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´╗┐Title: The Go Ahead Boys on Smugglers' Island
Author: Kay, Ross
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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                           THE GO AHEAD BOYS
                                   ON
                           SMUGGLERS' ISLAND


                                   BY
                                ROSS KAY

          Author of "The Search for the Spy," "The Air Scout,"
              "Dodging the North Sea Mines," "With Joffre
                       on the Battle Line," etc.

                            _ILLUSTRATED BY
                            R. EMMETT OWEN_

    I leave this rule for others when I'm dead;
    Be always sure you're right--THEN GO AHEAD.
                        --_Davy Crockett's Motto._

                                NEW YORK
                            BARSE & HOPKINS
                               PUBLISHERS

                            Copyright, 1916,
                                   by
                            BARSE & HOPKINS



                                PREFACE


A basis of fact underlies many of the incidents incorporated in this
story. Even the letters are very like those received by one of the
official agents of the United States Treasury. Occasional use has been
made of the work entitled, "Defrauding the Government." Out of his
material the writer has tried to present a tale that should be stirring
and yet wholesome, having plenty of action, but free from sensationalism.

Naturally, changes in characters and localities have been freely made. If
his young readers shall be interested in the story and shall draw the
conclusion that any attempt to defraud the Government reacts in harsher
form upon the one who tried to evade the laws, a part at least of his
purpose will have been accomplished.



                                CONTENTS



  CHAPTER                                                            PAGE
  I An Early Morning Party                                             11
  II The Landing on the Canadian Shore                                 20
  III A Mysterious House                                               30
  IV The Coming of the "Gadabout"                                      39
  V A Perplexing Letter                                                48
  VI An Addition to the Party                                          57
  VII Once More on Cockburn Island                                     67
  VIII Left Behind                                                     76
  IX The Lost Skiff                                                    85
  X The Flight of the "Gadabout"                                       93
  XI Alone on the Lake                                                101
  XII The Search in the Night                                         109
  XIII A Fresh Arrival                                                117
  XIV Another Mysterious Letter                                       126
  XV A Signal of Distress                                             136
  XVI The Sinking Skiff                                               144
  XVII The Rescue of the "Gadabout"                                   152
  XVIII The Search for the Lost Boys                                  160
  XIX Suspicious Characters                                           168
  XX Penniless                                                        178
  XXI A Vague Hint                                                    188
  XXII A Passenger for Cockburn Island                                198
  XXIII An Unexpected Meeting                                         207
  XXIV Two Boats                                                      217
  XXV A Small Box                                                     226
  XXVI Conclusion                                                     236



                          THE GO AHEAD BOYS ON
                           SMUGGLERS' ISLAND



                               CHAPTER I
                         AN EARLY MORNING PARTY


"I never saw such a morning!"

"I never did either. I am glad I am alive!"

"So am I. It is worth something to be up here where the air is so strong
that you can almost bite it off. When we left Mackinac this morning one
could hardly tell whether the island was upside down or not. He could see
the reflections just as clearly in the water as he could see the island
above."

"I wonder what would happen if a fire should break out on the island?"

"Probably it would burn, just as it does everywhere else. They did have a
fire over there once and they say the whole island burned down."

"This is the place for the simple life!"

"Yes, it is a good place for the simple life, but to my mind there is a
great difference between a simple life and an idiotic life."

It was an hour before sunrise in a morning in July. The conversation
which has been recorded occurred on board a beautiful little motor-boat
named the _Gadabout_. Assisting the captain and owner in the management
of the fleet little craft was a young man, whose name sounded to the boys
very much like Eph, when they heard the owner of the boat address him.

On board the motor-boat were four boys among whom conversation did not
lag. The one who had perhaps the most to say was Fred Button. He was a
tiny, little fellow, though his round face and rounder body gave him the
appearance, as one of his friends described it, of a young bantam. He was
familiarly known among his companions sometimes by the nick-name of Stub,
or more often was called Peewee, or Pygmy, the last appellation sometimes
being affectionately shortened into pyggie, or even pyg.

Seated next to him was John Clemens, a boy already six feet three inches
tall, though he had not yet attained his eighteenth birthday. Familiarly
he was known as String and frequently, when he and Fred Button, who were
warm friends, were together they were referred to as the "long and short
of it."

On the opposite seat was Grant Jones, a clear headed, self-contained boy
of the same age as his companions. A leader in his class in school and
active on the athletic field, he had won for himself the nickname of
Socrates, which frequently was shortened to Soc. The fourth member of the
group was George Washington Sanders, a boy whose good-nature and witty
remarks had made him a favorite among his friends. In honor of the name
which he bore he sometimes had been referred to as the father of his
country, which distinction was occasionally shortened to Papa, or even to
Pop.

The owner and captain of the swift little craft was an elderly man, whose
whiskers and hair formed an unbroken circle about his tanned face. Both
he and Eph, when occasion required, served as oarsmen in the two skiffs
which the swift _Gadabout_ was towing. The light little boats were far
astern, each being held in its place by a long rope made fast to the
_Gadabout_.

"Whew!" said Fred Button, rising and stretching himself, "I hope we'll
get some fish to-day. How far do we have to go?" he added, addressing the
captain as he spoke.

"It depends a little upon where you want to go to," drawled the captain
in response, without turning his head as he replied.

"I thought it was understood," continued Fred, "that we were going to the
channel between Drummond Island and Cockburn Island."

"Ye'll have to show your papers, if you fish over on the Canadian side,"
growled the captain.

"We shan't fish on the Canadian side," spoke up Grant Jones. "We'll leave
it to you to keep us in American waters."

"That's right," added John. "If we get caught on the Canadian side,
Captain, we'll hold you responsible for it."

"Humph," growled the captain, "we'll see what we'll see."

Meanwhile the sun had risen and like a huge ball of fire was casting its
beams across the smooth waters of Lake Huron. Scarcely a ripple was to be
seen as the boat sped forward. The day promised to be unusually warm, but
as yet the air was cool, and the spirits of the boys, after their early
breakfast, were all high.

"We've got to get some of these fish to-day," broke in George Sanders.
"We didn't get many the other day."

"We weren't far enough away from Mackinac," said Fred.

"I've usually noticed," suggested Grant, "that the best fishing grounds
are always a good ways away from where you're staying. The further away
they are, the better they are."

"I've noticed that too," laughed George. "In fact there are a good many
funny things in this world. I wonder what people speak of a family jar
for."

"What do you mean?" inquired Fred.

"I mean just what I say. I heard a family jar this morning."

"I don't understand you," persisted Fred.

"Why, there was a family having a jar in the room next to mine. Only I
think it was a little more than a family jar, it was more of a family
churn, it was such a big one. There seemed to be such a very decided
difference of opinion that the jar wouldn't hold all that they were
saying."

"You shouldn't listen to such things," said Fred.

"'Listen'! 'Listen'! Why that was the very thing I was trying not to do,
but I guess anybody on Mackinac Island could have heard them, if he had
stopped."

"Who were the people?" inquired George.

"I don't know their names. The man is the one that wears that ice-cream
suit when he goes fishing."

"Oh, yes, I know him," laughed Grant. "I have observed several times that
the immaculateness of his manipulators has not been extremely
noticeable."

"That's right," laughed John. "There seems to be a superincrustation of
unnecessary geological deposits that doubtless are due to his
transcontinental pedestrianism."

"Why, did he have to tramp across the continent to get here?" laughed
George.

"I guess so. I know more about them than I wish I did, but I don't know
enough to know that."

"I noticed," said Fred, "yesterday afternoon when he came in that his
lips looked like Alkali Pete's."

"What was the matter with Alkali Pete's lips?" demanded George.

"They were seldom closed and there were great crevasses in them, cracked
by the alkali."

"I am taking your word for it," said John, "but I confess I don't know
what you're talking about. I'm a good deal more interested in the fish
we're going to get."

"'We're going to get.' I like that. Does String really think he is going
to catch any fish?" said George, turning to his companions as he spoke.
"His attenuated form doesn't look to me as if it would be able to stand
the strain of landing the fish some of us are going to catch to-day.
About the only thing I think String will ever catch will be a crab."

"String, how old are you?" demanded Grant abruptly.

"I'm eighteen in October."

"When will you be ten?"

"I don't understand your language," replied John. "In your superlunary
efforts to appear intellectual you sometimes state things that are
incomprehensible, even to people of my limited intellectual parts."

"Oh, quit!" broke in Fred, "don't spoil the day and scare the fish away.
I want to tell you about Professor Jackson. You know him, don't you?"

"Yes," replied Grant, "he's the man who came on Monday, isn't he? The man
who is making investigations of the island, digging up all sorts of
relics?"

"That's the man," acknowledged Fred. "Yesterday he dug up some cannon
balls. He said they were relics of the French and Indian war."

"They were all right," said George. "I know, for one of the guides told
me that they were the same balls that had been dug up by every old fellow
for the last twenty-five years."

"A new crop?" laughed Fred.

"Not at all. They are the same old cannon balls. They plant them every
spring and give pleasure to some of these old fellows, who are traveling
around the island in their gentle, antiquated gait looking for things
that belonged to our grandfathers. They give them the childish pleasure
of making 'discoveries' every year."

"I should think they would take the balls away with them," suggested
John.

"No, they leave them for the historical interest they provide for the
visitors. You go up to the reception room and you'll find some there now
in the glass case. They are a part of the same crop."

"That's all right," laughed Grant. "It's an easy way to keep the old
people interested."

By this time the _Gadabout_ had gained the lower point of Drummond
Island, thirty-five miles from the place from which they had started more
than two hours before this time. Across the narrow channel they saw the
shores of Cockburn Island. The latter was within the Canadian boundaries
and as the captain of the _Gadabout_ had explained, the boys would not be
permitted to fish in the waters along its shore without a special permit
from the Canadian officials.

The shore which they were approaching apparently had no buildings of any
kind. There were high bluffs and rocky points, but no house was within
sight.

"Captain," called Fred, "why are you taking us to this island?"

"I'm not taking you to this island," responded the captain. "I'm going to
take you past it. I'm not fool enough to try to dodge the Canadian laws."

Both the captain and his mate were watching the shore of the island,
which every moment was becoming more distinct.

Unexpectedly on a bluff far to the left a man was seen standing and
suddenly he appeared to become aware of the approaching _Gadabout_.
Turning abruptly about he several times waved a white cloth, which he
held in his hand, to parties that apparently were behind him. Then, once
more facing the waters, he again waved the cloth. Instantly and with a
grin of satisfaction appearing on his face the captain changed the course
of his motor boat.

The four boys glanced blankly at one another and for a brief time no one
spoke.

It was later when they learned that the signal which they had observed
was to mean much, both in excitement and adventure, for all four of the
boys on board the _Gadabout_.



                               CHAPTER II
                   THE LANDING ON THE CANADIAN SHORE


As the course of the _Gadabout_ was sharply changed in response to the
call of the captain, the attention of the four boys was quickly drawn in
another direction. Not one of them was aware of anything unusual in what
really was a signal on the shore of the Canadian island.

In a brief time the party was once more in American waters and as it was
still early in the morning, preparations were soon made for the sport of
the day.

The _Gadabout_ was anchored in a little cove and the mate, with Fred and
John, as the members of his party, took one of the skiffs, while Grant
and George together with the captain departed in the other. It was agreed
that they should meet at a certain place for luncheon and the rivalry was
keen as to which boat should have the bigger catch of fish.

"Look out for us!" called Fred as his boat drew away from that in which
his companions were being carried. "Look out for us! If you hear a
whistle you'll know we will need help."

"To catch your fish?" laughed Grant.

"No, to bring them in. We'll have a boat-load, anyway."

In high spirits the boys soon were ready for the sport of the day, and it
was not long before neither boat was within sight of the other.

When the noon hour arrived, still excited and hungry, the two boats were
landed at the place agreed upon and the captain at once displayed his
skill as a cook.

"Isn't it wonderful!" said George, not long after they were seated about
the folding table which the captain had brought in the _Gadabout_. "Isn't
it wonderful the amount of food a fellow can put himself outside of?"

"It is that," mumbled John, who was as busy as any of his comrades. "It
pays for it all, now."

"Of course it pays," laughed Fred. "That's what we're here for. Honest,
Grant, who caught that big pickerel?"

"I did," responded Grant proudly. "I cannot tell a lie, I caught it with
my little hook and line."

"I'll ask the captain about that later. I saw some other boats up there
where you were and I am going to ask them how much they charged for the
fish they sold you."

"They didn't sell us any fish!" retorted George indignantly.

"Another boy that cannot tell a lie. No wonder they call you the papa of
your country. What do we do this afternoon?"

"I'm going to take you to another place," explained the captain, who
throughout the meal had been busied in attending to the numerous wants of
the boys.

"Shall we get more fish than we did this morning?"

"That depends," said the captain solemnly. "Some people do and some
don't. It mostly depends on whether they are any good with the rod."

"Don't you think we're good?" demanded Fred.

"Huh!" retorted the captain. "Maybe you will be some day. Most of the
fish you got this morning were hooked so that they couldn't have got off
the hook. There's a big difference between catching a fish that way, and
getting one with just a hook through his lip. It takes some skill then."

"All right, captain, just as you say. You show us the right ground and
we'll do the rest."

"Maybe you will and maybe you won't," retorted the captain as he turned
away to prepare dinner for himself and his mate.

When afternoon came, the _Gadabout_ took the two skiffs once more in tow
and swiftly carried them seven miles farther, where the wonderful ground
described by the captain was located.

As soon as the anchor was dropped, the skiffs, arranged as in the
morning, sought the place where the marvelous fishing was to be had.

Apparently the words of the captain were in a measure fulfilled for so
busy were the four young fishermen that not one of them was aware of the
increasing distance between the boat in which he was fishing and the one
which carried his comrades.

It was late in the afternoon when Fred suddenly looked up and said, "It's
getting late, Jack. We ought to be going back to the boat. I don't see it
anywhere, do you?"

"You mean the skiff in which Grant and George are fishing?"

"Yes."

"No, I don't see them," said John slowly, after he had glanced all about
him. "I don't see the _Gadabout_ either."

"Well, the mate knows where it is," said Fred easily. "I hope the other
fellows won't get into any trouble, for there's a storm coming up."

As he spoke, Fred pointed to some clouds that rapidly were approaching in
the sky directly overhead. They were black, angry clouds too, and the
frequent flashes of lightning were followed by reports of thunder that at
first had been so low as scarcely to be noticed. Now, however, the sounds
were threatening and the oarsman, bidding the two boys reel in their
lines at once, began to row swiftly toward the point behind which the
_Gadabout_ was anchored.

In a few moments, however, the calm waters had become rough. Whitecaps
were to be seen all about them and the boys glanced anxiously at each
other. The wind too had risen now, but instead of blowing steadily across
the waters, it was coming in puffs.

"We're in for it, Jack," said Fred anxiously.

His companion made no reply, though the frequent glances he cast at the
sky indicated that he too was becoming anxious for their safety.

"Don't you want me to help?" inquired John as he glanced at the oarsman.

The mate shook his head in response and it was plain that he was exerting
all his strength in his efforts to keep the boat headed in the direction
in which it had started.

"There comes the rain," exclaimed John, as some heavy drops fell upon
them and the nearby water was becoming more and more disturbed.

"Take one of these oars," called the mate sharply, as he spoke rising
with difficulty from his seat and placing one oar in another oarlock.
"We'll have all we can do to make the point."

By this time both boys were thoroughly aroused. The rain was falling in
torrents and both were drenched to their skins.

Such a plight, however, was hardly to be noticed in the presence of the
danger that now beset them. In spite of their efforts the wind was
driving them away from the point. More and more the boys did their utmost
but their efforts were in vain. At last the mate shouted, "There's
nothing for it, boys, except to run for it. Sit down and we'll let the
gale drive us across to the other shore."

The Canadian island was nearby and the shore could not be more than two
miles distant, as both boys learned from their oarsman. However, it was
with white and set faces that they followed his directions and each took
his seat as he was bidden.

Swiftly the boat was driven before the wind, the mate exerting himself
only to keep the light, little skiff headed in the right direction. So
black were the clouds that already the boys were surrounded by darkness
almost like that of night. Neither was able to see the shore toward which
they were headed. The mate, however, appeared to be more confident than
he had been while he was seeking to drive the boat against the wind.

Swiftly and still more swiftly the frail little craft sped forward. No
one spoke in the brief interval between the crashes of thunder. The
streaks of the lightning seemed to fall directly into the waters of the
lake and at times the boys believed themselves to be surrounded by fire.
Never had either been in such peril before.

Fred had sunk into his seat so that only his head appeared above the
gunwale. John, whose seat was in the stern of the skiff, was so tall that
he was unable to follow the example of his friend and was clinging
tenaciously to the sides of the boat. Meanwhile, the mate successfully
keeping the skiff headed for the shore, was watchful of every movement of
his passengers.

When ten minutes had elapsed it was manifest that the anxiety of the
oarsman was increasing, as they drew near the shore. Without explaining
his purpose he did his utmost to change the direction so that they would
move in a course parallel to the shore, but, labor as he might, he was
unable to accomplish his purpose. Directly upon the rocky border of
Cockburn Island the gale was driving the little boat.

Once more the mate exerted his strength to his utmost as he strove to
guide the little skiff toward a cove not far away. For a time it seemed
as if his efforts were to succeed. But at that moment the wind became
even stronger than before and the howling of the tempest increased.

The boys had a sudden vision of an opening in the rocky shore, then there
was a crash and both found themselves struggling in the water.

When they arose to the surface they saw that before them the waters were
still. The sheltered cove promised a degree of safety such as a moment
before they had scarcely dared to hope for. Fishing rods, coats, cooking
utensils, tackle, all things had been thrown into the water when the boat
had struck the jutting rock. All these facts, however, were ignored in
the efforts of both boys to gain the beach before them, for they now
could see a sandy stretch not more than forty feet in length that marked
the limit of the waters. And it was only twenty yards away.

"All right, Fred?" called John as he swam near his friend.

"All right," sputtered Fred. "How is it with you?"

"I'm all right here. Have you seen the mate?"

"Yes, he's ahead of us."

Even as he spoke the mate could be seen rising to his feet in the
shallower waters and a moment later he gained the refuge of the sandy
beach.

It was not long before the boys also gained the same place of safety,
although before their arrival the oarsman had disappeared from sight.

As soon as the boys stood on the shore they shook themselves much as dogs
might do when they come out of the water and then in a moment the thought
of the peril of their friends came back to their minds.

"What do you suppose has happened to Grant and George?" said Fred in a
low voice.

"I think they must be all right," replied John, although his expression
of confidence was belied by the tones of his voice. "What shall we do?"

"Better go up on the bluff. Perhaps there we'll see the _Gadabout_ or the
skiff. They must have been driven in the same direction that we were."

"I don't think so. You see the _Gadabout_ was in the lee of that point.
The last I saw of the skiff it was on the other side of the point too. I
think that Grant and George probably have gone back to the _Gadabout_ and
are all right. Very likely they are talking about us at this very minute
and are scared at what may have happened."

"Can't we signal them?" inquired Fred anxiously.

"Signal them? No. We haven't anything to signal with in the first place
and they can't see us in the second."

"The storm is going down," suggested Fred. "They say the lake up here
gets quiet almost as quickly as it gets stirred up."

"It can't get quiet any too soon to suit me," said John dryly. "Where's
the mate?"

"I don't know. I don't see him anywhere."

Both boys looked carefully along the shore, but no trace of the missing
oarsmen was discovered.

The rain had ceased by this time and the sky was clearing. Not a sign of
the presence of the _Gadabout_ was to be seen on the waters before them.
The oarsmen had disappeared and each boy for a moment gazed anxiously at
his companion.

"Look yonder!" said John, suddenly pointing as he spoke to a spot in the
direction of the interior of the island.

"What is it?" said Fred.

"Why, there's a house up yonder. Don't you see it?"

"You mean a shanty?"

"I don't care what you call it, but I see smoke coming out of the
chimney. We'll go up there and get somebody to help us."

Moved by a common impulse both boys started in the direction of the
strange house. Neither was aware that they were entering upon an
experience that was to be as mysterious as it was trying.



                              CHAPTER III
                           A MYSTERIOUS HOUSE


The sun was shining brightly as the boys moved across the island in the
direction of the place they were seeking. As they stopped occasionally to
look back over the waters of the lake, they saw that the waves still were
tipped with white and the waters still were rough.

"I wish I knew where the other fellows are," said Fred, once more
stopping to look out over the waters that now were reflecting the light
of the afternoon sun.

"They are all right," said John, confidently. "I told you both the
_Gadabout_ and the other skiff are around the point."

"I know you told me so, but that doesn't make it so," said Fred, still
unconvinced by the confident manner of his companion.

"Look yonder, will you!" said John abruptly as he pointed toward the
house they were seeking. "I'm sure there is somebody in there."

"It doesn't look as if it would hold together long enough to let any one
stay very long inside," laughed Fred.

"We'll find out anyway pretty quick who it is."

In a brief time the boys arrived at the rear of the little house, which
was not much more than a shanty in its appearance. They found that their
surmise that smoke was rising from the chimney was correct. There could
be no doubt that some one was within the building.

Once more the boys turned and looked anxiously toward the lake, eager to
discover if any trace of their missing friends could be seen. The waters
already were becoming smoother and the rays of the sun were almost
blinding as they were reflected by the shining waters.

"What shall we do?" said Fred in a low voice. "Shall we rap?"

"Of course we'll rap," retorted John. "You talk as if you didn't know
what the customs of civilized countries are."

"Is knocking one of them?" inquired Fred demurely.

"It certainly is."

"Well, then, I guess I don't live in the place you are talking about, for
nobody has rapped at our door at home for the last ten years. Not since
we have put in electric bells."

"It's hard work to keep up with you," said John, not strongly impressed
by the attempt of his friend to be facetious. "But we'll knock here
anyway."

Advancing to the kitchen door, John rapped loudly to proclaim the
presence of visitors.

A silence followed the summons and when several seconds had elapsed John
repeated his knocking. Still no one came to welcome them, and then,
glancing behind him at his friend, John demurely raised the latch and
opened the door.

Fred at once followed and the two boys found themselves in a low, rude
kitchen. The stove was in one corner and it was plain now that the smoke
they had discovered was rising from it through the chimney. Upon the
stove several cooking utensils were to be seen, but as yet no person had
announced his presence in the little building.

"There must be somebody here," whispered Fred.

"Of course there is."

"Well, why doesn't he show up?"

"He will be here in a minute."

But when several minutes passed and still no one made known his presence,
John decided to announce their arrival in other ways.

"Hello!" he called, and then as his hail was not answered he repeated the
summons in tones still louder. "Hello! Hello!" he shouted again.

While he was speaking both boys were glancing toward the rude stairway
that led from the room to the small loft. They had surmised that the
occupants of the house might have been caught in the storm as they
themselves had been, and were in the upper room changing their clothing.

"Who are you?"

Startled by the unexpected sound both boys turned quickly about and saw
standing in the doorway of the kitchen a man plainly puzzled by their
unexpected appearance.

Neither of the boys ever had seen him before. He was apparently fifty
years of age, strong, and his face bronzed by sun and wind. There was an
expression in his face, however, that was puzzling to both boys. He
glanced quickly from one to the other and for a moment the boys suspected
that he was prepared either to leap upon them or precipitately flee from
the spot, they could not decide which.

The man was well-dressed and it was plain that he was not an ordinary
inhabitant.

"We got caught in the storm," explained John hastily. "We landed down
here and then we saw this little house and we thought perhaps we could
come up here and dry out."

"Anybody with you?" inquired the other man, still gazing keenly at both
his young visitors.

"Nobody but the mate."

"Mate of what?"

"The _Gadabout_."

"Did you come over from Mackinac Island?" demanded the man quickly.

"Yes, sir," said Fred. "We started this morning about four o'clock."

"And you came over with Captain Hastings?"

"Yes, sir. We got caught in the storm out here around the point and we
couldn't get back to the _Gadabout_, so the mate just let our skiff drive
before the wind and the boat was stove in when we finally landed in that
little cove out yonder."

"Where is the mate now?"

"We don't know. He went ahead of us and the first thing we knew he
disappeared from sight."

"Was he on shore here?"

"Yes, sir, we landed, as I told you, in that little cove and while we
were getting ashore we lost the mate. We don't know where he went."

"And you say there were others with you?"

"Yes, sir," explained Fred, "there were two other boys and they went out
with the captain."

"What happened to them in the storm?"

"We don't know. We wish we did," said John soberly.

"Oh, they're all right," broke in Fred. "The _Gadabout_ and the skiff
were both beyond the point when the storm broke and they had no trouble
in keeping to the lee of the point."

"This fire feels good anyway," said John, whose long, attenuated frame
was trembling with cold, in spite of the warmth which had followed the
shower.

"Sorry, boys, that I cannot give you a change," said the man, smiling
dryly as he spoke. As he was a man who weighed at least 190 pounds, while
John's form towered at least six inches higher and his weight was at
least seventy pounds less, the idea of either wearing the clothing of the
other was so ludicrous that Fred laughed aloud at the suggestion.

"That's all right," said John quickly. "All we want is a chance to dry
out before the mate gets back."

"How are you going to get back to Mackinac?"

"I don't know," said John ruefully. "We thought that perhaps the mate
could get word to the _Gadabout_ and the motor-boat would stop for us."

"How can he get word to the _Gadabout_?"

"I'm sure I don't know," said Fred. "We don't know anything about this
part of the country. It's the first time we ever were here. We thought
perhaps the captain might know some point where he could signal. It isn't
more than two or three miles across, is it?"

"Not here," responded the man. "But you are cold and I shouldn't be
surprised if you were both hungry. I've seen fellows at your age who
sometimes were afflicted in that manner. I'll put some more wood on the
fire and we'll dry you out and then we'll see what we can do."

Placing his hands together in a peculiar manner the man whistled through
them and in response, in an incredibly short time, a little Japanese
serving man appeared.

"Mike," said the man, "see if you can't find something for these hungry
young fellows to eat. They were caught in the storm and their boat was
wrecked down here in the cove."

The Japanese laughed loudly at the explanation and then quickly turning
about departed from the house.

"What do you say his name is?" inquired Fred.

"We call him Mike."

"I never heard of a Japanese with that name."

"Well, I don't suppose that is his full name. That's a mouthful and I
don't often speak it. He has been with me for several years and when he
first came some one named him Mikado, that was shortened to Mik, and of
late that's been gradually changing to Mike."

"Then he wasn't born in Ireland?" laughed John.

"No, he belongs to the Sunrise Kingdom. He will have something for you to
eat very soon. I have been coming here for several years now every
summer."

"Where is your home?" inquired John.

"That's hard to say. I was born on the ocean when my father and mother
were coming from England. My father was French and my mother was Russian.
We lived in the States two years after I was born and then we went to
Bermuda a year or two and finally we wound up in Brazil. From Brazil we
moved to Sweden and then went to Constantinople. After my father and
mother died I came to England and then moved to Montreal. Now, if you can
tell me where I belong and what I am you'll do better than I have been
able to do for myself."

"I think you're a first cousin of the Wandering Jew," laughed Fred.

"Perhaps I am more like the Man Without a Country," said the man soberly.
"I have come up here from Montreal every summer for the last few years."

"Why, how do you get here?" inquired Fred.

