell the water was
only a few feet deep, even with a wave rolling in. He's ashore long
before now, and can report how we do things aboard the Old Reliable.
Anything else you want done, sir, while we've got our hands in?"

"Nothing but keep an eye out for any creeper along the sides. They may
think to try it over again," Ned told him.

"And next time perhaps we'll do something worse than tossing the fellow
overboard," Jack declared. "I half believe that scoundrel meant to do us
an ugly turn. Why, he had a wicked looking knife in his hand just when
we cornered him, and even raised it as if meaning to strike, when I
knocked it out of his grasp with the barrel of my gun, and then Jimmy
jumped on him like a monkey."

"A good job all around," was Ned's comment; "and it ought to show these
parties that we mean what we say. I'm only hoping they'll get sick of
the business and conclude to let us alone. That is all we ask of them,
to keep their hands off, and allow us to pull out."

"Small chance of that happening, I'm afraid," Jack went on to say. "If
we get away from here it'll be because we've gone and licked the lot
of them, as Jimmy was remarking, out of their boots. I say that, because
we know what it would mean to this fake concern to let the story of the
mine get to New York City."

After that for a while everything seemed very quiet. Watch as they might
they could see nothing of the enemy on the beach below. The waves crept
up higher, as the tide came in, and the sound of their curling over with
a long roll grew more and more boisterous; but ashore all seemed as
silent as death.

"You don't think then they've had enough of fight, and gone away, eh,
Ned?" was what Teddy asked, as he crept to where the patrol leader
stood, looking over the bulwarks, and keenly on the alert.

"Not a bit of it, Teddy," came the prompt reply. "You ought to know that
men like that give up only as the tiger does, grudgingly. They've felt
of our claws, and found that we can scratch; so next time they'll try
and work some other sort of game that may pay them better."

"I don't see how it can be done," urged Teddy. "If there were any trees
overhanging our fortress I might begin to think they'd climb up, and try
to drop in on us. And so far as we know they haven't got an aeroplane to
take the place of the same trees. They can only make a charge through
that gap in the stern and we're able to guard that, all right, ain't we,
Ned?"

"It seems so," the other told him; "but you mustn't be too sure about
there being no other way of getting aboard. We might have said that
before, and yet there was the dangling rope that three of them climbed.
Now, there may be another route; and while we don't know about it, the
only way to make sure is to keep on the alert every minute of the time."

Possibly half an hour passed in this way. The strain was beginning to
tell on some of the boys, for they felt that it was necessary to keep
keyed up to a high tension all the time. They did not know at what
moment loud yells would indicate that the battle had been resumed and
under new conditions.

"Whew! and to think that we've just got to keep this up all night long,"
Teddy lamented, as he shifted from one foot to the other, for, as he
said, they were trying to play tricks with him, by going to sleep on
post.

"Yes, and mebbe a whole lot longer," Jimmy told him; "because, while I
haven't been saying much about the same, I'm of the opinion that Ned hit
the right nail on the head when he said they'd try to starve us out. Oh!
I could stand nearly anything, but to go hungry. I've often thought
that would be my wind-up some of these fine days, to starve to death.
And I can't imagine a more terrible fate."

"Enough for two decent meals in the larder yet, Jimmy," said Frank. "And
before we get to the jumping-off place, we'll make a move out of this,
let me tell you. I think you'll be able to eat your three meals a day
this long while yet."

"Well, it's kind of you to say so, Frank," Jimmy went on; "but just now
I was thinking how neat we could give these fellers the slip, if only we
had a boat of some sort. There's plenty of water at the bow, with the
tide still comin' in like fun. My kingdom for a boat; any old hooker'd
do to fill the bill, because we ain't particular."

"Could we manage to make a raft, do you think?" asked Teddy.

"There's plenty of loose stuff around," Ned remarked; "but while a boat
might help us out, I don't think we could do anything with a clumsy
raft, even if we had a chance to launch the same, without being found
out. I had considered whether we might get overboard at the bow and make
off up the shore, but the chances of being discovered seemed too great."

"And besides we'd be apt to get our guns wet, and that might keep us
from using the same, when they were badly needed," Jack suggested. "So
it seems as though we'll have to give up the idea of leaving the fort by
the water door."

This started them to canvassing the whole situation over again, and
several ingenious schemes were proposed. Unfortunately, on entering
deeper into the same, they showed weakness in one particular or another,
so that all of them had to be cast aside.

What made it doubly irritating was the knowledge that if they waited
until the dawn came, their position would be doubly dangerous, since
they might not even show themselves along the side of the wreck, without
inviting a shot. As to escaping, it was not to be thought of while the
sun remained above the horizon.

"We've got to do something to-night, that's flat!" urged Teddy, possibly
in the hope that Ned might have a plan of his own, which he was holding
back, just to ascertain what his chums could do along those lines.

