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Title: The Boy Aviators on Secret Service - Working with Wireless
Author: Goldfrap, John Henry
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Boy Aviators on Secret Service - Working with Wireless" ***

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[Illustration]

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

                   THE BOY AVIATORS ON SECRET SERVICE


                         WORKING WITH WIRELESS

                                   BY

                         CAPTAIN WILBUR LAWTON

               AUTHOR OF "THE BOY AVIATORS IN NICARAGUA"

                                NEW YORK
                            HURST & COMPANY
                               PUBLISHERS

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

                          Boy Aviators' Series

                        By CAPTAIN WILBUR LAWTON
                  Author of "Dreadnought Boys Series"

                   Six Titles. Cloth Bound. Price 50c
                        UNIFORM WITH THIS VOLUME

  1 The Boy Aviators in Nicaragua; or, In League with the Insurgents.
  2 The Boy Aviators on Secret Service; or, Working with Wireless.
  3 The Boy Aviators in Africa; or, An Aerial Ivory Trail.
  4 The Boy Aviators' Treasure Quest; or, The Golden Galleon.
  5 The Boy Aviators in Record Flight; or, The Rival Aeroplane.
  6 The Boy Aviators' Polar Dash; or, Facing Death in the Antarctic.
  7 The Boy Aviators' Flight for a Fortune.

                            Sold Everywhere.

                            HURST & COMPANY
                               PUBLISHERS
                                NEW YORK

                   _Copyright_, 1910, by HURST & CO.

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

                               CONTENTS.

                 I. An Important Commission
                II. The Boys Meet an Old Friend,--and an Enemy
               III. A Tramp with Field-Glasses
                IV. A Plot Discovered
                 V. Two Rascals get a Shock
                VI. The Start for the 'Glades
               VII. A Night Attack
              VIII. The Men of the Island
                IX. A Message from the Unknown
                 X. The Captive's Warning
                XI. The Black Squall
               XII. Pork Chops Proves His Metal
              XIII. The Front Door of the 'Glades
               XIV. Close Quarters with 'Gators
                XV. An Island Mystery
               XVI. The Boys Make an Acquisition
              XVII. The Everglades in an Aeroplane
             XVIII. A Night Alarm
               XIX. On the Mound-Builders' Island
                XX. Captain Bellman's Island
               XXI. A Bold Dash
              XXII. Ben Stubbs Disappears
             XXIII. The Boy Aviators Trapped
              XXIV. A Startling Meeting
               XXV. Quatty as a Scout
              XXVI. Lathrop as an Air Pilot
             XXVII. Hemmed in by Flames
            XXVIII. The Black Aeroplane
              XXIX. The Last of Bellman's Crew

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

                  THE BOY AVIATORS ON SECRET SERVICE;
                         WORKING WITH WIRELESS.



                               CHAPTER I.

                        AN IMPORTANT COMMISSION.


"Come in!"

The gray-haired man who uttered these words gazed sharply up at the door
of the private office of the Secretary of the Navy's Bureau, at
Washington, D. C., as he spoke. He was evidently anticipating callers of
more than usual importance judging from his expectant look. The old
negro who had knocked opened the door and respectfully stood waiting.

"Well, Pinckney?"

"Dey have come, sah."

"Ah; good,--show them in at once."

The old negro bowed respectfully and withdrew. A few seconds later he
reappeared and ushered in two bright looking youths of sixteen and
fourteen with the announcement in a pompous tone of voice:

"Messrs. Frank and Harry Chester."

Frank, the elder of the two brothers, was a well set up youngster with
crisp, wavy brown hair and steady gray eyes. Harry, his junior by two
years, had the same cool eyes but with a merrier expression in them. He,
like Frank, was a well-knit, broad-shouldered youth. Both boys were
tanned to an almost mahogany tinge for they had only returned a few days
before from Nicaragua, where they had passed through a series of strange
adventures and perils in their air-ship, the _Golden Eagle_, perhaps,
before her destruction in an electric storm, the best known craft of her
kind in the world and one which they had built themselves from top plane
to landing wheels.

The Secretary of the Navy, for such was the office held by the
gray-haired man, looked at the two youths in front of him with some
perplexity for a moment.

"You are the Boy Aviators we have all heard so much of?" he inquired at
length with a note of frank incredulity in his voice.

"We are, sir," rejoined Frank, with just the ghost of a smile playing
about his lips at the great man's evident astonishment--and its equally
evident cause.

"I beg your pardon," hastily spoke up the Secretary of the Navy, who had
observed Frank's amusement; "but you seem----"

"I know what you were thinking, sir," interrupted Frank, "that we are
very young to undertake such exacting service as Admiral Kimball
outlined to us in Nicaragua."

"You have guessed just right, my boy," rejoined the other, with a hearty
laugh at Frank's taking his thoughts and putting them into such exact
words, "but your youth has evidently not interfered with your progress
if all the reports I have heard of you are true. Sit down," he went on,
"and we will talk over the proposal the Department has to make to you."

The boys set down their straw hats and seated themselves in two chairs
facing the grizzled official. Both listened attentively as he began.

"When Admiral Kimball wrote to me about you, telling me that he had
found in the two sons of Planter Chester of Nicaragua the very agents we
wanted for a particularly dangerous and difficult mission," he said, "I
at once sent for you to come here from New York to see for myself if his
judgment was correct. I have not been disappointed--"

The boys colored with pleasure.

"My brief observation of you has confirmed to my mind his report and I
am going to entrust to you the responsibility of this undertaking. Now,"
he went on impressively, "the government has been experimenting for some
time in secret with Chapinite, a new explosive of terrific power, the
invention--as its name makes apparent--of Lieut. Bob Chapin of the
United States Navy. I say 'has been experimenting' advisedly. It is so
no more.

"The formula of the explosive has disappeared from the archives of the
department and, what is still more serious, Lieutenant Chapin himself is
missing."

"The agents of the Secret Service force have worked in vain on the case
without discovering much more than the one very important fact that the
government of a far Eastern power has recently been experimenting with
an explosive whose effects and manifestations make it almost undoubted
that the stuff is Chapinite. By a tedious process of observation and
deduction the men have traced the shipments as far as the west Florida
coast but there all clues have ended. Weeks of work have left us as much
in the dark as ever as to the location of the source of supply of the
far Eastern power. But that somewhere within the untracked wildernesses
of the Everglades a plant has been set up in which Chapinite is being
manufactured in large quantities is a practical certainty to my mind.

"It is useless for the secret service men to attempt to explore what is
still an unmapped labyrinth of swamp and jungle and above all it would
occupy time. What we have to do is to act quickly. I racked my brain for
days until I happened to come across a paragraph in a newspaper calling
attention to your wonderful flights in the _Golden Eagle_, and then
followed Admiral Kimball's dispatch. It struck me at once that here
indeed was a way of locating these men that might prove feasible--I say
'might' because if you boys accept the commission I do not want to
absolutely impose the condition of success upon you. All that we shall
expect of you is that you will do your best.

"Will you accept the assignment?"

The blunt question almost took the boys off their feet so to speak. They
exchanged glances and then Frank said:

"As you perhaps know, sir, our first aeroplane, the _Golden Eagle_----"

"In which you rescued William Barnes, a newspaper correspondent, from a
camp in which he was held prisoner," remarked the Secretary--"you see I
have followed your doings closely."

"Exactly," went on Frank; "that first _Golden Eagle_ is at the bottom of
the sea. She went down when we were driven off the land in a tropical
electric storm and it was only the fact that she was equipped with
wireless, with which we signaled a passing steamer, that saved us from
sharing her fate.

"We might, however, construct a second one. In fact I have the designs
partially drawn up. She would be a more powerful craft than the first
and capable of even longer sustained flights."

"The very thing!" exclaimed his listener enthusiastically, "then you
will accept the commission?"

"I have not yet said that we would," rejoined Frank, calmly. "As you
have described the situation it looks rather like a wild-goose chase;
however, I think that if my brother agrees that we might consent to try
to do our best."

"Of course I agree, Frank," cried Harry enthusiastically. The very
mention of anything that promised exciting adventures was sufficient to
enlist Harry's ardent interest.

"Then it is as good as settled," concluded the Secretary. "The thing is
now, how long will it take you to build this craft?"

"We shall require at least three weeks," replied Frank.

The Secretary almost groaned.

"It is a long time--or at least it seems so," he corrected, "when there
is so much at stake."

"It would be quite impossible to construct a suitable aeroplane in a
lesser period;" rejoined Frank, with finality in his tones.

"Then I suppose we shall have to exercise patience," remarked the
secretary. "You will of course need funds. How much shall you require do
you suppose?"

"We cannot build a second _Golden Eagle_ for less than ten thousand
dollars to start with," was the quiet reply.

"Ten thousand dollars?" repeated the secretary, in tones of amazement.

"It does sound like a good deal of money," replied Frank, "but if you
were more familiar with aeroplane construction you would see that it is
not exorbitant. Everything that enters into the construction of an air
craft must be of the very best and strongest material. The engine alone
is a heavy item of expense and besides must be of specially prepared
metals and hand machined."

"I see," replied the secretary. "You know best. I will see that
arrangements are made to provide you with everything you require. Where
do you intend to build the ship?"

"There is a place at White Plains, some miles out from the town and back
in the hills," replied Frank, "that is in every way suited for our
purpose. It is off any main road and we can work there in quiet. We
built the first _Golden Eagle_ there and I don't think that outside of
ourselves and our workmen half a dozen people knew about it."

"The very thing," replied the secretary. "Of course I need not impress
upon you the importance of absolute secrecy in this matter. We have
almost positive proof that our every movement is watched by agents of
those who have stolen the plans, and who now have Lieutenant Chapin a
prisoner--that is, if they have not made away with him, poor fellow. My
own idea is, however, that he has been kidnapped and forced to take
charge of the work, as without his direction it would be impossible,
even with the aid of the formula, to manufacture the explosive. What I
fear is, that after they have made a sufficient quantity to stock up the
arsenals of the far Eastern power they will destroy their plant and end
Lieutenant Chapin's life. You see the explosive is so powerful that even
a small quantity would make the nation possessing it extremely
formidable, therefore it is not likely that wherever they have set up
their plant they are figuring on a permanent location."

"What is the last trace you have of the plotters?" asked Frank.

For answer the secretary pressed a bell that stood on his table at his
elbow. When in response the bowing old negro appeared he said sharply:

"Send Flynn here."

Flynn turned out to be a thick-set, red-faced man with the neck of a
bull and powerful physique. He was one of the most trusted men in the
Secret Service Bureau.

"Flynn," said the secretary when the detective had introduced his huge
bulk, "these young men are Frank and Harry Chester, the _Boy Aviators_,
they are going to take up your work where you left it off."

"Only because we were up against a dead wall," protested the agent.

"Quite so--quite so; I meant no offence. I know that you did all it was
humanly possible to accomplish. What I want you to do now is to outline
to these young men the discoveries you made following the morning on
which we found the safe opened and the plans gone,--to be followed a few
hours later by the discovery that Lieutenant Chapin had also vanished."

"Well," said Flynn, "cutting out the minor details we discovered that
the very same day a big white yacht had cleared from New York without
papers and had headed toward the south. We traced her up and found that
she had been bought by a Mr. Brownjohn of Beaver Street. We looked him
up and found he was a ship broker who had bought the craft on
telegraphed instructions from Washington. We trailed up the telegram and
found that it had been sent from the Hotel Willard by a Captain Mortimer
Bellman, who, from what we can find out about him, was considerable of
an adventurer and had at one time lived a good deal in the far East. In
fact he had only recently come from there. At the Marine Basin at Ulmer
Park, near Coney Island, we discovered that a nondescript sort of a crew
had been hustled on board and that the yacht had sailed at night without
papers a few hours after her purchase was completed.

"Ten days later the newspapers reported that a large yacht had gone
ashore on one of the Ten Thousand Islands on the west coast of the
Everglades, and the men we sent down there to investigate discovered
that the derelict was the Mist,--the same yacht that Bellman had bought.
What was most remarkable, however, was that the boat seemed to have been
deliberately wrecked, for everything had been taken off her except her
coal and ballast and all the boats were gone. There was no indication
that she had been abandoned in a hurry and the reef on which she lay was
such an obvious one that even at high water it was clearly visible. Now
that the Mist's boats went into the Everglades we are reasonably sure.
If they had gone anywhere else we should have got some trace of them by
this time, but from that day to this we have not had a word or sign
concerning them."

"We have heard, however, that the navy of the power we suspect has been
conducting experiments with a new explosive and we have also learned
that this same explosive is undoubtedly Chapinite. We have looked up
Bellman's record and find that while he was stopping at the Willard he
received several letters from the government in question and that he
paid twenty thousand dollars for the Mist. Now a man isn't going to pay
that much out for a boat and wreck her unless he does it purposely.
Bellman didn't have that much money anyhow. There is only one
conclusion, Bellman was simply the agent for some one else and that some
one has got a lot of money to spend to secure the most powerful
explosive ever discovered."

"There you have the case in a nutshell," remarked the secretary as Flynn
concluded.

"There is only one thing that is not clear to me," objected Frank. "Why
should they make the stuff in the Everglades. Why not manufacture it out
and out in the country you have mentioned?"

"Such a course would have been too full of risks," replied the
secretary, "we are at peace with that power and if the stolen formula
had been discovered there it would have led to a serious international
breach and possibly war. By manufacturing it here and shipping it
secretly in small quantities the plotters secure safety from war to
their own country."

"I see," nodded Frank. He pulled out his watch. It was twelve o'clock.
"There is a train to New York at one o'clock," he said.

"Won't you stop and have lunch with me?" asked the secretary.

"No, thank you," was the boys' reply; "you see we have a lot of work
before us. Building an aeroplane in three weeks calls for some tall
hustling."



                              CHAPTER II.

               THE BOYS MEET AN OLD FRIEND,--AND AN ENEMY.


As the boys hurried from the office of the Secretary of the Navy they
almost collided with a plump faced, spectacled young man in an
aggressively loud suit of light summer clothes who was just rushing in.

"I say, look out where you are coming, can't you?" he was beginning when
he broke off with a cry of delight.

The next minute the boys were wringing the hand of Billy Barnes the
youthful newspaper reporter who had been with them in Nicaragua and
whose life they had saved when he was a captive among the Nicaraguans.
Boy fashion the three slapped each other on the back and went through a
continuous pump-handle performance at this unexpected meeting.

"What on earth are you doing here?" asked Harry when the first
enthusiasm of the greetings had worn off.

"Working," replied Billy briefly. "I'm on the Washington Post."

"But I thought you were going to take a holiday after you had realized
your money on the sale of your share of the rubies we found in the
Toltec cave;" said Frank wonderingly.

"Well," rejoined Billy, "of course the money I got for my two rubies
looked good and it feels pretty nifty to have a check-book in your
inside pocket; but I guess I can't be happy unless I'm working. I bought
my mother up the state a pretty little place in Brooklyn and tried to
settle down to be a young gentleman of leisure but it wouldn't do. I
wasn't happy. Every time I saw the fire-engines go by or read a good
thrilling story in the paper I wanted to be back on the job, so I just
got out and hustled about for one and here I am."

"But what are you doing at the office of the Secretary of the Navy,"
demanded the boys.

"Ah, that's just it," rejoined Billy mysteriously, "I'm on the track of
the biggest story of my career and I think it's a scoop. Can you fellows
keep a secret?"

"We can do better than that," laughed Frank, "we can tell you one. What
would you say if we could tell you your errand here?"

"That you are pretty good mind-readers," retorted Billy promptly. "I can
guess yours though. You are here to try to sell the government an
air-ship."

"Wrong," shouted Frank triumphantly. "But you--William Barnes--" he went
on, making a mysterious pass at the other boy's head, "you are here to
find out about Lieutenant Chapin."

"How on earth did you know that?" gasped Billy, "you are right though.
Do you know anything about it?" he inquired anxiously.

"Everything," replied Frank.

"Oh, come off, Frank," retorted Billy, "that's too much. How on earth
can you--?"

"That matters not, my young reporter--we do," struck in Harry.

"Give me the story then, will you?" begged Billy.

"No, we can't do that," replied Frank in a graver tone.

"Oh, of course I wasn't trying to worm it out of you," said Billy
abashed somewhat.

"We know that, Billy," said Harry kindly. The reporter looked at him
gratefully.

"I just thought you might have something to give out," went on Billy. "I
see that you are in the confidence of the naval department."

"No, Billy," continued Frank, "we can't give you anything for
publication. But we can do better than that, we can tell you we are
about to start on what may prove the most exciting trip we have ever
undertaken."

"What do you mean?" questioned Billy seeing clearly by Frank's manner
that something very unusual was in the wind.

"That we are going to try to find Lieutenant Chapin and the men who
kidnapped him," replied Frank; "but come along, Billy, we've just an
hour before train time and if you feel like having a bite of lunch come
with us and we can talk it over as we go along."

The young reporter gladly assented and, linked arm in arm, the three
boys passed out onto the sunny avenue which was glowing in the bright
light of a late May day.

Frank rapidly detailed to Billy the gist of their conversation with the
Secretary of the Navy, having first called up that official on the
telephone and secured his permission to enlist Billy as a member of the
expedition. For Frank had made up his mind that the reporter was to come
along almost as soon as the boys encountered him.

The young journalist could hardly keep from giving a "whoop," which
would have sadly startled the sedate lunchers at the Willard, as Frank
talked. He resisted the temptation, however, and simply asked eagerly:

"When do you start?"

The boys told him. They could see the eager question framing itself on
Billy's lips.

"Say, Frank, couldn't you take me along?"

Frank feigned an elaborate indifference.

"Well, I don't know," he replied, winking at Harry as Billy's face fell
at this apparent refusal, "we might, of course, but really I think we
shall have to go 'without a chronicler.'"

The boys might have kept the jest up but Billy's face grew so lugubrious
that they had not the heart to keep him in suspense any longer.

"If you would care to come we were sort of thinking of taking you,"
laughed Harry.

"If I would care to come?" gasped Billy, "Jimminy crickets! If I'd care
to come! Say, just wait a minute while I go to 'phone my resignation."

"What an impetuous chap you are," laughed Frank, "we don't start for
three weeks yet and here you are in a hurry to throw up your job
to-day."

"Well," replied Billy somewhat abashed, "I was a bit previous. But it's
so white of you chaps to take me along that I hardly know what I'm
doing. How I'm to wait three weeks I don't know."

"How would you like to help us build the _Golden Eagle II_?" asked Frank
suddenly.

"Say, Frank," burst out Billy earnestly, "you are a trump. That was just
the very thing I longed to do but I didn't have the nerve to ask you
after you were so decent about taking me with you to Florida. I don't
know how to thank you."

"It won't be all a picnic," laughed Frank. "We've got a lot of hard work
ahead of us and we'll all have to pitch in and take a hand, share and
share alike."

"You can count on me," exclaimed the reporter eagerly.

"I know we can," replied Frank, "or we would not have asked you to
accompany us."

"What are your plans?" asked Billy eagerly.

"At present so far as I have thought them out," replied Frank, "we shall
sail from New York for Miami about the middle of June. I think it will
be best to go by steamer as we can keep a better watch on any suspicious
fellow passengers in that way than if we went by train. The key on which
the Mist was wrecked is on the opposite coast from there, I understand,
and the men who kidnapped Chapin and stole the plans must have entered
the Everglades by one of the numerous small rivers that lead back from
the coast at the Ten Thousand Island Archipelago.

"My idea, then, is to establish a permanent camp from which we can work,
the location of course to depend entirely on circumstances, that may
arise after we reach our destination. We are going into this thing
practically blindfold you see, and so we shall have to leave the
arrangement of a host of minor details till we arrive there."

"You mean to strike right back into the wilderness?" asked Billy.

"As soon as possible after our arrival at Miami," was the businesslike
rejoinder. "Every minute of our time will be precious. Oh, there's heaps
to be done," broke off Frank.

All the boys had to laugh heartily at the wave of the hands with which
Frank accompanied his last words. But their merriment was cut short by a
sharp exclamation from Billy.

"I say, Frank," whispered the young reporter, "have you noticed that
fellow at the next table?" He indicated a short dark sallow-faced man
sitting at a table a few feet from them and to whom most of their
conversation must have been audible.

"He's not a beauty," remarked Harry in the same low tone; "what about
him, Billy?"

"Well," said the reporter seriously, "I may be wrong and I may not--and
I rather think I'm not,--but if he hasn't been listening with all his
ears to what we've been saying I'm very much mistaken."

Frank bit his lip with vexation. In their enthusiasm the youthful
adventurers had been foolishly discussing their plans in tones which any
one sitting near could have overheard without much difficulty. The boys
realized this and also that if the man really turned out to have been an
eavesdropper that they had involuntarily furnished him with much
important information about their plans.

The object of their suspicion apparently saw that they had observed him,
for as they resumed their talk in lowered tones he called for his bill
and having paid it with a hand that flashed with diamonds, he left the
dining-room.

"Have you seen him before?" asked Frank of Billy.

"I was trying to think," replied the reporter. "It seems to me that I
have. I am almost certain of it in fact. But I can't think where."

"Try to think," said Frank, "it may be very important."

Billy cudgeled his brains for a few minutes and then snapped his fingers
in triumph.

"I've got it," he exclaimed joyously. "I've seen him hanging around the
Far Eastern embassy. I was up there the other day to report a reception
and this fellow was wandering around as if he hadn't got a friend in the
world."

"He might have had an object in that," said Frank gravely. "There is no
doubt that he was listening to what we were talking about."

"And not much question that he heard every word of it," put in Harry.

"Well, it can't be helped," said Frank in an annoyed tone, "we shall
have to be more cautious in the future. I see that the secretary was
right, this place is swarming with spies."

"I should say it is," replied Billy, "Washington is more full of
eavesdroppers and secret-service men of various kinds than any other
city in the world."

If the boys had seen the bediamonded man hasten from the hotel direct to
a Western Union telegraph office where he filed a long telegram, they
would have been even more worried than they were. If in addition they
had seen the contents of the message they would have been tempted, it is
likely, to have abandoned the expedition or at least their present
plans, for the message, which was addressed to "Mr. Job Scudder, Miami,
To Be Called For," and signed Nego, gave about as complete an account of
what they intended to do as even Billy Barnes with his trained ear for
catching and marshaling facts could have framed. There was a very
amiable smile on Mr. Nego's face as he left the telegraph office and
drew on a pair of light chamois gloves that gave a finishing touch of
fashion to his light gray spring clothes, whose every line bore evidence
to the fact that they had come from one of the best tailors in
Washington. He had done a good morning's work.

The boys of course had no means of knowing that, even as they hurried to
their train, the wires were rushing to Florida the news of their coming
three weeks before they planned to start and even if they had been aware
of it they could not then have stopped it. With Billy Barnes they dashed
up to the Pennsylvania depot in a taxi-cab just as the big locomotive of
the Congressional Limited was being backed up to the long train of
vestibuled coaches. They had their return tickets so that there was no
delay at the ticket window and they passed directly into the depot, and
having found their chair car deposited themselves and their hand-baggage
in it. Billy stayed chatting with them till the conductor cried "all
aboard." As the reporter rose to leave he gave a very perceptible start.
He had just time to cry to Frank:

"Look behind you," when the wheels began to revolve and Billy only
avoided being carried off by making a dash for the door almost upsetting
the colored porter in his haste.

As the train gathered speed Frank glanced round as if in search of
somebody. He almost started, as had Billy, as his eyes encountered the
direct gaze of the very black orbs of the man whom they were certain had
overheard their conversation at lunch and who had signed the telegram
"Nego."



                              CHAPTER III.

                      A TRAMP WITH FIELD-GLASSES.


The boys lost no time in explaining to their mother when they reached
their home on Madison Avenue the nature of the enterprise in which they
had enlisted their services. That she was unwilling at first for them to
embark on what seemed such a dangerous commission goes without saying,
but after a lot of persuasion she finally yielded and gave her consent
and the delighted boys set out at once for White Plains where the large
aerodrome in which they had constructed the _Golden Eagle I_ was still
standing. The place was equipped with every facility for the
construction of air craft and so no time was lost in preliminaries and
two days of hard work saw the variadium steel framework of the _Golden
Eagle the Second_ practically complete.

The craft was to be a larger one than the _Golden Eagle I_, which had a
wing-spread of fifty-six feet. The planes of her successor were seventy
feet from tip to tip and equipped with flexible spring tips that played
a very important part in assuring her stability in the air. Like the
first _Golden Eagle_ the boys had determined that the new ship, should
carry wireless and the enthusiasm of Schultz and Le Blanc, their two
assistants, was unbounded as Frank placed before them his working
drawings and blue prints which bore on paper the craft which they
expected to eclipse anything ever seen or heard of in the aerial world
for speed and stability.

The old _Golden Eagle_ had been equipped with a fifty horse-power
double-opposed engine with jump spark ignition. The boys for the new
craft had determined to invest in a one hundred horse-power machine of
similar type and equipped with the same ignition apparatus. As in the
other ship they planned to have the driving power furnished by twin
screws but, whereas in the first ship the propellers had been of oiled
silk on braced steel frames in the new _Golden Eagle_ the screws were of
laminated wood, razor sharp at the edges and with a high pitch.

Except for her increased size the _Golden Eagle II_ did not differ in
other respects from her predecessor. Her planes were covered with the
same yellow-hued balloon silk that had given the first craft her name
and the arrangement of pilot-house and navigating instruments was much
the same. The boys, however, planned to give her a couple of low
transoms running the length of each side of the pilot-house on which the
occupants could sleep on cushions stuffed with a very light grade of
vegetable wool. A light aluminum framework, which could be covered in
with canvas in bad weather, or mosquito netting in the tropics, forming
in the former case,--a weather-tight pilot-house with a mica window in
front for the steersman, was another improved feature.

Billy Barnes was astonished when a few days later, having resigned his
newspaper job, he was met at the White Plains station by Frank and
Harry, and found, on his arrival at the aerodrome a framework which was
rapidly beginning to assume very much the look of a real air-ship. The
enthusiastic reporter crawled under it and round it and pulled it and
poked it from every possible angle till old Schultz, angrily exclaimed:

"Ach, vas is dis boy crazy, hein?"

Billy was nearly crazy with joy he exclaimed and the old German's heart
warmed toward him for the interest he displayed in the craft which
Schultz regarded as being as much his own creation as anyone else's.

"Well, you certainly look like business here," exclaimed Billy as he
gazed about him. What with the lathes, the work-tables, the blue prints
and plans, the shaded drop-lights and the small gasolene motor,--used to
test propellers and run the machinery of the shop,--Frank and Harry were
indeed as Billy said, "running a young factory."

"You picked out a private spot," exclaimed Billy, gazing out of the tall
aerodrome doors at the low, wooded hills that surrounded them.

"Well," laughed Frank, "if we hadn't we'd have half the population of
White Plains around here trying to get on to what we were doing and
spreading all sorts of reports."

"Oh, by the way," asked Billy, "did you have any more manifestations
from our dark-skinned friend on your way to New York?"

"No," replied Frank, "he sat in his chair and read the papers and
apparently paid no more attention to us. I really begin to think that we
may have been mistaken."

"I guess so," said Billy lightly; "maybe he was just some rubber-neck
who was surprised to hear three boys talking so glibly about invading
the Everglades in an airship."

With that the subject was dropped, for Harry, who had just entered the
workshop from the small barn outside, where he had been putting the
horse up, carried Billy off to show him the "camp" as the boys
laughingly called it. The eating and sleeping quarters were in a small
portable house, a short distance from the main aerodrome. It was divided
into a dining and a sleeping room. The latter neatly furnished with
three cots--a third having been added to Frank and Harry's for Billy's
use that very morning. On its wall hung a few pictures of noted
aviators, a shelf of technical books on aviation and the usual odds and
ends that every boy likes to have about him. The two mechanics took
their meals in the house and slept in the aerodrome. The cooking was
done by Le Blanc who, like most of his countrymen, was a first-rate
chef.

"Camp!" exclaimed the admiring Billy after he had been shown over the
little domain, "I call it a mansion. Different from old Camp Plateau in
Nicaragua, eh?"

"And you came very nearly been shaken out of even that;" put in Harry
with a laugh.

"I should say so," rejoined the reporter. "B-r-r-r-r! it makes my teeth
chatter now when I think of the rain of stones that came from the Toltec
ravine. By the way," he broke off suddenly, "where is good old Ben
Stubbs?"

The boys laughed knowingly and exchanged glances.

"Go ahead and tell him, Frank," urged Harry.

"Well," said Frank, "as you know, Billy, we gave Ben one of the rubies
as his share of the loot of the One-eyed Quesals and as a partial
recognition of his bravery in rescuing us from the White Serpents."

Billy nodded and waited eagerly for Frank to resume. Ben Stubbs, the
hardy ex-sailor, prospector and adventurer, whom they had discovered
marooned in an inaccessible valley in the Nicaraguan Cordilleras, was
very dear to the hearts of all the boys.

"What do you suppose he did with the money after he had sold the ruby
for twelve thousand dollars?" resumed Frank.

The reporter shook his head.

"I can't guess," he said; "bought a farm?"

"Not much," chorused the boys, "he invested part of the money in a
tug-boat and has been doing well with it in New York harbor. We met him
when we were in New York a couple of days ago and partially outlined our
plans to him. Nothing would do but he must come along."

"We couldn't have a better camp-mate," cried Billy.

"I agree with you," said Frank. "So I told him we'd think it over."

"Well, is he to come?" demanded Billy.

"Don't be so impatient," reproved Frank. "Listen to this. I got it this
morning."

He drew from his pocket a telegram and the boys all shouted with
laughter as he read it aloud. It was characteristic of their old
comrade.

"Have sold the tug and will be in White Plains to-morrow. Ben Stubbs,
(skipper retired)."

"Good for him," cried Billy, as the three boys made their way back from
the living quarters to the aerodrome, "he's a trump."

"I don't know of anyone I would rather have along in an emergency and on
such an expedition as this, his experience and resourcefulness will be
invaluable to us," declared Frank.

The next morning Frank and Billy left the others busy at the aerodrome
applying the waterproof compound to the _Golden Eagle II's_ planes and
started for town behind the venerable old steed that Billy had
christened "Baalbec," because, he explained, "he was a remarkably fine
ruin." The first train from New York pulled into the station just as
they were driving into the town of White Plains and a minute later the
ears of both boys were saluted by a mighty hail of:

"Ahoy there, shipmates, lay alongside and throw us a line."

The person from whom this unceremonious greeting proceeded was a short,
sun-bronzed man of about fifty. He had an unusual air of confidence and
ability and his mighty muscles fairly bulged under the tight-fitting,
blue serge coat he wore. He carried an ancient looking carpet bag in
which as he explained he had his "duds," meaning his garments. The
greetings between the three were hearty and after Frank had made a few
purchases up-town and Ben had laid in a good supply of strong tobacco
they started for the aerodrome.

As they drove down the street a thick-set man, with a furtive sallow
face, came out of a store and as he did so saw the boys. With the
agility of an eel he instantly slipped into a side street. But not so
quickly that Billy's sharp eyes had not spied him and recognized him.

"Bother that fellow," he said with some irritation, "he gets on my
nerves. I wish to goodness he'd keep away from where I am."

Frank looked up.

"What on earth are you talking about, Billy?" he asked.

"Why that fellow we saw at the Willard, and again on the Congressional
Limited,--or his double,--just sneaked down a side street," said Billy.
"I am certain he saw us and was anxious for us not to observe him."

"Meeting him a third time like this could hardly be a coincidence,"
mused Frank.

"Not much," struck in Billy, "that fellow means some mischief."

"I think myself that he will bear watching," replied Frank, as they
emerged from the street into the open country.

"Pretty good for a week's work, eh?" remarked Harry with some pride as,
after the joyous re-union with Ben Stubbs, they all stood regarding the
air-skimmer which was growing like a living thing under their hands.

They all agreed enthusiastically and Frank even suggested that it might
be possible, at the rate the work was progressing, to make the start in
less time than he had at first thought feasible.

"Oh, by the way," said Harry suddenly, "rather a funny thing happened
while you were gone, Frank!"

"Yes?" said the elder brother, "what was it?"

"Oh, nothing very exciting," replied Harry, "nothing more than a visit
we had from a tramp."

"From a tramp?" asked Frank wonderingly.

"Yes, he came here to look for a job," he said.

"And you told him--?"

"That we hadn't any work, of course, and then, apparently, he went away.
But Schultz, when he went over to the house for some tools he'd left
there, found that instead of going very far the fellow was up in the
wood back there and watching the place with a pair of field-glasses."

"Whew!" whistled Frank with a long face, "a tramp with
field-glasses?--that's a novelty."

"I sent Schultz up to tell the man that he was trespassing on private
property," went on Harry, "but as soon as he saw the old fellow coming
the tramp made off. He, however, dropped this bit of paper."

Harry handed his brother a crumpled sheet marked with faint lines. Frank
scrutinized the paper carefully and a frown spread on his face.

"This bit of paper, as you call it, Harry," he said, "is nothing more
nor less than a very creditable sketch map of the location of this
aerodrome."

"By jove, so it is," exclaimed Harry, "how stupid of me not to have
realized that. What does it all mean do you suppose?"

"It means," replied Frank, "that we will not leave the aerodrome
unguarded for a minute day or night till we are ready to make our start
for Florida."



                              CHAPTER IV.

                           A PLOT DISCOVERED.


In accordance with Frank's resolution the three young members of the
party and Ben Stubbs divided the night into four watches which were
religiously kept, but rather to Frank's surprise nothing occurred to
excite suspicion. The next morning Le Blanc, who had driven into town,
returned shortly before noon with a letter from the Secretary of War
which contained information of much interest to every member of the
projected expedition.

"I have arranged with the Department," it read in part, "to have the
torpedo destroyer _Tarantula_ detailed to duty along the Florida coast
and you can keep in touch with her by wireless. For this purpose,
besides the apparatus attached to your air-ship, I have ordered a
complete field outfit to be forwarded to you,--of the kind with which
several western posts have been experimenting of late and which has
proved entirely satisfactory.

"The instrumental part of the outfit--i. e., the keys, detector,
condenser, tuning-coil, etc., are permanently fastened into or carried
in a steel-bound trunk, but little bigger than an ordinary steamer
trunk, and weighing about one hundred and fifty pounds. Two storage
batteries, both sufficient for ten hours of continuous sending,
accompany the outfit, and come in wooden cases which form supports for
the trunk when the outfit is in use.

"A mast of ten six-foot sections, which can be jointed together and set
up in a few minutes, forms your aerial pole and each section is coppered
so as to provide a continuous conductor. In another box are packed the
aerial wires, extra rope, wire-pegs, etc., as well as a waterproof tent
to protect the outfit from the weather. Of course a charging station is
a necessity and another case contains a small, but powerful gasolene
motor and generator. Another attachment for use with the appliance is a
combination Malay and box kite carrying a cord of phosphor bronze,
wire-woven about a hemp center. There are eight hundred feet of this
wire wound on a reel. If for any reason the work of setting up and
attaching the pole and its aerials is considered to be too lengthy an
occupation it is a simple matter to send up the kite, its wire rope
acting as an aerial in itself."

The boys grew enthusiastic over this description. The outfits seemed
from the account to possess the merits of portability and efficiency and
in the country into which they were going portability was a strong
feature in itself. It was this very question that had caused Frank, when
designing the new _Golden Eagle_, to so construct her that she could be
taken apart and the various sections boxed in a very small capacity each
box weighing not more than fifty pounds with the exception of that
containing the engine which weighed one hundred and fifty without the
base.

That afternoon the boys worked like Trojans on the _Golden Eagle II_
with the result that shortly before sundown they had progressed to a
point where the air-ship was ready for the attachment of the engine.
They were all surprised, and somewhat startled, when their solitude was
invaded, just as they were thinking of knocking off work for the day, by
a loud rap at the doors of the aerodrome. Frank opened the small flap
cut in the big door and stepped out to see who the intruder might be.