"I come up the Ottawa River from Montreal and then I leave the river at
Mattawa. It is easy going then from Lake Nippising, across the Georgian
Bay, and from Georgian Bay into Lake Huron doesn't take very long. Have
you ever been there, boys?"

"Where?" inquired Fred.

"Georgian Bay."

"No, sir."

"Then you have missed one of the prettiest spots in America. I never
tire--"

The man stopped abruptly as the mate of the _Gadabout_ suddenly appeared
in the doorway.

Without waiting for an invitation he at once entered the room and then to
the surprise of the two boys extended his hand and received from his host
a small package which he quickly thrust into the pocket of his coat.

The action although simple in itself nevertheless was surprising to the
boys. It was manifest that the mate already was acquainted with the
occupant of the house and also that he was having relations with him.
Just what these were neither of the boys understood, but before many days
elapsed they both were keenly excited by the recollection of the simple
exchange which they had just seen in the kitchen of the old house on the
shore of Cockburn Island.



                               CHAPTER IV
                       THE COMING OF THE GADABOUT


It was quickly manifest to the two interested boys that the mate and
their host were well acquainted with each other. Puzzled as they were to
account for the familiar greeting it was not long before John whispered
to his companion, "I suppose that man has been coming here so many years
that he knows all the men on the lake. That must be the reason why they
know each other so well."

"I guess that's right," said Fred, who was watching the men with an
interest which he was not entirely able to explain even to himself.

The mate was endeavoring to speak in whispers, but his voice was so
penetrating that it carried into the remote corners of the house,
although no one was able to distinguish the words which he spoke.

By this time the boys were dry once more and as they prepared to depart,
the Japanese servant unexpectedly returned. In his hands he was carrying
a tray on which there were numerous tempting viands. Both boys watched
the lithe little man as he speedily cleared the table and then deposited
upon it the plates and food which he had brought.

"You're not going now," said their host to the two boys. "You're just in
time for afternoon tea."

"We didn't know that you served anything like that," laughed Fred. "I
think we'll both be glad to stay and accept your invitation, shan't we?"
he added as he turned to John.

"I'm sure we shall," replied John, with a sigh which caused the others in
the room to smile at his eagerness.

The movements of the little Japanese speedily convinced the boys that he
had had long experience in the work he then was doing. Deftly and
silently he attended to all the wants of the guests and not many minutes
had elapsed before, responding to the influence, both Fred and John were
in better spirits.

Turning to the mate, John said, "Don't you think it is time for us to
find out what has become of the other boys?"

"Don't you worry none about them," said the mate. "I guess the cap knows
how to take care of them."

"But we don't know where they are," suggested Fred. "We don't know how we
are going to get back to Mackinac. We're sure they'll be anxious about us
and I know we are about them."

"Don't you worry none," retorted the mate. "They'll be coming this way
pretty soon. I can tell the toot of the _Gadabout_ if Gabriel was blowing
the whistle. They'll be here very soon, but I think by and by it may be a
good thing for us to go down to the shore and watch a little if we don't
hear the whistle calling pretty soon."

The entire party still was seated about the table. Relieved by the
confidence of the mate in the safety of their friends and of the
_Gadabout_, both John and Fred became more intent listeners to the
conversation which was occurring between the men.

"That Mackinac Island," suggested their host after a time, turning to the
boys, "is one of the most beautiful spots in the world. Ever been there
before?"

"No, sir," replied Fred. "This is our first visit."

"Don't you like it?"

"Very much. There are no two days alike. We have been up the river, down
the shore of Lake Michigan and to-day we came over here to Drummond
Island to try the fishing."

"And pretty nearly had a shipwreck, didn't you?" asked the mate.

"Yes, if you can call a skiff that was smashed a shipwreck."

"The skiff isn't smashed," drawled the sailor. "She's just stove in.
We'll have her fixed up in no time and she'll be as good as ever."

"I'm fond myself of Mackinac Island," continued the host. "I go over
there some days and shut my eyes and try to imagine what it was like so
many years ago when it was first discovered by the French."

"They didn't hold it very long," suggested John.

"No, and we didn't either."

"Nor did the British in the War of 1812. They got it away from us just as
they got it away from the French years ago. But after that war was ended
it came back to us and nobody has been able to lay hands on it since."

"You stay there all winter?" inquired the host, turning to the mate as he
spoke.

"I do that."

"I guess it's pretty cold," suggested Fred.

"You don't need to 'guess' and you don't need to say 'pretty.' It's just
cold. It's so cold that when you toss an egg up into the air it just
freezes and stays there."

"It couldn't stay there," said John.

"Why couldn't it?" declared the mate. "I guess I know what I am talking
about."

"Why, the attraction of gravitation would pull it to the ground."

"That's all right," roared the mate, "but the attraction of gravitation
is frozen too. Yes, I've seen with my own eyes eggs staying right up in
the air and the air itself all froze up and the attraction of gravitation
froze too."

"That must be a great sight," laughed Fred.

"It is, and you can't see it anywhere except on Mackinac Island."

"What do you do with yourself all winter?" demanded John.

"Get ready for summer."

"And then when summer comes you work all the while getting ready for the
winter, don't you?"

"Yes, that's just it," acknowledged the sailor soberly. "It just seems as
if all the time nobody had a chance to live, but he just plans to get
ready for it."

As the conversation continued John became more and more thoughtful and
silent. Several times he had been startled by sounds which he had heard
in the room directly above that in which they were assembled. Twice he
suspected that some one had come to the head of the rude little stairway
and was listening to the sounds of conversation below.

On each occasion it had seemed to him that he had heard the sound of a
rustle of a woman's dress. But of all this he could not be certain and
even if his surmise had been correct he had no reason to be more
suspicious of their host.

Indeed his suspicions might not have been aroused had not he intercepted
a look which the man gave his Japanese servant, which caused the latter
quickly to go to the head of the stairway.

John was deeply interested and striving to appear indifferent watched
keenly the face of the Japanese when the latter returned to the room and
was positive that he saw the little, brown man shake his head slightly in
response to a question in the eyes of his employer.

Such actions might be entirely natural, and John tried to assure himself
that there was no cause for his increasing suspicions that something was
not right in the strange house on the shores of Cockburn Island.

He had no opportunity to explain his suspicions to Fred, however, for
just then the sailor said, "It is time for us to go back and keep a
lookout for the _Gadabout_."

Acting at once upon his suggestions the two boys arose from their seats.

Cordially thanking their host for his kindness in receiving them into his
house and providing for their wants, they soon departed, following the
mate as he led the way to one of the higher bluffs along the shore.

"I don't know that man's name yet," said John to Fred.

"That's so," acknowledged Fred. "We don't know who he is, do we? Well,
it's as broad as it is long, for he doesn't know our names either."

"Probably we never shall see him again anyway, so it won't make any
difference, but I should like to know more about him."

"He seems to have been in several parts of the world, doesn't he, Jack!"

"He surely does. I don't wonder that he can't tell what nationality he
is."

"Look out on the lake," suggested Fred. "It's as calm as a mill pond."

"Yes," acknowledged John. "It's so smooth that if one didn't know, he
wouldn't believe it possible for it to stir up such a gale as we saw
there a couple of hours ago."

"Well, there's one comfort," said Fred. "If it doesn't take very long for
a squall to come, it doesn't take very long for it to go either. So we're
just about as well off as when we started."

"Except our fish," suggested John.

"Well, we're carrying back some fish, though they don't show. I don't
think I ever ate so much fish in my life as I did this noon. I think the
pickerel will hold a revolutionary congress--"

"Look yonder!" interrupted John quickly. "Isn't that the _Gadabout_?"

Fred instantly looked in the direction indicated by his companion and far
away saw the faint outline of a small boat which plainly was headed in
the direction of the bluff. "Yes," he said after a brief silence. "I
believe that's the _Gadabout_."

"Probably they are out looking for us. I hope the boys won't be worried."

"You needn't be afraid of Papa Sanders being worried," laughed Fred. "As
long as he and Grant are in some dry place and don't have to think of any
work they won't trouble their heads about us, you may be sure about
that."

"They ought to be ashamed of themselves if they are not," replied John
half angrily. "But they certainly are coming this way," he added a moment
later.

"Yes, and they see us, too," said Fred quickly, as he pointed to the
mate, who, in advance of them, had arrived at the bluff and was waving a
signal.

This signal consisted of a large piece of cloth that had at one time been
white, attached to a long pole. The sailor was waving this back and forth
in such a peculiar manner that the attention of the boys at once was
drawn to his actions.

"What's he trying to do?" whispered John to Fred.

"Trying to signal the _Gadabout_."

"Yes, but what's he doing it in that way for?"

"Well, I don't know, Jack. You're always suspicious of somebody. Probably
the captain doesn't know that he is doing anything out of the ordinary."

Whatever the explanation may have been, in a brief time the _Gadabout_
was seen approaching the bluff on which the sailor and the two boys now
were standing.

The skiff in which their friends had been seen was in tow and soon after
it was discovered both Grant and George were seen in the bow of the swift
little motor-boat.

"That's good. That's a relief," said John when he was convinced that his
friends were on board.

"Probably they feel the same way now that they have seen us."

"We'll know about that very soon."



                               CHAPTER V
                          A PERPLEXING LETTER


It was decided to leave behind them the skiff that had been wrecked and
as the boys ran down to the shore they saw that the beautiful little boat
had been drawn up on the land.

"That can be fixed all right," said the mate in response to the question
of the boys. "The frame's all good."

Neither of the boys, however, heard his words as they both climbed into
the skiff, which Grant had rowed ashore.

"Where were you, fellows?" he asked as he grasped the oars and headed the
little boat once more for the _Gadabout_.

"We went ashore. The mate just let us drive before the wind. We couldn't
do anything against it."

"Yes," added Fred. "We stove in the boat when we tried to land. The waves
were a million feet high."

"How high?" laughed John.

"Well, they were pretty nearly ten feet anyway."

"That's about as near as you get to things, isn't it?" remarked John.

"Well, you know what I mean."

"I don't care what you mean as long as you're both safe. The captain was
afraid you might capsize."

"You mean he was afraid we would be capsized," retorted Fred.

"May be that was it. At all events he was afraid you would go into the
water and he knew you couldn't take care of yourselves if you did."

"Hello," exclaimed John abruptly. "Here comes our recent host. I wonder
what he wants now."

As he spoke John pointed toward the shore from which the man in whose
house they recently found refuge was seen approaching in a skiff. Just
where his boat had been kept was not plain to either of the boys. There
was no boathouse on the shore and few places where the craft might have
been sheltered.

"I guess he has forgotten something," laughed Fred, "or he's after us.
John, did you take anything from the table when you left the house?"

"Nothing except what I had already taken inside," retorted John.

In response to the call of the man the departing _Gadabout_ was delayed
until he came alongside. There was a whispered conversation between him
and the captain, which lasted only a few minutes. What was said could not
be heard by the boys, although John was really trying to discover what
the subject of the conversation was, at the same time doing his utmost to
appear indifferent.

Fred, who understood the peculiarities of his companion, laughed silently
as he saw John's actions and shook his head warningly.

Quickly, however, the captain turning about gave the order to start and
almost as if it had been hurled forward by some powerful and unseen hand
the graceful little boat suddenly started swiftly on its return to
Mackinac Island.

The speed of the motor-boat was much greater than in the morning. Indeed
as the time passed and the graceful little craft darted over the surface
of the water the boys looked at one another in amazement. The water
seemed almost to rise and be parted by the bow. It rushed past them with
a noise that was loud and almost confusing. Still the speed of the
_Gadabout_ increased. The roaring of the waters and the occasional call
of the captain were all that could be heard and in a brief time the boys
abandoned all attempts to speak to one another.

Darkness had fallen when at last they arrived at their destination. The
lights of the many windowed hotels and of the cottages along the road
were shining in the evening darkness. There was yet time, however, for
the boys to obtain dinner and in a brief time all four were seated about
the table, which had been assigned them when first they had arrived.

Fred was the last to enter the dining-room and as he did so his
companions saw that something had greatly amused or pleased him.

"Look here, fellows," he said as he seated himself at the table. "See
what I have got."

Drawing from his pocket a letter, which he explained he had received from
the clerk on his way to the dining-room, he placed the sheet of paper on
the table and began to read,--

  Sir,--I am one good american Citizen and I will do not the other
  Strangers peoples Cheat us My duty Me oblige to let you know which
  Cheater the U. S. Secret Contraband the man is it one British have one
  store in Chicago and one other store in Montreal Canada. This man make
  her Business in this Way. he order her goods to come from Paris france
  to Montreal Canada and ther he pay duty Very Cheap and then he express
  her goods to the boarderings of the untied States and then he took the
  Said goods and giving to the Cariage Man and the Cariag Man in the
  nighte time he Carry them With other different things eggs and other
  things lik that in many Barrel and the goods Mixed With Them So the
  goods entre in united States in the Way the dessert.
            respectfully yours truly,
                        American Brother.

"What do you think of that?" demanded John as he extended his hand and
received the letter.

"I don't know what to think of it," laughed Fred. "What do you think of
it?"

"It's too much for me," said Grant. "I don't believe even papa here knows
what it means."

"But it was sent to me," said Fred. "At least the directions are to Mr.
F. Button, and that's my name."

The boys were still laughing and talking about the strange epistle which
Fred had received when at last they withdrew from the dining-room and
selected four chairs near together on the broad piazza.

They had not been seated very long before the clerk of the hotel
approached the group and said to Fred, "I think I gave you a letter which
belongs to some other man."

"I guess you did," laughed Fred. "I don't think it belongs to me anyway.
Is this the letter?" he added, as he held forth the epistle which had
been the cause of so much mirth among the boys.

"I don't know whether it is or not," replied the clerk. "All I know is
that there is another man here, whose name is almost like yours. He is
Mr. Ferdinand Button. That letter was directed to Mr. F. Button. As you
had been here longer than he I thought it was for you."

"Well, it isn't," said Fred. "If it was my letter I would read it to you,
but I guess it belongs to Ferdinand, so you had better take it and give
it to him." Laughingly Fred held out the letter which the clerk took and
at once withdrew from the place.

It was not long afterward before a stranger approached the boys who were
still seated and said, "One of you, I am afraid had a letter to-night
which belonged to me."

"Yes, I guess we did," said Fred quickly, rising as he spoke. "My name is
Fred Button and the clerk said that this letter was meant for Mr.
Ferdinand Button."

"That's my name," explained the stranger, "and the letter was for me. Did
you read it?"

"I shall have to acknowledge that I did," answered Fred. "I didn't
suspect until I had done that that it really belonged to any one else."

Somewhat confused by his confession Fred noted the bearing of the man
before him more carefully.

It was plain to him now that the stranger was quiet in his manner,
gentlemanly in his bearing and possessed of a quick intelligence that
enabled him to perceive many a thing which his younger companions might
have lost. The stranger was about thirty-five years of age and his
bronzed face was nearly the color of that of the captain of the
_Gadabout_.

"Have you been here long?" inquired John.

"I came this morning."

"I thought perhaps you had been on the lake--"

"I have been on the lake," interrupted the stranger. "Indeed, I spend
much of my time on the lake. I am sorry you had the misfortune to receive
this letter which apparently was meant for me."

"What makes you so sure it was for you?" inquired Fred laughingly. "It
was signed 'American Brother' and was simply addressed 'Sir.' Perhaps it
was meant for me after all."

"No, the letter is mine," said the man quietly and as he spoke the four
boys were aware that he intended to retain possession of the perplexing
missive.

That he was able to do so was manifest in the breadth of his shoulders
and the evidences of strength which were apparent as he turned and walked
away.

"Whew!" whispered Grant. "I guess that man could tell some stories if he
wanted to."

"I hope he will want to," said George. "I know I want to hear them."

The conversation turned from the stranger who had claimed the letter to
plans for the following day and then when two hours had elapsed all four
boys, thoroughly tired by their experiences of the day, sought their
rooms.

The following morning John was surprised when he first went down to the
lobby to discover there his host of the preceding day.

At first John suspected that the man intended to ignore him, for he
advanced toward him with outstretched hand to express his surprise at the
unexpected meeting. The stranger, however, turned abruptly away. Abashed
by the action John's face flushed and he watched the man when he slowly
walked out to the piazza and seated himself near the entrance.

Turning to the clerk John said, "Who is that man?"

"I do not know," replied the clerk. "I have seen him here several times
this summer."

"How many years have you been coming here?" broke in John.

"Fourteen."

"And you never saw this man until this summer?"

"No. Why?"

"Oh, nothing much. I just wanted to know. I had an idea somehow that he
belonged to this part of the country and that perhaps he was here every
summer."

"No, sir," answered the clerk. "This is the first summer he has shown up
on Mackinac Island."

"You mean it is the first time he has shown up at your hotel," suggested
John.

"No, I don't mean anything of the kind. I mean just what I say, that this
is the first summer he has been seen on the island."

John said no more and turned away. He had decided that he would go out to
the piazza and see if this mysterious man was still there. Was it
possible that he had been mistaken? Was not this the man who had received
them in his strange house on Cockburn Island the preceding day? If any
questions concerning the identity of the man remained in John's mind they
were quickly dispelled when he glanced toward the dock and there saw the
newcomer talking to the captain of the _Gadabout_.

At that moment the other three boys approached the place where John was
standing and declaring that they were hungry demanded that he should at
once go with them to the dining-room.



                               CHAPTER VI
                        AN ADDITION TO THE PARTY


While the boys were seated in the dining-room they found Fred's namesake,
as they now called Mr. Button, seated near them at a small table.
Apparently, however, he ignored their presence and paid no attention to
what they were saying.

Convinced, that peculiar as the man's actions were they had nothing to
fear from him, the boys soon gave their undivided attention to their
breakfast and to discussing their plans for the coming day.

"It is agreed," said Fred, "that we are to go back to Drummond Island,
isn't it?"

"That's right," said George. "We shan't get as early a start this morning
but we ought to do as much as we did yesterday."

"I hope," said Grant, "that we shan't have any such storm."

"And I hope," joined in John, "that we don't have any more of these
mysterious events that took us over to Canada and made us afraid there is
somebody watching us."

"It's only a guilty conscience that is afraid," retorted Fred, "but we'll
go to Drummond Island and the sooner we can get started the better it
will be. We're late as it is."

When the boys departed from the dining-room they stopped together on the
piazza to discuss one or two further details in connection with their
proposed trip.

To their surprise Mr. Ferdinand Button approached the group and said,
"Pardon me, but did I understand you to say that you were going to
Drummond Island?"

"Yes, sir," said Fred promptly.

"I chanced to overhear your remarks while I was at breakfast and I
thought perhaps you might be willing to give me a lift."

"Do you want to go there?" asked John.

"Near there," said the stranger quietly. "I find there isn't another
motor-boat to be had. I am going to take a skiff and my man and if you
can find a place for us on board your motor-boat I shall gladly bear my
part of the expense and also appreciate your courtesy very much."

"Of course you can come," said Fred quickly.

"I shall not trouble you about coming back. I may not be ready to come
when you are, or I may want to come before you do. In either event, I
want to pay for my share of the _Gadabout_ for the day."

"We'll talk about that later," said Fred. "Are you ready to start?"

"Yes, my man is at the dock with his skiff."

"All right," said Fred. "Go right down there and we'll all be down in a
minute."

"Well, Captain," said John, when the boys approached the dock and found
their boat already at hand. "We're going to take a couple more
passengers."

"Who are they?" growled the captain.

"Why, this man, Mr. Button. He wants us to take him over to Drummond
Island. He doesn't know whether he will come back again with us or not."

"My guide says he will ride in the skiff," suggested Mr. Button.

"That won't be necessary, unless he wants to," said Fred.

"That's the way we'll go," said Mr. Button quietly, and at once the five
passengers took their places on board the swift, little _Gadabout_.

"What's the matter with the captain?" whispered Grant in a low voice to
Fred as soon as the motor-boat had put out from the dock.

"I don't know. Why?"

"Look at him, that's all. He's grouchy or else he's afraid. He looks to
me as if he wasn't very enthusiastic over the addition to the list of
passengers."

"It doesn't make any difference whether he is or not. We chartered the
boat and can do what we please with it."

Whether or not the captain was suspicious of the newcomer, the boys gave
no further attention to him. In a brief time they were drawn to the
newcomer, whose knowledge of the region and whose stories of the early
days at once appealed strongly to his young listeners.

"Yes, sir," said Mr. Button. "There have been some stirring scenes up
around Mackinac Island. To my mind it is one of the most beautiful spots
in the United States, and, standing just as it does where the lakes join,
I do not wonder that the Indians did not want to give it up and that the
French and English fought over it the way they did. There's a very
interesting story of the defense of the old fort. It is published I
believe, in a little pamphlet and my advice to you is to get a copy and
read it before you go home."

"We'll do that," said Grant enthusiastically.

"When we get back," laughed George, "Grant's head is going to be so full
of the information that he has picked up about the lakes and Mackinac
Island, that the rest of us won't have to do any work, except to keep him
quiet."

"By the way, Mr. Button," said Fred, "did you find out anything more
about that letter?"

To the surprise of the boys the captain appeared at that moment, glaring
angrily at Fred and turning about several times after he had started back
to his place at the wheel.

"It was a strange letter," said Mr. Button, "but I am accustomed to such
things. It is a part of my business."

All four boys looked at him questioningly, but he smiled slightly without
satisfying their curiosity at the time.

"As I was saying," he continued, "there have been some very exciting
adventures around Mackinac Island. Perhaps I will tell you something
about them before long. Just now I should like to have you tell me about
your trip yesterday. Did you have good luck?"

"It depends upon how you look at it," said John with a laugh. "We caught
all the fish we wanted for our luncheon, but we had a terrific thunder
storm out there that drove us ashore in the afternoon. At least Fred and
I were driven ashore."

"You were wise lads to run before the gale."

"You needn't charge us with the wisdom," laughed Fred. "It was the mate
that had it. We were lucky enough to have him with us and he took us
ashore over at Cockburn Island. We weren't so lucky when we landed,
though, because our skiff was all stove in and we had to leave it when we
came away."

"How did you get away?"

"Why, the other fellows took the Gadabout and began to look for us after
the storm died out and then they came ashore for us in their skiff."

"How far is it between Drummond Island and Cockburn?"

"Two or three miles. That's about all, isn't it, Captain?" said John
turning abruptly about as the captain's face once more was seen peering
eagerly at the company seated in the stern.

"That's about it," drawled the captain. "Have you never been there?" he
added, looking directly at Mr. Button as he spoke.

"I'm looking forward with great pleasure to the trip," replied Mr.
Button, quietly, apparently ignoring the question that had been asked.
"You don't think we are likely to have another storm, to-day, do you?"

"No," said the captain abruptly, as once more he turned to his work.

"Tell me about Cockburn Island," said Mr. Button, speaking to the boys.
"Is it inhabited? Are there many people living there?"

"I don't know," said John. "We didn't see very much of it. We found a
little shanty, or shack, not far from the shore and when we saw smoke
coming out of the chimney we went up there thinking that we might dry our
clothes, for we were wet through."

"Did you find anybody there?"

"Yes, that's the strange part of it," explained John. "The old shanty,
that looked almost as if it would fall to pieces, was pretty well fixed
up inside. There was a man there and he had a Japanese servant. Indeed, I
am sure I saw the man at the harbor this morning. At least I thought it
was the same man, but he didn't speak to me, so I couldn't be sure after
all."

Conversation ceased for a time and it was not until they had arrived off
the shore of Drummond Island that Mr. Button said, "I think I will leave
you here. I want to thank you again for your kindness in bringing me."

"Where are you going?" demanded the captain, who again approached the
group.

"I'm going to leave the _Gadabout_ here," explained Mr. Button.

"Where you going? There's no good fishing here."

"I'm going to trust my guide for that," explained Mr. Button, pointing as
he spoke to the man in whose skiff he was to depart. This man was now
seated in his little skiff about one hundred feet astern of the
_Gadabout_.

"Fetch him up then," said the captain. "I'll stop the _Gadabout_ and let
you off."

In spite of the captain's manifest effort to appear at ease it was plain
to his young passengers that he still was angry or alarmed over the
presence of Mr. Ferdinand Button. What the connection was between the two
not one of the boys was able to conjecture.

Their attention, however, was speedily drawn to the skiff which Mr.
Button now hauled in and as soon as it was drawn alongside he stepped
lightly on board.

It was impossible for any of the boys to see the face of the guide, who
at the time was bending low over a box which contained the fishing
tackle. It was only later when John reminded the other boys of the
strange coincidence between the excitement of the captain and the
inability of all to see the face of the guide in Mr. Button's boat, that
they recalled it.

"There isn't any fishing here," again shouted the captain.

Apparently Mr. Button was not greatly impressed by the knowledge of the
captain, for ignoring his words, he seated himself in the stern of the
skiff and prepared to begin his trolling.

Meanwhile the _Gadabout_ was belying her name, as now she was only
drifting slowly with the current.

"Come on, Captain," called Fred at last. "We're ready to start."

"Better start," retorted the commander of the motor-boat. "There's no
fishing here and I told that man there wasn't, but he doesn't seem to pay
no attention."

"That's his own fault," laughed Grant. "Go on with us."

Still manifestly reluctant the captain at last started the engine but the
_Gadabout_ had not gone more than a few yards before he again stopped the
boat and said, "We might as well try it here as anywhere."

"But you said the fishing here wasn't any good," protested Fred.

"It'll do no harm to try it."

In accordance with the captain's words the _Gadabout_ was anchored, and
as soon as the young fishermen were separated into two parties as they
had been the preceding day, the two skiffs were soon prepared for the
sport of the morning.

The captain, who now was rowing the boat in which John and Fred were
seated, had rowed one hundred yards from the _Gadabout_ and the boys both
were trolling. Still the captain watched the skiff in which Mr. Button
had departed as long as the little boat could be seen. Even the
_Gadabout_ now was soon lost to sight.

"I'll have to have a fresh bait," said Fred, who had been the first to
have a strike. He reeled in his line and swung the hook around for the
captain to bait it. A moment later the captain abruptly changing his
position dropped overboard the box which contained the leaders.

"There I've gone and done it!" he said. "Lost every leader! There is
nothing to do, boys, except to go back to the _Gadabout_ and get some
more. I'm sorry, but it won't take long."

"Nothing else to be done," said John, "so the sooner we get back the
better."

No one in the little boat spoke while the captain rowed swiftly back to
the motor-boat.

The surprise of the boys was great when they drew near the little
_Gadabout_ to discover that a skiff had been made fast alongside the
boat.

"Whose skiff is that?" demanded John abruptly. "We didn't leave any boat
here."

The captain without replying increased the speed at which he was rowing
and as he drew near the _Gadabout_ the boys were startled when they saw
peering from the companionway the face of Mr. Ferdinand Button.



                              CHAPTER VII
                      ONCE MORE ON COCKBURN ISLAND


"Who's that on board the _Gadabout_?" roared the captain. "What are you
doing there, you lubber?"

"I guess you know who I am," replied the man on deck, who now the boys
were convinced was indeed the mysterious stranger.

Both boys were startled, as they looked into the face of the captain, who
was now rowing swiftly toward the little motor-boat. Whether the
expression on his face was one of anger or of fear was not known by
either. The man, however, was keenly excited and his anxiety to gain his
boat became apparent with every stroke of his oars.

In a brief time he swung the skiff alongside the _Gadabout_ and without
making any effort to board the boat the captain roared, "What are you
doing on board there?"