"I've got a hunch that they're nearly ready to give us another whirl,"
Jimmy was remarking, as he leaned over the rail of the vessel, as though
to see better.

"What makes you say that?" questioned Jack.

"There's a suspicious movement below that makes me believe some of the
bog-trotters are creeping along close beside the boat. I think they must
have come out of the water, where it slaps up against the wreck. Right
down underneath us they are, Ned. If I had a kettle of scaldin' water, I
could start the biggest yelping chorus ye ever heard right now."

A few sharp words from Ned put them all on the alert. Each one had a
station assigned to him, which he was expected to hold, in case of a
renewal of hostilities; while Jimmy might bemoan the fact that he could
not have a bucket of boiling water with which to startle the intended
boarders, he evidently did not intend to let that deficiency keep him
from doing his duty. Crouching there at a point where he could fire
through the breach in the stern of the wreck, he only waited for the
word to be given, when he evidently meant to start some others among the
enemy to limping on one leg.

"Gee!" Jack heard him saying softly to himself, with a chuckle,
"wouldn't it be a funny thing now, if we went and crippled the whole
shooting match, by tapping every one in the left leg. Think of how
they'd go hobbling around here, like a bunch of old pensioners comin'
after their money. Watch my smoke, now, and see how I fix 'em."

When everything was prepared in this way it made the boys nervous to
wait, for minutes passed and nothing happened. All the while they were
imagining the enemy creeping up the sides of the old hulk, grimly bent
on doing them injury.

Ned passed from one point to another, trying to discover just what kind
of peril it might be that menaced them. Did the miners have some way of
springing on board at a given signal, so that they might attack from all
sides at once?

When a full hour had gone and still there was no attack, Ned began to
wonder if after all any assault had been intended. Surely these men knew
by now that those on board the wreck were well armed, and that they
could hardly hope to carry the fort by assault. Perhaps they had come to
the wise conclusion that there was a far better means at their disposal
than bloodshed. Famine could accomplish what violence failed to do.
All they had to figure on was keeping the scouts there just so long,
when, lacking food and fresh water, they must give in.

After the chances for another desperate charge through the breach had
begun to grow fainter, Ned started to figuring again how he might get
his comrades and himself out of so uncomfortable a scrape.

As Jimmy had said, since they had no airship, they could not fly in that
way; and lacking boats, the sea offered no solution to the puzzle. All
that was left then, apparently, was the land, with those fierce foes
lying in wait to attack them the minute they quitted their fortress.

Ned believed that he had the most difficult problem to solve that had
come his way this many a day. From every side he viewed it, the puzzle
seemed as unanswerable as ever. If only they could manage to slip away
along about an hour or so after midnight, when the darkness was densest;
but there was only the one way to leave, and that was evidently watched
closely, if those silent figures flitting hither and thither on the
beach stood for anything.

But was the breach the only means for leaving? Ned remembered that those
three men had climbed aboard through the aid of a dangling rope. What
was sauce for the goose might be sauce for the gander, too; and if only
they could discover more rope they might also slide down it to safety.

He moved over to where Jimmy was squatted like a big toad, with his gun
resting on his knee, and aimed straight at the frowning breach in the
stern.

"You told us about those three men climbing aboard by means of a rope
that was dangling over the side; am I right, Jimmy?" he asked.

"Just what they did, sir," came the reply.

"You didn't leave that rope there, did you?" continued Ned.

"I should say not," Jimmy answered with emphasis. "Jack pulled it up on
deck, after I'd helped the feller make his getaway jump."

"And you think it's there still?" the patrol leader asked.

"Must be, unless somebody's been and gone and cut it loose to throw it
overboard," was the answer Jimmy made. "But what's a rope got to do
with us now, Ned? Want it to string up one of the dubs in case we get
our hooks on the same? Now, that might be a good scheme. It'd sure warn
'em that we meant business, and didn't expect to stand for any
foolishness."

"Well, you've guessed wrong that time, because it wasn't hanging I had
in mind, Jimmy!" declared Ned. "I was only trying to figure what chance
we'd have to get away, if later on in the night, one by one, we managed
to drop down by means of that rope."

"Gee! that is an idea, now, Ned. And say, it'd give us a chance to skip
out in the dark. Once clear of this pack, we could do some huntin' and
lay in a stock of meat. Oh! I hope you can make it work, Ned. Looks like
it might be our last hope, don't it?"

"I've been thinking right along, and, so far, it's the only idea I've
struck; but we couldn't dream of starting for some hours yet. So keep on
the watch, and don't let the enemy rush us."

"Count on me to hold 'em in check," said Jimmy, with a touch of his old
boastfulness. "I'm Leander at the Bridge, or Leonidas holding that pass
at Thermopylæ. I'm here like a rock and can't be budged. Oh! you mutts
down there, I'm sorry for the feller that tries to run the gauntlet of
my fire; because my finger's on the trigger all the while, and just
itchin' to press harder."

