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´╗┐Title: Boy Scouts of the Air on Lost Island
Author: Stuart, Gordon, pseud
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Boy Scouts of the Air on Lost Island" ***

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The Boy Scouts of the Air on Lost Island





















The Boy Scouts of the Air on Lost Island



Three boys stood impatiently kicking the dew off the tall grass in
Ring's back yard, only pausing from their scanning of the beclouded,
dawn-hinting sky to peer through the lightening dusk toward the clump
of cedars that hid the Fulton house.

"He's not up yet, or there'd be a light showing," grumbled the short,
stocky one of the three.

"Humph--it's so late now he wouldn't be needing a light. Tod never
failed us yet, Frank, and he told me last night that he'd be right on

"We'd ought to have gone down right off, Jerry, when we saw he wasn't
here. Frank and I would have stopped off for him, only we was so sure
he'd be the first one here--especially when you two were elected to dig
the worms."

"We dug the worms last night--a lard pail half full--down back of his
cabbage patch. And while we were sitting on the porch along comes his
father--you know how absent-minded he is--and reaches down into the
bucket and says, 'Guess I'll help myself to some of your berries,

"Bet you that's why Tod isn't here, then."

"Why, Frank Ellery, seventh son of a seventh son? Coming so early in
the morning, your short-circuit brain shockers make us ordinary folks
dizzy. This double-action----"

"Double-action nothing, Dave Thomas! I heard Mr. Fulton tell Tod
yesterday he was to pick four quarts of blackberries and take them over
to your Aunt Jen. Tod forgot, and so his dad wouldn't let him go
fishing, that's all."

"Sun's up," announced Jerry Ring.

"So's Tod!" exclaimed Dave Thomas, who had climbed to the first high
limbs of a near-by elm and now slid suddenly down into the midst of the
piled-up fishing paraphernalia. "I just saw him coming in from the
berry patch--here he comes now."

A lanky, good-natured looking sixteen-year-old boy, in loose-fitting
overalls and pale blue shirt open at the throat, came loping down the

"Gee, fellows," he panted, "I expect you're cussing mad--but I _had_ to
pick those berries before I went, and it took me so long to grouch out
the green ones after it got light."

"I see you brought the very greenest one of all along," observed Dave

"Oh, you here, too, little one?" as if seeing him for the first time.
"I didn't know kindergarten was closed for the day. I make one guess
who tipped over the bait can."

"Ask Frank," suggested Dave with pretended weariness; "he's got second

"Don't need second sight to see that worm crawling up your pants leg.
We going to stand here all day! I move we get a hike on down to the
boat. Maybe we can hitch on behind Steve Porter's launch--he's going up
past Dead Tree Point--and that'll save us the long pull through the

The boys picked up the great load of luggage, which was not so big when
divided among four boys, and hustled out of the Ring yard and down the
dusty road. They were four of a size; that is, Tod Fulton was tall and
somewhat flattened out, while Frank Ellery was more or less all in a
bunch, as Jerry said, who was himself sturdily put together. Dave
Thomas was neither as tall as Tod nor as stocky as Frank; He looked
undersized, in fact. But his "red hair and readier tongue," his friends
declared, more than made up for any lack of size. At any rate, no one
ever offered a second time to carry the heaviest end of the load.

Now, as they walked along through the back streets of Watertown,
rightly named as it was in the midst of lakes, creeks and rivers, they
began a discussion that never grew old with them. Tod began it.

"We've got plenty of worms, for once."

"Good!" cried Dave. "I've thought of a dandy scheme, but it'd take a
pile of bait."

"What's that?" asked Jerry, suspecting mischief.

"You know, you can stretch out a worm to about three inches. Tie about
a hundred together--allow an inch apiece for the knot--that would make
two hundred inches, or say seventeen feet. Put the back end of the line
about a foot up on the bank and the other end out in the water. Along
comes a carp--the only fish that eats _worms_--and starts eating. He
gets so excited following up his links of worm-weenies, that he doesn't
notice he's up on shore, when suddenly Tod Fulton, mighty fisherman,
grabs him by the tail and flips him----"

"Yes--where does he flip him?" Tod had dropped his share of the luggage
and now had Dave by the back of the neck.

"Back into the water and makes him eat another string of worms as
punishment for being a carp."

"You with your old dead minnows!" exclaimed Tod, giving Dave a push
that sent him staggering. "Last time we went, all you caught was a
dogfish and one starved bullhead. There's more real fish that'll bite
on worms than on any other bait. I've taken trout and even black bass.
Early in the morning I can land pickerel and croppies where a minnow or
a frog could sleep on the end of a six pounder's nose. Don't tell me."

"Yes," put in Jerry, "and I can sit right between the two of you and
with my number two Skinner and a frog or a bacon rind pull 'em out
while you fellows go to sleep between nibbles."

"Bully!" exclaimed Frank. "Every time we go home after a trip, you hang
a sign on your back: 'Fish for Sale,' with both s's turned backwards.
I'm too modest to mention the name of the boy who caught the largest
black bass ever hooked in Plum Run, but I can tell you the kind of fly
the old boy took, all the same."

"Testimony's all in," laughed Tod, good-humoredly. "And here we are at
the dock of the 'Big Four.'"

"Yes, and there goes Porter up around the bend. We row our boat to-day.
We ought to get up a show or something and raise enough money to buy a

"I move we change our plans and leave Round Lake for another trip." It
was lazy Frank who made the proposal.

"What difference does it make to you? You never row anyway. Plum Run's
too high for anything but still fishing----"

"I saw Hunky Doran coming back from Parry's Dam day before yesterday
and he had a dandy string."

"Sure. He always does. Bet you he dopes his bait," declared Tod.

"Well, you spit on the worm yourself. The dam isn't half as far as Dead
Tree, and, besides, we can always walk across to Grass Lake. Jerry
votes for the dam, don't you, Jerry?"

But Jerry only shrugged his shoulders. Frank and Tod always disagreed
on fishing places, largely because their styles of angling were
different and consequently a good place for one was the poorest place
in the world for the other. So Jerry, who usually was the peacemaker,
said nothing but unlocked the padlock which secured the boat, tossed
the key-ring to Dave with, "Open the boathouse and get two pair of
oars. Tod, take a squint at the sun--five-thirty, isn't it? An hour and
a half to the Dead Tree, and an hour more to Round Lake. What kind of
fish can you take in old Roundy after eight o'clock?"

"Oh, I knew we were going to the dam, all right. I give in. But if I've
got to go where I don't want to, I'm going to have the boat to fish

"As if you didn't always have it!" snorted Frank. "The only one who
fishes in one place all day, but he's got to have the boat--and forgets
himself and walks right off it the minute he gets a real bite. Huh!"

Tod paid no attention to this insult. He and Jerry settled in their
places at the oars, with Frank at the stern for ballast, and Dave up
ahead to watch the channel, for Plum Run, unbelievably deep in places,
had a trick of shallowing at unlikely spots. More than once had the
_Big Four_ had her paint scraped off by a jagged shelf of rock or shoal.

They were all in their places, the luggage stowed away, and Frank was
ready to push away from the dock, when he raised his hand and said
instead: "Understand me, boys, I'm the last one in the world to
kick--you know me. But there's one request I have to make of you before
the push of my fingers cuts us off from the last trace of civilization."

"'Sw'at?" cried the three.

"When we have embarked upon this perilous voyage, let no mournful note
swell out upon the breeze, to frighten beasts and men--and fish--into
believing that Dave Thomas is once more _trying_ to sing!"

Immediately a mournful yowling began in the bow of the boat, growing
louder as they drew away from shore. And then, amid the laughter of his
three companions, Dave ended his wail and instead broke into a lively
boating song, the others joining in at the chorus. For Dave's singing
was a source of pride to his friends.

So, Dave singing lustily and Tod and Jerry tugging at the oars in time
with the music, they swung away from the dock and out in the center
channel of Plum Run, a good hundred yards from shore. Once in the
current, they swung straight ahead down stream. Before long the last
house of Watertown, where people were fast beginning to stir, had faded
from view. They passed safely through the ripples of the shoals above
Barren Island, a great place for channel cat when the water was lower.
Through the West Branch they steered, holding close to the island
shore, for while the current was slower, at least the water was deeper
and safer.

A mile-long stretch of smooth rowing lay ahead of them now, after which
they entered Goose Slough, narrow and twisty, with half-hidden snags,
and sudden whirlpools. More than one fishing party had been capsized in
its treacherous quarter mile of boiling length. Then came a so-called
lake, Old Grass, with the real Grass Lake barely visible through its
circle of trees. A crystal-clear creek was its outlet to Plum Run, a
thousand gleaming sunfish and tiny bass flashing through its purling
rapids or sulking in deep, dark pools. There was good fishing in Grass
Lake, but waist-high marsh grass, saw-edged, barred the way for nearly
half a mile.

But just ahead of them Plum Run had widened out once more to real river
size, its waters penned back by concrete, rock and timber dam, with
Parry's Mill on the east bank.

"Land me on the other side, above the big cottonwood," decided Frank.
"There's a weedy little bight up there where I predict a two-pound bass
in twenty minutes."

"I'll try the stretch just below, working toward the dam, I guess. How
about you, Jerry!" asked Dave.

"I'll stay with the boat awhile, I reckon. Where away, boatman?"

"Dam," grunted Tod.

"Not swearing, I take it?" inquired Jerry.

"No--fishing there."

Dave and Frank were dropped out at the cottonwood, where they were soon
exchanging much sage advice concerning likely spots and proper bait.
Jerry and Tod chuckled as they rowed away. Tod himself was keen on
still fishing with worms or grubs; he liked to sit and dream while the
bait did the work; but his quarreling with Dave and Frank was mostly
make-believe. Jerry, the best fisherman of the four, believed, as he
said, in "making the bait fit the fish's mouth." His tackle-box held
every kind of hook and lure; his steel rod and multiple reel were the
best Timkin's Sporting Goods Store in town could furnish; they had cost
him a whole summer's savings.

Tod rather laughed at Jerry's equipment. His own cheap brass reel and
jointed cane pole, with heavy linen line, was only an excuse.
Throw-lines with a half dozen hooks were his favorites, and a big
catfish his highest aim. As soon as the boat hit the dam he began
getting out his lines. Jerry jumped lightly over the bow.

"Shall I tie you up?" he called over his shoulder.

"Never mind, Jerry. I think I'll work in toward the shore a bit first,
and, anyway, she can't drift upstream." So Jerry went on his way out
toward the middle of the dam.

It was really a monstrous affair, that dam. The old part was built on
and from solid rock, being really a jutting out of a lime stone cliff
which had stood high and dry before the water had been dammed up by the
heavy timber cribs cutting across the original stream. Concrete
abutments secured these timbers and linked the walls of stone with the
huge gates opening into the millrace that fed the water to the
ponderous undershot millwheel. Just now the gates were open and the
water rushed through with deafening force. Jerry made his way across
the stonework section, having a hard time in the water-worn crevices,
slimed over with recent overflows, for when the millgates were closed,
Plum Run thundered over this part of the dam in a spectacular waterfall.

He had hardly reached the flat concrete before he noticed that the roar
from the millrace had ceased; the gates had been closed. All the
better; this part of the river was shallow; when the water rose, big
fish would be coming in to scour over the fresh feeding grounds. So he
moved a little nearer shore and quickly trimmed his lines. He heard a
hail from the bank as he made his first cast. It was from Dave.

"Mind if I come out and try my luck beside you?"

"Not at all. Water's coming up fast. Best try some grubs or worms,
though. No good for minnows here now."

"Sure," agreed Dave, settling comfortably beside him. "Water sure is
filling up, isn't she? Guess the Miller of the Dee dropped a cogwheel
into his wheat."

"Not wishing anybody any bad luck, but I hope they don't start up again
all day. This'll be a backwater as soon as the current starts going
over the dam. Another six inches--say! Look at Tod. If he isn't fishing
right above the flume. Wonder if he's noticed."

"Noticed? He's got a bite, that's what! Look at him bending to it. It's
a big one, you bet. Golly, did you see that!"

"I see more than that," exclaimed Jerry grimly, dropping his precious
pole and starting across the slippery rocks on the run. "If he doesn't
get out of there in about thirty seconds, he's going over the dam!"

But just as Jerry mounted the last clump of rocks, just as Dave's
desperate shouts had aroused Tod to a realization of his
danger,--something happened. You have watched a big soap bubble
swelling the one last impossible breath; you have seen a camp coffee
kettle boiling higher and higher till _splush!_ the steaming brown mass
heaves itself into the fire--the bending, crowding mile-wide surface of
Plum Creek found a sudden outlet. And right in the center of that
outlet was a plunging tiny boat.

"Help!" rang out one choked-off cry, as in a great rush of suddenly
foaming flood, over the dam plunged a boat and a terrorized boy.



In the brief instant that Jerry stood on the slippery point of rock he
had the queer feeling that it was all a horrible dream, or at least
only an impossible scene from a motion picture. Where a boat had been a
second before was now only a seething, tossing down-tumbling wall of
brownish foam.

But his stunned inaction was quickly gone. Down to the very edge of the
flood he raced, almost losing his balance and toppling in. At a
dangerous angle he leaned over and peered into the churning water-pit

Dave had come hurrying to his side, to miss his footing at the last and
plunge waist-deep into the current. A precious moment was lost in
rescuing him. When, both safe on the rocky ledge, they turned to scan
the depths of the fall, it was to see a dark object suddenly pop up
full fifty feet downstream. It was the boat--but no Tod.

"Did you see it!" cried Jerry excitedly. "Didn't it look like something
blackish in the bottom of the boat?"

"She's full of water, that's all. Tod's down there under the fall. He's
drowned, I tell you! What shall we do? What shall we do!" Excitable
Dave was fast losing his head.

"Come on!" shouted Jerry, aroused by the helplessness of his companion.
"We've got to get to the mill and have them turn the water through the
race. Then we've got to get a boat out there--quick!"

But he had not waited for Dave. Across the river just below the dam was
a house. If there was a telephone there--Jerry knew there was one at
the mill--something might yet be done in time. There was of course no
way of reaching the mill itself across that raging torrent. There _was_
a telephone at the house, but it seemed hours after Jerry reached it
before he finally got a gruff "Hello" from the mill manager, Mr.
Aikens. But, fortunately, Aikens was not slow to grasp the situation.
In the midst of his explanations Jerry realized that there was no one
at the other end of the wire.

Out of the house he dashed and down to where in his wild race he had
seen a boat moored below the dam. The oars were still in place. Barely
waiting for the panting Dave to tumble in, he pushed off, exultingly
noting as he strained at the oars that already the volume of water
pouring over the falls had lessened. Before he reached the main channel
it had dwindled to a bare trickle.

"Take the oars!" he directed the helpless Dave, at the same time
stumbling to the bow of the boat and jerking off shoes, shirt and
trousers. Diving seemed a hopeless undertaking, but there was little
else to do. Again and again he plunged under, coming up each time
nearly spent but desperately determined to try again. Two boats put out
from the mill side of the river, capable Mr. Aikens in one of them. A
grappling hook trailing from the stern of the boat told that such
accidents as this were not unusual in treacherous Plum Run.

Then began a search that exhausted their every resource. The ill word
had speedily gone around among the nearer houses, and in the course of
an hour a great crowd of men appeared from Watertown itself. The water
was black with boats and alive with diving bodies. Hastily constructed
grappling hooks raked the narrow stream from side to side. A big seine
was even commandeered from a houseboat up the river and dragged back
and forth across the rough river bed till the men were worn out.

But all to no avail. Every now and then a shout of discovery went up,
but the booty of the grappling hooks invariably proved to be only
watersoaked logs or mud-filled wreckage. Once they were all electrified
at a black-haired body dislodged by a clam-rake, that came heavily to
the surface and then sank, to be the subject of ten minutes frantic
dragging, only to be finally revealed as the body of an unfortunate dog.

It was heart-breaking work, and the tension was not lessened with the
appearance on the scene of Mr. Fulton, Tod's father. He said nothing,
but his hopeless silence was more depressing than any words of grief
could have been. Jerry and Dave and Frank, feeling in some queer way
guilty of their friend's death, could not meet his eyes as he asked
dully how it had happened.

The dreary day dragged to a weary close, and the sun sank behind heavy
clouds black with more than one rumbling promise of storm. The boys
toiled doggedly on, weak from hunger, for their lunches had gone over
with the boat, and, anyway, they would not have had the heart to
swallow a bite. Lanky, good-natured Tod Fulton--drowned! It simply
couldn't be. But the fast darkening water, looking cruel now, and
menacing, where it had laughed and rippled only that morning, gave the
lie to their hopes. Hopes? The last one had gone when Mr. Aikens had

"Never heard of anybody's being brought to after more than two hours
under water. Only thing we can hope for is to find the body. I'm going
to telephone to town and tell 'em to send out some dynamite."

It was already dusk when this decision was made, and it was after nine
o'clock before an automobile brought a supply of dynamite sticks and
detonating caps. In the meanwhile a powerful electric searchlight had
been brought over from the interurban tracks a scant mile west of the
river line, and the millwheel had been shafted to the big dynamo and
was generating current to flash dazzling rays of light across the water.

Mayor Humphreys, from Watertown, and Mr. Aikens were chosen to set off
the dynamite, while watchers lined the shores, sharp-eyed in the hope
of catching sight of the body when it should come to the muddied
surface of Plum Run after the dynamite had done its work.

Charge after charge was set off, and countless hundreds of fish were
stunned or killed by the terrific force of the explosive, but no body
of a hapless sixteen-year-old boy rewarded the anxious searchers. Up
and down the river combed the dynamiters, and glare and crash rent the
night for a mile down the stream. It began to look as if other means
would have to be resorted to--the saddest of all, perhaps--time.
Sometime, somewhere, after days or even weeks, ten, twenty, fifty, a
hundred miles down the river, a sodden, unrecognizable body would be
washed up on sand-bar or mud-bank. It was a sickening thought.

"Have all the river towns been telegraphed?" asked a bystander, of the
mayor. A nod of the head was his only answer.

"We may as well go home," was the final reluctant verdict. "We can come
back in the morning." Mr. Fulton alone refused to abandon the search,
and Mr. Aikens kindly offered to bear him company till daybreak brought
others to take his place. When all had gone save these two and the
three boys, Jerry approached and tried to draw Mr. Aikens aside.

"Do you suppose," he began with a kind of despairing eagerness, "that
he could have stayed in the boat?"

Aikens shook his head. "Not a chance in the world," he declared.

"But I thought----" began Jerry, to be interrupted by Mr. Aikens, who
finally contented himself with merely repeating:

"Not a chance in the world." They were silent until at last Mr. Aikens,
moved by some impulse of kindliness, for he could hardly help guessing
how miserable the boy's thoughts must be, added:

"You thought what, lad?"

"The boat was full of water, of course, but when she popped up, it
looked like there was something black in the bottom----"

"You saw the boat go over, didn't you! It must have turned over and
over a dozen times down there in that whirlpool, even if he had stayed
in till she lit. But he couldn't have. And even if----"

"Yes" urged Jerry, but without enthusiasm.

"If he _was_ in the bottom of the boat he would have been drowned just
the same, knocked senseless as he probably was by the terrific force of
the fall and the tons of water plunging on top of him. Mind you, I
don't think there was one chance in a million but that he was dashed
out long before the boat hit bottom."

"But where's the--the body, then?" objected Jerry miserably.

"If grappling hooks and seines and dynamite couldn't answer that
question, don't expect me to. Look here, lad, I know you feel all cut
up over it, but think of how his poor father feels----"

"I am--that's what makes me feel as if it was partly my fault."

"Now--now--don't take it like that. Man and boy I've lived on this and
other rivers a good many years over forty, and a drowning I've known
for every one of those years. The water's a treacherous dame--she
smiles at you in the sunshine, and the little waves kiss each other and
play around your boat, but the shadows lurk deep and they're waiting,
waiting, I tell you. The old river takes her toll. It happened to be
_your_ friend, that's all. But it wasn't anybody's fault. Mr. Fulton
would be the last one in the world to think so."

Jerry looked over at Mr. Fulton, who had finally ended his mute pacing
up and down, and now sat, chin in hand, staring out across the water. A
sudden impulse made the boy go over and stand for awhile, silent,
beside the grief-stricken man. He wanted to say something, but the
words would not come. So, after a little, he walked upstream to where
Dave and Frank huddled against an overturned boat; the night was
growing a bit chill.

"Moon's coming up," remarked Frank as Jerry settled down beside them.
No one answered.

"It's awful to sit around and not move a finger to find him," shivered
Dave at last. "Seems as if there ought to be something we could do."

"Do you know what I think?" replied Jerry, almost eagerly. "I think I
was right about that boat. I've been trying to remember what we left in
the boat that could have looked like--like what I saw when she came up.
There wasn't a thing in the boat--not a thing. It was Tod I saw--I know
it was!"

"But he never could have stayed in," objected Frank.

"That's what Mr. Aikens said--and everybody else. But tell me what else
it could have been I saw. I saw _some_thing, _that_ I know."

"We ought to have gone after the boat," admitted Dave, slowly. "We
didn't do a bit of good here, that's sure."

"But we didn't know that at the time," Frank argued. "Everybody'd have
blamed us if we'd gone on a wild goose chase down the river after an
empty boat----"

"But nobody would have said a word if we'd found him in the bottom of a
boat everybody else thought was empty. If the moon was only higher----"

"You don't catch me drilling off down Plum Bun at night, moon or no
moon. There's a rattlesnake or copperhead for every hundred yards!" It
was Frank who took up Jerry's thought. "Besides, it would be different
if we hadn't waited so long. Tod--Tod's--he's dead now," voicing at
last the feeling they had never before put into words.

There was a gruffness in Jerry's voice as he answered, a gruffness that
tried hard to mask the trembling of his tones. "I know it, but--but--I
want to do something for Mr. Fulton. Won't you fellows go along with
me? I guess I--I'll go."

"Down river?" asked both boys, but without eagerness.

"Till we find the boat."

"It's no use," said Frank. "Our folks'll cane us now when we get home.
Going along, Dave--with me?"

"How far do you s'pose the boat's drifted by now, Jerry?" asked Dave
instead of answering Frank.

"Can't tell. She's probably stuck on a sandbar or a snag, anywhere from
five to twenty-five miles down. Don't go along, Dave, unless you want

"Better come home with me," urged Frank.

"Do you _need_ me along, Jerry?" queried Dave uncertainly.

"No--" shortly--"no _I_ don't. Mr. Fulton does--Tod does."

Jerry rose stiffly to his feet and started slowly off in the faint
moonlight, without so much as a look behind.

"So long, Jerry," called Frank. "Come on, Dave."

But Dave slowly shook his head and reluctantly followed the footsteps
of his chum.

"Hold on a minute, old man; I'll stick with you."



It was only a thin edge of a moon that now stood barely above the low
line of tree-covered hills beyond the east bank of the river. The light
it gave was a misty, watery sort of ray that was a doubtful help in
walking over the broken shore line. The two boys were too occupied in
watching their footing to do much talking. Jerry led the way, bearing
to the water's edge, finally stopping where a light rowboat had been
pulled well up on the rocky beach.

"We'll have to divide forces, I guess. In this uncertain light we never
could be sure of seeing the boat if she was on the other side. I'll cut
across while you go down this bank."

"Why not take the boat and go down the middle?"

"Too hard work getting through the shallows, and, besides, this way
we're closest to the place where the boat would most likely have been
snagged. We can go lots faster on foot. We'll keep about opposite each
other; we can yell across once in a while and it won't be quite so
lonesome. You go ahead till you get below the riffles, and wait there
till I catch up with you."

Jerry stepped into the boat and took up the oars. Dave gave the boat a
mighty shove that almost put the stern under the water.

"Hey! What you kids doing?" bellowed a gruff voice that the boys hardly
recognized as being that of Mr. Aikens.

"Just duck and say nothing," called Jerry guardedly to Dave. "He might
try to stop us."

So Dave scurried into the shadows of near-by trees, while Jerry bent
low over his oars and noiselessly shot the boat out into safe waters.
It was the work of only a few minutes to push the nose of his boat high
and dry on the sand of the opposite shore. He was in the heavy shadow
of a big cottonwood and felt safe from peering eyes, so without wasting
time to mask his movements he jumped out and scurried along the bank. A
level stretch of a hundred yards carried him around a bend; he stopped
for a brief rest and a glance toward the other side, where a great
crashing of bushes told him that Dave was safely out of sight and well
on his way toward the riffles.

A chuckle almost escaped Jerry as he listened to the thrashing about,
but remembrance of their errand killed the laughter. In fact, the
chuckle turned to a genuine sob, for Tod Fulton was his closest chum.
So, without an instant's pause, he made his way to the foot of the
riffles, where their search would really begin. How soon it would end,
there was no telling; it might be one mile; it might be twenty. But
Jerry grimly determined that he would carry the undertaking through to
the end.

The riffles was really a succession of pools of treacherous depths,
joined by foaming, rock-broken rapids. The bank was lined with great
boulders through which a day-time path wound a difficult way. Jerry
wasted no time in trying to follow it, but skirted far around through a
waist-high cornfield. A barb-wire fence held him prisoner long enough
to allow Dave to break cover first on the opposite shore and send a
vigorous but quavery "hello" across the water.

"I'm stuck on the fence!" shouted Jerry in return. "Go ahead. I'll be
along directly."

But he noticed that Dave stood waiting on the shore when he finally
managed to release himself and broke through the thin fringe of
willows. "All right, Dave," he urged. "Let's not be losing any time."

For a while the going was much easier. On Jerry's side a wide reach of
sand lay smooth and firm in the pale moonlight. On Dave's side a few
yards of sand lay between a steep bank and the water's edge, but every
few hundred feet a shallow creek broke through and forced wading.

There was no chance for the boat to have stranded here, and the boys
hurried along. Within a mile the character of the ground changed. Now
the water lapped along under high, steep banks, with tiny,
willow-covered islands alternating with bass-haunted snags of dislodged
trees barricaded with driftwood. The moon cast queer shadows and more
than once Jerry's heart felt a wild thrill as he fancied he saw a boat
hull outlined against the silvered current.