"I came back to get something that I thought might be here, which I
didn't take with me," said Mr. Button quietly. It was manifest from his
appearance that he was in nowise alarmed by the noisy questions of the
captain of the _Gadabout_.

"Well, did you find it?" demanded the captain.

"I cannot say that I have--as yet."

"I guess that depends on what you're looking for," said the captain, his
voice becoming lower, although his excitement was still manifest.

"I didn't suppose there would be any such feeling over my coming back to
your boat. I have known of other men who neglected to take some things
with them when they left home, to say nothing about a motor-boat."

"Did you say you found it?" again demanded the captain.

"I found something that will do me just as well."

For a moment the two men stared at each other, the captain still keenly
suspicious or angry, while the expression on the face of Mr. Button was
one which the boys were not able to understand. To all appearances he was
unruffled by the noisy queries of the captain, and yet what was behind it
all no one could say.

There was nothing, however, more to be done and in a brief time Mr.
Button stepped into his skiff in which the man, who was to be his guide,
was still seated. Without any delay the guide picked up his oars and
resumed his rowing.

Meanwhile the captain remained standing on the deck of the _Gadabout_,
glaring at the departing skiff, although he did not utter any sound until
the man of whom he was suspicious or afraid had rounded the nearest
point.

"Better get your leaders, captain, because we want to start," suggested
Fred impatient over the long delay.

"Humph," grunted the captain. Nevertheless he disappeared below and in a
brief time came back to the deck with a box in his hands.

"That's the same box you took out this morning, isn't it, Captain?"
laughed John.

"What's that you say?" roared the sailor.

"I said, isn't that the same box of leaders that you took out this
morning?"

"Well I'll have to own up that it is," said the captain. "I had it in my
pocket all the while and I thought I dropped it overboard. We'll make up
for lost time now, so get aboard, both of you."

To the surprise of the young fishermen, however, the captain did not
return to the ground over which he had been fishing at the time of his
unexpected return to the _Gadabout_. Instead, he followed swiftly in the
direction in which Mr. Button had disappeared. Both boys questioned him
sharply concerning the change in their plans, but the only reply their
guide made was to explain that he thought the fishing was likely to be
better in the direction in which he was going than where they had been
before.

Fred winked slyly at his companion when several times the captain ceasing
his efforts took a glass and drank of the waters of the lake and then
taking from his pocket a jointed telescope gazed long and earnestly in
the direction in which they were moving.

"What's the trouble, Captain? What are you looking for?" demanded Fred.

"I wanted to see if that man's got on my ground."

"Do you see him anywhere?"

"No, I don't. I wish I did."

"Who is he, anyway?" inquired John. "You seem to have a pretty wholesome
respect for him."

"What's that you say? What's that you say?" demanded the captain sharply,
as he glared at John.

"Why, what I said," explained John, "was that you seem to be very much
impressed by him. Do you know who he is?"

"I don't know nothin' about him," retorted the captain, resuming his
occupation once more.

When at last the captain declared that they had arrived at the grounds he
was seeking the boys renewed their attempts of the morning. For some
reason, however, all their efforts were unavailing. Either the fish were
not there, or they were not biting.

"I believe, Captain," said John, at last, "that you were more interested
in following that man than you are in getting a good shoal for us to fish
over."

"What's that you say?" retorted the captain. "It's no such thing. It's no
such thing. I don't care about that man any more than I do about--you."

"You have a strange way of showing it, then," suggested Fred with a
laugh.

"I tell you what I'll do, boys," said the captain at last. "If we don't
have any luck here by noon I'll take you across the channel and we'll try
it 'long Cockburn Island."

"But we haven't any right to fish there. That's in Canadian waters," said
John quickly.

"Well, I have a permit," explained the captain.

"Good for us, too?" inquired Fred.

"Yes, good for you, too."

Both boys were somewhat dubious as to the extent of the permission
secured by the captain, but they made no protest. Swiftly the little boat
was rowed across the intervening waters and in a brief time, under the
shelter of the bluffs of the island they were seeking, preparations were
made for resuming their sport.

"We don't want many fish just now," said the captain.

"That's lucky for us," laughed Fred.

"What I mean is, that we want something for dinner, but that's about all.
After dinner we'll see what we can do with our luck."

When the time came for landing, the captain turned to the boys and said,
"Before I start a fire I want to go up to that house yonder for a
minute."

"We'll go with you," suggested Fred, winking at John as he spoke.

"No, no," said the captain sharply. "You stay right here on the shore. If
you want to you can start a fire and have things goin' so that when I
come back everything will be ready."

"What do you suppose is the matter with the captain?" inquired John after
the departure of their guide.

"Why he's either afraid of or he doesn't like that Mr. Button. Maybe he's
the man that wrote that letter."

"More likely he's the man that the other fellow wrote the letter about,"
laughed John. "I think myself that the old fellow will bear watching."

"I haven't seen anything in him that I thought was wrong," said Fred.
"Naturally he doesn't waste very much affection on the officials of the
law."

"I don't see why he shouldn't," broke in John. "Unless there's something
wrong with him."

"There may be something wrong as far as the law is concerned, but I guess
the old fellow himself thinks he's right. You know there are a good many
people that do that."

"What do you suppose he's up to?"

"I don't believe anybody knows, not even the captain himself. I guess
it's his general principles. He's opposed to everything."

"Do you think this Mr. Button is anything more than he appears to be?"

"I'm not sure," said Fred thoughtfully. "It may be that he knows a good
deal more than he explains and it may be that letter he got, which was
sent to me first, has made him suspicious of the captain. I don't myself
believe there's anything the matter with the captain anyway."

"Look yonder!" said John quickly, dropping the fish, which he was
cleaning, as he spoke. "Isn't that Mr. Button himself?"

Hastily looking in the direction indicated by his friend Fred was silent
for a moment and then said, "That's just who it is. What do you suppose
he's doing here on this island?"

"He isn't on the island yet. I'll tell you later what he does, that is,
if he lands. Don't let him see us."

Hastily moving behind the high bushes, though neither boy could explain
just why he did so, they watched their fellow-guest, as his skiff was
swiftly sent ashore and Mr. Button himself stepped out upon the land.

It was plain that he was not aware of the presence of the boys and that
all his movements were being keenly watched.

The interest of the boys, however, was speedily increased and in a brief
time both were highly excited when they saw Mr. Button take from his
pocket a revolver, which he inspected carefully and after he had returned
it to its place he at once started toward the house in the distance.

It was the same rude, little shanty in which the boys had found refuge
the preceding day. Now, however the sun was shining brightly and the
clear waters of the lake were reflecting its beams. There were no signs
of life about the house on the shore, but both boys excitedly watched Mr.
Button as he made his way across the fields and after a brief time
approached the side door of the house and then entered the little
building.

"Let's go up to the house, too," suggested Fred quickly.

"What for?"

"Why, there's no reason why we shouldn't go and if there's any fun going
on we want to be on hand."

"I'm with you," said John cordially, and as soon as they had banked their
fire both boys started across the open field toward the house in the
distance.

"I'm telling you," said Fred in a low voice, "there's something going on
up in that house."

"You always make a mountain out of a mole hill."

"Well, perhaps I do, but I'm sure there's something doing and they may
need us before long."

"Yes, probably they are wondering now why we don't come," laughed John.

"Just you wait," retorted Fred. "You'll see I'm right."

"If I thought you were, I know of one fellow who wouldn't go near that
house."

"But you're going just the same," said Fred positively.

There was no delay and after the boys had crossed the field they
approached the kitchen-door of the rude, little house where Fred made
known their presence by his noisy summons.



                              CHAPTER VIII
                              LEFT BEHIND


In response to Fred's knock the door was opened by the little Japanese
servant. He stared blankly at the boys and then broke into another of his
loud laughs.

"Is there any one here?" inquired Fred.

The response of the Japanese was another boisterous laugh.

"Why don't you tell us?" demanded John, irritated by the manner of the
little man; but the sole response of the Japanese was a loud burst of
laughter after each inquiry.

"Let's go in anyway," suggested Fred.

The Japanese offered no opposition to their entrance and when they were
within the familiar room they glanced hastily about them, but there were
no signs of the man they were seeking.

Abruptly, however, Fred said, "Hush! Listen, Jack! That's the captain's
voice upstairs."

Both boys were silent as they listened attentively to the sound of voices
which now could be heard from the upper room. Gradually the captain's
voice became louder and it was manifest that he was either in trouble or
angry.

To the astonishment of the boys the interview suddenly ended and the
captain, rushing down the stairway, abruptly departed from the house.
Apparently he had been unaware of the presence of either of the boys. He
had glanced neither to the right nor to the left and as the boys looked
out of the window they saw that he was walking rapidly toward the shore.

"Let him go," said John, "he'll have to wait for us anyway."

"I wish I was sure that he would wait," said Fred doubtfully.

"Wait? Of course he'll wait," retorted John. "That's what he's paid for."

"I'm not so sure," said Fred once more. "I think the best thing to do
would be for one of us to go back and see that everything is all right."

"All right," responded John quickly. "You stay here if you want to and
I'll go down to the shore and see if anything happens there."

Meanwhile Fred seated himself in the room and watched the Japanese
servant, who apparently ignored his presence save occasionally when he
stopped and stared blankly at him for a moment and then broke into a
noisy laugh.

Not many minutes had elapsed, however, before John came running back to
the house.

"The captain has taken the skiff and left the island!" he said excitedly
when he burst into the room.

"Oh, I guess not," said Fred.

"But he has, I tell you. He was rowing like mad. He has taken the skiff
and left us here."

"We'll go down to see about it," said Fred, abruptly rising and
accompanying his friend as together they ran back to the shore.

"There it is, just as I told you!" said John, when they arrived on the
bluff. "The boat has gone and the captain has gone with it."

For a moment Fred made no reply. He glanced in either direction along the
shore, and then peered intently out over the water, but neither the boat
nor the captain was to be seen.

"What shall we do?" demanded John. "That's strange and I told you there's
something wrong."

"He'll come back again," said Fred confidently.

"I'm glad you think so," responded John. "I'm not so sure of it myself."

"It'll come out all right," persisted Fred. "Come on now, we'll go up to
the house again."

When the boys returned to the house and once more entered the kitchen,
the little Japanese servant, who met them at the door, made no protest
when they entered.

Once more the boys seated themselves in chairs near the window. They
occasionally glanced blankly at each other for there was really no
explanation for their presence in the house. At the same time they were
both watching the waters of the lake not far away, but their watching was
vain, for when an hour had passed no signs of the captain had been seen.

"Where is the man that lives here?" finally Fred inquired of the
Japanese.

The servant laughed loudly, but shook his head to imply that he did not
understand.

"He knows English, all right, I'm telling you," said John in a low voice
to Fred. "This is getting all mixed up. I wish we were back in Mackinac."

"You are finding trouble everywhere, Jack," said Fred, although he too
was at pains to speak in subdued tones. Turning once more to the Japanese
he continued, "Can you get us some supper? We'll pay you for it."

The sole reply of the servant was another of his unmusical bursts of
laughter. Either he did not understand what was said, or he took this
method of ignoring the requests of his uninvited visitors.

"Let's go back to the shore," suggested John.

"All right," responded Fred, and together the two boys at once departed
from the little house.

When they arrived at the shore not only was their own boat gone, but the
boat in which Mr. Button had come had also disappeared.

"What do you make of that?" demanded John in astonishment.

"I'm sure I don't know," answered Fred, genuinely surprised by the double
disappearance.

"Maybe I'm not Calamity Jane's brother after all," said John. "There's
more in this than you think."

Fred was silent, though it was plain that he was puzzled by the failure
to discover any of the boats. The _Gadabout_ also was nowhere within
sight.

"Nothing for us to do," said Fred at last, "except to wait. They must
know we're here and there's no way for us to get away unless the
_Gadabout_ comes for us."

"Then we'll have to wait," said John, "and that's all there is to it."

Together the boys remained on the shore until at last the sun sank below
the western horizon. Darkness would soon be creeping over the land and
both boys now were more serious.

"It's plain the boys are gone," said Fred soberly. "I thought surely one
of them would be back here."

"Well, I didn't," said John. "The captain was in such a hurry when he
started that I didn't believe he would come back. I don't half believe we
will ever see him again anyway. I tell you there's something wrong here."

Fred's expression was serious as without making any reply he looked out
over the waters of the lake.

The darkness deepened and night would soon be at hand. "There's nothing
for it," said Fred at last, "except to go back to the house."

"I don't know what good that will do," said John, "but I'm ready to go if
you want to. This is the strangest thing I have ever been mixed up in in
my life. For my part I wish I was out of it."

"Don't cry, John," said Fred, striving to speak cheerfully.

"I'm not crying," retorted John, "but I don't like the look of the whole
thing. I tell you there's something serious in it."

Fred said no more and in a brief time the boys were standing once more at
the kitchen door.

Again the little Japanese, who had the faculty of apparently being in
different places at the same time, faced them as they entered. This time
he did not greet their coming with his usual loud laughter, but as he
made no protest the boys entered and Fred said to him, "Did you get some
supper for us?"

Either the Japanese did not understand, or he continued his pretense, for
he shook his head, though his expression was not unfriendly.

Both boys had suspected when they returned that the Japanese was about to
bar their entrance. Either they were mistaken, or he had changed his plan
for now he busied himself in his duties about the kitchen, apparently
ignoring the presence of the two uninvited guests.

A few minutes later both boys were startled by what they were certain was
the voice of a woman calling from the head of the stairway.

"Mikado," called the woman, "did you let those boys in again?"

Whether the Japanese understood or not he ran to the foot of the stairway
and a low conversation between him and the woman who had called him
followed, of which neither Fred nor John was able to distinguish any
word.

"You better give them some supper," at last she said in tones that the
boys plainly heard. "Tell them to go away then. We haven't any place for
them to sleep."

A candle was burning on a little side table in the kitchen and in its dim
light each boy was able to see the face of his companion. It was plain to
each that the other was now seriously perplexed. However, a few minutes
later, the Japanese entered the room with a tray on which he had a simple
supper to which by a motion of his head he invited the boys.

"Do you see how dark it is?" whispered John to Fred.

"Yes," replied Fred as he glanced out of the window. There were no stars
to be seen in the sky and the wind as it whistled about the corner of the
little building gave forth sounds that were weird and strange.

The boys seldom spoke throughout the meal and when at last they arose,
one of them took some money from his pocket and handed it to the
Japanese, who served them.

Quickly the little man took the money and thrust it into his pocket. No
language was required for the transaction and it was clearly manifest
that he understood the action of his guest.

"Let's go down to the shore again," suggested Fred. "Perhaps one of the
boats has come in and the fellows are looking for us now."

Both boys ran swiftly on their return but when they arrived on the bluff
once more they were doomed to disappointment. Not a boat was to be seen
in the dim light. Nor was any light to be seen as they looked out over
the waters. Somehow the darkness itself seemed to be startling.

"There isn't any boat here and there isn't any boat coming," said Fred at
last.

"What shall we do?" inquired John.

"There's only one thing for us to do," said Fred, "and that's to go back
to the house. We'll have to explain to them why we haven't left, and I
don't believe that woman, even if she didn't want us to see her, will
turn us out on a night like this. We'll tell her that we'll pay for our
lodging and I guess she'll let us in."

Neither boy, however, was confident of his welcome when they once more
retraced their way and started back toward the little house which now
itself was wrapped in darkness. Not even the beams of the candle now
could be seen shining through the kitchen windows.



                               CHAPTER IX
                             THE LOST SKIFF


Slowly the boys again crossed the familiar field. In their distraction
the various objects assumed grotesque forms in the dim light. The swaying
branch of a low tree seemed almost like the extended arm of a waiting
man. Every sound that came from the waters startled them. The cry of the
night birds was unusually weird and penetrating.

Neither of the boys was willing to acknowledge that he was afraid, but
nevertheless they kept closely together and did not speak until once more
they were standing before the kitchen door.

Both were startled when not far away they heard the sound of a deep
growl. They had not seen any dogs about the premises in their previous
visits and both were startled by the unexpected sound.

In their haste and alarm they both began to rap upon the door. The dog,
still growling, did not advance upon them, but they could see the dim
outline of his form as he stood near the corner of the house.

There was no sound within and no response was given to their summons. Nor
when they repeated their knocking, as they did several times, was any
heed paid them.

"What shall we do?" whispered Fred, looking up into the face of his
companion. "There must be somebody in here."

"Open the door," suggested John.

Fred reached for the latch, and, doing his utmost to be quiet in his
action in order to avoid undue attention on the part of the dog, tried to
open the door.

The door, however, was locked or bolted and although both boys pushed
against it with their shoulders they were unable to move it. For the
first time they were aware now how massive and strong the door was.

"It isn't much like an ordinary kitchen door," whispered Fred as they
abandoned their effort.

"I should say not," responded John. "We can't get in and that's the only
thing I can see plainly around here."

"I wish George and Grant were here."

"So do I, but if wishes were horses, beggars might ride. Is that dog
creeping any nearer to us?"

"I don't see that it is. I guess all there is left for us is to go back
to the shore and wait."

"We seem to be left on all sides, don't we?"

"Pretty much, and I hope that dog thinks so too."

Cautiously withdrawing from the kitchen door the boys slowly moved toward
the corner of the house. Not far before them was a pile of wood and in
case they should be attacked by the growling brute, they were hopeful
that there they might find some weapon of defense.

Suddenly both boys found themselves in need. With another growl the dog
advanced upon the boys as soon as they had passed the corner.

Leaping to the wood-pile John drew forth a stick three or four feet in
length and only about two inches in diameter. Fred was less fortunate and
unable to secure a weapon he darted toward the opposite side of the pile.

Meanwhile John was compelled to face the dog. As the savage animal leaped
forward John struck at it, but either his blow was too slow, or he did
not see plainly in the dim light, for he failed to stop its progress. He
had, however, almost succeeded in dodging the brute, which fastened its
teeth in his trousers and steadily held John in his grip.

"Hit him! Hit him!" said John excitedly. "He's got me and I can't get
away!"

In response to the appeal of his comrade Fred hastily took a stick from
the wood-pile and advanced upon their common enemy. The dog, however,
still clung to John in spite of the boy's desperate attempts to use his
club.

Lifting the stick which he carried Fred brought it down with all his
force upon the back of the dog, which still was growling and clinging to
its prisoner. There was a loud yelp of pain and relinquishing its hold
the dog fled howling back to the house.

Without waiting to discover the reception which awaited the animal, both
Fred and John started swiftly across the field toward the shore.

Frequently they glanced behind them, but it was manifest that the dog was
not pursuing them.

"He's got a backache," suggested Fred, "or else he's homesick. He doesn't
want to leave the house."

"I hope he doesn't," said John heartily. "I didn't know there was any dog
around there."

"Nor I. I don't know where they kept him."

"If they will only keep him now that's all I want."

Nothing more was said until at last the boys arrived at the shore. Both
looked keenly out over the waters hoping to discover some trace of their
friends. In the dim light, however, they were unable to discover the
presence of any boat on the waters or of any parties on the bluff. The
night air was becoming cooler, although the breeze which had arisen at
sunset had now died away.

For several minutes the boys stood waiting and listening upon the shore
and then Fred in a loud whisper said hastily, "Listen, Jack. Do you hear
anything?"

"On the water?" inquired John.

"Yes."

Both boys listened intently and in a brief time John said eagerly, "I do
hear something. To me it is like the sound of oars in oarlocks."

"That's it. That's it exactly," said Fred. "There's a boat out there
somewhere, only we can't see it. Let's get behind these bushes and wait
until it comes nearer."

Acting upon Fred's suggestion they quickly took their places behind a low
growth of bushes only a few feet back from the water. There they were
still able to see what occurred on the lake, and at the same time in the
dim light would not be readily discovered by any parties that were
approaching.

Not many minutes elapsed before the dim outlines of the skiff were
discerned. There was only one occupant and he was rowing toward the
shore, apparently unconcerned whether or not his presence was known.

"Ahoy, there!" called John abruptly.

The sound of the oars abruptly ceased and a brief period of tense silence
followed.

"Who's in the skiff?" called John.

"Wait until I come ashore and I'll tell you," came the reply. With a few
sturdy strokes the oarsman sent the light little skiff ashore and as he
stepped out on the ground both boys were startled when they discovered
the newcomer to be Mr. Button. Why he should be coming from the lake was
something they could not explain.

"Where's the _Gadabout_?" demanded Fred eagerly.

"I haven't seen it."

"Haven't you seen anything of the other boys?"

"Not a trace of them."

"What do you suppose has become of them?" demanded John, who was
beginning to be seriously troubled by the failure of his friends to
appear.

"I cannot say," replied Mr. Button. "What are you doing here?"

"That's what we should like to know ourselves," replied Fred ruefully.
"We can't get into the house and we haven't any boat so it looks very
much as if we would have to stay here on the shore all night."

"Can't you get into the house?" inquired Mr. Button.

"No, sir. We have been up there two or three times. The doors are locked
and no one pays any attention to us when we rap. Besides they have got a
dog there and he's a savage brute. He got John by the trousers and
wouldn't let go until I hit him on the back with a stick of wood."

"Was it John or the dog you hit?" inquired Mr. Button dryly.

"The dog, of course. What are we going to do now, Mr. Button?"

"I think I can get you over to the shore of Drummond Island, but I should
like very much to have you wait a little while before we start."

"All right," replied both boys together.

"Meanwhile," suggested Mr. Button, "I would like to have you come with me
up the shore as far as that cove where the mate left his skiff after it
was stove in. It isn't more than one hundred yards or so from here."

The boys readily consented after they had assisted Mr. Button to haul his
boat farther up on the beach.

Whatever the purpose in the mind of the man was he did not explain, nor
were the boys able to conjecture what it was after they had walked along
the shore as far as the cove and then had returned to the spot where the
skiff in which Mr. Button had come had been left.

Their consternation, however, was great when after a vain search they
were convinced that the skiff was gone. That it could have drifted away
was impossible. All three were alike convinced of that fact. There was
not much wind now and the little boat had been hauled so far from the
water that it was impossible for it to drift away. There was only one
conclusion and that was that some one had taken it.

For a moment they stood in silence after they were convinced that the
boat indeed was gone, and then the boys, keenly excited, turned to their
companion demanding what he would suggest as the next thing to be done.



                               CHAPTER X
                       THE FLIGHT OF THE GADABOUT


For several minutes the boys ran up and down the shore vainly searching
for the missing boat. They were convinced that some one had taken the
skiff and probably was not far away, as it would be impossible for any
one to go far during the short time that had elapsed since they had left
the spot where Mr. Button had landed.

At last the search was abandoned and when the boys returned they
discovered Mr. Button awaiting their coming.

"Listen, boys," he said in a low voice. "Do you hear any sound?"

The boys were silent, but in a brief time Fred said quickly, "Yes, sir, I
think I hear a motor-boat."

"You are correct," said Mr. Button. "There's a boat coming this way. I
have been sure of it for two or three minutes, but I have not been able
to make out its outlines, as yet. Can either of you boys see it?"

Neither Fred nor John was able to discern the outlines of the boat, which
steadily sounded nearer. A few minutes only had passed before Fred
gleefully announced his discovery of the approaching motor-boat.

"I think it must be the _Gadabout_," he said eagerly. "Probably George
and Grant are on board and they are looking for us. Shall I hail them?"

"No, no," said Mr. Button quickly. "At least not yet. We had better wait
here until we are sure who is on board."

Obediently the boys followed the instructions and waited until the
motor-boat had come within twenty feet of the shore. There the power was
shut off and the course slightly reversed, so that the _Gadabout_, for it
was indeed the missing boat, came slowly about, broadside to the island.

Although the boat was so near, it was impossible for John or Fred to see
who was steering. They were aware that at least three were on board for
they saw plainly the forms of the men as they let go the anchor and the
boat became stationary.

"I guess it's George and Grant--" began Fred, at the same time preparing
to advance near the water. He was sharply recalled, however, by Mr.
Button, who once more urged the boys to remain behind the bushes where
they had taken their stand until they had seen who made up the party on
the _Gadabout_.

Only a brief time elapsed before a man stepped on board a skiff and
pushed out from the motor-boat to the shore. Without using his oars the
boat soon ground on the beach and when the occupant stepped forth both of
the watching boys were aware that it was the mate of the _Gadabout_.

He pulled his skiff up on the shore, and then, scarcely glancing behind
him, at once passed swiftly into the field and soon disappeared from
sight.

"He's going up to the house," said Fred in his excitement.

"It looks like it," said John. "Shall we follow him?" He had turned to
Mr. Button as he spoke.

"No," said the man quickly. "The thing for us to do is to take this skiff
and board the _Gadabout_."

"All right," said John eagerly. "Hadn't we better hail the other fellows
before we do that though? We are not sure that Grant and George are on
board."

"Yes, hail them," said Mr. Button, "but don't make much noise about it."

John stepped forth from behind the bushes and taking his stand on the
shore called, "Ahoy there! George, is that you?"

"Who's that?" came the response from the motor-boat.

"Fred and I are here," responded John.

"Who are 'I'?" laughingly came from some one on board the _Gadabout_.

"I guess you know who we are. That's you, isn't it, George?"

"It's Grant and I."

"That's all I wanted to know," responded John. "Wait a minute and we'll
be with you."

John and Fred quickly hauled the skiff into the water but before they had
taken their seats Mr. Button approached and said, "Don't leave me behind,
boys."

"We aren't going to stay very long," suggested Fred.

"That will be all right," said Mr. Button, "but take me with you."

The boys delayed a moment while Mr. Button stepped on board and seated
himself in the stern of the little skiff. A moment later the little boat
was alongside the _Gadabout_ and all three stepped on board, Fred still
holding the painter in his hand.

Before them sat George and Grant peering eagerly into their faces and
plainly surprised by the unexpected action of their companions.

"We must leave right away," said Mr. Button.

"What for?" demanded Fred.

"I haven't time to explain to you," said Mr. Button, "but the only thing
for us to do is to get away from this island, and the _Gadabout_ is the
best means for us to use."

"But the boat doesn't belong to us," protested John.

"Doesn't it?" laughed Mr. Button. "Didn't you hire it for the day? Didn't
you pay the man to bring you out to Drummond Island and then carry you
back to Mackinac?"

"Yes, sir."

"Well, he hasn't done all he agreed to, has he?"

"No, sir, but--"

"Then there's no reason in the world why we shouldn't start out. It must
be between nine and ten o'clock at night. We have been cheated out of a
good deal of our day by the captain and we have a right to take his boat
and go on back to Mackinac if we want to."

The boys still hesitated to adopt the unusual suggestion and after a
brief silence, John said, "I don't believe any of us knows very much
about running a motor-boat."

"That isn't necessary," said Mr. Button. "I know all about it."

Meanwhile, although he continued his conversation with the boys, Mr.
Button had hauled in the anchor and then made fast the skiff to the
stern.

Without waiting for any further words he at once advanced to the wheel
and as soon as the power was turned on the speedy, little craft began to
draw away from the dim shores of Cockburn Island.

They had not gone far, however, before they heard a loud hail from the
shore.

"Hi, there!" called some one. "What are you doing with that motor-boat?
Come back here! Come back here with it!"

A low suggestion from Mr. Button caused all the boys to remain silent.

Again the hail came from the shore, louder than before and in tones of
one who evidently was angry or alarmed.

"Come back with that boat! You'll run her aground! I'll have you arrested
for piracy! Bring that boat back here!"