Thinking to make sure about that rope, on which it now seemed so much
might depend, the patrol leader passed on down the slanting deck of the
stranded old hulk.

He met some one coming from the other end of the wreck; and it turned
out to be Frank, who, on finding out that he had run upon Ned, took hold
of his sleeve.

"Come down here with me," he said, "I want you to see something."

Curious to know what the other scout meant, Ned readily accompanied him;
but in passing the place where Jack and Jimmy had met with their
adventure, he made sure that the rope was still where the former had
tossed it after drawing it up.

"There, what d'ye think of that?" asked Frank.

He was pointing out toward the great bay, as he said this; and, looking,
Ned discovered that the last of the sea fog and mist had cleared away,
leaving the air as clear as a bell. Far away over the water he saw
several strange lights. They seemed to rise and fall in a mysterious
fashion; and yet Ned knew that there was nothing at all queer about
this.

"The phantom fleet at anchor!" said Frank, and it was hard to tell from
his manner whether he meant all his words implied or not.

"Yes," said Ned, soberly, "whatever those vessels are, they might help
us out of this scrape, if only we could get in communication with them,"
and he stood there for some time, staring reflectively out toward the
twinkling lights on the swelling sea.



CHAPTER XXI.

UNEXPECTED HELP.


"They're coming, Ned!" whispered Jack, in a hoarse tone.

"But that sound surely came from seaward, Jack?" expostulated the other.

"I know it did, and must have been the sneeze of a man at that," replied
the second scout. "But what of it, Ned? We must remember they've got
other boats besides our canoes, and it might be possible for them to row
around from the mouth of the Harricanaw to this place."

"Yes, possibly," said Ned, "but hardly probable in so short a time. But
like you, I believe it was a man who sneezed, and that he was out there
on the water. Look again, and see if you can pick up a boat moving,
Jack."

For a full minute the pair stood and strained their eyes to the utmost,
gazing minutely over the rolling waters, from the place where the white
foam could be seen, far out to sea. Ned even noted which way the night
breeze held, and in that quarter he kept his eyes glued the longest
time, as though instinct told him the mysterious sound must have been
carried on the wings of the wind.

There were all those twinkling riding-lights on the vessels composing
the fleet of whaling or sealing craft, which had come to obtain such a
strange reputation for appearing and vanishing so wonderfully. Perhaps,
as Ned observed them again, he unconsciously connected the sneeze with
their presence; but then this thought quickly gave way to the other. It
was more natural that they should expect those men of the fake mine to
be afloat near by, endeavoring to find some vulnerable part of the
stranded wreck, where they could deliver a successful attack.

"I see it, Ned!" suddenly said Jack, triumphantly.

"Show me!" observed the patrol leader, quickly moving his head so that
it came alongside that of his chum, whose hand was extended, with the
quivering forefinger pointing almost in a line with the nearest of all
the vessels.

"There, watch when the wave rises again, and you'll--there, did you get
it, Ned?"

"Yes, and as you say, it was a boat with several men in the same,"
replied the other scout, hastily; "and more than that, they seem to be
heading straight for this old wreck. You see, they're coming down the
coast, and as like as not, they've rowed all the way from the river."

"Could they do it on the bay?" asked Jack, dubiously.

"I don't see any reason against it, if they happen to have strong enough
muscles, and know how to manage a boat on the big waves," Ned went on to
say.

"But hadn't we better tell the rest?" asked Jack. "If we're going to get
a side wipe, it might be as well for all of us to be ready to meet the
rascals when they try to get aboard from their boat."

"Yes, let two stay to watch the break in the stern--the Cree and Frank
might handle that end of the business--bring the rest here with you,
Jack. I'll try and keep tabs of the boat, while you're gone."

"Be back in a jiffy, Ned," and with that Jack shot away.

He could not have taken much time to tell the others what they were
wanted for, because he quickly appeared again at Ned's elbow, bringing
Jimmy, Teddy and Francois along with him.

"What's the matter, Ned?" asked the first named, as he looked all about
him, evidently half expecting that he would see the head of a "boarder"
rising into view over the gunwale of the wreck.

"Jack discovered a boat coming in, and we think it must hold several of
our enemies," the other told them. "Look where I point and you'll see it
rising on the next roller."

Immediately exclamations of astonishment announced that the others had
sighted the alarming spectacle.

"They're expecting to take us by surprise, because we'd never think of
standing guard along that side of the old tub," Jimmy declared as his
opinion.

"It wasn't such a bad scheme, either," added Teddy. "Only for that man
sneezing when he shouldn't, neither of you two might have discovered the
boat."

"That's as true as anything you ever said, old man," assented Jack, who
never wanted to claim honors he had not fairly won. "But you know it's
the old Black Bear and Wolf luck.

"We're always running slap up against the greatest things ever heard
of."