He was greeted by a boy of about his own years smartly--too
smartly--dressed, and with a confident overbearing manner.

"Why, hello, Lathrop Beasley," exclaimed Frank, with all the cordiality
he could muster at seeing who their visitor was,--and that was none too
much, "what are you doing here?"

"I guess you're surprised to see me," rejoined the other.

"I certainly am," replied Frank.

"Why don't you ask me to come in," went on the other, "you're a
hospitable sort of fellow--not."

"I beg your pardon, Lathrop," apologized Frank, "won't you come over to
the house and sit down awhile?"

An unpleasant sort of smile broke on the other's face.

"Oh, so you're afraid to let me see your aeroplane are you? Well, I
don't know that I care so much to anyway. Since you fellows left New
York I have been made president of the Junior Aero Club and have
designed a 'plane that can beat anything you ever saw into a cocked
hat," he exclaimed.

Frank smiled. He was used to Lathrop's boasting ways and at the Agassiz
High School which they had both attended had frequently seen the other
humbled. Now when Lathrop said that he didn't care about seeing the
_Golden Eagle II_, of course he was not telling the truth. He would have
given a great deal to have even caught a glimpse of her. In fact, when
that morning he had heard that the boys' aerodrome was once more
occupied, he had determined to walk over from his home, which was a
splendid mansion standing on a hill-top not far away, and take a look at
her for himself. That Frank should have objected to showing him the
craft was an obstacle that never entered his head.

"Oh, come, Frank," he went on, changing his tone, "let me take a look at
her, I won't tell anyone about it. What are you so secretive for?"

"I myself should be glad to let you see the successor to the _Golden
Eagle_ that we are building," replied Frank, "but my employers might not
like it."

Lathrop pricked up his ears at this. He was an ambitious boy and had
designed several air-ships and planes but he had never been able to
speak of his "employer." The word must mean that Frank was building the
craft for some rich man. Although Lathrop had plenty of it the idea that
Frank and Harry were making money out of their enterprise roused him to
a sullen sort of anger.

"Oh your employers mightn't like it," sneered Lathrop, "I tell you what
it is, Frank, I don't believe you have any 'employers' as you call it,
and that all this about a new air-ship is a bluff."

This was a move intended to irritate Frank and make him offer to show
the air-ship as proof positive that he was really at work on such a
craft, but if Lathrop had meant it in this way it was a failure. Frank
was quite unruffled.

"You are welcome to believe what you like, Lathrop," he rejoined, "and
now, as we are very busy, I shall have to ask you to excuse me. I've got
too much work to do to stand talking here."

"That's just like you, Frank Chester," burst out the other boy angrily,
his temper quite gone now that he saw that there was to be no
opportunity of his seeing the air-ship.

"Maybe you'll be sorry that you wouldn't show me the ship--and before
very long too."

As Frank, not caring to listen to more of this sort of talk, re-entered
the aerodrome the Beasley boy, almost beside himself with anger, shouted
after him.

"I'll remember this, Frank Chester, so look out."

He strode angrily off through the woods making a short cut for home.
Lathrop was not a bad boy at heart, but he was an intensely jealous one,
and the idea that the Boy Aviators were constructing an air-ship that
they refused to let him see irritated him almost past bearing. When he
shouted at Frank his last words they were dictated by his anger, more
than by any real intention of carrying out any plan of revenge for the
fancied slight; but, as he strode along through the woods, he suddenly
heard voices that, after a few minutes of listening, convinced him that
he was not the only person in the world who even momentarily wished harm
to the Chester boys.

"We'll wreck the aerodrome to-night;" were the words,--coming from
within a clump of bushes that grew to one side of the trail,--that
attracted his attention. The boy halted in his tracks as they were
uttered and then crept cautiously through the undergrowth till he
reached a spot from which he could both see and hear without being seen.
The man who had uttered the threat that had brought him to a standstill
was a person bearing every evidence of being of the genus--tramp, that
is so far as his clothes went. But his white hands and carefully kept
nails showed that he had assumed the rags he wore as a disguise. His
companion was a man of very different appearance. He was in fact the
natty person whom the boys had seen at the Hotel Willard, and who had
since been on their track, as Frank had guessed when Billy had spied his
escaping figure in White Plains the day before. With a beating heart the
concealed boy listened as the two plotters went on.

[Illustration: Lathrop discovers the plot.]

"Do you think they have the machine finished yet?" asked the better
dressed of the two.

"Confound them, they were too sharp to let me go to work for them or I
might have had the plans of it by this time," rejoined the other. "I
think, though," he resumed, "that it must be so far advanced that if we
can wreck it now we will delay their departure for Florida till we have
been able to destroy the plant and escape."

"I owe them a debt of gratitude for the loud way they talked at the
Hotel Willard," said the other. "Thank goodness we are now in possession
of their plans at any event. Don't you think we might head them off
without destroying the aerodrome? It's risky, and means jail for us if
we are caught."

The other gave a short laugh.

"No, we'll hit them a body blow," he said. "If I could blow them up
along with their air-ship I'd gladly do it. I'd like to treat them as we
mean to do with that white-livered Lieutenant when we get through with
his services."

"Are they going to kill him?" demanded the other with something like awe
in his tones.

"No," replied the man in the tramp's rags, "not unless he gives too much
trouble. They are going to put him to work in the sulphur mines of
Ojahyama and let him slave for his living."

Even from where he was the concealed boy could see the other shudder.

"It is a terrible place," he said.

"It is the best place for men of his caliber," retorted the other.

"Perhaps it would be as happy a fate for him as being compelled to slave
for Foyashi."

"I hear that he would not have anything to do with their schemes and
defied them to kill him before he would aid them to manufacture his
explosive until he was influenced by Foyashi," said the first speaker.

"I guess you're right," replied the other worthy, "but he's passive
enough now, I fancy."

They both laughed and arose to go. As for Lathrop he lay almost
paralyzed with fear. Of course much of what he had heard had been
meaningless to him, but he did understand that a plan was on foot to
blow up the boys' aerodrome, destroy their ship and possibly injure
themselves. As the men's footsteps died out, as they walked off down the
path through the woods, the boy, who a minute before had been seriously
pondering some sort of harm to Frank and Harry felt conscience-stricken.

What he had just heard had changed him from a possible enemy into a
fellow-schoolmate and he determined to warn the boys of their peril.
With this end in view he was hurrying down the path, retracing his steps
towards the aerodrome, when he was seized roughly from behind and
whirled about. The man who had seized him was the one who had assumed
the costume of a tramp. His eyes blazed with rage. He had hurried back
to get his knife,--which had dropped from his pocket as he sat
talking,--a few seconds after Lathrop had left his place of concealment.
As luck would have it, in pushing through the bushes he had discovered
the depression in the grass where the boy had lain. A brief
investigation showed him that it had been recently occupied and that
whoever had crouched there must have heard every word they said. Calling
his comrade the two had set out at full speed in pursuit of Lathrop.

As his captor gripped the boy in a hold that clutched like a vice,
Lathrop realized that he had fallen into bad hands.



                               CHAPTER V.

                        TWO RASCALS GET A SHOCK.


The boy was startled but his presence of mind did not desert him.
Lathrop, although, as has been said, a hectoring, dictatorial sort of
youth possessed plenty of courage of a certain kind, and was no coward.
He therefore exclaimed angrily:

"Take your hand off me. What do you want?"

At the same moment he gave an adroit twist, an old football trick, and
in a shake had freed himself from the other's detaining hand.

"You needn't crow quite so loudly, my young rooster," exclaimed the man
in the tramp's dress, "I merely wanted to ask you a few questions."

"Well," demanded the boy.

"What were you doing up there in the woods while we were talking?"

Lathrop didn't know whether or not the men were armed, so that he
decided that it would be folly to tell them the facts; he therefore took
refuge in strategy.

"What do you mean?" he asked with an expression of blank amazement.

"Oh, come," said the other, but there was a note of indecision in his
tones, that showed that he was not as sure of his ground as he had been,
"you don't mean to say that you weren't lying hidden while we were
talking up yonder and heard every word?"

"As I told you," replied Lathrop, "I don't know what you are talking
about. I am on my way home through these woods and you have stopped me
in this unceremonious fashion. If there was a constable within call I
would have you arrested."

"Oh, come on, Bill," struck in the nattily dressed one of the pair, who
had hitherto remained silent, "the kid doesn't know anything--that's
evident, and we are wasting time here."

"I'm not sure of that," retorted the tramp-like man, still unconvinced,
"if I thought," he added with a vicious leer, "that he overheard us,
I----"

The sentence was not completed for the reason that at the moment a lusty
voice was heard coming up the path from the aerodrome singing at the
pitch of its lungs:

         "Three times round went the gallant ship;
         Three times round spun she,
         Three times round spun the gallant ship
         Then down to the bottom of the sea,--the sea,--the sea.
         Then down to the bottom of the sea."

As the singer came upon the scene in front of him he broke off abruptly
and the two men who had intercepted Lathrop took to their heels.

"Hullo, there, my hearty," cried Ben Stubbs, for he was the vocalist, as
his eyes took in the situation, "what's all this?"

His voice held a sharp note of interrogation, for he had immediately
recognized one of the two men who had made off as the fellow who had
sneaked up the by-street in White Plains the day before.

"Who are you?" demanded the boy suspiciously, not certain whether in the
newcomer he had a friend or a fresh source of danger.

"Me? oh, I'm Ben Stubbs, formerly skipper of the tug Mary and Ann, but
now one of the crew of the _Golden Eagle II_, sky clipper. And you, my
young middy, I recognize as the chap who was down at the aerodrome a
short while ago, and got all het up because Frank Chester wouldn't let
you see the air-ship--now the question is what were you doing with those
two fellows, who are as bad a looking pair of cruisers as I ever laid
eyes on?"

Lathrop saw at once that unless he told the truth he would be a fair
object of suspicion, and at any rate he had made up his mind to warn the
boys of the danger that threatened. He therefore in a straight-forward
way told of the afternoon's happenings.

"You come along with me," exclaimed Ben, as the boy finished his
narrative, "we've got no time to lose."

They hurried down the path to the aerodrome and Lathrop repeated his
story to the boys.

"Well, forewarned is forearmed," remarked Frank, "and thank you,
Lathrop, for doing the square thing."

"Oh, that's all right, Frank," Lathrop replied awkwardly, recollecting
his fiery threats of a short time before. To tell the truth, Lathrop was
thoroughly ashamed of himself, and declining the boys' hearty invitation
to supper, hurried home to the house on the hill.

He had learned a lesson he never forgot.

"Now," said Frank, as soon as he had gone, "we'll give these fellows a
surprise if they come around here to-night that will stick in their
minds for a good many years."

Under his directions everyone got busy for the rest of the afternoon
driving wooden posts at six foot intervals all round the aerodrome. When
the posts were all in position a copper wire of medium thickness was
strung from one post top to another and the ends connected with the
dynamo ultimately destined to supply the _Golden Eagle II's_ searchlight
and wireless equipment. By the time Ben Stubbs, who had quite ousted Le
Blanc as cook, announced by a clarion summons, beaten on a tin wash-pan,
with a big ladle, that a supper, consisting of his famous baked beans,
chops, spinach and coffee was ready--not to forget Ben's masterpiece, a
huge strawberry pie,--Frank pronounced his preparations also complete.

After supper everybody sat around the stove in the portable house, for
the nights were still chilly, till about ten o'clock. They had all made
as much noise as possible early in the evening with the ultimate motive
of accentuating the quietness later on.

Frank and Harry stood at the door of the portable house as Schultz and
Le Blanc started for the aerodrome and shouted out "good-night" till the
echoes rang back from the hills. Then one by one the lights in the two
houses went out and all was quiet. That is, all seemed so to two
watchers concealed in a thick mass of brush up on the hill, but in
reality no sooner had the houses been plunged in darkness than the boys
and Ben Stubbs had crept quietly into the aerodrome and sat down to wait
for the crisis they felt sure was coming.

Harry and Billy each carried a long thin package that might have
contained anything from dynamite to a pistol. Ben Stubbs, with a grim
expression on his rugged face, grasped a stout club he had cut that
afternoon. It was pitchy dark in the aerodrome and as they waited, in
the absolute silence Frank had enjoined, the watchers could hear one
another breathing. Upstairs only the rhythmic snores of Schultz and Le
Blanc, who were not in the secret, disturbed the silence.

Frank sat with his hand on the switch that would shoot a current of 500
volts through the copper wires surrounding the aerodrome when he
connected it. A hole, bored earlier in the afternoon in the wooden wall
of the aerodrome gave the boy a command of the view outside in the
direction of the woods. So dark was it, however, that even his keen eyes
could detect little in the black murk. He saw they would have to judge
of their enemies' whereabouts solely by sound.

They must have sat there in the darkness for an hour or more, with no
sound being borne to their ears but the unmelodious snoring of the two
mechanics in the loft when, suddenly, and without any further warning
there came a sharp "crack" from up on the hillside as a branch snapped
under a heavy foot.

"Here they come," whispered Frank to the boys, whom he knew were there;
but couldn't see any more than if they were in the antipodes.

"Get outside now, you fellows, and when I give the word, let go!"

Silently as cats Billy Barnes, Harry and Ben Stubbs slipped off their
shoes and tiptoed out through the door of the aerodrome, which had been
left open to allow for the noiseless exit. Frank was left alone in the
barn-like aerodrome save for the two sleepers upstairs. The tension in
the silence grew painful. When would the persons who had crackled the
broken branch on the hillside recover their courage enough to make a
further advance?

All at once, close at hand, Frank heard a loud whisper of:

"Well, they are all asleep, evidently."

"Yes," replied another hoarse whisper, "that kid you suspected evidently
didn't hear anything."

"Confound it, it's dark as a pit," came from the first speaker.

"It might be lighter," replied the other, "but the blacker it is the
better for us."

"Hark at those fellows snoring," was the next thing Frank heard. The
remark was accompanied by a smothered laugh.

"Yes, they are sound asleep as run-down tops," was the reply.

Frank inwardly blessed the stalwart lungs of Schultz and Le Blanc. All
unconsciously the sleepers were helping on their plans.

"Do you think that's the boys snoring?" asked one of the two men who
were cautiously creeping nearer to the aerodrome.

"I hope so," was the response, "I'd like to see them go skywards with
their infernal air-ship."

"Scudder will have reason to thank us for a good night's work," was the
next remark of the prowlers.

There was silence for a few seconds and then a jangling sound. One of
the men who had the destruction of the _Golden Eagle II_ at heart had
collided with Frank's wire fence.

"Confound it, what's that?" angrily hissed his companion.

"A wire fence," replied the other.

"Well, it will take more than that to stop us," was the angry answer,
"come on, grab the top wire and over we go."

"Now!" shouted Frank, as he threw in the switch and 500 volts coursed
through the copper wire both men were grasping.

At the same instant Billy and Harry outside pressed the electric buttons
that ignited the Coston navy signal lights they both carried and the
whole scene was illuminated in a white glare as light as noonday. And
what a scene it was!

On the ground by the fence sprawled the marauders yelling till the air
rang with their cries of mingled pain and amazement at the surprise of
the powerful shock that had knocked them off their feet.

Above them stood the stout figure of Ben Stubbs belaboring them
impartially with the heavy club he had cut for that special purpose.

"Take that, you lubbers, you longshore loafers!" he shouted as his blows
fell with the rapidity of a drumstick on the two prostrate carcasses.

The two men, however, had laid their plans better than the boys knew.
They were prepared for a surprise, but not one of the kind they had run
into.

Without a second's warning there was a sudden flash from the hill behind
them, followed by a sharp report. Ben Stubbs threw up his hands and
rolled over with a yell more of surprise than of anything else.

"Put out those lights!" shouted Frank, realizing that in the white glare
the group outside presented fine targets for the hidden marksman on the
hill, whoever he might be.

The boys instantly shoved their glaring torch tips into the ground. Even
as they did so they could hear rapidly retreating footsteps.

"Don't let them get away," shouted Harry wildly.

Frank, who by this time had switched off the current, and was outside,
seized him with a detaining grasp.

"No good, Harry," he exclaimed. "It would be taking needless chances.
Now, let's look to Ben."

"Only a hen-peck," hailed that redoubtable ex-mariner, coming up, "just
nicked my starboard ear, but I thought for a minute they had done me."

"That was no fault of theirs," answered Billy, "they----"

He was interrupted by a series of guttural shouts and piercing shrieks.

"Ach Himmel--donnerblitzen vass iss----!"

"Sacre nom de nom! Qu'est-ce que cela! To the aid. Monsieur
Chest-e-erre!"

The cries came from the aerodrome and were uttered by the awakened
Schultz and Le Blanc, the latter of whom was almost in hysterics. Frank
laughingly quieted them and explained what had happened.

"Ve vos only eggcited on your aggount," remarked Schultz bravely when he
learned that all danger was over.

"Comment, vee fight lek ze tiger-r-r n' c'est pas?" demanded Le Blanc,
flourishing a pillow fiercely. "A pitee I deed not see zee ras-cals."



                              CHAPTER VI.

                       THE START FOR THE 'GLADES.


The incident related in the last chapter determined Frank to abandon his
half-arrived at intention to enter the Everglades from the Atlantic
side. The appearance of the dark man in Washington--he was now certain
their plans had been overheard--the episode of the tramp and the attempt
to blow up the aerodrome all combined to convince him that his original
scheme of invasion of the little known wastes of Southern Florida was as
an open book to the men who had only too evidently their destruction at
heart.

A hasty trip to Washington resulted, and a consultation with the
Secretary of the Navy. The result was that arrangements were made
whereby the boys' expedition was to gather at Miami as openly as
possible, and then under cover of night run down Biscayne Bay and
eventually double Cape Sable by the inland passage. Then they were to
beat up through the Ten Thousand Island Archipelago to the mouth of
either Shark or Harney River and thence into the trackless wastes of
unmapped swamp and saw-grass known as the Everglades.

The _Tarantula_ was to cruise off and on around the coast and in case of
dire need was to be signaled by wireless. These details completed, Frank
and Harry returned to New York and a week later, the _Golden Eagle II_
being completed, and loaded in small cases marked "Glass, Fragile," and
other misleading labels, the Boy Aviators bade farewell to their mother
and friends and started by the Southern Limited for Miami. With them
they carried in ordinary trunks their mess and camp kit outfits, rifles
and medical supplies as well as two of the Government's field wireless
outfits. The rest of the party was to follow a week later in a private
car with all the other baggage, including the boxed sections of the
_Golden Eagle II_. The canoes and boats for the trips were to be
purchased at Miami or along the coast in the vicinity, as the boys
deemed fit. In the meantime the _Tarantula_ had been dispatched from
Hampton Roads for Southern waters under sealed orders. Not till her
commander opened his instructions at sea did he know the real nature of
his errand.

At this point it may not be amiss to give a brief description of the
little known country to which the boys were bound. Everyone has heard of
the Everglades, few have any accurate idea of them beyond a sort of hazy
conception of a vast tract of morass, overgrown with giant forests and
rank growth of all kinds. Nothing could be further from the truth.

It is without doubt the peculiar, even extraordinary, character of this
great stretch of country that has caused its geography to remain
obscure. Even recent maps are extremely inaccurate. It seems remarkable
in these days of African and Polar discovery that here in our own
country is a vast waste, 130 miles long and 70 wide, that is as little
known to the white man as the heart of the Sahara. The Everglades are
bounded on the north by Lake Okeechobee, on the east by a belt of scrub
pine-land about six miles wide facing the Atlantic, on the south by the
great mangrove swamps facing the Bay of Florida and the Gulf of Mexico,
and on the west by the Big Cypress Swamp which runs right up to the
uninhabited region verging on the west coast of the peninsula.

The prevailing idea that the Everglades are unhealthy is about as far as
it is possible to get from the truth. So far as the few expeditions that
have penetrated the great mystery have reported, the water is fine and
the air healthful. The saw-grass, the Seminoles and the snakes--rattlers
and cotton-mouth moccasins--are the worst enemies the explorer
ordinarily encounters, with an occasional panther.

Over the watery wastes of the Everglades which are not tree grown, but
on the contrary great expanses of saw-grass grown prairie, the Seminole
poles his cypress dug-out defying the government which wishes to place
him on a reservation but has no means of "smoking him out" of the
impassable wilds he has chosen for his refuge. The Seminoles also haunt
the Big Cypress Swamp and observe numerous tribal rites and legends of
which we know little. They are dignified, trustworthy people--but the
bad treatment they have received from the government has made them the
implacable foe of the white man for whom their word is the same as
"liar"--such has been their impression of civilization.

The boys had familiarized themselves with the nature of the country by a
close study of all the available works on the subject--which were not
many. The government had placed the latest maps and charts of the region
at their disposal. Even these, however, showed them little. In fact the
parting words of the Secretary of the Navy to them were:

"Boys, you'll have to blaze your own trail."

Of course in selecting an equipment for such a region the boys had made
lightness the prime essential.

They knew that on much of the journey in search for a spot for a
permanent camp they would have to pole over shoal water, in some places
not more than two feet deep. An overloaded canoe might therefore cause a
lot of trouble and delay. Like true old campaigners they had prepared
elaborate lists and then gone through them again and again till nothing
appeared on them but the barest necessities.

Ben Stubbs had put in several days making a number of light but strong
chests twenty-two inches by thirteen and nine inches deep. These
contained, among other necessities, an aluminum cooking outfit weighing
nine pounds. There were two pots, a frying pan and four plates nesting
into each other. And then there was a coffee pot in which was stowed
away four cups (nested) pepper and salt castors, knives, spoons and
forks, the frying-pan and coffee-pot had detachable handles for lifting
on and off the campfire with ease and comfort, no matter how the wind
might be blowing the flames about.

The grocery chest contained flour, sugar, salt, cornmeal, pepper, sliced
bacon, beef extracts, soup-tablets (three varieties), root-beer,
lemonade and sarsaparilla tablets, oatmeal and evaporated fruits of
various kinds. These were all put in glass jars with screw tops and
rubber gaskets so that even in case of an upset the contents would
remain dry. There was also a blue-flame double burner kerosene stove of
the marine type, lanterns, and a supply of candles and matches in
waterproof jars. The medical outfit consisted of some antiseptics,
pills, several tablets of permanganate of potassium for the same purpose
and a hypodermic outfit, bandages and lotions.

Each boy carried an automatic rifle for big game or defense, the kind
chosen being a weapon carrying .49-50 nickeled steel cartridges. This
gun was heavy enough for alligators; or the more savage crocodile,
pumas, leopards, gray wolves or any human enemy. They also purchased two
three-barreled guns having two parallel barrels, twelve gauge, for
shotted shells, and another rifled barrel underneath of .35-55 caliber.
Two 16-gauge shot-guns for duck and small game were also stowed away in
the "armory" chest. In addition each boy had his magazine revolver of
.38 caliber, and a six-inch bladed hunting-knife with a heavy back so
that it might even be used for chopping.

Shovels, axes, picks, etc., were back with the heavy baggage to be
brought on by Ben Stubbs and Billy. Frank, of course, carried his
nautical instruments. A sextant, a compass, two tested watches of the
finest split-second make and an artificial horizon.

Their clothes were stout hunting boots, khaki trousers and Norfolk
jackets of the same material and flannel shirts with campaign hats. Each
carried a change of underwear and socks in his toilet bag which also
held two towels, toothbrush, cake of soap and brush and comb.

For transportation into the Everglades the boys soon managed with little
difficulty to secure canoes and a lighter draught "cruiser," similar to
a Barnegat duck-boat. The flotilla was to be taken down the coast by an
auxiliary sloop also chartered at Miami.

On the appointed day the boys were at the railroad station of the
Florida East Coast railroad to meet the arrivals from New York, and warm
were the greetings as Billy Barnes and Stubbs stepped from the private
car which had been attached for them when they left the north. The car
was sidetracked at Miami and the train kept on its way to Key West along
the wonderful chain of cement bridges constructed over the numberless
keys that run out from the "leg" of Florida. The boys and Ben were
busily engaged getting the various bales and crates in some sort of
order for transfer to the trucks by which they were to be taken to the
flotilla of canoes when they were startled at being hailed by a voice
that sounded familiar.

The boys hastened to the door of one end of the car and were amazed to
see standing on the steps, looking rather embarrassed and doubtful,
Lathrop Beasley. He wore a well cut suit of white serge and a straw hat
with a light blue ribbon. In addition he sported snowy canvas shoes,
topped off with light purple socks and a pale pink tie. Altogether he
looked as if he had just stepped from a clothing ad. Even in their
astonishment at seeing him there the boys could not help laughing at the
contrast they presented to him.

In their rough working garb, and all begrimed with dust as they were
from handling the kit in the car, two more unpresentable youths from a
sartorial standpoint, could not well be imagined. The three boys gazed
at each other in silence for a few seconds and then Lathrop said rather
shamefacedly:

"Hello, fellows."

"Well, Lathrop, what on earth are you doing here?" naturally demanded
Frank.

"I guess I came on a wild impulse," began Lathrop, and then stopped.

"Well?" questioned Harry.

"When I heard of your trip, from hanging around the aerodrome after you
left--oh, it wasn't Ben Stubbs or Barnes that told me, they were close
as clams,"--he hurried on, "but when old Schultz told me that you were
going to cross the Everglades I thought that maybe you'd need an extra
hand so I got permission from my folks and here I am.

"If you want to say the word I'll go back," he concluded rather lamely
but with a longing look in his face that told of his eager desire to be
allowed to join the expedition.

"Well, you certainly have an impetuous way of doing things," commented
Frank. "Did you come on this train?"

"Yes," replied the boy. "I've just been up to the hotel and engaged
rooms and tidied up a bit and then hurried right down here."

Frank and Harry exchanged glances of amusement, the cause of which
Lathrop was at a loss to fathom.

"Well," began Frank, after a brief whispered conversation with his
brother, "you are here now and I suppose you'll have to stay. We can
find some work I dare say for you to do and there are a lot of ways you
can be useful."

"I'll start right in at anything you tell me," began the boy eagerly.
"It's mighty good of you----"

"Not much you won't. Not in that fancy rig," burst out Harry, "if you
are coming with us you'd better go up to the village store and get an
outfit as much like ours as possible and forget you ever patronized a
tailor."

Lathrop gladly agreed and hurried off to get himself a working outfit.
As he hastened down the tracks, Frank turned to Harry with a grin.

"Well, we have gone and done it now," he said. "But we really have use
for another hand, and I think that we can make something out of Lathrop,
besides we owe him a debt of gratitude for helping us out at White
Plains. If it hadn't been for him we might have lost the _Golden Eagle
II_ and all our work."

"That's so," assented Harry. "I guess he will work out all right. But
those fancy duds he had on----"

And the boy burst out laughing at the recollection.

By sundown most of the "duffle" in the car had been transferred to
trucks and carted down to the wharf, where the boys, with considerable
pride, exhibited to Ben Stubbs, Billy, and the newly overalled Lathrop,
the light draught thirty-foot sloop, with an auxiliary five-horse
engine, the four canoes and the light draught "sneak-box," they had
secured for their transportation round the Cape and into the Thousand
Island Archipelago. The canoes were of the "Ontario" type, fitted with
narrow decks round the edges and canvas covered. The sneak-box was of
the spoon-bowed variety familiar to duckers in Barnegat Bay. It drew
only a few inches of water and afforded a lot of space in its sixteen
feet of length for the stowage of the heavier baggage. It rejoiced in
the name of _Squeegee_.

Ben Stubbs was delighted with the "fleet" as he called it, and declared
that the sloop was a "witch." After a dinner at the quiet boarding house
at which the boys had been stopping the adventurers that night finished
the stowage of their impedimenta aboard the sloop and piled the canoes
on the top of the canvas enclosed "summer cabin." The "sneak-box" was
towed astern.

The owner of the sloop, a coal-black negro called Pork Chops--the boys
could never discover that he had any other name--was to take them round
the cape as far as the Thousand Island Archipelago where they were to be
left. From there on their course would lie up the Shark River into the
heart of the little known Everglades.

Of course the wharf loungers were full of curiosity as the work of
transferring the boys' belongings and outfit to the sloop proceeded, but
Frank and Harry had allowed it to become widely circulated that they
were a hunting party bound for some of the keys to the east of Cape
Sable, and "Pork Chops" also was of this belief, so that the boys were
pretty sure that none but the members of their own immediate party knew
of the real goal of their journey.

By midnight everything was in readiness and the tide served for start.
With her big mainsail flapping lazily in the breath of wind that was
stirring Pork Chops' sloop, which held the poetic name of _Carrier Dove_
dropped down Biscayne Bay with her "kicker" going and dawn found her
well on her journey south with a spanking breeze out of the northeast to
fill her canvas. As she skimmed along over the sparkling blue of the
tropical waters in whose crystalline depths hosts of fish of all kinds
could be easily seen and on the surface of which floated great masses of
yellow gulf weed, the boys rejoiced that their momentous expedition had
started so auspiciously. As for Lathrop he acted like a boy out of his
head with joy at his unexpected good fortune. Ben Stubbs and the inky
Pork Chops relieved each other at the wheel, and Frank and Harry, at the
table in the stuffy little cabin, worked at plans and lists trying to
devise ways of still further cutting down their outfit without impairing
its usefulness. Billy Barnes, with a knowing air, scrutinized the sails
and from time to time admonished Ben Stubbs to "keep her up a bit," to
which suggestion Ben with an air of ineffable contempt replied:

"I never knowed they taught navigation on a newspaper but it's a good
school for nerve."



                              CHAPTER VII.

                            A NIGHT ATTACK.


Most of that day they dropped leisurely down Hawk Channel and at night
anchored off a small key covered with a luxuriant tropical growth and
topped by the feathery crowns of a group of stately royal palms. It was
early afternoon when they let go the anchor and the boys lost no time in
getting into the Squeegee and rowing ashore. They carried with them the
_Carrier Dove's_ water keg which held ten gallons and which had been
discovered by them to be half empty the first time they went forward for
a drink. What water there was in it was so stale as to be almost
undrinkable. Pork Chops was summarily sent for and arraigned on the
"quarter deck."

"I done declar I clean forgit all about deh watah," he gasped, as Frank
read him a lecture on his carelessness. Indeed everything about the
_Carrier Dove_ bore witness to Pork Chops' shiftless ways. Her rigging
was spliced in innumerable places and her halyards badly frayed so that
they wedged in the blocks sometimes. Her paint was peeled off her sides
in large flakes and altogether she was quite as disreputable a
proposition as her owner; but in her, Pork Chops had navigated the
waters about Miami for many years and was accounted a skilful mariner.

The boys uttered a cry of delight as the Squeegee's nose grated on a
beach of white sand and they sprang out. The key was a veritable
fairyland. Lime, lemon and guava trees grew almost down to the water's
edge and further back were several wild banana plants with their yellow
fruit hanging temptingly for the boys to pluck. And pluck it they did
and declared they had never known what real bananas were like
before,--which is hardly surprising as the fruit is picked for the
northern market long before it is ripe and shipped in a green state.

After they had fairly gorged themselves on fruit, they set out to look
for a spring. They were not long in finding it and Billy Barnes, dipper
in hand, started in to fill the keg. He had ladled out a few dipperfuls
when he started back with a yell. The others, who had been roaming about
in the vicinity, hurried back and found the reporter gazing petrified at
a huge cotton mouth moccassin. Frank, who had one of the sixteen gauge
guns with him, quickly despatched the creature, which was about three
feet long.

"Ugh, what a monster," exclaimed Lathrop, as he gazed at the ugly,
dirty-brown colored body.

"He is a pretty sizeable reptile and that's a fact," remarked Frank,
"But what would you say to a serpent twenty feet long?"

The others looked at him incredulously.

"Twenty feet long--Oh come, Frank," laughed Billy. "That sounds like the
fish that got away."

"Lieutenant Willoughby, who explored the Everglades in 1897, reports
that he heard from Indians and believed himself that in the southern
portions of the Everglades there are snakes bigger than any known
species," replied Frank, "his guide killed a reptile marked with
longitudinal stripes,--but otherwise like a rattlesnake,--which measured
nine feet from tip to tip."

"Well, I don't want to be around when any such creatures as that are
about," said Lathrop.

"I'm with you there," cried Billy, "snake stories are all right in print
but I don't want to figure in any of them."

"Come on, boys,--volunteers to get supper," cried Frank, after the group
had strolled back to the boat landing,--all hands taking turn at packing
the water keg.

"Supper?" cried the others.

"Yes," replied Frank, "we can row the keg off to the _Carrier Dove_, get
some duffle ashore and camp here in the jungle for a night. There's no
use trying to navigate this coast in the dark. Who says--yes?"

Of course they all did,--hailing his suggestion with acclamation,--and,
after Frank and Harry had rowed off to the sloop, Lathrop and Billy
Barnes set about getting in a supply of firewood and laying a fire
between two green logs set parallel, in a manner that did credit to
Bill's training as a woodsman in Nicaragua.

Frank and Harry were too tender-hearted to resist Ben Stubbs' pleadings
to be made one of the party--moreover he promised to cook them what he
called a bush supper if allowed to come ashore, so that when the boys
shoved off in the placid water on their return trip to the Island Ben
made one of the Squeegee's load.

As soon as they got ashore Ben approvingly commended Billy's camp-fire
arrangements, at which the reporter glowed with pleasure. Somehow in the
wilderness a small tribute to a boy's handiness will send him into the
seventh heaven of gratified pride. Under Ben Stubbs' orders the party
had soon secured several bunches of oysters from the mangroves,--which
were laden with the bivalves where they dipped into the water at low
tide,--as well as half a dozen turtles, small fellows which Ben declared
made as good eating as the terrapin of the northern restaurant and
banquet. To crown the feast, Frank, who had been scouting about with one
of the shot-guns, brought down a couple of small ducks.

The oysters Ben roasted in their shells, laying them when finished on
plantain leaves on previously heated rocks. The turtles he prepared by
scalding them and then, after cutting down the center of the lower
shell, the meat was easily got at. Salted and peppered inside and out
and the meat removed from the shell after a half-an-hour's boiling with
onions and the young campers had a meal fit for a president, who, as
Billy observed, "is a heap more particular than a king."

The ducks were incased by Ben in a sort of matrix of clay--feathers and
all,--having first been cleaned. Thus enclosed they were placed in the
glowing embers and more hot coals raked over on top of them. When in
half an hour Ben drew out the hard-baked clay casings and cracked them
free with a hatchet,--which automatically skinned the birds and plucked
them at the same time,--the boys were ready to acclaim him a very prince
of chefs. The meal was eaten with pilot bread and washed down with
lemonade made from spring water and lemonade tablets. For dessert they
had bananas and wild oranges. Many times after that when they were
plunged in hardships and difficulties the boys talked over that first
meal on the lone Florida Key.

After supper there was no washing up to do; big plantain leaves having
served as plates and hunting-knives as table utensils. The little party
sat round the big camp-fire and sang songs and talked and laughed till
Pork Chops out on the _Carrier Dove_ muttered to himself as he tried to
sleep.

"Dem white boys done bein' as clean crazy as loons,--yas, sah."

However, at last even the boys' spirits began to flag and they tucked
themselves up in their blankets and lulled by the croaking and snoring
of a big tree lizard in a near-by custard apple-tree, sank into dreams
which were more or less tinctured by the happenings of the last few
days.

Frank, more wakeful than the others, lay awake perhaps half an hour
after Ben Stubbs' nasal performances had begun to rival those of the
tree-lizard; who was himself no mean performer. The boy-leader's brain
was busy turning over their momentous expedition. In a few days now they
would be in the Archipelago and the plunge into the unknown would have
to be taken. As he gazed about him at the sleeping party--Harry and
Billy, light and careless, Lathrop, apparently made of far better metal
than Frank had believed, and at old grizzled Ben Stubbs sleeping, like
most woodsmen, as soundly as an infant, he felt a sensation of heavy
responsibility steal over him.