Every few hundred yards the two boys stopped and sent encouraging
shouts across the widening water. It was a lonesome, disheartening
task, with every step making the task all the harder. Deep bays cut
into the shore line; the feeder creeks grew wider and deeper. The night
air was chill on their dripping shoulders. Plum Run was no longer a
run--it was a real river, and Dave's voice sounded far off when he came
out on some bare point to shout his constant:

"Nothing doing--yet."

They were now on a part of the river that was comparatively strange to
them. Jerry had more than once followed the Plum this far south, but it
had always been by boat, or at best on the west bank, Dave's territory,
where a chain of lakes followed the course of the river. Each new twist
and turn sent a shiver of nervous dread through him. Many the story of
rattlers and copperheads he had heard from fishermen and campers--and
the night was filled with unexpected and disturbing noises, overhead
and underfoot. Of course he knew that snakes are not abroad at night,
but the knowledge did not help his nerves.

Moreover, they were drawing near Lost Island, and no boy of Watertown
had ever been known to cast a line within half a mile of that dreaded
spot. For Lost Island was the "haunted castle" of the neighborhood. It
was nothing more than a large, weed-and-willow-covered five acres, a
wrecked dam jutting out from the east bank, and a great gaunt pile of
foundation masonry standing high and dry on a bare knoll at the north

It had a history--never twice told the same. The dam had been
dynamited, that much was sure. By whom, no one knew. The house, if ever
a house had been built over those rain-bleached rocks, had been struck
by lightning, hurricane, blown up by giant powder, rotted away--a dozen
other tragic ends, as the whim of the story-teller dictated. The owner
had been murdered, lynched, had committed suicide--no one knew, but
everyone was positive that there was something fearfully, terribly
wrong with Lost Island.

It was one of the few islands in Plum Run which was not flooded over by
the spring freshets, and the land was fertile, yet no one had ever been
known to live there through a season; this in spite of the fact that
Lost Island was known as "squatter's land," open to settlement by
anyone who desired it.

And Lost Island lay barely half a mile farther down the river. Jerry
fervently hoped that their search would be ended before they were in
the shadow of that forsaken territory. His nerves were not calmed any
by the tremble in Dave's voice as he shouted across:

"Lost Island's just below us, Jerry. Shall we go on?"

"Sure thing, Dave!" called Jerry with a confidence he did not feel. "It
can't be any worse than what we've already gone through--and we've gone
through _that_ all right."

"Supposing," hesitated Dave, "supposing the boat's grounded on Lost
Island itself----"

"It's the boat we're looking for, isn't it?" But Jerry knew as he
spoke, that, hard as the going was, he would be well satisfied to
discover the boat five weary miles farther on.

Once more they plodded along, the dark, forbidding hulk of Lost Island
looming nearer and nearer. Just before passing behind the northern
point Jerry came out to the water's edge and had cupped his hands about
his mouth for a final reassuring shout, when a sudden discovery made
him pause. A shout, that seemed to split in mid-air, convinced him that
Dave too had just then caught sight of the astounding object.

It was a gleaming, flickering, ruddy light, and it came from the very
center of Lost Island!

Jerry's first thought was fright. But that soon gave way to the wildest
of conjectures. Suppose Tod had been in the boat. Suppose he had come
to in time, but too weak to do more than remain in the boat till it
grounded here on Lost Island. A waterproof match-safe easily accounted
for the fire. Jerry refused to allow himself to reason any further.
There might be a dozen reasons why Tod had not swum the scant hundred
yards to shore.

"Do you see it!" finally came a shout from the other side.

"It's a camp fire," called Jerry. "Do you suppose it could possibly

"It couldn't be Tod, _could_ it!" came the answer, showing the same
wild hope that had surged through Jerry.

"Oh--_Tod!_" rang out from two trembly throats on both sides of the

There was no reply. At least there came no answering shout. But the
next instant Jerry rubbed his eyes in bewilderment. The camp fire had
been blotted out as if by magic. Only the deep gloom of thick-set
willows lay before him.

"The fire's gone!" came in alarmed tones from Dave.

"_Tod--Oh, Tod!_" rang out once more through the still night air.

This time there was an answer, but not the one the boys expected. A
gruff voice demanded angrily:

"Say, you idiots--what in the thunder you want!"

"We're looking for a boy who was drowned up at----" began Jerry, who
was closest to the high point where a man was presently seen stalking
through the fringe of bushes.

"Boy who was drowned? _Calling_ for him! Ye crazy loons!" interrupted
the man.

"We don't know whether he was drowned or not," answered Jerry hotly.

"Well I'll never tell you," was the surly response. With a disgusted
shrug of the shoulders the great hulk of a man slouched back toward the
center of the island, pausing just before he disappeared once more in
the wilderness to warn:

"Any more of that howling's going to bring a charge of buckshot, and I
don't care which of you I hit."

"Do you care if we come over and look along the shore of the island?"
shouted Dave at the retreating figure.

The answer, which was more like a growl than a human response, left no
doubt of the man's meaning. Neither boy felt the slightest desire to
swim across to Lost Island. Instead Jerry waved his arms over his head
and then pointed downstream.

So once more they trudged along, disheartened more than ever, for
somehow the actions of that weird figure on Lost Island had made their
search look more of a wild goose chase than ever. The island was soon
passed, but Jerry found himself peering hopelessly across a sluggish,
muddy-bottomed slough that promised many a weary minute of wading
before he could hope to establish communication with his companion

So it was with a great feeling of relief that, once more on solid
ground, he heard Dave's call.

"Say, Jerry, we're pretty near down to Tomlinson's wagon bridge. What
you say that we hustle on down and meet halfway across--and wait there
for daylight. I'm about woozified."

"Good!" agreed Jerry, pleased that the suggestion had come from Dave.
"Even the thought of it rests my old legs till they feel like new. I'll
just race you to it!"

But it was a slow sort of race, for neither boy was willing to take a
chance in passing the most innocent shadow--which always turned out to
be a water-soaked log or a back-eddied swirl of foam. Nevertheless, it
was a spent Dave who sank gasping to the rough plank floor of the
middle span of the wagon bridge a scant second ahead of another puffing

A good ten minutes they lay there, breathing hard. Then both rose and
walked over to the edge and leaned heavily against the girders as they
looked gloomily down the river.

"Looks almost hopeless, doesn't it!" admitted Jerry, finally.

"Worst of it is we don't really know whether she's down below yet or if
we've passed it. She was riding pretty low."

"Wonder what that man was doing on Lost Island?" speculated Jerry,
crossing wearily to the north edge of the bridge and peering through
the gray dawn-mist toward the island, barely visible now. A mere
twinkle of light showed among the trees, and he stood there for a long
minute. Dave come to his side, and the two waited in silence for the
dawn. Jerry had almost fallen asleep standing up, when a sudden clutch
at his arm nearly overbalanced him and sent him tumbling off the dizzy

"Look!" gasped Dave.

"What is it?" exclaimed Jerry, turning to his companion, all sleep gone.

"I'll swear it's the boat--right under us!"



It was only a bare few seconds before the floating object had passed
within the shadow of the bridge, but there could be no doubt about it;
it was a boat, riding so low that only her outline showed. Jerry rubbed
his eyes in disbelief, but for only an instant. Then he sprang to the
other side of the bridge, shedding hat, coat, trousers, shirt and
shoes, on the way. So, at least, it seemed to Dave, who caught his
chum's arm, as Jerry poised himself, his body white and gleaming in the
moonlight, on the high rail that ran along the edge.

"What you going to do, Jerry? It's a good thirty feet to the water--and
you don't know how deep it is down there."

"I'm diving shallow, Dave; two feet is all I ask below. We can't take
any chances of losing her. Carry my clothes along the bank, will you?
I'll try to make the east side--it looks a little closer."

In the few seconds they had talked, the boat had drifted under the
bridge and now cut through the silver-edged shadow of the last timbers.

There was a quiver of the flimsy railing, a slender body cut through
the moonlight, parted the water with a clean _sush!_ and bobbed up
almost immediately, within three feet of the boat. Jerry Ring did not
have the reputation of being the best diver in Watertown for nothing.

Now ensued a great kicking and churning as Jerry's legs transformed
themselves into propellers for the salvaged "_Big Four_." Progress was
slow; the waterlogged craft lay in the river like so much cordwood.
More than once Jerry had to stop for a few minutes' rest. But little by
little he neared shore, encouraged by Dave, who impatiently awaited the
landing, wading out finally waist-deep to help.

Neither one said a word as the boat was at last beached. No more than
the barest glance was needed to tell that there was nothing in the boat
but water. Theirs had been a fruitless chase.

"Well," said Dave, slowly, after a long silence, "I guess that ends our
last hope."

"I'm afraid you're right," agreed Jerry dejectedly. "But there's one
thing that puzzles me--do you notice how much water there is in the
boat? It's a good ten inches from the top--how full would it have been
when she popped up from under the falls at the dam?"

"She'd have been right up to the top, I suppose. Why?"

"Well, what I want to know is: How did it get out? And, what's more,
I'd like to know how it would have taken the boat all these hours to
float those few miles. Plum Run's got a six mile an hour current up
above, and it's at least four here. There's something mighty funny
about it all to me."

"But mightn't it just have been snagged or shoaled up above, and
finally worked loose?"

"Sure, I know that. But I know the boat was drifting about as fast as
we were walking, and that being the case, she must have cleared Lost
Island just about three minutes after we talked with that man!"

"You're getting excited, Jerry--over nothing."

"Nothing! You call the water that was _baled_ out of the boat nothing.
It _was_ baled out, I tell you. And look at that rope--it was _cut_
loose. Somebody was in too big a hurry to untie knots, that's my guess."

"But, Jerry, what in the world are you driving at, anyway!"

"I don't know. Something about the way that man back there on Lost
Island acted set me thinking away in the back of my head. I didn't
realize what it was that was going on in my cranium until I noticed
this cut rope and say!" Jerry's voice rose in high excitement. "_Dave!_
Dave--do you remember? The _bucket!_"

Dave only stared at his friend in bewilderment. "Wha--what bucket?" he
at last managed to gasp.

"You remember last week when we were out, and the storm caught us and
pretty nearly swamped the boat? Tod said he'd bet we'd never be caught
without a bailing can again--and he put a lard pail on a snap hook
under the back seat. It's gone!"

"But what if--why, pshaw, it could easy have worked loose and floated
away. I don't see what there is to be so worked up about."

"But, Dave, don't you see----" Jerry was trembling with excitement.
"Suppose Tod _had_ stayed in the boat, and he came to, and he didn't
have any oars. First off he'd try to bale her out, wouldn't he? He'd
bale out just enough so she'd ride easy, and then he'd try to get to
shore. Maybe he landed on Lost Island. Suppose he did, and suppose that
ruffian we saw didn't want him to get off again. What else would the
man do but cut loose the boat when we came along!"

"Jerry, don't you think we'd better be getting on home?"

"What's the matter with you, Dave?"

"Why, nothing, Jerry----"

"Then what you talking about going on home when I'm running down a clew
like that?"

"It's almost morning, Jerry, and you've had a hard day and been up all
night--and the lonesome chase through the dark----"

"Now look here, Davie! If you think I'm getting soft in the head, just
forget it. I never was more in earnest in my life. Don't you
understand? I think Tod's alive--_back there on Lost Island!_"

"But we don't know he was in the boat----"

"Look here, Dave, if you were falling, what'd be the first thing you'd
do? You'd grab at the nearest thing to you, wouldn't you! And if you
got hold of that boat-seat, for instance, you'd pretty near hang on,
wouldn't you? I saw _something_ in the bottom of the boat when she came

"Yes, but we don't know the boat touched Lost Island----"

"No, of course not. But most always when I see a sign that says 'No
fishing allowed,' I know there's fish there."

"You certainly talk as if you were out of your head. What's fishing got
to do with it?"

"The man was not overly anxious to have us come out and make a search
of _his_ island. I'm going back up there and I'm going to swim across
or _get_ across and I'm going to find out what he has there he doesn't
want us to see. Are you game to go along?"

"But supposing there's nothing there, and the man----"

"That island doesn't belong to anybody. We've got as much right there
as he has. The worst he can do is to kick us off, and there's only one
of him against _two_ of us. Come on."

Before they left, however, they tipped their boat over and emptied out
nearly all the water. Then, as they had no oars to row her back, they
tied her by the short length of rope left, to a stout willow. Jerry
resumed his clothing, and shivering a bit in the cool morning air, was
eager to warm up with a good brisk walk.

They were on the east side of the river, and the trail would have been
hard enough even in broad daylight, but Jerry would waste no time in
crossing over when a few minutes later they halted at the bridge. Home
lay on the other side of the river, and Dave, still unconvinced,
stubbornly insisted on following the west bank, but Jerry soon cut
short the argument by striding off in disgust. After a minute of
uncertainty Dave tagged along behind. Neither spoke; to tell the truth,
they were both decidedly cold, hungry and cross. The damp, fishy smell
of the river somehow set their nerves on edge, and the long drill
through swamps and across creeks and sloughs appeared none too enticing.

"I say, Jerry," called Davie finally, "let's stop for a breath of air;
I'm about petered out."

"Can't," replied Jerry shortly. "Sky's getting gray now. We've got to
get _there_ before daylight. If we can catch our friend on the island
asleep it'll make things a lot easier. Pull your belt up a notch and
see if you can't put the notch into your legs."

Dave grumbled but obediently hastened his gait. In single file they cut
across the last stretch of knee-deep mud and halted opposite Lost
Island. There it lay, beyond the narrow stretch of steaming, misty
black water, dark and forbidding. There was something shivery about its
low-lying-heavy outline, with nothing visible beyond the border of
thick willow growth.

"Looks like some big crouching animal, doesn't it?" remarked Dave as
they stood an instant peering across.

"Well, we know it can't spring--and it won't bite, I guess."

"I'm not so sure. How are we going to get over?"

"Swim it, unless--no, I guess we won't swim--not, at least, if there's
a pair of oars in that flat-boat I see yonder. Funny we didn't stumble
over it when we came down."

"Maybe it wasn't here then. Maybe the man came over in it. We better
not stand here in the open. We don't know what minute he might be back."

"Well, if it is his boat, at least we don't need to worry about running
onto him over there on the island."

"You're going to swim over, aren't you, Jerry? If the man came along
and found his boat gone, he'd know _we_ were over there and----"

"And he'd be stranded on this side until we were so kind as to bring
back his boat. You can bet _he_ isn't going to swim over, and I bet you
I don't either."

The boat proved to be a cumbersome flat-boat of the type used by
clam-fishers. In fact the smell that simply swirled up from its oozy
bottom left no doubt that the boat had been used for that purpose. A
pair of unbelievably heavy oars, cut from a sapling with a hand-axe,
trailed in the water from "loose oarlocks." Dave gave a gasp of dismay
as he "hefted" the rough implements.

"Let's swim it, Jerry," he said disgustedly. "The boat'll never hold up
the oars and us too. They weigh a ton."

"Pile in," answered Jerry, with the first laugh since that tragic
moment when he had seen a different boat swept over the dam many weary
miles up the river. "We'll each take an oar and try some two-handed
rowing. This craft was built for ocean-going service. Hold tight; we're

But they weren't. Jerry's mighty push ended in a grunt. "Come on; get
out here and shove."

"Maybe if we took the oars out we could start her," Dave jibed. "I hope
you've got a freight-hauling license."

"Get out and push. Your witty remarks are about as light as those young
tree-trunks we have for paddles. All together now!" as Dave bent over
beside him. A lurch, a grinding, thumping slide, and the flat-boat slid
free of shore.

"It's a mighty good thing if that man isn't on the island," remarked
Dave as he took up his half of the propelling mechanism. "Because when
our craft took the water she certainly did 'wake the echoes of yon
wooded glen,' as the poet says."

"Poetry's got nothing to do with this boat. It doesn't rhyme with
anything but blisters. Let's see if we can move her."

Thanks to some tremendous tugging, the flat-boat moved slowly out from
shore. Inch by inch, it seemed, they gained on the current.

"The old tub's got speed in her," grunted Jerry, between sweeps of his

"Ought to have it _in_ her," returned Dave. "I'll bet you nobody ever
got it _out_ of her. Ugh!"

"Always grunt out toward the back of the boat--keep your head turned.
It helps us along."

"I've only got one grunt left; I'm saving it. How far have we gone?"

"All of ten feet. I'll tell you when we hit the island. Lift your oar
out of water when you bring it back. The idea is to move the boat, not
merely to stir up the water."

So they joked each other, but their hearts were heavy enough, for
always in the back of their minds was the thought of their friend, who,
in spite of the wild hope that Jerry had built up, might--_must_, Dave
was sure--be lying at the bottom of treacherous Plum Run somewhere,

At last they seemed to be nearly halfway across, and they rested a
brief spell, for every inch of their progress had to be fought for.

"All right," said Jerry, taking up his oar, "let's give her another

But Dave did not move, although he still hunched over his oar.

"Come on, Dave," urged his friend. "We don't want to lose any time. The
sun ought to be up almost any minute now."

"Look behind you, old man. Right where we're headed, and tell me what
you see."

Jerry turned in his seat. He took one quick glance toward Lost Island,
now less than a hundred feet away, and then gave a low cry of dismay.



There was a streak of light in the western sky, whether caused by the
low-hanging, mist-hidden moon or a freak reflection of the coming dawn.
Against that patch of brightness the northern headland of Lost Island
loomed up high and barren save for its one tall tree. But it was
neither headland nor tree that caught Jerry's attention and caused the
gasp of dismay.

Standing there, bold and menacing, looking like a giant against the
queer light, was a man.

Whether it was the same one who had hailed them earlier in the morning,
the boys could not of course know. But there was no doubt about the
equal unfriendliness of his attitude, for through the crook of one
elbow he carried a shotgun, while even as Jerry turned in his seat, the
other arm was raised and a big fist shaken.

The next instant they were assured that this was the same man as had
warned them away before. There was no mistaking the voice that bellowed
across the water. Neither was there any mistaking the meaning of the
brief sentence:

"Get to thunder out o' here!"

Jerry stood up in the boat and waved a friendly hand in the general
direction of the angry man, and called pleasantly:

"We were just coming over to see about a boy we think landed on _your_
island last night or early this morning. We found his boat down at the
bridge and we figured that he must have----"

As Jerry talked, Dave had been slyly urging the boat closer to shore,
but at a sudden interruption from the island, both he and Jerry paused.

"You come another foot closer, you young idiots, and I'll fill you full
of rock salt. I loaded up especial for you when you raised that rumpus
last night; I knew durned well you'd be coming back."

"Have you seen anything of our friend?" cried Dave anxiously, trying to
smooth things over by being civil.

"If he's anything like you two, I hope I never do."

"You've got no right to keep us off Lost Island," began Jerry hotly.

"I don't need any right; I've got a shotgun. You two just pick up your
paddles and blow back to shore--and be sure you tie up that boat good
and tight or I'll have the law on you. Git, now!"

There didn't seem to be anything else to do. The two boys muttered to
each other, and neither one was willing to admit believing that the man
would really shoot, but somehow they were unwilling to put it to the
test. Reluctantly they took up the oars again and turned the nose of
the boat back toward the east bank.

Facing the man now, Jerry sent one last appeal across the slowly
widening space.

"We didn't mean any harm. A friend of ours was drowned yesterday, we
think. We're looking for him--or his body. All we want is to know if
you've seen anything of him."

"I told you this morning I hadn't."

"But why don't you let us look on the island? We're almost sure our
boat was stranded there a long while. He _might_ have been in it. If
you'd just let us look, we'd be satisfied."

"I guess you'll be satisfied anyway, youngster. Just keep on rowing.
Where was young Fulton drowned, anyway?"

Jerry made no answer. When Dave undertook to shout a reply, Jerry
silenced him with a savage look. Then he stood up on his seat. Making a
megaphone of his hands he yelled derisively:

"Yah! He _wasn't drowned!_"

Then he sat down again and caught up his oar and began lunging
desperately at the water. "Hurry, Dave, hurry!" he commanded excitedly.

"What's got into you?" exclaimed Dave impatiently. "You've been flying
off on about forty different angles lately. What new bug has bitten

"Bug! Dave, do you mean to tell me you didn't hear what the man said?"

"Course I did--but we're going, aren't we? He didn't say he'd shoot
unless we kept on coming ahead."

"Oh--_that!_ Well, you've been up all night, so no wonder you're half
asleep. Didn't you hear him say: 'Where was young Fulton drowned?'"



"Well what? What in thunder's got into you? Why shouldn't he ask that?"

"He should have. He should have asked it the first time we talked to
him. But, gee whiz, Dave, he shouldn't have known it was _young Fulton_
unless--unless it was young Fulton himself who told him. Dave--Dave!
Don't you see? We never mentioned his name."

"Great guns!" gasped Dave.

That was all he said, and for that matter, all that either one said.
The man stood on the point of Lost Island till he was satisfied that
the boys had tied the boat safely and did not mean to loiter in the
neighborhood. Then he disappeared among the trees of the lower part of
the island. But the boys did not pay much attention to their late
antagonist, save for a bare glance as they topped the high ridge that
followed the river course.

Miles to the north they could see a big square white building that they
knew as Carter's Mills, really only a grain storage elevator. Almost
due west of that was the milldam, which was about the only place they
could hope to be able to cross Plum Run--and Watertown lay on the other
side. Of course, they might follow the river bank on the chance of
meeting some good-hearted fisherman or camper who would row them
across. But the chance was too slim. They decided to cut across country
till they reached the mill.

It was a long, hard drill on an empty stomach. Up hill and down dale,
and every step kept time to by a pang from the inner man.

"Do you think it's a sin to steal?" This from Dave.



"Apples? A sin? Not if you know where there are any. Lead me to them."

"Oh, I don't know where any are. I just wondered what you thought of

"Do you think it's wrong to punish criminals?" This from Jerry.

"Put 'em in jail you mean?"

"Well, whatever way seems best."

"No, I can't say as I do. Why, Jerry?"

"I'm going to thump you good and plenty for fooling me about those
apples, that's why."

"Catching comes before thumping!" and Dave was off with all the speed
his weary legs could muster. Fortunately Jerry's legs were in no better
shape, so the race, while exciting enough, was a long, slow one. Before
Jerry was able to overhaul his chum, he was so tired out that anything
so strenuous as thumping was quite out of the question.

"If you'd just kept running straight ahead, instead of ducking and
dodging, we'd be home by now," he complained as he released the puffing

But at that they had made good time through their chase and within a
very few minutes the last bend of the river showed them the milldam.
The place was deserted.

"I guess Mr. Aikens persuaded Tod's father to go back home and get
breakfast and rest up a bit," remarked Dave. "If there doesn't happen
to be a boat on this side of the river we may have to wait some time
for that breakfast you've been promising me the last ninety-eight
miles. We sure can't get across the dam, with all that water rushing

"I'll swim it before I wait," grimly declared Jerry. "Do you suppose
Mr. Aikens took the mill boat?"

"Most likely. Where'll you try it, below or above? Swimming, I mean."

"No chance below, with that current. But I guess we won't need to. I
see Pete Galpin's clam-boat down at his dock. It leaks like sin, but if
one bails while the other rows I guess we can make it."

No one was astir at Galpin's shanty, a houseboat pulled high and dry on
shore, and almost hidden by great piles of driftwood snagged upon the
bank to serve as winter fuel. Old Pete Galpin lived there all alone,
fishing and clamming and occasionally taking a wood-cutting contract to
help out through the scant winter months. Once he had been known to
work with an ice-cutting gang, but quit because he was afraid he'd make
so much money that it would tempt somebody to rob him.

The flat-boat that was moored down at Galpin's "dock"--four railroad
ties roped together--was none too substantial looking, having been
built by Galpin himself from odds and ends picked up from scrap heaps
and driftage. As Galpin himself said, the only whole part about the
boat was the name, which had been painted in red on a single thin board
sticking a full two feet past the stern--"UPANATUM."

But the boys did not waste a great deal of time in admiring the
beautiful lines of their borrowed craft. Jerry made at once for the oar
seat, leaving Dave to untie and push off. For all the tremendous leak
which at once developed, the boat responded easily to the strenuous
tugs of Jerry's muscular arms and back.

They beached the boat and made their way up the bank and across a field
where oats had just been cut, the bundles lying yellow as gold in the
early morning sunlight. Just beyond was a narrow, plum-thicket bordered
lane, which in turn led into the newly graveled "county" road. The boys
found the walking much easier in a path that twisted along next to the
fence. However, within a mile, along came a farmer, hauling a load of
early potatoes to town, and the boys gladly accepted his invitation to
"hop on."

Within a quarter of a mile both were sound asleep, nor did they waken
until the springless wagon rattled over the interurban tracks less than
two blocks from Dave's home. Rubbing their eyes in a vain attempt to
drive out the sleep, they stumbled along the quiet street.

"Where will I find you after breakfast?" asked Jerry, as Dave turned in
at his gate.

"In bed. I'll be lucky if I stay awake till after breakfast."

"But we've got to tell Mr. Fulton."

"You tell him, Jerry. I just know he won't pay any attention to what we
say--I don't more'n half believe it now myself----" Dave had to stop
for a tremendous yawn.

"If that's the case, you might just as well sleep." Jerry was out of
patience, but Dave was too sleepy to care very much.

"I'll see you--see you--later, Jerry," he said drowsily as he turned
and staggered up the walk.

Jerry, after an undecided second or two, faced about and began to
retrace his steps. He cut through the Ellery back yard and came out on
the cross street at whose corner the Fultons lived. The house was a big
ramshackle affair of a dozen rooms or so, far too large a place for the
Fultons, since there had been only the two of them, Tod's mother having
died when he was only a little tad. Indeed, as Tod said, they only used
three rooms, the kitchen and two bedrooms. But that was hardly true;
there was a big basement under all the house, the most of it used as a
workroom, and here it was that the two of them spent the better part of
their waking hours.

Mr. Fulton was an odd sort of man, a bit inclined to think his business
his own business. But it was no secret among his neighbors that all
sorts of queer contrivances were planned and made in that combination
machine shop, carpenter shop, forge and foundry below stairs.

Mr. Fulton was an inventor. True, for the most part he invented useless
things; he had inherited money and did not need to make any more. But
the boys, who were allowed to roam through the workshop at will, were
wildly enthusiastic over the ingenious devices schemed out by father
and son, for Tod was a chip off the old block.