"And first chance I find," muttered Teddy, "I'm going to get transferred
from the old Eagle into one of the other patrols. Whoever heard of an
Eagle having any special luck? That's because they went and named their
patrol after a bald-headed old pirate, who loves to rob the hard working
fish-hawk of his dinner, time in and time out."

Nobody was paying any particular attention to Teddy's lament, however,
and so he started in to take a second and more particular look at the
dancing object that could be seen one moment, as it rose on a wave, and
then vanishing from view again.

"Can you all make it out?" asked Jack.

Even Francois said there was no difficulty now; while Jimmy, as if to
prove that his sight was good, went on to say:

"It seems to be a pretty hefty boat, too, fellers?"

"Yes, that's what I thought," Jack answered him.

"And I reckon you noticed that only two men are in the same; that is, a
pair handling the oars; and, if there are any others, they must be lying
flat on their backs in the bottom of the old thing. Which gives me a
smart little idea, Ned."

"Glad to hear you say so, Jimmy; and if you don't mind we'll all listen
to what you've got ailing you," the patrol leader told him.

"Why, it's just like this, you see," continued the other, pleased
beyond words to find himself in the limelight, for that bit of luck did
not come the way of Jimmy often enough to suit him. "There are just two
of the fellers, that's right, and when they step up on deck, where it
slopes near the water-line, why, we'll jump them like a toad hops over a
mushroom. Before they know what's struck 'em, they'll be our prisoners,
see?"

"Yes, but what good will they be to us, Jimmy; you don't lay out to eat
them, I hope?" demanded Teddy, unable to grasp a thing that had not yet
been fully explained.

"Shucks! don't you see--when we've got 'em tied up good and tight, why,
what's to hinder the whole bunch of us stepping into their bully boat,
and go slidin' off as slick as you please, heading for the nearest
vessel at anchor out yonder?"

Jimmy put this question boldly, as though he realized that he had struck
a chord that was bound to evoke the highest praise from his mates. And
he was right, for Ned slapped him heartily on the back, Jack wrung his
hand, while Teddy, who had lost his breath in amazement, at least
managed to stroke his sleeve affectionately.

"A great scheme, I give you my word, it is, Jimmy; and one that does you
credit," said Ned. "If only we can carry it out, we've got the biggest
chance for escaping that could ever come our way. It all depends on
whether they really mean to try and board the wreck. We're not so dead
sure of that yet, you know."

The spirits of the others, buoyed up so suddenly by the prospect of a
speedy release from their predicament, underwent a drop. It was as
though the temperature had fallen from blood heat to freezing.

"Oh! but we were all certain they meant to try and board us a minute
ago, Ned; and let's see if they are still on the same course," with
which Jack, as well as the others sought to again catch a fleeting sight
of the oncoming boat.

It was not the easiest thing in the world to glimpse such a dusky
looking object in such uncertain light, and with the waves rising and
falling. But it happened that while they had been talking, Francois
managed to keep his eye fixed on the boat, and so he was able to point
it out to them.

"Oh! joy, she is still heading right for us!" said Jimmy, who had felt
the slump worse than any of the others, because of the fact that the
idea was his own.

What he said was true, and all of them could see that the two men in the
boat were pulling hard to come along with the sweep of the sea.

"Better get ready to lay the trap, hadn't we?" asked Jack, nervously.

"Oh! that will be easy enough when we make sure of where they expect to
board," the patrol leader told him; but, at the same time, he knew full
well that the boat would naturally have to swing around to the sheltered
side of the wreck, before those in it could hope to pull in.

All of them watched, with their hearts beating like trip-hammers, so
excited had the sudden hope made them.

The seconds seemed to pass on leaden wings to Jimmy. Several times he
moved uneasily, and Ned could hear the sigh that welled up from the
depths of his heart. This happened when, to his excited fancy, the
oncoming boat seemed to remain motionless on the swelling wave for a
brief period. Possibly at such times the rowers ceased their labors, for
the purpose of scrutinizing the dark hulk, which they were then
approaching, as though to make sure that they would find all well.

Each time, however, they started to rowing again, and as they drew
nearer to the shore, of course, they had to put more strength into their
strokes, because of the suction of the eddies that surged around the bow
of the derelict, standing at this time of nearly full tide, well in the
water.

When they changed their course, so as to swing around to leeward of the
wreck, Ned considered that it was time he and his comrades crept along
in the shelter of the bulwark, and made ready to receive the uninvited
guests.

First of all, they must allow them to come aboard, and also secure the
boat. Any premature action was bound to ruin the whole affair. If one of
the men got away, or the boat was set adrift, it would avail the
prisoners of the hulk nothing. They wanted a means for leaving the
hostile land, and the mere capture of these two men, who evidently
intended to take them by surprise, would not satisfy them at all.

So Ned and his mates made themselves as small as they could, crouching
there in the gloom of the night. They could hear the splash of the
waves beating against the other side of the old vessel, and these
constant sounds served to hide all else in the way of noise. When the
boat collided with the planking of the wreck, they only knew of its
arrival through the slight quiver that was conveyed to their alert
senses.