Was the expedition well advised? It might all end in nothing or even in
disaster. These thoughts flitted through Frank's brain as he lay awake
and pondered the situation. Of one thing he was determined, as soon as
the wireless could be put in operation and a permanent camp established
in the 'glades he would establish communication with the _Tarantula_.
That at least would put them in touch with powerful allies whatever foes
and evil influences they might encounter in the great fastnesses they
were about to penetrate. Satisfied with this last resolve Frank fell
asleep; but his was a troubled slumber. It seemed to him but a few
minutes after he had dropped off that he awakened with a start:

The fire had died low and there was only a dull red glow to indicate
where its cheerful blaze had been. As his eyes opened, however, Frank
had a queer sensation that his awakening had been directly caused by
some outside action that had affected him. In a second he sensed what it
was.

There was a hand poking about under his pillow where he had tucked his
revolver!

At the same instant there came a loud agonized hail from over the
moonlit water where the _Carrier Dove_ swung at anchor.

It was Pork Chops' voice, and Frank sprang to his feet as he heard it,
reckless of injury from the unseen intruder. He need not have been under
any apprehension, however, for whoever the prowler was he had vanished.
At the same moment Pork Chops' yells awakened the others and Ben Stubbs
roared out with stentorian lungs:

"Ahoy, there aboard the sloop--What's up?"

For reply came a wail from Pork Chops, which was stifled as suddenly as
if a hand had been placed on his throat:

"Help! murder! Dey's----"

Then all was silent.

Like a flash the boys and Ben piled into the Squeegee and Ben manned the
oars. As they fairly flew over the water under his powerful strokes a
long, low dark body,--almost reptilian in its swift movement,--glided
from the opposite side of the _Carrier Dove_. At the same instant the
sharp staccato sound of an engine exhaust came to the boys' ears and a
strong odor of gasolene.

"A motor-boat," shouted Frank, as the low body, gathering speed
momentarily, tore off across the moonlit water and vanished in the dark
shadows off the end of the island.



                             CHAPTER VIII.

                         THE MEN OF THE ISLAND.


Once on board the _Carrier Dove_ the mystery was deepened. There was not
a trace of Pork Chops, though his blankets lay apparently just as they
had been thrown aside when he leaped up at the invasion of the
motor-boat intruders. Frank lit a lantern and naturally the first thing
the boys hastened to investigate was whether any harm had come to the
cases containing the frame of _The Golden Eagle II_. To their
unspeakable relief everything was intact, nor did any of the boxes show
traces of having been tampered with.

"The whole thing seems inexplicable," mused Harry.

"Not at all," replied Frank, "I suppose that they figured we were asleep
ashore and sneaked up in their motor-boat to rifle our possessions."

"Yes, but why did they carry off Pork Chops?" protested Billy; "for
unless they threw him overboard, they must have taken him,--unless he's
been carried off by mosquitoes."

"They would naturally have carried him off as I figure it," rejoined
Frank, "not wishing to have him meet us and describe the appearance of
our visitors."

"That sounds good horse sense," put in Ben Stubbs. "And in my opinion
them chaps in the motor-boat was the same limpets as stuck around the
aerodrome in White Plains," he continued sagely.

"I don't think there's much doubt of that, Ben," replied Frank, "the
thing is how did they get here?"

"Wall, the rate we've been coming it would have been mighty easy for
them in a light draught motor-boat to have kept track of us from near
inshore if they had a good glass," rejoined Ben.

"But how did they trace us to Miami?" puzzled Harry.

"Easy enough," replied Billy, "I've done it dozens of times--traced
people I mean. I guess they just looked up the baggage man and found
where our stuff was checked to."

"Of course I ought to have guessed that," exclaimed Frank. "It's really
too mortifying," he concluded in a vexed tone.

"Consarn 'em," muttered Ben, embracing his rifle longingly, "I'd like to
get 'em quartered off this sight. I'd drop a precious bad pair of birds
in a couple of shots."

"No use thinking of that now," rejoined Frank, briskly shaking off his
annoyance over what couldn't be helped, "the thing to do at present is
to finish our night's sleep and set a watch. We don't want those fellows
coming back and blowing the boat up."

It was agreed that Ben Stubbs was to sit up and take the watch, and that
hardy veteran himself had no small share in influencing the verdict. He
felt that he as the oldest of the party and the more experienced should
have the responsibility in case real trouble was to come. The boys were
not long, even after the exciting interruption to their slumbers, in
sinking to sleep again on the transoms in the summer cabin of the
_Carrier Dove_. As for Ben he sat up on the after deck with his rifle
between his knees till the moon went down and the stars began to wane.
And all the time he never took his eyes off the shore where the dying
camp-fire still spread a reddish glow against the blackness of the thick
jungle tangle.

He might have been watching an hour when he gave a sudden start.

"Well that's queer too," he remarked to himself, as he fixed his eyes
with stern intensity on the little glow of light thrown out by the
embers. A dark figure had cautiously crossed the illumination, standing
silhouetted for a moment against it. Suddenly a loud "hoo-hoo" like the
hoot of an owl sounded from the shore. The same moment in the old
adventurer's reckless heart was borne a resolve which bore fruit when at
dawn, as the rim of a glorious sun poked itself over the sparkling blue
expanse of waters, and showed them vacant, he drew in the Squeegee's
painter and slipped lightly into her. He sculled ashore and approaching
the camp crouched almost on his hands and knees. He examined the ground
closely for a few minutes, as if in keen search of something. After a
few minutes of this concentrated scrutiny he suddenly straightened up
and strode off unhesitatingly into the jungle. But as he parted the
creepers before him he gripped his rifle in the crotch of his arm with
his finger on the trigger. He was not going to be taken by surprise.

The green mystery of the forest had not long closed on Ben's stalwart
form when the boys awoke as the sunlight streamed through the
canvas-curtains of the _Carrier's Dove's_ "main saloon". Rubbing their
eyes sleepily they hastened out on deck. For a few seconds the glory of
the tropic dawn engrossed their attention to the exclusion of all else.
Then with a cry of alarm Lathrop shouted:

"The Squeegee's gone!"

"Gone?" echoed the others.

For answer Lathrop pointed to the stern. It was true, no Squeegee swung
there at her painter. It was only a fraction of time before the absence
of Ben Stubbs was also discovered. For a minute a dark thought crossed
Frank's mind,--but he dismissed it as unworthy, and was glad he did, for
suddenly Billy shouted:

"Why, there's the Squeegee ashore."

They all looked and there, sure enough, lay their sneak-box where Ben, a
short time before, had deserted her.

"He must have gone ashore hunting," cried Harry.

Frank shook his head.

"He had some graver reason than that for going," he said.

"Well, let's swim ashore and find out what has become of him," cried
Lathrop, and indeed the turquoise water into whose depths one could see,
did look tempting enough for an early morning plunge.

"It would be our last swim, Lathrop," remarked Frank, pointing as he
spoke to a wicked-looking triangular black fin that cruised by.

"See that leg o' mutton?" he continued, "well, that's hitched onto the
back of a man-eating shark and they don't encourage early morning
bathing except for their larder's benefit."

As he spoke the monster glided close to the side of the _Carrier Dove_,
perhaps in search of ship scraps, for which sharks will sometimes follow
ships for days to satisfy their insatiable appetites. With an
ill-concealed shudder Lathrop watched the great shadowy body flit by the
sloop's side, with a wicked little pig-like eye cocked knowingly up, as
much as to say:

"Any breakfast ready yet?"

"I like those fellows less than the snakes," exclaimed Lathrop.

When the laugh at his expense had subsided Frank suggested that they get
into canoes at once and go ashore to discover what had become of Ben.
The proposal was greeted as a good one and in short time the light craft
were overboard and the boys paddling with all their might for the shore.
Lathrop kept his eyes steadily ahead all the way, nor did he once look
at the transparent water about them which, as the sun got higher, began
to swarm with black fins and queer ill-shaped monsters of the
deep,--jew-fish, rays, and huge sun-fish,--which seen through the water
looked like so many ill-shaped dragons. On shore the boys hastened at
once to their camp-fire of the night before. Its ashes were strewn
abroad but in the gray dust, Frank, with an exclamation of surprise,
made out the numerous indentations of a queer-shaped flat foot--it was
the same mark that had made Ben set off through the jungle. But the
boys, less expert than he, could not track their way by looking out for
bent ferns or broken bits of undergrowth.

A council of war was held. There were some of the leavings of the feast
of the night before in the cooking-pots, and on these and some coffee
brought ashore in the small emergency box fitted into each canoe, they
made a satisfactory breakfast, after which, as the result of their
confab, it was decided to attempt to circumnavigate the island in the
canoes. By this means they thought they were pretty sure of finding Ben
as the fact that the spot of land being unchartered argued against its
being of any considerable size.

In fifteen minutes the canoes were underway and rapidly skirting the
island. On the smooth water they made swift progress and in little more
than an hour had rounded the southerly point and were working their way
up the other coast. The island had turned out to be even smaller than
they thought. They were opposite a pretty little bay in which, instead
of the everlasting mangroves, an inviting little strip of pure white
sand, fringed by a green palm grove, sloped down to the water, when
suddenly their ears were saluted by a shot from the woods.

"Ben Stubbs!" was their simultaneous thought and the canoes were at once
headed for the shore.

Having landed, the boys with loud shouts of "Ahoy, Ben!" dashed up
through the woods which, to their astonishment, were threaded at this
point by a path--a crude track certainly, but still a path. They did not
give much time to the consideration of their surroundings however, their
minds being bent on finding Ben. Suddenly out of the brush right ahead
there sounded the "hoo-hoo" of an owl. Now even Lathrop was enough of a
naturalist to know that owls do not hoot in the broad daylight, so they
all stopped and exchanged wondering glances.

"Well, that's a new one," remarked Billy sententiously.

"Who ever heard of an owl that knocked about in the sunlight before?"
added Lathrop.

"Even in this enchanted land," concluded Harry.

Frank put all further speculation to rout by exclaiming, as the hoot was
repeated from a further recess of the forest, and yet again in the still
further distance:

"That is not an owl's hoot, boys. It's a signal given by some human
being."

No wonder the boys looked startled. After the adventure of the previous
night they had good reason to distrust any human being they might
encounter on the island. Whoever the inhabitants were they certainly had
no good will toward the young adventurers, so much at least was patently
evident.

"Well, come on, boys," cried Frank at last, "There's no use stopping
here," he added, as the "hoo-hoo" sounded uncannily from right behind
them, "our escape to the boats is cut off."

With grave looks they followed their young leader down the blind trail
that led to they knew not what. Suddenly, and without an instant's
warning, a number of wild-looking, unkempt men and youths sprang out of
the dense growth as if they had sprouted from the earth. They all
carried ancient Winchesters and one or two even had an old-fashioned
flint-lock. Their clothes were ragged to a degree. As ragged in fact as
their hair and beards. With their thin, peaked noses, sunken cheeks, and
wild, hawk-like eyes they were sinister looking specimens.

"What d'ye want y'ar, strangers?" demanded one in a high nasal voice.

"We came ashore on a hunting trip," rejoined Frank.

At this all the crackers set up a loud roar of laughter.

"You 'uns are hunting big game, we reckon," remarked a gangling youth in
tattered blue homespun.

There was an angry murmur. Things looked just about as bad as they could
when suddenly an unexpected diversion occurred. A wild-looking young
woman, whose movements, despite her miserable rags, were as graceful as
those of a wild fawn, dashed through the jungle and appeared in the
middle of the group which hemmed the boys in.

"Josh, you're a fool. Jed, you're another, and you too, Amelech, and
Will. Why for don't you alls bring they 'uns into camp?"

The men all looked sheepish.

"Yer see--," began one.

The girl stamped her foot impatiently.

"You alls ain't none of yer got no more sense than so many loons," she
cried angrily. "Don't you 'uns see that they 'uns is Black Bart's
friends?"

The men looked incredulous, but nevertheless their attitude changed.

"Wall, bein' that's the case, come ahead, strangers," said the tall man
who had first spoken and, with their wild escort clustering about them,
the wondering boys followed him down the dim trail.

Of who Black Bart might be or where they were going they had not the
slightest idea, but that Black Bart's influence was so far favorable to
them there seemed no reason to doubt.



                              CHAPTER IX.

                      A MESSAGE FROM THE UNKNOWN.


After a few minutes' travel they emerged without warning into a
spherical clearing, perhaps sixty feet in circumference. All about it
stood palmetto-thatched huts in which crouched timid-looking women and
children. The place was enclosed by a solid wall of trees and closely
growing vines. Great gray beards of Spanish moss waved from the trees
above them. It was a spot that would have been impossible to find unless
one had the key to the forest labyrinth. It was evidently the men's
home.

In one portion of the clearing was a singular apparatus that attracted
the attention of the boys at once, puzzled though they were over their
position, and whether they were in the hands of friends or enemies. This
object was a huge iron kettle that was placed over a blazing fire of fat
pine-knots. This fire was being fed by a youth who might have been the
brother of one of the men who stopped them in the forest. A cover,
evidently fashioned from some kind of wood, covered the iron pot and
from this lid a pipe of metal led to a crude trough. From the end of the
pipe was constantly dripping a colorless liquid which was carefully
gathered into a small tin by the man stationed at the trough, and from
time to time, he and others in the clearing took a sip from the tin.
Overcome by curiosity Harry asked a lanky youth, who slouched by just
then, what the affair might be.

"Don't ask no questions, stranger, and you won't git told no lies," was
the impudent reply that made Harry hanker--as he whispered to Billy--to
"land the perambulating clothes-horse one on the jaw."

But the mystery was soon to be cleared up and in a surprising way. While
the boys were still wondering what sort of a place and into what sort of
company they could have fallen, a figure came striding toward them that
they at once recognized with a thrill of delight at seeing a familiar
face.

The newcomer was Ben Stubbs.

He looked rather sheepish as the boys hailed him with loud shouts of
delight and seemed embarrassed when Frank asked him what he was doing in
this queer settlement.

"Wall, boys," he said at length, "I declar' to goodness I don' know but
what you'll think I'm a piratical sort of craft, but--but the fact is
that these folks around this yere camp are old shipmates of mine in a
manner of speaking, an' so you needn't be a bit afeard. Yer as safe as
if you were in your own bunks."

As may be imagined this did not at all clear up the clouds of mystery
that Ben Stubbs' sudden appearance had aroused in the boys' minds.

"Yes, but who are these people?" demanded Frank.

"How did you get here?" chimed in Harry.

"And who may Black Bart be?" was Billy's contribution.

"And what is that funny pot with a pipe on the top of it over there?"
concluded Lathrop.

"One at a time, mates,--one at a time or you'll swamp me," cried Ben,
getting back a little of his easy-going manner; "wail, now, first of
all, I am Black Bart."

"What?" was the amazed chorus.

"Sure," was the reply, "but I've reformed now, shipmates, so don't be
afeard; but the boys here still call me by the old name."

"Well, go on, Black Bart," said Frank, smiling at the idea of
good-natured Ben's ever having owned such a ferocious name.

"Wall," drawled Ben, "I got here in the Squeegee after I had seen from
the _Carrier Dove_ a man snooping around our fire and heard the old
'Hoo-hoo' cry--the owl hail, you know."

The boys nodded.

"We heard it in the jungle before we were surrounded," said Frank.

"That gave me a queer idea--the hearing of the old cry did"--went on
Ben--"that there might be some of my friends hereabout. I had reason to
know they were in this part of the country, for after they were driven
out of Tennessee by the government a lot of them came down here into the
'glades."

"Driven out by the government?" echoed Frank.

"Sure," was the easy reply, "and now to answer your last question--that
thing my young shipmate Lathrop calls a 'funny pot' is a whisky still
and these folks you see around us are moonshiners. There's a price on
the head of most every one of them," concluded Ben.

The boys looked their questions. Their amazement prevented them
speaking.

"Yes," continued Ben in a low voice, "most of the older ones has dropped
a 'revenue' at one time or another. Poor devils, if you'd ever seen the
way they were hounded you maybe wouldn't blame 'em so much."

"Were you ever a moonshiner, Ben?" asked Lathrop in an awed tone.

Ben winked with a wink that spoke volumes.

"Say a friend of the moonshiners, younker, and you'll be near it," he
replied. "I used to keep a kind of traveling store to help the boys
out."

From which the boys gathered that at one period of his adventurous
career the versatile Ben had been a "runner" of moonshine whisky--as the
man is called who, at great risks, carries the poisonous stuff into the
outer world from the secret mountain stills where it is made. The
coincidence of Ben meeting his old friends on the island was after all
not so remarkable as it seemed. Since the government has run most of the
moonshiners out of the Tennessee and North Carolina mountains hundreds
of them have taken refuge in the keys and among the 'glades where their
product finds a ready market among the Seminoles--who gladly destroy
themselves with "whyome" as they call the product of the illicit stills.

The boys soon found out that it was one of the moonshiners who had tried
to get Frank's revolver from under his pillow while he slept--not with
intent to do him any harm but because the sight of the weapon earlier in
the evening while they had been singing round the camp-fire--watched as
it now appeared by a hundred keen eyes--had excited his desire to own
it. The mystery of the motor-boat that kidnapped poor Pork Chops,
however, was in no wise cleared up, and as the boys and Ben sat down to
a meal of yellow corn pone, broiled wild hog, pompano, fried plantain
and a sort of orange preserve, to which they did ample justice, the
subject occupied most of their thoughts and conversation. As they ate
the moonshiners shyly watched them with their wild, hunted eyes. They
refused to sit down to eat with the party of adventurers, but flitted
about evidencing much interest at the boys' table manners and their
plain embarrassment at having no other table utensils but their fingers.

The meal concluded, Ben lit his pipe and gave himself up to after-dinner
contemplation. The boys wandered about the camp unchecked. The
moonshiners seemed even disposed to be friendly, in an offish sort of
way, after Ben's endorsement of the boys. One of them approached them
with a pannikin full of the colorless stuff from the still. He explained
that they distilled it from fields of cane they had in another part of
the island.

The very smell of the stuff sickened the boys, who waved it away as
politely as they could. Their refusal did not ruffle the moonshiner, who
drained the pannikin off himself with evident relish although the
portion he had poured out had been intended to suffice the entire
quartette of boys. "Black Bart," too, had a little fallen off in the
estimation of the moonshiners because he also refused to touch their
product. They shook their heads over his negative reply to an invitation
to drink as men who regret the downfall of a once upright man.

While the boys were wandering about the camp their attention was
attracted to a bottle suspended to a pole outside the hut of one of the
moonshiners. It was swathed in ribbons and bits of bright tin and seemed
to be regarded as some sort of a costly ornament. This was partly
explained by the fact that the wife of the owner of the hut was an
Indian woman and was the person who had ornamented the bottle for "big
medicine." But a closer scrutiny revealed to the boys a rolled piece of
paper inside it on which there was some faint writing. As it seemed to
be in English their curiosity was therefore considerably aroused.

They questioned the woman closely about it. At first they could get no
satisfactory replies. At length, however, after Frank had given her a
bright silver dollar--she refused a paper one--the squaw became more
talkative.

"Um-him come from o-tee (islands) long time go." She pointed to the
westward.

"The islands round Cape Sable?" asked Frank.

She seemed to understand, for she nodded.

"My man find him--he float," she grunted.

"Boys, this bottle was found afloat. This may be a message from some
poor fellow who is cast away on the Ten Thousand Islands," exclaimed
Frank.

The others looked skeptical.

"Most of these bottle messages are fakes anyhow," said Billy, with an
air of finality. But Frank was not satisfied. He questioned the woman at
greater length. After a long, patient interrogation he found that her
husband, who was absent from the camp, had been delivering a consignment
of moonshine to a camp of Seminoles in the wildest part of the 'glades
and had found the bottle off the mouth of the Shark River. It had a tiny
bit of red flannel tied round its neck as if to attract attention to it.
This decided Frank. No joker would have gone to that trouble.

He secured the bottle from the squaw for what seemed to him in his
eagerness a ridiculously small amount, while she in her turn thought the
young Hot-ka-tee (white man) must be crazy to give so much for it,
although to be sure, she esteemed it a valuable possession.

With a heavy stone Frank cracked the neck off his purchase and eagerly
shook out the note it contained. What he expected to find even he
scarcely knew, but the bottle and its hidden message had appealed
strongly to the boy's nature,--in which there was a strong dash of
imaginative mingled with the practical sense that had enabled him to
carry so many adventures to a successful issue.

The paper was crumpled up and it took a good deal of smoothing out
before Frank could read the few faintly pencilled lines that were on its
surface. After much puzzling, however, he made out:

    "Th-y a ---- tak--g m-," then there was a long blank that
    exposure had obliterated. The next legible words were: "to the
    'glades. ----stole----ret of----ite. Send help."

                                                C-----p--n, U. S. N.

For a few seconds the full significance of the words did not penetrate
Frank's brain. The gaps puzzled him and he did not pay much attention to
the general significance of the screed. Suddenly, however, the full
meaning of his find fairly leaped at him from the page.

The letter had been written by the missing Lieutenant Chapin.

There could be no doubt of it. Reconstructed the letter read:

"They are taking me into the 'glades. They stole the secret of
Chapinite. Send help. Chapin, U. S. N."

Wildly excited over his discovery Frank's shout brought his companions
round him in a minute. Hastily he explained his find. The sensation it
created may be imagined. Here was the first definite news of the missing
man discovered by an extraordinary chance in the camp of a band of
outcast moonshiners.

"Where was this yere communication found?" demanded Ben.

Frank explained where and when the squaw had told him the moonshiner
discovered the bottle. Ben knitted his brows for a minute and then spoke
with decision.

"They took him into the 'glades up one of the west-shore rivers," he
exclaimed at length. "The tides on this coast would never have drifted
the bottle round there. It must have come down the river, maybe from the
interior of the 'glades themselves, or maybe he threw it overboard from
the _Mist_ when she was wrecked."

At this moment there came a startling interruption. About a dozen of the
wild-looking moonshiners appeared, dragging into the clearing a rumpled
heap of humanity whom the boys at once recognized as the man they had
caught eavesdropping in Washington, and who had, as they believed,
followed them to Miami after failing to destroy the _Golden Eagle_ at
White Plains.

The captive--who is known to our readers from his signing of the message
from Washington to Florida as Nego--recognized in a flash that he was
face to face with the Boy Aviators.

For a fragment of time the group stood as though carved from stone.



                               CHAPTER X.

                         THE CAPTIVE'S WARNING.


The captive was the first to break the picture. With a violent wrench he
freed himself of the arms of his captors, while the boys gazed in dumb
amazement at the unexpected encounter.

"What's this here buccaneer bein' a' doing of now?" demanded Ben, after
a few seconds.

"We 'uns caught him trying to scuttle you 'uns canoes," explained one of
the crackers, "and we calculate to have him decorating a tree-bough by
sundown on our own account. We don't like live strangers round here."

The face of the man we know as Nego grew as yellow as parchment. There
was little doubt from the expressions of the moonshiners' faces that
they were quite capable of carrying out their threat. In fact a murmur
of approval greeted the cold-blooded proposal. One man--a little short
fellow with a tangle of black whiskers that reached to his waist--even
pointed to a custard apple-tree that grew at the edge of the clearing
and remarked casually:

"He'd look uncommon well decorating that thar tree I'm thinking."

After the boys had made insistent demands to be given the details of
Nego's capture they were finally informed that a group of the
moonshiners, who had been off wild-hog hunting, had been much surprised
to see the motor-boat manoeuvring off the point on the far side of which
the boys had beached the canoes. They stealthily watched the two men who
were in the craft from the screen provided by the mangroves. One of
them--the man they had captured,--continually scanned the shore with a
pair of field-glasses.

"They must have known we had left the sloop and come in pursuit of us,"
exclaimed Frank and Harry in one breath as the narrator reached this
point of his story.

After rounding the point it appeared that the watchers, who had been
sneaking along through the undergrowth, saw Nego order the boat's head
pointed for the shore and when she was fairly close in, get into a small
dinghy that towed astern and come ashore at the spot where the canoes
were lying. He carried a small axe and was about to raise it and destroy
the craft when the crackers, with a startling yell, burst out of the
woods and made him a captive. The other man must have seen his comrade's
plight, for he instantly headed the motor-boat about and giving her full
speed vanished round the projection on the coast of the island.

The boys' faces paled as a common thought flashed across their minds.
"What if the two men had visited the sloop and scuttled her or destroyed
the _Golden Eagle II_?"

Harry was the first to voice their fears. Frank's answer, however, gave
the adventurers a gleam of hope.

"That occurred to me, Harry," he replied, "but, on thinking it over, I
think it is more likely that they planned to destroy the canoes before
attacking the _Carrier Dove_, as with the small craft stove in they
would be able to work without fear of our paddling back and surprising
them."

They agreed that this was a reasonable theory and turned their attention
to the captive who stood defiantly with folded arms and a sneering
expression on his dark face. He looked very different from the
well-dressed man who had first attracted their attention in the
dining-room at the Hotel Willard, but he was unmistakably the same
despite the fact that now his chin was covered with a heavy stubble and
he wore rough clothes and a dark blue flannel shirt.

"Who are you?" demanded Frank finally.

The dark man raised his eyebrows and as he did so the boys noticed at
once the cause of his peculiar expression. The man's eyes were almost
almond-shaped, dark and malevolent looking--the eyes of an Oriental.
Combined with his dark yellow skin they stamped him at once as an
unmistakable subject of the ruler of the far Eastern power the agents of
which the Secretary of the Navy was certain, had kidnapped Lieutenant
Chapin and stolen the formula of his explosive. When he spoke it was in
a rasping voice that matched well his general appearance of sinister
energy.

"What if I should refuse to tell you?" he grated.

"In that case you would be very foolish," rejoined Frank, "you are now
in the power of these men, over whom we have some influence. If you will
give us some information we will in return try to intervene for you,
notwithstanding the fact that you have tried to blow up our aerodrome
and now we find you here attempting to scuttle our canoes. What have you
done with the colored man you took from the sloop last night?" he
demanded suddenly.

"To that I shall simply reply that he is in good hands," was the
rejoinder.

"Not if he's got anything to do with you, he ain't, my fine fellow," put
in Ben indignantly. The man looked at him with cold contempt.

"You may do with me what you will," he said proudly, "I shall not sue
Americans for my liberty or even my life."

The boys were amazed at the cool audacity of the man. With death staring
him in the face, surrounded by the cruel faces of men who would have no
hesitancy in killing him, he showed no more trace of emotion than if he
were still sitting eavesdropping in the Willard dining-room.

"We 'uns will find a way to make him talk," broke in one of the
moonshiners, a big, powerful fellow. "Here, Shadduck, heat up the
gun-barrels."

The boys looked puzzled, but Ben realized at once the horrible thing the
man contemplated. They meant to brand the prisoner with the red-hot
gun-barrels.

"Avast there," he cried, "none of that in this yere ship. Fair play and
all above board. If you want to string up this fellow to the yard-arm I
don't know, if it wasn't for my friends here, that I'd say 'no,' but we
ain't going to have no branding."

"Who are you to be giving orders?" demanded the man who had made the
suggestion angrily and leaning forward on his rifle, "I reckon we 'uns
ain't asking for your advice or figgering on taking it either."

Several of the younger men muttered, "That's right--who's he to come
here 'a ordering us about."

"I wouldn't put it past yer that you're turned a revenue," went on the
first speaker following up his advantage. At this an angry cry went up.
The boys and Ben perceived that matters would soon reach a crisis if
something were not done. Ben, however, knew how to handle these people
better than his young companions imagined.

With two quick steps he was alongside the trouble-maker and seizing him
in an iron grasp put his face close to his and fairly hissed in his ear:

"Look a here, 'Red' Mavell, one more word like that and you're as good
as dead--understand?"

The other apparently did for he sullenly muttered:

"Ain't no use a gettin' het up. You know the way we do these things an'
if you don't like 'em you don't have to stay and watch."

During this scene Nego had stood as impassively as if carved out of
wood. Indeed with his parchment-like skin and dark, slit eyes he did
resemble an Oriental ivory image almost as much as a human being.

It was of course evident to him that escape was impossible. Rugged,
wild-eyed moonshiners stood all about him and the women even had come
out of the huts, with their timid children peeping from behind their
skirts, to be onlookers at the unwonted scene. The captive retained his
posture of proud defiance in the face of this. His bearing was even
insolent in fact.

"Look here, mates," went on Ben, turning suddenly to the boys, "we don't
want to have any hand in killing this here reptile--much reason as we've
got to--and we don't want him to be tortured, and I'll be keelhauled if
we want to keep him," he glanced ferociously at the captive, "the only
thing to do is to turn him loose."

The captive's face lost its impassivity for a moment. So completely had
Ben's determined manner cowed the more ruffianly moonshiners that even
they did not demur.

"But there's a string hitched to the offer," went on Ben, "if we do let
yer go you've got to make tracks in that thar motor-boat of yours for
the north and swear to follow us no further. And tell us what you've
done with that thar poor coon."

"Yes, that is our proposal," said Frank, "if we get you out of the hands
of these people you will have to pledge us your word to trail us no
further and to leave this part of the country at once--will you do
that?"

"If we were only north we'd have you in jail by this time," put in Billy
angrily.

The man was silent for a moment with his eyes downcast, then he looked
up but with some of the expression of sullen cunning obliterated from
his dark face at least temporarily. It was plain the Americans'
generosity had affected him.

"I do promise--yes," he said quietly. "My companion was to wait for me
in the motor-boat till I signaled to him that I was going to put off
again. If you will let me go I promise to go straight on board and never
trouble you again."

"But they said your companion put about and drove the boat round the
point when he saw your capture," objected Harry.

The other smiled.

"Simply a measure of prudence," he said. "I can easily signal him with
this," he drew from his pocket a small whistle, of the shrill kind known
to seafaring men as the "bos'n's pipe."

"But," he went on in a grave tone, "I want to do something to repay you
for your kindness which I confess I do not understand--you Americans are
a queer people."

"Blame lucky for you we are," snorted Ben, who didn't much like the cool
way the captive took his good fortune.

"Do not fear for your negro. He is safe. We put him ashore this morning,
and by this time he must be at your camp. We only carried him off in an
attempt to prevent his giving the alarm. But," and his voice sank to a
whisper, "give this attempt up. Do not go into the Everglades."

Frank gazed at him in astonishment. The tone he used was full of import.

"Grave danger threatens you there," the other went on, "more than
danger--death itself and in a terrible form. As for me I have pledged
you my word. I am your country's enemy, but I know brave and generous
men when I see them; you have no more to fear from me----"

"Well, you haven't done us much harm anyway," Frank could not refrain
from saying, "though I'll admit you have tried," he added.

"I have but been the agent for others more powerful, more unscrupulous
and more to be feared than I," the other replied, "even now your coming
is being looked for."

"Then you did spy on us in Washington," cried Frank.

"I did, and telegraphed my report to my superiors," replied the man, "it
was my duty. We soldiers of the Samurai know no word but duty when we
are assigned to a task."

"Then you are an officer?" asked Frank.

"I am in the Onaki regiment. I fought through the Russian war and was
afterward given the honor to assist in the enterprise which you are
about to try to frustrate."

"I don't see much honor in what you and your countrymen have done,"
rejoined Frank warmly; "it looks to me like plain everyday stealing and
worse."

"Perhaps," replied the other with a slight shrug. "Our points of view
are different. Now," he said abruptly, "I must be going. We must be well
on our way north by dark for the inland channels are very intricate to
navigate in and our boat draws a good deal of water.

"Recollect what I have said and be warned," he repeated impressively.

As he spoke there came a low growl of thunder in the distance and a
heavy splotch of rain fell on the back of Frank's hand. They all looked
up astonished. So engrossed had they been by the remarkable scene that
had just transpired that they had not noticed that for some time the sky
had been growing blacker and that one of the sudden storms, peculiar to
the tropics, had been advancing towards them with all the rapidity that
marks the advent of a "Black Squall," as they are sometimes called. The
sky had in a few minutes become overcast completely with an ominous
slate-colored pall. A hush as if of expectancy had fallen on the jungle
about them.

"You are likely to get a ducking if you don't git aboard before this
yere squall breaks," growled Ben as his seaman's eye noted the signs of
bad weather. The Oriental swept the overcast sky with a quick glance. He
nodded.

"Good-bye and thank you," he said, and the next minute, guided by one of
the moonshiners, he vanished down the trail leading to the shore. The
moonshiners turned to the adventurers with sardonic looks as he
disappeared.

"You 'uns might better have let us hang him," said one of them, "he'll
work you a pesky lot of mischief yet."

"I don't believe he will trouble us any more," rejoined Frank, who had
been impressed by the man's earnest manner and evident gratitude. How
soon and how literally his words were to be fulfilled he little
imagined.



                              CHAPTER XI.

                           THE BLACK SQUALL.


The boys were so engrossed in discussing the sudden conversion of their
late enemy to a friend--or at least to no longer a source of
menace--that it was not till a good ten minutes later that Frank
suddenly exclaimed:

"The canoes!"

The spot where they had drawn them up was near the margin of the sea and
the heavy waves that the approaching storm would stir up would be sure
to swamp them if they were not moved from their present position.

"Come on, boys, we've got to hurry," shouted Ben, and followed by the
young adventurers he dashed off down the trail that the others had
traversed a few minutes previously. They reached the shore just in time
to hear three shrill blasts from the released captive's whistle. He was
in his small boat about a hundred yards off shore and looking anxiously
about. He had good reason to. The thunder-growls were coming nearer, and
far to the south, across the dark cloud curtains, great jagged flashes
of lightning were ripping and tearing. The sea, too, was beginning to
rise with that peculiar moaning sound that precedes a mighty disturbance
of its waters. The rain fell in torrents that whitened the surface of
the sea.

The work of getting the canoes hauled into a safe place was soon
performed, more especially as they had the aid of several of the
moonshiners who had accompanied them to the beach to see the last of the
man they would have cheerfully hanged a few minutes before. The small
craft were hardly snugly stowed when round the point through the
downpour, glided the motor-boat. She was low and long and painted dull
black and must have been equipped with powerful engines for she shot
through the water like a snake. The man in the dinghy soon clambered on
board and turned to wave farewell to the soaking group of watchers on
the beach.

"Gee! I'd give a hundred dollars for an umbrella," remarked Billy.

"I hope that's his good-bye and not _au revoir_," remarked Lathrop. "I
think you let him off much too easy, Frank," he added.

"So do I," put in Lathrop, "he really deserved some punishment."

"What were we to do?" asked Frank. "Anyhow if he doesn't keep his word
we know his measure now and can look out for him and see he doesn't get
off so easy next time. Besides, if we had left him here these
moonshiners would have been sure to have killed him. Ben Stubbs told me
they don't hesitate to make away with any stranger-----"

"Who hasn't got a letter of introduction," Billy finished for him.

"Well, it's a good thing we had a sponsor, or we might have been
ornamenting the foliage."

As the boy spoke there was a sudden shout from Ben of:

"Holy skysails, look at that!"

The boys' eyes followed the direction in which he excitedly pointed.

To the southward, before the advancing curtain of lightning torn
storm-clouds rolled a great wall of green water, ridged on the top with
a line of flaky-white foam. It was tearing along toward them at the rate
of an express train.

Fascinated by the spectacle of the mighty wave the boys stood watching
it for a moment in awed wonder. Its great volume was outlined against
the background of cloud as it reared its foamy crest above the dark
level swells like a watery parapet.

As they gazed the same thought struck them simultaneously and a cry of
horror broke from the lips of every member of the group.

The motor-boat!

It was directly in the path of the advancing mountain of water.