All four boys were decidedly uneasy over the situation in which they now
found themselves. They had recognized the voice of the mate as the one
which had ordered them to return with the boat. They were aware also that
the charge he had made, that they were stealing or running away with a
chartered boat, might become a serious matter for all concerned.

Almost as if he was aware of the thoughts in the minds of his companions,
Mr. Button said quietly, "Don't be afraid, boys. I'll see you out of this
trouble, but just now there's nothing else to be done. You can put the
whole blame on me, for I'm the one that took the _Gadabout_. I'm steering
her and I am taking her against your protests. You see you cannot help
yourselves because we're too far from the shore now for you to try to get
back."

At that moment again there came a loud call from the shore, but it was
evident from the tones of the voice that the _Gadabout_ was rapidly
leaving Cockburn Island behind her.

"Bring back the boat! I'll give you ten dollars to bring her back!"

Silence still followed the noisy offer, however, and only a few minutes
had elapsed before the _Gadabout_ had passed beyond the sight of any one
who might be standing on the shore.

Apparently Mr. Button was not in any confusion as to the course he was to
follow. Directly across the narrow waters he steered until in a brief
time the shore of Drummond Island loomed before them. Then changing his
course he guided the swift, little craft on a line parallel with the
shore. The boat was moving southward and all four of the unwilling
passengers expected that in a brief time they would pass the point of
Drummond Island and then would turn westward and seek the harbor at
Mackinac.

The speed of the _Gadabout_ was increasing now and in the dim light the
waters near the stern seemed almost to glow with light. There was
excitement for the boys in the midst of the mystery, but all had become
silent and watchful of the man at the wheel.

Swiftly the little _Gadabout_ plowed its way across the smooth waters.
The point of Drummond Island was passed and then to the amazement of the
boys the course was not changed. The _Gadabout_ now was headed for the
open waters of Lake Huron. Mackinac Island lay far to their right.

"You have made a mistake, Mr. Button," called George anxiously. "This
isn't the way back to Mackinac Island."

"Don't be alarmed, boys," replied Mr. Button, without glancing behind
him. "I'll bring you out all right."

"But you are headed in the wrong direction," protested Fred.

"Don't be afraid," said Mr. Button once more. "I know what I am doing and
so will you all pretty soon."

It was too dark to enable any of the boys to perceive the expression on
the faces of his comrades. That they all were aghast at the unexpected
turn of events, however, was manifest to all, but the little _Gadabout_,
as if the anxiety of its passengers was of no concern, kept steadily on
its way toward the open waters of Lake Huron.



                               CHAPTER XI
                           ALONE ON THE LAKE


The four boys huddled together near the stern of the swiftly moving
motor-boat. For a few minutes silence rested over the group. They were
aghast at the turn of events and all were alike fearful of the
consequences of their appropriation of the _Gadabout_, although no one
acknowledged his fears.

George was the first to break the silence, when, leaning toward his
friends he said in a whisper, "He's veering off to the left now. Do you
see what he's doing?"

"So we are," replied John after the boys had carefully looked ahead.
"That must mean that we are headed for the Canadian shore somewhere."

"I don't know where we are headed," said Grant, "but we're going to get
there pretty soon. I wish I knew what the trouble is."

"You don't suppose Mr. Button is crazy, do you?" suggested Fred.

"I don't know," replied Grant soberly. "Most of the people that have his
name are candidates for insane asylums."

"You are safe in making that remark now," retorted Fred. "I shan't forget
it, however. You wait until we go back to Mackinac--"

"I'm afraid if you wait until then," broke in George, "you'll forget all
about his kind words. You don't suppose this fellow is really crazy, do
you? He acts like a man beside himself."

"That's as true as you live," said John in a whisper. "I'm wondering if
we ought not to jump on him all together and take the wheel away from
him."

"They say a crazy man is ten times as strong as a man who isn't crazy,"
suggested Fred. "I don't believe we had better attempt that, yet awhile,
anyway."

"What's become of his man?" inquired Grant abruptly. "He isn't on the
boat."

"That's right," responded the boys all together, after they had glanced
all about the boat, as if they were expecting to discover the guide whom
Mr. Ferdinand Button had taken with him when the party had set out from
Mackinac Island.

"We're four to one anyway," said John. "I'm not in any hurry yet to try
to do anything violent, but if the worst comes we ought to be able to
handle him. There's a fellow for each foot and each hand and between us
we ought to be able to take care of him."

Meanwhile the swift little _Gadabout_ was speeding forward, as if it was
governed by a spirit of its own. The water rushed past the stern, boiling
and singing on its way. The eyes of the boys, more accustomed now to the
dimness of the light, saw no objects in whichever direction they glanced
over the dark waters. And the speed of the motor-boat was unchecked.

Still the _Gadabout_ swept forward in its course. Not once did Mr.
Ferdinand Button give any token to indicate that he was even aware of the
presence of the boys on board the boat. He had not once glanced behind
him and if he was looking steadily ahead, the boys, who frequently
glanced in that direction, were unable to discover any object toward
which he was guiding his course.

Silence fell upon the little group seated in the stern of the motor-boat,
and the depression which rested upon all alike seemed to deepen with the
passing moments.

Suddenly the speed of the _Gadabout_ slackened. A moment later the engine
ceased to go and although the motor-boat was still moving swiftly forward
it was doing so because of the headway under which it had been speeding.

Instantly every boy leaped to his feet and stared blankly into the faces
of his companions. In spite of the dimness of the light the alarm which
every one felt was manifest and for a moment there was silence deep and
intense.

"What's that?" demanded Fred, who was the first to speak.

"I give it up," replied John. "There's something happened."

"You talk like a philosopher," said George impatiently. "As if we didn't
know that! What's wrong, Mr. Button?" he added in louder tones.

"I'm not sure," replied Mr. Button, who now turned and joined the boys.
"I cannot quite make out whether our gasoline has given out or whether a
blade in our propeller is broken."

"If our gasoline is gone," said Grant, "we're likely to be out here on
the lake for some time."

"Yes, and if a storm comes up," added Fred, "we're going to have troubles
of our own."

"Don't begin to borrow troubles," said Mr. Button in a tone of
irritation. "They may come, but it will be time enough to face them when
we have to."

"But what are we going to do?" demanded Fred.

"I'm going to have one of you boys get into the skiff with me and I'm
going to try to find out if anything is the matter with the blades."

"I'll find out," said George, "what the supply of gasoline is."

Taking his place on board the skiff, which was in tow, John seized the
oars while Mr. Button seated himself in the bow.

In a brief time the motor-boat was motionless and then pushing the bow of
the skiff against the stern of the _Gadabout_, Mr. Button, who had taken
off his coat, rolled back his sleeves and began to investigate the
condition of the blades.

"There," he said abruptly, "it is what I feared. There's something wrong
there."

"What can we do?" inquired John.

"I don't think we can do anything until it is light."

"Then we'll just drift about over the lake."

"That's it exactly."

"But suppose a storm comes up?"

"But suppose it doesn't? There isn't anything we can do to bring it on or
to keep it away. We'll have to take things as they come."

"It will be a hard job for the Go Ahead Boys to hang out here all night.
We aren't used to that."

"It will be a good time to learn it," replied Mr. Button dryly, as
pulling himself alongside the motor-boat he directed his companion to
step on board, an example which he himself followed a moment later.

"The gasoline is out," said George.

"Are you sure?" inquired Mr. Button quickly.

"Yes, sir. I am sure."

"Then we're in a worse plight than I thought we were," said Mr. Button,
"for there's something wrong with the blades."

"I guess it won't make any difference whether the blades are right or
wrong, if there's no gasoline to drive the engine," said Fred
disconsolately.

"We cannot do anything but wait," said Mr. Button. "The morning will be
here before long."

"And so won't breakfast," said Grant dolefully.

"We'll have no trouble," explained Mr. Button, "just as soon as it is
light. Somebody will be out here fishing and we'll get help."

"But we don't want to wait until morning," protested Fred.

"If you really don't want to wait," said Mr. Button, "then the only thing
you can do is for two of you to take the skiff and row ashore."

"We might get lost," suggested Fred.

"Yes, so you might," acknowledged Mr. Button. "I was following a
suggestion, that's all. It's the only thing which can be done that occurs
to me."

"I don't think the suggestion is so bad," said Fred. "We can keep within
hailing distance of the _Gadabout_ and it may be that we shall find some
other boat nearby, or it may be that we are not very far from the shore."

"I know we are not very far from the shore," declared Mr. Button, "but it
isn't the shore of the mainland."

"What is it?" demanded George.

"Western Duck Island. I'm sure we cannot be far away from it. Now, if two
of you boys want to take the skiff and make some investigations I don't
think there will be any special danger. Don't go too far away, though
your whistle or your voices will carry a long distance over the water."

"I'm one of the Go Ahead Boys, and I'm for trying it," said Fred
sturdily.

"And I'm with you," said John.

A moment afterward both boys stepped on board the skiff and with John at
the oars and Fred seated in the stern, they speedily left the _Gadabout_
behind them.

"Don't go very far away," called George warningly.

"You're right, we won't," called back John, and then silence rested over
the waters of Lake Huron.

"We had better row in a circle," suggested Fred. "I'm the captain of this
expedition and I want you to follow my directions."

"All right, sir," responded John glibly, "but the main thing is to keep a
sharp outlook for a boat coming or going, or for any light that we may
see on the shore."

For a time John rowed forward in silence. Both boys were keenly
observant, but they were unable to discover any trace of the shore, nor
were any lights of passing vessels seen on the water.

"I think we have gone about far enough," suggested Fred, when a half-hour
or more had elapsed.

"So do I," answered John.

"Better let me row back," said Fred.

"That's all right, too," responded John.

The boys exchanged places and Fred rowed more rapidly on their return
than his companion had done on their advance.

Several minutes elapsed and then John said in a low voice, "It's strange
we don't see anything of the _Gadabout_. I thought that we were headed
right for it."

"So did I," answered Fred. "We had better call."

John placed his hands about his mouth and shouted: "Ahoy, there! Is this
the _Gadabout_?"

He repeated his hail several times, but as no answering shout was heard,
he again hailed the invisible motor-boat.

Still no response was given to his call.

"Maybe we had better shout together. Two can make more noise than one,"
suggested Fred, rising from his seat as he spoke. "Now, then," he added,
"when I say three, let's yell together."

But though the boys united a half-dozen times in their shouts, the
silence of the night was still unbroken and no signs of the presence of
the _Gadabout_ were seen.



                              CHAPTER XII
                        THE SEARCH IN THE NIGHT


"This is becoming pretty serious," said Fred in a low voice when both he
and John were convinced that they were not near the missing _Gadabout_.

"You went too far to the right," retorted John. "I thought you were going
in the wrong direction."

"Well, why didn't you say so, then?"

"If I had, I would have been told my advice was good when it was asked
for."

"Never mind, Jack," said Fred, his friendliness returning and manifesting
itself in the tones of his voice. "Things aren't so bad, and they might
be a good deal worse. I guess the _Gadabout_ is off yonder," he added,
pointing to the East as he spoke. "I'll row a while in that direction and
we'll try it again."

Seating himself at the oars Fred pulled in the direction he had
suggested. When several minutes had elapsed, once more he ceased rowing
and both boys united in a hail. Still there was no response made to their
calls and the spirits of the boys drooped accordingly.

"I tell you this is getting serious," said Fred.

"Are you afraid?" demanded John.

"Some, and I don't mind saying so. We never ought to have left the
_Gadabout_."

"That may all be true," responded John, "but we did leave the _Gadabout_
and we are here on the lake. The only thing for us to do is to go ahead."

"That's all right," said Fred more cheerfully. "I haven't forgotten our
name, but I'm wondering whether we really are going ahead or not."

"What do you mean?"

"Why, we may be rowing around in a circle, the way a man travels when he
is lost in a woods."

"I guess it is not quite as bad as that," responded John. "Want me to
take the oars?"

"Not yet," said Fred sturdily, once more seating himself and resuming his
task.

A half-dozen times the boys rowed ahead and then stopping, united in a
call to their friends.

Their call, however, was unanswered and at last both boys were convinced
that they had lost the location of the motor-boat.

"There isn't anything for us to do except to wait until morning," said
Fred at last.

"Yes, there is, too," said John. "You let me take those oars. I'm not
going to stay here. I'm sure we'll find the _Gadabout_ or something just
as good."

"That doesn't trouble me as much as somebody finding us."

"What do you mean?"

"Why, suppose some boat runs us down in the dark?"

"We can hear a boat two miles away."

"If we are awake," suggested Fred.

"We'll be awake all right, at least I shall, for I'm going to keep
rowing."

"That wouldn't be my plan," said Fred, nevertheless relinquishing his
position to his friend. "I think we are just as well off to wait where we
are and when the sun rises we'll know better what to do."

"I'm not much for waiting," said John. "I'm going to see if I can't find
that boat."

Several times John ceased rowing and the boys united in calls and shouts
and finally joined in a shrill whistle.

Their efforts, however, were still unavailing and the conviction steadily
deepened in their minds that they were lost on Lake Huron.

"If we stay where we are," suggested Fred at last, "we can get back to
Mackinac Island in the morning."

"In which direction do you think Mackinac Island is?" demanded John.

"It's off yonder," said Fred, pointing to his right.

"You're dead wrong, Fred. It's right off here," affirmed John, pointing
as he spoke in the direction opposite to that which Fred had selected.

"You'll have to go around the world," declared Fred, "before you get to
Mackinac Island, if you follow the direction you suggest."

"Maybe we will, but I have got these oars and I'm going to try it,"
declared John.

Fred laughed derisively and did not make any offer to relieve his friend.

John, however, apparently was determined to follow his plan and for a
long time rowed steadily forward.

At last Fred broke in upon the silence, saying, "I tell you, John, you're
simply taking us farther away from Mackinac Island all the time. Can't
you see that you are?"

"I can't see much of anything," replied John, disconsolately. "I guess
maybe I am wrong after all."

"Of course you're wrong."

"But that doesn't mean that you're right," retorted John. "If we go in
the direction you suggest we may be as far as ever from the _Gadabout_."

"Not at all," said Fred confidently. "You let me take those oars and
you'll soon see for yourself that I am right."

The exchange of places was made, but after Fred had rowed for an hour or
more his confidence also began to wane. "I'm not as sure as I was," he
said.

"Well, I'm just sure of one thing," responded John.

"What's that?"

"That we are lost and that neither one of us knows where he is. And
what's more," he added, "the only thing for us to do is to stay right
where we are and wait until the sun rises."

"How long will that be?"

"I haven't any idea. I haven't any matches and I can't see the face of my
watch. If I can judge by my feelings it ought to be about the week after
next. It seems to me we have been out here forever."

Fred did not respond, however, and for a time the boat drifted on in
silence.

"What's that ahead?" demanded John, abruptly pointing as he spoke toward
the bow.

Instantly both boys were peering eagerly in the direction indicated by
John, and, after a brief silence, Fred said, "That's land ahead."

"That's what I think," said John. "What do you suppose it is? Do you
think it is Mackinac Island?"

"More likely it is Paris, France," retorted Fred scornfully. "You don't
suppose we're anywhere near Mackinac Island, do you?"

"I don't know. I know I wish we were."

"So do I, but we're not. Now what shall we do? Shall we go ashore, or
shall we keep out here on the lake?"

"We had better go ashore," said John. "At least we can row in near enough
to see what it's like, anyway."

Fred required no urging as he renewed his labors and not many minutes had
passed before both boys were convinced that they were steadily drawing
nearer to land. Whether it was the mainland or an island they were unable
to determine at the time.

"It's all marsh along here," declared John at last when the boat was not
many yards distant from the shore. "I can see the rushes."

"That's right, Jack," acknowledged Fred a moment later after he too had
peered intently at the nearby shore. "What shall we do?"

"Why, keep on, and we'll watch for lights too."

"You won't see any lights this time of night," retorted Fred. "If there
is anybody willing to live in this forlorn spot he's probably in bed four
or five hours ago."

"Well, go ahead anyway," said John.

Accordingly Fred again grasped the oars and slowly rowed forward. For a
long distance they were unable to discern anything but the marsh on their
right. There was no place seen where they might make a landing nor was an
attempt considered worth while.

"I don't see any use in this," said Fred at last. "We aren't getting
anywhere."

"Try a little longer," said John. "Maybe we'll come to something
different. There you have it!" he added a few minutes later when
apparently they came to the end of the marsh and saw before them the dim
outlines of a sloping bank. "We can land here, I guess."

"Land!" retorted Fred. "What do you want to land for?"

"Why, maybe we can find a house or some place where we can get some
gasoline."

"Gasoline will be a fine thing for us," laughed Fred, his courage having
returned with the knowledge that they were no longer on the open waters
of the lake. "You'd better take the oars, Jack, and we'll row on a little
further. Even if we can see no light perhaps we can find a house."

Once more the boys exchanged places and John rowed slowly along the
shore.

Neither of the boys discovered any house, however, nor did they see any
indications that the region was inhabited.

"We're having a fine time here," Fred said at last. "There doesn't seem
to be anybody living here. We haven't anything to eat and we haven't even
a gun or a fishing-rod in our skiff."

"We shan't need any of them," said John, "when the sun rises. We'll be
sure to find somebody who will take us back to Mackinac Island, or maybe
the _Gadabout_ will be looking for us."

"My namesake acted as if he liked to spend a good deal of time searching
for us," said Fred scornfully. "I tell you, Jack, he has other business
on hand."

"Maybe we can take him back to the insane asylum and claim the reward,"
suggested John.

"Or to state prison."

"Yes, or he may be something else."

"What do you mean?"

"It doesn't make any difference what I mean. I have my own ideas and I'm
not going to cast any pearls before swine. What I'm going to do now is to
go ashore. The sun will be up in a half an hour. It's beginning to be
light in the east now."

"You're right, John," acknowledged Fred. "It surely is getting light over
yonder. I don't know what you're going to gain by landing, but I'm
willing to try it, if you want to. Be careful that you don't strike a
rock."

Hardly had Fred spoken before there was a dull thud and a moment later it
was evident that the frail little skiff had struck the jagged point of a
hidden rock.



                              CHAPTER XIII
                            A FRESH ARRIVAL


Water at once began to pour into the skiff but the boys were so near the
land that neither was greatly alarmed. By a few vigorous strokes the
little boat was quickly sent ashore. Leaping out upon the dry land both
Fred and John seized the gunwale and together brought the skiff far up
from the water.

"That's a pretty kettle of fish," said Fred. "Just look at it! There is a
big leak. You must have stove a hole in the bottom."

"Turn it over and let's see," suggested John.

In a moment the boat was overturned and the fears of the boys were
confirmed when they discovered that the blow against the jagged rock,
although it had not torn a hole in the bottom of the skiff, had
nevertheless sprung it in such a manner that it was leaking badly.

"How are we ever going to get back to Mackinac Island?" said Fred.

"I guess we won't have to go in this boat," answered John. "Just now, the
thing for us to do is to look around here and find out whether we are
really Robinson Crusoes or there are some people living here who can give
us some breakfast."

"That's all right," said Fred, more cheerfully at the mention of the
possibility of a morning meal. "You run up the shore in one direction and
I will go down the other way. We'll come back in about five or ten
minutes and we'll report."

Fred's suggestion was agreed to by his friend and the boys at once
started along the banks which were only a few yards back from the shore.

More than the allotted time had passed when the two boys returned.
Neither had been able to discover any tokens of the presence of people
dwelling or camping on the island.

"It looks pretty dark," said Fred more disconsolately.

"It's easy to go back," said John solemnly, "but it takes some nerve and
grit to go ahead. I never yet knew a boat that drifted up the stream. If
you leave it alone and don't do anything it will go down stream every
time."

"You speak like a philosopher, as I told you," said Fred. "I wonder
sometimes how one small head can carry all you know."

"And that's not original either, I have heard that before. What's that
yonder?" he suddenly added.

At the question both boys turned and looked out over the waters of the
lake. In the distance a tiny speck could be seen, but it was plainly
moving toward the place where they were standing. The sun had risen by
this time and the quiet waters of the lake were flooded with its beams.

"It's a a motor-boat," declared John after a brief silence.

"You're right once in your life, Jack," acknowledged Fred. "That's just
what it is and it's coming straight toward the place where we are."

"So you had all your crying for nothing. It doesn't pay to give up when
there's still any chance to go ahead."

"We'll wait and see. Perhaps we'll know more an hour from now than we do
just at this minute."

Eagerly the boys watched the coming of the motor-boat. It steadily became
more distinct and not many minutes had elapsed before both boys were
convinced that the little boat was nearly of the size of the _Gadabout_.
Then they were able to distinguish two men on board, one at the wheel and
one seated in the stern.

"I thought at first it might be the _Gadabout_," said Fred in a low
voice.

"So did I," joined in John. "I can see now that it isn't."

"So can I. What do you suppose it is?"

"I haven't the remotest idea. If we wait long enough we'll find out."

"What do you suppose that boat is coming here for?" inquired Fred.

"That's another thing you'll have to wait to find out. You're a great
lad. You make me think of what the headmaster said the other day."

"What did he say?" inquired Fred. "He often makes remarks to you that I
don't hear, and some of them I am very glad I don't."

"That's all right, too," said John. "What he told us the other day was
that children and savages are the people that are the most likely to give
way to their feelings. They laugh and cry when strong people keep quiet."

"What do you mean by that?" demanded Fred sharply.

"I don't mean anything. I'm just telling you what the headmaster said."

"They are going to land right in here," said Fred abruptly, as the
motor-boat slightly changed its course and apparently was approaching the
very place where the boys had made their unfortunate landing.

"Let's go farther back," suggested John. "Maybe it is some more of this
strange business. It won't do any harm if they don't see us and I don't
believe they have yet because they wouldn't be looking for anybody where
we are."

"Come ahead," suggested Fred, quickly acting upon the advice of his
companion.

Drawing farther back and yet still remaining in a position from which
they were able to see the approaching boat, the boys were confident that
they would not be seen. Both excitedly were watching the coming boat.

In a brief time the power was shut off and the anchor was cast overboard.
Then in a small skiff, which the motor-boat had in tow, the man who had
been at the wheel quickly rowed toward the shore.

"Do you see who that is?" whispered Fred in great excitement.

"I do," replied John quickly. "It is that man that we saw on Cockburn
Island. It is the same one that came over to Mackinac. What do you
suppose he's coming here for?"

"You know just as much about it as I do. If we keep still we may be able
to learn more in a little while."

The excitement of the watching boys did not decrease when they saw the
man, who now they were convinced was indeed their recent reluctant host
on Cockburn Island, step quickly ashore and then draw his boat up on the
beach.

Apparently the presence of the other skiff had not yet been noted.
Indeed, the boys were quite confident it had not been discovered, as the
place where they had landed was around a little bend in a small cove.

The actions of the man, however, soon became more mysterious and
puzzling. Out of his pocket he took a small package and seating himself
upon a rock he proceeded to open it.

There were occasional flashes of light that were reflected in the eyes of
the boys, although neither were able to discover the contents.

After carefully refolding the package the man restored it to his pocket
and then advancing toward the higher bank stopped for a moment there and
peered intently all about him.

Apparently satisfied that he was unobserved the mysterious stranger then
advanced rapidly toward some woods in the distance. He had, however, gone
only a part of the intervening distance when another man was seen
approaching from the midst of the trees and in a brief time the two men
met.

There was a hasty consultation which greatly interested the boys,
although they were unable to discover its purpose. They were convinced,
however, or at least Fred was positive, that there had been an exchange
of packages made by the two men and then instead of returning to the
shore the man whom they had been watching advanced beside the stranger
and soon both were lost to sight within the borders of the woods.

Meanwhile the motor-boat had been left in charge of the man who had come
to the island with the mysterious visitor.

Neither of the boys had obtained a clear look at him until Fred
suggested, "What's the use? We're making a mountain out of a molehill.
Come on, let's go and speak to the man on board the motor-boat."

John hesitated a moment and then quickly followed his friend, as they
advanced openly along the shore.

"Do you see who that is?" whispered Fred, clutching John by the arm.

"Yes, I do," answered John. "It's that little Jap that we saw on Cockburn
Island."

"That's exactly who it is. What do you suppose he's doing here?"

"He's not doing much of anything just now. I should guess that he is in
charge of the boat until his boss comes back. I'm going to hail him."

In response to John's hail the little Japanese quickly turned and glanced
in the direction from which the unexpected call had come.

"He doesn't understand English, don't you remember?" said Fred.

"I know he pretended that he didn't, but we'll see how much he knows now.
Got anything to eat on board?" called John, turning once more toward the
motor-boat.

The first feeling of alarm or surprise had passed and the little
manservant now broke into another of his loud and unmusical laughs.

"Got any breakfast? Got anything on board to eat?" again called John.

It was plain now that the Japanese understood what was said, for in
broken English he explained that he had some articles of food on the
motor-boat.

"I wonder if you'll sell us some?" inquired Fred eagerly. "We'll come
aboard and see what you have got."

Quickly taking the stranger's skiff the boys rowed out to the motor-boat
and after they had made it fast, stepped on board.

The Japanese seldom spoke, but in a brief time he handed each of the boys
two sandwiches, which they eagerly took and quickly ate.

"How much do we owe you?" asked John.

Again laughing loudly the Japanese shook his head and it was manifest
that they would be unable to pay for the slight repast they had received.

"When did you come from Cockburn Island?" inquired Fred.

The question was not answered and John quickly broke in, "When are you
going back? That's a good deal more to the purpose. Do you suppose your
boss would be willing to take us over to Mackinac?"

The Japanese laughed, but still did not answer.

"We'll pay him well for it," said John. "How far is this place from
Mackinac anyway?"

"'Bout forty mile," answered the Japanese.

"Whew!" said Fred. "We're a good ways out of our course, aren't we?"



                              CHAPTER XIV
                       ANOTHER MYSTERIOUS LETTER


"I don't care much how far we are away if we can only get back," said
John thoughtfully.

It was apparent, however, that extended conversation with the little
Japanese would be impossible. He had made no inquiries as to why the boys
were on the island and except for his first expression of surprise when
he had heard their hail, he did not give any sign of special interest
either in them or in their doings.

"We stove a hole in the bottom of our skiff," explained John. "Have you
got a piece of tin and some tacks or something we can mend it with?"

"You no feex it?" inquired the Japanese.

"We haven't anything to fix it with," explained John.

"I go see," volunteered the little man.

In accordance with his suggestion the boys speedily rowed ashore, the
little Japanese accompanying them, and led the way to the cove where
their skiff was resting on the beach.

The Japanese made a careful investigation of the injury to the skiff and
then said, after he had once more laughed loudly, "I feex her." Quickly
turning he ran back to the skiff and returned to the motor-boat. Only a
few minutes elapsed before once more he came back and the very implements
John had sought with which to repair the boat were now in his hands.

Deftly he drove caulking into the seams and the cracks and then taking a
piece of tin tacked it on the bottom of the skiff over the spot where the
break had occurred. Then once more he used the caulking, driving it in
all about the place where the skiff had been struck.

"He no sink now," said the Japanese, at last standing back and with pride
viewing his workmanship. "He no sink now. She just as good as new."

Declining the offer of the boys to pay him for his labor the Japanese
seated himself upon a rock and looked steadily at them.

"What for have you come here?" he inquired.