And now they saw one of the dark figures clambering hurriedly over the
broken bulwarks. Strange to say, he did not seem to be at all particular
as to what he was doing. There was no skulking movement, no crouching,
and looking about, such as one would expect to observe under the
circumstances. Ned noted this with surprise. He even began to entertain
serious doubts concerning the absolute truth of the theory he had
previously formed regarding the identity of the two men. Surely, if they
belonged to the force that had once before been repulsed when trying to
board the wreck, they would know of the presence of the scouts there,
and do everything within their power not to let the defenders know of
their secret coming.

"All right, Captain Bill!" they heard the man who had jumped aboard say;
and that too was a strange thing; had they believed the wreck to be
utterly abandoned, these mysterious parties could not have acted in a
more singular manner.

Now the second man was climbing over, in which act he was assisted by
the one who had come first, and who seemed to be a more agile chap.

At least the boat was secure, for Ned could see that the first visitor
was engaged in fastening the painter to a cleat that chanced to be near
by, and which he seemed to find in a remarkably able manner, as though
he might be quite familiar from past associations with the lay of things
aboard that hulk.

Ned had his little hand-electric torch ready, and when he believed that
the proper instant had come for action, he suddenly pressed the button
that caused a flash to dazzle the eyes of the men.

"Surrender! Don't try to make a single move, or you'll be shot down.
We've got you covered by our guns, so throw up your hands, both of you!"
was what he exclaimed, and at the same instant, the others stood up with
leveled rifles.

It was evidently a complete surprise for the invading force. They
elevated both hands as ordered, mechanically perhaps, for at the same
time they were uttering exclamations of bewilderment and wonder.

"Make sure of the boat, Jimmy!" said Ned, with an eye to their great
need; and only too gladly did the other scout jump forward to where the
rope had been passed around that cleat under the rail.

"Who are you, anyway, and what d'ye mean by holding us up this way?"
finally asked the older of the two prisoners; and now that he found time
to look closer, Ned was himself amazed to discover that both of them had
the appearance of seafaring men, in regards to garments and bronzed
faces.

"I'm going to ask you that same question," he managed to say. "Who are
you, and what do you want coming ashore in the night to board this
wreck?"

The men turned and looked at each other.

"What d'ye think of that, now, Captain Bill?" asked the younger man. "Me
to be asked that, as has lived and cruised aboard this old whaler
_Comet_ for six years and more, till she was wrecked in the ice last
season, and they carried me away, out o' my head from exposure? Ain't I
got a right aboard here, if anybody has? 'Twas only lately that I
learned she was ashore 'stead of bein' at the bottom of Hudson Bay; and
as I had some valuable papers hid in a bulkhead that I thought was lost
to me for good and all, why, I got Captain Bill, whose mate I am this
trip, to come ashore along with me, so's to see if they be here still.
We knowed there was a wild crowd prospectin' for copper up around these
parts, and didn't dare try to land in daylight. There was other reasons
besides. But now we've told you who and what we are, s'pose you turn
around and enlighten us. Seems like I seen them sort o' suits afore now,
on the Boy Scouts o' Swamsscot, where I hail from in New England. Be you
members of the same organization, boys?"

For a minute almost, none of the three lads could find his breath to
answer. The astonishing truth actually stunned them. They saw liberty
and safety looming up within their reach. There was no longer any doubt
concerning their chances for leaving this inhospitable land, and
carrying the answer which would mean so much to Mr. Bosworth and those
capitalists associated with him.

It was Jimmy who recovered first, and his ringing cheer that went
pealing forth over the heaving waters of Hudson Bay.



CHAPTER XXII.

THE MYSTERY SOLVED--CONCLUSION.


"Hooray for the greatest thing that ever happened!" Jimmy roared, as he
swung his campaign hat wildly about his head, and even started a jig,
such was his exuberant condition. "The luck of the Wolf Patrol holds as
good as ever! In the nick of time, the villain gets his dope and we pull
off a brilliant victory. Hooray!"

Indeed, the other boys felt almost as exultant as Jimmy; and hearing
all this racket, both Frank and the Cree chief came hurrying over,
wondering what it could stand for.

Many questions were poured upon Captain Bill and his younger companion,
who gave his name as Asa Plunkett, once captain of the very vessel upon
whose sloping deck they were then standing.

"A plenty of room for the whole kit of ye in our whale-boat, lads," said
the older man, "and I reckons as haow we kin find grub for the lot,
aboard the _Grampus_, which will soon be headin' for the home port,
since there ain't nawthin more to be picked up on this ere cruise into
foreign waters, and arunnin' risks all the time o' being hauled up by a
Canadian cruiser."