The two men on board the boat, who had been busied in attaching the
dinghy's painter to the stern cleats, looked up almost at the same
moment as those ashore realized their peril. The boys saw them hastily
rush to their posts; one forward to the wheel in the bow, the other
bending over the engines which had been stopped when the dinghy had been
picked up. They were evidently panic-stricken. The noise of their
terrified, confused shouts was borne shoreward on the wind.

"Can we do nothing?" asked Harry, horrified at the vision of the two
doomed men struggling aimlessly to escape the deadly peril that was
bearing down on them.

"Nothing," responded Frank, as agitated as the younger boy; "if their
boat cannot weather that wave nothing can save them."

The sea in the immediate vicinity of the island began to heave in heavy
shouldering swells as the Black Squall advanced and the wave grew nearer
and even more menacing as its distance from them decreased. It was
apparent that far back as even the canoes were hauled, they would have
to be hauled further inland if they were to escape damage. This work was
at once set about and the canoes dragged fully a hundred yards from the
beach.

"The wave will be all bust up by the mangroves and they'll not get much
more than a wetting up here," remarked Ben.

This work done, Frank suggested that they climb into the branches of a
wide-spreading guava tree so as to be out of harm's way and also be able
to watch the motor-boat's fight for life.

"We might see a chance to help the poor fellows," he said.

The moonshiners, with impassive faces, followed the adventurers' example
and soon all of them were roosting in the trees. Hardly had they settled
when the mighty wave towered within a few hundred yards of the black
motor-boat.

The occupants seemed to have lost their heads completely at the
imminence of the danger and were not even attempting to do anything to
relieve the situation. The man who owed his life to the boys stood erect
in the stern and with his arms folded gazed at the advancing doom. The
other was groveling in terror on the boat's thwarts. Suddenly they saw
the man in the stern spring to the engine and crank the machine
desperately. The boat began to move rapidly through the swells, tossing
their heads in spray over her sharp bow.

"She's going to race it," amazedly exclaimed Harry.

"There's not a chance," cried Frank, as the boat gathered speed and fled
like some frightened creature before the pursuing peril. She fairly
leaped through the water like a live thing. With parted lips and
throbbing pulses the boys watched the beginning of the unequal struggle.
Gamely as the helmsman guided the flying craft over the swells the great
wave gained on him. The man who had been groveling in the boat in sheer
terror was now on his feet. He hung onto the stern coaming and gazed
back as if fascinated with awe at the pursuing Nemesis. The man in the
bow never turned his head; he gazed straight forward.

Suddenly a cry that even the boys could hear broke from the lips of the
man in the stern.

"The engine's stopped!" cried Frank.

Even as the words left his lips the giant comber caught the boat's
stern. It raised her up and up till she seemed fairly to stand erect on
her bow, stern in air. For an imperceptible segment of time she remained
so.

The next second she was blotted out of existence in a mighty vortex of
water.

Before the cry of horror at the swift tragedy that had been enacted
before them had died from the boys' lips the wave broke on the shore.

With a crash like the explosion of a powder magazine it smashed itself
on the beach and a mighty inrush of water followed. The spray of its
landing flew as high as the tree-tops.

"A good thing we're up here," cried Billy, as the water came swirling
through the jungle beneath them.

"A good thing we hauled the canoes up, you mean," said Frank, as he
anxiously watched the frail craft--as far inland as they lay--picked up
like feathers and dashed about by the inroad of the sea. To his relief,
however, they survived their buffeting undamaged, thanks to their extra
strong construction.

The water rushed back down the sloping shore of the island as swiftly as
it had advanced. A few minutes later they were able to descend and hurry
to the beach. There was no danger of a second monster wave Ben assured
them.

They suddenly realized though that they were dripping wet through from
the torrential downpour that had accompanied the storm, but their
anxiety to see if any trace of the motor-boat or her occupants
reappeared prevailed over their discomfort. They stood on the beach
scouring the sea with burning eyes, but it was empty of life. They
remained silently gazing before them for several minutes--it was Ben who
broke the silence:

"What about the _Carrier Dove_? Has the wave struck her?" were the words
that brought them all out of their reverie with an anxious start.



                              CHAPTER XII.

                      PORK CHOPS PROVES HIS METAL.


It was impossible to consider rounding the island in the canoes in the
sea that was running; but this difficulty was got over by Ben, who
impressed a guide from the moonshiners' settlement to guide them around
to the spot where they had camped, and off which the _Carrier Dove_ was
moored. Arrangements were also made to have the canoes carried across
the island later by three strapping young crackers, who were glad of the
chance to earn a little money by proffering their services.

These arrangements completed the start across the island was made, and
after about three hours traveling the boys reached the spot where they
had camped. They hurried anxiously to the beach.

It was evident that the storm had not struck this side of the island
with anything like the violence with which it had broken on the other
shore. This raised the boys' hopes for a few moments but they were
destined to be as quickly dashed.

No _Carrier Dove_ rode at anchor.

In fact the usually placid sea, still heaving under the influence of the
squall which had now passed away, was as devoid of life as a desert as
far as their eyes could reach.

It was a bitter moment.

Neither Frank nor Harry dared trust their voices to speak. They
swallowed hard while their eyes brimmed at this wretched ending of their
hopes.

With the _Carrier Dove_ gone--and more than that with the _Golden Eagle
II_, at the bottom of the sea, it would be useless to keep on. They
would have to turn back and admit they had ignominiously failed.

As for Ben Stubbs, he removed his hat, scratched his head and remarked:

"Well, I'll be double-darned, horn-swaggled----"

That was all, but there was a wealth of meaning in his tone.

Lathrop and Billy stood to one side, both realized what the Boy Aviators
must be suffering at the sudden dashing to the earth of their high
hopes. A cruder disappointment could not in fact be imagined. The work
of their brains and the fruit of long experiment and research had been
swallowed by the same hungry sea that had destroyed two of their
enemies.

Practical Ben Stubbs broke the silence.

"Here you get along home and tell 'em to send us some grub," he ordered
the lanky young moonshiner who had escorted them. "I reckon we'll camp
out to-night."

When the man had hurried off, Ben set to work getting a fire. When he
had it in a bright blaze he shouted:

"All hands to the fire to get dry; no use of dying of rumatiz even if
the sloop is gone."

The boys, despondent as they were, saw the wisdom of his words and
crowded about the blaze. They stripped to their underwear and hung their
garments on a sort of long stick laid across two forked ones stuck in
the ground about six feet apart in front of the fire.

"Now, that's ship-shape," he remarked when a row of wet clothes were
hung on his handiwork to dry in the warmth, "next thing to do is to
consider the situation, as the young man said when they offered him a
good job as hangman."

Ben's flow of spirits had an effect on all the boys, who sat dejectedly
around the fire in their wet underclothes. To tell the truth the old
adventurer was far from feeling as cheerful as he tried to appear, but
like all men who have faced real hardships he knew the value of making
the best of a situation.

"Well," said Frank with a melancholy smile. "What do you make of it,
Ben?"

"What did that there poor fellow that's drownded say to you he done with
Pork Chops?" was the irrelevant reply.

"Oh, he said that they had put him ashore early to-day," replied Frank.
"I don't see what that's got to do with it."

"Might have a good deal," replied Ben. "I wonder where that black lubber
is. He'll have fifty-seven varieties of fits when he finds his boat's
gone--worse'n the skipper's cat that lost all his nine lives at once
when the shop's rats gave out."

"He can easily replace that rickety old sloop," said Harry irritably;
"to restore what we have lost will take months of work and more money
than we can get."

"If we can even get back to New York from this moonshining island we'll
be lucky," grumbled Lathrop.

"Oh, don't rub it in," muttered Billy.

It was very plain that all the young adventurers were overwrought. More
for the sake of creating a diversion than anything else, Ben said:

"Wonder what's become of that floating pumpkin-seed the Squeegee?"

"Washed away, I suppose," said Frank in an uninterested tone. The loss
of the ungraceful Squeegee didn't interest him much at that moment.

"She'd have been washed inshore by the waves," mused Ben, "if she'd been
driven anywhere; besides I hitched her to that tree yonder down by the
beach. Hullo, that's funny," he broke off suddenly and rapidly walked
toward the tree to which the Squeegee's painter had been hitched. He
examined the surface. There was no bit of rope hanging to it as he knew
would have been the case if the painter had been snapped.

"Someone untied that rope," said Ben to himself in a tone of deep
conviction.

Hastening up the beach to where the boys were grouped Ben confided his
discovery to them.

"Who do you suppose took it?" asked Frank.

"Some no-good moonshiner, I suppose," snorted Ben indignantly. "Keelhaul
those fellows, they're a natural born pest, the whole boiling of them."

"Do you think they could have weathered the squall in her?" asked Billy.

Ben laughed incredulously. "No, sir," he replied. "I doubt he'd last out
a squall as long in that craft as it would take a sailor to eat a piece
of plum-duff. Whoever took that boat is at the bottom of the sea by now
and the Squeegee along with him."

It was dusk when the young moonshiner returned loaded with provisions
for which the boys against his protest insisted on paying. There was a
big piece of roast venison, sour-dough bread, roast land crab, a
plethoric pot of beans and a plentiful supply of cassava cakes--even
coffee had not been forgotten. Everybody cheered up a little at the
sight of the food. It is wonderful what heart a good meal, even in
prospect, can put into a healthy boy, and our young adventurers were no
exception to the rule. Declining their invitation to stay and share the
meal the young moonshiner plunged off hurriedly into the home trail.

In fifteen minutes Ben had the coffee ready and the cassava cakes heated
on hot stones. After a hearty meal, of which indeed they stood in need,
the party donned their clothes,--which were now thoroughly dry,--and
earnestly discussed their prospects. Only Ben, who sat apart, took no
hand in the conversation. Only once, however, he irrelevantly remarked:

"Keelhaul that Pork Chops, where is he?"

That the boys did not sleep their usual peaceful slumbers that night may
be imagined. For hours they tossed and turned under their blankets and
watched the fire die down and fade first to a ruddy glow and then to
blackness.

It might have been an hour after midnight when the moon rose and
shimmered over the sea, now perfectly smooth. Had their minds been at
ease the boys would have been enraptured with the beauty of the tropic
night. As it was, however, the coming of the moon and the illumination
of the sea merely served Frank as an opportunity further to scan the
scene for any trace of the _Carrier Dove_.

Casting off his blanket he hastened to the strip of beach on which the
smooth swells were breaking with a milder thunder than usual. With his
night-glasses he swept the midnight sea from horizon to horizon. There
was no result. Thoroughly dejected he cast himself at the foot of a huge
palmetto and gazed intently out to sea riveting his mind on the present
situation of himself and the little band of which the Boy Aviators were
the leaders.

Suddenly the current of his gloomy thoughts was broken in on by an
occurrence which brought him to his feet with a bound.

A low lying group of brilliant stars just above the horizon had been
blotted out. Something had passed between the boy and the stars. That
something could only be a sail, and a sail meant at least rescue from
the island.

With a bound Frank, glasses in hand, was knee-deep in the surf.

It was a sail!

With trembling hands he brought the glasses to a better focus. Intently
he gazed till his eyes burned in his head.

The craft was a sloop!

Hardly daring to admit to his mind the wild hope that had suddenly
arisen, Frank watched the strange sail as it grew nearer. Before the
gentle breeze the craft advanced slowly to within a hundred yards of
shore and then a dark figure bounded along her decks and there was a
loud rattle from her cable as the anchor was let go and she swung into
the wind with flapping mainsail. Another moment and her canvas was
lowered with a run and she lay at anchor.

With his heart in his mouth Frank hailed:

"_Carrier Dove_, ahoy!"

"Dat you, Marse Frank--bress de Lawd--bress de Lawd!" came back across
the water in Pork Chops' rasping voice; but had it been the golden tones
of an opera singer that answered his hail the sound could not have been
sweeter to Frank's ear at that moment than Pork Chops' frog-like croak
of welcome.

_The Golden Eagle II_ was safe!

Before the echo of the _Carrier Dove's_ noisy arrival had died out in
the woods, the young adventurers, hand-in-hand, were dancing in a wild
circle round the bewildered Ben Stubbs, yelling like Comanches.

"Hurray! Hurray! Hurray!"



                             CHAPTER XIII.

                     THE FRONT DOOR OF THE 'GLADES.


There was little more sleep for the boys that night and when at daybreak
half-a-dozen of the moonshiners appeared with the canoe it may be
imagined that the boys lost little time in getting aboard the _Carrier
Dove_ where their inky navigator was so delighted to see them that he
danced a sort of double shuffle of joy from one end of his disreputable
craft to the other.

The story of how the _Carrier Dove_ had come to weather the storm was
soon told. After the two men, who had not harmed him, had set him ashore
from the motor-boat at the other end of the island the black, with the
instinct of locality common to his race, had easily made his way to the
camp. To his amazement it was deserted and he was filled with fear that
some disaster had happened to the boys and Ben. He had not much time for
speculation however, for hardly had he looked about him when the rapid
approach of the black squall that had caused such havoc on the other
side of the island made him bestir himself to get his beloved _Carrier
Dove_ to a safer place than her present anchorage. He therefore jumped
into the Squeegee and rowed out to his craft. He had just time to set
her sails and up anchor when the squall struck down in all its fury.
Pork Chops told his story with a wealth of gesture and dramatic effect
and the boys could hardly refrain from bursting into roars of laughter
as he described "de mon'surious wabe what had rised up out of the sea
like yeast bread an' et up de po' li'l Squeegee."

"How high was the wave. Pork Chops?" asked Frank.

"'Bout as high as de highes' mountain you ever see, Marse Frank, and dat
am a solemn gospel fact," averred Pork Chops. "He ris' so high above de
ol' _Carrier Dobe's_ mas' dat it 'peared lak I could'n see no sky."

"Oh, come, Pork Chops," laughed Harry, "you'll have to take a little off
the top of that wave."

"Won' tak off not a single solingtary inch, Marse Harry," indignantly
replied the skipper of the sloop. "I wish ah may nevah see Miami again
ef dat dar wabe weren't jus' as I done describe him to you."

"Well, it was pretty big and that's a fact," said Billy Barnes with a
wink at the others, "but you must have magnifying eyes to see it as big
as you describe it."

"Hoi' on dar a minute, Marse Barnes," earnestly said the old negro, "ah
don' know jus' what you mean by dat dar magnaminous eye, but tell me
didn' you all see dat dar wabe from de udder side ob de island?"

"Certainly," said Lathrop, "what's that got to do with it?"

"Wall, it mus' jus' naturally have growed by de time it got round here;
das all ah got to say," triumphantly concluded the old darky.

Continuing his narrative Pork Chops told how the little sloop had driven
through the water "faster than de fastest ex-press you eber seen." He
didn't forget either to pay himself a high tribute to his own skill as a
mariner.

"Reckon dat ol' man Noah didn't have nothin' on Cap'n Pok Chops when it
come to sailin' roun' wid skill and duxturity," he remarked.

"Well," commented Frank, "we don't want to spoil you by too much praise,
Pork Chops, but that certainly was an A No. 1 feat of yours, and I never
heard a more welcome sound than that croak of yours when you dropped
anchor."

After despatching huge quantities of fried bacon and coffee, cooked on
the battered sea stove the _Carrier Dove's_ cabin boasted, and which
Pork Chops proudly referred to as "de galley," the adventurers up
anchored and with their little engine chugging merrily away stood on
toward the south. The canoes in a long tandem-like line were towed
astern, as there was every prospect of smooth water for the rest of the
day.

As the _Carrier Dove_ bore past the southern end of the island a canoe
shot round the point. In it were two figures. One was the moonshiner who
had been so anxious to despatch the unfortunate Nego, the other was a
younger man whom the boys recollected to have seen in the camp the day
before. They waved and shouted something that the boys could not catch
but, as they evidently had some important object in paddling out, the
young commander ordered the engine stopped and the _Carrier Dove_ lay
to, rising and falling on the long swells over which the canoe rode as
gracefully as a sea-bird.

A few moments later the canoe ran alongside and the elder of the two men
addressing Frank said:

"Wall, the bodies of them two came ashore this morning and on the one
you wouldn't let us string up we found this."

He fumbled in his homespun shirt a minute and then produced a tiny
carved figure of green jade. It was the image of a squatting Buddha and
evidently of great antiquity.

"Was this all you found?" said Frank, examining the quaint figure with
interest.

"Sure," replied the other unblushingly, "ain't it worth something to you
'uns for we 'uns to hev fetched it to you?"

Frank knew that the man lied when he said that the little jade god had
been the only thing found on the dead man but he did not deem it worth
while to contradict. He had little doubt that the dead man's watch and
diamond rings were at that moment in the possession of the individual
who had addressed him, or some other of the moonshiners. He, however,
took the hint conveyed in the man's last words and handed him over a
bill. The fellow took it without a word and shoved off.

"You 'uns may get out of the 'glades alive but I don't believe it," were
his parting words.

"He's got what you might call a nice sweet disposition that feller,"
remarked Ben, as the canoe was rapidly paddled away and the adventurers
got under way once more, "he'd make a good shipmate, he would, with that
sunny nature of hisn."

Frank examined the little jade god with close attention while the others
leaned over his shoulders. The figure was not much more than two inches
high and of beautiful workmanship. It was evidently of great antiquity
and seemed to have been venerated as a charm by successive generations,
for it was worn quite smooth in parts as if from constant rubbing
against the clothing of the person wearing it.

At the top of the head there was a small opening, round the edges of
which were inscribed characters that were meaningless to the boys.

"What do you suppose is the significance of it?" asked Harry.

"It is evidently some sort of an amulet," responded Frank.

"I've seen 'em in China and Japan," put in Ben Stubbs, "whistling gods
they call 'em there. Lend it here a minute."

Frank handed it to him and Ben put his lips to the orifice at the top of
the figure's head. He blew hard in it and the figure gave out a clear,
penetrating note that evidently traveled a long distance, for the two
moonshiners stood up in their now distant canoe and gazed back in
astonishment at the sound.

"Them Chinas and Japs set a high value on these," commented Ben, "some
of 'em would give their lives for one."

"Well, we'll keep it as a souvenir," remarked Frank, slipping it in his
pocket. "It will be amusing to have it to recall some of our adventures
when we get back to New York."

That afternoon a good brisk breeze from the northwest sprang up and the
_Carrier Dove_ with her canvas spread bowled along at a good ten knots
before it, heeling over till the foam creamed at her lee scuppers. It
was exhilarating sailing. After a long series of alternate calms and
favoring breezes the adventurers' craft finally rounded Cape Sable and
shortly afterwards entered the maze of channels, islands, sandbars and
treacherous shoals that make up the Ten Thousand Island Archipelago.

The young adventurers had finished the first stage of their daring
enterprise. By far the most difficult part lay before them. As Frank put
it they had arrived "at the front door of the Everglades," what lay
beyond was only conjecture.

According to the prearranged plan they were to cruise about at the edge
of the archipelago till the _Tarantula_ hove in sight and they could
make final arrangements for wireless codes and signals and also complete
the plan of rescuing Lieutenant Chapin and getting the formula out of
the hands of those who had it. After two days of waiting, which sadly
irritated the boys, who were keenly impatient to begin their task, one
morning the placid waters of the gulf were furrowed by the sharp bow of
the _Tarantula_ and the _Carrier Dove_ sailed out to meet her.

On board the destroyer the boys were greeted by a very youthful looking
lieutenant, whose name was Selby. He explained that his orders were to
keep in constant touch with the expedition, so far as was possible, by
wireless and that if they were missing without sending any word for more
than a week he was to take a squad of men and penetrate the Everglades
in search of them.

He was very anxious for the boys to take several picked men of his crew
along with them in their bold dash. But Frank and Harry, after a brief
consultation, agreed that the force they had at present formed a good
working unit and there was no need of shortening their supplies and
overloading the canoes by taking any more. After a dinner aboard the
hospitable _Tarantula_ the boys dropped over the side into the _Carrier
Dove_, which had lain sociably alongside the grim war-vessel while they
were aboard, and with warm words of farewell from Lieutenant Selby and a
cheer from the crew, among whom word of what was on foot had spread in
some mysterious way, they started for the maze of islets and channels
beyond which lay the mouth of the Shark River. They anchored that night
off a small island covered with a dense undergrowth that promised snakes
and that there was at least one variety of reptile ready to receive them
was evidenced when, as the _Carrier Dove's_ anchor rattled down into
about twelve feet of water, a huge body slipped off the bank and slid
into the water with a sullen splash.

"An alligator!" cried the boys.

"No, sah," rejoined Pork Chops, "dat dar ain't no 'gator, dat's a
crokindile and where dey are dere's mischief."

"Are they more dangerous than alligators?" asked Frank.

"More dangerouser!" scornfully replied Pork Chops. "Ah should jes' say
dey is. 'Gators--huh! they am big cowards, but crokindile he'll fight
yer till his teef drap out--yes, sah, they's bad critters is
crokindiles."

"I'd like to get that fellow's skin though," said Frank.

The old darky scratched his head.

"Wall, sah," he said; "I ain't saying that dat's impossible. 'Spose we
try to git him by jacklight."

"By jacklight?" exclaimed Lathrop wonderingly.

"I've read about that," replied Frank, "it is supposed to be the most
effective way of trapping these saurians. Now as there isn't much to do
before tomorrow, after we have unloaded our duffle and got it stowed in
the canoes, we might as well have a little pot-hunt after supper."

The boys enthusiastically agreed and the work of getting the duffle off
the _Carrier Dove_ and into the canoes for transportation into the
Everglades went ahead with a will. By supper time the canoes which were
to be occupied by Frank and Harry were completely loaded and there only
remained the stowing of the few additional sections of the _Golden Eagle
II_ in the craft that were to be paddled and poled by Billy Barnes,
Lathrop and Ben.

Supper over, old Pork Chops rigged a lantern up in the bow of one of the
canoes and fitted a strip of canvas over it.

"No use letting Mister Crokindile know what we're going to do till we
git ready," he remarked as he hooded the light.

As only one of the canoes could be used, the others being loaded down,
it was agreed that Frank and Harry should occupy it with old Pork Chops
and the others would watch the fun from the deck of the _Carrier Dove_.
The spot where the _Carrier Dove_ lay was a sort of natural basin
enclosed by the thickly grown islands all about. Pork Chops paddled
almost noiselessly into about the center of the enclosed pool and then
stopped. Then came a dead silence for more than half an hour broken only
by the occasional nightcry of some bird or creature of the jungle and
the sharp clicks of the adventurers' rifles as they got them ready for
action.

Suddenly the quiet was broken by a roar like that of an enraged bull.

"Heah he comes foh shuh," commented Pork Chops with his hand on the hood
of his lantern.



                              CHAPTER XIV.

                      CLOSE QUARTERS WITH 'GATORS.


The roar that had startled them was, as Pork Chops explained to the boys
in a low undertone, the mating cry of the huge crocodile which was now
probably on its way to the den in which they had surprised it earlier in
the day.

"Are you all ready?" whispered Harry to Frank, as both boys distinctly
heard the rushing noise made by the huge creature as it leisurely swam
through the still water.

Frank grasped his rifle. Harry already had his leveled, ready for use as
soon as Pork Chops' jack lantern illuminated the quarry. They had not
long to wait.

"Now, den, sah," cried Pork Chops as he raised the hood of the lantern
and a ray of light shot out across the water. As if fascinated by the
sudden illumination a great cruel head armed with rows of saber-like
teeth suddenly flashed into view.

"Let him have it," shouted Frank as both he and Harry fired.

There was a repetition of the roar as their bullets bored home but
mingled with it was a loud shout from the _Carrier Dove_, that for the
moment put all thoughts of the success or failure of their shots out of
the boys' heads. The cry came from Billy and it was sufficiently
alarming considering that the water fairly swarmed with alligators and
the more vicious crocodiles.

"Lathrop's overboard!"

A thrill of horror shot through both boys as they heard the words. At
Frank's swift command the old negro switched the canoe round as if she
been on a pivot and the next minute the ray of the jack lantern was
sweeping the water in the direction of the _Carrier Dove_. Lathrop,
carried away by excitement as the boys' rifles had been discharged, had
leaned far over the side of the sloop, hanging on by a frayed lanyard.
This had parted under his weight and he was now struggling in the water.

Billy Barnes and Ben Stubbs had thrown him ropes but the bewildered boy,
half stunned by the shock of his sudden immersion, could not see them.
He swam blindly about in the fetid water trying to grasp the side of the
sloop. It was so dark, however, that partially dazed as he was he did
not seem able to find it. When the ray of the jack lantern fell on his
white dripping face he had about given up hope.

"Hold on, Lathrop," shouted Frank as, urged by Pork Chops' powerful
strokes, the canoe shot toward the struggling boy. In their excitement
all the occupants of the frail craft had quite forgotten about the big
bull crocodile they had wounded. They were reminded of his presence in a
startling fashion.

Without the slightest warning the canoe seemed to be propelled into the
air as the powerful tail of the wounded saurian struck it, and the next
minute its occupants were struggling in the water in as bad a fix as
Lathrop. Both boys were powerful swimmers but both realized that all
their skill would not avail to save them in the fix in which they found
themselves. As for Pork Chops his terror was pitiable.

"Oh Lawd! oh Lawd! I didn't mean no harm when I stole ole Aunt Liza's
white pullet," here he was half-choked by water. "Oh Lawd, git me out ob
dis widout been all chawed up by crokindiles an' I won't never steal
folks' fowls agin, Lawd. O-o-o-o-oh!"

He broke off with a yell of real terror. Frank swimming toward the
_Carrier Dove_ felt a huge body brush by him in the water and
frantically stroked toward his goal. Harry was safe, he could hear him
breathing as he swam. But poor Pork Chops! The unfortunate black had
given himself up for lost when there was a sudden blinding flash of
light from the sloop and at the same minute two rifles cracked. The
amazed boys, struggling in the water to gain the sloop, saw in the
sudden white glare the reptile's black head with monstrous opened jaws
suddenly checked in its rush on the apparently doomed Pork Chops as
Billy Barnes and Ben pumped the lead out of the rifles into the wounded
crocodile's mate as fast as they could work them.

The huge body swung clean out of the water in its death agony and fell
back with a mighty splash. Great clouds of awakened herons flew from the
islets round about and the whole forest rang with the cries of aroused
birds.

Ben Stubbs had had the presence of mind to seize and ignite one of the
signal flares and it was by its powerful light that they had saved the
lives of Pork Chops and possibly of the boys. With the illumination
afforded by the glare it didn't take long for the boys to get aboard the
_Carrier Dove_ where Lathrop in a very shamefaced way related how he
came to tumble overboard.

"It's all the fault of your rotten rigging," he said indignantly,
looking at the dripping Pork Chops who was still so scared that he could
hardly speak. The insult to his Carrier Dove, however, fired him with a
righteous wrath.

"What you all mean, Marse Lathrop, by saying dose unkindnesses 'bout dis
yar ship of mine?" he sputtered indignantly. "I'd have you to understan'
dat she's jes' as fine a craf' as der is on dis yer Flahda coas', yes,
sah."

"I beg your pardon," laughed Lathrop, who now that the danger was over
had quite recovered his usual flow of spirits, "I didn't mean to insult
you. However," he went on more gravely, "if it hadn't been for Billy and
Ben here I doubt if any of us would have been alive now to even hurt
your feelings."

Of course a great handshaking between the boys and their rescuers took
place, and as for Pork Chops he swore that he would not leave the boys
whom he hailed as his "sabyers."

The original plan had been that he was to sail the _Carrier Dove_ back
to Miami as soon as the boys started into the 'glades, but he absolutely
refused to hear of this now.

"No, sah, you saved mah wuthless life, an' ah means ter stick ter yer
jes' as long as mah laigs ul carry me," he declared.

From this determination he could not be swayed and when they turned in
that night it had been arranged that the old black was to accompany
them, occupying a part of Lathrop's canoe, and that the _Carrier Dove_
was to remain at anchor where she was;--at all events for a time. In
that little frequented maze of keys and mangrove-grown shoals there was
small likelihood of anybody finding her.

The next morning all hands were astir early. It was a wonderful scene
into the midst of which they had penetrated. Through the confused huddle
of keys and islets silver-clear channels threaded their way. In them
thousands of fish--silvery tarpon, vampire-like devil-fish, big and
little sharks, rushed and sported, eating and being eaten in turns. It
was fascinating to watch the active submarine life going on about them.

As for the birds, when the sun arose there were great clouds of them
sailing across the sky or regarding the adventurers' preparations for
abandoning the _Carrier Dove_ with the greatest interest. Big snowy
herons, green herons, rose-colored herons, blue herons, long-legged
herons like soldiers on yellow stilts, stood about, sentinel-like on the
oyster bars on which they found their daily food. Ducks, coots and
cormorants floated about on the placid waters almost as tame as the
domestic varieties.

Overhead the sky was almost darkened at times by huge flocks of snowy
ibises, their beautiful plumage flashing in the sun as they rose and
fell in undulating waves. Gannets, gulls and ospreys hovered about the
great fishing grounds of the archipelago and high up in the sky, mere
specks against the brilliant blue, sailed on serene pinions the
men-of-war hawks and frigate-birds that haunt the Everglades in vast
numbers.

Immediately after breakfast the _Carrier Dove's_ hatch and cabin were
locked and the start was made. Frank and Harry in their canoes led the
way. Billy Barnes followed, his craft containing the wireless apparatus.
The procession was taken up by Ben Stubbs while last of all came Lathrop
and old Pork Chops, in whose canoe was loaded the commissariat. Frank
and Harry had most of the sections of the _Golden Eagle II_ in their
craft, as they wished to keep them under their immediate eye.

All the boys felt a solemn feeling of responsibility--almost of
loneliness--creep over them as, after Frank had taken and carefully
noted with sextant and horizon the exact bearing of the _Carrier Dove's_
anchorage, so that they could easily find her again, the start into the
unknown began.

"Here's to the success of the Chester Relief Expedition!" shouted Billy
Barnes as after everything had been checked up and found complete the
little band dipped their paddles into the water.

The others started to cheer but a sharp order from Frank checked them.

"From now on," he ordered, "everybody must keep as quiet as possible. We
do not know but that eyes and ears unknown to us are even now taking
note of our every action."

And so in silence, save for the steady dip-dip of their paddles the
Chester Relief Expedition glided through the wilderness of mangrove keys
and blind channels always due east toward the heart of the Everglades.



                              CHAPTER XV.

                           AN ISLAND MYSTERY.


It was an exhilarating sensation, this of being afloat on their own
keels and gliding easily among sights so strange and new. On every
yellow sand-spit alligators lay sunning themselves and slid into the
water with lazy splashes as the expedition shot round points onto them.
Sometimes they didn't even trouble to do this but lay blinking at the
canoes as much as to say:

"Hurry up by, and let us get to sleep again."

"What if they should take it into their heads to attack us?" asked
Lathrop of Pork Chops. The boy's face paled as sometimes the old black,
with deliberate defiance as it seemed, steered so close to the alligator
bars that the boy could have put out a hand and touched the backs of the
monsters.

"Don' you give ye'self no fuss 'bout dem 'gators 'tacking us, Marse
Lathrop," the old man reassured him, "why, ef I het one ob dem varmints
a slap wid dis yar paddle he'd skedaddle so quick yo couldn' see his
trail for hurry--yes, sah."

The first night's halt was made at a beautiful little island overgrown
thickly with palmetto, bay, water-oak, wild-fig, mastic and other
timber. Through the amber water that surrounded it fish of a dozen
varieties glided through the brilliantly colored water-grasses, that
waved in as great luxuriance as the land-growth. While Pork Chops built
a fire and busied himself with getting supper Frank and Harry sat apart
and discussed their plans. They intended to select the first available
place for the setting up of the _Golden Eagle II_, and then do a little
scouting by aeroplane. Frank knew from report that scattered through the
wilderness of the Everglades there are numerous hammocks or small hills,
in some cases quite considerable mounds, that would make ideal sites for
a central camp. It was not much use speculating on any further method of
procedure, however, till they were actually in the Everglades.

While the boys had been busying themselves in this way Ben Stubbs had
taken a rifle and strolled off into the jungle in search of one of the
wild turkeys whose loud "Keouk-keouks" had apprised him that the bronze
beauties were plentiful in the brush. Lathrop and Billy Barnes went
fishing with improvised hooks and lines made of stout thread from their
toilet-bags.

The two anglers were shouting with delight over a huge reddish colored
fish that Lathrop had hooked and drawn to shore, after a struggle in
which it seemed that his line must part or he go overboard, when Ben
Stubbs returned from his hunting expedition. He carried with him a fine
big gobbler that must have weighed fully twenty pounds. While they were
all gathered about the beautiful bird admiring the rich, coppery gloss
of its feathers, Lathrop, who had been busy disentangling his line from
a low-growing bush, gave a sudden yell.

"What's the matter?" shouted Frank.

The boy came running toward him. His face was white and he held out his
right hand for their inspection. On the thumb were two tiny bluish
punctures.

There was no need to ask questions. The boy had got a snake bite. The
question was,--had a poisonous reptile bitten him?

Lathrop, what with terror and pain from the fever that was coursing
through his veins like molten lead, was too terror-stricken to answer
Frank's questions intelligibly. He finally described, however, a snake
which they did not doubt was a rattler,--a diamond back,--one of the
most deadly pests of the Everglades.

"The medicine chest quick, Harry," ordered Frank.

The younger boy darted to the canoes and soon returned with the outfit
labelled "For Snake Bites." With quick dexterity Frank had rolled up
Lathrop's sleeve while Harry was getting the remedies, and with a short
stick had twisted a handkerchief above the bite so tightly that it was
almost buried in the skin. This was to prevent the poison spreading up
the arm.

Then, while Lathrop winced with the pain but endured it bravely, Frank
slashed two deep cuts in his forearm which bled freely. From the
snake-bite outfit Frank rapidly selected some dark-red tablets of
permanganate of potassium and rapidly dissolved them in water. By this
time Lathrop was in agony. His heart felt as if it was being gripped in
a red-hot vise and he had great difficulty in breathing. A strange
drowsiness crept over him. Nothing seemed to matter if he could only
sleep and forget the pain.

"Leave me alone," he panted to Frank. "I guess I'd rather die."

The young leader recognized the seriousness of these symptoms and worked
with feverish haste. He fitted a needle onto a hypodermic syringe and
seizing a fold of the stricken boy's skin between his thumb and
forefinger he ran the needle almost up to its end in Lathrop's
arm--after having filled the squirt with the permanganate solution.
Then, wrapped in blankets, the boy was laid down, while Frank and Harry
watched anxiously at his side. After an hour they breathed more freely
as Lathrop opened a pair of languid eyes and announced that the pain
about his heart had moderated. The next morning he was still so weak,
however, that to move him was manifestly impossible.

The boys were in a quandary. They could not leave him and yet time was
precious. They must press on. An unexpected solution to the problem was
found when Frank and Harry, after spending half a day exploring the
little key, announced that they had found a deserted plantation house on
the northerly end of it, and that better than that even, there was a
quite considerable clearing about the abandoned house that would make an
excellent "take off" for the _Golden Eagle II_. It was decided that
night to go to work at once to put the aeroplane together right there
and abandon the canoe expedition.

The house that Frank and Harry had found had evidently been long
deserted. It was built of clay daubed over plaited branches of the
mastic tree and roofed with palmetto leaves. Its door, a queer
contrivance of twisted branches and palmetto leaves hung from broken
hinges formed by loops of pliable twigs, bent round large crooked sticks
set into the frame. All about it stretched a clearing in which
apparently the former proprietor had carried on some sort of farming
operations. But its condition showed that like the house it had been
unused for many years.

"Who do you suppose could have built it?" asked Harry as the boys gazed
about them at the dismal scene of desolation and abandonment.

"Some fellow anxious to keep out of the way I should imagine," put in
Ben Stubbs, who was already busy with a mattock clearing up a space of
ground on which to begin operations,--for this conversation took place
the morning following the boys' discovery of the hut and the clearing.