"We had bad luck last evening," explained John. "We started from Cockburn
Island in the _Gadabout_ but we got out of our course. Then the first
thing we knew our gasoline was gone and we had an accident in the shaft
or the blades of the propeller. We thought that we might be able to get
some help, so two of us left the boat and started ashore in our skiff.
But we lost our way and that's why we're here and not where we want to
be."

"Where other man?" inquired the Japanese.

"What other man? Do you mean Mr. Ferdinand Button?"

"Yah. Where Mr. Button now?"

"That's the very question that we would like to have you answer for us,"
said Fred. "We don't know whether the _Gadabout_ is lost somewhere or the
other fellows think we are lost and have gone back to Mackinac. That's
why we want to go back there ourselves and we'll pay well if you'll take
us there on board your boat."

This time the Japanese did not laugh, but there was a peculiar expression
that appeared for an instant in his eyes and that alarmed John, although
Fred had not seen that which so greatly troubled his companion.

"When are you going back?" demanded John.

"Two hour."

"Have you got anything more to eat on board your boat?"

Once more the strange laughter was heard but the Japanese did not reply
to the question.

"It will be two hours before they start, the Jap says," said Fred,
turning to John as he spoke.

"Well, there isn't anything to do except to wait for the time to come, is
there?"

"I don't know what to do."

"I do," observed John. "We'll wait until that man comes back here and
then we'll tell him of our troubles and I'm sure he will take us on
board. If he won't take us to Mackinac at least he will take us back to
his house."

"Maybe he will," responded Fred somewhat dubiously.

"Here he comes, anyway," said John quickly, as glancing toward the woods
he discovered the man approaching, who was the subject of their
conversation.

The boys waited until the man drew near and when he discovered their
presence his remarks were not complimentary to either of his would-be
passengers.

"No, sir, I cannot take either one of you," he said positively. "I have
something else to do. In fact I have got to do it. I cannot go to
Mackinac to-day under any circumstances. But what are you two boys doing
here? You haven't explained that yet."

"We don't know," said John, "just why we're here. About all that we know
is that we are here and we want to get away."

"How do you propose to leave?"

"We want you to take us on your motor-boat."

"And I have already explained to you," said the stranger, "why I cannot
do that."

"We'll pay you well for it," suggested Fred.

"It isn't a question of pay," said the man. "It's simply a question of my
not being able to do what you want."

"But how are we going to get away from this place? Is this the mainland?"

"No, it's an island. It is commonly called Western Duck Island."

"Which means that there are other duck islands farther to the east and
that we're not on the mainland shore at all?" said Fred.

"Oh, no. You are several miles from shore. About all the island is good
for is for hunting. A little later you might find a good many ducks
here."

"But we don't want to be here until 'a little later,'" protested Fred.
"We want to leave right away."

"Then I don't see anything for you to do except to try to cross in your
skiff."

"Your Jap says it's about forty miles from here to Mackinac."

"If he says so then he probably is correct. I haven't known Mike to be
wrong many times."

"We cannot sail back in our skiff," explained John.

"Then I don't see anything for you to do except to stay here and wait
until you hail some boat that is passing."

"How long will that be?" inquired Fred.

"Not knowing, I cannot say. But on a day like this, which promises to be
very clear and pleasant, there ought to be a good many boats passing."

"I hope we'll have better luck with them than we had with you," said
John.

"So do I," responded the man, "and with all my heart. All I can say is
this, that if you don't get any one to take you away before six o'clock
this afternoon I will stop here on my way back and take you aboard."

"How are we going to get anything to eat?" asked John.

"I'm sure I don't know," said the man. "I will tell Mike to give you some
sandwiches."

"He has done that already," said John. "Isn't there some place where we
can get something to eat?"

"I don't know of any."

"We thought perhaps that man you met out here might be living here and he
or his wife would be willing to sell us some food."

"What man are you talking about?" demanded the stranger, quickly turning
to the boys as he spoke.

"Why, the one that met you out here between the shore and the woods
yonder," explained John.

"Did you see any one?"

"We certainly did," said John. "We saw you meet a man out here and hand
him something."

Fred was convinced that there was a momentary gleam of anger or alarm in
the expression of the stranger's face, but if so the feeling quickly
departed. In a low voice the man said, "There are some great stories told
about this island. My advice to you is not to stay any longer than you
are compelled to."

"And our feeling is," laughed Fred somewhat ruefully, "that any time we
spend here is wasted."

"I think you'll have to stay," said the man as he went back and stepped
on board his skiff. He then pushed out from the shore and speedily
resumed his place on board the motor-boat.

The anchor was hauled in and in a brief time the fleet little craft had
resumed its voyage, headed now for the southern point of Western Duck
Island.

"That beats anything I have ever seen. I tell you, Fred, there's
something wrong here. Don't you think we had better go back in the woods
and see if we cannot find that man who came out of there a little while
ago?"

"We might as well do that as anything," assented Fred, and quickly
climbing the bank once more, they started across the field which
intervened between them and the woods. As nearly as possible they were
following the path taken by the others some time before.

They had not gone far, however, before John suddenly stopped and picked
up an envelope which he saw lying on the ground.

"Of all things in the world!" he exclaimed. "What do you think of this?"

Handing the envelope to Fred he called his attention to the name
typewritten on the outside: "Mr. Button."

"That's for you, Fred," laughed John.

"If it is," said Fred, "then somebody had the pleasure of reading my
letter before I did."

"The envelope has been opened," suggested John; "suppose you read the
letter. It may be for you. Very likely some of the people here heard you
were coming and they are getting ready to welcome us. This is the royal
proclamation for you. That man told us we're on an island and if we are I
guess Robinson Crusoe didn't have very much on us."

Fred meanwhile was reading the letter and it was manifest from his
expression that he was startled or puzzled by what he read. At last he
handed the letter to John, simply saying, "Our patriotic and mysterious
friend has made another mistake. This letter is not for me but for Mr.
Ferdinand Button."

"What do you suppose it is doing here?"

"I don't know," replied Fred, "unless the man dropped it."

"But he's not Mr. Ferdinand Button," protested John.

"No more he isn't," acknowledged Fred, "but that isn't the only strange
thing about it. Read the letter, John, anyway."

Thus bidden, John read the following letter,--

  Dear Sir:

  I enclose you an envelope with my address. Send my your answer as soon
  as you possible this afternoon. I will get it in Macinac tonight or
  tomorrow morning and will immediately come to see you.

  To deliver you this gang which rob United States of thousands of
  dollars each year. I only want two things. 1st. My ticket to Montreal
  and back. 2nd. My passage to Europe by way of the Azores Isles. I do
  not want money. You will pay me _when the gang is in your hands_. You
  will get it this afternoonday. Do not fail to send me your answer
  quick. If you do so I will have the gang in your lands in 2 weeks. They
  are 2 men and 1 woman and they smuggle by ways you are not at all
  suspicious.

                                                          Truly yours,

"Mr. Button certainly has a good many friends and they are trying to keep
him well informed. What do you make of this anyway, Fred?"

"I don't make much of anything," said Fred thoughtfully. "What's the use
of going any farther? Let's go back and take our skiff and see if we
can't get somewhere. The lake is smooth this morning and we may be able
to get back as far as Drummond or Cockburn Island."

When the boys returned to the shore the motor-boat had disappeared from
sight. This strange disappearance, however, was not so confusing to the
boys as the discovery they speedily made concerning the skiff which they
themselves had left on the shore of the cove.



                               CHAPTER XV
                          A SIGNAL OF DISTRESS


"Where did that sail come from?" demanded John, as he stopped abruptly
and looked in astonishment at the little skiff. Thrown carelessly across
it was a sail and small mast.

"Where did they come from?" he repeated.

"I didn't put them there," replied Fred.

"Who did then?"

"I don't know any more about it than you do."

"Well, somebody has been good to us and tried to help us get away from
this deserted island. What did that man say the name of it is?"

"Western Duck Island. There are a half-dozen of these islands, I remember
now."

"I shan't feel very badly if I never see nor hear of them again."

"We're all right now. We have a sail."

"Perhaps we are, though I haven't forgotten that that little Jap said we
are forty miles from Mackinac."

"What is forty miles to fellows who have got a boat and a sail?"

While the two boys were talking they had adjusted the mast and rigged the
little leg-of-mutton sail. It was plain to both boys that if conditions
continued favorable they had found an easier way by which they could
return to their hotel than by trying to row.

"Come on," called Fred cheerily, his courage now having returned in full
measure. "Come on. Don't let's stay here any longer than we have to."

"I'm with you," responded John. "Now who's going to sail this boat
first?"

"You are, by unanimous consent; I think it will be safer for the crew to
have you sitting in the stern than it will be to have you crawling around
the bow."

The mystery of the sail had not been explained, but whoever had left it
plainly had intended that it should be used.

The wind was light but the little skiff drew rapidly away from the shore
of Western Duck Island, and as he glanced behind him Fred said, "I feel
almost as Columbus must have felt when he set forth in his three tubs to
find a new world."

"I never knew that Columbus sailed in three boats before," laughed John.

"I didn't mean that Columbus himself sailed in three boats, at least at
the same time. I used his name as the name of his whole party. I forgot
for the minute what kind of material I was dealing with."

"Never you mind that," retorted John. "You just watch me while I sail
this boat. I'm going to head her up the shore toward Drummond Island. If
we can make that I think we'll be all right for the rest of the way."

"And if we don't make it what are you going to do?" said Fred more
seriously.

"It'll be time enough for me to explain to you, my friend, when the
occasion arrives. Meanwhile just see how smoothly we are speeding on our
way."

"You're almost a poet," laughed Fred, "and there isn't wind enough to
lift a feather. I think I'll take the oars and row."

John offered no objection and Fred accordingly seated himself and began
to row.

The day was warm and the beams of the sun, which now was high in the
eastern sky, were strongly reflected from the smooth waters of Lake
Huron. Indeed, it was not long before the wind died away and the boys
were nearly becalmed.

"We're almost as idle as a painted ship upon a painted ocean, aren't we,
Jack?" demanded Fred.

"No, we are not," said John. "Not at all, thank you. We're not idle and
we're not going to be. I'm going to have my crew keep on rowing."

"I hope you'll set a good example."

"That's just what I intend to do," said John. "You change places with me
and I'll show you how the thing ought to be done."

Without expressing the thought in his mind each boy was keeping a sharp
outlook over the waters for the swift little _Gadabout_. Both somehow
were expecting that the motor-boat either had not departed from the
region or would surely return when morning came.

An hour or more had elapsed, however, and no trace of the _Gadabout_ had
been discovered. Far away over the waters the faint trace of smoke left
by the passing lake steamers could be seen.

"This is a great job we have been thrown into, isn't it, Jack?" demanded
Fred at last.

"Yes, I think it is," acknowledged John. "That letter of yours seems to
make it worse, though. For the life of me I cannot understand how it came
to Western Duck Island."

"Maybe that man dropped it," suggested Fred.

"Do you mean the smuggler?"

"I guess that's what he is all right. I don't know what his name is yet,
but I mean the man that has a house over there on Cockburn Island."

"That's the man I mean," said John. "I think he's a smuggler. He may be,
but the thing that puzzles me most is how he got your letter, if he was
the one that dropped it over here on Western Duck Island."

"Yes, that's hard to explain," assented Fred, "but I guess if we knew
more about it we wouldn't find it quite so hard."

"What do you mean? Do you think that man wrote the letter?"

"No, I don't."

"Well, then what do you mean?"

"I guess I don't mean very much of anything. Fred, do you see how this
boat is leaking?"

Startled by the abrupt question, Fred glanced quickly at the spot in the
bottom of the boat which the little Japanese had repaired. The water
certainly was coming into the boat.

"What do you think, Jack?" demanded Fred quickly. "Shall we try to go
back?"

"Is that the direction in which we usually go?" retorted John.

"I would rather go back than go down."

"But I would rather go ahead than either."

"But the boat is certainly leaking. We have seen one storm on the lake
and we don't want to be caught in another, especially with a leaking old
tub like this."

"There isn't any storm and we aren't caught yet. Besides, I feel a little
puff of wind," John added, as he turned his face in the direction from
which the wind appeared to be coming.

John had been rowing for a half-hour or longer, and perspiration was
streaming down his face. Close to the water the air was cool, but as
there was no breeze it was well-nigh impossible for any one working as
hard as John had been to cool himself quickly.

"There's a little puff," he added, and once more the sail was hoisted and
for a little while the skiff moved steadily forward.

"John," suggested Fred a little later, "I think the best thing for us to
do is to try to get in the course of those lake boats. We can't see the
shore of Duck Island any longer and if we go far enough over to the west
and our skiff sinks, it may be that some one of those boats will pick us
up."

Whether or not it was the swifter action of the skiff the leak steadily
was becoming more apparent. Indeed, after a brief time Fred said, "Is
there anything on board we can use to bail this boat?"

"I haven't seen anything," answered John, and a hasty search quickly
revealed the fact that there was no implement on board which could be
used in the manner indicated by Fred.

The latter, however, taking his cap did his utmost to dip out the water,
which was steadily increasing in the bottom of the skiff, into the lake.
His efforts were unavailing, however, and in a brief time the boy, now
thoroughly alarmed, arose and said, "I tell you, Jack, this boat isn't
going to stay afloat very long."

John made no reply, but as he turned to look behind him Fred also glanced
in that direction, but the island from which they had departed had long
since disappeared from sight.

Far away in the west occasional trails of smoke could be seen, although
both boys were aware that doubtless such indications of the passing of
the steamers came within their vision long after the vessels themselves
had disappeared from the region.

It was speedily becoming manifest that the boys would be compelled to
struggle desperately in order to keep their sinking craft afloat. They
both clearly understood that they were Go Ahead Boys and were not to give
up easily, but the water was entering faster now and the peril
consequently became more threatening with every passing moment.

Almost in despair John looked toward the low lying streak of dark cloud
in the west which he clearly understood indicated the course of a passing
lake-boat. The mast meanwhile had been taken down and no attempt was made
to sail.

"Let's throw that thing overboard," suggested Fred in a voice sounding
strangely, even in his own ears.

"What thing?"

"Why, the mast and sail."

"Cut the sail and throw it overboard," ordered John, "but save the mast
as long as you can."

"What for?" demanded Fred.

"Hand me your handkerchief and I'll show you," answered John. Speedily
tying his own handkerchief to Fred's he then fastened both to the top of
the mast. "Somebody may see our signal of distress," he explained.

"Pull, Fred! Pull for all you're worth!" he hastily added. "We've got to
get nearer the boats if we ever make shore."

While Fred rowed, John was doing his utmost to bail the boat. He was
using his hands and his cap, but even with his utmost endeavors the depth
of the water in the slowly moving skiff did not decrease. Both boys were
toiling desperately now. Their faces were red and streaked with
perspiration. There was no evading the fact, however, that in spite of
all their efforts their progress still was slow and the peril of sinking
was steadily increasing.

At the mast-head floated the signal of distress. Neither of the boys was
speaking now and the silence that rested on the great stretch of waters
was unbroken.



                              CHAPTER XVI
                           THE SINKING SKIFF


"We shan't be able to stay on board much longer," said Fred in a low
voice.

John made no reply, but his colorless face was clearly seen by his
companion, who was fully aware of the anxiety in the heart of his friend.

Steadily the little boat was sinking into the waters of Lake Huron. The
boys now were wet to their waists and it was manifest that they would not
much longer be able to remain in the little skiff.

"Maybe she won't sink," called Fred. "Perhaps we can keep afloat if we
hang to her after she settles down."

Still John made no response. Not very long before he had been the one to
try to cheer his companion. He it was who had declared that they had
never learned to go backward and that they must be Go Ahead Boys to the
end.

"There's no use, Jack," called Fred. "We can't stay here any longer. Get
your shoes off, if you can."

With difficulty each boy removed his shoes and unmindful of his sweater
and their other belongings prepared to leap into the lake.

"You take the bow, Jack, and I'll hang to the stern," called Fred. "If we
each put only one hand on the boat, she may stay afloat long enough to
keep us from sinking. Don't lose your head. Just remember that we aren't
through this fight yet."

Both boys were expert swimmers, although their skill now was of slight
avail. It was impossible for them to see the shore of the island from
which they had departed and only the low-lying trails of dark smoke
indicated what might be on the water far to the west.

Together the boys leaped into the water. The boat partly righted itself
when it was relieved of its burden, but it was so full of water that only
a few inches below the gunwale appeared above the surface.

"Come on, Jack," called Fred as the boys arose to the surface, "let's
turn this tub over so that it will be bottom upward. Maybe it will stay
afloat then."

Fred was peering anxiously at his friend, fearful that his courage had
gone and that he would be compelled to exert himself to his utmost in
order to force John to any action.

Whether or not it was the effect of the cool water, John's courage
apparently had returned. At all events in response to the call of his
friend he swam quickly toward the boat. Acting upon the directions of
Fred he placed one hand on the bow while Fred seized the stern.

"Now turn her over," called Fred and under the united action of the boys
the leaking boat speedily reversed its position and lay upon the water,
keel upward.

"We can keep afloat here all day," said Fred, speaking with a confidence
he was far from feeling. "We'll have to be careful, but if we rest only
one hand on the boat that will keep us afloat and I don't believe she'll
sink."

Both were aware now of the desperate plight in which they found
themselves. There were no indications of help within sight and each
understood that unless help came before sunset they were likely to become
so chilled by their long stay in the cool waters that they would be
unable longer to retain their hold. Before the mind of Fred there came a
momentary vision of his far away home. For an instant he fancied he could
imagine the scene when the report was received there of the loss of their
boy. "Jack," he called, his voice breaking in spite of his efforts at
self-control, "if anything happens to either of us it is understood,
isn't it, that the other fellow will send word?"

It was John's turn now to manifest a strong determination and facing his
friend he said, "Don't give up the ship yet! We have most of the day
before us and something will happen."

"I wish we could get that mast over yonder and rig it on the bottom of
the skiff. Perhaps some one might see that when they couldn't see us. We
are so close to the water."

"That's a good suggestion," said John. "We're going ahead yet."

Quickly releasing his grasp John swam toward the floating mast, which had
been lost when the skiff was overturned.

He easily secured it and swam back to the overturned skiff.

"Can you break a hole in the bottom, Jack?" asked Fred.

"I don't know; I'll try it," responded John. Pounding upon the bottom of
the skiff where it had been broken when the boat had struck the rock, he
succeeded in making a hole big enough to enable him to thrust the mast
into the place.

"Never mind the handkerchiefs," called Fred; "they will dry out and will
be floating in the breeze pretty soon. Now the main thing for us to do is
simply to hang on and wait until somebody sees that signal of distress."

The moments passed slowly and to both boys there came an increasing fear
that their plight was not likely to attract the attention of passing
boats. Indeed, apparently there were no boats passing nearby. The low
clouds of smoke in the distance were tantalizing in their effect upon the
minds of the watching boys.

They had no means of estimating the passing of the time. Occasionally
they glanced toward the sky into which the sun was steadily mounting, but
they were neither in a condition to reflect calmly and so were unable to
decide whether they had been in the water an hour or longer.

To their delight the skiff seemed to be easily able to hold them up in
the water. Occasionally Fred let go his hold and swam about in the water
to 'start his circulation once more.' Both were becoming chilled,
although it was not yet midday.

At last the sun reached the zenith and slowly began its descent. The boys
now were silent, for conversation had ceased long before this time. Each
was watching the other, fearful that the strength of his friend was
giving out. In such an event he was aware that he would be unable to
render any positive assistance, as his own strength was steadily
departing.

"Look yonder," said Fred in a low voice when another hour had elapsed. As
he spoke he glanced behind him and John quickly looked in the direction
he indicated.

Not very far distant was a lake boat which apparently was passing far out
of the usual course of the steamers.

"Do you suppose," inquired Fred, "if we should shout together we might
make them hear?"

"We can try it," answered John.

Accordingly both boys united in a loud and prolonged call. For a time it
seemed to both of them that their efforts were unavailing. The ungainly
boat was so far away that it was well-nigh impossible for either to
determine whether or not it had veered slightly in its course.

Convinced that their cry had not been heard both again lapsed into
silence though each was still eagerly watching the movements of the
distant vessel.

Several minutes had passed when John said eagerly, "Fred, I believe that
boat is coming this way."

For a moment Fred was silent as he peered still more eagerly at the lake
boat. "I don't see it," he said disconsolately. "I cannot find that she's
any nearer than she was."

"Well, I think it is," affirmed John sturdily. "Hang on and we'll see if
she doesn't come to us."

John's confident statement, however, was not fulfilled. As if it was
unmindful of the peril or the presence of the two boys in their plight,
the boat continued steadily on its way until it disappeared from sight.

Neither of the boys spoke, but their feeling of depression was steadily
deepening.

"There's a loaded boat coming from the other direction," said John after
another hour had elapsed. "That's out of its course, too. Let's try it
again."

As soon as Fred had looked eagerly in the direction indicated by John he
saw another lake boat standing high in the water and evidently bound
northward. It was plain that it was not loaded as heavily as the boat
which had disappeared in the opposite direction and it also was moving
much more rapidly.

"Let's try another yell," suggested John when at last the boat was on a
line parallel with their own.

The call of the boys was hoarse and not so loud as the one in which they
had united in their former effort.

After several attempts the boys waited breathlessly, while in an anxiety
they could not express they watched the ungainly craft as it sped over
the lake.

"John," called Fred suddenly, "I believe that tub is changing its course
and is coming in our direction."

John made no response, but when a few moments had elapsed it was plain
that for some reason the boat had veered in its course and swinging to
the right was plainly coming nearer to the place where the boys were
clinging to the skiff.

On and still on came the noisy steamer until the strokes of its blades in
the water could be distinctly heard.

Several times the boys united in shouts, but at last it was plainly
manifest that their signal of distress had been discovered and that the
lake boat had turned to rescue the victims of the sinking skiff. Not long
afterward a yawl was lowered from the boat and two men took their places
at the oars. With strong and steady sweeps they drew near the boys and
not many minutes afterward quickly dragged both on board the yawl.

The reaction had come to both John and Fred and neither was able to sit
erect. Their teeth were chattering as if both were suffering from an
ague. Indeed, neither boy was fully aware of the events which were
occurring until at last they were somehow brought on board the lake boat.
There were willing hands to assist them there and speedily they were
taken below, where their wet clothing was removed and after a thorough
rub-down by rough but friendly hands they were placed in bunks and
covered with blankets.



                              CHAPTER XVII
                       THE RESCUE OF THE GADABOUT


Meanwhile on the _Gadabout_ George and Grant were having experiences that
by no means added to their peace of mind.

For a time they had waited with such patience as they could command for
the return of their friends. But when the minutes became hours and there
still was no sign of the coming of Fred and John both boys began to be
anxious.

The little _Gadabout_ had been steadily drifting with the slowly moving
current and in the dim light it was no longer possible to discern the
outline of the shore which Fred and John had been seeking.

The feeling of uneasiness steadily increased.

"What do you suppose has happened to those boys?" inquired Grant of his
friend.

"I don't believe anything has happened to them," replied George. "I think
that's just the trouble. They haven't found the shore, or any one to
help."

"Well, then why don't they come back?"

"I can't tell you. You know as much about that as I do."

"Well, I'm afraid they're lost," said Grant disconsolately.

"I don't believe anything very serious can happen to them even if they
have lost their way," said George, striving to speak with an assurance he
did not fully share. "Even if they stay out there until morning," he
continued, "they wouldn't have anything to be afraid of. And then they
would be able to find somebody that would pick them up and take them back
to Mackinac. Very likely we'll find them there when we get back
ourselves."

"But suppose a storm comes up," suggested Grant.

"Well, don't begin to worry until the wind begins to blow," said George
testily. The fear of the same event was in his own mind, but he resented
the suggestion of his companion.

"I think it is about time for us to be getting worried about ourselves,"
said George at last, when the first faint streaks of the dawn were seen
in the eastern sky. "Fred and John at least can be moving while we are
here as helpless as a rat in a trap."

"What do you make of him?" inquired Grant in a whisper, nodding toward
Mr. Button as he spoke.

He was still seated near the wheel and had given but slight attention to
his companions. Evidently he was anxious concerning something, though
what it was that disturbed him was still not clear to his two young
companions.

"What do you think, Mr. Button?" called George. "What's become of the
boys?"

"Huh! What's that you say?" inquired Mr. Button, sitting quickly erect.

"What do you think has become of Jack and Fred?"

"I don't know," replied Mr. Button vaguely. "Where did they go?"

"Why, they left in the skiff," explained Grant. "They have been gone
three or four hours anyway."

"Why don't they come back?" inquired Mr. Button.

"That's what we want to know. We're afraid they are lost."

"Well, they won't be lost very long," said Mr. Button. "Somebody will
pick them up and take them back to Mackinac Island. That isn't more than
forty miles away anyhow."

"Well, we're afraid somebody may not find them," said Grant. "We don't
see any boats anywhere around here."

As he spoke the boy stood erect and looked in all directions over the
smooth waters of Lake Huron. As was the case with Fred and John the only
indications of boats anywhere in the vicinity were the long low trails of
smoke that could be seen far in the west.

"How are we going to get back, Mr. Button?" inquired George.

"I don't know," replied Mr. Button. "I think we'll have to wait for
somebody to pick us up."

"But there isn't any boat anywhere around here," protested Grant.

"There may be before night," said Mr. Button quietly. "And besides we
cannot do anything to call any one."

"We might try yelling together," suggested George.

Mr. Button smiled, but made no response.

"If we had some oars or a little sail we might do something," suggested
Grant. "I'm going to look around and see if there isn't a sail on board
anywhere."

His search was unrewarded, however, and at last when Grant returned it
was agreed that their only hope was in being recognized by some passing
vessel.

The anxiety of the two boys for the safety of their missing comrades was
not relieved when later in the afternoon a lake boat changing its course
approached the place where they were lying.

Evidently they had been discovered by the captain, who was still holding
his glasses in his hand as the boat drew near.

"I found a megaphone under the seat," suggested Grant.

"Where is it? Go get it," suggested George.

In a moment Grant was again on deck and handed the megaphone to Mr.
Button.

"Ahoy, there!" he called. "Will you give us a tow?"

"Who are you?" came back the answer from the deck of the huge boat.

"There are three of us and our motor-boat broke down last night."

"How long have you been here?"

"Why, since midnight anyway. You are the first boat that has come
anywhere near us."

"And it's just by luck that we saw you. What will you do, come aboard?"

"No," answered Mr. Button, "if you'll give us a line we would rather have
you tow us. Are you going anywhere near Mackinac Island?"

"Yes," answered the captain. "We're bound straight for there. I don't
know that we shall stop, but we'll fix it so that you can get ashore if
you want to."

"That will do splendidly," called Mr. Button.

In a brief time the two boats were near enough to enable a sailor to cast
a rope to the _Gadabout_. After one or two attempts this was successfully
seized and then made fast. As the lake boat swung around to resume its
course, the _Gadabout_, one hundred feet or more astern, followed.

"I hate to go back and leave the other fellows out here," said George
when they began to move swiftly over the waters.

"You don't need to worry about them," said Mr. Button. "If we could see
them anywhere that would be one thing, but they have disappeared from
sight. They have a good skiff and I think I heard you say that they both
were Go Ahead Boys. If they are, they will get out of their trouble all
right."

"I'm sure I hope so," said George dubiously.