Now, Jerry did not go up to the front door, even though it was standing
ajar. Instead he hurried to the little side porch and reached high up
under the eaves, where an electric button was concealed. He pushed it,
hard, well knowing that if Mr. Fulton were anywhere in the house he
would hear that bell. That was why it had been so well hidden.

But there was no response. Again Jerry rang; he could hear the shrill
br-r-r-r of the bell. After a long time he heard footsteps, but
something told him they were not those of Mr. Fulton. The door swung
open. There stood Mr. Aikens.

"Is Mr. Fulton here," demanded Jerry.

"Asleep," nodded Mr. Aikens.

"I've got to see him."

"All right--if you don't wake him up."

"I've got to talk to him--I've got big news."

"Big news? Of--of Tod?" Big Mr. Aikens was not the kind of man to
become easily excited, but his manner was eager enough.

"Of Tod--yes!" cried Jerry.

"What is it? Have you found his--his body?"

"Better than that, Mr. Aikens--Oh, I'm almost dead sure!"

Jerry was so excited himself that his voice shook. As for Mr. Aikens,
he leaped over and caught Jerry's arm and was shaking it wildly up and
down. Neither one noticed that a white-faced man stood in the opposite
doorway, and that his eyes were simply blazing with expectancy.

"What do you mean? What _can_ you mean!" demanded Mr. Aikens.

"I believe that Tod Fulton is----"

"Not alive?" almost screamed a voice from across the room. "Not alive!"

"Alive and on Lost Island!"



This much of the interview was perfectly clear to Jerry afterwards, but
what followed he could not quite understand at the time or later. For a
moment it was almost laughable. There stood Aikens fiercely clutching
one arm and waving it up and down as if to pump further information
from him. Mr. Fulton, after the first dazed instant, darted across the
room and grabbed Jerry's other arm.

"_Where_ is he? Tell me--quick!" he demanded.

Then it was that Jerry could not understand, for the look that came
over Mr. Fulton's face at his reply was neither belief nor doubt. His
eyebrows almost met in a frown as he repeated mechanically:

"On Lost Island, you say? But--but--how do you know? You weren't _on_
Lost Island, were you?"

"No--o," answered Jerry slowly.

A look of relief, quickly hidden, came to Mr. Fulton's face, but Jerry
saw it, and wondered.

"Did someone tell you he was there, then?"

"Someone told me he _wasn't_ there----" began Jerry, when the
ting-a-ling of a telephone bell cut him short.

"Oh!" exclaimed Mr. Fulton and hurried from the room. His muffled voice
could be heard in a lengthy conversation. Jerry impatiently awaited his
return, anxious to tell the rest of his story. Imagine then his
surprise when Tod's father delayed his return unreasonably, and his
only response to Jerry's eager sentences was, "Yes, yes, I know."

Jerry's heart sank unaccountably--he sensed the fact that Mr. Fulton
was not listening, was only waiting, in fact, till the boy should
finish and he could decently get rid of Jerry. The story was
consequently hurried through. Disappointed beyond description, Jerry
left the house, not even noticing that Mr. Fulton had left the room
even before Jerry had reached the door.

Something was wrong somewhere; Jerry had expected that his story would
be literally snatched out of his mouth; instead it had been smothered
under the dampest kind of wet blanket. Feeling not a little sore over
his failure to impress the two men with the importance of his
discoveries, Jerry plodded along home, determined that as soon as he
had gulped down a little breakfast he would hike back to Lost Island
alone and make one more attempt to gain the cover of its wooded banks.

Even that plan was doomed to disappointment. Jerry's mother had saved a
goodly breakfast for him, and bustled about making him comfortable.
Contrary to Jerry's expectations, she had no word of blame for his
having remained away overnight without asking consent, and even
listened with sympathetic ear to the story of his adventures. But just
at the moment when Jerry was about to announce his intention to return,
Mrs. Ring was called to the back door, to return a few minutes later
with the announcement that it had been Mr. Aikens, and that Jerry was
not to worry any more about Lost Island.

"But I've simply got to go back, ma," sputtered Jerry, his mouth
uncomfortably full of pancake. "Mr. Fulton isn't going to--well, he
didn't show much interest in my theories---"

"But Mr. Aikens seemed to think he did. You just rest easy, son. If two
grown men can't take care of your Lost Islander--and your theories,
too, why, well--you just get ready to pile into bed, that's all."

"But, ma--there's the boat."

"It'll take care of itself till you get there."

"But, ma----"

"Hush up, now. Into bed with you."

"But can I go after the boat when I----"

Mrs. Ring caught up a flat piece of wood from the back of the kitchen
range, and laughingly but firmly put an end to the coaxing, Jerry
retreating hastily to the shelter of his bedroom.

Both Jerry and his father stood in awe of tiny Mrs. Ring, who barely
reached to overgrown Jerry's shoulder.

"Wake me up at twelve, will you, ma?" called Jerry, in his most
wheedling voice. His mother only laughed, but Jerry felt sure she
would. Besides, there was his dollar alarm clock.

Jerry repented his request when sharp at twelve o'clock he was called
for noonday dinner. He was sleepy and cross and not a bit hungry. His
muscles were sore, and the drill to Lost Island did not have quite the
romance by broad daylight that it had had a few hours before.

Jerry watched his father put on his hat and hurry back to work, with a
great deal of relief. His mother was much easier to handle in a case of
this sort.

"You won't mind if I don't get back till late?" he asked, hoping she
would give her unqualified consent to his remaining away as long as he
saw fit. "You promised me I could go camping this summer--let me take
it now, _please_, ma."

"Will you promise me to come back and let me pick the birdshot out of
you after you've made a landing on Lost Island?" she asked in mock
anxiety. As a matter of fact, Mrs. Ring was about as proud of her big
boy as a mother well could be without making herself a nuisance to the
neighbors. From his earliest boyhood she had cultivated the
independence of spirit he showed with his first pair of real trousers,
and now she often strained a point to let him exercise it. To be sure,
she sometimes wondered how much was genuine self-confidence and how
much was a reckless love of adventure.

Now she raised her eyebrows in denial, but at the eager look on the
boy's face she relented. "Trot along, Jerry," she agreed, with a quick
pat at his shoulder--the Rings were not much at kissing each other. "If
you can't take care of yourself by now, you never will be able to. I
know you're as anxious as you can be about Tod--I do hope it turns out
that you are right about him."

With a muttered, "I've got to be right," Jerry set about making himself
a couple of substantial sandwiches and stuffing them in the pocket of
his canvas hunting coat, which he took along for emergencies.
"Good-bye, ma," he called over his shoulder. "I'll be back as soon as I
can bring Tod with me."

Once outside, he wasted no time but struck off at once cross-lots to
rout out Dave Thomas and Frank Ellery. Fortunately Frank came first,
otherwise Jerry might not have been equal to the task of waking up
Dave. They tried everything they had ever heard of. They tickled his
feet; they set off a brass-lunged alarm clock under his very nose; they
dumped him roughly out of his bed, but even on the bare floor he
slumbered peacefully on. Cold water brought only temporary success.
They were in despair.

It was Frank who finally solved the problem. Seating himself on the
foot of the bed, he raised his head much in the fashion of a hound
baying at the moon--the sound that issued from his throat would put to
shame the most ambitious hound that ever howled. Jerry caught up a
pillow and would have shied it at the head of the offender, but the
perfectly serious look on Frank's face withheld his arm. Gradually it
dawned on him that the boy was trying to sing--and, more than that, it
was one of Dave's favorite songs he was murdering.

Then it was that Jerry understood Frank's strategy. The bed-clothes
began to heave; they had piled them all atop Dave as he lay on the
floor. Frank began on the chorus. A wriggling leg emerged from beneath
the comforts. Jerry joined in, his voice a villainous imitation of
Frank's discords. Another leg came to view.

They began to repeat the chorus, further off key than before. One line
was all they were suffered to torture. A catapult of boy, bedclothes
and pillows bounded from the floor and sent Frank spinning into the
bed, while Jerry barely saved himself from a spill on the floor.

"You will yowl like a lot of bob-tailed tomcats, will yuh!" yelled
Dave, dancing up and down on one foot--he had stubbed his toe against
one of his shoes in his charge across the room.

"You will snore away like six buzz-saws on circus day, huh?" snorted
Frank, neatly catching Dave in the pit of the stomach with a pillow
caught up from the floor.

For a second it looked like a free-for-all, but Jerry had no time to

"Get your clothes on--hustle. We're going back to Lost Island."

"Suppose my mother won't let me?"

"Suppose you tell her we've got to go and get our boat? She'll let you
go all right. You just want to get back to bed, that's all that's
worrying you. Hustle, Dave. We can't lose a minute."

"But didn't you tell Tod's dad about what we--found out?" Dave
hesitated over the last. It was plain to be seen that he was none too
sure in his own mind of the importance of their discovery.

"I did, and he--well, he acted so queer about it that I don't know what
to think. I wouldn't be a bit surprised if they--he and Mr. Aikens, you
know--never went near Lost Island. They think we're just kids."

"But we don't really _know_ anything, Jerry; we're only just guessing."

"Guessing, huh? Well, I'm only just guessing that you're wasting a lot
of time about getting your clothes on, but in about half a minute I'm
going to climb all over you."

At that Dave bristled up a bit, but his fingers became spryer with
buttons and hooks and very shortly he stood fully dressed and ready to
go downstairs. Jerry had already made peace with Mrs. Thomas, so little
time was lost in waiting for Dave to snatch a bite to eat and be on his

"I've got four bits loose in my pocket," announced Jerry, once they
were out on the street. "If we don't let any grass grow on the side
streets while we're moving we can make the two-five express on the
Dellwood Interurban. We can drop off when they slow down at Downers
Crossing; that must be almost opposite Lost Island. It's hard going
through the swamps to get to Plum Run, but I guess we're good for it."

They made the two-five--with about three seconds to spare. Their car
was empty, so each dropped into a seat and sprawled out comfortably.
Jerry smiled grimly to himself as he looked back perhaps five minutes
later and saw how the two had slumped down in their seats. It did not
need a throaty gurgle from Dave to convince him that the pair were
sound asleep. "A fine pair of adventurers," he muttered to himself, not
entirely without some feeling of resentment. It was well enough to be
the leader, but--well, he wouldn't have minded a little snooze himself.

He did not feel quite so critical, however, when, perhaps a half hour
later, at a terrific jolt of the train, he was roused from the doze
into which he too had fallen. A hasty glance out the window told him
that they were at Downers Crossing. With a yell that would have done
credit to a whole war-party of Comanches, he pounced upon the two
sleepers and dragged and pushed and pommeled them out onto the platform
of the car. The train was beginning to move, so their descent was none
too dignified.

"Why in thunder didn't you wake us in time so I could have got a
drink?" complained Frank.

Jerry said nothing; he felt too guilty to risk any answer. After they
had cut across to the wagon road that led in the general direction of
the river, he consoled his chum with: "Downer's farm is only about half
a mile in, and we can get all the buttermilk we want there----" adding
mischievously: "----on Wednesdays, when they churn."

Both Dave and Frank promised instant murder for that, so he had to
admit that they would reach the best spring in Winthrop County within
three minutes.

"Saved your hide by just twenty-nine seconds," declared Dave as he
plunged his face into the bubbling surface of the clearest, coldest
kind of a hillside spring.

Their gait was much livelier after that, and in less than ten minutes
Plum Run was sighted, But they did not come out as close to Lost Island
as Jerry had predicted. In fact, they were not certain in which
direction it lay, for to the north lay a cluster of trees apparently
surrounded by water, and which might well be the place they sought. To
the south lay another green spot away from shore.

"It's north of here," declared both Dave and Frank, but Jerry exclaimed
triumphantly, after the first tangle of argument:

"It must be south. If Lost Island was north the wagon bridge'd be
between us and it."

So south they went; and as they drew nearer they saw that the patch of
green was indeed Lost Island. Once they were within close sight of it,
they went forward with all caution. The last hundred yards or so they
made on hands and knees, finding cover in every clump of bushes or
willows on the way.

But finally they were ready to break through the last fringe of willow
and spy out the prospect. Jerry, who was ahead, waited for his two
companions to catch up with him.

"Not a sound, now," he cautioned as they crouched beside him.

Stealthily they pushed aside the leaves that obscured their view.
Suddenly, from behind them a yell, blood-curdling, absolutely
hair-raising, rang out through the stillness. The three turned.

But it was too late. Breaking cover at the same instant, a half-dozen
husky young chaps charged on the surprised trio.

"Up and at them, fellows!" came a roar. "They're part of the gang!"



For a minute or two it was hard for the three boys to understand just
what had happened. They were pounced upon and hurled roughly to the
ground, in spite of their violent struggles, and there they were
pommeled unmercifully. They fought back, but they were hopelessly
outnumbered. It was no adventure-story fight where the lone hero
engages a dozen husky brutes and by superior science and strength lays
his assailants out one by one.

Too bewildered to be really angry, the three found themselves pinned to
the ground. Then they were able to take stock of their attackers. Six
boys they were, of about the same size and age as Dave, Jerry and
Frank, They were dressed in some odd sort of uniform, like brownish
canvas. Just now their faces wore triumphant grins.

"Here comes Phil," remarked one of the three who were standing, coming
over to sit on Jerry's legs, Jerry having seized a favorable
opportunity to attempt escape.

"What's the idea?" inquired the newcomer, a tall but well-knit chap
with a broad, sunburned face and a mop of black hair showing under the
forward brim of his wide hat.

"We caught them trying to sneak up on us, so we fooled them and jumped
on them instead. It's part of that Lost Island gang," volunteered
Dave's captor.

"We're not either," exploded Dave.

"Shut up!" exclaimed the one astride his stomach. "Didn't we see you
slinking along through the bushes?"

"Well, so were you. But we didn't try any wild Indian game on you just
on that account."

"Good reason why. You didn't see us," crowed the one on top, giving
Dave a vigorous poke in the ribs to emphasize the point.

That was too much for Dave. His usual good nature had been oozing out
with every passing second. Now he gave a sudden twist, heaved, turned,
heaved again, and in less time than it was told, was on his feet and
presenting a pair of promising looking fists to the two others who had
quickly come to their comrade's assistance.

"Hold on a minute," suggested the one they had called Phil. "Let's get
the straight of this thing first and fight afterwards. You say you
don't belong on the island?" he asked, turning to Dave.

"We certainly don't. We were trying to get onto it without being seen.
That's why we were skulking along that way."

"Trying to get onto it? You haven't any boat."

"We could swim, couldn't we?"

"But what do you want to get onto the island for? Where are you from,

"None of your particular business," snapped Dave, but Jerry answered as
well as he could with his shortness of breath--he too was "stomached"
by a stout boy of his own size:


"Know anybody there by the name of Tod Fulton? He's a cousin of
mine--why, what's the matter?" for the three boys had cried out in

"Why--why--he's the boy we're after. He's our chum," stammered Jerry at

"Then what you after him for--if he's your chum?"

"Well, he's--he's----" began Jerry, and Dave blurted out:


"What!" cried the whole crew at that. "Tod Fulton drowned!"

"We don't know for sure. That's why we're trying to get onto Lost

Then the story came out, piecemeal, for all three insisted on telling
it. Phil stood as if stunned. At the end he said simply:

"He's my cousin. I'm Phil Fulton. We live at Chester. That's about ten
miles south of here. We're the Flying Eagle Patrol of Boy Scouts--maybe
you noticed our suits."

"Thought you were some kind of bushwhackers the way you dropped on us,"
complained Frank. "But what was the idea in thumping us because you
thought we were from the island?"

"We had good reasons enough," declared Phil. "We left town at midnight
last night, hiked all the way to our boat-landing two miles up the
river, and made the long pull up the Plum in the dark just for the sake
of getting an early morning chance at the best bass rock you ever heard
of--just to get chased out at the point of a shotgun after we'd landed
the first one--a three pounder too. Can you blame us for being sore?"

"On Lost Island?" asked Jerry eagerly.

"No, _off_ Lost Island. A big burly ruffian blew down on us, cussing a
streak, and wouldn't hardly let us get into our boat. Chucked stones at
us all the way across and promised us a mess of birdshot if we came
back. Do you blame us for wanting to lay you out?" It was Dave's
conqueror who spoke.

"If that's what you do on suspicion, I don't want to be around when
you're sure of yourself. My ribs'll be sore for a week."

The boys had been talking excitedly; each one was wrought up over the
fate of poor Tod and this was the only way they were willing to show
their feelings. It was Phil who brought them back to earth.

"Well, fellows," he suggested, "let's get acquainted first, and then
let's see if we can't frame up some way of getting across and going
over that island from end to end. Line up, Scouts, and be presented."

The Scouts lined up in two columns.

"This is Sid Walmsly, nicknamed 'the worm,' partly because that's the
way we pronounce his name, but mostly because it's a long worm that has
no turn, and Sid says he's always the one to be left out. You can
remember him by the wart on his left knuckle. Next is Dick Garrett;
he's assistant Patrol Leader. This thin, long-drawn-out morsel of sweet
temper is Fred Nelson. We tried to nickname him "Angel" but he licked
everyone that tried it on him. Now comes our joker, we'd call him
Trixie if we dared. His ma calls him Algy Brown. Frank Willis stands
first in the behind row. He goes by the name of "Budge," chiefly
because he _won't_ unless he wants to. Barney Knowles, the littlest
giant in the world--the one in the red sweater. He wears a sweater in
July and shirt-sleeves in December. And last of all, but not least--far
from it--Ted Lewis, the only grouchy fat man in captivity. Smile for
us, Teddy." Teddy growled.

Jerry introduced himself and his two chums, and then turned anxiously
to Phil. "Got any plan?"

"Why not just get into our boat and row over? We can tell that chump
over there----"

"Thought you told us good Scouts were always respectful to our elders?"
interrupted Ted, he of the "grouch."

"Respectful where respect is _due_," came the quick response. "We can
tell the gentleman that we have sent the rest of the gang back for the

"And good Scouts never tell lies----" This from Ted again.

"Be still or I'll make it the truth by sending you back after him. We
ought to make the try, anyway, because that makes our next move easier.
If we can't get on the island in the open, we've got to use a little
strategy. If we just could get our boat around to the other side of the

"I've got it!" cried Dave. "Our boat's down the river. While the bunch
of us keep up a demonstration along the shore here, two of us could
slip down and get the boat and sneak in at the lower end."

"Good. We'd best waste no time about it because it's going to be coming
on dark before we know it. Who's going along with me?"

"To the island? I'll go. The man knows _me_," agreed Jerry. "Where's
your boat?"

The rest waited in the cover of the bushes while Phil and Jerry quietly
made their way down the river bank to where the Scout boat was moored.
They sprang in at once, Phil pushing off and hopping lightly to the
oars. There was only one pair, but he sent the boat skimming across the
ripples. No one was in sight on the island, and they were in hopes of
making a landing unobserved, but just as their boat touched shore the
willows parted and the man stepped out on the high bank.

"Back again?" he demanded gruffly.

"Oh, yes," replied Phil easily. "We came back to see if you'd let us
look for a box of tackle one of the boys thinks he left down where we
were fishing this morning."

"Oh! And you," said the man sarcastically, turning to Jerry. "I suppose
you came to look for a lock of hair from your drowned friend's head?"

The man's tone was so unfeeling that Jerry simply gasped, but Phil
boiled over at once.

"I'll have you know that that boy was my cousin. We have good reason
for believing that he's on this island and _we're going to search it_!"

"Oh, indeed!" and Jerry could have sworn that there was a twinkle in
the man's eye for all there was no mistaking the threat in his voice.
"Well, I can promise you a full-sized spanking unless you make
yourselves scarce in just about one half minute. This makes the third
time I've had to chase you off--and third time's the charm, you know."

"But why don't you want us to look for our friend? Surely you've got
nothing against him--or us."

"Not a thing. Not a thing, sonny. Only I live on this place, and I
can't have a troop of youngsters tracking mud in at my front door. That
friend of yours couldn't very well be on my island without my knowing
it, could he?"

"But you've never said out and out that he wasn't on the island,"
asserted Jerry boldly. "And you've acted so suspicious that--that we
wouldn't believe you now if you did say it."

The man laughed at that, for Jerry had started out by trying to be
diplomatic, but his feelings got the better of him before the end.

"I'll be careful not to say it then. As for the tackle box--here it
is." Jerry opened his eyes wide; he had thought the box a pure
invention on the part of Phil. "Now back water and keep backing."

"You think you've got us beat," shouted Jerry at his retreating back.
"Never you worry--I've told Mr. Fulton, and he and Mr. Aikens will be
coming down here with a posse. They won't be asking your permission if
they can investigate an island that doesn't belong to you any more than
it does to me."

"It belongs to Mr. Fulton, I suppose?" challenged the man, and turning
around for a last laugh. Neither boy answered.

"You tell your Mr. Fulton that I said he was welcome to come any time."

"Now what?" asked Jerry, as Phil turned the boat about and headed for
the other shore.

"What next? Night, mostly. Then I think we'll show your Mr. Billings a
few Scout tricks he doesn't know about."

"I didn't say his name was Billings----"

"I know--but _I_ did. I've seen him before. That may be the reason he's
so touchy about having us land on the island. The last time I saw him
it was down at dad's office. Uncle Ed--that's Mr. Fulton, you know--was
there, and when I opened the door on them suddenly, he and this
Billings were having the hottest kind of an argument. Dad hustled me
out of there in a hurry, but not before Uncle Ed'd called him
Billings--and a lot of other things."

"You think then that Billings is still sore at Mr. Fulton, and that
he's holding Tod there----"

"Nothing more likely. We'll know to-night. At least we'll know whether
Tod is there--and I guess we'll make a good strong try at getting him

"How can we do it? What's your plan?"

"Leave it to the Flying Eagle Scouts. I'm not bragging, but we're one
live crew!"



Still, it was some time after the return of Phil and Jerry from their
unsuccessful sortie into the enemy's country, before a practical plan
occurred to the ten-brain-power plotters. But the scheme, once its
details had been worked out, struck them all as having a fair chance
for success. Briefly, it was this:

Two of the boys--Jerry and Phil were again chosen--were to go down the
river to the bridge and cross over and get the _Big Four_. They were to
come back up the river as quietly as possible, hugging the opposite
shore to a point about two hundred yards below the island, where the
east bank spurred off into a fairly high hill. Here one of the boys was
to leave the boat, as near nine o'clock as possible--it was now
seven--and climb the hill, where he was to signal across to Dick
Garrett, who would be watching directly opposite.

Then Jerry and Phil were to make all speed to Lost Island, landing at
the lower end. The Boy Scouts, and Dave and Frank, were to gather as
conspicuously as possible--a flaring camp fire would show their
intentions--and pretend that _they_ were about to embark for the island.

That _ought_ to leave the lower end of the island unguarded for the
safe landing of Jerry and Phil. Once they were ashore, the dense bushes
and the darkness ought to be sufficient cover for their search.

Little time had been lost, really, in making the plan, for the Scouts
had been bustling back and forth, building a camp fire and preparing
supper. Four of them had set up the tents, finishing the task begun by
all of them when Jerry and Phil set out on their first trip to the

It was not a very fancy meal the boys sat down to. The food was served
on paper lunch plates, so there would be no dish-washing. Each Scout
carried knife, fork, spoon and tincup. There was no extra "silverware"
save the cook's big utensils. So the three outsiders ate with fingers
and pocketknives. A nice mess of perch had been caught in a near-by
creek, and Frank Willis, whose turn it was to act as chef, had browned
them most artistically. There were some ash-baked potatoes, and a
farmhouse close by had provided a generous supply of buttermilk.

The last of the meal was eaten by the light of the camp fire, for the
sky had clouded over and night seemed to drop suddenly from above.
Licking the last morsel of the delicious fish from his greasy
finger-ends, and wiping his greasier mouth on his sleeve, Jerry jumped
to his feet and announced:

"I'm ready, Phil, if you are."

"I've been ready for a quarter of an hour--just waiting for the skillet
to be empty, because I knew you'd never stir so long as there was a
crumb left. Where do you put it all?"

"I've got to stow away a lot to balance my brains. I notice you're a
light eater," retorted Jerry, but Phil only chuckled.

"All right, you two--be on your merry way," put in Dick Garrett. "This
is no picnic excursion you're starting off on. And don't forget your
oars, unless you expect to row your boat with your wits."

The two made no reply; a half minute later there were only eight boys
in camp.

Something like a quarter of a mile inland was the gravel road that
followed the windings of Plum Run, to cut across at the wagon bridge.
Two stealthy figures hurried through the woods and across the fields,
to emerge on the other side of a barbed wire fence and trudge off down
the dusty road.

"Some woodsman, you are!" snorted Phil in purposely exaggerated
disgust. "When you skulked through the brush the limbs could be heard
popping for a mile. How many times did you fall down?"

"Fall down? What you mean, fall down? Every time you stumbled over your
shadow I thought you were ducking for cover, so I simply crouched to
keep out of sight."

Phil snorted, and quickened his pace. Jerry put an extra few inches on
his own stride and easily kept up. They passed a farmhouse--at good
speed, for a dog came out and after a few suspicious sniffs proceeded
to satisfy his appetite on Phil's leg. A loud ripping noise told that
he at least kept a souvenir of the visit.

The dog's excited barking kept them company to the next farmhouse,
which they passed as silently as possible, not particularly desiring to
repeat the experience.

"It was your whistling back there that scared up that dog--see if you
can whistle a patch onto my leggins," Phil suggested when they were
once more surrounded by open fields.

Jerry did not answer, for just ahead of them the road forked and he was
trying to remember which turn it was one took to get to the bridge. He
had never gone this way, but he had once heard a farmer giving
directions to a party of automobilists. However, Phil unhesitatingly
took the branch that cut in toward the river, so he said nothing for
some time.

"Ever been over this road before?" he ventured to ask when the road
suddenly became so rough that they stumbled at every step.

"No--never been up this way. We always fish on the other side of the

"How do you know then that this is the right road?"

"It turned in toward the river, didn't it? And the other road angled
off toward Tarryville."