"Or maybe a sailor who was marooned here," put in Billy Barnes.

"Ah, that's more like it," commented Ben. "Now I come to think of it,
pirates used to be thick in among these yere islands and depend upon it
that this place was put up by one of them poor fellows as they had put
ashore for some fancied offence or other."

As if to confirm this theory it was not much later that Billy, poking
about the clearing, found way off in one corner, under a huge
cabbage-palm, a board stuck at one end of a low mound, evidently a
grave.

Billy's shout at once brought the others clustering about him, and after
Ben's knife had scraped away the mould and dirt with which the years had
coated the head-board they read:

    "Jem Bristol,--a sailor of the Walrus. Died May 21, 1775.
    Berried Here by His Ship matz."

Underneath in smaller letters was cut the inscription:

    "He was maruned here for five years been found by us as he was
    diing. The krew of the Murmade."

"Poor fellow," exclaimed Billy, "marooned here for five years, what a
fate!"

"I suppose that the Walrus was some sort of a pirate ship?" asked Harry.

"Yes, I think I remember reading somewhere that Captain Flint, a famous
sea-rover, called his ship by that name," chimed in Frank.

"Wall, them fellers from the Mermaid, however they got here, done what
they could for the fellow," commented Ben Stubbs.

"Just the same they only found him when it was too late to do anything
for him but bury him," commented Frank.

It was a good morning's work transporting the packing cases containing
the sections of the air-ship across the island and when it was completed
all hands were glad to sit down and partake of a lunch of reef oysters,
pilot bread, fried bacon washed down with tablet lemonade prepared by
Pork Chops. Lathrop was so far recovered as to be able to drink some
oyster broth and after he had taken the nourishment he declared that he
felt strong enough to be moved.

The boys had reached the decision that it would be a good plan to
transport the entire camp to the clearing and occupy the dead sailor's
house as a more comfortable permanent camp than they could erect
themselves. The rest of the day was devoted to putting this idea into
execution and carrying Lathrop, in a sort of stretcher made out of one
of the canoe-tents and two long branches across the island. The canoes
were then poled round the island to a little bay with a shelving beach
that cut into the land opposite the new camp which by unanimous consent
had been christened Walrus Camp. The little craft were dragged up to a
point above tide-water, for the waters about the island were still
tidal. That evening, when the lamp was lit and the mouldering house of
the maroon neatly swept out and the boys' possessions all put in place,
the young adventurers declared it was as comfortable a dwelling as one
could find.

As for Pork Chops, he was fairly delighted with the place.

"Dis am as framjous as any palace I ever did done see," he exclaimed,
rubbing his hands in satisfaction.

"What palaces have you ever seen?" asked Frank quizzingly of the old
man.

Pork Chops, with a look of great superiority, replied:

"Ah's seen palaces an' palaces. Moren' you could shak' a stick at," he
replied indignantly.

The exact location of Pork Chops' palaces and the eagerly demanded
definition of the mysterious word "framjous" was indefinitely postponed
by a startling occurrence at this juncture.

Ben Stubbs, who had been sitting by the door almost keeled over. Lathrop
in his enfeebled condition set up a startled cry. Even Frank and Harry
turned a shade paler. As for Billy his eyes almost popped out of his
head. With a loud cry of "Fo' de Lawd's sake, spookses!" Pork Chops
leaped from beside his stove, upsetting his pots with a loud crash. What
had occurred was in fact sufficiently startling considering their lonely
surroundings.

Somebody had knocked at the door.

Frank was the first to recover his senses. Revolver in hand he dashed
across the floor and flung the door wide open. Eagerly his eyes searched
the night but without result.

There was nobody to be seen!



                              CHAPTER XVI.

                     THE BOYS MAKE AN ACQUISITION.


Headed by Ben Stubbs with the lantern the young adventurers rushed after
Frank into the open, determined to ascertain if possible the meaning of
the strange and startling interruption to their peaceful evening. It was
in vain, however, that they searched for any indication of the presence
of a human being. In the blackness it was indeed impossible to make more
than a cursory examination of the surroundings of the hut.

At daybreak, however, after a restless night, Frank, who had risen as
soon as the first gray of dawn made things dimly visible, uttered a cry
of surprise from outside the hut. Hastily flinging off their coverings
and slipping into their clothes the others ran out.

"Look here," exclaimed Frank, "what do you make of this?"

He held up a small bottle in which was a bit of red flannel, a chicken
feather, some rusty nails and several dried grasshoppers.

"I found it put right to one side of the door sill," he explained. "How
we missed finding it last night I don't know."

"What can it mean?" chorused the other boys peering eagerly at the
strange object.

"Looks as if some mischievous kid had put it there," suggested Billy
Barnes.

"I don't think there are likely to be any 'mischievous kids,' as you
call them, about here, Billy," said Frank with a smile.

"Well, I give it up," said Harry; "I never was much good at reading
riddles."

"Just let me look at it a moment, shipmate," put in Ben Stubbs quietly.
"I kinder think I have an inkling of what it means."

He took the bottle and examined it carefully. Then he nodded his head
sagely.

"It's some kind 'er voodoo for certain shu," exclaimed Pork Chops. "I
wouldn't touch dat lilly bottle fo' all de money in dis yer worl'."

"What did you say it was, Pork Chops, you inky pirate?" asked Ben,
turning on him.

"Lan' sakes, don' snap me up dat er way, Marse Stubbs," gasped the old
negro, "I only said I wouldn' touch dat bottle. It's voodoo fo' shu'."

"Right you are, my boy," cried Ben, "only it's not voodoo; but it's
something very like it. It's obeah."

"Obeah!" exclaimed Frank, "what on earth is that, Ben?"

"Why, it's a form of witchcraft used by the ignorant negroes of the West
Indies and Bahama islands," explained Ben. "It's meant as a warning to
any one on whose doorstep it is placed. In this case, as I take it, it
means, 'Don't come no further.'"

"Well," laughed Frank, "it will take more than a bottle of dried bugs
and old chicken feathers to make us turn back, and anyway, how comes a
West Indian negro here? If it was a Seminole now----"

"That's a puzzle to me too," remarked Ben. "Then Seminoles don't use
nothing like this that ever I heard of.--What's that?" he broke off
suddenly.

The cause of the interruption was a great fluttering of wings from the
edge of the clearing and several herons flapped heavily out of the
woods.

"There's someone in there," cried Frank.

"Right you are, my boy, and I propose that we put an end to this mystery
business and find out who it is. Volunteers for the job."

Of course everyone was anxious to penetrate the mysterious cause of the
birds' flight, which they felt had something to do with the placing of
the bottle and the tapping on the door, and a few minutes later, heavily
armed and ready for any surprise that might be sprung on them, the
little party sallied across the clearing and into the dark mass of
forest.

They had gone perhaps a quarter of a mile or so, and Ben Stubbs had
remarked that they must have pretty well reached the limits of the
island, when there was a great crashing of the dense undergrowth
immediately in front of them and a human figure, bent almost double, was
seen darting through the brush with the rapidity of a scared rabbit.

"Stop, or we'll fire," cried Frank.

But the figure kept on running. Frank was in a quandary. Of course he
had not meant to carry out his intention and the fact that the man kept
on running put him in an awkward position. They could not kill the man;
yet if they did not fire he would escape from them and it was most
essential they should capture and question him if it could be done.

Ben Stubbs raised his rifle and leveled it. Frank caught his arm and
dragged it down.

"None of that," he said sharply, "if we can't get him without shooting
him we'll have to let him get away."

Ben laughed.

"Don't git excited, shipmate," he remarked coolly, "I was only going ter
give him a scare. Once more Ben raised his rifle and just as the
fugitive was vanishing from view sent a bullet whistling over his head
that nicked off several twigs and sent them scattering in a shower on
his neck. With a loud screech of terror the fleeing figure flopped down
and groveled on the ground.

"I'se a British subjec'." he yelled, "don't do me no harm, massa, I'm a
subjec' of the King."

"Get up, you black rascal," roared Ben, for by this time they had come
up to the groveling figure and saw that he was even blacker than the
redoubtable Pork Chops, who had run back to camp at top speed as soon as
they had sighted the fugitive.

"Get up," he went on, "we are United Statesers, and the king won't do
you no good now. Who are you and what do you want around our camp?"

Tremblingly the negro got to his feet. He was a strange figure. A
palpable negro he yet wore the garb of a Seminole Indian. His shirt,
with its tail flapping outside a pair of buckskin trousers,
bright-colored turban, and buckskin moccasins were the customary clothes
of the tribe.

"Well," said Frank, as this nondescript figure stood facing them, beads
of perspiration streaming down its face, "what have you got to say for
yourself?"

"Snooping around and putting bottles of dessicated bugs on our front
stoop," indignantly cried Billy Barnes.

"I didn't mean no harm, massa, didn't really mean no harm at all. Me
berry good ole man. Bahama nigger I am."

"Well, what are you doing here, then?" demanded Ben.

"Don' shoot me, massa, an' I tell you eberyt'ing," sputtered the
captive, terrified at Ben's ferocious expression. Put in more
intelligible language than the Bahama negro used his story was this:

Suspected unjustly some years before of having killed the captain of a
sponging vessel of which he was one of the crew he had fled into the
Everglades to avoid lynching. He had fallen into the hands of a tribe of
Seminoles, off on an otter hunt, when he was almost famished and had
been treated by them with kindness. In fact so well pleased had he been
with his surroundings that he had taken a wife from the tribe and was
now one of them.

Several days before the outposts had brought news of the approach of the
adventurers into the interior and the Seminoles had at once made
preparations to turn them back. The Bahaman, whose name, by the way, he
confided was "Quatty," was singled out as being the best spy they could
send inasmuch as he could speak English and would understand the
conversation of the strangers. He had landed on the island the afternoon
before and when he saw that one of the party was a black conceived the
idea of working "obeah" on him. He knew that if the darky was a West
Indian, which he suspected, he would really interpret the ominous nature
of the sign.

"But why are you so anxious to keep us out?" asked Harry, "we mean no
harm to you."

"Wall, dem ign'nant sabages," grandiloquently stated Quatty, "has
obtained de idea dat you is in some way connected wid some white men
what came down in the 'glades tree months ago or so."

The boys started eagerly.

"Some white men that came into the 'glades?" repeated Frank.

"Yes, massa," said Quatty, "dot's de bery meaning I intend to convey."

"Where are these white men?" demanded Frank and Harry in the same
breath.

"Long way from here, far in de 'glades. Dem sabages is werry much scairt
of dem," went on Quatty, "one time dey go near dere camp and some man he
throw something make noise like de worl' he comin' to an en' and blow
big hole in de groun'."

"It must be the men we are after," exclaimed Frank tensely.

"And the stuff they threw was Chapinite," added Harry.

"Are they still here?" was Frank's next question. He was keenly afraid
of receiving a negative answer, and his voice almost trembled as he
spoke.

"Yes, sah, dey's still here shu nuff," rejoined Quatty. "We never go
near dem since dat day, but all de time we see smoke and at night dere
is red flames go up from de island where dey camp. We tink dey debbils
for sho'."

The boys were almost wild with excitement. Even Ben Stubbs' face lit up
at this unexpected good fortune. It meant that instead of wasting days
seeking the abductors of Lieutenant Chapin and the stealers of the
formula they would be able, if this Bahama negro could guide them, to go
direct to the spot after they had laid a plan of campaign.

"Could you guide us to this place, Quatty?" asked Frank.

"Wid de greates' of ease," replied the negro, quite proud of the
impression he had produced, "but what fo' yo wan' to go dere?"

Without telling him too many details of their mission Frank outlined
their errand to him and, as it might be important to secure the
co-operation of the Seminoles, he told Quatty to reassure them as to the
object of the intrusion of the adventurers. After Quatty had been given
something substantial for his trouble, from Frank's bill-roll, he dived
into the forest with the promise to return that afternoon with the chief
of the tribe. He was positive, he told the boys, that the tribe would
have no objection to their presence in the Everglades if they really
meant to drive out the men who, as Quatty put it, he and the tribe
believed to be "debbils."

The rest of the morning was spent in getting the field wireless and its
lofty pole in position and joining the framework of the _Golden Eagle
II_. With such energy did the boys work that dinner-time was forgotten
and by afternoon things had reached a stage where the ship was ready for
her golden wing coverings to be laced on. The work of placing the engine
and truing it up would have to be left to the next day, for even Frank
was not sanguine enough to believe that they could accomplish that
difficult task by night or he would have ordered work to go on without a
let up.

True to his promise shortly before sundown Quatty reappeared at Walrus
Camp with a tall dignified-looking Seminole dressed in the same manner
as himself. The Indian could not talk English but Quatty acted as
interpreter and the conversation went on swimmingly. The chief, whose
name sounded like O-shi-ho-wi, agreed not to molest the boys if they
pledged their words not to annoy the tribe or try to spy into their
customs. This the boys readily agreed to and the chief then produced a
pipe. After gravely taking a whiff he handed it to Ben Stubbs whom he
regarded approvingly and Ben in turn, after a puff or two, handed it to
the boys.

Lathrop looked at it in disgust.

"I can't smoke it," he said.

"Go on," said Ben, "just a whiff will do. The Injuns think that if
you've smoked a pipe with them you won't break any promise you have
made. If you won't you'll insult them."

"Well, if that's the case, all right," said Lathrop, and, with a wry
face, he took a pull at the pipe and then suffered a violent fit of
coughing. The others in their turn took a whiff. The only ones who
appeared to have any relish for it, however, were Ben Stubbs and Pork
Chops, the latter of whom said patronizingly to Quatty:

"Ah've got some good terbaccer in de hause, nigger, if yo' wan' to smoke
somethin' better dan dese yar shavings."

"Ah consider dat berry good terbaccer, tank you, sah," replied Quatty
with dignity, "and ah'll tank you ter keep any cricketscisms to yo'sef."

With a stately gesture the chief signified that negotiations were at an
end as soon as the pipe-smoking had been concluded. He examined the
framework of the _Golden Eagle II_ with much interest.

"Huh-man-bird," was his comment, "canoe better. Not so far to fall."

There still remained one bit of business to be done and both Frank and
Harry anticipated some little trouble over it--this was the retention of
Quatty as their guide to the 'glade islet on which the abductors had set
up their plant. The chief consented to his being retained, but Quatty
himself was more doubtful. The promise of a canoe, however, as well as a
good round sum of money decided him. He would go. But he wanted to know
how the boys meant to get into the interior of the 'glades. From where
they were at the moment it would take many days of threading intricate
water lanes, he explained, to arrive at their destination.

With a half smile at the explosion he knew was about due Frank replied:

"Yes, but we don't mean to go by canoe. We shall travel by air."

The negro turned an actual gray with perturbation.

"No, sah," he exclaimed, "no, sah. Yo won' go froo no air wid me. Ah'm
too fond of mah life to go skeedaddlin' round in de clouds in dat
contraption."

All the persuasions the boys could think of were of no avail. Quatty
obstinately refused to reconsider his determination not to go up in the
air-ship. Finally a happy thought struck Frank.

"Get one of the rifles," he whispered to Harry.

The boy hastened into the hut and reappeared with a fine automatic. His
own in fact.

"Now, Quatty," commanded Frank, "watch."

He raised the rifle to his shoulder and pressing the trigger, fired the
whole magazine. He reloaded it and handed it to the amazed negro.

"Now you try it," he said.

A grin of huge delight spread over the black's face as the automatic
weapon shot out its rain of lead. As for the chief he stood stock still,
but a look of amazement spread over even his stolid countenance at the
exhibition.

"Well, what do you think of it?" asked Frank.

"Dat's de mostest wonderfulest gun I eber seed," confessed the darky.

"It will be yours if you guide us to the island where the 'debbils'
are," said Frank.

The old darky sighed.

"Ah get de money an' de canoe as well?" he said at last.

"Of course," said Frank.

"Den, massa, I'se you man, fo' I nebber could resist a good gun, and,"
he added, as though he found consolation in the thought, "ef I break my
neck yo breaks yohs too."



                             CHAPTER XVII.

                    THE EVERGLADES IN AN AEROPLANE.


"Hurray, we are in communication with the _Tarantula_."

It was Frank who spoke. Seated at the field wireless apparatus, with the
metallic headpiece about his ears, he rapidly noted down the reply to
the message he had flashed out some time previously. The message was
signed:

"Selby," and read:

"Am standing by, off the coast. Communication perfect. Will keep in
touch constantly."

Frank's message had been a brief outline of his plans, which were to
sail in the _Golden Eagle II_ that afternoon if feasible, and ascertain
the exact location of the camp of the formula stealers, and leave the
rest of the plan of procedure to such circumstances as might arise.

Feverishly working, the boys and their aides got the _Golden Eagle II_
in shape for flight by noon of that day. Thanks to the specially
prepared engine-bed that the boys had had constructed, there was little
to do except to bolt the driving machinery in place, after which but
little adjustment was necessary to true it up with the shafts. While
Harry and Lathrop took up positions at the propellers and the rest of
the party hung onto the winged ship with might and main, Frank carefully
adjusted the engine, having timed it down to its lowest number of
revolutions.

"Now," he cried when all was ready.

The boys gave the propellers a twist. To their delight the engine worked
as smoothly as a sewing machine. The power was then cut off and the work
of stocking up the lockers beneath the transoms in the pilot-house
begun. It was Frank's intention that if it became necessary to settle
down anywhere for any length of time to use the pilot-house as a camping
place. This would save the necessity of a tent and as every ounce of
weight counts in an aeroplane this was an important consideration. The
canvas screens--of the lightest grade of duck carefully
waterproofed--which have been previously mentioned were provided for
this very purpose as were also mosquito net curtains for fine weather.

Frank's navigating instruments found their place in a pocket handy to
the steersman's hand. The compass of course being adjusted in a balanced
socket that kept it always visible to the helmsman. The operating keys
of the _Golden Eagle II's_ wireless apparatus were in the rear of the
chassis and in the space beneath its stand was coiled the five hundred
feet of rope through which ran a strand of phosphor bronze wire which
was to be used for grounding the current. Alongside the reserve gasolene
found its place.

The searchlight, swinging easily on a pivot, was also of course a part
of the helmsman's equipment, and handy to him was slung his revolver in
a big loose holster. The rifles and ammunition and the stock of
provisions carried went in the lockers, as well as a waterproof
sod-cloth to place beneath the chassis if camping on wet ground, and a
small blue-flame oil-stove made of aluminum. The few cooking utensils
carried were also of aluminum and nested. The last thing to go aboard
was a folding canvas boat of which more later.

All these preparations concluded, the boys partook of the last dinner
they were to eat in company for perhaps several days. Over the meal,
which Pork Chops had made quite an elaborate one in celebration of the
occasion, final plans were discussed. Lathrop was to have charge of the
wireless apparatus and at all hours of the day or night either he, Ben
Stubbs or Billy Barnes was to be on duty beside it on the watch for
calls. The boys would also, it was agreed, watch their apparatus
constantly. Frank's ingenuity had provided each machine with an
appliance, not unlike the ordinary telephone bell, which commenced
ringing loudly as soon as any other instrument within range got "in
tune." This was a patentable improvement, as an ordinary wireless
machine has no such convenient attachment and only apprises its operator
of a call by a faint click hardly audible to the unpracticed ear.

After lunch the boys went over every rod and wire of the aeroplane and
found her to be in first class shape. While these preparations were
going on Quatty had been eyeing the craft with the liveliest indications
of fear.

"Ah'd jes' as soon ride on de back ob a fish eagle," he said
apprehensively.

"Why, Quatty, you're not going to back out now, are you?" asked Frank
with a smile at the negro's trepidation.

"Lord, no, Massa Frank, ah said ah'd go wid yo' an' I will, but ef it
wasn' fo' dat rifle I wouldn' go not fo' nuffin'. Say," he added
suddenly, "could ye jes' wait a while till I paddle home an' say
goo'-bye to my wife?"

"No, we can't," laughed Frank, ruthlessly cutting short the black's hope
of even a moment's reprieve from going aloft in the object of his
terror.

"Are we all ready, Harry?" he asked the next minute.

The younger boy nodded.

"Hold on a minute," cried Frank suddenly, "there is one thing we've
forgotten."

He ran back into the hut and reappeared with a small object he had
fished out of his toilet-bag.

It was a silken American flag. The boys attached it to a small pair of
halyards at the stern of the chassis and ran it up.

"Come on in with you, Quatty," cried Harry, when this was completed.

Speechless with terror the negro hobbled up to the machine and
hesitatingly clambered into the chassis. He sat quivering like a jelly
on the floor of the pilot-house as the boys followed him.

"What are you squatting on the floor for?" asked Harry, laughing, "don't
you want to see the scenery?"

"Ah can see all ah wan' right yar," was the terrified darky's reply.

With a final handclasp the boys followed the negro into the chassis and
Harry took up his place at the engines and Frank got into the steerman's
narrow seat. Lathrop and Billy Barnes were at the propellers ready to
give them the twist that would start the machinery.

"Let her go," cried Frank with a backward glance. Harry bent low over
the carburettor and carefully adjusted it and the lubricating system.

The next minute, with a roar like that of a dozen Gatling guns, the
engine started up. Volumes of blue smoke poured from the exhaust which
also shot out jets of ruddy flame. To anyone not used to the racket of a
powerful engine suddenly turned up to its full power it was actually
terrifying. Quatty writhed in a paroxysm of terror on the quivering
floor of the pilot-house as the whole fabric of the aeroplane shook as
if it had been convulsed by an earthquake.

Like a big ungainly bird it ran rapidly over the ground for a few dozen
yards and then as it gathered speed under its rapidly revolving
propellers, Frank threw in the top speed clutch and jerked back the
lever that controlled the rising planes. Like a perfectly trained animal
the big air-craft obeyed and rose as gracefully as a butterfly into the
air. For fully ten minutes, till they were clear of the tree-tops, Frank
kept her rising--the terrified Quatty rolling about on the inclined
floor of the pilot-house like a rubber ball. Then as she soared safely
above all obstructions he threw her onto an even keel and headed her due
east.

Far below them Harry, leaning over the stern, could see the small
clearing in which stood the dead sailor's habitation and the rapidly
diminishing figures of Lathrop, Billy, Ben, and Pork Chops waving a
frantic adieu. The darky had in his hand a frying-pan which he
flourished and was evidently shouting, for he had his hand at his lips,
but of course anything he might have said was at that height inaudible.

Once on an even keel Frank threw in the mufflers and throttled the
engine down a little so that the uproar that had so terrified Quatty was
diminished. Occasionally as she struck some contrary air-current the
aeroplane would give a dip that terrified the negro into fresh
convulsions, but otherwise the really alarming sensation that
accompanies the rising into the upper air of an aeroplane had ceased and
they were driving ahead calmly enough, though not fast, for there was a
stiff northeast wind blowing.

"Well, Quatty, what do you think of it as far as you've gone?" jestingly
asked Harry as, having adjusted his engines to suit him he sat wiping
his hands on a bit of greasy waste.

"Ah's jes' as soon ride on a buckin' broncho as on dis yar contraption,"
rejoined Quatty, who had by this time scrambled to his hands and knees,
"it's eben worser dan I thought."

A diplomatic idea entered Harry's head. They would have to get Quatty
over his scare before he would be of any use to them and this necessity
gave rise to Harry's inspiration.

"Well, I think you are a very brave man, Quatty," he said solemnly;
"that Pork Chops is such a coward that he wouldn't dare to do what
you've done."

[Illustration: The Boy Aviators set out in the _Golden Eagle II_.]

"Is dat so, Massa Harry, fo' a fac'?" asked Quatty eagerly.

"Yes indeed," went on Harry seriously, "he's such a coward that he would
have fainted if we had even suggested coming up with us to him."

"Well, I'se a berry brave nigger and dat's a fac'," proudly said Quatty
rising to the bait, "them no 'count southern niggers ain't got no real
courage no-how."

So well did Harry's diplomatic admiration work that before they had been
afloat in the upper air for half an hour more Quatty was seated on one
of the transoms holding onto a strap provided for the purpose and
piloting Frank as the ship forged steadily along into the wind, her
engine running without a skip or a start.

It was a marvelous panorama that lay spread out far below them. Their
bird's-eye view showed them immediately beneath the floating craft the
myriad green-clad islands of the archipelago threaded by bands of
sparkling blue water. Soaring in the air about them, but at a respectful
distance, and doubtless marveling at the invader of their realm, were
kitty-hawks and fish-eagles and sometimes even the rare Everglade kite.
If it had not been for the speed they were going nothing would have
pleased Harry better than to get out a rifle and try a little target
practice at the myriad bird-life that soared beneath and around them.

But it was not so much the immediate scene, beautiful as it was, that
gripped the attention of the voyagers. Far in front of them lay a broad,
dark band of trees that they knew marked the mainland and was the thick
belt of cypress trees that gives its name to the Big Cypress Swamp.
Beyond this again lay a scene that made their hearts beat high. It was a
vast, an apparently illimitable stretch of brown prairie, looking from
that distance very much like our western plains viewed from a mountain
top. In the golden glow of the afternoon it shimmered and shone hazily
like a magic land. Here and there patches of dark cloud-like blue dotted
it and these the boys knew were the islands that are scattered at more
or less frequent intervals among the watery wastes of the 'glades and on
one of which, with a catch of the heart, they realized lay the object of
their long quest.



                             CHAPTER XVIII.

                             A NIGHT ALARM.


Quatty, quite recovered now from his first terror, and almost aggressive
in his newly-found courage, sat by Frank's side directing him as well as
he could for, as he explained, he would not be able to get his bearings
till they had passed the cypress belt and were above the Everglades
themselves. Every now and again, however, he would give the young
captain a steering direction.

"A bit mo' eas' by sout'," or "Hold a bit to de sout' sout' eas',
massa."

"What are we making, Frank, do you estimate?" inquired Harry, as the
ship rushed through the air.

"About ten miles," rejoined the other, "the wind is dead against us."

"Not as fast as a subway express, but doing pretty well," was Harry's
comment.

The young engineer was, however, most of the time as engrossed with his
engines as was Frank with the steering apparatus. From time to time he
ran his hand carefully over them to see if the condenser was doing its
cooling work properly. The lubricating gear also received his careful
attention. A heated bearing would have meant a serious accident if not
disaster and Harry was too old an aeronaut despite his youthful years
not to pay the closest attention to one of the most important features
of a gasolene engine.

"It seems to me that we had better make camp for the night in the
cypress belt if possible and make an early start over the 'glades
themselves to-morrow," said Frank, as the dark line of trees grew
gradually nearer and the boys saw that they formed a thick belt in some
places several miles across.

"Yes, if we find a landing-place," rejoined Harry.

"How about that, Quatty?" questioned Frank, "are there any smooth spots
clear of trees in the swamp?"

"Oh, berry plenty, massa," replied the negro. "I fin' you nice lilly
campin' place we get near dem."

Like a big hawk about to pounce the _Golden Eagle II_ was hovering about
an hour before sundown above the tops of the dark cypresses in search of
a suitable spot to swoop down. After Frank had manoeuvred her in widening
circles through the air for perhaps half an hour they at last were above
a large clearing a mile or more in diameter and which was quite clear of
trees.

"Injun make um long time ago, maybe three, four thousan' years,"
explained Quatty in answer to the boys' questions.

"Three or four hundred, more likely," laughed Frank.

"Or three or four," added Harry.

"Berry well, massas," said Quatty, highly offended, "I 'spose ah don'
know nuffin' but what an ig'nant sabage knows."

To make a landing Frank swung the aeroplane in a long descending arc
till he was a few feet above the tops of the outermost of the trees that
fringed the clearing then he raised the planes slightly and the _Golden
Eagle II_ glided to the earth in a long, slow sweep. The engines had of
course been cut out as the descent began and she settled as easily as a
bird alighting.

With mosquito netting brought for the purpose the sides of the
pilot-house were at once enclosed, for although it was still daylight,
the tiny pests that make life miserable on the edges of the 'glades had
begun to appear in armies. Strange to say, in the 'glades themselves
there are hardly any mosquitoes, but on its borders they swarm in great
numbers.

Quatty built a smudge of green wood and leaves before he set about
getting supper and in this way the worst of the visitation was
alleviated.

The boys watched with some interest while Quatty built his fire. He had
lived so long with the Seminoles that he built it in the way the Indians
have adopted from time immemorial. First he made a big ring of dry
sticks and twigs, the largest on the outside and the small dry ones in
the center. He lighted it in the center with his old flint and steel and
then having made a rack out of a stick of green wood, placed across two
forked upright ones, he pushed the larger timbers from the outside to
the center as occasion required.

After a hearty meal of stewed preserved meat made into a delectable stew
with dessicated vegetables and canned corn, followed by stewed
evaporated fruit washed down by boiling tea, the boys and Quatty retired
to the mosquito-barred pilot-house of the _Golden Eagle II_, where
Quatty lighted his pipe "jes' ter plague dem mosquitoes outside," he
explained, and the boys talked over future plans. After a short time,
however, weariness after the energetic day they had put in completely
overcame them and they stretched out on the transoms. In a few minutes
sleep closed their eyes and the only sound that disturbed the deep
silence in the cypress belt was the loud snoring of Quatty and the
rhythmical croaking of the frogs and tree lizards in the swamp.

Toward midnight Frank could not judge how long he had been asleep, it
seemed to him five minutes, as a matter of fact it was as many hours,
when he was awakened with a start to hear a stealthy tread a few feet
away from the aeroplane.

"Who's there?" he shouted.

The minute his voice rang out the footsteps retreated as stealthily as
they had approached.

In this lonely untraveled spot who could it be?

The boy awakened his brother and Quatty and cautioning them to silence
whispered them his alarming intelligence. Each boy grabbed his rifle and
prepared to defend the _Golden Eagle II_ with all their power. As for
that arrant coward Quatty, all his recent bravado quite gone, he could
only tremble and whimper in terror.

"What do you suppose it is, Frank?" whispered Harry.

"I wish I knew," replied the other.

"Do you think it's Indians?" was Harry's next question.

"It might be," replied Frank, "but I'm afraid that it's worse than
that."

"What do you mean?" inquired Harry in the same low tone of voice.

"That the men we are in pursuit of have got some inkling of our purpose
and are even now lurking about here to wreck the aeroplane and perhaps
kill us."

The prospect was certainly an alarming one. If Frank's idea was correct
they were powerless. It was unlikely that their enemies would be less
than half a dozen and perhaps more. Brave as they were the two boys
realized that they could do little against such overwhelming numbers and
Quatty was worse than useless.

"Here he comes again," cried Frank in a tense whisper as after several
minutes of silence the boys sat gripping their rifles.

Sure enough the slow, heavy tread was again advancing. It was too dark
in the shadows of the mighty cypress trees to see anything and the boys
could only judge of the enemy's whereabouts by the sound. After
advancing quite close to the aeroplane the steps ceased and the boys
could distinctly hear a low, steady breathing.

"I can't stand this any longer," whispered Frank. "I'm going to fire."

Aiming directly at the sound Frank pulled the trigger. As the report
crashed among the trees a roar of pain filled the air and a crashing
sound as if a body had fallen was heard.

"What on earth is it?" gasped Harry, as the roar was followed by whines
and yells of pain and a sound as if a big carcass was lashing about on
the ground.

It was Quatty who solved the mystery.

"Why, dat's a panfer," he cried, "ah knowed all along 'twern't nuffin'
but dat."

"Get the lantern," ordered Frank, curtly, "and we'll see what it is."

[Illustration: Frank shoots a panther.]

"Yes, massa," sputtered the negro awed by the boy's sharp tone. He lit
the lamp in silence and the boys sallied out. It was as Quatty had said.
On the ground near their camp-fire lay the animal still writhing. Frank
put it out of its agony with a shot through the head and then the boys
bent over their prize, examining admiringly its tawny skin and great
shapely head.

"See, massa, Quatty was right. Nuffin' to get scared of. Nuffin' but an
ole panfer."

"Did you think it was 'nuffin' but a panfer' ten minutes ago?" asked
Frank.

"Wall, no, massa," replied the darky, somewhat abashed; "but ah 'spected
it right along. Yes, sah, ah mus' say ah 'spected 'twan't nuffin' but
dat."

By this time the sky to the east across the Everglades was beginning to
grow gray and as none of the party felt any more inclination to sleep,
Quatty was set to work to skin the panther; after which Frank and Harry
sauntered into the woods with the shotguns. So good was their success
that they managed to bag three brace of doves which broiled with strips
of bacon formed a very agreeable addition to the oatmeal, pilot-bread
and coffee on which they had intended making their morning meal.

Even before they had despatched their breakfast the sun had risen and
illuminated the vast brown levels of the 'glades, which now lay directly
before them. The sky was specked with kites and vultures attracted by
the carcass of the panther.

"Dey won't even leab' any pickins ob him," said Quatty, motioning up at
the soaring carrion birds, "'specs dey finks we pretty good folks to gib
dem brakfus' as well as ourselves."

Breakfast despatched and the engine fed with fresh lubricant and the
gasolene and condenser tanks filled with additional fuel and water the
young adventurers were ready to take up what they felt was to be the
most important stage of their journey thus far.

The machine was hauled back from the part of the glade where it had
alighted to the extreme far side so as to give it all the room possible
to rise in. There being no one to turn the propellers the boys utilized
their self-starting apparatus.

This consisted of a handle attached to a cogged wheel which operated a
chain which in turn revolved another cogged wheel connected to both
shafts. This of course acted in exactly the same way as if some one had
twisted the propellers, but it required more elbow grease. After a
couple of revolutions the engine started up and with a quick all-seeing
glance fore and aft Frank threw in the clutch. The _Golden Eagle II_
started as easily as she had the day before and took the air after about
fifty yards' run.

A serious accident, however, was narrowly averted as she cleared the
tree-tops. Quatty, arrogant in the fact that he no longer feared the
riding in an aeroplane, was standing carelessly on the inclined floor as
the craft rose. A sudden jerk as she bucked an uprising current almost
threw him from his feet and he made a grab for the first thing he could
catch hold of, which was a starboard rudder wire. Under the tug of the
stumbling negro's hand the rudder was of course pulled over and the ship
gave a dizzy swoop.

Harry at the engine was thrown right across the pilot-house and Frank
thought for a minute that they had gone. With a swift glance he saw what
had happened. Reaching back he caught the luckless Quatty a blow under
the jaw that laid him flat and effectually loosened his hold on the
tiller-wire. Swift as thought the young captain skilfully righted her
but not before her port wing-tip had grazed the topmost foliage of one
of the loftier cypresses.

When they were once more safe Frank spoke:

"In future, Quatty," he said, "you will lie flat on the floor when we
are going up."



                              CHAPTER XIX.

                     ON THE MOUND-BUILDERS' ISLAND.


His high spirits considerably dashed by his misadventure, Quatty sat
soberly enough on the transom till Frank ordered him forward to give the
young captain sailing directions. They were now racing through the air
above the Everglades themselves. Everywhere below them spread the
yellowish brown expanse of saw-grass and water-course with here and
there a clump of cabbage-palms marking an occasional dry spot. Far on
the horizon, like a blue cloud, rested the nearest of the islets on one
of which lay their goal. Beyond it like other cloud fragments, lay dim
in the distance other patches of elevated land.

Save for the bird-life they could see about them there was no signs of
animate existence beneath the aeroplane. Not even a canoe threaded any
of the numerous water-courses that spread like a net over the 'glades. A
more doleful scene could hardly be imagined.

"How did these men ever find their way to the interior?" wondered Frank.

"Dey must have had a guide, massa," replied Quatty promptly, "nobody dat
don' know de 'glades can find him way in dem."

"Where could they get such a guide?" questioned Frank.

"Plenty ob dem," replied Quatty, "plenty ob Injuns take 'em whereber dey
want."

"But you said your tribe was opposed to them?" objected Harry.