"Just gimme about ten minutes to bust open the bulkhead, and see if my
papers has stood all the exposure of months alyin' here on the beach,"
remarked Mate Plunkett.

"You bet we will, sir!" exclaimed Jimmy, "and if you want any help, just
sing out for me. I'm a champion hand to smash things. The habit's gone
and got me into lots of trouble before now. And here's an old, rusty
marlin-spike that might come in handy."

"We took pains to fetch a hatchet along for that purpose," the mate
informed him, as he hurried toward the companionway, meaning doubtless
to seek the cabin.

They soon heard him pounding away at a great rate, he having lighted a
lantern that had been fetched from the whaling vessel anchored a mile or
so away.

"Get your things together, fellows," Ned advised, "because we're
expecting to be afloat on Hudson Bay before many minutes."

"Seeing how we've been robbed of our most cherished possessions,"
declared Teddy, sadly, "that job isn't going to take us very long, I'm
sorry to say."

"To think that the chance has come to snap our fingers in the faces of
that ugly crowd!" observed Jimmy, who could hardly keep his feet still
through joy.

"They'll be as mad as anything when they come aboard in the morning to
find us gone," Frank remarked.

"And as they've got sentries posted, like as not, to give the alarm, if
we try to slip away, up or down the shore, they'll never be able to
guess what became of us all," Jack gave as his opinion, at which they
all laughed again, feeling in a particularly merry mood.

Then up came Mate Plunkett, waving some yellow papers in his hand.

"Found 'em all right, Captain Bill!" he called out; "a little tough
lookin', to be sure; but wuth the same money to me, all the same. And
now, lads, if so be you're ready to quit this old wreck, say the word,
and we'll clear out."

There was not a single dissenting vote, for while the hulk had offered
them an acceptable asylum during the downpour and had proved to be a
pretty serviceable fort when Sol Griggs and the men connected with the
fake copper mine had attempted to effect their capture, none of them
cared to remain a minute longer aboard the old whaler than was
necessary.

So they embarked, not finding it very difficult, while the boat lay on
the leeward side of the stranded wreck. There was plenty of room for
all, just as the men had stated; and after starting away the scouts saw
the last of their late refuge merged with the dim outlines of the shore.

Apparently, the miners could not have had any suspicion with regard to
what was transpiring; for they made no move. This would make their
surprise all the more overpowering, when they found in the morning that
their birds had slipped out of the trap.

As all of the boys had often been upon the sea before in various places,
there was no particular novelty about their sensations now. The relief
from the recent strain was so great that Jimmy insisted on shaking hands
all around several times, while they were moving over the mile that
separated them from the first of the floating lights, aboard the
anchored vessels of the fleet.

"Mebbe, we'll be apt to learn all about this wonderful disappearing
fleet now, since we expect to be aboard one of the vessels till we reach
some port, where we can telegraph and take a train," Teddy went on to
say, as they drew near the _Comet_, looming up out of the night gloom to
seaward.

At hearing his remark Mate Plunkett chuckled.

"So that's what they been calling us, is it?" he said, as he shifted his
quid to the other cheek. "Well, the way we've been dodgin' around
lately, hardly gettin' settled in one anchorage before we'd hear an
alarm raised that a cruiser was comin' down on us, so we'd have to skip
out like the wind from the three-mile limit, I don't wonder at it."

His words enlightened Ned, who had already been entertaining certain
suspicions with regard to the possible explanation of the mystery.

"Are you after whales or seals?" he asked, plainly.

"This time, it's seals we been takin'," replied the mate. "You see, word
was fetched to us, some months back, that a whopping big herd of seal
had taken to some of these here islands in old Hudson Bay, and there was
a rush of vessels to scoop in the same, our hooker along with the rest.
I wanted to come up here again, to find out if anything had ever been
heard of the poor old _Comet_ that I was captain of last season, and so
I took the berth of mate to my old friend, Captain Bill, here."

"What luck have you had?" asked Jimmy, eagerly.

"Nawthin' to brag about," came the reply from the old skipper. "I
reckons that it'll pay me nigh as well to go back to whalin' agin; and
there needn't be sech risks of havin' your ship and cargo confiscated by
revenue vessels, as this seal huntin' in Hudson Bay turns out to be."

"But they say it's nearly five hundred miles across in its widest part,"
Frank broke in with; "and how can Canada claim jurisdiction over an
ocean like that? Why, you might as well say, that the Mediterranean was
a closed sea."

"That's the trouble," remarked Mate Plunkett; "always has been a pesky
lot of trouble about this here place. Because the two roadways of
getting into Hudson Bay happen to be only a certain number of miles
wide, Canada has always tried to claim it as her private preserves. Lots
of whalers has been chased for darin' to ply their trade in these same
waters. Course, they got the right to that three-mile from shore limit,
but they want the whole hog up here. We been keepin' a lookout right
along, while we sent boats out after the seal. It's late in the season
for the work, but skins is so skeerce that we got to take 'em any old
time. But the game's hardly worth the candle, and next year you won't
see many sealers up this way."