"But the bridge road is graveled all the way, and if this isn't blue
clay I'll eat my hat. It might just be a private road to some farm, and
the other road might have swung around after a bit. This muck-hole
doesn't look good to me."

"All the same, through those trees yonder I can see water. It's the old
Plum all right. Shake a leg."

"I think we'll gain time by shaking two legs--back to the fork. That's
the Plum, all right enough, but you'll walk through marsh all the way
to the bridge if you try to follow the bank. I remember now: this is
the old wood road. It hasn't been used since they cut timber on the
Jameson tract."

Jerry did not wait to finish his argument but had already gone back a
good fifty feet of the way to the other road, when he noticed that Phil
was not following him.

"What's the matter, Phil?"

"Don't you think we've wasted enough time, without losing some more by
going back?"

"We'll lose more by going ahead. And we're losing now by standing still
chewing the rag about it. Come on."

"I'm going ahead. You followed my lead this far; I guess it won't hurt
you to follow it a little farther. I'm Patrol Leader, you know."

Jerry sensed a little resentment in Phil's tone, and remembered that
once or twice he had spoken to the Scout leader just as he did to his
chums--and his chums always looked to him for commands.

"I'm not trying to boss you, Phil, don't think that. But I _know_ that
the other way is the best way, and I've _got_ to follow it. So you go
ahead, and I'll wait for you at this end of the bridge."

Without further word he strode off on the back road. It was so dark
that he might have done so safely, but he did not look back.
Nevertheless, a pleased grin spread over his face, for he was soon
aware that Phil was tagging along not many paces behind. That had
always been the way. Jerry was a born leader; the other boys followed
him willingly because they never found any cause to lose confidence in
his judgment.

"Phil, you're a genuine sport," was all he said as the other boy fell
into step beside him as once more they reached the gravel roadway and
turned into the right-hand branch.

Sooner than they expected they saw the gaunt skeleton of the upper
bridgework against the dark sky. Jerry did not permit himself an "I
told you so," but he said instead:

"We'll be in a pretty pickle if we get on the other side and find our
boat gone."

Phil made no answer and in silence they walked across the
hollow-echoing bridge. A series of giant stone steps led down to the
river bank, and as soon as they reached bottom they saw that their
fears were groundless, for there lay the _Big Four_ as Jerry and Dave
had left her eighteen hours before. Deep footprints in the mud bank,
dimly visible in the dusk, told that someone had stopped to look the
boat over. Perhaps had the oars been handy, the boat might not have
remained so safely.

The boys were glad to relieve their shoulders of the pair they had
taken turns in carrying, and without pausing to rest, they stepped into
the boat, Phil finding some difficulty in making the Scout boat's oars
fit the _Big Four's_ oarlocks. But at last they were off and Jerry bent
to his task. The _Big Four_ had been built for speed, and the craft was
trimmed just right for getting the most with the least effort. The
current was fairly swift here, but Jerry hugged the east bank and took
advantage of every eddy. It was not long before Lost Island swung into

"Let me spell you off," suggested Phil, but Jerry shook his head.

"After we land at the hill you can take her the rest of the way. I
think I'll pull in at that little cove just ahead. It makes a little
longer walk, but it's well out of sight of the island. Who'll climb the

"Leave that to me. I kind of want to try out a little signaling stunt
that Dick and I have been figuring on. Here's a good sandy stretch;
let's beach her here."

The boat grated on the pebbly shore; Phil sprang lightly out, and Jerry
was left alone. He could hear Phil scrunching over the rocks and
through the brush; then all was still. Jerry strained his eyes to see
if he could make out the figure of Dick, who must be almost directly
opposite, but only the dense black of the wood met his gaze. He waited
patiently for the gleam of the flashlight, but minute after minute
slipped by, and no signal appeared.

So he was somewhat surprised when after perhaps fifteen minutes he
heard a footstep on the beach and he realized that Phil was returning.

"Our scheme worked fine," announced the Scout leader. "Bet you never
even saw Dick's signal."

"No, I didn't," confessed Jerry.

"Good reason why. You see, I figured out that if you shoot a flash
straight out in front of you very long everybody can see it. A quick
flash--well, anyone who saw it might think it was just lightning or the
interurban. So I just snapped about a dozen straight up into the air,
until I got a return flash from Dick. Then I used this." He pulled out
a little pocket mirror. "I pointed my light straight at the ground, and
gave him a dot and dash message by holding the mirror in the light.
Some scheme, eh?"

Jerry merely grunted, but way down in his heart a deep respect was
forming for these Boy Scouts and their resourcefulness.

"Just flash a few signals to those oars," he advised, taking his place
in the stern. "And be careful with that left oar--she squeaks if you
pull her too hard."

But Phil soon showed that he needed no advice about handling a boat.
Without a sound--without a ripple, almost--they moved away from shore
and cut out into the current.

"Safe to get out into line with the island, I guess. If they're
watching, it's the shore they'll be most suspicious of."

"They? We've only seen one out there."

"Maybe. But I'm betting on a pair of them at least. It's about time for
the boys to--listen to those Indians, would you? I'm afraid they're
overdoing it a bit."

From the far shore, out of sight behind Lost Island, rose a hubbub of
cries that sounded as if the island were about to be attacked by a war
party of Sioux. A Boy Scout yell sounded out, the voices of Dave and
Frank heard above the rest.

"Guess your two must have deserted your banner and joined the Eagles,"
teased Phil.

The island lay dead ahead of them, dark and still. Both boys had a
shivery feeling of being watched, but no sign was apparent as they
floated in behind the point of the island and noiselessly beached the

"We'd best stay close together," suggested Jerry in a whisper.

"And by all means don't whisper--talk in an undertone. A whisper
carries twice as far," countered Phil. Jerry marked down one more to
the score of the Boy Scouts.

But there was little need for talk. The brush was heavy, broken by
thickets of plum trees and an occasional sapling of hickory; the ground
was boggy in spots, and once Jerry sank almost to his knees in oozy
mud. A screech owl hooted in a tree close by, and cold shivers ran up
and down their backbones. Unbroken by path or opening, the island
wilderness lay before them.

They walked hours it seemed, trying their best not to advertise their
coming in breaking limbs and rustling leaves, for the night was
uncannily still. It was a great relief, therefore, when the underbrush
suddenly gave way to a few low trees and after that open ground. Jerry
was for plunging right ahead, relying on the darkness, but Phil caught
his arm.

"Circle it," he commanded, and Jerry, little used to obeying orders as
he was, at once saw the wisdom of the idea and agreed. They were nearly
halfway around the open plot when they struck a path, evidently leading
to the river. But the other end must go somewhere, and they strained
their eyes into the darkness.

"A house, I do believe," mumbled Phil.

"Shall we risk going closer?"

"Got to. Not a sound now. Let's take off our shoes."

In their stocking feet they stealthily drew nearer the dark blot
against the background. When they were within twenty feet they saw it
was not a cabin, but one end of a long, narrow, shed-like structure,
perhaps twenty feet wide and running far back into the darkness. They
approached it cautiously and began feeling carefully along the higher
side for some sort of door or opening. They had gone a good thirty
feet, their nerves tingling with the hope of next-instant discovery,
when Phil broke the silence with a low-toned sentence.

"There's a house or cabin of some kind less than twenty feet away."

Jerry did not look. His groping fingers had found something that felt
like a door-edge. His hand closed over a knob.

"Here's the door!" he exclaimed eagerly, and then felt his heart almost
stop beating. The knob had been turned in his hand! But before he could
say a word, a sudden "Sh!" sounded from his companion.

"Did you hear it?" gasped Phil.

"What?" asked Jerry, his voice trembling in spite of him.

But Phil did not answer--there was no need. From the cabin came a sound
that set every nerve on edge. It was a groan--the groan of someone in
great agony.



In the excitement of hearing that groan, Jerry forgot every other
thought. Both boys jumped at once to the same conclusion: Tod was in
that cabin! Perhaps he had been hurt, or perhaps, even, that ruffian
was mistreating him. With one accord they broke for the cabin, making
for where a thin pencil of light hinted at a door. They wasted no time
fumbling for the knob, but put all the strength of their shoulders
against the opening.

The door gave, suddenly, and they tumbled over each other into a dimly
lighted room. It was fortunate for them that there was no one there,
for in falling Phil overturned a chair, which in turn managed to become
entangled in Jerry's legs, who came to the floor with a suddenness that
did not give Phil time to get out of the way. Half stunned, they lay
there panting, till a renewal of the moaning aroused them to quick

Phil jumped to his feet and caught up a leg of the chair, that had been
broken loose in the triple fall. It was well to have some sort of
weapon. The sounds seemed to have come from above, where a trap door
indicated a loft or attic of some sort. The boys looked wildly about
for some means of getting up to the trap door, but the light of the
smoky kerosene lamp revealed nothing. The chair might have helped them,
but it was wrecked beyond hope.

"Perhaps if we called to him, he might answer," ventured Jerry huskily.

"First see if you can reach the trap door if you stand on my
shoulders." Phil made a stirrup of his hands and gave Jerry a leg up.
Wabbling uncertainly, but managing to straighten himself, Jerry caught
at the edge of the opening.

"Nailed!" he exclaimed disappointedly as he jumped to the floor. "Shall
we call?" Phil nodded.

"Tod. Oh, Tod!"

Only silence. Again they called.

"Tod--Tod Fulton."

There was an answer this time, but not of the sort nor from the
direction the boys expected. It was more like a whine than a groan this
time, and it came from the far side of the room. For the first time the
boys noticed that there was a door there, partly open. They made a rush
for it, Jerry in the lead. But he got no farther than the threshold. As
he reached it, the door was flung open in his face.

In the doorway stood a sixteen-year-old girl, a slim, black-haired slip
of a thing, her black eyes snapping. One hand was doubled up into a
fist that would have made any boy laugh, but there was no laughter in
the other hand. It brandished a wicked looking hand-axe, and it was
evident from the way she handled it that there was strength in those
scrawny arms.

"You get out of here!" she commanded, advancing a step.

Jerry backed away hastily, but Phil only laughed, trying to balance
himself on the two and a half legs of the wrecked chair.

"I've seen you before, Lizzie, and you don't scare me a bit with that
meat axe."

"It's no meat axe; it's a wood axe--look out for your heads," she
retorted scornfully. "Clear out of here or I'll make kindling of both
of you."

"Put down that cleaver, Lizzie, and let's talk sense. We came here to
get Tod Fulton--he's my cousin, you know----" but that was as far as he

The girl, her face showing a determination that made nonchalant Phil
jump up from his chair and beat a quick retreat, walked up on them, the
axe flashing viciously back and forth before her.

"You're going to get off this island," she exclaimed, "and you're going
to do it quick. No tricks now! The first one who makes a break gets
this axe in the back--and I can throw straight. About face, now. March!"

There was nothing to do but obey. Sheepishly enough the boys turned and
meekly let her drive them out into the dark. As she passed the lamp she
caught it down from the bracket on the wall with one hand.

Thus they marched across the open ground, along the narrow path and out
on the waterfront.

"Our boat is down at the other end of the island" remarked Phil,
turning his head ever so slightly.

"I'll have my father bring it over to you in the morning," answered the
girl relentlessly. "I see your friends waiting for you over on the
other side, so it wouldn't be fair to keep them in suspense."

"You're surely not going to make us try to swim it?" pleaded Phil,
pretending great consternation, hoping that he might delay their
departure till something might happen to give them the advantage.

"That's not all I am going to do." Setting down her lamp on a
convenient rock, and changing her axe to her left hand, she stooped
over and picked up a pebble. With a quick jerk she drew back her arm
and then shot it out, boy-fashion The boys heard the stone hum as it
sailed through the air. An instant, and then a howl of pain arose from
one of the Scouts dancing about the blazing camp fire on the other
shore. It was a good hundred yards away.

"I just did that to show you what'd happen to you if you didn't head
straight for that gang of pirates over there," she said grimly.

"You're _some_--tomboy!" exclaimed Phil, admiringly, Jerry thought, but
the girl only laughed sarcastically.

"You first," she demanded. "You're just watching for a chance to catch
me off my guard. I'm onto you."

Phil had no choice, so without more ado, he plunged in and began
cutting the water neatly in the direction of the camp fire.

"He swims well, doesn't he?" remarked the girl, so easily that Jerry
could have sworn she was about ready to laugh.

"He sure does!" he agreed. "He's got me beat a mile. Say," he coaxed,
"we didn't mean any harm. We were just looking for a boy who was
supposed to have got drowned up the river a piece but we believe landed
here on Lost Island. Just tell me whether he's alive or not, and we
won't bother you any more."

"Oh, you're no bother. In fact, I rather enjoyed your little
visit--though I will admit you scared me a bit when you held the knob
of the door to the hangar----"

"Hangar? What's that?"

"It's--it's French for--woodshed," the girl stammered. "It's your turn
now," motioning toward the water.

"But won't you tell me about Tod?"

"Did you ask my father about him?"

"If it _was_ your father, yes."

"And he didn't tell you!"

"No, and he wouldn't let us search the island."

"Well, I'm my father's daughter. So into the briny deep with you. I
hope the fish don't bite you."

"But, look here," began Jerry, then fell silent and moved toward the
waters edge, for the girl had picked up a handful of large pebbles and
stood plumping them meaningly into the river.

The water was warm, and aside from his clothes, Jerry did not mind the
swim. After he had stroked along perhaps a third of the way, he turned
on his back. The light had disappeared from shore. He had a moment's
impulse to turn back, but was afraid she might be waiting in the
darkness to greet him with a laugh and an invitation to take to the
water again.

He turned once more and swam steadily across the current. But after a
little, once more he turned on his back, only kicking occasionally to
keep himself afloat. He fancied he had heard some noise that did not
belong with the night.

There it was again, that regular beat as of wood striking against wood.
He listened intently, trying to place the sound. Finally, it dawned on
him that it was a boat, rowed by means of a pair of loose oars.

His mind worked quickly. It could not be the Boy Scout boat, for the
sound was not right for that. It could only be the man of the island,
"Lizzie's" father--she had as much as said he was away. At any rate,
Jerry decided, he would wait there and find out. If the worst came to
the worst he could always dive out of sight.

Nearer and nearer came the boat. Jerry lay in the water with only his
nose showing. He was too heavy-boned to be very good at floating, but
the barest movement of hands or feet kept him from going under. At
first he could make out nothing, but as his eyes focused more sharply
he distinguished a slow-moving shape against the gray of the sky. It
was barely twenty feet away, headed almost directly at him.

A few noiseless strokes put him inside the boat's path, but when he
stopped paddling he realized to his horror that the boat had changed
direction and was cutting in toward the island. It was almost upon him
when he dived.

He was not quick enough. The landward oar caught him a flat blow across
his eyes. Blinded, dazed, his mouth full of water, he flung up his
arms. He had a vague sense of having caught hold of something, and he
held on. Through a sort of mist he heard a voice saying laughingly:

"Hit a snag, John. Better be careful or you'll wreck the ship in sight
of harbor."

Little by little Jerry's head cleared and he realized that he had
caught hold of the stern of the boat. He could not see over the edge,
but he could tell that there were two people in the boat, both men.
They talked fitfully, but for the most part their voices came to Jerry
only as meaningless mumbles. Once more the dark outline of Lost Island
lay before him, and in Jerry's heart arose a new hope that perhaps this
time he would not come away empty-handed. The boat grounded on the
beach where he and Phil had stood only a few minutes before. The man
who had been at the oars jumped out and pulled the boat well up on
shore. Jerry, finding that he could touch bottom, had let go and now
stood well hidden in the water.

"You might as well wait here in the boat," said the one who had gone
ashore. "I won't be gone but a minute."

He moved up the bank. It was the same man Jerry had encountered twice
before on his island visits. But who was the man in the boat? Jerry
wished he dared come closer.

The minutes passed slowly, and the water did not feel as warm as it had
at first. He was greatly relieved when once more he heard the rustle of
someone coming through the tall grass. But though the sound came nearer
and nearer, Jerry, his nerves literally on end, found the wait a long
one. Would the man never get there?

But the delay was quickly explained. There were two instead of one
crunching across the beach, and the other stumbled as he walked and
would have fallen more than once had it not been for the supporting arm
of his companion. Jerry could have shouted from joy had he dared, for
some instinct told him that that swaying form belonged to no one but
his chum, Tod Fulton.

And then, in an instant, the mystery was all made clear--at least for
the instant. The man in the boat rose and struck a match so that the
other could see to help wobbly Tod to a seat. As the light flared up
full, Jerry had a good sight of the face of the man who stood waiting.

It was Mr. Fulton!



And then it was that Jerry saw that the temporary clearing of the
mystery only made things darker than ever. For, why should Tod be
rescued in this weird fashion? Why had the man refused to let Tod's
friends come on the island? And why, why had Mr. Fulton laughed at
Jerry's story--and yet followed his clue in this stealthy way? Jerry,
up to his nose in the water, and deeper than that in perplexity, saw
that the whole affair was really no longer the mystery of Tod Fulton's
disappearance, but the mystery of Lost Island.

So, although he now felt safe from bodily harm, because of Mr. Fulton's
presence, he made no sign, but waited there a scant dozen feet beyond
the stern of the boat. He heard Tod answer a few low-toned questions of
his father, but could not make out either question or answer. He saw
Mr. Fulton pick up the oars and poise them for a sweep, dropping the
blades into the water to exchange a last sentence with the shadow who
stood waiting on the bank.

"Everything all right, then, Billings!"

"Varnish on the left plane cracked pretty badly, Mr. Fulton. I had to
scrape it off and refinish it. It really ought to have another day to

Jerry repeated, puzzled, to himself: "Left plane--what in thunder's

Billings went on:

"You won't forget to bring the timer. Elizabeth will get it at the
usual place if you can leave it by noon."

"It'll be there, Billings."

Not a word more was said as the boat was swung about and headed out
into the stream, save that Mr. Fulton chuckled:

"Old Billings rather had you worried, eh, son, until he gave you my

Tod laughed, so heartily that Jerry, who had watched his chance to cut
out into the wake of the boat and hold on behind with one hand, could
not himself forbear a little happy ripple.

"What was that?" exclaimed Mr. Fulton, a full minute after.

"I don't know," answered Tod. "I was waiting for it to come again.
Sounded like--only _he_ couldn't be here."

"Who couldn't?"

"It sounded like a laugh--and there's only one person, outside of a
billygoat, who's got a gurgle like that."

"Your wetting didn't tame you down any, did it? Who's the goat you had
in mind?"

"Jerry King--_well_, what in the world!"

Over the back of the boat clambered a dripping, wrathful figure.

"I'll be switched if I'm going to be dragged along at the tail of this
scow and be insulted any longer. I laugh like a billygoat, do I? For
two cents I'd scuttle the ship!"

But Jerry's anger was more put on than real, and under Mr. Fulton's
banter and Tod's grateful appreciation of the attempted rescue, he soon
calmed down.

"What was the matter with you back there on the island? We heard you
groaning as if you'd green-appled yourself double."

"Groaning? Me groaning? Huh! Say, next time you go bearding damsels in
distress and rescuing castaway fishermen, you learn how to tell the
difference between a bulldog who's whining to get out and get at you,
and a wounded hero. It's a good thing you didn't have a chance to
follow up that 'groan'--you'd have _groan_ wiser."

"One more like that, Tod," suggested Mr. Fulton wearily, "and I think
I'll take a hand myself."

"But why," Jerry wanted to know, "didn't you come back home right
away--if you weren't hurt?"

"Oh, but I was. You try going over that dam once and see if your
insides-out don't get pretty well mixed up. I got a terrific thump on
the back of the head when the boat turned turtle, and if I hadn't had a
leg under the seat, I'd be in Davy Jones' locker right now. When I came
to I didn't know whether I was me or the boat. I had gallons of water
in me and--and I think I swallowed a worm or two; the bait can got
tipped over--and all the worms were gone--somewhere."

"But why did you stay----" Jerry began, feeling vaguely that Tod was
talking so much to keep him from asking questions. But he was not
allowed even to ask this one, for Mr. Fulton interrupted with:

"I got busy right away after you had told me about your Lost Island
clue, and soon got a message through to--to Mr. Billings there. When he
told me Tod was safe and sound, I thought I'd wait until I had finished
some important business I just couldn't leave. That's how it was so
late before I got here."

"Mr. Billings came and got you, didn't he?" remarked Jerry, trying to
keep the suspicion out of his voice. If they had a secret that was none
of his business, _he_ wouldn't pry.

"Yes," said Mr. Fulton, and made no further explanation.

"But there were two of you on the island after me, weren't there? Who
was the other hero?" Tod wanted to know.

"Where were you, that you knew there were two of us?"

"I was all doubled up in that little anteroom where the dog
was--doubled up laughing." Then he added hastily, thinking he had
teased poor Jerry far enough: "But I was locked in."

"Why locked in, if Mr. Billings had gone to bring your father? Afraid
you'd up and rescue yourself?" Jerry's tone was downright sarcastic.

"No, Jerry--you see, the island--that is," looking toward Mr. Fulton as
if for permission to go on, "that is, there's something going on on
Lost Island that Mr. Billings figures isn't anybody else's business,
and he didn't want to take chances of my nosing around."

"I see," said Jerry dryly. "So of course rather than row you across to
dry land himself he brought your father here to get you. It's all as
plain as the wart on a pumpkinhead's nose!"

"Now, Jerry, you're getting way up in the air without any cause. I'll
tell you this much, because I think you've got a right to know: Mr.
Billing's secret really is mine. Just as soon as I dare I'll tell you
all about it. But what became of your friend--if there _were_ two of

"I was so peeved that I forgot all about Phil. It's Phil Fulton----"

"What!" cried Tod. "Cousin Phil. Where is he?"

"Standing on the bank just opposite Lost Island and figuring out how
soon he ought to give me up for drowned or hand-axed by a savage
female. He may have gone for the sheriff by this time--or the coroner.
Better take me to shore here and I'll go back."

Mr. Fulton began pulling the boat toward shore. "How did he happen to
get into this?" he asked.

Jerry told him the whole story of the encounter with the Boy Scouts.
"They've pitched camp there, so I guess I'll see if they can dry me out
and put me up for the night," he finished.

As the boat neared shore Tod began to show signs of suppressed
excitement. Finally, as Jerry was about to jump out into the shallow
water, being already soaked through, Tod began coaxingly:

"Why couldn't I go on with Jerry, dad? You told me you'd let me go
camping with the bunch, don't you remember? And I promised Phil I'd
show him the best bass lake in the country----"

"I ought to take you back to town and let Doc Burgess look you over.
Maybe the bones are pressing on your brain where you bumped your head.
You act like it. But the fact is I _didn't_ want to go back to
Watertown--I ought to chase right down to Chester for that timer. It
was promised for to-morrow, and there isn't a minute to be lost. There
aren't any falls down this way, are there?" he asked with mock

"Come on, dad, say I can go!" begged Tod.

"We-l-l," hesitated Mr. Fulton, "suppose we say I'll let you stay till
morning--or night, rather. Then we'll see."

Jerry jumped out at this point and splashed his way to shore. He had a
feeling that the two might want to talk without being overheard.
Apparently he was right, as for a good five minutes the two conversed
in low tones. Jerry tried his best not to hear what was said, but every
now and then a sentence reached his ears. But it was so much Greek as
far as he was concerned.

He had walked inland a bit, finally striking the narrow path that
fishermen had cut along the top of the high bank. It swung back toward
the edge, cut off from view by a rank growth of willows. He noticed
that the boat had drifted downstream until it now stood almost opposite
him, and only a few feet from shore. Thus it was that, as Mr. Fulton
backed water with his left-hand oar and rammed the nose of the boat
toward the shelving beach, he heard one complete sentence, distinct and

"It's up to you, Tod, to get them away. We can't afford any
complications at this stage of the game. To-morrow is the day!"

"Trust me, dad!" exclaimed Tod, going up and giving his father's
shoulder a squeeze. Jerry waited for no more. Bending low, he scurried
far down the path, so that Tod could have no suspicion that his chum
had overheard.

"Are you coming?" he shouted when he felt that he had gone far enough.

"Hold up a second and I'll be with you. Good night, dad."

"Good night, Mr. Fulton," shouted Jerry in turn, then waited for Tod.

The journey to the Boy Scout camp was made in silence, for Jerry did
not feel that he dared ask any more questions, and Tod volunteered no
further explanation. Just outside the ring of light cast by the
deserted camp fire, however, Jerry halted and asked:

"Thought what you'll tell _them?_"

"Why, no. Just what I told you, Jerry."

"You can't--unless you tell them more. They'd never be satisfied with

"I'm sorry, Jerry. I'd like to tell you the whole yarn, but--but you
see how it is."

"I don't but I guess I can wait. Only I do think you ought to have
something cooked up that would stop their questions. Will you leave it
to me?"

"Surest thing you know. What'll you say?"

"That's my secret. You play up to my leads, that's all you've got to
do. _Hello_, bunch!" he shouted.

"Wow! Hooray! There he is!" came cries of delight from the darkness in
the direction of the river, and a moment later the boys, who had been
almost frantic with worry over the non-appearance of Jerry, came
trooping up. When they found Tod with him, their joy was unbounded.
Their excited questions and exclamations of surprise gave Jerry a
much-needed instant in which to collect his story-inventing wits. At
last Phil quieted down his dancing mob and put the question Jerry had
been awaiting:

"How did you do it?"

"That's the funny part of it. I didn't. Tod's dad came along and did it
for me."

"I hope he beat up that old grouch----"

"Huh, you got another guess coming. They're old friends----yes," as a
cry of unbelief went up, "that's why Tod was in no hurry to be rescued.
His name's Billings, and Mr. Fulton used to be in business with him. Is
yet, isn't he, Tod?"

"Uhuh--I think so."

"Well, you may know there's fish around Lost Island. Billings is what I
call a fish hog. He don't want anybody to know about the place--wants
it all for himself. Tod drifts onto the island and the man can't very
well throw _him_ off, half drowned as he is. Then, when he gets the
water out of Tod, all but his brain, he finds it's the son of his
partner, and he can't very well throw him off _then_. There's a girl on
that mound out there, and she comes in with a string of the biggest
fish you ever saw. You couldn't drive Tod off with a club after that.
After the fish, I mean, not the girl. He gets a message to his father,
and makes his plans to stay there all summer, but dad comes down
to-night and spoils his plans by dragging him off. He kind of thinks he
doesn't want all the fish dragged out by the tails--he likes to hook a
few big ones himself. I'd got out into the middle of the Plum when I
heard the sound of prodigious weeping--it was Tod, saying a last
farewell to the big fishes--and the little girl.