"Don' know nuffin' 'bout 'suppose to dem,' Massa Harry; but dere ubber
tribes in de 'glades dan ours. Some ob dem don' lak us neider."

"Then you think they secured guides from some other tribe?" asked Frank.

"Mus' ab," rejoined Quatty, "none of my fren's would guide dem."

The nearest island rapidly assumed shape and resolved itself into a
charming bower of tropical vegetation rising at its highest point about
forty or fifty feet above the monotonous level of the 'glades As it grew
nearer the boys were astonished to see that its summit was bare of trees
and formed a plateau of some area which was flat as the top of a table.
It was as if some giant had lopped off the top of it with a huge knife.

"That's very extraordinary," said Frank, as they gazed at it, "one would
almost say that it had been formed artificially."

The air-ship circled about the islet under Frank's skilled control while
the youthful aerial navigators scanned it with eager eyes. They could
now plainly perceive that in the center of the flat top a sort of altar,
about seven feet long by four feet high, had been erected.

"A sacrificial altar of some ancient tribe," cried Harry.

"I'm not so sure," replied Frank as the _Golden Eagle II_ heeling over,
circled slowly about the object of their mystification. "What do you
know about this, Quatty?" he asked.

"Quatty thinks him used by Injuns to make smoke signals," said the old
negro scanning the altar narrowly. "When an Injun he wants to signal he
builds a fire on dere and den makes de smoke rise or fade away by
covering it wid a green branch," he further explained.

"That is undoubtedly the correct explanation," said Frank, "of course
there was an ancient race of mound-builders in Florida and this may be
one of their mounds, but I have never read that they had any sacrificial
rites. As Quatty says, the Seminoles must have used this old
mound-builders' hill, which the aborigines may have utilized as a fort,
or as a convenient place for signaling from."

He headed the aeroplane on her course again after this explanation and
the adventurers had proceeded perhaps a mile through the air when Quatty
who, with his hand shading his eyes, had been searching the horizon,
suddenly cried:

"Hol' on der, Massa Frank."

"What's the matter?" asked the boy.

"See dar. Ef dat ain't smoke 'way off dere call me an ignerent sabage!"

He pointed to a small islet a couple of points to the southward of the
course on which they were heading. The boys' gaze followed his pointing
finger. Their eyes, not so keen as the wilderness dweller's, however,
could perceive nothing but a small blue eminence of land not in any way
different from several other similar ones dotted along the horizon.

"Don' you see smoke ober dere?" asked Quatty, wonderingly.

"No," cried both boys.

"Lordy, lordy, you eyes are dim as bats' fo' sho'." cried the negro
shaking his head.

Frank reached into the pocket in which the glasses were kept. With their
powerful lenses he swept the horizon. He confirmed the correctness of
Quatty's eyesight the next minute.

From the nebulous mass,--which seen through the glasses proved to be an
islet very like the one over which they had just passed--a column of
smoke was certainly rising.

"It may be Indians," said Harry, after he too had taken a long look.

"Injuns," snorted old Quatty, "dems no Injuns. Dat ain't de color ob
Injuns' smoke. Ah knows whar ah is now ah do--dat's de place where dose
men you come all dis way ter look foh makes de debbil stuff dat blows de
holes in de ground."

A hasty consultation between the boys followed. At the distance they
then were from the islet it was unlikely that their presence in the air
had been noted. It would be useless to keep on in broad daylight as
their usefulness might end as soon as the plotters discovered their
presence and knew their plant had been discovered. On all accounts it
seemed best to camp on the mound-builders' island for the night and
wireless to Camp Walrus their views.

Accordingly the aeroplane was put about and a short time after was
resting on the summit of the mound-builders' hill. The boys were far
from satisfied with the location but there was no other available
landing-place and they decided to run the risk of being sighted before
dark.

The wireless apparatus was at once put in order for the transmission of
messages and Frank started to call Camp Walrus. Again and again the
spark leaped crackling across the gap,--transmitting the call of C-W,
C-W, C-W,--before an answer came.

Everything, it seemed, was going on well at the camp and they had heard
that morning from the _Tarantula_. The destroyer was cruising about the
archipelago awaiting news of the success or failure of the boys'
expedition and Frank, as he was doubtful of being able to "pick up" the
vessel at the distance inland they then were, asked Lathrop to transmit
to Lieutenant Selby the news that they had discovered the hiding-place
of the plotters and would inform him of their next move when they made
it. The instrument was then cut out and the usual preparations for
making camp gone about, with Quatty's assistance.

This done the boys, guns in hand, started to explore the mound on which
they found themselves. A steep path, apparently well trodden once but
now overgrown with creepers and weeds, led to its base. There was
nothing else remarkable about it, except, as has been said, its bald
summit. It swarmed with game, however, and several doves, quail and
rabbits fell to the boys' guns during the afternoon. Quatty cooked the
game deliciously in an oven of his own invention. He first dug a hole
which he lined with stones, heated almost red hot in a fire previously
prepared. This done he lined it again with green stuff and covered the
whole with leaves and branches. Then he covered in the entire oven with
more leaves and tapped them off with earth at the top to enable it to
retain the heat.

"Now we leab ole Muvver Erf to do our cookin'," he remarked when he had
completed these preparations.

The next task to occupy the boys' attention was the setting up of the
canvas boat. The craft was a large pea-pod shaped pocket of the
strongest grade of brown duck, which was stretched into boat form by
steel spreaders and held rigidly in shape by locking clamps. It was a
boat eminently fitted to navigate the Everglades, where there are no
sharp rocks or rapid waters to be encountered, though hardly suited for
more strenuous work. It was about twenty feet in length and capable of
carrying five hundred pounds. The boys carried the compact bundle in
which it was packed to the water's edge and put it together there. When
afloat on the water it looked not unlike a big, brown pumpkin seed.

"Now where's de poles?" asked Quatty, looking about him.

"Poles? What for? We've got paddles for it," said Harry.

"Paddles not much good in de 'glades, Massa Harry," replied Quatty, "we
need poles to git ober de groun'."

After some hunting among the dense undergrowth Quatty finally found two
straight sticks of tough second growth timber, about fifteen feet long,
that satisfied him. He cut these off with his heavy sailor's knife with
the remark:

"Soon we hab two berry good canoe poles."

He whittled both sticks to a sharp point at one end and then cut two
triangular bits of wood from another tree which he affixed with vine
lashings to the poles about six inches from the bottom. The contrivance
was exactly like the steps that are affixed to stilts but there were two
of them.

"What are you putting those on for?" asked the boys.

"Plenty ob mud in de 'glades sometimes," replied Quatty, "dese lilly
steps keeps de poles from diggin' in too deep."

"Well, Quatty, you are a genius," exclaimed Frank.

"Oh dese not my inwention, Massa Frank," modestly confessed Quatty.
"Seminoles use him many, many years befo' Quatty come here."

The boys had decided on a daring plan. It was nothing less than, as soon
as the night fell, to pole and paddle their way through the
water-courses till they reached a spot near the camp of the kidnappers
of Lieutenant Chapin and there reconnoiter and, if possible, overhear
enough to give them a clue to the lieutenant's whereabouts. Their first
object being of course to rescue him. The recovery of the formula of his
invention was--though important in the extreme--a secondary
consideration.

After a hasty supper everything about the camp was put in order and with
their revolvers freshly oiled and plenty of ammunition in their pockets
the adventurers descended by the mound-builders' path to where they had
moored the canvas boat. Quatty accompanied them. He put on a great
assumption of bravery but inwardly he was quaking till his teeth
chattered. Still he decided in his own mind he would rather a thousand
times accompany the boys--however dangerous their errand--than spend the
night alone in a spot which he firmly believed was haunted by the ghosts
of the ancient tribesmen who had erected it.

The last thing Frank did before leaving was to call up Camp Walrus on
the wireless. He bade his young friends and companions there a hearty
"good-bye" and received their aerial "good-luck."

As the night noises of the jungle began to arise, and the evening chill
of the 'glades crept over the lower levels like a cold pall, the boys
shoved off and under Quatty's guidance began to pole toward the
southeast.



                              CHAPTER XX.

                       CAPTAIN BELLMAN'S ISLAND.


Silently, as some craft propelled by spirits, they glided along between
the high walls of saw-grass that grew up on each side of the stream they
were navigating. Quatty stood in the stern manipulating the pole with
the skill of a very Seminole, and sending the light craft through the
water at a surprising rate of speed. His elevated position gave him a
chance to peer over the tops of the lower clumps of saw-grass and
judge--by their glitter under the starlight--which leads were the best
to follow.

It was pitchy dark, with the exception of the dim starlight, and to the
boys it seemed that they were passing through an endless tunnel. They
threaded in and out of creeks till it seemed that they must be
progressing in a circle. But Quatty, whatever his other faults might be,
knew the Everglades as a city dweller knows his own streets, and by the
darker landmarks of various hammocks and islets he steered the craft as
unerringly as a cab-driver who wishes to drive in a certain direction.

Occasionally as they brushed against a sunken log, or shoal of
rank-smelling mud, there would be a heavy flop in the water or a
rustling sound in the dry grass.

"Whatever is that, Quatty?" asked Harry after the sound had been several
times repeated.

"Moccasins. Dey bite you, you die plenty quick," responded Quatty.

Harry, who had been trailing his hand in the water, quickly drew it in,
not without a shudder. He had seen cotton-mouth moccasins before and had
a lively recollection of the fat, dirty colored reptiles and their
deadly fangs.

Once, as they were crossing quite a broad sheet of water that suddenly
opened out about them, something bumped up under the boat with such
violence that Quatty was almost upset from his position astern.

"Good gracious, was that an earthquake?" exclaimed Harry much alarmed.

"'Gator," grunted Quatty, "ah'd jes like to stop an' git his ugly hide
fo' dat."

"There'll be no shooting to-night, let's hope," was Frank's reply.

They poled along in silence after this. The boys were completely
bewildered and had no more idea of where they were going than if they
had been blindfolded. But Quatty never stopped poling and fell to his
work with such an air of certainty that the boys were compelled to
conclude that he knew what he was about.

Suddenly the negro uttered a sharp grunt.

"What is it?" asked Frank instantly.

"Look ober dere, massa, an' tell me wad you see," said Quatty, pointing
dead ahead.

At the risk of upsetting the boat and himself Frank stood up and saw
reflected on the sky, not more than a mile ahead, a deep-red glow.

"Fire," he exclaimed.

"Yes, an' it's de furnaces dem debbils has built dere fo' make dere blow
up stuff, drat 'em," was Quatty's response.

They were then at last within sighting distance of the mysterious forces
that had succeeded in filching the formula of the United States' most
deadly explosive and kidnapping one of the bravest and most popular
young officers in the Navy.

"Pole ahead, till I tell you to stop," commanded Frank, resuming his
seat.

"W-w-w-what," stuttered Quatty, "yo' goin' on, Marse Frank?"

"Certainly," was the quiet reply.

"B-b-b-but we may git shot or blowed up wid de debbil powder," protested
the frightened black.

"You will certainly get shot if you don't obey commands," was Frank's
stern rejoinder, "pole ahead!"

Something in the young leader's voice, decided Quatty that it was best
to obey and with chattering teeth he started the canoe moving nearer and
nearer to the red glow. As they approached its source, the light it cast
grew brighter and the boys were enabled to see each other's faces.

"Stop," commanded Frank suddenly.

Quatty breathed a sigh of relief. Perhaps now they were going to go
back. But no. After a few seconds' reconnoitering, Frank gave the order
to go ahead and the trembling Quatty, with his eyes on the boys gleaming
revolver, obeyed. Frank stood up in the boat when he took his brief
survey without much fear of being seen by the men on the island, as in
the bright light shed by the furnaces with which they were manufacturing
the explosive they would hardly be able to penetrate the surrounding
blackness.

What he had seen was this: A large barn-like building erected against
the side of a hill surrounded by smaller huts and out in the open,
removed at some distance from the other buildings, a large,
retort-shaped blast furnace, from the mouth of which was pouring a
column of copper-colored flame and a great efflorescence of sparks. It
was this furnace doubtless that had caused the column of smoke they had
seen during the day.

In the bright light cast by the flaming mouth of the retort he could see
dark figures scurrying around, some of them with wheelbarrows which they
pushed up an inclined plane leading to the side of the retort. From
their barrows they constantly dumped something into the furnace. What it
could be of course Frank had no means of knowing, but he guessed that it
was some substance used in the manufacture of Chapinite. The whole scene
reminded Frank of one of the foundries in the iron district, seen from a
car window at night.

With the aid of the night-glasses he could make out details more
plainly. The workmen were being urged to even greater activity by a tall
man who was evidently in authority. From time to time this man raised a
whip he held in his hand and brought its lash down viciously on the back
of some unfortunate worker with a crack that was audible even at the
distance the boys were.

"Oh Lawd, dat look like Hades for sho'!" groaned Quatty as his eyes
almost popped out of his head at the weird scene. "Dem not men, Massa
Frank, dems all debbils."

"Pole her along a bit!" ordered Frank, not paying any attention to this
outburst. He was bent on getting near enough to ascertain, if possible,
if the unfortunate Lieutenant Chapin was one of the crew of laborers.

With frequent orders to stop from Frank which were obeyed by Quatty with
alacrity and commands to proceed once more, which did not meet with the
same eager response, the boat drew nearer and nearer to the blazing
retort and the frenzied workers. As they were still in between high
banks of saw-grass the boys had no fear of being seen unless of course
some canoe from the island happened to come down the stream they were
threading. As it was a narrow twisting, little runnel, however, with
barely a foot of water under their keel, this did not seem likely.

All at once, however, they emerged without warning into a broad
smooth-flowing channel worthy of the name of a river. The boys saw at
once that this was indeed a main-traveled water-course and most probably
the one used by the men on the island in getting to and from the coast.

"Get back where we were as quick as you can," sharply ordered Frank as
they glided out onto its broad current.

With a dexterous twist Quatty--quite as much alarmed as the boys at the
prospect of discovery by the workers on the island--shot the boat back
into the narrow grass-walled creek they had been traversing. It was well
they had done so, for hardly had they gained the welcome shelter of the
tall saw-grass when they heard the rapid "dip-dip" of paddles coming
toward them down the main channel.

"Keep perfectly quiet," ordered Frank, and scarcely breathing the boys
listened with straining ears to catch the conversation the men in the
approaching craft were carrying on.

"Hurry there, you miserable Indian, or I'll fill you full of lead," were
the first words they heard in a harsh, rough voice. The command was
evidently addressed to the Indian paddler for they heard the reply:

"All right. Me hurry all I can," and a quicker dip of the paddle.

"You're a rough fellow, my dear Scudder," another voice commented, "are
you never in a softer mood?"

"Not me, Foyashi;" came the reply, "and if you'd been working for
Captain Mortimer Bellman as long as I have you wouldn't be either. He
learned his lesson in your government I suppose."

"Captain Bellman is a remarkable man." went on the other speaker, whose
accent was distinctly foreign and mincing.

"Remarkable? You may lay your head on that," replied the other; "nobody
but a remarkable man would have got Chapin to visit him in his hotel and
there drug him and get from him the keys of the safe where the formula
was kept."

"How did he induce him to visit him?" asked Foyashi.

"Why, they were classmates at Annapolis before Bellman was kicked out of
the navy for conduct unbecoming an officer. Chapin's a good-hearted chap
and when Bellman turned up in Washington one day and sent him a message
that he was ill and in trouble Chapin came to the hotel like a bird dog
when you whistle it to heel. But you deserve a lot of credit for your
part of the business, Foyashi," he went on. "How did you get the
lieutenant under your control. He swore he'd die before he told us the
method of making Chapinite when we first got him aboard the Mist."

"Ha, ha!" laughed the man, addressed as Foyashi, "to the Jiu Jitsu
expert many nerves are common knowledge that you foolish Americans do
not know anything about. A little pressure on the nerve I had selected
while the lieutenant slept; and I had dulled his brain till he did as we
directed."

"Wonderful," exclaimed Scudder admiringly, "I wish I knew the trick."

"I hope I may never find it necessary to practice on you," was the reply
of the other, uttered in a tone of voice that made Harry feel, as he
said afterward, as if he had touched the back of a moccasin.

"What are your plans?" continued Scudder, who was evidently an inferior
in command to Foyashi and the man spoken of as Captain Bellman, "here
you start me off in the dark in a canoe with enough Chapinite to blow
half the Everglades sky high and you don't even tell me where we are
taking it."

"You know as well as I do," replied the other, "that we are bound for
the coast and that we are going to put the last consignment aboard the
submarine to-night at the mouth of the Jew-Fish river. What follows
to-morrow will be simply the tapping of the furnace taken to-night and
we will work that up into Chapinite in the government's yards at home."

"Then we are through here," commented Scudder.

"Practically, yes. We shall meet the cruiser in the South Atlantic next
week and then sail for home."

"The cruiser!" exclaimed Scudder, "ain't you afraid of the United States
government being suspicious?"

"My dear friend," replied the other, "the wisdom of the Oriental has
been left out of your composition. The cruiser, as I call her, has been
converted into the likeness of a peaceful passenger ship."

"Where do you coal her?" demanded Scudder, a certain admiration in his
tones.

The boys were unable to catch the reply. Indeed they could not have
heard as much of the conversation as they did had not the small creek
fortunately run parallel with the larger water-course for some distance.
By dint of shoving along the banks with their hands the boys had managed
to keep a short distance in the rear of the other canoe. Her speed,
however, prohibited their keeping up with her and they were compelled to
satisfy themselves with what they had already heard, which, however, was
of sufficient importance to cause them to order Quatty to pole back at
top speed to the mound-builders' island.

It was evident from the conversation they had been lucky enough to
overhear that the stealers of the formula, headed by Captain Mortimer
Bellman, were to leave the 'glades the next day. That the plotters had a
submarine and that it lay at the mouth of the Jew-Fish river.
Furthermore a cruiser, belonging to the power whose agents the men were,
was waiting to pick them up and carry them back to their own country and
that Lieutenant Chapin had been subjected to a cruel operation in order
to force him to submit to a betrayal of his country.

It was a time to act quickly. There was in fact not a moment to spare.

They arrived at the camp on the mound-builders' island shortly before
dawn. A hasty survey with a lantern indicated, to their great
satisfaction, that nothing had been disturbed and that everything was as
they had left it. From the height of the summit nothing was visible now
of the red glow of the blast furnace, which indicated to the boys that
the plotters had concluded their work and that the blast had been
extinguished forever. Satisfactory as their night's work had been in one
respect, however, it had been a dire failure in another and so the boys
could not help admitting to each other.

They had learned a pretty good outline of the plans of Captain Bellman
and Foyashi, but they had not gained a single bit of information about
Lieutenant Chapin that would aid them in any way in rescuing him from
what was likely to prove imminent death.



                              CHAPTER XXI.

                              A BOLD DASH.


Frank's first action was to bend over the wireless apparatus and send
flashing and crackling across the air a message to Camp Walrus to be
relayed in haste to the _Tarantula_. The members of the young
adventurers' party left at the camp were to remain there, ordered Frank,
till the _Golden Eagle II_ returned. Lathrop was instructed to inform
the _Tarantula_ of the whereabouts of the submarine so that Lieutenant
Selby might head her off in case the boys were unsuccessful in the quest
for the missing naval officer which Frank felt bound to prosecute, even
at the risk of letting the formula of the explosive get out of the
country.

"Will do as instructed. Gee! but you are all right," was Lathrop's
admiring response, which made both boys smile in spite of themselves and
their heavy hearts.

"What do you propose to do now?" asked Harry, as Frank cut out the
circuit from the wireless and turned away from the instrument.

"Go back there as soon as we have had breakfast and make another try,"
was the young leader's instant response.

"Go back?" echoed Harry in amazement.

"We must," said Frank earnestly, "a man's life may depend on how quickly
we act."

"But do you think there is any likelihood of our succeeding in getting
near enough to their camp to aid Lieutenant Chapin materially,"
persisted the younger brother.

"I don't know yet, but I have an idea that by landing on the other side
of the island we might come up overland behind the settlement we saw
last night and gain some idea of what has become of Lieutenant Chapin."

"By George, Frank, you are a wonder," said Harry, admiringly. "You are
right," he went on, "there is a chance and we'll take it."

"I knew you'd say so, old fellow," responded Frank, warmly grasping his
brother's hand, "and now for breakfast. It may be the last we'll get for
some time."

Both boys fell to with hearty appetites on wild guava, avocado pears,
broiled doves and two cups a piece of Quatty's coffee, which he made
with the skill of a French chef.

"I feel ready to tackle a regiment," declared Harry as the last morsels
disappeared.

So far Quatty had had no idea of the plan on foot and when he did hear
it he set up a series of loud lamentations that could be heard a mile.
It was all in vain, however. Remorselessly Frank ordered him down to the
boat with his pole. Had either of the boys been expert in the handling
of a boat with this oar of the 'glades they would not have compelled the
badly-scared black to accompany them, but it is an art which is only
acquired by long practice and it was absolutely necessary that they have
the benefit of his expertness. In the event, that even were the worst to
happen, and they were to be themselves captured, it was not likely that
any harm would come to Quatty; so neither of their consciences hurt them
much as Quatty shoved off and they once more glided down the narrow
water-course they had threaded the night before.

By daylight their progress was more rapid than it had been in the
darkness of the previous night, and it was not long before they gained
the point at which the narrow stream they were threading branched into
the broad main water-course. Of course it was not a feasible idea to
follow this and after some searching they managed to find a tiny,
shallow runnel that proceeded through the saw-grass in the direction
they wished to go but was small enough not to render it probable that it
was a main traveled stream. To their great disappointment, however, this
canoe path came to an end altogether after they had reached a point
about opposite the trees that abutted on the plotters' settlement at the
easterly end of their collection of huts. It continued on through the
saw-grass, however, in the form of a muddy Indian trail and the boys,
after a short consultation, decided to leave the boat behind in Quatty's
charge and take to the trail.

Rifles in hand and revolvers on their hips, they struggled bravely along
through the mud, that sometimes came up to their knees and sometimes
only to their ankles. It was killing work, for as the sun worked higher
the heat grew almost intolerable. Innumerable varieties of small
stinging insects too, settled about them in swarms and added to their
discomfort.

From time to time, in addition, a fat cotton-mouth would wiggle across
the trail or occasionally open its mouth in a loud hiss, showing the
white fangs that give it its name. Frank killed one of these reptiles
with the butt of his rifle. The others they had to avoid as best they
could. Of course they did not dare to discharge one of their weapons. To
have done so would have brought the whole settlement about their ears.

Frank consulted his pocket compass from time to time, having taken the
general bearing of the island from the boat before they started. The
compass was the only means they had of knowing if they were following a
correct course, as the saw-grass was so high on either side of the
narrow trail that to see over it was an impossible feat.

"Phew!" whispered Harry, as they floundered along through the wet,
steamy earth, "I've been in warm places but this is certainly the
hottest of them all."

"We cannot have much further to go," replied Frank, encouragingly, "as
far as I could judge when we left the boat the island was about two
miles away."

"I feel as if we'd traveled ten at least," gasped poor Harry. "Hark!"

His exclamation was called forth by a rustling in the tall grass
directly ahead of them.

"Get ready for trouble," whispered Frank.

Both boys got out their revolvers, as being handier weapons at close
quarters than the rifles. The trail took an abrupt turn just beyond the
point at which they stood, so that it was impossible to see who or what
it was that was approaching.

The rustling grew steadily nearer and both boys, while their hearts beat
thickly, determined that if the persons coming down the path were
foemen, to sell their lives dearly.

The next minute they had a great surprise.

Round the curve in the trail swung two of the beautiful small Everglade
deer. It was a question which was the most astonished, the boys or the
deer, at the encounter. For a fraction of a second the deer stood gazing
with their big, liquid eyes, at the boys and the boys stared back at the
deer. Then, as the boys broke into a smothered laugh at their needless
anxiety, the two animals swung round and galloped back the way they had
come.

"Well, we are getting as nervous as a pair of kittens," laughed Frank.

"They made as much noise as a regiment," replied Harry, echoing the
other's merriment, "I always understood that the deer was a quiet
retiring animal. Now I know different."

"At all events our encounter with them proves one valuable piece of
information," said Frank.

"What?" demanded his brother.

"That what we had supposed was an island must in reality be joined to
this trail by solid land."

"How do you make that out?"

"Well, those deer wouldn't go into the saw-grass, the stuff cuts like a
knife. Therefore they didn't get to the trail that way."

"Well?"

"And their coats were not wet. I notice, therefore, they had not swum
any creek to get here. All of which goes to show to my mind that if we
follow this trail we will get dry-shod to the island."

"Dry-shod?" echoed Harry, pointing to his muddied legs.

"I mean that we shall not, as I began to fear, have to swim any creeks
or wade runnels to gain it."

It was as Frank had assumed. A few minutes more tramping through the
sticky black ooze brought them to a point where the trail widened, and
they could see beyond the tops of the cabbage palms that fringed the
edge of the island.

"We are here at last," whispered Frank, "now we shall have to go very
carefully till we find out the lay of the land. There's no use walking
into a trap for the lack of a little caution."

Slowly the boys crept on down the short section of trail now remaining.
Frank carefully noted the comparatively dry ground--where the marks of
the deers' hoofs still showed--that there were no human tracks visible
and this was in itself a good sign as it showed that the trail was a
little used one.

They emerged at length into a thickly-grown cabbage palm patch, through
which, to their great delight, flowed a tiny stream, from one of the
clear springs that abound on the islands of the Everglades. Lying flat
on their faces the boys fairly sucked up the cool, clear water and let
it trickle gratefully down their parched throats.

Greatly refreshed by their draught, they looked about them. The little
grove in which they stood was surrounded by dense undergrowth. At first
there seemed to be no path through the tangle, but after a lengthy
search the boys discovered a narrow trail, evidently a continuation of
the one they had just left. It led, as Frank's compass showed, in the
general direction of the settlement.

"We've come so far we've got to go ahead now," were Frank's words, as
the two young adventurers plunged into the dense brush down the narrow
trail.



                             CHAPTER XXII.

                         BEN STUBBS DISAPPEARS.


Left behind at Camp Walrus, Billy Barnes, Lathrop, and Ben Stubbs
watched the _Golden Eagle II_ until she became a bird-like speck against
the intense blue of the Florida sky.

"Good luck to them," cried Billy, a wish that was echoed by all the
"stay-at-homes," as Lathrop had dubbed them.

"Come on, Lathrop," said Billy, the second morning after the aeroplane
faded from view, "let's get the guns and go for a hunt. I'm sure I heard
a wild turkey in the brush yonder a while ago, and Ben can mount guard
over the wireless while we are gone."

"Do you think that will be all right?" questioned Lathrop dubiously,
"you know I'm the only one in the camp that can operate the instrument
and I think I ought to keep within reach of it."

"You're right," rejoined Billy. "It will be better for Ben and I to go."

Ben agreed with alacrity, the old prospector was never better pleased
than when there was an opportunity to hunt, and he hastened to oil up
his gun and fill his cartridge belt.

"Hold on a minute," said Ben, as he and Billy Barnes started out, "I'm
too old a woodsman to go into the woods without agreeing on a signal if
anything happens. We'll use the old hunter's warning. If we need you,
Lathrop, or you need us, we are to fire first one shot then a pause and
then two shots in rapid succession and keep it up till we get an answer.
We'll be back to dinner."

"All right," replied Lathrop, "though I don't see just what trouble you
can get into here, and as for me, I am all right I guess--so long."

Left alone Lathrop took his fountain-pen and--though he had no idea when
he could post it--began the composition of a long letter home. He was so
engrossed with this employment that he did not notice the hour, and it
was not till Pork Chops summoned him to lunch that he recalled with a
start that the two hunters were still away. However, he assured himself
it was probable that they had found good hunting in some distant part of
the island and that they had not, like himself, realized how late it was
getting.

This done he walked uneasily up and down, waiting impatiently for the
return of the hunters. He was really anxious and could no longer
disguise from himself the fact that something of a serious nature must
have happened to keep them out away so long. His mind ran the gamut of
every accident, from snake-bite to accidental shooting, but he was as
far from guessing the real truth as he was from being at ease in his
mind.

"Bang!" A long pause--then again, "Bang--Bang."

It was the alarm signal agreed upon by Ben Stubbs before the hunters
left camp.

The reports came from some distance in the forest, and Lathrop, hastily
getting his gun and half crazy with anxiety, answered it as soon as he
could slip in the cartridges.

What could have happened?

Firing frequently and being answered at closer intervals all the time,
Lathrop advanced into the jungle and had not proceeded very far when he
encountered a strange figure.

It was Billy Barnes, but a white-faced Billy, his clothes torn by
creepers and his face scratched and cut by his wanderings in the jungle.
A very different figure from the usual trig one cut by the young
reporter.

"Oh, Billy, what has happened?" gasped Lathrop, shocked at his
companion's woe-begone appearance.

The reporter's reply was sufficiently alarming.

"Ben Stubbs has disappeared!"

"Disappeared?" echoed the amazed Lathrop.

"Yes, as utterly as if the earth had opened and swallowed him," was the
reply, in a strained, tired voice. "I've hunted for him all the
afternoon and I have not been able to find a trace of him. I got almost
cut to ribbons in the sharp-leaved briars or whatever you call them."

He ruefully regarded his torn hands and ragged clothing.

"You are sure he is not merely hunting in another part of the island."

"Certain," was the dispiriting reply, "you see it happened like this--we
had shot a couple of turkeys when Ben suggested our separating and
getting a bigger bag in that way than we would by hunting together. We
were to rejoin each other at the end of half an hour, the signal being
two shots. At the end of half an hour I fired two shots but there was no
answer. I tried again, and there was still no reply but the echo of my
shots. I was scared then, I tell you, and fired the danger signal. Still
there was no answer.

"Well, then, I was rattled. I plunged about in the woods till I got all
ripped up as you see and shouted for Ben till I thought my throat would
crack, but I didn't get a trace or a sign of him. Then I recovered my
wits a bit and got out my compass. I headed for camp, and when I judged
I was near enough for you to hear me, I fired the danger signal--you
answered it, and here I am."

"Oh, Billy, what are we going to do?" exclaimed the younger boy.

"Make the best of it till we are certain Ben is lost, and then
communicate with the _Tarantula_ and Frank and Harry," said the
practical Billy. "Cheer up, we don't know yet that any actual harm has
befallen him, it's the mystery of the thing that worries me."

"I must send a wireless to Frank and Harry at once," cried Lathrop.

"You will do no such thing, young fellow," rejoined Billy. "In the first
place they have got troubles enough of their own right now; and, in the
second, a man is never lost till you've sent out a general alarm for
him, and he is still missing."

"A general alarm?" repeated Lathrop, puzzled.

"Yes, that's reporter's slang for advertising for a missing man. Well,
we can't advertise here unless the herons and mocassins get out a
gazette, but we can take the canoes to-morrow and make a thorough
circuit of the island."

Greatly comforted by Billy's assumed light-heartedness, Lathrop tramped
back to camp by his side in a more cheerful frame of mind. As a matter
of fact, Billy was feeling what he himself would have described as
"pretty blue," but he was sensible enough to know that the best way to
face the emergencies of life is to look at them from the best possible
aspect and not give up hope till every way out of difficulty has been
tried.

In the meantime what had happened was this, and it was sufficiently
alarming. Ben, after he parted from Billy, had followed a fascinating
"Ke-ouk ke-ouk" through the brush till he found himself near the margin
of the creek that flowed round the island. He had reached the brink and
was looking inquiringly about him to ascertain what might have become of
the big gobbler when he felt a rope thrown over his head from behind,
and the next minute the big ex-sailor, great as was his strength, was
struggling in the arms of a dozen men. Who his captors were he was
unable to see, for as the rope had tightened, his great arms were
pinioned close to his side, forcing at the same time his gun from his
grip, and a thick blanket had been thrown over his head. Blinded and
half suffocated, Ben felt himself picked up and hustled through the
wood. He tried to shout but the blanket effectually muffled his voice.

After a few minutes of this rapid traveling Ben felt himself thrown into
what he instinctively realized was a canoe and then being paddled
rapidly over the water. In what direction they were proceeding he had of
course no means of knowing, but from the few words his captors had
exchanged he knew he was in the hands of the Seminoles. Of the object of
his abduction he could not even hazard a guess.

After about an hour of traveling Ben, through his smothering blanket,
heard the loud barking of dogs and crying of children, and knew that
they must be near a settlement of some kind. He was not left in doubt.
The canoe's keel grated on the beach the next minute and he was dragged
out and propelled toward the center of the sound. He felt dogs come
sniffing about his legs and kicked out viciously. He grinned under his
blanket as he heard one limp away with ear-piercing howls.

"There's one trouble disposed of," thought Ben to himself, "what's
coming now. I wonder?"

He was not kept long in suspense. He was suddenly halted and the cloth
jerked off his head. His wrists, however, were not unbound. It was now
dark, and in the sudden glare of firelight that confronted him, Ben's
eyes refused their duty for a minute or so. As he grew accustomed to the
light, however, and looked about him he saw that he stood in the center
of a ring of palmetto-thatched huts which were crowded with women and
children, all heavily laden with beads--in fact these were about all the
clothing the children wore--while all about him were grouped grave-faced
men with bright-colored turbans on their heads, one of whom he at once
recognized as the chief who had visited them with Quatty the previous
afternoon and promised them freedom from annoyance while they were in
the limits of the 'glades.

"This is a dern fine way you keep your promises," roared the captive Ben
indignantly, while the women snickered and the men regarded him with
stolid curiosity, "you cigar-store Injuns you, if I had my hands free
I'd hammer you into lobscouse. I'd show you the kind of a buck sailorman
I am. I thought you promised us you wouldn't disturb us and here you
clap my head in a mainsail and furl me in it till I can't use my
deadlights to see day from night. Keelhaul you, if I had you aboard a
ship I'd masthead the lot of you till you fell overboard."

There was not a word in reply and the chief stood with folded arms, as
immobile as if Ben had not spoken a word.

"Oh, you're all going to play deaf, are you," bellowed the enraged
ex-sailorman, "well, it won't go down with me, my hearties. I know you
can hear,--oh, if only I had my hands free I'd put some life into
you--you--you row of tenpins."

Here Ben stopped, because he was completely out of breath with his
volcanic outburst. While he was getting ready for a fresh eruption, to
his surprise one of the younger men stepped forward from the solemn
circle and in excellent English, considering the place and by whom it
was spoken, said:

"You all through big talk, white man?"

"All through," sputtered the amazed Ben, "yes, I'm through, that is for
the present. And now, as you seem to be the only one of this collection
of dummies that has any glimmering of sense, will you please tell me why
I am fetched here like a ship's cat going aboard a strange craft, all
tied up in a bag?"

"No savee--ship's cat," replied the Seminole quietly; "plentee--savee,
white man tell heap lie--all time."

"Calling me a liar, now are you, you mahogany-colored lobster," yelled
Ben, "I'd like to get one good punch at you, my matey."

"All white men liars," blandly went on the Indian, "steal our land--all
time break word to us--um no good."

"Well?" demanded Ben.

"Well," went on the spokesman of the tribe, "you stay here lilly
while--we no hurt you. When you fren's go then you go, too. They no hurt
us we no hurt you."

"Oh, is that so?" replied Ben, "werry good of you, I'm sure."

"You eat plenty sofkee--plenty fowl--plenty tobac. Good time plenty,
how?"

Now Ben had been in tight places in his adventurous career and he was by
no means disposed to offend the Seminoles by seeming over anxious to get
away, at least for the present, for he knew that if he did so any chance
that his wrist gyves would be removed would be lost, so he acquiesced
gracefully to all the Indian had said.

"All right, old odds-and-ends," he said, "I'll act as hostage as long as
you feed me well and give me plenty to smoke. Now, take off these."