"Then we were in great luck to have you around just when we needed help
most," declared Ned; who had already arranged with Captain Bill to carry
the whole party down to Halifax, where they could be landed; Francois
and the Cree to head for their home country, well paid for their
services, and the scouts starting for New York by the first steamer,
after wiring to Jack's father about the success of their great
expedition.

They were soon aboard the _Grampus_, where their coming was a surprise
to the crew. Their astonishment increased, however, when Captain Bill at
once gave orders for getting the mudhook up, and leaving their
anchorage, as well as preceding all the other sealers on the homeward
bound trip.

The boys were willing to put up with such accommodation as might be
looked for on board a Yankee sealing vessel. Of course, steam was the
propelling power, for sailing vessels belong to a by-gone age; and they
were soon making good time out to sea.

That was the last Ned and his chums were likely to ever see of the
inhospitable shores of the famous Hudson Bay. They had found it the home
of more than one mystery, and would often recall some of their strange
experiences there, while investigating the facts connected with the
wonderful mining find that had been offered to Jack's father, and other
capitalists, for investment.

When the next morning came along, they were out of sight of land, and
bowling on at a ten knot an hour clip. Look which way they might, there
was nothing but a vast expanse of heaving, tumbling water around them;
and yet Mate Plunkett told them they were still in Hudson Bay, and would
be for two days, even under the most favorable conditions, such was the
extent of the inland sea.

Fortunately, the boys all proved to be good sailors, so that they felt
very little bad effects from the motion of the vessel, as she ploughed
her way through the rolling billows, throwing the spray high in the air.

It would have been difficult to have found a happier and more care-free
group of scouts than those five lads from the great metropolis, as day
followed day, and they enjoyed one of the most wonderful voyages they
had ever had the good fortune to embark upon.

The weather proved to be splendid, and besides, they were just brimming
over with joy, because of the great success that had followed their long
journey up into the Far Northland.

It would be weeks before those in charge of the mining enterprise could
get any word to the head officials down in New York. Ned expected to be
home long before this would come about, for he knew how tedious it was
journeying for hundreds of miles over long stretches of waste land,
following the course of rivers, and often not covering twenty miles from
sun-up to the setting of the same.

During those long sunny days, it was a great pleasure to loll around on
deck and watch the wonderful ocean, over which the steam sealer was
steadily passing, headed toward Halifax, where the boys meant to
disembark.

They discussed every phase of the adventure, and many little matters
which had seemed a bit strange were cleared up when they could exchange
views. Ned also prepared his full report, showing just what was going
on up there in the wilds. He had ample proof of all he meant to relate,
even to samples of the real ore, and also of the "salted" stuff that was
being placed around the mine, in order to deceive any investigator,
should one be sent up to look about.

Of course, Mr. Bosworth would wash his hands of the entire business, and
the sly swindlers must look elsewhere, in order to unload their
property. The extravagant claims they had made for its richness could
not be justified, because it was after all a very mediocre discovery,
which would never pay for the working, so far away from railroad
facilities.

In due time, they arrived at the Nova Scotia port, where the boys were
taken ashore in one of the whale boats, because Captain Bill did not
want to risk seizure by entering the place.

They were sorry to have to say good-bye to the friendly skipper and his
mate, and promised to let them hear how things turned out.

Once ashore, the first thing Ned did was to send a cable to Mr.
Bosworth, telling him not to do anything until they got home, which
would be as soon as a ship sailed heading south.

Francois and the old Cree Indian left them here, after being loaded down
with presents, in addition to the wages promised them. The boys felt
that they could afford to be generous, because, as they had saved the
capitalists possibly a million or more dollars, the chances were that
quite a tidy sum of money would be coming their way soon, from the
grateful gentlemen forming the clique.

The balance of their trip was uneventful, and one day they came in
through the new Ambrose Channel and up past Liberty Island, making the
steamer's dock just as the sun was sinking behind the distant Jersey
hills.

That night there was the greatest talking match at the Bosworth home
ever known, and it kept up until nearly midnight. Jimmy had such a share
in the telling of their adventures that he was as hoarse as a crow
afterwards, and could hardly raise his voice above a whisper.

When the rest of the troop gathered in their lodge-room at the called
meeting, and heard a detailed account of what had happened in that
far-away land along the shores of the greatest bay in all the world, they
united in declaring that Ned and his four chums had done the whole
organization credit, in finding out the truth in connection with the
supposed mine.

It was voted that the adventure was by long odds one of the most
thrilling that had ever come to any scouts belonging to the New York
troop; and some of the boys even went so far as to declare that in all
probability it would never be equaled. But when they made such a rash
prediction as this, they did not know how soon Ned and his chums would
be called upon to once more take part in another series of hazards that
would try their courage, as few scenes had ever done before; as well as
bring to the front their knowledge of woodcraft and other things that
scouts should know.