"So I swam back. And here he is and here I am, and we're both pledged
not to go back on Lost Island."

"Righto!" cried Tod, in great relief, Jerry could plainly see. "And dad
asked me to coax you chaps to keep away from old Billings--he's a
regular bear, anyway. But to make up for that, to-morrow I'm going to
take you to the swellest pickerel lake you ever laid eyes on."

"You mean _bass_ lake, don't you?" asked Jerry maliciously.

"Pickerel and bass," agreed Tod without an instant's hesitation. "Let's
turn in; we want to make an early start."

It was late, however, before the camp was finally quiet, for someone
started a story, and that brought on another and another, till half of
the Scouts fell asleep sitting bolt upright.

But as one lone boy, the last awake, rolled near the fire in his
borrowed blanket, he chuckled knowingly to himself and said:

"Foxy old Tod! Dad sure can 'trust' him. But I'm just going to be
curious enough to block his little game so far as I'm concerned. _I'm_
going to stick around!"



Jerry had a hard time next morning explaining just why he couldn't go
along on the proposed fishing trip. Tod was inclined to accept his
excuses at face value, but Dave and Frank could not understand why
Jerry should so suddenly about-face in his notions. Just the day before
he had talked as if he was prepared to stay a week. But his promise of
a speedy return--with his own fishing tackle--finally silenced their
grumblings, especially when he agreed to make their peace with two
mothers who would be asking some pretty hard questions on their own

But Jerry was not to get away without taking part in an incident that
almost provided a disagreeable end for the adventure. It was while they
were all at breakfast. Tod had been giving a glorious account of the
thrilling sport he had enjoyed on his last trip to the bass lake he
promised to guide them to. Suddenly, in the midst of a sentence, he
stopped dead. His jaw dropped. He positively gasped.

"_There she is!_"

Then his face became blank. After a hasty glance about the circle of
astonished faces, he went on with his fish story. But he was not
allowed to go far.

It was Phil, taking a cousin's rights, who put the sharp question.

"Is your mind wandering, or what? 'There she is!' Who is _she_--and
where? We don't want to hear your old fish yarn anyway."

"I guess he's still thinking of that island girl," suggested Jerry,
realizing that Tod had put himself into some kind of a hole, and
wishing to help his chum out. But Phil was not to be so easily

"There's something mighty queer about this whole proposition. That yarn
of yours last night, Jerry, didn't sit very easy on my pillow, and it
doesn't rest very easy on my breakfast, either. What's the idea? What
you trying to hide, you two?"

"Nothing," said Tod, and Jerry repeated the word.

 "Nothing! You make me tired. Now, out with it. I swam across that
creek last night in my clothes on account of you, and I figure you've
got a right to tell me why."

"And I figure you've got a right to believe me when I told you why last

"You didn't. You left it to Jerry to cook up a story that would keep us
from asking questions. And now you yell out, 'There she is!' and sit
there gaping at the sky, with your mouth wide open as if you expected a
crow to lay an egg on your tongue. What does it all mean?"

"It means I'm still capable of taking care of my own business!" snapped

"Oh--very well. After this I'll let you."

It was an uncomfortable group that sat about the rest of the breakfast,
even after Tod had begged his cousin's pardon for ungrateful loss of
temper, and Phil had said that it was "all right."

Jerry was afraid for awhile that the fishing trip would be called off,
but in the boisterous horseplay that went with the washing of the
scanty dishes, all differences were forgotten, especially when Phil,
scuffling in friendly fashion, put Tod down on his back and pulled that
squirming wrestler's nose till he shouted "Enough!"

It was with feelings of mingled amusement and relief that Jerry watched
the noisy crowd pile into the two boats, the Scout boat and the _Big
Four_, and paddle downstream, soon to be lost sight of behind Lost
Island. His satisfaction was somewhat lessened by the fact that Phil
had felt it necessary that one of their number remain behind to stand
guard over the camp, but Jerry was sure that he would have no great
trouble in keeping away from Frank Willis, trusting that "Budge" would
live up to his reputation.

He began well, for hardly was the camp deserted before he went back to
his blankets. "Now some folks like fishing," he yawned, "and I do too
when the fish don't bite too fast; but I like sleep. It's good for what
ails you, and it's good if nothing ails you. Take it in regular doses
or between meals--it always straightens you out."

Jerry did not argue with him. A few minutes later his regular breathing
told the world at large and Jerry in particular that so far as one
Budge was concerned the coast was clear.

As a matter of fact, Jerry did not feel that there would be anything to
see until late in the afternoon at best. The conversation between Mr.
Fulton and the man Billings had seemed to indicate that nothing out of
the ordinary was to happen that day, but Mr. Fulton's parting words to
Tod gave Jerry hope. "This is the day!" he had said.

At any rate, he slipped out of camp and scouted about for a comfortable
spot in which to keep an eye on Lost Island. But after he had sat there
a half hour, he began to have twinges of the same disease that
afflicted Budge and he saw that it would be necessary for him to move
about a bit in order to stay awake. He regretted having left the camp
without a fishing pole; that would at least give him something to do to
pass the time away. With something like that in mind he started back
toward the shady place where he had left Budge snoozing.

But as the walk started his blood circulating again, and his brain
became active once more, he had a new idea. "Old Tod's a sly fox," he
said to himself. "He's not going to be among the missing when the fun
is on. He's going to take them down to his bass lake, and then he's
going to slip away. He'll have to come back by land, so he'll probably
take them to Last Shot Lake. It'll take them an hour to get there, but
he can come back afoot in half that time if he's in a hurry--and I
guess he is. He most likely will hang around half an hour before he
thinks it's safe to make his getaway. That's two hours all told. In
some fifteen or twenty minutes he ought to come skulking along through
the woods.

"There's that hill yonder--it ought to make a good spy-post. Little
Jerry bids these parts a fond adieu."

Something like a strong quarter of a mile down the river, and perhaps
that much inland, stood a lonesome hill, almost bare of trees save a
clump of perhaps a dozen on the very summit. It was an ideal hiding
place. Leaving the road after cutting through the river timber and
following it a few hundred yards, he plunged into a dense growth of
scrub oak and hazel brush that extended almost to the base of his hill.

He came to one bare spot, perhaps an acre in extent, and was about to
leave the shelter of the brush for the comparatively easy going of the
weedy grass, when, almost opposite him, he saw a figure emerge from the

At first he thought it was Tod, and he chuckled to himself as he
thought how quickly his guess had been proved true. But when a second
stepped out close behind the first, Jerry realized that neither one was
his friend, even before he noticed that both were carrying rifles.

A pair of hunters, no doubt, Jerry surmised, although he wondered idly
what they would be hunting at this season of the year. Rabbits were
"wormy" and the law prohibited the shooting of almost everything else.
But "City hunters," Jerry derided, "from their clothes. They think
bluejays and crows are good sport."

That the hunters were looking for birds was evident, for they kept
their eyes turned toward the tree-tops. Thus it was that they did not
see Jerry crouching in the brush a scant dozen feet from where they
broke into the woods again. He was near enough to overhear them
perfectly, but not a word could he understand, for they were talking
very earnestly together in some outlandish tongue that, as Jerry said,
made him seasick to try to follow. But as they talked they pointed
excitedly, first toward the sky and then straight ahead, and that part
of their conversation was perfectly understandable to the boy.

A sudden wild thought entered his mind. Here were two hunters out in
the woods at a time when no real sportsmen carried anything but rods
and landing nets. The mystery of their purpose reminded him of another
mystery, and immediately his mind connected the two, even before he
noticed the constant recurrence of a word that sounded much as a
foreigner would pronounce "Lost Island." Jerry realized, even as the
thought passed through his mind, that it was the wildest kind of guess,
but it was enough to set him stealthily picking his way through the
brush in the wake of the two.

He saw, just in time to avoid running smack into them, that just before
they reached the road, although now out of the heavier woods, they had
stopped and were talking together more excitedly than ever. Something
had happened, Jerry realized at once, but he could not puzzle out what
it was, although he looked and listened as intently as they seemed to
be doing. He was about to give it up in disgust, when he became
conscious of a queer droning noise, as of a swarm of bees, or a distant
threshing machine. Strangely, the sound did not seem to be coming from
the woods or fields about him, but from the blank sky itself.

Then he remembered how Tod had acted at breakfast--how he too, like
these men, had been apparently staring into space. Jerry read the
newspapers; he was an eager student of one of the scientific magazines;
he had sat in Mr. Fulton's basement workshop and listened to many a
discussion of the latest wonders of invention. But even then he did not
at once realize that the sound he had been hearing really came from the
sky, and that the purring noise was the whir of the propellers of an

He looked for a full minute at the soaring speck against the blue sky
before he exclaimed aloud. "I'll be darned--an airship!"

Fortunately, the two men were too engaged to pay any attention to
sounds right beside them. But Jerry glanced hastily in their direction
as he dropped back into the shelter of a big clump of elderberry. Then
he looked again. There could be no doubt the two were following the
flight of the aeroplane. They stepped off a few feet to the right and
Jerry could see only their shoulders and heads above the bushes. He was
curious to see better what they were doing, but he dared not cross the
open ground between. So instead he turned his attention again to the
soaring man-bird.

It was coming closer. It swung down lower and circled in over Lost
Island, barely a hundred feet above the tree-tops. A sudden cry from
the two men drew his eager eyes away from the approaching aircraft, but
he looked back just in time to witness a wonderful sight.

Motionless, poised like a soaring hawk, the aeroplane, its propeller
flashing in the sunlight, hung over Lost Island. For fully six seconds
it remained there, not moving an inch. Suddenly it lurched, dropped
half the distance to the trees, the yellow planes snapping like
gun-shots. It looked as if it would be wrecked, and Jerry started
forward as if to go to the rescue. In the half instant he had looked
away, the machine had righted and purring like an elephant-size pussy,
was darting out over the water. A cheer sounded faintly from Lost
Island; Jerry wanted to cheer himself.

Now he heard another kind of sound, but this time there was no doubt in
his mind as to its source. There could be no mistaking the put-put-put
of a single cylinder motor boat. It was coming up Plum Run, probably
from the "city"--Chester. He could see it swinging around into the
channel from behind Lost Island. It crept close along shore, and with a
final "put!" came to a stop just where the boat had landed the night
before with Mr. Fulton. Three men crowded forward and jumped to shore;
one of them, Jerry could have sworn, was Mr. Fulton himself.

As if the pilot of the aeroplane had been waiting for their coming he
circled back toward the island. He had climbed far into the blue, but
came down a steep slant that brought him within two hundred feet of
earth almost before one could gather his wits to measure the terrific
drop. Out across Plum Run he swept in a wide circle, and Jerry saw that
the aeroplane would pass almost directly overhead.

He had forgotten all about the two men by this time, so keen was his
interest in the daring aviator. He certainly had nerve, to go on with
his flight after the accident that had so nearly ended his career only
a minute back.

And then Jerry was treated to a sight that made him rub his eyes in
amazement. The accident was repeated--it had been no accident. Now only
a hundred feet up, directly above him, the big machine seemed to quiver
with a sudden increase or change of power. A rasping, ear-racking
sound--a spurt of blue vapor--and the aeroplane did what no other
flying machine had ever done before; it stopped stock-still in mid-air.

Jerry could see every detail of the big machine, its glistening canvas,
its polished aluminum motor and taut wires and braces. He could even
see the pilot, leaning far over to one side, a smile of satisfaction on
his face. Jerry could hardly resist shouting a word of greeting to the
bold aeronaut.

He did shout, but it was a cry of horror, for all in a moment, a streak
of flame seemed to leap out of the motor, there was a fearful hiss of
escaping gas, a report that fairly shook the tree-tops, and with planes
crumpling under the tremendous pressure of the air rushing past as it
fell, the aeroplane plunged to earth. Yet, even in his intense
excitement, Jerry, as he raced to where the flaming machine had fallen,
caught at a fleeting impression: There had been two explosions, and the
first seemed to come from close beside him.

The aeroplane had come to earth a good hundred yards away, and Jerry
made all speed in that direction. He passed the spot where the two men
had been standing--they were still there, and seemed in no hurry to go
to the rescue. One of them, Jerry noticed as he rushed by, shouting
"Quick!" had just thrown his gun under his arm, but the action did not
impress the boy at the time as having any significance.

He raced on, the flaming wreck now in sight. He fairly flew through the
last dense thicket and jumped out, just in time to collide with another
hurrying figure. When the two picked themselves up, Jerry saw that it
was Tod.

"Hurry, Jerry," he cried. "I'm afraid that poor Billings is killed!"



In that few steps till they reached the smoking mass of wreckage, many
things became clear to Jerry. He realized that Lost Island had been
merely a building ground for Mr. Fulton's experiments in aeronautics,
that this sorry looking ruin was his invention. He remembered the long,
low shed on the island--that was the workshop.

Then they were at the verge of the twisted and wrecked machine,
frantically tugging at rods and splintered wood in an effort to get at
the unconscious form covered by the debris. Fortunately there was no
great weight to lift, and there was really no fire once the smoke of
the explosion had cleared away. In a very few seconds they had dragged
the man clear and laid him out flat on his back in a grassy spot, where
Tod remained to fan the man's face while Jerry hurried toward camp for
water. Blackened and bleeding as the man was, Jerry readily recognized
him as Billings.

He found Budge startled by the explosion and hesitating about leaving
the camp unguarded to go to the rescue. Jerry's shouted command brought
him galloping across the field with a pail of water, and the two boys
made good speed on the way back. They found the man still unconscious
but beginning to writhe about in pain.

"I think his leg's broken," cried Tod, his face white with the strain
of helpless waiting. "From the way he doubles up every little bit I
think he must be hurt inside. The cuts that are bleeding don't seem to
be very bad. Let me have the water."

"Do you suppose we really ought to----" began Jerry, but paused, for
Budge had answered his question effectually.

Without a word he stooped over the moaning man. Outer clothes were
taken off in a trice. Without jarring the man about, almost without
moving him, garment by garment Budge gradually removed, replaced,
examined, until every part of the man's anatomy had been looked over.
Finally he straightened up, and for the first time the other two, who
had stood helplessly by, saw how set and white the young Scout's face

"Leg's broken all right," he said slowly. "So's his arm--and at least
two ribs. Maybe more. Side's pretty badly torn and I think he's
bleeding internally. We've got to get a doctor without a second's loss
of time. Tod, you chase along like a good fellow and see how quick you
can get to a telephone. Jerry, lend a hand here and we'll fix a splint
for his leg--lucky it's fractured below the knee or we'd have a time. I
don't know whether I can do anything for his ribs or not. Hustle up,
Tod--what you standing there gaping for?"

"Where--where'd you learn to do things like that?" blurted Tod, as he
started away.

"What? This?" in surprise. "Every Scout knows how to do simple things
like this." And he turned back to his bandaging, for he had brought
along the camp kit, with its gauze and cotton. Out came his big
jackknife and he cut a thumb-sized willow wand, which he split and
trimmed. In less than no time he had snapped the bone back into place
and wound a professional looking bandage about the home-made splint. He
was just about to turn his attention to the injured side when a great
crackling in the brush caused both boys to turn.

Three men came bounding across the open space, the foremost, Mr. Fulton.

"Is he alive?" he exclaimed before he recognized the two boys.

"Yes," answered Jerry, "but he's hurt pretty bad--inside, Budge says.
Tod just----"

"Tod! He here? Did he go after a doctor?"

"Here he comes now. Did you get the doctor?" shouted Budge and Jerry

"I got his office. It's our own Doctor Burgess. I got Mrs. Burgess and
she says the doctor is out this way, and she'll get him by
telephone--she can locate him better than I could. He ought to be here
most any minute. I'm to watch for him along the road." Tod darted back
toward the line of bushes that marked the highway.

But it was a good half hour before a shout proclaimed the coming of the
doctor, and in that time Budge had had a chance to show more evidences
of his Scout training. After a hurried trip back to camp he fashioned
bandages that held the broken ribs in place; he bound the scalp wound
neatly, and stopped the flow of blood from an ugly scratch on the man's
thigh. The others stood about, helping only as he directed. It was with
a wholesome respect that they eyed him when the job was finished.

But it took the doctor to sum their admiration up in one crisp
"Bully--couldn't have done it better myself."

He felt about gently and at last straightened up and remarked:

"He's good enough to move, but not very far. Where's the nearest

"Half a mile, nearly," answered Tod.

"I think he'd want to be taken--home," Mr. Fulton said hesitatingly.
"If we could move him to the river bank I guess we could get him across
all right--to Lost Island, you know. His daughter's there to nurse him."

"Lost Island?" questioned the doctor, raising his eyebrows.
"We-l-l--Son, can you make a stretcher?" turning to Budge.

"Come on, Jerry. Back in a minute," called Budge over his shoulder to
the doctor.

Jerry followed to the Scout camp, where Budge caught up a pair of stout
saplings that had been cut for tent poles but had not been needed.

"Grab up a couple blankets," he directed, setting off again through the
brush on a run. Jerry was well out of breath, having contrived to trip
himself twice over the trailing blankets, when he finally rejoined the
group. Budge reached out for the blankets and soon had a practical
stretcher made, onto which the injured man was gently lifted. Mr.
Fulton and one of the strangers took hold each of an end and they set
out directly for the bank of Plum Run.

For the first time Jerry had a chance to observe the two who had come
with Tod's father. Heavy-set, rather stolid chaps they were, just
beginning to show a paunch, and gray about the temples. They looked
good-natured enough but gave the impression of being set in their ways,
a judgment Jerry had no occasion to change later. They spoke with an
odd sort of accent but were evidently used to conversing in English,
although the first glance told that they were not Americans.

They were plainly but expensively dressed; they looked like men of
wealth rather than like business men. They had come to see Mr. Fulton's
invention tried out, Jerry surmised, and, if it proved successful,
perhaps to buy it. Those two men he had seen with the rifles were
foreigners too, but of a different station in life and, Jerry was sure,
belonging under a different flag.

They were soon down to the water's edge, where was moored the launch
Jerry had heard chugging over to the island not long before. Blankets
were brought from the Scout camp and piled on the launch floor to make
a comfortable bed, and poor Billings was carefully lifted from the
stretcher and laid in the boat. The doctor and Mr. Fulton got in. The
two men remained on the bank. Mr. Fulton looked at them questioningly,
but their heavy faces gave no sign. So he asked:

"You will wait for me, I trust! I don't want you to feel that
this--accident----" he hesitated over the word--"makes the scheme a
failure. There is something about it all that I can't understand, but a
close examination may reveal----"

"Ah, yes," answered the shorter of the two, "we will want to be just as
sure of the failure as we insisted on being of the success. But you
understand of course that we feel--ah--feel
considerably--ah--disappointed in the trial flight. Oh, yes, we will
wait for you. You will not be long?"

"Just long enough for the doctor to find out what needs to be done.
That slim youngster there is my son Tod. He knows almost as much about
my--about _it_ as I do. Tod, you take care of Mr. Lewis and Mr. Harris
till I come back. You'd best stay close to the _Skyrocket_; we don't
want to take any chances, you know."

All the time he had been talking he had been tinkering with the motor,
which was having a little balky spell. At his last words Jerry spoke up

"I'll chase over and keep an eye on the _Skyrocket_ while the rest of
you take your time," and he hurried off, adding to himself:
"_Skyrocket's_ a good name, 'cause it sure went up in a blaze of glory,
and came down like the burnt stick." But he had other things in mind
besides the mere watching of the wreck. At Mr. Fulton's hesitation over
the word "accident" a picture had popped into his mind--two men
carrying rifles and peering up over the tree-tops.

He was destined to see them again, for as he crossed the road he heard
a crackling in the underbrush of someone in hasty retreat. He blamed
his thoughtlessness in whistling as he ran along; perhaps he might have
caught them red-handed if he had been careful. As it was, he saw the
two scurrying toward the south, whereas before they had been going

He did not go directly to the fallen aeroplane. Instead he picked his
way carefully over the route the men had followed just after the
explosion, stooping low and examining every spear of grass. His search
was quickly rewarded. Just where the trampled turf showed that the two
men had stood for some time he pounced upon a powder-blackened
cartridge, bigger than any rifle shell he had ever seen before, even in
his uncle's old Springfield. That was all, but it was enough to confirm
his suspicions.

He walked over to the charred and twisted remains of the _Skyrocket_,
fighting down his strong impulse to pry into the thing and see if he
could discover the secret of its astounding exploits before the crash
came. It did not take more than the most fleeting glance to see, even
with his limited knowledge of flying machines, that this one was very
much different from the others. He was glad when the others came up to
save him from yielding to his curiosity.

Tod and the two men were deep in a discussion of Mr. Fulton's
invention, but Jerry gained little by that, as most of the technical
terms were so much Greek to him. Tod talked like a young mechanical
genius--or a first-class parrot. The two men listened to his glowing
praises in no little amusement, venturing a word now and then just to
egg the boy on--though he needed none.

Jerry waited for a chance to break in forcibly. "I say, Tod." he
interrupted a wild explanation of the theory of the differential, "I
expect I'd better chase along back home. I can just catch the
interurban if I cut loose now. I--I want to hike back and spread the
good news that you aren't decorating a watery grave."

"I s'pose I'll have to stay here and help the Scouts mount guard over
the relics here--when will you be back?"

"To-morrow, maybe."

"You can come back with dad. He'll probably come back to Watertown
to-night, after he takes these two gentlemen to Chester in the launch.
He'll probably want you to help him bring down some repairs."

"You think he'll try to patch up the _Skyrocket?_" asked Jerry.
"Doesn't look hardly worth while."

"Worth while!" exploded Tod. "Is a half million dollars worth while?"
Then he repented having spoken out so freely, reminded by the sharp
glances of the two men. "Oh, Jerry's all right," he apologized. "Dad
thinks as much of him as he does of me."

"Well, I'll be off," said Jerry hurriedly. "Tell your father I'll see
him either to-night or early in the morning--and that I've got
something important to tell him."

"About the _Skyrocket?_" demanded Tod eagerly, but Jerry only shook his
head teasingly and began to hurry across the fields and woods to the
interurban tracks.

He was lucky, for hardly had he reached the road crossing before the
familiar whistle sounded down the track. The motorman toot-tooted for
him to get off the rails, as this was not a regular stop, but Jerry
stood his ground and finally the man relented at the last minute and
threw on the brakes.

Watertown reached, Jerry could not hold his good news till he got home,
but to every one he met he shouted the glad word that Tod Fulton had
been found, alive and uninjured. The open disbelief with which his
announcement was met gave him a lot of secret satisfaction. In fact, he
could hardly restrain an occasional, "I told you so." His mother was
the only one to whom he allowed himself to use that phrase, but then,
he _had_ told her.

He could hardly wait until Mr. Fulton should return from Chester, so
eager was he to tell of his discovery there in the woods, but the slow
day passed, and bedtime came without any sign of a light in the big
house down the street. Reluctantly he finally went up to his room, but
for a long time he sat with his nose flattened out on the window pane,
watching patiently.

At last he was rewarded. Out of the gloom of the Fulton house he saw a
tiny point of light spring, followed by a flood of radiance across the

"What are you doing, son?" came a deep masculine voice from the sitting
room. "Thought you had gone to bed hours ago."

"Mr. Fulton just came home, pa, and Tod told me to tell him----"

"Guess it'll keep till morning, won't it? Besides, I expect Tod saw his
father later than you did."

"I'll be right back, dad----" this from just outside the kitchen door.
"It's just awfully important----"

The door banged to just then. Mr. Ring chuckled. He believed in letting
boys alone.

Jerry sped down the dark walk and jabbed vigorously at the special
doorbell, hurried a little bit by the fact that as he came through the
wide gate he had a feeling that the big gateposts did not cause all the
shadow he passed through. "I'm getting nervous since I saw those two
men to-day," he reminded himself. "I'll soon be afraid of my own
shadow--but I hope it doesn't take to whispering too."

Mr. Fulton came hurrying to the door, a big look of relief on his face
when he saw who it was.

"I couldn't wait till morning, Mr. Fulton. I just had to tell you I
knew the _Skyrocket_ didn't fall of its own free will. I saw two men
skulking in the woods. They both carried big rifles. I was sure I heard
one of them go off just before the explosion came, and on the ground
where they stood I found _this!_"

He handed Mr. Fulton the rifle shell.

"Good boy!" exclaimed the man, almost as excited as the youngster. "I'm
beginning to see daylight. You keep all this under your hat, sonny, and
come over as early in the morning as you can. We'll talk it over then,
after I've had a chance to sleep on _this_." He indicated the
cartridge. "Tell me, though--was one of the men a tall, lean chap with
a sabre scar on his jaw----"

"They were both heavy-set, scowly looking----" "Hm. That makes it all
tangled again. Well, it may look clearer in the morning. Chase along,
Jerry; I've got a busy night's work ahead of me. No," he added as Jerry
began to speak, "you couldn't help me any. Not to-night. To-morrow you

Jerry wanted to tell him about the whispering shadows, but hesitated
because it sounded so foolish. His heart skipped a beat or two as he
drew near the tall posts, but this time the gateway was as silent as
the night about him.

"Some little imaginer I am," he laughed to himself as he skipped back
into the house.



The sun was not up earlier next morning than Jerry Ring. However, he
waited till after breakfast before going over to rouse Mr. Fulton, Who
would, he knew, sleep later after his strenuous night's work. He spent
the time in an impatient arrangement and rearrangement of his fishing
tackle, for he had a feeling in his bones that this visit to Lost
Island might be more than a one-day affair.

Mrs. Ring finally appeared on the scene, to tease him over his early
rising. "I don't need to look for the fishing tackle when you get up
ahead of me; I know it's there."

But Jerry only grinned. His mother was a good pal, who never spoiled
any of his fun without having a mighty good reason. Now he saw her
setting about fixing up a substantial lunch, and he knew that there
would be no coaxing necessary to gain her consent to his trip. He
slipped up behind her unawares and kissed her smackingly on the back of
the neck--perhaps that was one reason she was such a good pal.