As soon as his reply had been translated to the chief, and that
dignitary had agreed, the ropes that bound Ben's wrists were cut and he
was at comparative liberty.

"Sofkee?" questioned the young Indian who had conducted the
negotiations, indicating a huge pot simmering on the fire. And then for
the first time Ben tasted that delectable standby dish of the Seminoles,
which is composed of birds, rabbits, turtles, fish, corn, potatoes,
sweet and white, peppers, beans and anything else that comes to hand.
There is a big kettle of it kept handy in every Seminole village and
anyone who happens along is at liberty to help himself. There is only
one drawback to the dish from fastidious folks' point of view, and that
is that every one helps him or herself from the same big wooden spoon.
But Ben was not fastidious and he made a hearty meal of the savory
compound, and then after a pipe or two of tobacco, appeared to compose
himself to sleep on a pile of skins laid on the floor of the
palmetto-thatched hut assigned to him.

He simulated slumber till midnight when, as no one appeared to be
watching, he rose and tiptoed out of the camp and down to the water's
edge where the canoes were moored. He was about to launch one when a
tall figure stepped out of the gloom of the trees and pointed a rifle
straight at him.

"Huh--white man go back--or Injun shoot," said the figure.

Ben, as has been said, was a wise man--he went back.



                             CHAPTER XXIII.

                       THE BOY AVIATORS TRAPPED.


The trail on which Frank and Harry found themselves wound irregularly
through dense groves of wild fig, orange, custard apple and palmetto
trees, through which from time to time they could catch glimpses of the
dark, monotonous brown sea of the Everglades stretching away into the
remote distance. They plodded along it not speaking a word, through
undergrowth that at times brushed their arms, crackling in an annoying
fashion to anyone who wanted his advance to be unheralded. The growth
was as dry as tinder and Frank could not help thinking to himself that a
fire once started among it would rage through the forest as if it had
been soaked with kerosene.

Suddenly, and without a moment's warning, Frank tripped and fell flat on
his face, his rifle shooting out of his hands and falling with a loud
crash on the hard-baked ground. This was bad enough in itself but there
was a worse shock in store for the boys.

A moment's glance sufficed to show them that a wire had been stretched
across the trail at this point and that, as Frank's foot struck it and
he tripped, a loud, clanging alarm-bell began to sound and by the
loudness of its uproarious clangor, it could not be more than a few
paces from where they then were.

"Quick, Harry! Run for your life!" said Frank, in a low, tense voice,
scrambling to his feet.

"We have struck an alarm wire and in a minute we shall have a dozen men
on our track."

Stumbling along the rough path the boys began to make the best speed
they could over its uneven surface. But the tough journey they had made
through the muddy trail among the saw-grass, and the fact that they had
not eaten for some hours and were feeling somewhat faint, made a fast
speed impossible.

They had not gone more than a few hundred yards when Harry gave a gasp
and pressed his hand to his side.

"What is it, Harry?" asked Frank, through his parched lips.

"Keep on, Frank," gasped the younger boy, "you can make it if you hurry.
I'm tuckered out."

"Come, make an effort, you've got to," said Frank sternly, realizing
that now was no time to sympathize with his younger brother, although he
hated to use the sharp tone he thought it expedient to assume.

The younger boy rose to his feet. Pluckily he staggered on a few steps
but sank to the ground again, overcome with the pain of the sharp
"stitch" in his side.

"Go on, Frank," he whispered in a faint voice, "you go on. I'll get
through somehow," he added bravely, with a pitiful effort at a confident
smile.

"As if I'd leave you," said Frank, indignantly, "can't you run another
foot, old boy?"

"No, I really can't, Frank," gasped Harry, "I couldn't move if I was to
be killed the next minute."

"Then I'll have to carry you," decided Frank, "I've done it when you
were a little fellow, and I guess I can manage it now. Put your arms
round my neck--so. Now then."

With his added burden Frank struggled gamely on, though every step was
telling heavily on him.

If they could only reach the little glade of cabbage palms, there was a
pile of rocks there, he recollected, behind which they could hide. Speed
meant everything, and pressing his lips together determinedly, Frank
swore to himself that he would make the rocks or die.

And somehow by a supreme effort of will, he made them. Though how he
managed that last sickening effort of half dragging and half carrying
his inanimate burden across the little grove he never recollected.

But he made it and, having scrambled up the rough crevices in the pile
of stone in which he hoped to find a safe asylum, he dragged his
half-fainting brother into position beside him.

And now he could hear far back in the brush loud shouts and orders
coming thick and fast. What a fool he had been not to realize that men
engaged on such a hazardous enterprise as were the bogus manufacturers
of Chapinite would have more cunning than to leave their retreat
unguarded by alarm appliances. If only he had watched the trail more
carefully.

But it was too late for vain regrets now; they would have to trust to
luck to avoid detection for, judging by the noise and the number of
different voices, the search for the invaders was to be a hot one. The
young leader tried grittily to choke back the great, panting gasps in
which his breath came after his exertions. But he might as well have
attempted to stop a cataract, as to check his sobbing respiration. To
him his deep breaths sounded as loud as the reports of minute guns.

And now a fresh peril made itself manifest. A deep baying sound arose
far up the trail, which Frank recognized, with a violent throb of the
heart, as the sound of bloodhounds, giving tongue on the scent. Their
discovery was inevitable.

"Can you handle your revolver, Harry?" he asked of his younger brother,
who was now somewhat recovered, thanks to the shade and the rest he had
had.

"Yes, Frank," whispered Harry, hoarsely, and then the next minute,
noticing Frank's troubled face, as the baying grew louder and nearer,
"you needn't tell me, old fellow, what that means--it's bloodhounds."

Frank nodded gravely.

"I'm afraid our chances of seeing the _Golden Eagle II_ and our comrades
are about nil," he said.

The other boy did not reply. He was listening to the sounds of the dogs
baying and the savage human shouts that grew momentarily nearer.

"Don't use the revolvers unless you have to," whispered Frank, whose
wind was now returning,--"but the first dog that comes over the top of
the rock--knife him."

Harry nodded and drew his heavy hunting-knife from its case. Frank did
the same.

"Now we are ready for all comers," said Harry, with a wan smile,
gripping the horn handle of his blade with a determined grip.

They had not long to wait. From their nest in the rocks they saw the
first dog, a huge, bristly-haired Cuban bloodhound, with heavy hackles
and blood-shot eyes, come bounding into the clearing, sniffing the
ground and from time to time throwing his head into the air with a loud
ringing bay that chilled the blood.

The animal was followed by half a dozen others of his own breed. Without
a moment's hesitation they made straight across the glade and for the
rocks. The first one scrambled up with difficulty, and as his dripping
fangs showed over the top of the rampart of rock, Frank's arm shot out
and he fell back with a choking growl--dead.

The next of the savage beasts fell before Harry's knife, a great gaping
wound in its throat; but after that the boys were no match for the four
huge beasts that fell on them at once. Frank felt the teeth of one brute
grip him through his stout khaki clothes while he had his hands on the
throat of another, choking its life out. Harry had plunged his knife
into another and was turning desperately on its mate when there was a
sudden interruption of the impending tragedy.

A sharp, clear whistle rang through the clearing and the survivors of
the brutes that had attacked the boys limped dispiritedly away from them
and shuffled in the direction from which the summons had proceeded. From
their eyrie in the rocks the boys saw two dozen or more small yellow
men, in white duck jackets and trousers, with yellow straw slippers on
their feet, rush into the glen followed by a tall man in a sort of
undress naval uniform. He it was who had given the whistle. He gave an
evil laugh as he saw the wounded, exhausted animals come shuffling
toward him, their tails between their legs.

"They are in the rocks yonder, boys. Surround them!" he ordered in a
sharp, harsh voice. "They shall pay dearly for each of my beauties they
have killed."

One of the little brown men, who wore a red band about his arm and
seemed to be a leader among them, shouted some sharp orders to his
fellow countrymen and they spread about the rocks in a circle. The first
impulse of the boys had been to run for it but they realized, even as
the thought entered their minds, that it would be useless in their
exhausted condition to try to make their escape. Each of their opponents
was armed and while they also carried weapons, still they could only
have stood off an attack for a few minutes.

With a shout the little brown men rushed at the Boy Aviators as they
stood side by side, but they hesitated and fell back as Frank and his
brother aimed their revolvers.

"I do not want to take human life," cried Frank, "but the first one of
you that lays a hand on us I'll shoot him."

"Very fine talk," sneered the big white man, striding up, "but there are
twelve of us here."

"Yes," replied Frank, undaunted, and tapping the magazine of his
revolver, "and there are twice twelve here and they all come out at
once."

The big man paused a minute and bit his lip. For a minute he seemed
about to give orders to his followers to fire on the boys and shoot them
down where they stood. He evidently thought better of his intention
later, however, for he said, with a change of voice from his original
harsh, rasping tone.

"There are several things I want to talk to you about, Frank
Chester--you see I know you and your brother Harry--will you give up
your weapons and agree to accompany me to my camp if on my part I give
my word not to harm you?"

Frank realized in that instant that the man who faced him was Captain
Mortimer Bellman, the renegade American officer, and he also weighed and
recognized the value of a pledge from such a man; but they were in
position where there was nothing to be gained by fighting and in which
much benefit might accrue to them from temporizing--so:

"Yes," he said, "we will go with you."



                             CHAPTER XXIV.

                          A STARTLING MEETING.


The legion of little brown men at once fell in round the two boys, whose
clean cut young figures towered above their squat forms, and after they
had surrendered their weapons--not without a momentary qualm of regret
on Frank's part--the march to the camp began.

Bellman said little as they made their way along the trail, but strode
along with his hands clasped behind his back as though in deep thought.
He was a huge man, with a singularly brutal face bronzed by the suns of
a dozen countries over which he had been a wanderer, and a heavy
drooping mustache which hid a cruel mouth. His eyes were steely gray and
as keen as a hawk's. Such was the man into whose power the Boy Aviators
had fallen and even they did not realize the extent to which such a man
will go to gain an end--and that he had an end in view his action in
sparing their lives fully convinced them.

At last they emerged--after passing once more over the luckless wire--on
the settlement under the hill that Frank had noted the night before from
the boat. There was every evidence of abandonment about it, however,
even now, although it had been so recently the scene of activity.

"If you had come to-morrow I should not have had the pleasure of
receiving you," said Bellman, with a sardonic grin, waving his hand to
indicate the preparations for the abandonment of the settlement.

The blast furnace had been almost completely demolished and a gang of
men, compatriots of the small brown men who formed the boys' escort,
were busily engaged in completing the work of destruction with crowbars
and picks. Several of the small houses which Frank had seen from the
boat had also vanished and the rest were portable contrivances. They
were being rapidly taken to pieces and carried up the hill into the
woods, where doubtless they were to be destroyed, for the smoke of a big
fire was beginning to rise from there.

In the side of the hill back of the blast furnace, a great ragged hole
had been torn like a small quarry, and a runway from this to the
shattered blast-furnace indicated that some earth found in the hillside
was reduced in the crucible to a condition in which it formed an
ingredient of Chapinite. The large building was evidently a sort of
bunk-house for the workmen and packing-house for the product that
Captain Bellman and his men had been making there, for from its wide
door a perpetual stream of dwarfed brown men were carrying packing cases
carefully wrapped in straw to a small fleet of canoes that lay moored
alongside a primitive wharf.

All these things the boys' eyes took in as they were led across the bare
earth to the barrack-like building; but of the man to search for whom
they had come to the Everglades they could see no sign.

Bellman's first care was for his wounded dogs, after which he ordered
his men to bring the boys into a long, low ceiled room, apparently from
its heat right under the roof of the bunk-house. Straw mats laid all
along the walls also indicated that it was used as a sleeping attic by
the Orientals employed on the island.

There was a small table in the room with a rickety chair by it, and
Bellman took up a seat at it.

"We need not occupy much time," were his first words, as the boys stood
facing him, surrounded by their impassive-faced guards. "I and my men
are leaving the Everglades forever to-night. We wish to be secure
against anybody following us. Where is this air-ship of yours and where
are the canoes in which you brought it here?"

"Why do you wish to know?" demanded Frank.

"I naturally wish to make myself secure from pursuit by destroying
them," was the cool reply, "if you don't wish to tell me I shall find
them."

Frank knew that this last was an empty boast as to search the Everglades
for their canoes or for their air-ship either would be a work occupying
much more time than Bellman could afford to spare.

"Under no circumstances will I give you any such information," said
Frank.

"I admire your pluck but deplore your lack of common sense," rejoined
Bellman with a sneer.

"We don't care any more for your admiration than we do for your
sympathy," replied Frank, proudly.

Bellman's dark face flushed angrily.

"This is the way you treat my intended kindness," he thundered, striking
the table with his clenched fist till its crazy legs wobbled under it.

"Well, I shall try another method. If you had answered me I would have
sent some Seminoles here to pick you up, once I was safe at sea, but as
it is now I shall leave you here to rot."

Little as Frank believed Bellman's tentative promise that he would send
relief to them if they afforded him the opportunity to raid their camp
and destroy their canoes and the _Golden Eagle II_, yet both boys
realized not without dismay that there was a good deal of deadly earnest
in the last words he had spoken.

"Leave them there to rot."

Involuntarily both boys shuddered.

Bellman's malevolent eye saw this and interpreted it at once as a sign
of weakening.

"Ah," he said viciously, "I touched you there, eh?"

"I don't know what you mean by that," said Frank, "but if you intend to
convey that we are afraid of you, we are not."

"Or of any cad that has been kicked out of the United States' Navy, and
has turned against his country," added Harry.

"You young whelp," shouted Bellman, beside himself at the sneer, "you
have tried to checkmate me at every turn, but you'll find out I am more
than your match."

"You come here to find Lieutenant Chapin, the dog who was instrumental
in my disgrace. Well, I'll introduce you to him."

He gave a sharp order in the same tongue his followers used and the next
minute the boys were seized. With a good, left-hand punch to the jaw
Frank knocked one of the amazed little brown men half across the room
and the next minute Harry had served another the same way. But it was no
good. The opposing force was too many for them and ignominiously
handcuffed they were at length led down several steep flights of stairs
into what they knew, by its musty smell, must be an underground chamber.

The darkness of the place was made visible, so to speak, by a smoky
oil-torch, like those used in the stoke-hold of a steamer, that hung in
one corner. It was miserably damp and several subterranean streams fed
by the mountain above trickled across the floor. In one corner the boys
noticed, as their eyes grew accustomed to the light, was a curious
contrivance formed of two long bars of heavy wood with holes pierced in
them at regular intervals.

Two heavy posts stood at each end of this contrivance, to which were
attached heavy padlocks and hasps. With a quick thrill of horror the
boys realized that they faced that instrument of confinement of blue-law
days--the stocks.

After another sharp order from Bellman their captors carried them to the
appliance and raising the heavy upper block of wood thrust the boys'
legs into the semicircular openings cut in the lower section for that
purpose. Similar holes were cut in the upper bar and when it was lowered
and padlocked down the unfortunate person confined there could in no way
release himself till somebody unlocked the padlocks.

"Now," said Bellman, when this work was completed to his satisfaction,
and the boys were securely fastened in their prison, "I am going to
introduce you to the man you have been looking for. Serang," he ordered,
turning to the little brown man with the red stripe on his arm, "Sahib
Chapin bring."

The man nodded obediently and left the fetid chamber. The boys wondered
that he did not take any companion with him, but when he returned,
leading a stumbling, helpless figure, they understood that even a small
man of his caliber was able now to handle the once strapping Lieutenant
Chapin. For that in the figure before them, for all his unshaven cheeks
and blinking eyes, like those of a bat, they had the man they had come
all the way in search of, his uniform, now bagging in unsightly fashion
about his shrunken form left them no room to doubt. The miserable
scarecrow figure that gazed apologetically about it, was the inventor of
Chapinite, and once the most popular man in the United States Navy.

The boys' cheeks burned with indignation at the sight, and if they might
have had any weak inclination to save their lives by yielding to
Bellman's demand that they reveal the whereabouts of the _Golden Eagle
II_, the sight of the miserable wreck before them would at once have
decided them. They would stick by the unfortunate officer come what
might and if possible, avenge the indignities he had suffered.

"Put him in alongside them, serang," ordered Bellman, as Chapin gazed
about in a dazed manner, evidently realizing little of what was
transpiring and in a few minutes Lieutenant Chapin, Frank Chester and
his brother Harry, were trussed up in a row absolutely helpless. It was
a bitter thought that here they were within hand's reach of the man they
had come so far and endured so much to succor, and now they were as
helpless to aid him as he seemed to be to care for himself.

"I wish you a pleasant afternoon," said Bellman, as, signing to the
serang, he and his myrmidons left the subterranean chamber.

As soon as their footsteps had died out Frank determined to make an
effort to arouse the dormant faculties of Lieutenant Chapin.

"Lieutenant," he said, "we are your friends. Can you understand us?"

To his amazement a light of brighter intelligence shone in the captive
officer's face and he answered with what was absolute briskness compared
to his former listless manner:

"Of course I can; but who are you?"

Rapidly Frank sketched out to him the events that had brought them there
and all they had hoped to accomplish. Then in a saddened voice he had
related the failure of their hopes and aspirations.

The lieutenant thanked them warmly for their loyalty, but urged them to
save their lives if possible by acceding to Bellman's demands. For
himself, he said, he expected no better fate than to be left there to
die.

"My life has been a living death at any rate," he said, "since I came to
this terrible place. Yours are the first kindly faces I have seen. I
have lived as if in a dream." He pressed his hand to his forehead. "It
seems that I must do what they told me. I have even, as you know, aided
in the betrayal of my government by aiding these men in preparing my
invention. For the last two days, though, my mind has been getting
clearer. I have realized what is going on about me. I can judge things
in their true proportions."

"But--pardon me for the question--" said Frank, "but when you----"

"I know," interrupted the lieutenant, "you are going to say that when I
came in here, I seemed stupefied. I was acting a part. I did not want
Bellman to think that I had recovered my senses. I cannot understand it
myself. Until yesterday everything was like a dream, now I can think
once more like a rational man."

Frank detailed to him the conversation that they had overheard in the
boat the night before and the boast that Foyashi had made that he had
placed the captive under his control.

"Ah, that is it," exclaimed the lieutenant eagerly, "since Foyashi has
gone I have felt this new life of my brain, but hark--there's somebody
coming."

His ears, sharpened by his long captivity, were keener than the boys'
for it was not till the serang with the red band on his arm entered the
place that they heard any indication of the arrival of the newcomer. He
came straight up to the boys and informed them that it was the order of
his master that he should search them. His manner was not insolent or
rough, it was simply the manner of the lay figure who does as he is told
and asked no questions. Indignant but helpless Harry submitted to the
search. He begged the man to let him keep his mother's picture which he
carried in a case in his inside pocket, but the man refused with a
mechanical shake of the head.

"No, my orders. Tuan he say take everything," he muttered.

Then came Frank's turn. As with Harry one by one his most treasured
possessions were stripped from him by the immobile faced, yellow man.
But suddenly something happened that had been entirely unlooked for.
Frank had entirely forgotten the squatting Buddha, which he had placed
in his pocket the day the moonshiner had sold it to him, and had not
given it a thought since.

Now, however, the serang's searching hand found it in the boy's pocket
and the effect on him was electrical.

He fell on his knees reverentially before the absurd looking piece of
jade and beat his head on the damp floor and then gazed at Frank in awe.

"How came you by this, master?" he asked.

Frank saw that the possession of the thing had made a strong effect on
the man and that to deceive him as to the fact in the case, might have a
beneficial bearing on their position, so he simply shook his head and as
Harry would have said, "looked wise."

"Him great Buddha of Lhasa," moaned the serang, bobbing up and down
before it. "You great man. Me worship you if you give him me for keep."

"Why don't you steal it from us; we can't prevent you?" Harry could not
help saying.

"No can steal. If steal heap curse all time. Plenty soon die," was the
response, "but if give then great blessing--plenty blessing all time."

A sudden idea struck Frank.

"You are leaving here to-night in canoes for the coast?" he asked.

"Yes," was the reply, "we leave here never no more to come back."

"If I give you that Buddha will you unlock these stocks and these
handcuffs before you go?" he asked.

The man thought a minute.

"If you don't I will make the Buddha curse you," pursued Frank. This
seemed to decide the yellow man.

"All litee," he said, "before I go I lettee you out but no let Bellman
know; he kill me."

"We won't let him know," said Frank with emphasis, "but how do we know
that you will keep your word?"

"If I don't then Buddha curse me and I die," said the man simply as he
left the dungeon. The boys felt that they had secured a pledge of
freedom by the merest chance that was better than all the promises that
could be made from now till Doomsday.



                              CHAPTER XXV.

                           QUATTY AS A SCOUT.


Acting on Billy's suggestion Lathrop did not, as we know, wireless any
news of the disappearance of Ben Stubbs to the Boy Aviators. He in fact
agreed, after some pondering of the situation, with the reporter's
opinion that it was needless to worry them when they already had their
hands full. The night after Ben Stubbs' mysterious vanishment was passed
in no very agreeable way by the young dwellers at Camp Walrus and as for
Pork Chops his wails when he learned of it rang to heaven and back
again.

"Ah jes' knowed dat dis yer trip was hoodooed fum de moment dat Marse
Frank got dat lil' green mummery from dat moonshine man," he said
gloomily, and made dire and dismal prophecies till Billy, seeing that
Lathrop was very nearly breaking down under the strain, packed the
skipper of the _Carrier Dove_ off to bed. Billy and Lathrop spent most
of the night hours--except when they fell into troubled dozes from time
to time--seated beside the silent wireless instrument, hoping against
hope that news of some kind might be received from the boys. Ben's
self-reliance and adaptability had made itself so manifest on the
expedition that, as Billy said, it seemed impossible to believe that any
really serious mishap had befallen him.

Again and again as they sat by the fire the boys went over and over the
puzzling affair. Lathrop repeated his story to Billy a dozen times and
each time the young reporter asked for a repetition hoping that some
point that would shed a light on the mystery might have been omitted by
the other. But Lathrop's recitals of the incident varied not at all and
Billy was fain to give it up at last.

"I've worked on a lot of queer disappearance cases," he remarked
sententiously, "but this has them all beaten by ten blocks and the City
Hall."

And when Billy dropped off into a troubled nap he had a vivid dream that
his city editor had presented him with a big crocodile, stuffed in a
lifelike manner and equipped with silver teeth and claws of enormous
size. The young reporter was in the midst of an elaborate speech of
thanks when he awoke and found that the first gray heralding of dawn was
broad in the east and that the great multitude of herons and fish-eating
birds that roosted among the islands was already beginning its
pilgrimage to the feeding grounds on the oyster bars of the Archipelago.
Dawn in the Everglades is a beautiful and impressive sight, but Billy at
that time had no eyes for it. His sole thought was to find Ben Stubbs.
He therefore aroused Lathrop and the two boys, after routing out Pork
Chops and making him cook them a quick breakfast and put them up a light
lunch, started for the canoes, determined to circumnavigate the island
in search of their missing comrade. Carefully they explored every inch
of the soft muddy beach and in due time arrived at the spot where
several feet, intermingled in an inextricable pattern, marked the spot
where the Seminoles had blindfolded and kidnapped Ben.

Billy, with a reporter's trained instinct, was on his hands and knees in
a minute and came amazingly near reconstructing the scene of Ben's
capture.

"Ben was seized by several men--Indians I should say. He made a brief
resistance but was overpowered and dragged some distance and then
carried. He was then hurled into an Indian canoe, which was followed by
two others, and taken to some Indian village; where or why, I don't
know," he declared.

"Well, Mr. Sherlock Holmes," said Lathrop, laughing, in spite of his
heavy heart, at Billy's surprising enthusiasm, which led him to
construct what seemed to the other boy at best a fanciful theory, "like
Dr. Watson I can understand part of your reasoning, namely that he was
seized by Indians for I can see the marks of their moccasins, I can also
understand--knowing Ben as I do--that he struggled;" he chuckled again
as he pictured the wiry, steel-muscled Ben laying out his captors, "but
for the rest please explain."

"It's simple enough, my dear Watson," said Billy in the manner of the
celebrated sleuth of fiction, "Ben's boots had hob-nails--very well, I
can see that after stamping round a lot, hob-nails were dragged by
moccasins--see the little lines they made in the sand? Then the lines
stop but there are no more hobnails, clearly then he was carried."

"Yes, but the two canoes that followed the one they put him in?" asked
Lathrop. "How do you know that there were two others?"

"Ridiculously simple," replied Billy, "here is the mark made by the keel
of one canoe; beyond that, my dear Watson, if you will use your eyes,
you will see two other keel marks--hence three canoes."

"Well, I am a dummy," exclaimed Lathrop, considerably vexed that he had
not puzzled the problem out for himself, "but I don't see how that puts
us any further--in fact it makes it more inexplicable for the Indians,
through that rascal Quatty, promised us that they would not molest the
camp and yet, if your theory is the right one, they have carried off one
of the most valuable members of our party."

"Hum," said Billy and scratched his head, "there's one thing, however,"
he said consolingly, "they can't mean him any real harm or else they
would probably have killed him right here."

"Maybe they are cannibals and mean to eat him," suggested Lathrop.

"He'd be a pretty tough morsel," laughed Billy, "but don't worry about
that, Lathrop, the Seminoles are not cannibals and from all I hear are
pretty good sort of people, as Indians go. I have got a sort of an
inkling that we shall hear from Ben before very long in some way or
another."

"I hope so," said Lathrop and then--there being nothing else to do--they
paddled back to the camp. It was then past noon and after waiting for
some word from the boys for an hour or more their two comrades
determined to call them up and acquaint them with what had happened.

Patiently Lathrop operated the _Golden Eagle's_ call for half-an-hour or
more.

"What's the matter?" asked Billy, seeing a troubled look on the boy's
face.

"I don't understand it," responded the other boy, "I can't raise them."

"Keep on trying," urged Billy.

But it was no good, there was no answer from the _Golden Eagle_ for a
reason that our readers know. At the time that Lathrop was shooting his
urgent summons into space the boys were lying in the stocks on Captain
Bellman's island.

Thoroughly alarmed Lathrop sent out the navy call and after a short time
got into communication with the _Tarantula_.

Lieutenant Selby himself responded, after the operator had told him of
Lathrop's grave news. For an hour he and Lathrop talked across space and
it was finally agreed that the _Tarantula_ was to send a detachment of
men to the island with a machine-gun and other provisions and that if
the boys did not shortly reappear a relief expedition would be started
into the interior after them.

"What is your latitude and longitude?" spelled out the _Tarantula's_
wireless, when the arrangements had been completed. At Lathrop's request
Billy hurried into the hut and fetched out Frank's log-book in which, in
his neat writing, the position of the island was jotted down:

"Latitude 25° 29' 30" N," he read out, "Longitude 80. 56. 45. W."

As the young reporter read off Frank's entries Lathrop rattled them out
on the wireless and when they had been repeated through the air, to make
certain they were correct, he cut out the instrument.

"It's queer that if Frank's information was correct that there is no
sign of the submarine at the mouth of Jew-Fish River," remarked Lathrop.

Billy agreed with him.

"How far is the river mouth from here?" he asked. Lathrop fetched the
map and weighting down the corners with stones till it lay flat on the
ground, both boys studied it intently. Lathrop announced, after a few
minutes' figuring with dividers and compass, that the river--at the
mouth of which the submarine of the Far Eastern power was supposed to
be,--was not more than ten miles from the island on which they were then
encamped.

"If only the boys were here we could make it in the canoes in a short
time," sighed Billy, "but what are we to do? we don't know a thing about
navigation and we could never find it without Frank."

"That's so," agreed Lathrop. "Oh," he burst out suddenly, "I wish we'd
never seen the Everglades. If only we could get safe on board the
_Tarantula_ I believe I'd stay there till she sailed for home."

"And leave the boys here," exclaimed Billy, "not much you wouldn't--not
if you are the kind of boy I take you for. Cheer up, Lathrop, we'll pull
out all right. I was with Frank and Harry in Nicaragua in places that
you'd think three boys could never have escaped from, but we got through
all right and we'll get through this--try that old sparker of yours
again."

Lathrop once more adjusted his operator's harness and sent wave after
wave humming through the air in search of the _Golden Eagle II's_
answering vibrations, but no reply came and at last he gave up in sheer
weariness.

"It's more than fifteen hours since we have heard from them," he said in
despair, "and Frank promised not to remain out of communication with us
for long, unless something very serious had occurred. What can be the
matter?"

"Perhaps her apparatus is out of order," suggested Billy, "and they are
not getting your calls."

"With an expert like Frank looking after it--not likely," replied the
other boy. "I wish I could consider it probable."

Pork Chops had gone down to the canoe anchorage to fish earlier in the
afternoon. To his simple mind it was necessary for him to provide his
young masters with as good food as possible even though the world were
to come to an end; so, seated on a branch overhanging the clear water,
he had angled with good luck all the afternoon. As it grew dusk he
muttered to himself:

"Dis yar trip ain't nuffin' but foolishness no how. Ah jes' wish ah'd
stayed hum at Miami, but Po'k Chops, you fool niggah, you don' nevah
know when youse is well off--no, sah."

Shaking his head with deep conviction the darky rolled up his tackle and
thrusting a long creeper through the gills of his fish he prepared to
return to camp. As he rose to his feet, however, he perceived something
coming toward him down the channel which caused him to throw up his
hands with a yell, letting all his fish drop back into the water and
screaming:

"Ghoses!" at the top of his voice, the terrified black raced for the
friendly presence of Lathrop and Billy.

The boys' first impression on seeing Pork Chops' crazy antics was the
wild anticipation that the boys had returned. Their hopes were dashed
the next second, however, by the loud wails of their retainer:

"Oh, lawd, Marse Lath'op, oh, lawdy, Mr. Billy. Ah seen a brack ghoses'
coming down de creek. Fo' de Lawd's sake, sah, don' go; he put de hant
on you," he cried in an agonized wail as Lathrop and Billy started for
the canoe anchorage to see what had caused the demoralization of Pork
Chops. For a minute they were almost as startled as he as their eyes
encountered a figure sufficiently alarming to scare a stronger-minded
individual than Pork Chops.

Staggering up from the anchorage was a figure in pitiful rags with big,
poppy white eyes staring glassily out of a face as black as ink. The
figure's hands were cut and bleeding and it wore, tied about its head, a
strip of calico torn from its shirt which lay open, exposing a chest as
black as its face. It was several seconds before both the boys
recognized this object clearly, and exclaimed in a simultaneous gasp:

"Quatty!"

Quatty it was; but a very different Quatty from the usual debonair black
answering to that name. It was more like a ghost of Quatty. It was not
till he had been restored with coffee and food that the unfortunate
negro was able to render a clear account of himself.

His news was sufficiently disquieting.

"Ah sat der in de lilly canvas boat foh more'n hour," he said, after he
had detailed the rest of the boys' adventures since leaving the camp,
"an' waited fo' dem to come back. Ah tho'ght fum de fus' it was a
bobbery kin' of fing to do, but Marse Frank and Marse Harry----"

"That will do, Quatty," said Billy checking the garrulous black, "keep
to your story."

"Wall, sah," continued Quatty, "I laid dere in de boat waitin',--it
might have been up'ards of an hour--as I said--when I hears de most
confounded debbil racket of dogs yelping an' shoutin' as ever I did
hear--yes, sah. Wall, thinks I, I can creep through the saw-grass a bit
an' see what it is, an' I does;--den I sees Marse Frank and Harry and a
lot of fellers that looked like Chinaman only smaller, an' a big man who
seemed to be boss. Dey had dem two poor boys prisoners an' fum de looks
ob dem I knew I couldn't hev done no good dere, so I jes' gets in de
boat and paddles and poles back yar and I declare I was mos' tuckered
when dat misbul, ignant savage yander, Po'k Chops, seen me an' was no
mo' of a gen'l'man dan to run fo' he life like I been a duppy."

Of course the first part of his narrative, which is already familiar to
our readers, had put the boys in possession of the facts about the
_Golden Eagle II_ and the reason they got no answer to their calls.
After wirelessing Lieutenant Selby the momentous news the boys held a
long consultation, while Pork Chops and Quatty sat on opposite sides of
the camp-fire and glowered at each other.

The upshot of their discussion was that it was their duty to set out
immediately and if possible recover the air-ship and rescue the boys. It
was a plan full of risks, but where the lives of their comrades were at
stake neither boy felt inclined to hold back. As Quatty's strength had
by now quite returned, with the quick recuperative powers of the
out-door negro, and he was quite sure he could guide them to the
mound-builders' island, as well by night as by day, they agreed to start
at once.

The canoes were hastily loaded with duffle and as, with Lathrop and
Billy in one and Quatty leading in the other, they made their way along
the dark channels, Lathrop was blessing the days back in old New York
when he had determined to learn to run an aeroplane.



                             CHAPTER XXVI.

                        LATHROP AS AN AIR PILOT.


"Dere she is, massa."

Quatty's dark figure standing up in the canoe was outlined against the
deep ultramarine blue of the night sky as he pointed to an indistinct
blur on the horizon.

"She" both the boys instantly realized with a thrill was the
mound-builders' island on which the _Golden Eagle II_ had been left.
They had been paddling hard all night and sometimes poling where the
maze of streams they followed shallowed to a mere puddle. With the
sudden nearing of their goal a new fear was borne in upon them.

Would the aeroplane be there? Or had the same mysterious forces that
held the Boy Aviators captive wrecked their ship, too?

Silently--after the first flush of the excitement at Quatty's having
guided them right through a wilderness that it seemed impossible to
traverse except at random--the boys paddled on. Their minds were both
busy with the same question. What would they find when they got there?
Perhaps after all their errand would prove to be in vain.

Lathrop was the first to voice the apprehension, they both felt.

"Suppose the _Golden Eagle II_ is gone?" he asked in a low voice.

"Then we will hunt up the _Tarantula_, get a detachment of bluejackets
and clean out the Everglades before we'll give up the search," was the
determined reply of the young reporter. Billy was rising to the
emergency.

The sun had already risen when the outlines of the distant island became
visible in detail and Billy, after a long and careful scrutiny through
the glasses, declared he could see something that might or might not be
the _Golden Eagle II_ perched on its summit. This was cheering news and
put new strength into the paddlers' flagging arms. From that time on
till they reached the island and found that all was well the boys did
not speak a word, but put all their strength into the work of urging the
boats through the water. It was aggravating work too, for at times they
would be only half a mile from the island and then they would find that
they were compelled to follow another watery path that took them a
couple of miles away from their destination. At last, however, the keels
of the little flotilla grated on the island and Billy and Lathrop ran up
the well-worn trail leading to the summit.

Their joy at finding the air-ship intact may be imagined. It was better
luck than they had dared to hope for. Speed was the main thing now and
while they might have reached the island of the formula stealers by boat
the journey there and back to the coast again by water would have been a
tedious one and might indeed, by its very length, have defeated their
purpose.

Lathrop's first care was to examine the gasolene supply. He found to his
satisfaction that the tank was more than half full and he immediately
dumped into it the contents of the two five-gallon cans of reserve
supply that the boys had brought along and which were stored under the
transom.

For an hour or more the boy went over the machine carefully, striving to
master to the minutest detail its working parts. Lathrop was an aviator
and next to the boys, perhaps was as skilled a navigator of aerial craft
as the old school in New York had turned out, but he was a little
dubious about his ability to run the _Golden Eagle II_. However, it had
to be done and after giving Billy careful instructions about keeping the
oil cups filled and seeing to it that the condenser was in constant
working order, Lathrop decided that things were about ready for his
experimental flight in the Chester boys' big aeroplane.

"And to think that in White Plains I'd have given my head to see it and
here I am going to run her," he could not help saying to himself as he
stepped back and gave a final look over the craft.