The conversation, however, ceased, and for a time all three were silent.
The clear waters of Lake Huron bubbled and seethed as they were cut by
the bow of the swift little motor-boat.

The huge lake boat evidently was not carrying a load and its speed
accordingly was unhampered. Doubtless the giant boat was returning to
Duluth for another cargo of wheat or iron.

The progress was uninterrupted so that by the middle of the afternoon the
high, rocky shores of Mackinac Island became visible in the distance.

At that moment the captain appeared at the stern of the lake boat and
raising his megaphone to his mouth, called, "Do you want us to land you?"

"No," replied Mr. Button also speaking through a megaphone, "we'll find
somebody that will take us in. If you're not going to land there you
needn't stop on our account. How much do we owe you?"

"You don't owe us anything," called the captain. "We're glad to lend a
hand. Whenever you say the word you can cast off and we'll haul in."

A half-hour later Mr. Button announced through his megaphone that the
time had arrived when there was no longer need for them to be towed. They
could plainly see the yachts in the harbor and the people moving along
the streets. To enter the harbor would compel the huge boat to change its
course, an act which no one desired.

Accordingly after hailing the crew and expressing the thanks of himself
and his companions for the aid they had received, Mr. Button gave the
word and the little _Gadabout_ was set free from the great steamer.

Another motor-boat near by, the occupants of which were deeply interested
spectators of what was occurring, at once took the _Gadabout_ in tow and
noisily proceeded toward the wharf which was not more than two hundred
yards away.

There were many questions asked of the rescued party, all of which were
promptly answered, but as soon as the boys landed they at once began to
make inquiries for a boat which could be chartered for a search for their
missing friends.

At last, however, they listened to the persuasions of Mr. Button and went
up to the hotel where they obtained a dinner, which satisfied them after
their long fast.

Then, quickly returning to the dock they found their boat awaiting them
and at once stepped on board.

Already they had explained to the owner the peril of the friends and the
reason why they had chartered the swiftest boat which could be obtained.

"We'll be there before long," said the captain confidently. "Have you
brought anything for your friends to eat?"

"Yes, we have a basket full here," explained George, pointing to a hamper
which one of the waiters from the hotel had placed on board. "We thought
they would be hungry so we got it ready."

"That's all right, they will be," said the captain.

"You don't suppose anything has happened to them, do you?" inquired
George anxiously.

"That's something no man knows," replied the captain not unkindly, "but
we'll soon find out."



                             CHAPTER XVIII
                      THE SEARCH FOR THE LOST BOYS


The impatience of the boys was manifest when the swift little boat set
forth on its voyage. Already they had made thorough investigations about
the island, but not a word concerning their missing friends had been
heard.

The anxiety of both George and Grant was well-nigh overpowering, although
both did their utmost to heed the comforting words of the captain of the
little yacht.

"Don't you worry none," he said cheerily. "Them boys will take care of
themselves. It was a ca'm night and the only way those fellows could git
into trouble would be by trying to run into it."

"That's what Fred may have done," said George dryly. "If there's anything
of that kind around he usually finds it."

"I guess you'll find the boys all right," affirmed the captain.

Striving to calm their fears the boys gazed out over the smooth waters.
For two days now the surface of Lake Huron had been almost unruffled.
Such gentle breezes as were blowing produced only the slightest ripple on
the surface. In the clear waters, objects on the shore were reflected
almost as in a mirror.

None of these things, however, was in the thoughts of the two boys as
they watched the bluffs of Mackinac Island fade away in the distance.

They had done their utmost to describe to their captain the location in
which they had left their friends the preceding night. That bluff
individual had heartily declared that he understood just where the
accident had occurred, but somehow his confidence was not fully shared by
either of his passengers.

"He tries to make up for what he doesn't know by stating with all his
might the things he does know," said George in a low voice to Grant when
the boys had taken their seats near the stern of the boat.

"That's what some people say," answered Grant. "'A lie well stuck to is
as good as the truth.'"

"I don't believe that," said George.

"Don't believe what?"

"That a lie ever is as good as the truth."

"I didn't say that. I said a lie well stuck to was as good as the truth."

"I don't believe it is ever right to lie."

"Well, I do," said Grant positively.

"When?"

"Why, if you were dreadfully sick and it would be a shock to you to know
that you were likely to die I think it would be all right to lie and tell
you that you looked well."

"I would know that was a lie just as soon as you said it," laughed
George, "but I wouldn't lie even then."

"What would you do?"

"I would do nothing."

"Well, suppose you had to say something."

"I would say what I thought was true."

"Wouldn't you lie if the doctor told you to?"

"No. I tell you I don't believe a lie is ever right."

"I don't believe in lieing in general, but I can see times when I think
it might be all right."

"The trouble is, when a fellow begins he goes ahead. He doesn't stop with
lies that may not be so bad, but he keeps on and tries it in a good many
other ways. No, sir, I haven't any use for a liar. If I give my word I
intend to keep it."

Conversation ceased and both boys anxiously were peering before them. The
captain already had explained that they were doubtless near the shore of
Western Duck Island where their accident had occurred and their
companions had been lost. He had explained also that in his judgment it
was wisest to go again to the same spot as nearly as possible and there
begin their search for the missing boys. He sturdily maintained his
feeling that the boys were not "lost," a confidence, however, that was
not shared by his passengers as the boat swiftly sped across the surface
of the shining waters.

"I sometimes think the captain is right," said George thoughtfully. "Last
night was as calm as a night could well be and, as he said, if the
fellows got into trouble they must have tried to look it up."

"I agree with you," said Grant, although the tones of his voice failed to
show any strong conviction.

"Don't you worry none about them boys," called the captain again as he
saw George and Grant anxiously conferring. "If they are any kind of boys
they will take care of themselves. Why, I wouldn't give much for a lad
that couldn't protect himself in such a night as last night was. Up on
Mackinac Island I have known people who lived for months on fried
snowballs. They are not very good as a diet, but they help to keep people
from thinking too much about their troubles."

Neither of the boys responded to the flippant words of their captain,
although both were aware that he was speaking out of the kindness of his
heart.

When nearly three hours had elapsed after they had departed from Mackinac
the captain, once more turning to his passengers, said, "Yonder lie the
shores of Western Duck Island." As he spoke he pointed to a low lying
strip of land that could be seen far in advance of them. "My opinion is,"
he continued, "that those boys didn't stay out in their boat all night.
Maybe they landed."

"Is anybody living on the island?" said George quickly.

"Not regular. This time of the year though there may be parties camping
out. A bit later in the fall there are plenty of people there shooting
ducks."

"That doesn't do us any good," retorted George. "What we want is to find
out where those fellows are now and if they got any help on the island."

"You wait a bit," rejoined the captain, "and we'll find out."

Swiftly the little motor-boat approached the shores of the island they
were seeking. It too passed the long strip of rushes which had been seen
the preceding night by John and Fred in their attempts to find a landing
place.

The motor-boat at last came to anchor off a rocky shore and at the
suggestion of the captain George and Grant climbed into the skiff and
hastily casting off at once rowed ashore.

"I'll wait for you here," called the captain as the boys clambered up on
the bank. "I shouldn't be gone more than an hour. Come back and we'll try
it farther down the shore."

The boys agreed to return within the specified time and then after
peering eagerly all about them together started toward the woods they
could see in the distance.

Just why they walked in this direction neither could explain, but there
was somehow a thought in the mind of each that possibly within its
shelter a camp or a house might be found.

The hour passed and all the efforts of the searching boys were
unrewarded. Not a trace of their missing friends had they discovered.
"It's plain enough they aren't here," said George dejectedly.

"That's right," answered Grant, "we've called and shouted and whistled
and looked and walked and waited, but we haven't anything for all our
pains. I'm beginning to believe the boys aren't here."

"I agree with you as far as this spot is concerned," said George, "but we
ought to go on farther down the island before we go back to Mackinac."

"That's right," agreed Grant. "Let's go back to the motor-boat now."

Quickly the two boys started to return to the place where the captain was
awaiting their coming. They had gone but a short distance, however,
before at George's suggestion they turned to their left and moved toward
a sandy stretch of shore which they saw in the distance. "Maybe we'll
find a footprint the same as Robinson Crusoe found on his island,"
suggested George striving to speak lightly.

The suggestion was followed and great was the surprise of both boys when
they drew near the winding sandy shore of a large cove to see swiftly
approaching from the south a motor-boat in the distance.

"Look yonder!" said Grant excitedly seizing his friend by his shoulder as
he spoke, and pointing in the direction in which he had discovered the
approaching boat. "That isn't our boat, is it?"

"No," answered George positively after a brief silence. "Our boat is up
the shore farther."

"Maybe Fred and John are on board."

"That's something nobody knows. We'll soon find out."

Quickening the pace at which they were walking the two boys soon arrived
at the place they were seeking. Save for an occasional comment the
silence was unbroken while they both anxiously watched the motor-boat
which could be seen swiftly approaching. Indeed the little boat was
marvelously swift and in a brief time the boys were aware that there was
only one person on board.

"The fellow is in a hurry anyway," suggested Grant. "Even if he doesn't
know what he wants he wants it right away."

At that moment the sound of the footsteps of some one in their rear
startled both the young watchers and as they glanced behind them they
discovered a man approaching. Apparently he had come from the woods where
they had begun their search for their missing friends, but it was quickly
manifest that he was as startled by his discovery of the presence of the
boys as they had been at his coming.

For a moment it seemed to both George and Grant that the man was about to
turn and flee from the spot. However, apparently he thought better and at
once advanced toward the place where the boys were standing.

At the same moment the boys looked again at the approaching boat and to
the surprise of both of them they recognized the man at the wheel as the
one in whose house they had been received on Cockburn Island several days
before.

What the coming of the man implied neither of the boys understood, but at
that moment, however, the man who had approached from the woods shouted
in his loudest tones to George and Grant. Startled by the unexpected
sound the two boys instantly turned and fled quickly from the spot.



                              CHAPTER XIX
                         SUSPICIOUS CHARACTERS


So wearied were Fred and John by the exciting experiences of the day that
as soon as they were left to themselves they were sound asleep.

How long they had slept neither was aware when at last both awoke. The
little cabin was dark except for a faint light streaming in through the
open porthole.

"Where are we, Jack?" called Fred in a low voice.

"Why, don't you know?" replied John. "We're on board that boat that
picked us up."

"Oh, yes, I remember now. How are you?"

"All right I guess, though I feel as if I had been breaking stones or
lifting weights all my life."

"I guess you wouldn't feel that way if you really had," responded Fred
lightly. "A fellow's muscles would get used to the work if he had to do
it all the time. Where do you suppose we are?"

"I haven't any idea. We're moving, though, all the time, that's plain."

"Yes, I can hear the swash of the water. I wonder if we are anywhere near
Mackinac Island."

"Let's go up and find out," suggested John and hastily the boys left
their bunk and made their way to the deck.

The stars were shining and it was manifest to the boys that the morning
light had not yet appeared.

Perceiving a man near the stern of the boat they at once approached him
and made known their presence.

"Where are we?" inquired Fred.

"We'll be in Sault Ste. Marie in about a half an hour."

"What!" exclaimed Fred.

"That's right, lad," said the sailor.

"When did we pass Mackinac Island?"

"Mackinac Island! Why we left that a good many hours ago."

"Why didn't you stop and put us off?"

"We don't make any stop anywhere. I guess the captain told you that we
couldn't stop there. That doesn't make any difference, however, we'll be
in Sault Ste. Marie pretty soon and then you boys can stop all you want
to."

"How shall we get back to Mackinac?" inquired John.

"I can't say," laughed the sailor, who appeared to regard the plight of
the boys more or less as a joke. "My suggestion would be to wait there
and when one of the line boats come through go back on that. There will
be one out somewhere about noon."

"Probably that's the best we can do," said Fred meekly. "You say we'll be
there in about a half an hour?"

"Yes."

The boys at once returned to their cabin, but to their dismay they
discovered that the clothes in which they had been rescued were still too
wet to be donned.

"There's no help for it," said John disconsolately. "If this old tub
stops long enough at Sault Ste. Marie we can go ashore even in these togs
we have on. Come on back on deck and we'll find out how long the stop
is."

Returning to the deck the boys learned that the boat on which they were
sailing was to remain six hours at Sault Ste. Marie.

"That's all right," said Fred as he and John withdrew to another part of
the deck. "We'll go ashore just as we are and before the boat sails we'll
have a chance to change our clothes."

The boys were interested in spite of their predicament in the low lying
shores past which they were steadily moving. It was sufficiently light to
enable them to mark several parks, evidently playgrounds of the people of
the little city which they were approaching.

True to the prophecy of the sailor the boat drew alongside a dock within
the half-hour. Again assuring themselves that the vessel would not depart
within six hours, the boys at once leaped ashore and started together up
the wide street upon which they now found themselves.

There were low buildings on each side and to their surprise the boys were
soon aware that many people were moving about the street although it was
not yet three o'clock in the morning. Among these strangers they noticed
numbers of Indians. This fact, together with the decorations of many of
the buildings which were to be seen, indicated that either a festival or
a holiday of some kind had been celebrated the preceding day, or that the
city was preparing for some event of importance.

"We didn't pay the captain anything for bringing us up here," suggested
John, as he and his companion slowly walked up the street.

"That's right," said Fred. "Besides," he added hastily, "I haven't a cent
of money in my pocket, have you?"

"Not in these pockets," laughed John, whose spirits now had returned.
"We'll have to go back and get some money if we are going to get any
breakfast."

"But I haven't any money in my other pockets," said Fred ruefully.

"And I haven't either," added John laughing as he spoke. "I didn't think
we would want any money yesterday so I didn't take any with me."

"My mother would say that this is another good lesson. She says I am all
the while out of money and I ought to have enough with me to provide for
what I want."

"That's the difficulty," said John. "It isn't so much getting the money
as it is keeping it. But this is no joke, Fred. Neither of us has any
money and I don't believe up here even at Sault Ste. Marie they will give
us something to eat unless we pay for it."

"I put my watch in my pocket," said Fred. "I don't see anything for us to
do except to hock that."

"Maybe some fellow that keeps a restaurant will take it as security and
hold it until we can redeem it."

"We'll try that," said Fred quickly. "I wish we could find some place
open now."

"Perhaps we can, there are so many people on the street," said John.
"Come on let's go further on and try it."

In accordance with John's suggestion the boys walked rapidly up the
street and soon to their delight they discovered a restaurant which
evidently was being patronized at that early hour. Several people could
be seen seated at the small tables within the room, and, encouraged by
the sight, the boys at once entered.

At the cashier's desk a woman was seated, but evidently she had been
there throughout the night. There were moments when her head nodded and
she plainly was greatly in need of sleep.

At once approaching her Fred said, "We have been unfortunate."

"I'm afraid you're not the only ones," said the woman sitting quickly
erect as she heard the unexpected statement.

"I guess that's right," laughed Fred, "but we fell into the lake and were
picked up by a boat that did not stop until it got to Sault Ste. Marie."

"Where did you want it to stop?" inquired the woman.

"Mackinac Island."

"Where were you working there?" she inquired.

"Working?" laughed Fred. "We weren't working at all. We were staying at
one of the hotels."

For a moment the woman glanced quickly at the young spokesman and then
shaking her head began to laugh.

"What are you laughing at?" demanded Fred irritated by her manner.

"I guess you had the parlor suit," said the woman still laughing at the
boys before her. "You look as if you belong to John Jacob Astor's family.
It may be that you look better than he did when he used to come there,
but I guess you wouldn't pass for much more."

For the first time the boys were aware that the strange garb in which
they were clad certainly did not imply that they had been guests at any
prominent summer hotel. Both suits were ill-fitting and worn, and if
either had been plunged in soap and water within a year there was nothing
in the garments to imply such action.

For a moment Fred was nonplussed and then hastily thrusting his hand into
his pocket he drew forth his watch.

"How will that do?" he said as he placed the gold watch on the desk. It
was a beautiful little time-piece, a present he had received on his
sixteenth birthday from his father. "You'll take that as security, I
guess," he said lightly, "and when we get back to Mackinac Island we'll
send you the money or come with it and get the watch."

Picking up the time-piece the woman gazed curiously at it and then again
looking sharply at the boys she said, "Where did you get that?"

"It was a present," said Fred.

"Who gave it to you?"

"My father."

"Does he live on Fifth Avenue, New York?"

"He does not," said Fred slowly.

"Oh, I thought maybe he did," sniffed the woman. "That's the kind of
watches they have in New York City. It isn't the kind that most of the
roustabouts carry on the lakes."

"But I'm not a roustabout," said Fred.

"You don't need to say what you are," said the woman. "All I can say is
that I shan't take that watch. I don't want the police in here."

"Police!" exclaimed Fred. "What do you mean? What would the police come
for?"

"For one thing they would come for the watch and another thing they would
want would be the fellow that took it."

"Did you think I stole that watch?" demanded Fred.

"I'm not saying nothing," said the woman. "All I say is that if any boys
on the lake are seen carrying watches like that it is most generally
known how they got them. My advice to you is to stick that watch in your
pocket again and don't let anybody see it while you're in Sault Ste.
Marie."

"You needn't trouble yourself any more," said Fred as he took the watch
and thrust it again into his pocket. Then turning to John he said, "Come
on, Jack, we won't stay here another minute."

When the boys were once more on the street Fred's indignation soon gave
way to a feeling of alarm. Not only were they without any means of
securing breakfast, to say nothing of their passage back to Mackinac
Island, but also they might be regarded as suspicious characters.
Evidently the woman keeper of the restaurant had believed they had stolen
the watch.

"Never mind, Fred," suggested John. "It will all come out right. We'll
try it again."

"We might pawn the watch," said Fred thoughtfully.

"But there's no pawn shop open."

"Well, there probably will be a little later. There must be a good many
such shops in a place like this. I'm getting hungry."

"So am I," said John fervently, "but that doesn't do me any good. There's
another restaurant down yonder," he added quickly, pointing down the
street as he spoke. "It's almost light now and we might try it there."

"All right," said Fred. "I'm not very hopeful, but they can't do any more
than throw us out."

"Unless they arrest us as suspicious characters," suggested John somewhat
ruefully.

"We'll never know until we try anyway," said Fred resolutely. "Come on,
Jack, we'll soon know what is going to happen to us. If we get into jail
we'll have to telegraph the boys to bail us out."

"But we don't know where the fellows are," declared John.

"That's as sure as you live. I had almost forgotten about that. We
certainly are having our troubles on this trip, aren't we?"

By this time the boys had stopped in front of the restaurant they were
seeking and at once entering they looked quickly about the room for the
proprietor.



                               CHAPTER XX
                               PENNILESS


At once advancing toward the man whom they discovered walking about the
room Fred said quietly, "My friend and I are in trouble. We were out in a
skiff yesterday and the little boat got to leaking so badly that we both
of us had to stay in the water. We were there a half-day, and then we
were picked up by a boat which did not stop at Mackinac Island and
brought us straight through to Sault Ste. Marie."

"Where were you?" inquired the man suspiciously as he glanced keenly at
Fred.

"We were staying at Mackinac Island, but had gone over across to one of
the islands on the Canadian shore."

"What were you doing there?"

"Looking for our friends."

"Where were they?"

"That's what we were trying to find out," said Fred ruefully. "There were
two other fellows with us and they got lost."

"And you want me to give you some breakfast, is that it?" said the
proprietor abruptly.

"No, we don't want you to 'give' us anything," retorted Fred. "I have got
my watch here and I thought perhaps if I left it as security you would
let us have some breakfast. We'll send you the money just as soon as we
can go back to Mackinac. These clothes we have on," he added as he
perceived that the man was closely regarding their outfit, "were given us
by the sailors that rescued us. We have got some different clothes down
at the dock, but they were soaked through and so some of the crew fixed
us up as well as they could."

"What boat did you come on?"

"I don't know," said Fred, "it was almost dark and we weren't thinking
about the name, we were so anxious to be taken on board. After we had
been in the water as long as we were we didn't stop for little things
like that. Will you take the watch and let us have some breakfast?"

Extending his hand the man took the watch and then examined it with
interest.

"That's a good watch," he said after a brief silence.

"Of course it is," said Fred. "My father gave it to me."

"You are sure that's the way you got it?"

"I'm telling you the truth," said Fred seriously. He was in no mood now
to resent any implications as to the method by which the watch had come
into his possession. The odor of breakfast was strong in the room and the
appetites of both boys were so keen that other things were ignored.

"Yes, I'll take your watch," said the man. "You give me your name and
address."

As soon as these had been given the boys seated themselves at one of the
tables and in a brief time were served with a simple breakfast. It was
marvelous, however, the amount of food which was eaten by the hungry
lads. It had been a long time since they had tasted anything of the kind
and even the proprietor laughed as he saw the simple breakfast disappear.

At last, when the boys could eat no more and they were preparing to
depart, the proprietor said, "Did you tell me that you were staying at
Mackinac Island?"

"Yes, sir," answered Fred.

"At one of the hotels?"

"Yes, sir."

"Then my advice to you is to telegraph there for money."

"I hadn't thought of that," said Fred quickly. "That's the very thing
we'll do. Come on, Jack," he added, turning to his companion. "We'll go
to the telegraph office right away. Will you tell us where it is,
please?" he asked of the restaurant keeper.

Stepping outside his door the proprietor pointed to the office and after
they had thanked him for his kindness John and Fred at once started for
the place.

Their troubles, however, were not ended, for again they found their
appearance decidedly against them. The telegraph operator refused to take
any message that should be paid for at Mackinac. He also refused to
listen to any of their explanations and in response to the appeals of the
boys explained that he had to be governed by the rules of the office.

Even with all their protests and pleadings the boys were unable to induce
the operator to change his decision. He still refused to accept the
message and as the boys were without money it was impossible for them to
prepay it.

Fred and John when they withdrew from the telegraph office were not so
disconsolate as they had been when they had met their first rebuff. The
ample breakfast they had secured had done much to bring back their
courage and again they were Go Ahead Boys in earnest.

On the sidewalk the two boys stopped once more to think over their
difficult condition.

"What shall we do now?" asked John.

"Anybody can ask questions," laughed Fred. "If I could answer it I would
be very glad to."

"Have you anything to suggest?"

"Yes," replied Fred quickly as a sudden inspiration came to him, "it
can't be very far from here to Mackinac Island. Suppose we go back to the
dock and see if we can't arrange for our passage."

"They will meet us with great enthusiasm," said John laughing slightly as
he spoke. "Probably they'll hail us as the very fellows they have been
waiting for."

"But we won't look so much like tramps when we get our other clothes on."

"Maybe not," assented John, "but we'll have to find that out later. Come
on back and we'll see what we can do now."

When the boys returned to the dock their anger was almost as great as
their surprise when they discovered that the boat in which they had come
had resumed its voyage.

"And they said," declared Fred bitterly, "that they were going to hang up
here six hours. They have gone in less than three."

"Well, they are paid for our passage anyway. They have got two suits of
clothes and that's something."

"It is that," said Fred smiling ruefully as he spoke. "Just now I think
it's a good deal. When I look at the things you have on, Jack, and then
think of that beautiful suit sailing away over Lake Superior, I'm almost
ready to weep!"

"Don't! Don't!" said John. "It doesn't affect me that way. When I see you
as you are now and then think of you as I have seen you all dolled up and
even your shoes polished, to say nothing of that red necktie you wear so
frequently, I don't feel like weeping, I feel like yelling."

"It doesn't make any difference," said Fred. "Our boat's gone. Now what
is the best thing for us to do?"

"To go ahead," said John.

"Come on then," said Fred briskly.

Together the two boys made inquiries at various places, but did not
discover any boats leaving in the near future that would land them at the
place they were seeking. After several inquiries they were directed to
the office of the great steamboats, which made the long voyage from
Buffalo to Duluth and return. The appearance of the boys, however, was so
markedly against them that they were unsuccessful in arranging for their
passage.

"It looks as if the Go Ahead Boys had gotten to the end of their
journey," said John when the boys once more were on the street.

"Don't you believe that for a minute," said Fred. "The only time it is
necessary for a man to show that he has any grit is when he is in
trouble. If there weren't any hard things to be done there wouldn't be
any need of a fellow bracing up to do them. If everything was smooth and
easy all the time everybody would get along. It's just because the way is
a little hard that there's need for us to go ahead. We'll find a way yet,
Jack. Come on back to the dock."

Neither boy was disheartened when after three or four more attempts to
arrange for a passage they found even their strongest pleadings without
avail.

"We're simply up against it," said John.

"And that's the time to go ahead," declared Fred. "Come on and we'll try
that fellow yonder." As he spoke he pointed toward a motor-boat at the
lower end of the dock on which the boys were standing. The boat was old
and greatly in need of paint. A disconsolate appearing individual whom
the boys suspected to be the owner, manager, chief stockholder and
captain of the little craft sat on the dock swinging his long legs over
the water.

The boys were able to see that the man had bright red hair and that his
face was covered with huge freckles or splotches of a dark, reddish brown
hue. He was apparently about thirty years of age, long, ungainly and
awkward in his every action.

"Let's go see him," suggested Fred.

"He doesn't look as if he knew enough to run a boat even to the bottom,"
responded John, nevertheless joining his friend as they advanced toward
the man.

"You didn't expect the most intellectual individual in the world to be
running a tub like that, did you?" demanded Fred, as they came nearer and
obtained a closer view of the peculiar individual. "If he knew more he
wouldn't be around here in a worn-out old tub."

"Go ahead," laughed John, "I'll leave the interview to you."

"I'm glad to see that you have come to your senses at last," declared
Fred soberly. "It's a good thing sometimes to know that you don't know."

"That's right," retorted John, "and it's better yet not to know so many
things that aren't so."

"You just listen," said Fred, as he turned toward the stranger who had
glanced at the approaching boys and then resumed his former position.

"Good morning," called Fred cheerily.

"Hey?" answered the man.

"I said good morning," repeated Fred striving to speak cheerfully.

"I hadn't noticed. Is it?" said the man glancing toward the sky as he
spoke. "Most of these mornings up here have been foggy. We have had the
worst weather this summer I ever see. Seems to get worse all the time."

"Don't you know that Ruskin says there isn't any bad weather? There are
just different kinds of good weather."

"Ruskin, who's he? I never heard tell o' him."

"He doesn't live here at the Sault," acknowledged Fred. "Never mind the
weather. What I want to know is can you take us in your motor-boat to
Mackinac Island?"

"I guess I can," said the man whose little reddish brown eyes narrowed as
he gazed shrewdly at the boys as he spoke. "Depends on whether you got
the price or not."

"How much will you charge to take us?"

"Both of you?"

"Yes."

"I'll charge ten dollars."

"All right, we'll pay it."

"Will you pay it now?"

"No," said Fred. "We'll pay you just as soon as you land us at Mackinac."

"How do I know you will?"

"You have our word for it."

"You don't look neither one of you as if that was too much of a load for
you to carry alone." The man's voice was nasal and high, and he did not
smile while he was speaking. The boys were unable to decide whether he
was serious or was speaking lightly.

"If it's clothes you want," said Fred, "we'll show you some better ones
just as soon as we get up to the hotel."

"I'll tell you what I'll do," said the man. "I guess I'm a fool for my
pains, but I got to go around by Cockburn Island. If you want to go
aboard and go with me I'll fetch you around to Mackinac for ten dollars.
I know I'm taking a big chance, but maybe you be too. What do you say?"

"I say go ahead," answered Fred quickly.