Breakfast over, Jerry caught up his pole and tackle box and hustled
down the street. The Fulton house looked silent and deserted, he
thought, as he reached up to push the secret button. The loud b-r-r-r
echoed hollowly through the big house; Jerry sat down on the step to
await the opening of the door, for he figured Mr. Fulton would be slow
in waking up. But the minute he had allowed stretched into two, so he
reached up and gave the button another vigorous dig. Still there was no
response. Puzzled, he held the button down for fully a minute, the bell
making enough racket to wake the dead. Vaguely alarmed, Jerry waited.
No one came. Putting his mouth to the keyhole, he shouted: "Mr.
Fulton--wake up--it's Jerry!"

Then he put his ear against the door and listened for the footsteps he
was sure would respond to his call. Silence profound. Again he shouted
and listened. And then came a response that set him frantically tugging
at the door--his name called, faintly, as if from a great distance.

But the door did not yield. Jerry bethought himself of a lockless
window off the back porch roof, which he and Tod had used more than
once in time of need. He quickly shinned up the post and swung himself
up by means of the tin gutter. In through the window, through the long
hall and down the stairway he plunged, instinct taking him toward Mr.
Fulton's bedroom-study. The door stood ajar. He pushed it open and
looked in. A fearful sight met his eyes.

On the bed, where he lay half undressed on top of the covers, was Mr.
Fulton, blood streaming down his battered face. "What has happened?"
gasped Jerry, seeing that the man's eyes were open. But there was no
answer, and he saw that Mr. Fulton was too dazed to give any account of
the events that had left him so befuddled. Jerry got water and bathed
and dressed the deep cuts and bruises as best he could. The shock of
the cold water restored the man's faculties in some measure and he
finally managed a coherent statement.

"It was your two friends, I guess. They broke in on me while I was
working downstairs. One stood guard over me while the other ransacked
the house. Then, when they couldn't find anything, they tried to force
me to tell where my papers were hid. That was when I rebelled, and they
pretty near did for me. I put up a pretty good scrap for a while, until
one of them got a nasty twist on my arm. I guess the shoulder's
dislocated; I can't move it. But I guess I left a few marks
myself--that's why they were so rough. But all they got was the
satisfaction of beating me up."

"I wish I knew what it was all about," remarked Jerry. "I feel like a
fellow at a moving picture show who came in about the middle of the
reel. And there's nobody to tell me what happened before."

"I guess there's no harm in telling _you_--now. You see, Jerry, the big
outstanding feature of the war across the water has been the work done
by two recent inventions, the submarine and the aeroplane. That set me
thinking. The water isn't deep enough around here to do much
experimenting with submarines, but there's dead oodles of air. So
aeroplanes it had to be. Now, the aircraft have been a distinct
disappointment, except as scouting helps, because the high speed of the
aeroplanes makes accurate bomb-dropping almost impossible.

"That was my starter. If I could perfect some means of stopping a
machine in mid-flight, just long enough to drop a hundred pounds of
destruction overboard with a ninety per cent chance of hitting the
mark, I had it. Well, I got it. The _Skyrocket_ is the first aeroplane
that can stop dead still--or was. I showed my model to the proper
government officials, but even after I had cut my way through endless
red tape I found only a cold ear and no welcome at all. I think the
official I talked to had a pet invention of his own.

"At any rate I was plumb disgusted. I finally took my idea to the
business agent of a foreign power--and the reception I got almost took
me off my feet. Meet me halfway! They pretty near hounded me to death
till I finally consented to give them an option on the thing, But then
my troubles began. The man who had made the deal with me had to step
aside for a couple of old fogies who can't grasp anything they can't
see or handle. I was about disgusted, when a friend introduced me to a
friend of his, who hinted that there were other markets where the pay
was better. The upshot of it was that I gave this man--as agent of
course for _his_ government--a second option on the invention to hold
good if no deal was made with the first party before August first, when
option number one expires.

"Mr. Lewis and Mr. Harris represent--well, the name of the country
doesn't make any difference, but they hold the first option. They are
cautious; they won't buy unless they can see a complete machine that
works perfectly. The others are willing to buy the idea outright, just
as it stands.

"Of course I have no proof that the two men you saw--and they are the
same I am sure as the two who burglarized me--have anything to do with
my invention, but I'd venture a guess that their aim is to prevent my
being able to demonstrate my machine before August first. What do you

"I think we'd better be getting busy."

"There's nothing to do. Of course, I don't lose any money by it--I gain
some. But I hate to sell my idea to a gang of cutthroats and thieves. I
resent being black-handed into a thing like that. But with Billings
laid out, the _Skyrocket_ wrecked and myself all binged up, there's
little chance. I suppose I could get a lot of mechanics and turn out a
new plane in time, but I don't know where I could get men I could
trust. Like as not those two villains, or their employer, would manage
to get at least one of their crew into the camp, and there'd be a real
tragedy before we got through."

"I tell you what," suggested Jerry. "If you feel strong enough to
manage it, you come over to the house and let ma get you some
breakfast. Then you'll feel a little more hopeful--ma's breakfasts
always work that way," he said loyally. "There is bound to be a way out
of this mix-up, and we'll find it or know the reason why."

Over a savory pile of pancakes Mr. Fulton did grow more hopeful,
especially when Jerry began to outline a scheme that had been growing
in his mind. He began by asking questions.

"Do you have to have such skilled mechanics to make those repairs?"

"Well, no, not as long as I have skilled eyes to oversee the job. A
good deal of it is just dub work. Most anybody could do it if he was
told how. I could do the directing easy enough; but I'm not
left-handed. However, I'll chase downtown and let Doc Burgess look me
over; maybe my shoulder isn't as bad as it feels. But I'm afraid my
right arm is out of the fight for at least a couple of weeks--and
there's just two weeks between now and August first. I'd not be much
good except as a boss, and a boss isn't much good without somebody to
stand over. So there you are, right back where we started."

"Not on your life! We're a mile ahead, and almost out of the woods. If
you can boss dubs, and get anything out of them, why I know where you
can get at least nine of them, and they're all to be

"Tod could help a lot, and I suppose you are one of the dubs, but where
are the rest?"

"Phil Fulton and his Boy Scouts----"

"My nephew, you mean, from Chester? I suppose I could get him, but just
what are these Boy Scouts?"

"You've been so interested in your experiments that you don't know what
the rest of the world is doing. Never heard of the Boy Scouts?" Jerry,
secure in his own recent knowledge, was openly scornful.

"Oh, yes, now that you remind me, I do remember of reading about some
red-blooded boy organization--a little too vigorous for chaps like you
and Tod, eh?" he teased.

"You'll see what happens before the summer is ended. But that isn't
helping _us_ out any, now. Phil's patrol is down there with Tod right
this minute, and I bet you they know a thing or two about mechanics.
That seems to be their specialty--knowing something about most
everything. I'm mighty sure that if you tell us what to do, we can do
it. We may not know a lot about the why of it, but we're strong on
following instructions."

"I'd be willing to take a chance on you fellows if it wasn't for the
time. The _Skyrocket's_ a complete wreck. It took Billings a good many
times two weeks to build her up in the first place----"

"But you're not losing anything. The boys would be tickled to death to
tackle it, and if we do lose out finally, why we've lost nothing but
the time. It's like a big game----"

"Yes," observed Mr. Fulton dryly. "A big game, with the handicaps all
against us. If we win, we lose money, and we have the pleasant chance
of getting knocked over the head most any night."

"But that isn't the idea. A set of foreigners are trying to force some
free-born Americans to do something we don't want to do. Are we going
to let them?"

"Not by a jugfull!" exclaimed Mr. Fulton, getting up painfully from his
chair. "I'll go on down to the doctor--I expect I should have first
thing, before I started to stiffen up. You go ahead to Lost Island, and
see what can be done toward picking up the pieces and taking the
_Skyrocket_ over to the island. If there are enough unbroken pieces we
may have a chance. I'll be along by noon."

He hobbled down the street and Jerry, after telling his mother what had
happened, and getting reluctant consent to his extended absence,
gathered together a few necessaries and made all speed for the
interurban. There was no temptation to go to sleep this time, for his
thoughts were racing madly ahead to the exciting plan to beat the
schemers who had wrecked the _Skyrocket_. At the same time he was
conscious of a disappointed feeling in his heart; why could it not have
been the United States that had bought the invention? That would have
made the fight really worth while. For, to tell the truth, the two
unenthusiastic owners of the first option did not appeal to him much
more than did the others.

He found the whole Boy Scout crew gathered about the _Skyrocket_,
having given up a perfectly wonderful fishing trip to guard the
airship. Jerry quickly told the story of the morning's events to Phil,
interrupted at every other sentence by the rest of the excited Scouts.
The whole affair appealed to their imaginations, and when he came to
the proposition he had made Mr. Fulton, there was no doubt of their
backing up his offer.

"Let's get busy!" shouted Dick Garrett, Assistant Patrol Leader. "We
ought to be all ready to move across by the time Mr. Fulton gets here."

And he started toward the wreck as if to tear the thing apart with his
bare hands and carry it piecemeal to the banks of the Plum.

"We won't get far, that way, Dick," observed Phil. "First of all we
want a plan of action. And before that, we need to investigate, to see
just how much damage has been done and how big the pieces are going to
be that we'll have to carry."

"But we don't know the first thing about how the contraption works,"
objected Dick, somewhat to Jerry's satisfaction, for there was a little
jealous thought in his heart that Phil would naturally try to take away
from him the leadership in the plan. But Phil soon set his mind at rest.

"We don't need to know how it works. All we need to know is whether we
have to break it apart or if we can carry it down mostly in one piece.
First, though, we've got to organize ourselves. Jerry's the boss of
this gang, and as Patrol Leader I propose to be straw-boss. Anybody got
any objections? No? Well, then, Boss Jerry, what's orders?"

Much pleased, Jerry thought over plans. A workable one quickly came to
him. "First of all we'll follow out your idea, Phil. Let's all get
around it and see if we can lift it all together. Dave, you catch hold
of that rod sticking out in front of you--it won't bite. Give him a
hand, Budge. All right, everybody! Raise her easy--_so_."

To their unbounded relief, nearly all the aeroplane rose together. One
plane, it is true, gave one final c-c-r-rack! as the last whole rod on
that side gave way; but the rest, twisted all out of shape and creaking
and groaning, held together in one distorted mass.

"All right," commanded Jerry; "let her down again--easy, now. That's
the ticket. Now, Frank--the two Franks--you scout ahead and pick us out
a clear trail to the water. You'll have to figure on a good twenty-foot

"I guess we might as well finish the work you young Sandows started. I
see that the right plane--or wing or whatever you call it--is just as
good as gone. We'll cut her away and that'll give us a better carrying

"Why not take her all apart while we're at it, Jerry?" suggested Phil.
"We'll have to anyway to get her over to the island."

"Just leave it to me and we won't. I've got a little scheme. Who's got
a heavy knife with a sharp big blade in it?"

"That's part of our Scout equipment," answered Phil proudly. "Come on,
Scouts, the boss says whack away the right wing."

"Wing?" grunted Fred Nelson, hacking vainly at the tough wood. "Feels
more like a drumstick to me!" Although the rods were splintered badly
they did not yield readily to the knives. The two trail scouts returned
long before the task of clearing away the plane was finished.

"There's a fairly easy way if we go around that hazel thicket and make
for the road about a hundred yards south of here, then come back along
the road to that cut-over piece by the little creek, go in through
there to the river trail, and along that, south again, till we come
just about straight across from here," reported the two.

"All right. Now one of you stay here and mount guard over the
left-behinds, while the other goes ahead and shows us the way. How's
the knife brigade coming on?"

"Ready any time you are. What's next?"

"Line up on each side the stick of the _Skyrocket_, and we'll pick her
up and tote her to the beach. Back here, Dave, you and Barney; we need
more around the motor--it weighs sixteen ounces to the pound. All set
now? Right-o--pick her up. Lead ahead, Frank."

The unwieldy load swayed and threatened to buckle, and more than once
they had to set it down and find new holds, but the winding road picked
out by Frank Ellery was followed without any serious mishap, until at
last they stood on the high bank overlooking the wide stretch of sandy
beach beyond which Plum Run rippled along in the sunshine.

"Set her down--gently, now," ordered Jerry. "We'll let her rest here
while we bring up our reinforcements--and the rest of our baggage.
Phil, you take three Scouts and go back and bring in the wings. Leave
Frank there until you've gathered up every last scrap. The rest of us
will stay here to figure out some way of getting our plunder shipped
safely across to Lost Island."

"Go to it!" urged Phil mockingly. "You've got some job ahead of you.
You figure out how a rowboat's going to float that load across--and let
me know about it."

"Yes," challenged a new voice, "you do that, and let me know about it

Mr. Fulton had stepped unobserved through the border of trees and brush
lining the river path.

"Huh!" bragged Jerry. "If that was the hardest thing we had to do, we
could use the _Skyrocket_ for a fireworks celebration to-night!"



But Jerry gave no explanation of the method he intended to use in
transporting the unwieldy bulk across the narrow stretch of water.
While Phil and his helpers disappeared, to bring up the rest of the
aeroplane framework, he set his crew to work. The Scout camp, which was
something like a hundred feet north, yielded a couple of trappers'
axes; with these he soon had two stout saplings cut and trimmed to an
even length of thirty feet. In the larger end of each he cut a deep
notch, while to the smaller ends he nailed a good-sized block, the
nails found in an emergency locker on the _Big Four,_ both it and the
Boy Scout boat having been brought down and hauled up on the beach.

The two boats were now laid side by side, twenty odd feet apart. Across
the bows he laid the one sapling, across the sterns, the other, so that
blocks and notches fitted down over the far edges of the boats. Mr.
Fulton at once caught Jerry's idea and nodded his head approvingly.

"All right," he said, "if the saplings will hold up the weight."

"They don't need to," explained Jerry. "The _Skyrocket_ will reach over
to the inner edges of the boats; I measured the distance with my eye.
All the sticks do is to hold the two ships together."

Phil's crew made two trips, on the second one bringing in Frank, who
had wrapped up a weird collection of broken-off parts in a piece of
varnish-stiffened silk torn from one of the planes.

It did not take long to load the "body" of the _Skyrocket_ onto the
saplings, the boats being still on shore. Then, all pushing steadily,
the strange double craft was slowly forced across the sand and into the
shallow shore-water of Plum Bun. Both boats settled dangerously near to
the point of shipping water, so it was fortunate that the river was as
calm as a millpond. At that, there was no hope that anyone could get in
to row the boats.

"Strip for action!" shouted Phil. "The boss says we're to swim across.
Likewise, the last one in's a rotten egg."

The splashing that ensued, as ten youngsters plunged in, almost in a
body, nearly swamped the boats. After his first shout of alarm, Mr.
Fulton waved his hand gayly and shouted:

"Go to it, fellows. If the doctor didn't have my arm in a splint I'd be
right with you."

"All right, Scouts," assented Jerry, "but go mighty easy."

They were all good swimmers, and with hardly a ripple they propelled
the _Skyrocket_ slowly but steadily toward the shore of Lost Island. As
they drew near they saw that they had spectators on both sides, for
awaiting them was the girl Phil and Jerry had seen not so long before,
but under different circumstances. Now she waved her hand encouragingly.

"Oh, Liz-z-i-e!" shouted Phil, "where's the meat-axe?"

For answer she caught up a pebble and sent it skimming in his
direction, so close that Phil felt no shame in ducking, even if it did
bring a great shout of laughter from his companions.

But it was evident that "Lizzie" or Elizabeth Billings, as they soon
came to call her, bore no ill will as she came down to the water's edge
and awaited their coming. But the boys had no intention of making a
landing so long as she was there, and Jerry was turning over in his
mind just how to ask her to withdraw, when she apparently came to the
conclusion that her presence was neither needed nor desired. At any
rate, she left the beach abruptly and disappeared along the island
path, only stopping to send a hearty peal of laughter in their

"Next time across I guess well wear our clothes," snickered Budge. "The
young lady isn't used to welcoming savages to her lonely isle."

"Try a little of your savage strength on that rod you're leaning on;
nobody suggested that this affair was a lawn party," Phil reminded him.
"Come on, fellows, let's get the old _Skyrocket_ up out of the damp."

After some maneuvering they decided to unload from the water, as the
beach shelved gradually. Within five minutes they were ready to make
for the other shore, being compelled to swim the boats back again, as
no one had remembered to throw in the oars.

This time their load was hardly worth calling one so far as weight was
concerned, and four of the boys piled in, to row the boats across,
nearly capsizing the whole arrangement in their efforts to outspeed
each other. This time they were fully dressed. One of the boys brought
the two boats back, and now all the party crossed over, with the
exception of poor Budge, who again was the one slated to stay behind
and guard camp. Perhaps his disappointment was only half genuine,
however, as he was none too keen about the heavy job of freighting the
wreckage to the center of Lost Island.

Tod was awaiting them when the last boatload beached on the island. It
was easy to see that he had been greatly worried over the nonappearance
of his father, and the bandages in which Mr. Fulton was literally
swathed were not calculated to set his mind at ease. But Mr. Fulton's
laughing version of the "accident," as he called it, soon relieved
Tod's fears.

They made short work of the trip to the long, low shed Phil and Jerry
had seen on their exploration of the island, and which they now learned
was a "hangar," a place specially fitted for taking care of the
aeroplane. When the big sliding door was thrown open the boys saw that
inside was a complete machine shop, with lathes, benches, drills and
punches, the whole being operated by power from the gasoline engine in
the corner.

"The first thing to do," announced Mr. Fulton, "is to understand just
what we're driving at. So I'll explain, as briefly as possible, just
what this contraption of mine is. It's simply a device that enables me
to reverse the propellers instantly at high speed. But that isn't all.
The same lever throws in another set of propellers--lifters, we call
them--just above where the pilot sits. They act as a kind of
counterbalance. Now these planes, or wings, act in the same manner as
the surfaces of a box kite, and aside from this device of mine, which
has some details you won't need to know about, and a slight improvement
I've made in the motor itself, the _Skyrocket_ isn't any different from
the ordinary biplane, which you all know about, of course."

"Of course we don't," blurted Jerry.

"Of course we do," exclaimed Phil. "There isn't one of the Flying
Eagles who hasn't made half a dozen model flying machines, and Barney
here won a prize with a glider he made last spring in the manual
training department of the high school. But we've all studied up about
aeroplanes--that's why we call ourselves the _Flying_ Eagles."

"Another reason," chuckled Mr. Fulton, "why there ought to be a bunch
of Boy Scouts in Watertown. How about it, Jerry?"

"Leave it to us. We'll challenge you Eagles to a tournament next
summer, and you'd better brush up your scouting if you don't want to
come off second best. Is that a go, Tod?"

"That's two go's--one for each of us."

"Well," suggested Mr. Fulton, "those of you who don't know the first
principles of flying go into the second squad. You go to the
office--that's the railed off space yonder--where you'll find plenty of
books for your instruction. As soon as I get gang number one properly
started I'll come back and give you a course of sprouts."

Jerry and Dave and Frank went to the "office," from where they heard
Mr. Fulton putting Tod in charge of one group, while he took the rest
under his personal direction.

"First off," he advised, "we'll take the _Skyrocket_ all apart. All the
broken or strained parts we'll throw over here in this box. Anything
that's too big we'll pile neatly on the floor. I want to know as soon
as possible just what I'll have to get from the city. I can call on the
blacksmith shop at Watertown for some of the hardest welding, and Job
Western did most of the carpentering in the first place, so I know
where to go for my trusses and girders. Examine every bolt and
nut--nothing is to be used that shows the slightest strain or defect.

"Phil, you and I will tackle the motor. If she isn't smashed, half the
battle's won."

Jerry sat back in the corner awhile, trying his best to get something
definite out of the great array of books he found on a low shelf.
Looking up and seeing Mr. Fulton's eyes on him, a twinkle in their
depths, he threw down the latest collection of algebraic formulas and
walked over.

"I guess I know enough about aeroplanes to unscrew nuts and nip wires.
You can explain the theory of it to us after working hours."

So, with monkey wrench, pliers, hammers and screwdriver, he set about
making himself as busy as any of the others--and as greasy.

Dark came on them before they had made enough headway to be noticeable.
The boys were glad to see the shadows creeping along, for, truth to
tell, they were all thoroughly tired and not a little hungry. Not a
bite had any of them eaten since breakfast.

"Hope Budge has taken it upon himself to hash together a few eats,"
sighed Phil. "I feel hungry enough to tackle my boots."

"Eats?" exclaimed Mr. Fulton in surprise. "You don't mean to tell me
that you're hungry?"

"Oh, no, not hungry. Just plain starved," clamored the whole outfit.

"Good. One of you go over and get your guard, and we'll see what those
mysterious signals mean that Miss Elizabeth has been making this past
half hour. She told me she'd cook us a dinner--if we could stand
domestic science grub. This is the first time she ever kept real house.
Let's wash up."

The supper that Elizabeth brought, smoking hot, to the long, board-made
table the boys quickly set up in the hangar, did not smack very much of
inexperience. Even Budge declared it was well worth the trip across the
river. The boys were inclined to linger over the meal, and Dave started
in to tell a long story about a hunting trip in which he and his uncle
had been the heroes of a bear adventure, but Mr. Fulton stopped him,
even if the yawns of his listeners had not warned him to cut the tale

"We're in for some good hard licks, men," said Mr. Fulton, "and it's
going to mean early to bed and early to rise. That is," he amended, "if
you want to go through with it."

"We'll stick to the bitter end," they cried. "What's the program?"

"Two weeks of the hardest kind of work. Breakfast at six; work at
six-thirty, till twelve; half hour for lunch; work till seven; dinner;
bed. That may not sound like much fun--it isn't."

"Suits us," declared Phil for the rest. "Do we get a front seat at the
circus when the man puts his head in the lion's mouth--and a ride on
the elephant?" he joked, pointing at the dismembered _Skyrocket_.

"I'll give you something better than that, just leave it to me,"
promised Mr. Fulton. "Where you going to turn in?"

"We go over to camp. You'll blow the factory whistle when it's time to
get up, won't you?"

"No," teased Elizabeth, coming in just then, "I'll drop a couple o'
nice smooth pebbles into camp as a gentle reminder."

It was a jolly party that crowded into the two boats and sang and
shouted their way across Plum Run some ten minutes later, but within
the half-hour the night was still, for tired muscles could not long
resist the call of sleep.

But bright and early next morning they were all astir long before the
hour of six and the promised pebbles. A swim in Plum Bun put them in
good trim for a hearty breakfast, and that in turn put them in shape
for a hard day's work.

And a hard day it turned out to be, for Mr. Fulton parceled out the
work and kept everyone on the jump. Jerry and Tod were put at the
motor, which had refused to respond to its owner's coaxing. They
twisted, tightened, adjusted, tested, till their fingers were cramped
and eyes and backs ached.

Lunch gave a most welcome rest, but the half hour was all too short.
Every one of them welcomed Mr. Fulton's decision when he said: "We've
got along so nicely that I think I will call this a six-o'clock day.
Wash up, everybody, and let's see what Elizabeth has for us."



That was merely the first of a whole week of days that seemed amazingly
alike. Mr. Fulton tried to make the work as interesting as possible by
letting them change off jobs as often as he could. But even then there
was little that under ordinary circumstances would interest a regular
out-of-doors boy. What helped was that the circumstances were not
ordinary. It was all a big game to them--a fight against odds. Perhaps
at times the screwing of greasy nuts on greasier bolts did not look
much like a game, nor did the tedious pushing of a plane or twisting a
brace and bit look like a fight, but every one of the boys sensed the
tense something that was back of all Mr. Fulton's cheery hustle.

They knew that his arm and shoulder hurt fearfully at times, but never
a complaint did they hear from him, although he was all sympathy over
the blood-blisters and cut hands of their own mishaps.

But the second week made up for any lack of excitement that the boys
had felt. The week was up Wednesday night. On Thursday morning Mr.
Fulton met them with a white face that somehow showed the light of

"Guess you'd better arrange, Boss Jerry, to leave a couple of your
Scouts on guard here nights," was all he said, but the boys felt that
something disturbing had happened the night before. They questioned
Elizabeth when she brought their lunch, which they ate from benches and
boxes to save time, but she would give them no satisfaction. Tod seemed
to know something, but he too was strangely mum.

Jerry decided to remain over that night himself, and Phil, who had
dropped a steel wrench across his toes and so had to remain for medical
attention anyway, offered to share the watch with him. After Mr. Fulton
had left them at about ten o'clock, they talked for awhile together,
but finally they both began to yawn.

"What'll it be?" asked Phil. "Two hours at a stretch, turn and turn

"Suits me," said Jerry. "Ill take the first trick."

Phil's snoring something like fifty-nine seconds later was sufficient
answer. All was still, and Jerry set about to await midnight, when he
could hope for a brief snooze. After a while the silence began to wear
on his nerves and in every night noise he fancied he heard steps. He
sat still and watchful, hardly breathing at times, his finger poised
above a push button that would ring a bell where Mr. Fulton lay
stretched out on a pallet on the floor of the tiny cabin.

But midnight came and nothing had happened. He roused Phil and then
hunted himself out a soft spot in which to curl up. But he had grown so
used to listening that now he found he could not stop. He tried
counting, only it was fish he was catching instead of sheep going
through the gap in the hedge. It was no use. At last he got up and
stretched himself.

"Guess I'll take a turn around in the cool air; I can't seem to sleep."

"Gee," grumbled Phil, "and here _I_ can't seem to stay awake. Just as
well have let me slumber on in peace."

"Well, don't slumber while I'm gone, sleepyhead."

Jerry walked across the open ground and after an undecided halt, broke
through the bushes, heavy now with dew, and made for the shore. He
stood for a long time on the bank, looking across to where the Scout
camp lay quiet in the darkness, and then turned and was about to go
back to Phil. But he paused; a steady creaking sound had broken the
night. It was drawing slowly nearer. It was a rowboat.

"Great conspirators, they are!" sniffed Jerry. "They might at least
grease their oars." He heard the mumble of low voices, the _sush_ of a
boat keel on the sand. Reaching down, he caught up a big handful of
pebbles; with a hard overhand swing he let them fly.