These astonishing experiences will be found recounted in the next volume
of this series, under the title of "Boy Scouts In Death Valley; or, The
City in the Sky;" and those boys who are fortunate enough to secure this
story will surely vote it one of the most interesting they have ever
read. Until we meet again in the pages of the new book, we will say, not
good-bye, but "good-night."

THE END.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------



BOYS' COPYRIGHTED BOOKS

Printed from large, clear type on a superior quality of paper,
embellished with original illustrations by eminent artists, and bound in
a superior quality of book binders' cloth, ornamented with illustrated
covers, stamped in colors from unique and appropriate dies, each book
wrapped in a glazed paper wrapper printed in colors.

ARMY BOYS SERIES

By Major Andrew S. Burley

1.--Uncle Sam's Army Boys on the Rhine, or, Bob Hamilton
in the Argonne Death Trap.

2.--Uncle Sam's Army Boys in Italy, or, Bob Hamilton Under
Fire in the Piave District.

3.--Uncle Sam's Army Boys in Khaki Under Canvas, or, Bob
Hamilton and the Munition Plant Plot

4.--Uncle Sam's Army Boys with Old Glory in Mexico, or, Bob
Hamilton Along Pershing's Trail.

NAVY BOYS SERIES

By Jasper Martin--Gunner's Mate

1.--Uncle Sam's Navy Boys with the Submarine Chasers, or, On
Patrol Duty in the North Sea.

2.--Uncle Sam's Navy Boys Afloat, or, The Raid Along the
Atlantic Seaboard.

3.--Uncle Sam's Navy Boys in Action, or, Running Down Enemy
Commerce Destroyers.

4.--Uncle Sam's Navy Boys with the Marines, or, Standing Like
a Rock at Chateau Thierry.

OVER THERE SERIES

By Capt. Geo. H. Ralphson

1.--Overthere With the Marines at Chateau Thierry.

2.--Overthere With the Canadians at Vimy Ridge.

3.--Overthere With the Doughboys at St. Mihiel.

4.--Overthere With Pershing's Heroes at Cantigny.

For sale by all booksellers, or sent postpaid on receipt of 75 cents.

M. A. DONOHUE & CO. 701-733 So. Dearborn Street Chicago

-----------------------------------------------------------------------



BOYS' COPYRIGHTED BOOKS

The most attractive and highest class list of copyrighted books for boys
ever printed. In this list will be found the works of W. Bert Foster,
Capt. Ralph Bonehill, Arthur M. Winfield, etc.

Printed from large clear type, illustrated, bound in a superior quality
of cloth.

THE CLINT WEBB SERIES
By W. Bert Foster

1.--Swept Out to Sea; or, Clint Webb Among the Whalers.
2.--The Frozen Ship; or, Clint Webb Among the Sealers.
3.--From Sea to Sea; or, Clint Webb on the Windjammer.
4.--The Sea Express; or, Clint Webb and the Sea Tramp.

THE YOUNG SPORTSMAN'S SERIES
By Capt. Ralph. Bonehill

Rival Cyclists; or, Fun and Adventures on the Wheel.
Young Oarsmen of Lake View; or, The Mystery of Hermit Island.
Leo the Circus Boy; or, Life Under the Great White Canvas.

SEA AND LAND SERIES
Four Boys' Books by Favorite Authors

Oscar the Naval Cadet          Capt. Ralph Bonehill
Blue Water Rovers              Victor St. Clare
A Royal Smuggler               William Dalton
A Boy Crusoe                   Allen Erie

ADVENTURE AND JUNGLE SERIES

A large, well printed, attractive edition.

Guy in the Jungle              Wm. Murray Grayden
Casket of Diamonds             Oliver Optic
The Boy Railroader             Matthew White, Jr.
Treasure of South Lake Farm W. Bert Foster

YOUNG HUNTERS SERIES
By Capt. Ralph Bonehill

Gun and Sled; or, The Young Hunters of Snow Top Island.
Young Hunters in Porto Rico; or, The Search for a Lost Treasure.
Two Young Crusoes; by C. W. Phillips.
Through Apache Land; or, Ned in the Mountains; by Lieut. R. H. Tayne.

BRIGHT AND BOLD SERIES
By Arthur M. Winfield

Poor but Plucky; or, The Mystery of a Flood.
School Days of Fred Harley; or, Rivals for All Honors.
By Pluck, not Luck; or, Dan Granbury's Struggle to Rise.
The Missing Tin Box; or, Hal Carson's Remarkable City Adventure.

COLLEGE LIBRARY FOR BOYS
By Archdeacon Farrar

Julian Home; or, A Tale of College Life.
St. Winifred's; or, The World of School.

For sale by all booksellers, or sent postpaid on receipt of 50 cents.

M. A. DONOHUE & CO.
701-723 So. Dearborn Street, Chicago





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