                              CHAPTER XXI
                              A VAGUE HINT


"Go ahead it is," responded the skipper. "I can be ready in five minutes.
Can you?"

"We're ready now," said John quickly.

"You know how it is," said the captain. "Most always the passengers, if
they want anything to eat on the way, put it on board before we start."

"Well, we cannot get anything to eat," said Fred. "We told you why."

"So you did. So you did," said the captain again speaking in his high
nasal tones. "Still I guess we'll be hungry before night. Maybe I can
find something. You boys wait here until I go up the street and I'll be
back in a few minutes." When he had thus spoken the ungainly man took a
basket on his arm and at once set forth on his errand.

Left to themselves the boys went on board the strange craft and the hasty
inspection they made did not increase their confidence either in the boat
or in its owner.

"It's about the only way there is," said John at last, "and we've got to
take it. It's Hobson's choice. We can't stay here and we can't get
passage on the big boats so we'll have to put up with what we can get."

"Next week," said Fred lightly, "we'll all be laughing about it. I
wouldn't mind this adventure at all if I was sure Grant and George are
all right. Every time I think of them I'm worried when I remember what
you and I went through. If that boat hadn't come along just as it did we
might be at the bottom of Lake Huron."

"Well, we are not there," said John quickly. "The fact is we are here and
we wish we weren't. If the other fellows were along with us I would like
to go out yonder and shoot those rapids," he said pointing toward the
swift rapids that were not far away. Even while he was speaking a skiff,
guided by an Indian, came swiftly through the tossing waters and
approached the shore not far from the place where the boys were seated.

"That's right," joined in Fred heartily. "I have a good mind to try it as
it is."

"I guess you'll have to wait until you get your fortune changed so that
you can pay a man a half-dollar for letting you shoot the rapids in his
skiff."

"You're right, of course," said Fred. "I never realized before what a
convenience it is to have some change in your pocket. Never again will I
go out for a day's trip, no matter where it is, without having something
in my purse."

"You mean as long as your father or some one else puts it in your purse."

"No, I don't mean anything of the kind," retorted Fred. "You don't
suppose I am always going to be dependent, do you?"

"I hadn't thought very much about it," laughed John. "If you want my
opinion, it is that--"

Whatever John's judgment might be it was not expressed at the time for at
that moment the tall skipper was seen returning to the dock.

"Well, I got enough to stay our stomachs a little while," said the
captain as he swung the basket from his arm and deposited it under one of
the seats in the motor-boat. "It isn't the best kind and what such
stylish young gentlemen as you be are used to."

It was plain to both boys that the skipper had not taken their
explanations seriously and that he still was doubtful as to their real
purpose. However, he did not refer to his suspicions and in a brief time
he had the motor-boat ready to set forth on its long voyage.

For a brief time after the boys departed from Sault Ste. Marie their
interest in the sights along the nearby shores was so keen that their own
plight in a measure was forgotten. Several times the little boat was
tossed by the waves that were upturned by the passage of some large
freight boat. Occasionally they were hailed by people on board, for in
the summer-time many of these freight boats carried a few passengers,
making a delightful trip through the great lakes.

"I guess," said the skipper, at last turning to the boys, "that the best
way for me to do will be to go down through St. Mary's River and then
strike into the North Channel. I'll keep close to the shore of Drummond
Island and then I'll come around to Cockburn Island that way."

"Your tub,--I mean your motor-boat," said Fred correcting himself
quickly, "doesn't seem to be making very fast time."

"It's fast enough," said the skipper quietly. "Time ain't much use to me.
Some folks say time is money. If I had as much money as I had time I
wouldn't be carrying two young sprints like you down through Mud Lake."

"How long do you think you'll be before we land at Mackinac Island?"
inquired Fred.

"Not knowing, I can't say," replied the captain. "My general feeling is
that if we make it by day after to-morrow we'll be doing mighty well."

"What do you mean?" demanded John blankly.

"I mean just what I say. I'm not going to drive my boat very hard and by
the time we have gone down St. Mary's River and into the North Channel
and then around to Cockburn Island it will be some time before we can
start for Mackinac."

"But where will we stay nights?" inquired Fred.

"We'll pick out a good place somewhere. I have got a canvas that
stretches over the boat and will keep out the wind and we can crawl under
that when it gets dark."

"But you haven't enough for us to eat."

"Haven't I?" said the skipper dryly. "That depends I guess a little on
how much you want to eat. I have got some salt pork and potatoes and if
you don't like that diet all I can say is that you might have brought
your own stuff."

The boys were silent as the reference to their poverty caused them both
to realize how impossible it was for them to obtain even the common
necessities of life, if they had no money with which to make their
purchases.

"Ever been over to Cockburn Island?" inquired the captain after a long
silence.

"Yes," said John. "It's a funny island."

"It isn't so funny as the people on it."

"That's what I thought," laughed Fred.

"Well, you weren't thinking far wrong. I've been over to Cockburn Island
every month ever since the ice went out of the lakes."

"What do you go for?" asked John.

"If I don't tell you then you won't know, will you?" said the captain
glancing shrewdly at the boys as he spoke.

"I don't suppose we shall," acknowledged John.

"I don't mind tellin' you that I don't expect to go there many times
more. I'm going to get even with that man."

"What man?"

"Why, Mr. Halsey."

"Who is he?"

"He's the man that stays summers on Cockburn Island. Leastwise he stays
there part of the time."

"Is he the man that has the little house that looks like an old shanty
about a quarter of a mile back from the shore? Does he have a Japanese
servant and is there a little barn back of the shanty?"

"What do you know about that barn?" demanded the skipper turning abruptly
about and staring at the boys.

"We don't know anything about it. I'm just telling you about the place
and asking you if Mr. Halsey is the name of the man who lives there."

"I guess you're all correct," said the captain. "That's his name and I
guess that's the place where he lives. He's the man I was tellin' you
about."

"The one who employs you?" inquired John.

"I don't know whether he employs me or not. I work for him. He has got to
live up to his promises better than he has though, or I'll put him where
he won't do quite so much business as he has been doin' this summer."

"What is his business?"

"Don't you wish you knew?" said the skipper. There was an expression in
his eyes that indicated that the man was deficient. Indeed, Fred
whispered to John, "I don't believe the fellow is all there. I guess if
you knocked on his head you'd find nobody home."

"He certainly looks the part," agreed John, "but I want to find out more
about Mr. Halsey, as he calls him."

"You didn't tell us what business Mr. Halsey is engaged in," added John
as he turned once more to the skipper.

"Of course I didn't. That's the question a good many folks would like to
have answered."

"Does he have any business?"

"Business! Business!" exclaimed the skipper. He had previously explained
that his name was Rufus Blodgett and that he was commonly called Rufe by
his passengers and friends. "He doesn't work more than twelve hours a
day, let me tell you, and he gets better pay than anybody around these
diggins."

"And nobody knows what his business is?"

"I know," said Rufe, slyly winking as he spoke.

"What is it?"

"That's tellin'. Maybe somebody will know pretty soon. At least I have
wrote some letters that will be likely to put somebody on his track that
he won't like very much."

"Did you write those letters to Mr. Button?" demanded Fred.

"What do you know about any letters?" said Rufe, his voice becoming very
low as he spoke and the glitter again appearing in his narrow little
eyes.

"We saw them," said Fred more boldly. "We mean the one that you signed
'American Brother.'"

"Who showed it to you?" said Rufe. "Beats all, I never supposed two such
youngsters as you knew anything about them letters."

"What did you write them for?" asked John.

"Didn't I tell you this Mr. Halsey is makin' all kinds of money? He
agreed to divide with me and he hasn't done it. I told him I would get
even with him and you see if I don't!"

"Then he is a smuggler, is he?" inquired John.

"You had better take my advice and not say that word very often around in
these parts. I guess there ain't any harm in a man buying somethin' on
one side o' the lake and sellin' it on the other."

"But there's a law against it," suggested Fred.

"Nothin' but a man-made law."

"What has that got to do with it?" asked John.

"I don't care nothin' about man-made laws. I don't find nothin' in the
Bible that says I mustn't smuggle, as you call it. Mind you, I ain't
sayin' I'm no smuggler, I'm just talkin' on general principles."

"But you have not told us what Mr. Halsey smuggles."

"No, and I ain't goin' t' tell you."

"Is that what you're going to Cockburn Island now for?"

"Don't you wish you knew?" said Rufe, laughing as if he considered his
question to be a good joke. "Did you say," he continued, "that you had
ever been out in the barn?"

"We said we hadn't been there," replied Fred.

"There's a mighty good reason why you didn't go, I guess."

"What's that?"

"That there watch dog o' the Halseys. There was a fellow here once what
was tellin' about some dog that a man named Pluto kept. He said that dog
had three heads and they all barked at the same time and all bit
together."

"Did he tell you where Mr. Pluto lived?" asked Fred soberly.

"No, he didn't," said Rufe. "Where does he live?"

"Not very far from Cockburn Island, you'll find if you don't quit
breaking the laws."

There were many conversations during the voyage similar to those which
have been recorded, and the boys became more convinced that the strange
skipper undoubtedly in some way was sharing in the experiences of the man
whom they had met on Cockburn Island and whose name Rufe declared to be
Halsey.

The little motor-boat stopped for a time on the shore of Mud Lake.

There the skipper cooked some of the potatoes and salt pork he had
brought with him and the boys declared that never had they tasted food
more delicious.



                              CHAPTER XXII
                    A PASSENGER FOR COCKBURN ISLAND


Neither George nor Grant was aware of the reason for their abrupt flight
when the shout of the approaching man was heard.

"Hold on!" called George to Grant after the boys had gone a hundred yards
or more. "What fools we are. What are we running for anyway?"

"Because we want to get somewhere. We don't know just where it is but
we're in a hurry to get there, I guess."

As he spoke Grant glanced toward the woods in the distance from which the
man that had hailed them had unexpectedly come. "I'm not afraid. Come on,
let's go back to the motor-boat."

"Did you find them?" inquired the captain when the boys approached the
boat.

"No."

"You look so tuckered out, both of you, that I thought maybe you saw them
somewhere."

"No, we didn't find them," said Grant, "but we saw--"

The boy stopped as if he hesitated to refer to the fact that they had
fled from a man who had unexpectedly hailed them.

"Saw what?" said the captain.

"Do you know who lives on Cockburn Island?" abruptly asked George.

For a moment the captain made no reply as he looked keenly at the boys.
At last he said, "I have sailed over to Cockburn Island a good many
times. Why do you want to know who lives there?"

"We had some strange experiences on that island," explained Grant.

"I don't doubt you," said the captain. "I don't doubt your word a bit.
What did you see there?"

"Why, it wasn't so much what we saw as the fact that there seemed to be
something very mysterious about the island and the people who live there.
We went into a little shanty one day. At least it looked like a little
shanty, not very far back from the shore and we found it all fitted up
like a city house. There were rugs on the floors, and chairs and tables
just such as you might see in town. The man had a Japanese servant, but
there was something so strange about the whole thing that we didn't know
just what to make of it. Do you know the man who lives there?"

"I have seen him," said the captain simply.

"Is there anything queer about him?"

The captain whistled as he looked up into the sky as if he was searching
the clouds for an answer. "I know him when I see him," he said at last. A
moment later he added, "I guess I see him now."

Startled by his words the boys looked quickly in the direction indicated,
and across the field saw two men approaching the shore. One plainly was
the man whom they had seen on Cockburn Island and his companion was the
one who had approached from the woods and at his unexpected and startling
hail the boys had fled up the shore.

"What do you suppose they want?" said George in a low voice to Grant.

"I haven't the remotest idea. If we stay here a little while we may know
more about it."

Not a word was spoken while the boys and the captain waited for the two
men to approach. It was plain that they were walking toward the place
where the motor-boat was anchored, although what their errand was neither
of the boys understood.

At the same time George felt of the letter in his pocket. The strange
epistle had not only puzzled the boys but somehow they were unable to
free themselves from the thought that it was directly connected in some
way with the approaching man.

At that moment George pulled the sleeve of his friend and excitedly
pointed toward the lake. Not far from the shore a swift little motor-boat
was passing and when George whispered, "That's the little Jap at the
wheel, I'm sure it is," the excitement of both boys became more intense.

Abruptly the two men who had been approaching when they discovered that
the boys were not alone, turned and walked along the shore in the
direction in which the motor-boat, driven by the Japanese, was moving.

"There!" exclaimed Grant "We had our run for nothing. Those men didn't
want us."

"I'm glad you are so well informed," said George, still watching the
departing men as long as they could be seen.

"Well, boys," said their captain, "it's about time for us to start on. If
we are going to find your friends we have got to get busy or we shan't
get back to Mackinac Island to-night."

His words at once were heeded and the search for the missing boys was
quickly renewed.

George and Grant walked along the shore maintaining a careful outlook for
their friends, or for any signs that would indicate that they had been
there not long before. Occasionally the boys advanced into the island,
but in every case they returned without having discovered any traces of
their missing companions. In this way much of the afternoon passed and
the sun was sinking lower in the western sky when the captain said,
"There isn't much use in trying any longer, boys. We must be starting
back."

Both George and Grant were depressed now for they had been working busily
throughout most of the day and all their efforts had been unavailing. The
missing boys had not been found nor had anything been discovered to
indicate that their friends had even landed on Western Duck Island.

"They will be all right," said the captain, striving to cheer up his
downhearted young companions. "They'll take care of themselves. There
hasn't been any storm and two boys in such weather can't get into trouble
on Lake Huron unless they try to and you say they aren't that kind."

"No," said George quickly. "They wouldn't be looking for trouble, but
trouble may have been looking for them."

"I guess not," laughed the captain. "Most likely when we get back to
Mackinac you'll find they are already there or else have chartered
another motor-boat to go out and look for you."

As the boys were about to take their places on board the little craft
they were surprised when they heard a hail from some one who was
approaching from the woods.

In a brief time it was manifest that the man whom they had seen on
Cockburn Island was the one who was now before them and that he was
earnest in his request for them not to depart before he joined them.

"Are you going to leave now?" inquired the man when at last he stood
beside the boys who were ready to embark on the little skiff and row out
to the motor-boat.

"Yes, sir," said Grant quickly.

"I am wondering if you'll be willing to take me on board."

"As far as I'm concerned, I'm willing."

"I guess the captain wouldn't object if I agreed to pay him. How about
it?" added the new passenger, turning to the captain as he spoke.

"The boys have chartered the boat," said the captain, "and I haven't
anything to say about it. They'll have to decide."

"Do you want to go to Mackinac?" inquired Grant.

"No," replied the man. "I want to stop at Cockburn Island."

"That's out of our course," said the captain quickly. "We shall cut right
across to Mackinac. In weather like this we're as safe as we would be on
a mill-pond."

"I'll pay you well for my passage."

"How much longer will it take?" inquired George turning to the captain as
he spoke.

"We shan't get back to Mackinac before eleven o'clock if you go by
Cockburn Island."

"It's very important," broke in the man. "I ought to be there now. I'll
pay you ten dollars if you'll take me."

"All right," said George, after he glanced questioningly at his
companion.

Without delaying, the man at once stepped on board the skiff and in a few
minutes all three were on board of the motor-boat.

There was no delay now and the swift little boat was soon leaving Western
Duck Island behind it.

Somehow the mystery in which the boys had found themselves involved
during the past few days instead of becoming clearer was darker than
before. Who was their passenger? Why was he so desirous of being carried
to Cockburn Island? These questions and many others were discussed in low
tones by George and Grant while their passenger remained seated in the
bow of the swiftly moving little motor-boat.

"Speaking of calm," said the captain breaking in upon the prolonged
silence on board, "I knew a man once that was held up three days on one
of these islands by a storm. 'Twas a regular no'-easter and blew a gale
without stopping. This man I'm telling you about managed to get ashore on
one of the islands and couldn't leave until the storm passed and he was
picked up by some boat. So you see you needn't get so down-hearted about
your friends. Something may have happened to their boat or they may have
landed somewhere and maybe they didn't pull their skiff far enough up on
the shore. There's a hundred things I can think of to comfort your
hearts."

"That's good of you," said Grant "I wish I felt about it the way you do."

It was dusk when at last the motor-boat drew near the familiar shores of
Cockburn Island.

"Some boat's ahead of you," called the captain. "See, there's a
motor-boat already there at that little landing."

The attention not only of the boys but of their other passenger was at
once called to the boat in the distance. And it was apparent too that the
man was greatly excited by the discovery.

As the boys came nearer they both were convinced that they had never seen
the boat before. They were able to see that it had been long since it had
been painted and its general air of dilapidation was so manifest that
under other circumstances the boys would have laughed at its appearance.

Occasionally they glanced at the man on board whose surprise and
excitement or alarm at the discovery of the presence of the other
motor-boat had now become more marked.

"Look yonder!" said Grant at last when they were within a few yards of
the landing place. "There's somebody coming from the house."

Both boys were silent for a brief time as they watched the approaching
men. One of them was tall and ungainly and had a strange swinging motion
as he walked across the fields. Beside him were two boys.

George suddenly grasped his friend by the arm and in a low voice said,
"Do you know who those fellows are?"



                             CHAPTER XXIII
                         AN UNEXPECTED MEETING


"They look like Fred and John," replied Grant in a whisper. "Where do you
suppose they came from?"

"I don't care where they came from, the most I want to know is that they
are here. You don't suppose they are ghosts, do you?"

"I think you would find out whether they were ghosts or not if you tried
to throw Fred. Come on, let's go ahead and meet them."

Advancing quickly the boys soon drew near the place where the approaching
forms were seen.

"Fred, is that you?" called George anxiously.

Instantly the trio stopped and in amazement stared in the direction from
which the unexpected hail had come.

"Is that you, Fred? Is that you, Jack?" George called again, this time
speaking a little more loudly.

"Yes," replied John. "Who is it calling us?"

"You have been gone so long you don't recognize your own friend," called
back George. "What are you doing here?"

"That's the same question we might ask you," retorted Fred. "We didn't
expect to find you here."

"Neither did we expect to find you," said George. "We're mighty glad we
have though, for we have been looking for you a long time."

"The trouble is you didn't look in the right place," laughed Fred, who
was delighted to be with his friends once more.

"You don't need to tell us that," retorted Grant. "We have had troubles
enough of our own without having you twit us about them. We looked all
around Western Duck Island and up and down the shore but couldn't find
any trace of you. Now tell us where you have been and what you have been
doing."

All six were now returning to the shore together, the strange companion
of Fred and John walking in advance of the boys. Several times George
nudged Fred as he pointed toward the ungainly figure which was somewhat
dim in the obscure light. The peculiar gait, the strange swinging motion
of the shoulders were not to be forgotten when once they had been seen.
Rufus, however, had not spoken since the meeting of the boys and because
of that fact there were still further revelations to be made that were to
startle the newcomers.

"How did you get here, Fred?" demanded George unable longer to restrain
his curiosity when the boys were within a few yards of the shore.

"We came in a motor-boat."

"From where?"

"Sault St. Marie."

"Be honest, Fred. This is no time for joking. Where did you come from?"

"I'm not joking and I'm telling you the truth. We started from Sault St.
Marie."

"How long have you been here?"

"About two hours."

"Why did you come to Cockburn Island?"

"Because our skipper said he had to come here before he could take us to
Mackinac."

"What did he want to come here for?"

"Don't talk any more now," said Fred. "Wait until we get back and we'll
tell you all about it and there are some things worth hearing, too."

When the boys and the strange skipper returned to the shore and it was
discovered that there were two motor-boats there, John quickly said to
Rufus, "Our friends are going back to Mackinac and we can go with them so
you won't have to go out of your course. You can go right back to Sault
St. Marie."

"How about them ten dollars?" demanded Rufus, speaking in his shrillest
tones. "I don't intend to let go of you until I see the color of them
dollars."

"Have you got any money with you?" demanded Fred, turning quickly to
George and Grant.

"How much do you want?" inquired George.

"Ten dollars. That's what we agreed to pay our skipper."

"I guess we can make that up between us," said Grant, and in a brief time
the money was produced and the brilliant-hued Rufus was paid. With
evident satisfaction, he said, "I don't know, boys, but I shall stay over
here to Cockburn Island for three or four days. If you show up again in
these parts you might let me know and maybe I can do somethin' more for
you."

"Thank you," laughed Fred. "You certainly have helped us out of our
troubles."

"Did he help you out of your clothes, too?" demanded Grant, who now had
become aware for the first time of the strange garb in which both his
friends were clad.

"No, we picked them up on the lake-boat."

"On the what?"

"On the steamer. We weren't proud. We didn't want the crew to think that
we felt above them so we put on the suits that they provided us with."

"They certainly picked out choice ones," laughed George, as he grasped
the sleeve of Fred's coat. "When are you going to start for Mackinac?"

"What's become of our friend whose house is on the island here?" inquired
Grant in a low voice.

So interested had they all been in the recent experiences that the
passenger they had brought with them had been forgotten.

When the boys looked quickly about them they were aware that the man had
disappeared. However, as he had landed and their duty was done they were
all ready now for the return to Mackinac Island, where they could not
expect to arrive before two or three o'clock the following morning.

The ungainly Rufus was again thanked for his aid and then the four boys
speedily took their places on board the little motor-boat in which the
searching party had set forth early that morning.

After the boat had left the shores of Cockburn Island behind them, so
eager were George and Grant to learn what had befallen their friends that
they insisted that the entire story should be told them.

And what a strange story it was. Fred or John, alternately breaking in
upon each other, each insisting upon describing the perilous adventures
through which they had passed, finally related the story of their rescue
and the strange manner in which they had been taken to Sault St. Marie.
Stranger still was the story they had to tell of their return and the
reason why they had been found on Cockburn Island.

"But that isn't the strangest part of all," explained Fred when the first
of their story had been told. "We have something else worth telling and
when you hear it you'll both sit up and listen to it."

"What is it?" inquired George.

"This man Rufus who took us in his motor-boat over to Cockburn Island is
a queer Dick."

"I'm surprised to hear you say that," laughed George.

"His clothes and his voice, to say nothing of his hair and his long legs,
are a small part when you stop to think of some other things," said John.

"What other things?"

"Now listen and we'll tell you. We've about decided that the man who
stays on Cockburn Island is a regular smuggler. You know those letters we
found, or rather the letter that came to me and the one we picked up on
the shore of Western Duck Island, don't you?"

"Yes," replied George and Grant together.

"Well, I suspect," resumed Fred, "that this man Rufus wrote them both."

"He's almost as good a letter writer as he is a dresser, isn't he?"
laughed Grant.

"You just wait until I'm done," retorted Fred. "That's always the trouble
in this party. Whenever I start in to give you information and try to
teach you some things you need to know and don't know, there's always
somebody that has to spoil it all."

"We're not spoiling it," laughed George. "Go ahead with your story. What
makes you think he wrote those letters?"

"Be quiet, me child," said Fred, "and I will enlighten thee. We suspect
Rufus wrote them because he talked almost all the way from Sault St.
Marie to Cockburn Island. Even when we stopped on the shore of Mud Lake
and he cooked our dinner for us he kept on talking just the same whether
we were there or not."

"That's just the trouble with you, Fred," retorted George. "You say he
kept on talking whether you were there or not. Now how do you know he
kept on talking when you weren't there? You see that's the reason we have
to put in intelligent questions sometimes. You are just as likely to talk
about things you don't know as you are about things that you do."

"Never mind," retorted Fred. "This man in the course of his extended
remarks dropped a few words that made us think he knew more than at first
we thought he did. We suspect that he runs a motor-boat for this man over
on Cockburn Island."

"Is that the reason why he took you there?" inquired George.

"Probably," answered Fred. "At any rate he told us that he had to go that
way and that he had to be there this afternoon. I tell you, fellows, that
man is doing something he doesn't want Uncle Sam to find out and my own
impression is that he's a smuggler and carrying on a regular trade at
it."

"What do you think he smuggles?" inquired George.

"I'm not just sure yet about that, but I'm pretty sure that I know where
he hides the stuff before he takes it over to Mackinac or up to Sault St.
Marie. In fact I think he has two places, one on Cockburn Island and the
other down on Western Duck Island and I think, too, that he has a man or
two on each island. Rufus runs a boat between Cockburn Island and Sault
St. Marie and we suspect that he has another man down on Western Duck who
gets rid of things there for him. And the strangest part of all is where
he hides the stuff on Cockburn Island."

"Where is that?" demanded George and Grant, who now were greatly
interested in the story of their friends.

"I think he hides it in the barn."

"Do you mean that old barn right behind his shanty?" inquired Grant.

"That's the very place."

"What makes you think he hides the stuff there?"

"From what Rufus said. You see, Rufus isn't more than half or three
quarters witted, and he feels that he hasn't been treated by this man as
he ought to have been. So he wrote those letters to get even, as he said,
with the smuggler, and then as nothing was done about them he felt just
as much provoked at Mr. Button as he had at the smuggler himself. So he
has been first on one side and then on the other."

"Whose side is he on now?" asked Grant.

"Just at the present time he's on the smuggler's side. But he was so
anxious to talk all the while that we think he let out more than he knew.
Among other things he told us why the smuggler keeps that big dog that we
saw the other night. It seems there are three of those dogs and at night
two of them guard the barn and the other is taken inside the house to
protect that place. When we asked Rufus why they had to have two dogs
around the barn he said that if we knew what was in the barn we wouldn't
ask any such foolish questions as that. Putting that together with some
other things he said, I haven't any doubt that whatever it is that Mr.
Halsey deals in it is something that is very valuable and isn't very
large and can be easily carried."

"What do you suppose it is?" inquired Grant. "That sounds like money."

"Men don't smuggle money," sniffed Fred scornfully. "When we get back to
Mackinac I'm going to tell Mr. Button, if he's there, all about it and
ask him what he thinks. And if he goes over to Cockburn Island and makes
a search I want to go with him."

"But he can't make a search on Cockburn Island," said George positively.
"That's in Canada. An American officer can't go over there and make
searches."

"Not unless he gets a Canadian officer to go with him," retorted Fred.
"At all events when we get back to Mackinac we'll find out what can be
done and then we'll just go ahead."



                              CHAPTER XXIV
                               TWO BOATS


It was late when the party at last arrived at Mackinac Island.

"It's twenty-five minutes past two," said Grant sleepily as he looked at
his watch after the party had landed at the dock.

"We've had so much excitement and so many things to do in the last two or
three days that I think I shall sleep right through the bed," said John.

The weary boys almost threatened to fulfill the prophecy of John. In
spite of the excitement through which they had passed they were speedily
asleep and it was late the following morning before any one arose.

"What's up to-day?" called Fred as he opened the door between the rooms
which the four boys occupied.

"Not very much," responded George, who was already dressed and had been
down in the office of the hotel. "I have learned one thing though."

"Good for you," laughed Grant. "You couldn't learn many less, that's one
thing sure."

"I have learned that Mr. Button has gone," declared George, ignoring the
bantering of his companion.

"Gone?" demanded Grant. "What do you mean?"

"Just what I say."

"Do you mean he has left Mackinac Island for good and all?"

"I didn't say that. I simply said he had gone. He is expected back here
at night."

"That's all right," called John, who now entered the room and joined in
the conversation. "I'm glad he isn't here. It will give us a chance to
rest up. It's ten o'clock in the morning now, but I feel as if I was
almost ready to crawl back into bed again."

"We'll feel all right by night," said Fred lightly. "I suggest that we
sit around the hotel and not try to do anything very strenuous to-day."