He heard a muttered "Ouch!" and then, after a moment's silence, once
more the _creak-crook_ of oars. "Batter out" chuckled Jerry to himself
as he scurried back to the hangar.

After that he slept.

The boys were all excitement when he told his story next morning, but
that was nothing to compare with the exclamation that arose that same
evening when they returned to camp to find that Dave, who had been left
in charge, had disappeared, and that the place had been rifled and then
torn all to pieces. Poor Dave was found not far off, tied to a tree.
His story was somewhat lacking in detail. He had sat dozing over a book
on aeronautics, when suddenly an earthquake came up and hit him over
the head. That was all he knew till he woke up tied securely to a tree.

"That settles it," declared Phil. "We ought to have done it in the
first place, but the boss didn't think it was worth while."

"What's that?" demanded Jerry, a bit sharply.

"Well, what's the idea of our coming over here every night to sleep,
when there's oodles of room there on Lost Island, where we're needed?

"What's that 'huh'? Boy Scout for sir?" cried Jerry hotly.

Phil jumped to his feet, but to the surprise of Jerry, who had put up
his fists, the Scout Leader brought his heels together with a click and
his right hand went to the salute.

"I stand convicted," he said simply. "You're the boss of this
expedition. What's orders?"

"Orders are to break camp--it's already pretty well broken--and take
ship for Lost Island. Patrol Leader Fulton will take charge of the job
while Boss Ring goes off and kicks himself quietly but firmly."

They all laughed and good feeling was restored. The Scouts made short
work of getting their traps together, even in the dark, and it was not
many minutes before the first load was on the way to Lost Island.

Jerry, Phil and Dave followed silently afterwards in the _Big Four_
with the rest of the dunnage.

"You think _they_ did it?" asked Dave of no one in particular. No one
asked who _they_ were, nor did anyone answer, but each knew what the
others were thinking.

Mr. Fulton showed no surprise when told of their decision to camp
henceforth on the island. "Good idea," was his only comment.

They were not disturbed that night, and the next day passed without
incident, save that Budge had the bad luck to break a truss he had been
all day in making. "Good!" said Mr. Fulton. "That wood might have
caused a serious accident if it had got into the _Skyrocket_." Budge,
knowing his awkwardness and not the timber was to blame, felt grateful
that he had been spared the reproof that would have been natural.

They had been making good progress, in spite of their greenness; next
day Mr. Fulton was planning to stretch the silk over the planes; it had
already been given a preliminary coat of a kind of flexible varnish
which was also a part of Mr. Fulton's invention. The carpenter had done
his part handsomely. The launch had come down the day before with all
of the heavier framework and trusses. A few rods were still to come
from the blacksmith, and the rear elevator control was still awaited,
but enough of the material had been mended and put in place to make the
aeroplane look less like a wreck.

Jerry and Mr. Fulton had finally managed to master the secret of the
motor; that is, they finally made it run as smoothly as a top, but
neither one was ever able to tell why it had not done so from the
start. Oiled and polished, it stood on the bench till a final brace
should be forthcoming.

Camp had been pitched on the river side of the open ground, close
beside the path. The second night of their new location Mr. Fulton and
Elizabeth came over, Dick guarding the _Skyrocket_ and Tod remaining at
the cabin to look after poor Billings, who, thanks to the doctor's
daily visits and his daughter's patient nursing, was growing steadily
stronger. Elizabeth brought along a guitar, which she played daintily,
singing the choruses of all the popular songs the boys could ask for by
name. After a little bashful hesitation, Dave chimed in, while the rest
of the boys lay back and listened in undisguised delight.

Into this peaceful scene burst Tod, frightened out of his wits. It was
a full minute before he finally managed to gasp:

"They've come--they've been here! I didn't see them!"

"What in the world do you mean?" cried Mr. Fulton, shaking the excited
boy with his left hand. "If you didn't see them, how do you----"

"I didn't. But it's gone--the motor's gone.----"

"What!" yelled the whole crew at once.

"Dick and I sat outside the doorway, listening to you folks having a
good time, and I went in to see what time it was--and there was the
hole in the side of the hang--hang--the shed, and the motor had
disappeared. At least that was all we noticed was gone."

The last of this was delivered on the run, for all had set out for the
machine shop, Mr. Fulton having promptly vetoed Phil's plan to put a
circle of Scouts around the shore.

Sure enough, a big gap showed in the side of the hangar, where two
boards had been pried loose. "Lucky you were outside," grunted Phil
disgustedly, "or they'd have pulled the whole place down over your

"We've got to work fast," urged Mr. Fulton. "If they get away with the
motor the stuff's all off. They're desperate men--I don't want any of
you trying to tackle them. Scout ahead, and when you sight them, this
is the signal:" He whistled the three short notes of the
whippoor-will's call. "I've got my automatic, and I guess I can take
care of them."

As they hurried out into the night they spread out, working toward the
east side of the island. Jerry found himself next to Phil, and after a
few yards he moved over closer to the Scout Leader.

"I say, Phil," he called guardedly; "you ready to listen to the wildest
kind of a notion?"

"Shoot," came the answer.

"I don't believe our visitors came on the island for that motor at all.
What good would it do them?"

"It'd stop our launching the _Skyrocket_, for one thing."

"But there are lots of lighter things that would do that. I don't trust
those two ruffians--or their boss, either."

"Well, who does?"

"That's not the point. Mr. Fulton figures that they merely want to keep
those others from buying his idea, so that when the first option
expires, _they_ can. But if they could steal the plans in the
meanwhile--get me?"

"I get you. Then you think that stealing the motor was just a blind,
and that they are----"

"Getting us out of the road so they can take their time going through
the workshop. If we're wrong, there's plenty of Scouts out trailing
them--it'd be too late anyway, as it's only a few hundred feet to where
they would have left their boat. What say we sneak back, see if there's
a gun at the cabin, and take them by surprise when they start
burglarizing the hangar?"

Phil turned about by way of answer, and stealthily they approached the
cabin. A light showed dim in the invalid's room, and through the
curtained window they could see Elizabeth's long braids bent over a
book. She merely looked up when they stopped at the window, and at once
came out the back door to where they stood.

"Is there a gun in the house?" questioned Phil.

"A thirty-two Colts," she replied. "Want it?"

"Quick as we can have it. _They_ are on the island."

But she did not wait to hear the rest of his explanation. In a jiffy
she had brought them an ugly looking revolver. "Be careful," she said
as she handed it to Phil; "it shoots when you pull the trigger."

The boys stole across the narrow space between the cabin and the
hangar, and flattened themselves against the log walls as they wound
their way toward the little "night door" near the other end. As they
passed the big sliding doors they paused an instant and pressed their
ears close against the planks, but all was still. Both had an instant
of disappointment, for they were counting strongly on being able to
crow over the rest.

But when they came to the crack where the two doors came together, and
looked within, their spirits jumped up till they hardly knew whether
they were pleased or frightened. For just an instant a flash lamp had
lighted up the darkness!

Not quite so cautiously now, and a good deal faster, they made their
way to the little door, guided by their sense of feeling, for the night
was black as the pitch in the old saying. Jerry turned the catch firmly
but slowly, and the door swung open without a creak. They stepped

They were now in a walled off ante-room used for small supplies. It
opened into the main workshop by means of a narrow doorway. Standing in
the middle of the tiny room they had a full view of the whole place.
Like two monstrous fireflies a pair of dark figures darted about,
ransacking Mr. Fulton's desk, tearing open the lockers and cupboards,
searching out every likely nook and cranny where papers might be hid,
their flashlights throwing dazzling light on each object of their

The two boys realized suddenly that the attention of the two had been
focused in their direction, and Jerry jumped back behind the shelter of
the door-edge just in time to escape the blinding rays of the
flashlights. Phil evidently realized that their time of grace was over
and there was nothing to be gained in further delay.

With raised pistol he stepped out into the light.

"Hands up!" he ordered gruffly. "Your little game is ended for

But he had miscalculated somewhat. With startling suddenness darkness
closed in about them, there was a quick rush across the littered floor,
a thud as a heavy body dashed against the shed wall and crashed through
the inch boards. Phil's gun roared out twice. As the two boys hastened
to the gap in the wall they could hear the crash of the pair as they
tore madly through the brush. Then all was still again.

But not for long. Panting from the run, Mr. Fulton and three of the
Scouts came chasing like mad through the darkness.

"What's happened?" he cried when he saw it was Jerry and Phil. He
listened as patiently as possible to their disconnected story, laughing
grimly at the end. "Well, they'll swim it to shore, because we found
their boat, and we sunk it under about a ton of stones."

"Yes, but----" began Jerry, a premonition of further disaster in his
mind and on the tip of his tongue, when from the east shore of Lost
Island came wild cries of rage and chagrin. "Just what I thought!"
exclaimed Jerry, by way of finishing out his sentence.

"What's that?" demanded Mr. Fulton and Phil in a breath.

But Jerry did not answer. There was no need. Down the path came an
excited group, shouting:

"Somebody's made off with the _Big Four!_"



Nothing else happened that night, but the boys had already had enough
excitement to keep them awake long past their usual time for turning
in. Some of them, indeed, were for starting out in pursuit of the _Big
Four_, but Mr. Fulton promptly squelched the plan. There was little
hope of finding the boat in the dense darkness.

Next morning, before breakfast, Sid Walmaly and Dave were sent out on a
scouting expedition, but they were not gone long. The _Big Four_ had
been found, barely half a mile down, stranded on a sand-bar. A jagged
hole in the side showed where the kidnappers had tried to scuttle the

After this event, the boys settled to their work in high spirits,
undeterred by the fact that the motor was still missing, although Mr.
Fulton felt sure it could not have been taken from the island. Phil
ventured to advance a theory, which the boys were inclined to scout but
which Mr. Fulton finally decided was at least worth the time and effort
it would take to try it out.

The men had had no time to carry the motor far, argued Phil. They had
not gone to their boat, else they could hardly have made their way back
to the hangar. They might of course have picked it up after they had
been frightened away, but there had been hardly time for that. They had
undoubtedly hidden it in the first place. The easiest place to hide the
thing was in the river, and the closest trail to the river hit the
extreme north end, where there was a steep-sided bay.

"Who's the best swimmer in the crowd?" asked Mr. Fulton. "I don't dare
take very many away from the job, but we've got to have the motor."

"Jerry Ring's the best swimmer and diver in Watertown," announced Dave
without hesitation. Mr. Fulton turned inquiringly to the Boy Scouts,
but no one answered his questioning look until Phil at last spoke up

"I'll go along if you need another one."

"I do. You two take the Scout boat and bring her around the point. I'll
go through the woods--be there in half an hour or so, when I get things
running smoothly here. Be careful you don't find the gas-eater before I
get there," he jested.

But it was more than half an hour before Mr. Fulton came upon the two
boys, stripped to their B-V-D's and at that instant resting on the
bank. He came up just in time to hear Jerry say: "I used to think I
could dive! Where'd you get onto it?"

"Just Scout stuff," laughed Phil, modestly. "Every Scout in the
patrol's got swimming and diving honors."

"Good!" broke in Mr. Fulton. "Dive me up that motor and I'll get you a
special honor as a substitute submarine."

"We've worked down from the point, scraping bottom for twenty feet
out--that's about as far as they could heave it, we figured. We've just
got to the place where I'd have dived first-off if I had only one
chance at it. Here goes for that leather medal," as Phil rose and
poised himself for the plunge.

It was as pretty a dive as one could want to see. He split the water
with a clean slash, with hardly a bubble. A minute, another, and
another passed, the two on shore watching the surface expectantly. They
began to grow worried.

"He's been beating me right along" confessed Jerry. "I can't come
within a full minute of his ordinary dives. This one is a pippin--there
he blows!"

Spouting like a young whale, Phil broke the water and came ashore in
long reaching strokes.

"I tried my best!" he gasped as he pushed back his hair and rubbed the
water from his eyes. "But I couldn't make it!"

"Better luck next time," encouraged Mr. Fulton. "If you don't find her
in two more dives like that, why she isn't in Plum Run, that's all!"

"Find her? I was talking about _lifting_ her. Guess we'll have to get a
rope on her--she's pretty well down in the mud."

"Hurray!" shouted Jerry, giving his chum a sounding smack on the wet
back. "Man the lifeboats! I chucked a rope in the bow of the boat."

Mr. Fulton stood on the bank to mark the line, while the boys pushed
the boat out to where Phil had come up, some twenty feet from shore.
Jerry slipped over the side, one end of the rope in his hand. He did
not remain long below.

Clambering in at the stern, he shouted: "Hoist away--she's hooked!"

And there was the motor, clogged with mud, to be sure, but undamaged.
Mr. Fulton stepped into the boat and they rowed quickly back to the
"dock." While the two boys put on their clothes over their wet
underwear, he hurried back to the workshop to see how things were
going. A few minutes later they followed with the motor.

They felt, after this fortunate end of the adventure, that Mr. Fulton
ought once more to be his own cheery self, but a look of gloom seemed
to have settled down over his face, and his face looked haggard except
when he was talking to one of the boys. Jerry finally decided to try to
cheer him up.

"Luck was sure breaking our way this morning, wasn't it?" he exclaimed
cheerfully as the man came up to where Jerry sat, removing the mud from
their prize.

"Fine--fine," agreed Mr. Fulton, but without spirit.

"What's the trouble?" demanded Jerry, sympathetically. "Anything else
gone wrong?"

"No--Oh, no."

"You look like the ghost of Mike Clancy's goat. Remember how you always
used to be telling Tod and me to grin hardest when we were getting
licked worst?"

"I sure ought to grin now, then."

"We're not licked--not by a long shot!"

"Yes we are--by about twenty-four hours. While you were gone I got word
from the blacksmith. He says he can't possibly have that propeller
shaft we found was snapped, welded before to-morrow afternoon late. Not
if we're to have the other things he promised. He's lost his
helper--quit him cold."

"No!" exclaimed Jerry, his heart sinking at least two feet. Then, with
sudden suspicion, "Do you suppose----"

"I _know_ it," interrupted Mr. Fulton. "Our two friends are working
every scheme they know. Blocking our blacksmithing was one of their
easiest weapons. I'm only surprised they didn't do it before."

"What can we do?"

"Submit gracefully. But I just can't face those two doubters. First
they were so enthusiastic and then so suspicious, that I can't be
satisfied unless I convince them. But the stuff's all off--and I told
Lewis and Harris to come out to-morrow afternoon at three-thirty to see
the _Skyrocket_ make good all my claims!"

"Can't you beg off and get a little more time?"

"They'd be willing enough, I suppose. They don't seem to be in the
slightest hurry. But there's that second option that begins operations
after to-morrow. No, there's no loophole. All we can do is just peg
ahead, and if the blacksmith comes through sooner than he expects, we
may have a bare chance. I just sent Tod in to lend a hand."

The blacksmith did do better than his word, for Tod came back late in
the afternoon bearing the mended shaft and two smaller parts that were
urgently needed.

It took all the rest of that afternoon to lay the shaft in its
ball-bearings and true it up. The propeller was still to be attached,
but Mr. Fulton declared he would take no chances with that or with the
final adjustments in the half light of the growing dusk.

The boys were glad to knock off. They had been working at high tension
for a long while now and were beginning to feel the strain. They were
all frankly sleepy, too, after the excitement of the night before. As a
final precaution against a repetition of the surprise attack they all
slept in the hangar, finding the hard floor an unwelcome change from
their leafy beds in camp.

But the night passed quietly. With daybreak they were all astir, but
the time before breakfast was spent in an invigorating swim in the
Plum. Elizabeth had done herself proud in the way of pancakes this last
morning, and the boys did full justice. It was almost eight o'clock
before anyone returned to the hangar with any intention of working.
After barely half an hour there, chiefly spent in polishing and
tightening up nuts and draw-buckles, Mr. Fulton drove them all
outdoors. "Chase off and play," he insisted. "Tod and I will give her
the finishing touches; then you can all come back and help us push her
out into the sunlight for the final inspection."

But Elizabeth called them before Mr. Fulton was ready for their
services. Heaping platters of beautifully browned perch testified both
to her skill and that of the boys.

"Lunch time already?" exclaimed Mr. Fulton in surprise. "Where's the
morning gone to?" But he showed that if he hadn't noted the passage of
time, his stomach had. As he watched the brown pile diminish under Mr.
Fulton's vigorous attack, Phil threatened to go back to the river and
start fishing again. "You oughtn't to be eating fish," he joked. "Birds
are more your style. Better let me go out and shoot you a duck--or a
sparrow; they're more in season."

But Mr. Fulton was at last satisfied, as were all the boys. He
sauntered back at once to the hangar. "Guess you chaps can give me a
shoulder now, and we'll take her out to daylight. After that you keep
out of the way till the show starts--about four o'clock. All but two of
you, that is. There's a bearing to grind on the lathe, and a couple of
sets of threads to recut."

Tod could not have been driven away, so Jerry volunteered to be the
other helper. The whole troop made easy work of running out the
_Skyrocket_. After standing about admiringly a while, they all
scattered, some of them, Jerry learned from their conversation, to try
to teach Elizabeth how to catch bass. Jerry grinned to himself at this;
he had heard Tod tell of the exploits of this slip of a girl, and no
boy in camp could do more with a four-ounce bass rod than she could.

Tod and Jerry went at once at their grinding, and by two o'clock all
was in readiness. Every rod and strut and bolt and screw was in place,
tight as a drum. The nickel and brass of the bearings flashed in the
sun; the _Skyrocket_ looked fit as a fiddle. There was still a little
gasoline in the gallon can that they had been using for testing the
motor, and Tod let it gurgle into the gasoline tank that curved back on
the framework just above the pilot's seat.

"Try her out, dad," he urged.

"I'll try the motor," agreed Mr. Fulton, "but I'm not going up until
there's somebody around to watch her go through her paces. I've got my
shoulder out of splints to-day, but I don't dare use it when there's
any danger of strain. Think you're going to have the nerve to go up
with me, son?"

Jerry opened his eyes wide. This was the first he had heard of any such
plan as _that_.

"Think I'm going to let you go up alone, with a twisted wing that might
give out?" demanded Tod scornfully. "Huh! I'll take her up alone if
you'll let me."

"I'll let you fill her up with gas, if you're so ambitious as all that.
I see an automobile throwing up the dust on the last hill of the town
road. I expect it's our friends. I'll let one of the boys row me across
to meet them. Ask Billings, if you can't find the wrench to unscrew the
cap of the gasoline reservoir."

Billings proved to be sound asleep, napping off the effects of
over-indulgence in browned perch, so the boys decided to await the
return of Mr. Fulton, a search of the workshop having failed to reveal
the wrench, and none of the Stillsons being big enough to take the big
nut that capped the fifty-gallon tank sunk in the ground on the shady
north side of the hangar. So they sat down beside it and waited for Mr.
Fulton to come back with his visitors.

They finally appeared, Lewis and Harris standing about and listening in
unenthusiastic silence as Mr. Fulton glowingly explained the whyness of
the various devices and improvements that made the _Skyrocket_ a real
invention. They did not even venture an occasional question, although
it was easy to see that they were impressed.

"What are they made of? Wood?" exclaimed Jerry in fierce impatience.
"Do you know--if it wasn't that we've simply got to beat out those
other fellows, I'd almost like to see these two sleepies get left. I
don't like them a little bit!"

"Huh! Ask me if I do. They give me the willies. Never did like them,
and ever since they acted so nasty about that accident I just plumb
hate 'em. You'd think dad was trying to sandbag them or something like
that. Just listen to them grouching around. I'd hate to be a woman and
married to one of them and have dinner late."

Jerry had seated himself on the top of the reservoir, the cap between
his legs. He caught hold of it with his two hands. "It's too blamed bad
your dad couldn't hitch up with Uncle Sam!" he exclaimed.

"Yes, and if you believe what the papers say, we're going to need it,
too. We might be mixed up in the big war any day."

"Well, I expect we'd better not sit here gassing any longer. Tod, chase
over and ask your dad where that wrench is--unless you've got a notion
I can twist this thing off with my hands." He gave a playful tug as if
to carry out his boast.

"Say!" he cried, "what do you know about this!"

"About what?" asked Tod lazily, a dozen feet away on the way to his

"This," answered Jerry, giving the big cap a twirl with his forefinger.
"Some careful of your gasoline you people are!" The cap was loose.

"Something funny about that," declared Tod, coming back. "I saw
Billings screw that on last time myself--with the wrench."

There _was_ something decidedly funny about it, as it turned out. At
Tod's alarmed call Mr. Fulton came on the run. "It's been tampered
with," was his immediate decision. "Screw on the pump, boys, and force
up a gallon or so, If there isn't water in that gas we're the luckiest
folks alive. I might have known those crooks had a final shot in their

"What's the idea?" asked Mr. Harris, with the first interest he had

"Somebody's trying to block the game, that's what!" sputtered Mr.
Fulton. "Here, boys, take the canfull in and put it in the shop engine.
If she can take it I guess we're worrying for nothing."

For a moment or so it looked as if that were the case; the engine
chugged away in its usual steady manner. But once the gasoline was gone
that the boys had been unable to empty out of its tank, it began to
kick a little. Within another minute it had stopped dead.

"Show's over," announced Mr. Fulton grimly. "It's way after three
o'clock now, and we can't hope to get a new supply from town this side
of dark. If we just hadn't sent your auto back!"

"You mean to tell us that you cannot go up--that there will be no
flight!" cried Mr. Lewis, making up for all his previous lack of
excitement in one burst of protest. "But, man--it's the last day of the

"It's worse than that," countered Mr. Fulton. "It's the day before the
beginning of a new option, held by the people who watered that gas--and
at least a dozen other sneaking tricks."

"But you told us that you would--why, you guaranteed us a trial flight."

"I said you didn't have to buy till you'd seen it work, yes. I'm in
your hands, gentlemen. After midnight to-night I'm in other hands--and
you're going to lose the chance of your lifetime to secure for your
government something that may prove the deciding factor in that
terrific war you're carrying on over there. I'm sure you don't doubt my
good faith."

"Faith! It's performances we want."

"Give me gas and I'll give you a demonstration that can't help but
convince you. I can't use my motor on water. I was willing to risk my
neck--and my boy's--by going up and trying this contraption with my
left hand--but I can't accomplish the impossible."

"But surely you don't expect us to buy a pig in a poke----"

"This is no pig--it's a hawk. Will you do this? Will you buy the
machine and the idea on approval? I'm pledged. If it isn't sold by
night to you, to-morrow those other people will come with cash in

"Harris, you know," drawled Mr. Lewis, "I half believe the fellow's
trying to flimflam us, you know. How do we know?"

"How do you know!" Mr. Fulton's eyes flashed fire. "I'll have you know
I'm a man of honor."

"Sure--sure," agreed Mr. Harris conciliatingly. "But that's not the
idea, old chap. We don't buy this for ourselves, you understand. We're
merely agents, and responsible to our chief. What'd we say if we came
back with a bag of pot metal for our money?"

"What will you say to your conscience when your enemy drops destruction
onto your brave countrymen in the trenches from the Fulton Aeroplane?
That's what you'd better be asking yourselves."

"But we've got to be cautious."

"Cautious! If you saw the goose that laid the golden egg getting off
the nest, you'd hold the egg up to a candle to see if it was fresh!"

"Well, now, Mr. Fulton----" began Mr. Harris, when he was interrupted
by Jerry, who had been holding himself in as long as was humanly

"Don't let's waste any more time talking, Mr. Fulton. Tod and I have
got a scheme that will pull us out on top yet--even if it does mean
helping these doubters against their will!"



"Look here, Mr. Fulton," began Jerry, almost stammering in his
eagerness. "It wouldn't be any trick at all to get over to the
interurban tracks in time to catch the four o'clock northbound. That
gets to Watertown at four twenty-five--say half-past. We ought to be
able to get the gas and rout out a machine to haul it in inside another
half hour. That's five o'clock. Then an hour certainly would see us
back here, with a good hour and more of daylight left."

"I've gone over all that in my mind a dozen times. But I've also spent
a little time figuring what these men would be doing in the meanwhile.
There's just one place in Watertown that keeps any quantity of
gasoline--the rest buy of him. And he'd die of fright if he should be
caught with more than a hundred gallons at one time."

"But we don't need more than five!" exploded Tod.

"Sure, son, sure. But suppose somebody just ahead of you made it his
business to buy the hundred--how about that?"

"But there's a chance," objected Jerry, returning to the attack. "We
might be able to get away without their seeing us."

"Don't worry; they're watching every move we make."

"Then I've got another scheme. See if you can pick it full of holes
too." There was more than a touch of impatience in Jerry's voice.
"They're watching this side, that's sure; and they know we're bound to
figure on either Watertown or Chester. We'll fool them. I'll swim
across to the other side, reach a telephone, get my dad, who's at
Corliss these days on business. There's a Standard Oil tank at Corliss.
Dad'll start the gas out inside of twenty minutes----"

"Corliss is a good two hours' trip by auto, my boy. It would take at
least half an hour to get the message through, and another to get the
gas here from the road. That means at least seven o'clock, and it would
be dark before we were ready to go up."

"All right," agreed Jerry, refusing to give up. "Suppose it does get
dark: there's such a thing as flying by night, isn't there? All we've
got to do is to build a dozen flaring bonfires to see by----"

"Now you're talking!" exclaimed Mr. Fulton with sudden enthusiasm.
"You've hit it. Not brush--that would smoke us out. But there are ten
or a dozen open air torches here like those they use at street shows,
and there's not enough water in the gasoline to hurt it for that
purpose. Moreover, we can switch our engine onto that dynamo in the
shop, and we'll string incandescent lights all through the trees; we've
got plenty of them. There's at least a mile of bare copper wire about
the place--what you two standing with your mouths wide open for?
Thought you were going to get that gas! Where in thunder are all those

"Here they come--tired of waiting out there in the sun, I guess. So
long, dad; I'm going with Jerry."

"You are _not_. You're going to be chief electrician. If Jerry can't
put through his part of the job alone he doesn't deserve credit for
having thought of the whole scheme."

The first part of Jerry's task proved easy enough. It took him well
over the half hour Mr. Fulton had predicted, to find a farmhouse with a
telephone, and Central seemed an unusually long time in ringing through
to the office Jerry's father had been making his headquarters for the
past weeks. Then it developed that Mr. Ring was out at a conference of
business men. Jerry took the telephone number the girl gave him, and
repeated it to Central, who again took her time in giving the
connection. Jerry was about ready to drop with nervousness before he
finally heard his father's gruff voice at the other end of the line.

The words simply tumbled over themselves as Jerry told his story;
fortunately, Mr. Ring was shrewd enough to guess the half that Jerry
jumbled in his eagerness.

"Where are you--so I can call you back?" was Mr. Ring's only reply.

Fifteen minutes later the telephone rang. Jerry answered, to hear: "Ten
gallons of gasoline, double strained, left here five minutes ago on a
fast delivery truck. It ought to reach the road opposite Lost Island
inside of two hours. You be there to tell them what to do. Good luck,
Jerry--I'm going back to that conference. This skylark may cost me a
five hundred dollar profit."

"It isn't a skylark--it's a sky_rocket_, and Mr. Fulton will pay you
double over!" But it was into a dead transmitter he shouted it, for Mr.
Ring had not waited.

Jerry did not wait long either, but raced across fields and through
woods to the river road. He found a shady spot, which he established as
his headquarters, but he was too restless to wait there long. They
seemed a mighty long two hours. The sun sank lower and lower; Jerry
heard a bell ringing far off, calling the farm hands to supper--he was
getting hungry himself. Shadows began to darken, the clouds flared up
in a sudden crimson, first low down on the horizon, then high up in the
sky. The sun dropped out of sight behind the trees.

Away down the road sounded a faint drumming noise that grew nearer and
louder until around the bend whirred a dust-raising black monster that
came to a halt a few feet away from the boy who had sprung out,
shouting and waving his arms. "You waiting for gasoline?" a grouchy
voice demanded. "Are you Mr. Ring?"

"I sure am!"

"Well, come on back here and help h'ist it out. We're in a hurry to get
back to town--why it's only a kid!" as Jerry came up. "Who's going to
help you handle it? It's in two five-gallon cans."

"I guess I can manage it all right. I've got some friends waiting down
on the river bank."

"All right; it's your funeral. There you are, sealed, signed and
delivered." The motor roared out, then settled to a steady hum; the man
backed and turned and soon was swallowed up in the dust and the growing

Jerry braced his shoulders for the stiff carry to the Plum, a
five-gallon can in each hand. He was willing to stop now and then for a
breathing spell, but at last he set the load down on the narrow fringe
of sandy beach. Cupping his hands about his mouth, he sent a lusty
shout ringing across the water; he was too weary to swim it, and there
did not seem to be much need for further concealment. There was an
instant answer, showing that the boys had been awaiting his signal. The
splash of oars told him that the boat was on the way, and he felt
suddenly glad that he could now think of a few minutes' rest.

It proved to be Dave and Tod and Phil in the Scout boat. They made
quick work of loading in the two cans, and then they all piled in, Dave
and Tod at the oars. They were perhaps halfway across when Jerry asked,
anxiously, it seemed:

"Can't you get any more speed out of her, fellows?"

"What's eating you? It's as dark now as it's going to get," answered
Dave, at the same time letting his oars float idly up against the side
of the boat.

"I'm worried, that's why," exclaimed Jerry, slipping over and pushing
Dave out of his seat. "Do you hear anything?"

They all listened, Tod holding his oars out of the water. Sure enough,
a purring, deeply muffled sound came faintly across the water. It was
unmistakably a motorboat.

"Some camper," suggested Dave.

"It sounds more like--trouble," declared Phil, a significant accent on
the word. "The enemy, I bet, and trying to cut us off."

"Well, we've got a big start on them. They're a long way off" again
Dave volunteered.

"You mean you're a long way off. They've got her tuned down--she isn't
over two hundred yards away and coming like blue blazes. They mean
mischief--they aren't showing a single light. What's our plan?"

"Keep cool," advised Jerry. "They'll probably try to bump us. We'll row
along easy-like, with a big burst of speed at the last second. Before
they can turn and come at us again, we can make shore. Steady now!"

The drone of the motor was almost upon them. The dusk lay heavy over
the water; they could see nothing. Louder and louder sounded the
explosions, but now they had slowed up. A dim shape showed through the

"All set!" came the low command from Jerry, just as the boat, muffler
cut out, the engine at top speed, and volleying revolutions and
deafening explosions, seemed to leap through the water.

"Down hard!" cried Jerry, lunging with his oars. Tod grunted as he put
all his strength into the pull. The Scout boat seemed to lift itself
bodily out of the water as it plunged forward--only inches to spare as
a slim hull slipped by the stern.

"Yah!" yelled Phil, jumping to his feet and shaking his fist wildly.
"You're beat!"

The Scout boat hit shore just then, and Phil, caught off his guard,
took a header and landed astride one of the gasoline cans. "I wonder if
that was a torpedo," he grunted as he picked himself up.

"No," chuckled Tod. "Just a reminder not to crow while your head is
still on the block."

The boys wasted no time in getting the gasoline out of the boat and up
through the bushes, sending a lusty shout ahead of them to tell the
waiting islanders that they were coming.

"Over on the far side of the clearing," directed Tod, who was carrying
one side of a can with Jerry. "We hauled the _Skyrocket_ over there as
the ground is more level and free from stumps."

They found the whole crew waiting about the airship, their eager faces
lighted up by the flaring flames of one of the gasoline torches.
"Hooray for Jerry, the Gasoline Scout!" they shouted as the boys
dropped their loads at the first convenient spot.

"Bully for you!" exclaimed Mr. Fulton, coming over and clapping Jerry
on the shoulder. "Have any trouble?"

"You better guess we did," broke in Dave. "A motorboat tried its best
to run us down."

Mr. Fulton looked grave as he listened to the tale of their adventure.
As Dave finished a spirited account of their narrow escape, the man
turned to Tod with:

"Guess you'd better look after filling the tank, son, while I chase
over to the house and get my goggles and my harness," referring to a
leather brace the doctor had brought him a few days before to use until
his shoulder grew stronger. Unfortunately, the thing was not properly
made and it held the arm too stiffly, so Mr. Fulton used it only when
he absolutely had to.

The boys all wanted to have a hand in this final operation and
consequently it took twice as long as was necessary to fill the tank.
Enough was spilled, as Tod said, to run the _Skyrocket_ ten miles. In
the meanwhile, one of the boys took the small can and went the rounds
and filled all the torches with gasoline, while another came close
behind him and started them going.

Tod finally left the rest to finish the job of filling the _Skyrocket_,
and disappeared in the direction of the workshop. Within five minutes
the boys heard the steady chugging of "Old Faithful" as they had named
the shop motor. An instant later the whole field was suddenly lighted
up as the twenty incandescent lights flashed up brightly.

"_Some_ illumination!" cried Jerry, delightedly, turning to Mr. Harris,
who happened to be nearest him.

"Yes," agreed the man coldly, "but it's all on the ground."

"Sure. Because there's nothing up in the air to see. Wait till the old
_Skyrocket_ shoots up," and Jerry walked over to where the boys were
standing. "Old grouch," he said to himself. "You'd think he didn't want
to see us win out."

Tod came hurrying back from the hangar. "Where's dad?" he asked.

"Hasn't got back yet."

"That's funny. I saw him leave the cabin as I went in to start up the
dynamo. He called something to me about hurrying so as not to give
those fellows any time to think up new tricks. Who's that over there
with Mr. Harris?"

"Phil, I guess. Your dad hasn't come out yet or we'd have seen
him--it's light as day."

"What's the cause of the delay now?" came from behind them. Mr. Lewis
had approached the group unobserved.

"Waiting for my father," answered Tod. "Guess he's having a hard time
with his harness. I'd have stopped for him only I thought he'd have
come back ahead of me. I'll chase over now and see if he needs any help
with his straps."

Tod ambled off across the torch-lighted open. It was a weird sight,
that flaring line of torches, the paler gleam of the electric lights
hung high in the trees, the animated faces of the excited boys, the two
stolid men, and the adventurous looking _Skyrocket_, its engines
throbbing, the tiny searchlight ahead of the pilot's seat sending a
fan-shaped road of white light into the trees. It was like a scene on
the stage--just before the grand climax.

Tod furnished the climax for this scene. Hardly had he disappeared
within the door of the cabin, before he came running out again,
shouting at the top of his voice:

"Fellows! Quick!"

There was a note in his cry that went through the boys like an electric
shock. It was anger and fear and a dozen other emotions at once. They
fairly flew across the hundred yards or so to the cabin, crowding in
till the main room was filled.

"What is it, Tod?" cried Phil, as his cousin flung open the door to the
tiny lean-to bedroom. Tod's face was pasty white and his eyes bulged

"They've--_got_ dad! I'm afraid he's--killed!"

"No!" exclaimed Jerry, pushing past.

But the first look made him believe the worst. On the floor, toppled
over in the chair to which he had been bound, lay Mr. Fulton, his
injured shoulder twisted way out of place, his distorted face the color
of old ivory. Gagged and tightly laced to the bed lay Mr. Billings, his
features working in wildest rage.

But Mr. Fulton was not dead. He came to under the deft handling of Phil
and his fellow Scouts, but it was Mr. Billings who told the story of
the attack.

While Mr. Fulton had been struggling with the strap that held his
shoulder-brace in place, two burly men had burst through the doorway
and quickly overpowered him, handicapped as he was by his useless arm.
They had bound him to the chair, and then, after gagging and tying
Billings, had calmly proceeded to ransack the room, one holding a
pistol at Fulton's head while the other searched.

Papers scattered about on the floor, wrecked furniture and broken
boxes, testified to the thoroughness of the hunt. But they had found
nothing until they had thought to go through the bed on which Billings
lay. Under the mattress was a portfolio packed with blueprints and
plans. That was when Mr. Fulton had fallen; he had tried to free
himself from his bonds and get at the two, no matter how hopeless the

As Mr. Billings finished the story, Mr. Fulton opened his eyes weakly.
"Tod----" he gasped--"where's Tod?"

"Here, dad," coming close beside him where he lay on a big pile of

"Look quick and see if they found the little flat book--you know."

Tod rummaged hastily through the disordered mess of drawings littered
over the bed and floor. "Not here," he confessed finally.

The man gave a deep groan. "We're done for, then. It had the contract
folded up in it. And it had the combination to the safe at the house,
and there was the list of the specifications Mr. Billings made out for
me when we packed away the first draft of the _Skyrocket_."

"What difference does that make, if they've already got the
blueprints'?" asked Jerry.

"Oh-h!" cried Mr. Fulton, despair in his voice, "don't you see? The
aeroplane itself was made here; Billings did all the work on it. But
Tod and I did all the experimental work at home. All the data
concerning the invention is back there in the safe!"

"And they're already halfway there in their motorboat!" groaned Phil.

But Mr. Fulton made no answer. His eyes were closed; he had fainted
dead away.

Tod jumped up from where he had been kneeling beside his father. "Look
after him, Phil," he directed briskly. "Jerry, you come with me. Those
villains have got the contract and they will soon have dad's secret--it
means that we're cleaned out. There's only one thing to do in a tight
place like this, and you and I are going to do it--if you've got the

"I've got it," responded Jerry quickly. "What is it?"

"We're going after those crooks in the _Skyrocket_!"



The incidents of the next hour or so would be hard to picture from the
standpoint of Jerry's emotions. As they half ran over to where the
_Skyrocket_ stood ready, snorting like an impatient racehorse, his
heart was filled with a kind of frightened determination. Once he was
strapped into his seat, his pulses stopped galloping so fast, but as
Tod began an endless fumbling with levers, plainly as nervous as his
chum, Jerry's nerve oozed out at his fingertips; he might have climbed
out had it not been for the straps--and the two men, who now came
forward and insisted that the boys give up their hair-brained plan.
Jerry would have been killed by inches rather than give in to them.

A sudden terrifying lurch, a dizzy parting company with solid earth
that almost made Jerry part company with his stomach. He yelled, but it
might easily have been through excitement rather than fear. He hoped
the two and Tod would think so. He dared not look down--all he could do
was grip the rod before him with a death-defying clutch. Faster and
faster, higher and higher they mounted, the air whistling by them like

"Can't you slow her down a little?" he yelled in Tod's ear, but Tod
gave no answer. He could hardly have heard above the roar of the motor
and the sickening whine of the propellers--not to intention a steady
drumming of taut wires and tightly stretched silk. "Can't you tune her
down?" Jerry yelled, louder this time, "and get her level?"

"Can't!" shouted Tod. "I've forgotten which handle to pull, even if I
knew which way to pull it!"

He tried first one and then another, but although they lurched
dangerously, first this way and then that, they kept mounting into the
sky. Finally there was but one chance left--Tod cautiously drew the
lever toward him, then with an "Ah!" heard above all the noise, brought
it all the way. The _Skyrocket_ quivered, dropped to an even keel, and
then turned her nose earthward. But Tod was ready for that. Halfway
back he shoved, the lever and once more the _Skyrocket_ rode level.

They had left Lost Island far behind, but in which direction they could
not be sure. A long streak of flame to the left told them that a
railroad lay there, and it could be none other than the Belt Line that
ran into Watertown. Through a rift in the clouds a cluster of stars
showed briefly--the Big Dipper. "See!" shouted Tod. "We're headed
north, all right."

They were going much slower now, and the noise was not so deafening;
they could talk without splitting their throats. Dimly they made out
Plum Run directly beneath them, while a haze of lights indicated
Watertown, the goal. Even as they watched it seemed to be drawing

"Were you scared?" asked Tod.

"Stiff," confessed Jerry. "You?"

"Should say. Bet my hair's turned white. Where'll we land?"

"Where can you?"

"Don't know. River, most likely. Say, we're lucky we're alive. I
thought I knew how to run it until we got off the ground. Then I found
I'd forgotten more than I ever learned."

"Did you ever run it before?"

"With dad watching, yes. Once, that is. But I've faked running it a
hundred times there in the hangar. Suppose we could come down in your
back lot? It's level--and big enough, maybe."

"We might hit a horse. Dad's got Daisy in there nights."

"We'll have to chance it, I guess. But you hold on good and tight,
because I'll probably pull the wrong strings at the last minute. Where
are we now?"

"That's the mill yonder, I think. We want to swing west a little now.
Suppose _they_ are at the house by now?"

"Most likely. They had a good start. Shall we get your dad?"

"Uhuh. And several others--with guns. Better have old Bignold." Mr.
Bignold was the only night policeman in Watertown. "There's the city
limits, that switch-tower on the Belt Line. Hadn't we better come down
a bit. I don't like the idea of falling so far."

Tod obediently let the _Skyrocket_ slide down a few hundred feet, till
they were just above the tree-tops. They could see that their arrival
was causing a commotion below. They could even hear the cries of alarm.
"Bet they think we're a comet," chuckled Tod.

Now he began to circle a bit, for it was hard to identify houses and
streets in the dark and from this unfamiliar view. At last Jerry gave a
shout of joy. "There's our house--and I bet that's dad coming out to
see what's up. Hey, dad!" he yelled, but the running figure below made
no answer.

"Well, here goes for Daisy!" chuckled Tod, at the same time pointing
the _Skyrocket_ earthward so sharply that it made Jerry gasp. Down,
down they shot, the black underneath seeming to be rushing up to crush
them. At the last Tod managed to lessen their slant, but even then they
struck the ground with a force that almost overturned the machine. Over
the rough ground the landing wheels jolted, but slower and slower. A
final disrupting jar, and they stopped dead.

Not so the object they had struck. With a wild squeal of fear poor
Daisy struggled to her feet and went tearing out of sight and hearing
at better speed than she had shown for years.

"That'll bring dad on the jump," declared Jerry, climbing painfully
from his seat. "Say, to-morrow I'm going to take a good look at this
rod I've been holding to; I'll bet it shows fingermarks."

"What's the meaning of that rumpus out there?" demanded a stern voice.

"Oh, dad--we need you the worst way."

"That you, Jerry? What in tarnation you up to anyhow?"

"We're not up any longer--we're glad to get back to earth."

"Eh?" said Mr. Ring, perplexed, as he came up to them. "What ye driving
at? What was that thing that just sailed over the house? Did you see
it? I heard Daisy going on out here like the devil before day--or was
it you two who were pestering her? What's that contraption you're
sitting on?"

"The same thing that just sailed over, dad," laughed Jerry, then,
unable to hold in any longer: "We came from Lost Island in Mr. Fulton's
aeroplane that he's just invented, and there's robbers in Mr. Fulton's
house, and we want you to get a gun and Mr. Bignold and all the
neighbors, and go down and get them!" Jerry stopped, but only because
he was out of breath.

"Get them? Who are _them?_ And what in thunder you two doing in an
aero----" "Oh, dad," Jerry almost screamed in his fear that delay might
make them too late, "don't stop to ask questions. Let's get to the
house and Tod can be telephoning while I tell you what it's all about."
He caught hold of his father's arm to hurry him along. "There are two
men breaking into Mr. Fulton's safe this minute, most likely, and we
mustn't let them get away."

"Well, what in thunder's Fulton got in a safe that any robber would
want?" grumbled Mr. Ring, but stepping briskly along nevertheless. "Two
men, you say? Guess Bignold and I can handle them. I've got my old
horse-pistol--if it doesn't blow out backwards."

They had reached the house, and Tod went in to telephone, while Mr.
Ring went upstairs to get his revolver, which, instead of being a horse
pistol, was an automatic of the latest type. Jerry stopped him for a
moment at the stair door. "I'm going ahead. I'll be just outside the
gate over yonder, keeping an eye on the place to see they don't get
away." He was gone before Mr. Ring could object.

But the house was dark and silent. Not a sign of unwelcome visitors was
to be seen. All the windows were tightly closed; both doors were shut.
Jerry felt uncomfortable. Suppose there was no one there--had been no
one there? The two men would roast him and Tod unmercifully. He heard a
light step on the walk behind him and turned, expecting his father. His
words of greeting died in his throat.

Two men, looking unbelievably big and threatening in the darkness, were
almost upon him. He tried to shout for help. His tongue seemed
paralyzed and his throat refused to give out a sound. Jerry was scared
stiff. He knew at once that these two were the men they had come to
capture, and somehow he had a feeling that they knew _that_, too.

Not a word was said. Jerry had backed up against the gatepost, his
fists doubled up at his sides.

The two pressed in close against him. He felt powerful hands reaching
out to crush the life out of him, but still he made no outcry. Then one
of them spoke.

"You came in the airship?"

Jerry started, for the man's English was perfect, though heavy and
foreign sounding in an unexplainable way. He repeated his question when
the boy did not answer at once.

"Yes--yes," stammered Jerry, hoping that perhaps he might gain time.

"You came alone?" insinuated the same speaker as before, but now an
ominous note of threat in his voice.

Jerry was in a quandary. He realized that if he told them that he had
come alone, that they would kill him. On the other hand, if he told
them the truth, they would get away.

"Answer!" commanded the man, catching Jerry by the throat and shaking
him till the back of Jerry's eyeballs seemed to be red, searing flames.
A sudden rage came over him, numbed as he was by the pressure on his
windpipe. With a mighty wrench he freed himself. Kicking out with all
his might, he caught the farther man full in the pit of the stomach. He
fell, all doubled up. But the man who had choked Jerry, laughed
scornfully as lie caught the boy's arms and gave the one a twist that
almost tore it from its socket.

"More spirit than brains," he laughed derisively. "I'll break you in
two over my knee if you make another break like that."

"You'll kindly put up your hands in the meanwhile," suggested a
pleasant but firm voice which Jerry could hardly recognize as that of
his father. "I think I'll take a little hand in this game myself."

"Look out, dad--there's one on the ground!" warned Jerry. "I kicked him
in the stomach."

"Pleasant way to treat visitors. Why didn't you invite them into the
house, son? Oblige me, gentlemen." He waved his automatic in the
general direction of the Fulton front porch. "I'd ask you to my own
house, but, you know, womenfolks----"

Jerry stepped out of the way. His assailant passed him and turned to go
in the gateway. Then something happened, just what, Jerry was not sure.
Afterwards it developed that he had been picked up bodily and hurled
full at his father. Mr. Ring went down like a tenpin when the ball hits
dead-center. As he fell, his finger pressed the trigger and six roaring
shots flashed into the air. When father and son regained their feet,
they had a last dim glimpse of two forms in rapid flight. Then the
darkness swallowed them up.

"We bungled it," said Mr. Ring, ruefully feeling of a certain soft spot
in his body where Jerry's weight had landed.

"And here come Tod--and Chief Bignold, just a minute too late."

"Hi there, Mr. Ring," called the burly constable. "What is it--a riot?"

"A massacre, but all the victims escaped. Two blooming foreigners
trying to steal an airship out of Mr. Fulton's safe down there in his
cellar--wasn't that what you said, boys?"

The boys tried to explain, but both men seemed to insist on taking the
whole affair as a joke, though they talked it over seriously enough
when the youngsters were out of hearing. Tod opened the door and let
them inside the house, but did not go in himself, motioning to Jerry to
stay beside him.

"You two youngsters chase along over to the house and tell Mrs. Ring to
give you your nursing bottles and put you to bed."

"Huh," snorted Tod, "we daren't leave the _Skyrocket_ unguarded."

"Why it's Fulton's kid," exclaimed Bignold, for the first time
recognizing him. "Say, you tell your dad that he's been stirring up
this town till it's wild with excitement. Three telegrams this day, not
to mention a special delivery letter that they've been hunting all over
the country for him with. And on top of that, an important little man
with brass buttons and shoulder-straps, struttin' all over the place
and askin' everybody if he's Mr. Fulton, the inventor. When'd your dad
get to be an inventor?"

"Well, he had to be born sometime," answered Tod dryly.

"Eh? Well, you'd best tell that same little busy-bee where your father
can be found. And the telegrams; don't forget them."

"I won't," answered Tod, starting off toward town on the run. "Watch
the old _Skyrocket_ till I get back, will you, Jerry?" and he was gone.

       *       *       *       *       *       *       *

Two stiff, sleepy, disgusted boys sat up in their nest of blankets and
looked at each other through the framework of the _Skyrocket_ next
morning at something like seven o'clock.

"And you said you wouldn't go to sleep," each said slowly and
accusingly to the other, then both grinned sheepishly.

"Oh, well, the machine's still here, so why grouch over a couple hours'
sleep?" Tod defended. "Huh--I suppose not. But I'll bet dad had a good
laugh over us when he came down here about breakfast time. What's that
pinned to your blanket?"

Tod crawled out of his nest and pulled loose the scrap of paper that
had been pinned in the region of his big toe.

"It's a note. Want to hear it? It says, 'Mother Ring tells me pancakes
are ready for you when you've finished your guard-mount. Signed--A
Burglar.' That's sure one on us."

It was scant justice that the two did to breakfast that morning. Four
telegrams were burning holes in Tod's pockets; he could hardly keep
from tearing them open, so curious was he to know their contents. Even
the newspaper that Mrs. King brought in and laid beside their plates,
could not entirely hold their attention, in spite of the startling news
headlined on the front page. "BREAK WITH GERMANY--U. S. on Verge of
Being Drawn Into World War."

"We'll take it with us and read it after we get there. No--not another
cake, Mrs. Ring. Excuse us, please--we've got to go."

"It seems a shame----" began Tod, when they were once more outside,
then asked abruptly: "Willing to take a licking, Jerry?"

"And go back on the _Skyrocket_? Did you think we were going any other
way? And leave the machine here for anybody to come along and study
out--or steal? Not much! I'll take a dozen lickings!"

But he didn't. When the _Skyrocket_ finally circled about Lost Island
and settled down over the narrow landing field as easily as a homing
pigeon, to come to a stop with hardly a jar, it was bringing news to
Mr. Fulton that was bound to soften the heart of any dad.

Tod's father was out in front of the little cabin, a bit pale and
shaky, but cheerful. His face lighted up wonderfully when he saw the
_Skyrocket_ aground and the two boys safe. He tried to rise to greet
them, but had to be satisfied to wave his hand instead. The two boys
came running over to where he sat, eager to tell their story.

"What's happened?" Mr. Fulton asked excitedly before they could begin.
He was pointing at the newspaper Jerry had been waving wildly as they
raced across the open.

"War--maybe--with Germany! But we've more important news than that--for
us just now, at least. Telegrams--four of them--look. And an officer's
been looking for you----"

"Police?" asked Mr. Fulton gravely.

"Army!" exploded Tod and Jerry together. "Bet it's about the----"

They paused, for Mr. Fulton was not listening to them. He had torn one
of the telegraph envelopes open and was reading the brief message, his
face going first red and then white.

"What's all the excitement?" demanded a slow voice in which there was a
trace of resentment. It was Mr. Harris, who had appeared in the doorway
of the cabin.

"Nothing much," answered Mr. Fulton. "Nothing at all. In fact, the
excitement's all over. I'm certainly very glad that you balked
yesterday on buying that 'pig in a poke,' my dear baronet. It seems,"
flapping the opened telegram against his other hand, "it seems, my very
dear sir, that the American government, being confronted by a situation
which bears more than a promise of war, has offered to buy the ideas
which are embodied in the _Skyrocket_."

"Hooray for Uncle Sammy!" shouted Tod.

All the boys had come crowding around, slapping Tod and Jerry wildly on
the back and cheering till their throats were hoarse. It was fully five
minutes before anyone could make himself heard above the din. Finally
Mr. Fulton raised his hand for a chance to be heard, and after one
rousing shout of "Three cheers for the Scouts of the Air!" the noisy
crew quieted down.

"Phil asked me one day if I'd promise you all a front seat at the
circus and a ride on the elephant. Well, I'm going to keep my word,
I've got a piece of timber about forty miles up the river from here,
and on it there's a log cabin and one of the greatest little old
fishing lakes in the country. I'm going to take you all up there for a
month of the best sport you ever had."

"Bully for you, dad!" shouted Tod, then turned to Jerry with:

"And while we're there, what say we learn the first principles of Boy
Scouting, so that when we get back to Watertown we can organize a
patrol of----"

"The Boy Scouts of the Air!" finished Dave and Frank and Jerry in a

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Boy Scouts of the Air on Lost Island" ***

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