The suggestion was followed by all four boys and save for a walk about
the Island they passed the hours reading or writing letters.

Darkness had fallen before Mr. Button was seen by any of the four boys.
Approaching him, Fred said, "We have got another letter for you, Mr.
Button. It will match the one that came to me that was intended for you."

Mr. Button glanced keenly at the boy as he spoke and said, "Is the letter
intended for me?"

"I think so," said Fred.

"Where did you get it? Did it come to you through the mail as the other
one did?"

"No, sir, we picked it up on the shore of Western Duck Island."

"You did!" exclaimed Mr. Button more strongly moved by the statement than
the boys ever had seen him before. "Where is it?"

"It's in my pocket," replied Fred. "We wish you would come up to our
room, Mr. Button. We'll give you the letter and tell you some other
things we have found out besides."

Accepting the invitation Mr. Button accompanied the boys to the room
which Fred and John occupied and after he had seated himself in the chair
which was offered him by John, Fred at once began his story.

"We found this letter, Mr. Button, as I told you. It must have dropped
out of the pocket of that man on the island or else Mr. Halsey lost it.
At any rate we thought it belonged either to me or to you and I guess
there's no question now that it is yours."

Fred handed the letter to their visitor, who at once read it through and
laughing lightly thrust it into his pocket. "It matches the other one,"
he said, "and sounds very much as if they both were written by the same
man."

"We have found the man that wrote them."

"Have you?" inquired Mr. Button quietly.

"Yes, sir. When John and I were taken by that boat which rescued us we
couldn't land until we came to Sault St. Marie. It was almost morning and
we had a great time, as our clothes were wet and we left them on the boat
after we had put on some duds the sailors gave us. We found we didn't
have any money when we went up town and tried to get some breakfast, and
when we went back to the dock we were horrified to find that the boat had
gone on without us. Her next stop probably is Duluth."

"And she took your clothes with her?" inquired Mr. Button, smiling as he
spoke.

"She did that," declared Fred ruefully, "and that wasn't all of it
either, for in our pockets were all the valuable things we possessed,
though I guess money wasn't among them. By and by we found a strange man
there who agreed to bring us back to Mackinac in his motor-boat if we
would go with him around by Cockburn Island."

"Was he a red-haired man with big splotches of red on his face? Was he
tall and ungainly and did he have a voice that no one could ever forget
if he once heard it?"

"That's the very man. He talked almost all the way to Cockburn Island. He
can do one thing well though, let me tell you."

"What is that?"

"He knows how to cook salt pork and potatoes."

"I fancy," said Mr. Button, "that the air and the appetites of you boys
helped you to appreciate the quality of Rufus's cooking."

"Maybe it did, but the strange part of it all was after we stopped at
Cockburn Island."

"What happened then?"

"Why, he wanted us to stay on board the boat while he went up to that old
house. He didn't find what he wanted and when he came back he said we
would have to wait there for a while. It was almost dark then. It seems
he thinks he hasn't been treated just right by this man Halsey, who is
probably the smuggler you want to get."

Mr. Button smiled, but did not interrupt the story which Fred was
telling.

"While we were waiting, Rufus got to talking about his experiences and he
made us think that he was the one that wrote both those letters. He
wanted to get even with the man who didn't give him his share, as he
believed."

"Is that all he told you?" inquired Mr. Button.

"No, there's another thing he spoke about and that is the barn."

"Ah," said Mr. Button quickly. "What did he say about the barn?"

"It wasn't so much what he said as what he made us believe. He told about
two Great Danes they have to guard the barn and another one which they
have to protect the house. He said if anybody tried to get into the barn
they would have their troubles."

"What did you say then?"

"Why, we asked him what any one would want to go into that old tumbled
down barn for and he looked at us in a way that made us sure there was
something there worth while. Do you suppose that Mr. Halsey hides in the
barn the stuff which he smuggles into the United States?"

"I'm not sure--yet."

"Are you going to find out?"

"That's one of the things that brought me to Mackinac Island."

"But the boys say," suggested Fred, "that you haven't any right to search
his property over there. He's in Canada and you belong to the United
States."

"I surely do," responded Mr. Button smilingly, "but it is possible that I
may try to make a few investigations, not as an officer, but simply to
satisfy my personal curiosity."

"What are you going to do?" inquired Fred impulsively.

Mr. Button laughed again and after a brief silence said, "Why not?
Perhaps I can make use of your help. I don't mind telling you, now that
you know so much, that I expect to go over to Cockburn Island to-morrow.
Furthermore I expect to make some investigations there. It may be that I
might take two of you boys with me, though they used to tell me when I
was a youngster that one boy is a boy and two boys is a half a boy."

"Which two will you take?" demanded Fred excitedly.

"I have no preference. In fact I may be wrong in allowing any of you to
go. If either of those huge dogs should attack you there would surely be
trouble. Besides, the little Japanese cannot be ignored. And then too,
the smuggler himself, if he is caught on the ground, or finds we are
making our own investigations, may make more trouble than all the rest
put together."

"What's the reason," spoke up George excitedly, "that Grant and I can't
take another motor-boat and go over there near the channel and spend the
day fishing? You see we would be within easy calling if you need us and
the fact that we were there might help to explain why Fred and John were
on the island."

"There wouldn't be very much for you to do," suggested Mr. Button.

"It will be enough for us if we can just go ahead," said Grant.

So eager were the boys and so intense was their desire to join in the
expedition of the morrow that at last Mr. Button somewhat reluctantly
gave his consent, explaining that if there should be any real danger he
would insist upon the boys at once withdrawing in their motor-boats
across the American border.

"We must start to-morrow morning," explained Mr. Button, "by four o'clock
at the latest."

"We'll be ready," declared Fred confidently.

"Then, all of you boys better turn in now," said Mr. Button as he arose
and departed from the room.

True to their promise all four boys were on the dock before four o'clock
the following morning.

"I think we are going to have a good day," said Mr. Button to Fred and
John as soon as their motor-boat was free.

"It looks so," said John as he glanced toward the eastern sky.

"I don't mean the weather alone," explained Mr. Button, "but I feel quite
sure that Halsey will not be on Cockburn Island to-day."

"How do you know? What makes you think so?" demanded Fred quickly.

Mr. Button smiled, but did not explain his reasons for the opinion which
he held. Indeed, conversation lagged and every one in the motor-boat
apparently was busy with his own thoughts.

The boat which George and Grant had secured manifestly was much slower,
for it soon was left behind and had not been seen again when about ten
o'clock in the morning the party drew near the shores of Cockburn Island.

"The first thing," explained Mr. Button, "I want you to do is to stay on
board this motor-boat while I go up to the house."

"But you may need us," suggested John.

"If I do I shall let you know," laughed Mr. Button.

As soon as the boat came to anchor, taking the little skiff which the
motor-boat had in tow, Mr. Button alone rowed quickly to the shore and
soon was on his way toward the little house in the distance.



                              CHAPTER XXV
                              A SMALL BOX


The feeling of keen excitement, soon after the departure of Mr. Button
returned in full force to the waiting boys. And what a sharp contrast it
presented to the scene all about them! The waters of the lake were so
smooth that an occasional gentle breeze ruffled the surface only in
spots. There was scarcely a cloud to be seen in the summer sky. The
shadows of the rocks and trees along the shore were so clearly reflected
in the lake that the boys were reminded of the clearness of the water
along the shores of Mackinac Island. Far away the motor-boat in which
George and Grant were approaching now could be seen. Whenever the two
boys looked toward the house in the distance they were again impressed by
the almost unnatural quietness of the summer day. Not a person was to be
seen near the building and the silence was broken only by the noisy
flying grasshoppers near the shore.

"Suppose this is all a false alarm," suggested John at last breaking in
upon the silence.

"What do you mean?"

"Why, I mean suppose that there's nothing in this. Suppose the whole
thing is a wild goose chase."

"Do you mean that Mr. Button may not be what he says he is?"

"Oh, I don't know that I mean that," rejoined John, "but somehow it seems
so unreal. It doesn't seem possible that men really should be trying to
break the laws and smuggle goods across the border here when everything
is so quiet and peaceful on every side."

"Look yonder!" suddenly exclaimed Fred, pointing as he spoke to a man who
could be seen walking rapidly toward the shore. He was coming from the
house and it was quickly manifest that it was Mr. Button himself who was
returning. He was alone and as the boys watched his rapid approach their
feeling of excitement quickly returned.

As soon as Mr. Button arrived it was manifest to both Fred and John that
he too had been strongly aroused. His eyes were shining and though his
manner was quiet it was plain that he was highly elated over some
discovery he had made.

As soon as he was on board the motor-boat he said, "The little Jap has
taken two of the dogs and gone away."

"Gone for good?" demanded John.

"No. The woman says he has gone out to exercise them and that he is
usually gone an hour at least. Now is the time when you boys can help me
if you really want to."

"We do," said Fred eagerly. "We'll go ahead the minute you say so."

"That's very good. What I want you to do is just this,--while these dogs
are away I'll go into the house and keep the attention of the woman
there."

"What about the third dog?" demanded Fred.

"I think I can manage that, too. Now, while I'm in the house I want you
somehow to get into the barn. There's a small box about six inches
square. It is a wooden box, not very heavy and hidden somewhere in that
place. I am sure your eyes are keener than mine and you'll be more likely
to find it. If you get that box, almost all the difficulties will be
cleared away."

"What's in the box?" inquired Fred.

"You do not need to know that now. Perhaps I'll tell you later. I haven't
any idea where the box is hidden, but I am sure it is somewhere in that
little barn. You won't have very long for your search. I might say too
that even if you do not find the box, if you come across anything that is
suspicious or that might contain valuables, I wish you would bring it
away with you."

"Shall we look under the floor?" inquired Fred quickly.

"Yes, look under the floor. Anywhere and everywhere. Work as fast as you
are able, but don't forget that in about an hour the Jap will come back
with those two Great Danes."

"Do you want us to go straight to the barn!" inquired Fred.

"No. I think it will be better for you first to go up the shore about a
mile. Then you can land and I don't think you will be so likely to be
seen from the house on your way to the barn. You will be pretty well
behind it anyway. As I told you, I'll try to keep the woman busy and I do
not think that will be a very hard task."

"Does she know you?" asked John.

"Yes, in a way. She has seen me several times and she is jealous. She
thinks I am in the same business that her husband is working in."

"Do you mean smuggling?"

"Yes."

"Smuggling what?"

"If you find that box I will tell you more about it. Now, one of you boys
take the skiff and land me and then take the skiff with you while you go
farther down the shore in the motor-boat."

The directions of Mr. Button were speedily followed. About a mile distant
the boys discovered a curving, sandy shore near which the motor-boat was
anchored. Taking the skiff, the boys speedily landed and then in high
excitement, all the time watchful of the house in the distance, they ran
swiftly toward the barn. A few trees and great rocks were found in the
intervening distance and twice the boys stopped and concealed themselves
while they tried to make sure that their presence as yet had not been
discovered.

In this way they rapidly advanced and soon the two hundred yards which
they were to cover had been left behind them and both now were standing
at the rear door of the barn.

They were keenly disappointed when they discovered that this door was
locked or at least fastened from within.

"What shall we do?" whispered John quickly. Before he replied Fred turned
and looked keenly all about him. He was as fearful as his friend of the
return of the Japanese with the two huge dogs. "Maybe there's some other
way of getting in," he answered at last, and a moment later he announced
the discovery of a slide in the side of the barn.

Quickly the slide responded to his efforts and was pulled back. Then
hastily John lifted Fred and in a moment the active lad was inside the
barn.

In accordance with Fred's suggestion John remained outside. In spite of
his height it was difficult for him to enter the barn as he had assisted
his friend to do. "Let me know what you find," he whispered as Fred
disappeared from sight.

Silence followed the suggestion, but John was easily able to understand
how busy Fred at once became. The barn itself was small, covering not
more than thirty feet square. On the ground floor, Fred discovered a
small cart, two cramped stalls and an open piano box, which also stood on
the floor. Apparently nothing alive was in the little building. In one
corner stood a ladder which led to an opening in the loft above.

Quickly deciding to begin his search at the top Fred ascended the ladder.
He discovered only a little hay on the floor above and with a pitch-fork,
which was conveniently near, he hastily began to scatter it. There was
nothing, however, to indicate that the musty hay had recently been
disturbed and when a few minutes had elapsed Fred was convinced that
nothing had been concealed in the loft.

Retracing his way to the floor below he was astonished to behold his
friend already busily engaged in the search.

"How did you get in, Jack?" he whispered.

"Crawled in, the same as you did. Only I didn't have any one to give me a
boost."

"You didn't need any boost with those long legs of yours," responded
Fred. "Sometimes I think it wouldn't be so bad if more of us were built
on your plan. Makes me think of a hickory nut stuck on two knitting
needles."

"Don't stop for complimentary remarks," retorted John good-naturedly.
"What we want is to find that little box. You begin on one side and I'll
go on the other and we'll examine the four sides to see if there are any
more sliding panels."

A hasty inspection, however, failed to reveal any concealed shelves. Next
the boys inspected the floor. Several of the boards were loose, but the
search was still unrewarded.

"I'm going up the ladder," suggested John.

"I've been up there," said Fred. "There isn't anything up there. I know
there isn't. There isn't much hay and what there is is old and musty. I
turned it all over with the pitch-fork. It's like looking for a needle in
a haystack," he added somewhat disconsolately.

"It doesn't make any difference," said John. "We're going ahead with our
search. I think Mr. Button knew what he was talking about."

Diligently the boys continued their efforts, working rapidly and doing
their utmost to discover the small box which Mr. Button had described, or
find a place where it might be concealed.

All their efforts in the stalls, however, were as unavailing as had been
those in the other parts of the barn.

"I tell you," said Fred, as the boys stopped for a moment, "there isn't
any such thing here. It's what I tell you, like looking for a needle in a
haystack."

"If you want to give up you can sit down here and wait for me," said John
resolutely; "I'm going to keep this thing up until I strike oil or gold."

Both boys earnestly renewed their search, but their efforts in the
rapidly passing minutes were still unrewarded.

"There isn't anything here," muttered Fred. "We've looked high and low.
Mr. Button didn't know what he was talking about."

John made no response to the declaration of his discouraged companion and
perhaps abashed somewhat by the zeal of John, again joined in the search.

"Have you looked in that piano-box?" inquired John at last.

"Yes, but there isn't anything but a little meal in the bottom. It isn't
deep enough to cover a box of matches."

"We'll look again anyway," said John as he lifted the cover and glanced
within the high box. He was about to drop the cover when once more he
hesitated. Leaning over the edge he thrust his long arms down into the
meal below him. In one corner of the box his fingers came in contact with
an object which instantly aroused his keenest interest. A moment later he
brought out a small wooden box, discolored, heavy and apparently of no
value. He speedily discovered, however, that the top of the box was
fastened by a small and strong pad-lock. Holding his discovery aloft John
quickly turned to Fred and said, "Do you see what I've found?"

"What is it? What is it?" whispered Fred as he ran to join his friend.

"It's a box."

"So I see, but how much does that mean?"

"I don't know how much it means," retorted John, "but I do know that it
is a wooden box, that it's about six inches square and that it is
heavy--"

"Yes, to look at it," broke in Fred; "it's old and looks as if it had
been left out in the weather. Even if it is locked I don't believe that
there's anything of any value in it."

"That isn't what troubles me," said John quietly.

"What do you mean?"

"Why, I mean this box is hidden here. I don't know as we have any right
to take it. I wonder too if Mr. Button is really what he says he is.
Suppose we take this box away with us and then somebody arrests us for
stealing? What's to hinder?"

"That's nothing to hinder," said Fred, "but we'll take the box with us
just the same."

Each of the boys was confident whenever his companion became fearful or
discouraged.

"We'll say no more about it," said John as his turned toward the open
slide by which they had entered the building.

"Don't show it to Mr. Button when that woman in there can see you,"
suggested Fred.

"Thank you," laughed John. "I'll try to heed your advice, kind sir."

Abruptly, however, both boys halted and neither made any effort to depart
while they both were listening intently to sounds which they heard
outside the building.

"Pull back the slide! Pull back the slide!" whispered Fred, now plainly
alarmed. "The Jap is coming and he's got those two big dogs with him,
too. I don't know what will happen to us now."



                              CHAPTER XXVI
                               CONCLUSION


"Did he see you?" inquired John, who was now as keenly excited as his
friend.

"I don't know. The only thing we can do is to wait and see what happens."

The slide had been left open an inch or more and through the open space
both boys in their excitement watched the little Japanese as he drew
near. The Great Danes were romping about the place evidently enjoying
their freedom. They were still free when the Japanese turned and entered
the house. When he had closed the door behind him the three dogs, for now
the one that had not accompanied the Japanese joined his mates, ran about
the place as full of life and kindness in their somewhat awkward
activities as a clumsy puppy.

Relieved that the Japanese had not come at once to the barn the two boys
were still anxious, for they were aware that Mr. Button was yet in the
house. Indeed, as the time slowly passed, the excitement of the boys
steadily increased.

"There comes Rufus," whispered John at last.

"It's time for us to leave," said Fred, after he had convinced himself
that the peculiar helper of Mr. Halsey was indeed coming to the barn.
"It's time for us to go above."

Instantly Fred ran to the low ladder and swiftly made his way to the
loft, an example which John speedily followed. John still held the box
which he had discovered in the meal and when both boys had found a hiding
place in the loft they peered through a knot hole in the floor and
watched Rufus as he seated himself in the little cart.

The interest of the boys became still more intense when after a few
minutes had passed Mr. Halsey himself came into the barn and closed the
door after he had entered.

"You're right on time to-day, Rufus," said Mr. Halsey.

"Be I?" replied Rufus, apparently not strongly elated by the compliment.

"Yes, you are, and I'm going to give you that box to take to Mackinac."

"What else are you going to give me?"

"You'll get all you deserve, Rufus, if you'll do just what I tell you."

"That's what I've heard you say before."

"Well, you hear me say it now," said Mr. Halsey sternly. "You do your
part and you need not fear that I shall not do mine."

"What is it you want me to do?"

"I have told you. I want you to take your motor-boat and carry that
little box to Mackinac. You mustn't let anybody see it, for it is
valuable and much of what you will get from me depends upon how
successful you are in keeping everybody away from that box, and
delivering it safely just where I tell you. I'm writing out the
directions," he added, as drawing a blank card from his pocket he hastily
wrote upon the back and then handed it to the ungainly man who apparently
was still not strongly impressed by the words he had heard.

As soon as this had been done Mr. Halsey advanced to the piano box and
lifting the cover thrust his hand into the meal.

The boys were unable to see the expression which came over his face, but
in their imagination they were both confident they knew how startling his
appearance was. They were still able to see Rufus in his seat in the cart
and the alarm which he quickly manifested was connected directly with the
failure of his employer to find the object for which he was seeking.

"Where's that box?" demanded Mr. Halsey, turning and approaching the
cart.

"I don't know nothing about the box," grumbled Rufus. "All I do is take
your boxes over to Mackinac or down to Western Duck Island. You promised
to give me ten dollars a day and I've spent ten days for you this summer
and you have paid me just twelve dollars and a half."

"If you'll find this box for me I will give you fifty dollars," declared
Mr. Halsey. His excitement was plainly manifest in his voice and John
trembled slightly as he assured himself that the box he had found was
still safely in his possession.

"Rufus," said Mr. Halsey sharply, "have you got that box?"

"No."

"Do you know where it is?"

"No."

"Do you know what is in it?"

"Something good, I suppose, but I don't know what it is."

"Rufus," said Mr. Halsey again after a brief silence, "I want you to give
up that box."

"I tell you I ain't got your box."

"You give me that box or I shall set the dogs on you."

Instantly the smuggler ran to the door to carry out his threat. He
whistled shrilly and in response to his call the three huge dogs came
bounding into the barn.

"I'll give you one more chance," said Mr. Halsey turning again to Rufus.
"You give me that box or get it and I'll give you fifty dollars. If you
don't do it, then we'll see what you can do against the dogs."

"I don't know nothing about your box," whined Rufus. It was plain now
that he was alarmed, but no one knew better than the waiting boys how
truthful his statement was.

And then an almost unaccountable event followed. Angered by the
persistent refusal of Rufus, Mr. Halsey turned sharply and said to the
dogs, "Bite him! Bite him!"

A wild yell from Rufus followed when the three huge dogs at once leaped
upon him. They were, however, possessed with the spirit of play and not
one of them did the trembling man any harm. In his terror Rufus had
slipped from his seat and when he tried to leap to the floor he fell in a
heap. A series of wild yells followed when the Great Danes came sniffing
about him, apparently puzzled by all the commotion.

Nor did they respond to the repeated demands of Mr. Halsey to attack the
prostrate man.

The screams of Rufus, however, had been heard in the house and now Mr.
Button and the Japanese were seen running swiftly toward the barn. At the
same time the excitement of the dogs increased and there were loud
barkings and yelpings as they ran and leaped about the place.

The little Japanese, however, as soon as he entered the barn threw back
his head and emitted another of his wild, hoarse laughs.

"What's the joke?" demanded Mr. Halsey angrily as he turned upon his
servant.

Again the Japanese laughed, and ignoring the question called to the dogs,
every one of which instantly obeyed his call. Both Fred and John were
convinced that if the Japanese should order the dogs to attack any one
his word instantly would be obeyed.

Meanwhile the manner of Rufus again quickly changed. Assured that he was
safe from an attack, the look of cunning again appeared in his little red
eyes and when the three men departed from the barn there was a swagger in
his walk as he led the way to the house.

As soon as the boys were convinced that the men had withdrawn, they
quickly descended the ladder and ran out into the yard.

"Look yonder," said John grasping his friend by the arm and pointing
toward the shore. "There are George and Grant and they are both coming
here."

"The more the merrier," laughed Fred, relieved by the sight of his
friends. "There will be less danger now than there was before. That man
Halsey is desperate. What have you done with the box?"

"I have got it here under my sweater," answered John in a low voice.
"Does it show?"

"Not much. I don't believe I should notice it unless I was looking for
it."

At that moment Mr. Button appeared in the doorway of the kitchen and
said, "Come into the house, boys."

"Wait a minute, Mr. Button," called John. "Come out here a minute."

The man glanced hastily behind him and then turned quickly around the
corner of the house. John at once joined him and in a low voice said, "We
got the box."

"Where is it?" whispered Mr. Button.

"Under my sweater."

"Let me see it."

Standing directly in the way so that no one coming from the house could
see him, Mr. Button glanced quickly at the box and then said, "Keep it,
John, and don't let any one see it and guard it as if your life depended
upon it."

"Is that the box you were looking for?" whispered John.

"Yes. Now we'll go into the house, or at least I shall. Perhaps you had
better stay here with Fred until I call you or come out."

George and Grant now had arrived, and laughingly the former said, "What's
the matter with you fellows? You're all covered with dust and dirt."

"Maybe you would be if you had been where we have."

"Where have you been?"

John was unable to explain, however, for at that moment both Mr. Button
and Mr. Halsey together came out of the house. The appearance of the
latter indicated that he was not so much angry as crestfallen and perhaps
alarmed as well. Mr. Button, however, was quiet in his manner and as he
glanced at the boys his confidence and pride were instantly manifest.

Rufus too came and joined the group and whispering to Fred said, "I want
to go with you when you leave."

"What's the matter, Rufus?" laughed Fred.

"I don't want to stay here after you go. There's something happened."

"What has happened?"

"I can't tell you."

"Well, I'll back you up, Rufus. I know you didn't take it."

For a moment the jaw of the ungainly man dropped and he stared blankly at
the boy. "What do you know about it?" he said at last.

"Not very much," laughed Fred. "If you want to go with us I'll see if Mr.
Button is willing."

The consent was readily obtained and in a brief time the party which now
consisted of six started toward the shore where their motor-boats were
waiting for their coming.

It was not long before all were on board, Rufus insisting upon taking his
place with Fred and John. It was on the same boat also that Mr. Button
sailed.

For a time, until the shores of Cockburn Island could no longer be seen,
silence rested upon the party. No one appeared about the house as they
looked back at the island from which they had come. Not even the dogs now
could be seen.

It was then that Mr. Button turning to the boys said, "I fancy you boys
are anxious to know what all this means."

"Yes, we are," said Fred quickly. "We know a little, but not very much
about it."

"This man," explained Mr. Button, "is one of the most expert smugglers of
diamonds in America. Sometimes he comes to New York, sometimes to Boston
and then again he lands at New Orleans or Baltimore."

"Why hasn't he ever been caught?" inquired John.

"He was caught once and brought to trial, but on some technicality he
went free. I had word that he was trying a new tack. Several times he has
landed at Montreal and then coming up the river has made his way across
the border hereabouts and taken his goods either to Chicago or Buffalo.
But we have run the rascal down at last."

"But you haven't got him," protested Fred.

"That's true. I couldn't take him on Canadian soil without extradition
papers. I have his diamonds, however, and he prefers to give them up
rather than take any chances of being arrested and handed over to our
government."

"It's a strange way to smuggle," said John thoughtfully.

"All smugglers are strange. I have been in the employ of the government a
good many years and I never have found one that wasn't 'strange.'"

"What do you suppose those diamonds are worth?" inquired Fred.

"According to the word we have received," replied Mr. Button, "there are
diamonds in that box valued at from $10,000 to $15,000."

"Whew!" said John. "I guess I will hand it over to you right away. You
had better take it," he said as he drew the box from its hiding place and
handed it to the Government Agent.

"I want to thank you boys for the part you have taken," continued Mr.
Button, "and I shall not forget about other rewards. I think the first
real evidence I had came when the clerk at the hotel by mistake gave you
my letter. Why did you write those letters!" he added turning abruptly
upon Rufus, as he spoke.

"What letters?" demanded Rufus.

"About the smuggler."

For a moment the ungainly man appeared to be somewhat confused; then,
rising from his seat and throwing back his shoulders, he said proudly, "I
could not leave those diamonds on my conscience. I had to tell you about
it."

"I wonder if that is the real reason. Did you get all the pay that Mr.
Halsey promised you?"

"Not yet," said Rufus, "but I will have it pretty soon. What are you
laughing at!" he demanded abruptly as he turned toward the boys who were
all manifestly enjoying the scene.

"We're laughing to think that Halsey gave up his goods rather than take a
chance of an arrest. Of course he did not know that we had them. By the
way, Mr. Button, do you think it is right for us to take them?"

"Right! Why not?" demanded Mr. Button.

"Why, they aren't ours."

"That is true. They belong to the United States, or will very soon."

"But you took them on Canadian soil."

"Did I take them?" inquired Mr. Button smiling as he spoke.

"No, we took them," acknowledged Fred. "Perhaps we'll get into trouble."

"You need have no fear of that. They were simply confiscated on one side
of the line instead of on the other and really this man Halsey has no
just claim to them."

"This has been a great summer," said Fred enthusiastically. "There's been
something stirring every day. We have been going from one excitement to
another about as fast as we could go. But now we have come to the end."

"Oh, no," laughed Mr. Button. "You haven't gotten to the end by any
manner of means. Go ahead boys never turn backward. I think you will find
that you have still more exciting experiences before you."

"Then we'll go ahead and try them," laughed John.

"But not to-night," said Fred. "We'll be in Mackinac in a little while."

"It doesn't make any difference," declared John. "We'll go ahead wherever
we are."

                                THE END





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