Under Lathrop's direction the aeroplane was wheeled back to the furthest
boundary of the top of the mound as he did not want to take chances on
not securing a good running start. Lathrop knew that aeroplanes are like
horses, they will go well for the man who is used to them under almost
any condition; but when a new hand takes control accidents are likely to
happen unless the greatest care is used. As he well realized he knew
nothing of the habits of the _Golden Eagle II_, which was a far bigger
aeroplane than he had ever run or in fact ever seen.

The boy's heart beat a little faster as he clambered into the pilot
section of the chassis and adjured Billy for the last time to look well
to the engine.

"That's all right," Billy anxiously assured him, "I'm as good an
engineer as Harry himself, or will be," he added.

"Don't holler till you're out of the wood," said Lathrop, "and obey
orders."

It is curious how circumstances will alter cases. Billy Barnes, by
virtue of his greater age and knowledge of the world was easily
Lathrop's leader, ordinarily. Now, however, when Billy was about to
enter upon a duty of which he knew nothing and the other boy a whole
lot, their positions were readjusted and it was Lathrop who became the
leading spirit.

Quatty, it had been agreed, was to be left behind, and was to make his
way back to the coast with the canoes as soon as possible and apprise
the _Tarantula_ people of what had occurred. He silently watched the
boys' preparations with interest from a safe distance.

"Now, then, crank her up," shouted Lathrop, as he threw in the spark on
the control wheel and waited patiently for results as Billy turned and
sweated at the self-starting apparatus.

"What's the matter?" he demanded, as there was no answering explosion
from the engine.

"I don't know," stammered Billy wiping his brow, "there doesn't seem to
be anything doing, does there?"

"What can be the matter?" exclaimed Lathrop, throwing out the switch and
coming aft.

He examined the spark plugs in turn and found that they were sparking in
perfect order. Next came an inspection of the carburettor--that, too,
was in good trim. Evidently the reason for the failure to start was not
there. Lathrop was puzzled, he had never known an engine to behave in
such a mystifying way before. He went over it again part by part,
carefully, and cranked it and rocked it till his arms were ready to drop
off.

Suddenly an idea struck him--not so much for the reasonableness of it,
but because he had examined about every other likely cause of failure to
start.

"Well, Billy, you are a wonder," he exclaimed in a vexed tone, when to
his surprise he found that what he tried in desperation proved correct.

"What's the trouble?" asked Billy cheerfully.

"Why you only forgot to open the gasolene valve, that's all."

For the first and last time in his life the reporter was fairly taken
back.

"Well, Lathrop, I will admit that I am a first-class,
blown-in-the-bottle chump," he exclaimed contritely. The next cranking
proved successful and after the engines had settled down to a quiet easy
purr, Lathrop with a warning cry of:

"Hold tight, I'm going to throw in the clutch!" started the big
aeroplane on its flight of rescue.

With a swift, wobbling motion that threw Billy from side to side of the
car the _Golden Eagle II_, under the direction of her unskilled pilot,
skidded across the top of the mound-builders' island while Quatty waved
his arm in farewell.

Unaccustomed as he was to the _Golden Eagle II_, Lathrop made his first
mistake when he tried to raise her after too short a run. To his despair
and amazement she refused to rise when he raised his upward planes. They
were traveling over the ground at a rapid speed, now with the two big
propellers threshing the air at a rate of 1200 revolutions a minute; the
roar of the exhaust was like the discharge of a score of gatling guns.

Lathrop set his teeth desperately and jerked the planes at an even
acuter angle in his effort to get her to rise. They were only a few
yards from the edge of the mound now and if she refused to rise by the
time they reached it they would be inevitably dashed down to death in
the ruins of the big sky-skimmer. With that desperate determination that
comes in the face of crucial emergency, Lathrop threw in another speed
on the engine and they attained a velocity of 1500 revolutions a minute.

"I'll make her rise or bust," he said grimly to himself.

But the end he feared did not come; under the added impetus of her
increased speed and the acute angle at which the boy had set the rising
planes the _Golden Eagle II_ shot into the air, as abruptly as a
sky-rocket, as she reached the edge of the mound. The result for an
instant, however, threatened to be almost as serious as if she had gone
over the edge without rising.

In his excitement Lathrop had set the rising planes at such an abrupt
angle that when the ship shot up she reared like a horse, hurling Billy
Barnes back among the engines and almost overboard and causing Lathrop
to let go of his steering wheel for the fragment of a second to grasp a
stanchion. At the same instant the aeroplane, left unguided for a
second, gave a sickening plunge sideways, like a wounded hawk. Lathrop
in his agitation seized the wheel and gave it a twist that brought her
round, it is true, but as her starboard propeller was working in direct
opposition to the curve he wished her to describe, he almost twisted her
rudder off and made her careen at just as alarming an angle in the
opposite direction.

To Billy it looked as if they were gone but Lathrop, who was fast
learning the peculiarities of the craft he had under his control,
managed by a skillful manipulation to right her and the next minute with
her propellers beating the air at top speed the big craft dashed forward
as steadily as an ocean liner. It had been a narrow escape, though, and
taught Lathrop something about navigating a twin screw air-ship. In a
craft of this kind, in a maneuver executed to port, the course of the
ship is bound to receive a backward pull from the starboard propeller
and vice versa. It is necessary for the operator, then to swing in an
easy curve to avoid pulling his steering gear out by the roots and being
dashed to death.

"That's only the overture," cried Lathrop, exhilarated by the rapid
motion as they rushed toward the island, "wait for the big show."



                             CHAPTER XXVII.

                          HEMMED IN BY FLAMES.


In the meantime in the noisome dungeon in which they lay, Frank and
Harry Chester, and the officer they had struggled so bravely for, had
given up all hope of ever seeing the light of day again. As nearly as
they could calculate it was twelve hours or more since Bellman had
thrust his head into their place of confinement and shouted that he
would give them a last chance if they would tell him where the _Golden
Eagle II_ lay and where their companions were encamped. The boys, though
faint from lack of food and almost dead with thirst, refused and Bellman
with a savage curse had slammed the door.

For a time they had heard tramping about overhead as if there were last
hasty preparations being made for the departure and then all grew silent
as a grave. At that time, however, their fears were not so much that
they were to be left behind to be starved in this black hole, as they
had implicit faith in the man to whom Frank had given the Buddha. Time
and again Harry, whose voice was growing momentarily fainter, had
murmured to Frank:

"You don't think he will fail us, Frank?" and Frank, although his own
faith was beginning to diminish as the hours went by, had always
responded reassuringly. He pointed out cheerfully--or as cheerfully as
he could--that to the Oriental mind an oath made in the manner in which
the red-banded serang had made it was sacred and to be obeyed at all
hazards. Anything might have happened to delay the man's coming, he
argued, and there was no doubt that he would appear in due course and
redeem his promise. Frank's thoughts belied his cheerful words, however.
There were a dozen things beside the breaking of his oath that might
have caused the serang to be unable to liberate as he had promised. As
the time passed by the conviction steadily grew in Frank's mind that
they had been deserted and that the three miserable occupants of the
dungeon were at that moment the only living things on the island.

As for the lieutenant, he was sunk in a sort of coma in which it is
doubtful, if he felt anxiety or any other emotion. He seemed stupefied
by his sufferings after his first returning dawn of reason.

Suddenly, and when the boys' hopes had reached their lowest ebb they
were startled by the sound of footsteps walking above them. They shouted
at the top of their voices and the footsteps ceased. Then they began
again. Who could it be?

For a moment the idea of a rescue party flashed across Frank's mind but
he dismissed it as improbable. Nobody could have heard of their flight
or located their place of captivity unless--Quatty!

Could it have been possible that the negro had conveyed word to their
comrades of their plight. Frank hastily communicated his idea to Harry,
but Harry dismissed it as improbable. Frank, too, agreed that Quatty was
far more likely to have saved himself than to have bothered about them.
How unjust they were to the black we know.

But there were certainly footsteps upstairs. The boys shouted and
shouted. Friend or foe it made little difference to them. They were
famished and even their foes would surely not be so inhuman as to refuse
them food. Even the lieutenant aroused himself and set up a poor, feeble
cry.

Hark, what is that they are shouting upstairs?

"Frank! Frank! Harry, where are you?"

A second's listening convinced the boys they were not dreaming. Whoever
was upstairs was shouting their names. They set up redoubled shouts and
shortly after they heard hands fumbling at the lock of the prison door.
A few seconds later the lock having refused to yield, the door came
flying inward, burst from its hinges by a tree-trunk cut and used as a
battering ram by Lathrop and Billy.

The scene after the boys were reunited and Lieutenant Chapin had been
introduced may be imagined. There surely was never a more joyful reunion
nor in more strange surroundings.

Billy described how after their flight from the mound-builders' island
they had decided, after careful reconnoitering, that the island was
deserted. How this had come about of course they did not know, and were
at first in despair as they concluded that the boys and the lieutenant
must have been taken to the coast and carried off to slavery in the Far
East. At the actual baseness of Captain Bellman's mind they had not
guessed till they found the prisoners.

They had agreed, however, to land and explore the island in the hope
that they might find some clue to their comrades, and with that
intention had descended to the large open space where the reducing
operations had been carried on. In course of time they had arrived at
the door of the big bunk-house and here had made a startling discovery.

Stretched across the door of the place was a dead body.

"And what do you think, Frank?" exclaimed Lathrop, "on examining it in
one hand we found tightly clutched a key and--here's the extraordinary
part--in one of the pockets of the loose blouse he wore we discovered a
little green Buddha exactly like the one the moonshiner sold you."

"Poor serang," sighed Frank, "he did then try to keep his word."

His words demanded an explanation and the boy rapidly told the rescuers
of the dead man's oath to release them.

"If you had taken that key, Lathrop," he concluded, "you could have
opened the door easily without battering it down. Poor fellow--Bellman
must have caught him coming back here and guessing for what purpose, he
killed him."

"The first thing to do is get you out of these stocks," said Billy after
he had detailed how, on hearing the boys' shouts, they had traced them
to the cellar in which they lay.

"Why not try the key," suggested Billy, "it looked a pretty big affair
to me to fit the lock we found on that door."

"That's a good idea," assented Lathrop. He was up the stairs and back in
a very short time and carried with him the key that had been found in
the dead man's hand. It fitted the stocks perfectly and furnished a
further proof that the serang had actually been on his way to keep his
promise when he was killed.

A twist of it in the heavy padlock and the unfortunate prisoners were at
liberty with the exception of their handcuffs. With a cold chisel and
hammer Lathrop struck these off. A few minutes later the boys had been
helped out of the dungeon into what had been the blacksmith shop of
Bellman's gang. With the exception of a great stiffness and soreness,
occasioned by their confinement, the prisoners were soon as well as
ever, and after a hearty meal from the provision lockers of the _Golden
Eagle II_, and a long account from Lieutenant Chapin, who was rapidly
recovering, of his adventures, the boys were ready to start.

So interested had they been in talking, however, and so rapidly had the
time flown that they had not looked about them or taken any note of
anything but each other. Now, however, when they looked up they noticed
a peculiar haze in the air and at the same time became aware of a
choking sort of feeling that made their eyes sting and their nostrils
itch.

"What is it?" asked Harry as they all noticed these symptoms.

Frank and Lieutenant Chapin were both on their feet and had exchanged
grave glances. From where they had been seated they had not commanded a
view of the 'glades. Now, however, as the little party hastily emerged
they saw before them a sight that chilled the blood of the boldest of
them. For as far as they could see, and sweeping down on them at
terrible speed, was a wall of flames.

The Everglades were on fire!

With a quick gasp Frank recollected the dried brush he had noticed on
the trail the day he and Harry left the boat. He realized that if the
flames reached the island with such tinder to feed on they would sweep
it from end to end. The _Golden Eagle II_ would be destroyed and they
doomed to a slow death from starvation.

"What about the other side of the island? Perhaps there is some way out
there," suggested the Lieutenant.

Frank shook his head.

"By the time we get there the flames would be roaring up the hillside
here," he said, "there is only one thing to do. Run for it."

"Run for it?"

"Fly for it rather. In an hour's time this island will be a black
charred ash-heap," was Frank's reply.

"But, Frank," was Harry's exclamation, "the _Golden Eagle II_ will only
carry four, and then she is overburdened, and there are five of us
here!"

"She's got to carry us," said Frank grimly, "or we'll be burned to
crisps, or starved if we escape death by fire."

"What are you going to do?"

"Lighten her," was the quiet reply, "dump overboard every ounce of
weight we can spare."

Feverishly the little party went about the work. First the transoms were
ruthlessly ripped out and thrown aside. Then came the provisions and
other equipment, and lastly even the navigating instruments.

"That's lightened her about 150 pounds," pronounced Frank. "We'll try
her with that and if it doesn't work we'll have to tear out the wireless
and let that go too."

By this time the advance guard of the flames was marching in a long
ruthless line perilously close already to the island. The dry saw-grass
blazed like tinder and the party on the island could distinctly hear the
hungry roar of the flames as they advanced. The conflagration leaped the
narrow water-courses as it came to them like a steeplechaser and the
numerous runnels offered no more check to it than if they had not been
there.

Even the broad water-course, used by Bellman and his men to get to and
from the coast, did not check the progress of the flames. There was a
fair wind blowing out of the northwest and before it red-hot brands were
whisked across the stream and ignited the dry wastes on the other side.

"If we don't hurry," exclaimed Frank, as his eye took in this, "we shall
be hemmed in."

This was a new peril. With the flames only on one side they might have
hoped to escape but if the blaze ringed the island in there would be
grave danger in trying to cross it in their overburdened air-ship. For
one thing the strange cross-currents created by a fire are alone enough
to throw an aeroplane onto dangerous angles and Frank, as he gazed at
the height to which the flames were leaping, added to this menace the
fear that the overladen ship would not be able to rise high enough to
clear them. What that meant there was no need for him to tell the
others--he did not dare to entertain such a thought himself.

With all the speed they made the flames were swifter and by the time
they had all scrambled into the chassis the island was surrounded by
roaring flames and the hungry fire was beginning to attack the dried
brush on its sides.

"Can we make it?" gasped Lathrop as he gazed at the terrifying
spectacle.

"We've got to make it," snapped Frank as Harry started the engine.

The atmosphere was by this time so obscured by choking smoke that it was
as thick and dark as a fog. Water streamed from the boys' eyes and noses
and they speedily found that every breath they took seared their lungs
as though a red-hot iron had been plunged into them.

Even if they could weather the flames, could they get through such smoke
alive?

With a prayer on his lips Frank started the _Golden Eagle II_ into the
awful smothering pall. He could not see a foot in front of him and,
indeed, in a second his eyes were blinded by the acrid reek.

"We've got to do it, we've got to do it," he kept saying to himself
through clenched teeth as he drove the aeroplane full into the inferno.
It was as dark as night and as hot as a furnace mouth.

Caught in the currents generated by the heat the aeroplane swayed and
zigzagged drunkenly. Frank, his eyes closed and drawing every breath
with agony, clutched the wheel till the varnish came off on his hands.
He could smell the scorching paint of _The Golden Eagle II_ as the awful
heat blistered it.

It flashed across his mind that the cloth covering the planes might
catch and then? Somehow nothing seemed to matter much then to the dazed,
half-suffocated boy, only one clear idea presented itself repeating over
and over with trip-hammer regularity:

"Keep going ahead."

[Illustration: The dash through the flames in the Everglades.]

But were they going ahead? Frank did not know. So badly was the craft
handicapped by her weight and in such a whirl of heat-engendered air
currents was she caught that it was difficult for Frank, blinded as he
was, to tell.

Suddenly she gave a swoop down.

Was it the end?

No, she righted herself, more by instinct on Frank's part than anything.
The blinded, choked, helmsman jerked up her rising planes. But the next
minute she repeated the blundering stagger downward and Frank realized,
even in his dazed state, that she would never rise again if she wasn't
lightened.

The wireless! That would have to go.

With a cracked voice that sounded like a ghost of his usual hearty
tones, Frank shouted back the command. But there was no response.
Temporarily he checked the aeroplane's downward tendency but he knew
that the next time she would drop into the flames in spite of him and
shrivel up with her passengers like a handful of flax.

Blinded by smoke, with cracked lips and swollen tongue Frank realized
that something must have happened to the others. With one hand on the
steering wheel, he reached back and seized the wireless-box by its base.
It weighed 165 pounds and if he could get it free it meant their
salvation.

He tugged with all the strength in his arms. The case moved slightly on
its base. Frank knew the screws that held it in place did not reach very
deep, but with one hand he could not manage to tear it loose.

Then he did a daring thing. Setting the rising planes at their full
upward tendency he left the wheel locked by its spring gear and reeled
with outstretched hands toward the apparatus. Once he tugged,--twice he
tugged.

The box was coming loose but the aeroplane was sagging, he could feel
it. It was getting hotter, too.

With bursting brain and blistered hands he heaved at the box till the
blood ran from under his nails.

Would it never come?

With an effort that seemed to crack his shoulders, Frank gave a mighty
heft. The box ripped loose with a suddenness that sent him staggering
back; but the next minute he recovered his balance and heaved it
overboard into the roaring vortex beneath them.

Then, with the instinct born of necessity, he groped his way to the
wheel and as he set the _Golden Eagle II_ on a rising course he realized
that she was responding and they were saved.

Ten minutes later they emerged into the blessed air that, though still
smoke-filled, above the fire-swept flats was still breathable. With
blackened face and singed hair and eyebrows, Frank felt the difference,
although his eyes were still closed and giving him agony. He inhaled it
in great breaths of delight, saturating his lungs in its comparative
freshness. Finally, when he could open his eyes, he looked back for the
others.

They lay on the floor senseless, smoke-blackened, without motion.

But the _Golden Eagle II_ under Frank's guidance had passed the ordeal
of flame and as she skimmed through the cooler air the unconscious
members of the party, one by one recovered and grasped the hand of the
boy who had saved them.



                            CHAPTER XXVIII.

                          THE BLACK AEROPLANE.


The _Tarantula_, black, grim and business-like, lay at anchor off the
mouth of the Jew-Fish River, her long, lean form rising and falling on
the heavy swells and a curl of black smoke lazily issuing from each of
her four black funnels, the foremost one of which was striped with four
yellow bands.

Forward her crew lay about and loafed or fished, while aft Lieutenant
Selby and the ensigns assigned to the command with him, paced the deck,
looking from time to time into the wireless room to ascertain if any
news had been heard from the boys. The answer each time was in the
negative and hourly the naval officer's apprehension grew. What could be
the matter? If everything had gone well he should certainly have heard
from them by now.

Of the submarine, also, nothing had been seen and this fact encouraged
the young officer to believe that she was still up the river somewhere.
A bright lookout had been kept day and night since Frank's wireless
announcing the discovery of Captain Bellman's destination, but nothing
had been seen of the expected craft. That she had utilized her diving
apparatus and passed unnoticed in that way was unlikely as the water in
which the _Tarantula_ lay, was shoal even for her and the soundings that
the lieutenant had made the day before showed that it would have been
impossible for the submarine to have passed out in any other way but the
main channel. So with steam up the _Tarantula_ swung at her anchor and
waited like a patient cat, watching an opportunity to pounce on a mouse.
The idea of entering the river in boats and scouting for the submarine
had entered the lieutenant's head, but after consideration he had
abandoned it. To reveal his presence to Bellman might spoil everything
and as it was if the submarine was in the river, she was securely
bottled up.

The hours slowly passed on and still no word came. Evening set in and
the wireless was still silent.

"If those young rascals haven't shown up by tomorrow morning, Bagsby, I
shall be sorely tempted to head an expedition myself and go in search of
them," declared Selby--on whom the strain of the long wait was
wearing--to one of his ensigns.

"Air-ship! dead off our bow, sir!" suddenly hailed the lookout forward;
who, like everybody else, had been keeping a watch all day for some
signs of the boys' craft.

"By Jove, so it is!" exclaimed the lieutenant, bringing his glasses to
bear.

High in the evening sky above the tangle of islands an air-craft was
winging its way toward them. At first sight a mere speck, she grew
rapidly larger as she neared the shore.

"But what can have happened to her?" exclaimed the lieutenant as the
first vague blot of the ship resolved through his glasses into definite
lines, "here, take a look, Bagsby."

He handed the glasses to his subordinate, who laid them aside in a few
minutes with the exclamation.

"Why, she's as black as a coal, sir!"

"What's that dangling at her stern, Bagsby?" asked Lieutenant Selby the
next minute.

"Why, it looks like an American flag, sir," responded the ensign, "but
it's almost as black as the rest of her and--just look at that, sir--the
men in her all black, too!"

Hardly able to control his excitement the lieutenant took the glasses
from his subordinate, though by this time the air-vessel was so close
that the five persons aboard her were visible to the naked eye. They
were waving furiously and shouting at the tops of their voices, though
these sounded, to tell the truth, a bit feeble.

"_Tarantula_, ahoy!" came a hail from the aeroplane, as she swung in a
graceful circle about the destroyer.

"Ahoy there," hailed the lieutenant through a megaphone, "who are you?"

"The _Golden Eagle II_, Captain Frank Chester," came back from the
aeroplane as she swung by, "with Lieutenant Bob Chapin, aboard."

The cheer that went up then roused the herons that were just settling
down to bed and sent them and a hundred other varieties of Everglade
birds swirling in wild affright up around the tree-tops. As for Selby he
clapped Bagsby on the back till the young ensign sustained a violent fit
of coughing.

"It's Chapin and he's safe; hurray!" he shouted. "Those boys have done
the trick!"

"Send a boat ashore for us," shouted the leader of the adventurers from
the smoke-blackened 'plane, as she swung by once more, "we've got a lot
to tell you."

"I should think so," commented the lieutenant to himself, as he ordered
a boat lowered and seated himself in the stern sheets. While this was
being done the boys had landed on a long sandy bar, which made an ideal
grounding place. It didn't take long, you may be sure, to get them into
the boat and row them aboard the _Tarantula_ where, after soap and towel
had removed their sooty disguise, they made a meal that tasted to them
infinitely more delicious than any of the more elaborate repasts any of
them had ever eaten in New York. As for Lieutenant Chapin, to be once
more aboard one of Uncle Sam's ships and in the hands of friends,
affected him to such a degree that after dinner he begged to be excused
and paced in solitude up and down the deck for an hour or more, while
Frank told and retold the story of their adventures.

While the lieutenant was gratefully recalling the boys' exploit, he was
awakened from his reverie by the splash of a paddle and looking up saw a
canoe drawing near in which were seated three people. It was too dark of
course for him to make out more than the outlines of their figures.

"Boat ahoy! What boat's that?" hailed the lookout sharply.

"Well, we ain't got no name but an Injun one and I disremember that,"
came back the reply, "but tell me have you got two young chaps, named
Chester, aboard?"

"Who is that?" hailed the lieutenant.

"My name's Ben Stubbs. Who the dickens are you?" was the bluff reply.

"Lieutenant Chapin," was the calm reply.

The result was astonishing.

"Well, I'll be double horn-swoggled," shouted the same bluff voice that
had framed the question and the next minute there was a splash and loud
sputtering sounds of indignation.

"Man overboard!" cried the _Tarantula's_ lookout.

"You black landlubbers! Upsetting me overboard and trying to drown me,
eh? Ef I had you at a rope's end I'd make you walk fancy," came over the
water in tones running the gamut of indignation.

By this time the boys and the others were on deck and as they heard and
amazedly recognized the sputtering voice there came from them a
delighted hail of:

"Ben Stubbs!"

"Come aboard!"

"Sure I will if this consarned contraption of a canoe we're in wull hold
me an' my voice, but every time I speak it tips over," was the indignant
reply.

But there were no more accidents and a few seconds later the boys and
the dripping Ben were wringing hands and slapping backs till the tears
came to the rugged old adventurer's eyes.

"Keelhaul me if I ain't glad to see you," shouted Ben, "and the
lootinant, too. I knowed they'd git yer ef they set out to," roared Ben,
"and by the great horn-spoon, they have."

While this was going on the two other occupants of the boat--who were
none other than Quatty and Pork Chops--had clambered on deck and stood
shyly by. They, too, came in for their share of greetings and
congratulations.

Then Ben, of course, had to relate his adventures with the Seminoles,
winding up with the account of how he came to leave the Indian village.

It seemed that a wandering party of Seminoles had come across Quatty,
wearily paddling toward the coast from the mound-builders' island, and
as he was almost exhausted had taken him in their canoes and poled him
at top speed to the island. Arrived there Quatty was roused to great
indignation, as well as surprise when he discovered that Ben was a
captive and demanded his immediate release. By virtue of Quatty's power
over the tribesmen, Ben had immediately been set free and he and Quatty
canoed to Camp Walrus. Here they found Pork Chops, half crazy from
fright and as he would not hear of being left alone any longer they
agreed to take him with them to the _Tarantula_, whither Ben had decided
to go as soon as he found the camp deserted. The rest the boys knew.

The relation of Ben's narrative, and of course that of the boys which
had to be retold to the newcomer, consumed so much time that they were
all startled when eight bells (midnight) rang out.

The echo had hardly died away when a black form was seen rushing through
the water from the mouth of the river.

It was sighted simultaneously by almost all on deck and recognized at
once for what it was.

Captain Bellman's submarine!



                             CHAPTER XXIX.

                      THE LAST OF BELLMAN'S CREW.


"Up anchor, quick!" shouted Lieutenant Selby, springing into the conning
tower. The shrill whistle of the bos'un's pipe sounded at the same
moment and in a second the ship that had been so still and inert was a
maelstrom of activity. The anchor was broken out and long before it was
landed home at the catheads the _Tarantula_, a long line of white foam
streaking aft from each side of her sharp bow, was steering through the
water in pursuit of the flying submarine.

Lieutenant Selby's first action after they were under way had been to
order the searchlight played on the chase and kept on her. Fortunately
the phosphorescent glow left on the water by the submarine, as she
dashed away, made her course as plain as day and the man operating the
searchlight had no difficulty in finding her.

As the light played about her the watchers on the _Tarantula_, made out
two forms standing on her railed-in back.

"Bellman!" exclaimed Frank as his eyes fell on the taller of the two.

"Foyashi, the scoundrel," was Lieutenant Chapin's recognition of the
shorter one.

"We'll get 'em if we blow the _Tarantula_ up," exclaimed Lieutenant
Selby tensely, as he shouted down to the engineer, "more steam, Mac."

The pace was terrific, moreover it was dangerous navigation, but
everyone aboard well knew that they would have to catch the submarine
before she got out of the waters where she did not dare to dive, and
there was not a man aboard that was not willing, in the heat of the
chase, to take the chance of running aground.

Lieutenant Selby himself had taken the wheel from the man who had held
it when the chase began and like greyhound and hare the destroyer and
the submarine raced along.

"Try them with the bow gun," suggested Lieutenant Chapin to his
associate.

"A good idea, old man," was the reply, and old Bob Adams, a seamy-faced
veteran, was called aft and promised unlimited tobacco and spending
money if he could hit the submarine and "wing" her. Old Adams was a man
of few words and didn't change his usual habit of silence, as the gun
was made ready for him. It was a Hotchkiss rapid-fire capable of
piercing steel-armor at half-a-mile and the submarine's broad glistening
back offered a good mark.

"Are you ready, Adams?" asked the lieutenant, as after a lot of
squinting and adjustment the old man stood with the firing cord in his
hand.

"Bin ready, tew minuts," was the reply.

"Go ahead then."

The Hotchkiss spat viciously, but the water spurted up a good ten feet
of the mark.

The shot had missed.

Old Adams didn't change a muscle of his face, though he knew every eye
on ship but that of the helmsman was on him. He spat over the side,
ruminatively, and then pointed the gun, once more.

By this time Bellman and his companion had seen there was mischief
behind and had ducked through the slide of their craft and screwed it
down. The lieutenant rightly interpreted this as a signal that in a few
minutes the submarine would dive. If once she did so the chances against
their getting her again would be remote in the extreme.

"Get her this time, Adams," he beseeched.

"I'll do my best, sir;" said the old salt as the gun cracked once more.

This time a cheer went up. The submarine had been hit.

"Again! Let her have it!" yelled Lieutenant Selby, carried away by
excitement.

Again and again the Hotchkiss viciously cracked and spat fire and every
time brought the _Tarantula_ nearer to the crippled diver. It was
evident that the submarine could not last much longer. Already her speed
was a mere crawl. One of Adams' projectiles must have penetrated to her
engine-room or else,--as was more likely,--her crew had mutinied.

Suddenly the slide on her back opened and through it poured a crowd of
the little brown men who had been employed at Bellman's Island. They
cried, they screamed appeals of aid to the pursuing ship, which had of
course ceased firing as human figures appeared.

"They want us to take 'em aboard, sir," said old Adams, who had served
in the far East and understood their appeals. "They say they are sinking
and that their engineer is killed."

"Lower the boats," ordered Selby, "we'll get them off. I won't see men
drown if I can help it."

A coatless man suddenly appeared among the searchlight illumined crowd
on the back of the submarine. It was Bellman. By his side was Foyashi,
also coatless and desperate.

"Back, you yellow dogs. Get back below!" yelled Bellman, flourishing a
revolver.

A beseeching cry went up.

"We'll go to the bottom together," shouted Bellman, apparently beside
himself. The next instant his revolver cracked and two of the little
brown men fell across the steel plates. What happened then was like a
nightmare to the boys who stood watching in horrified amazement. The
whole swarming crowd of panic-stricken men seized Bellman and Foyashi
and paying no attention to their despairing cries hurled them overboard.

In vain the wretches tried to clasp the sides of the wounded submarine
and haul themselves back on deck. They were knocked off each time by
their crazed followers. Before the boats from the _Tarantula_ could
reach them they both had disappeared. In the submarine's engine-room Job
Scudder, too, lay dead--killed beside his engines at Adams' first
successful shot.

The _Tarantula_ anchored there for the night and the boats rowed about
seeking for the lost men but their bodies did not reappear and doubtless
the swift current swept them out to sea. Early the next day the boys and
the officers rowed over to the submarine, whose crew was now installed
on board the _Tarantula_ and searched her thoroughly. She had settled in
shallow water and access to her was easy through the top plate.

Their diligence was rewarded by the discovery in a steel bound chest,
that evidently had belonged to Bellman, of the long missing formula of
Chapinite. They found, too, unmistakable proofs that the government
which the authorities had suspected all along had really been the man's
employer. How he drifted into their service, was, of course, only
surmise. The submarine was laden with four gross of straw-wrapped boxes
containing enough of the explosive to have blown up the navies of the
world, if mixed with the right quantity of gunpowder. At Lieutenant
Selby's suggestion the boxes were weighted and sunk to the bottom of the
Gulf of Mexico the next day where they still lie. It was too dangerous a
cargo to carry in the form the daring Bellman had packed it.

As for Pork Chops and Quatty, before the _Tarantula_ sailed their hearts
were made glad by presents of rifles, revolvers and ammunition and
permission to take possession of the canoes and all the duffle the boys
had left at Camp Walrus. Pork Chops had been so fascinated by Quatty's
tales of life among the Seminoles that he had decided to cast in his lot
with him and, on condition that Quatty gave him a proper introduction to
the tribe, to go shares on the _Carrier Dove_ with him after they
fetched her from her anchorage.

Ben Stubbs and the boys, in the _Tarantula's_ launch, early the next day
went back to the sand-spit where the _Golden Eagle II_ had been beached
and dismantled her, as soon as the inspection of the submarine was
completed. Packed in sections she was placed aboard the destroyer
together with the field wireless which was fetched from Camp Walrus, by
Lathrop and the negroes.

That evening just as the group of herons, to which the boys had grown so
accustomed, were circling above their roosting-places, the _Tarantula_
with a long blast of her siren, swung out of the channel into the
shimmering gold of the Gulf. Behind them lay the black outlines of the
half-submerged submarine. Forward on deck, squatted the little brown men
who were to be set ashore at the first convenient port, as they all had
plenty of money to get back to their own country.

The _Tarantula's_ destination was Hampton Roads, from where the boys and
Lieutenant Chapin were to hurry to Washington and relate the whole
story. As for Billy Barnes, he was already busy writing out what he
called "The biggest beat of the ages, the recovery of Lieutenant Chapin
and the Loss of the Mysterious Submarine."

"It's good for a whole front page," he declared, "with pictures of all
of us and 'by William Barnes,' at the top."

"What are you thinking of, Frank, old boy?" asked Harry as the destroyer
plunged steadily forward through the night,--homeward bound.

Frank laughed, although his thoughts had been grave.

"That we have earned a holiday," he said, "let's go on a hunting trip,
some place."

"Where?" inquired Harry.

"Oh, anywhere--what's the matter with Africa?"

"Great! hunting by aeroplane!" exclaimed Harry, "and we'll take the
bunch along. Hurray! for the BOY AVIATORS IN AFRICA; or, ON AN AERIAL
IVORY TRAIL."


                                THE END.

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

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

                         OAKDALE ACADEMY SERIES

                    Stories of Modern School Sports

                            By MORGAN SCOTT.

        Cloth Bound. Illustrated. Price, 60c. per vol., postpaid

[Illustration]

BEN STONE AT OAKDALE.

  Under peculiarly trying circumstances Ben Stone wins his way at
  Oakdale Academy, and at the same time enlists our sympathy, interest
  and respect. Through the enmity of Bern Hayden, the loyalty of Roger
  Eliot and the clever work of the "Sleuth," Ben is falsely accused,
  championed and vindicated.

BOYS OF OAKDALE ACADEMY.

  "One thing I will claim, and that is that all Grants fight open and
  square and there never was a sneak among them." It was Rodney Grant,
  of Texas, who made the claim to his friend, Ben Stone, and this story
  shows how he proved the truth of this statement in the face of
  apparent evidence to the contrary.

RIVAL PITCHERS OF OAKDALE.

  Baseball is the main theme of this interesting narrative, and that
  means not only clear and clever descriptions of thrilling games, but
  an intimate acquaintance with the members of the teams who played
  them. The Oakdale Boys were ambitious and loyal, and some were even
  disgruntled and jealous, but earnest, persistent work won out.

OAKDALE BOYS IN CAMP.

  The typical vacation is the one that means much freedom, little
  restriction, and immediate contact with "all outdoors." These
  conditions prevailed in the summer camp of the Oakdale Boys and made
  it a scene of lively interest.

THE GREAT OAKDALE MYSTERY.

  The "Sleuth" scents a mystery! He "follows his nose." The plot
  thickens! He makes deductions. There are surprises for the reader--and
  for the "Sleuth," as well.

NEW BOYS AT OAKDALE.

  A new element creeps into Oakdale with another year's registration of
  students. The old and the new standards of conduct in and out of
  school meet, battle, and cause sweeping changes in the lives of
  several of the boys.

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

                        DREADNOUGHT BOYS SERIES

                         Tales of the New Navy

                         By CAPT. WILBUR LAWTON

                    Author of "BOY AVIATORS SERIES."

        Cloth Bound. Illustrated. Price, 50c. per vol., postpaid

[Illustration]

THE DREADNOUGHT BOYS ON BATTLE PRACTICE.

  Especially interesting and timely is this book which introduces the
  reader with its heroes, Ned and Herc, to the great ships of modern
  warfare and to the intimate life and surprising adventures of Uncle
  Sam's sailors.

THE DREADNOUGHT BOYS ABOARD A DESTROYER.

  In this story real dangers threaten and the boys' patriotism is tested
  in a peculiar international tangle. The scene is laid on the South
  American coast.

THE DREADNOUGHT BOYS ON A SUBMARINE.

  To the inventive genius--trade-school boy or mechanic--this story has
  special charm, perhaps, but to every reader its mystery and clever
  action are fascinating.

THE DREADNOUGHT BOYS ON AERO SERVICE.

  Among the volunteers accepted for Aero Service are Ned and Herc. Their
  perilous adventures are not confined to the air, however, although
  they make daring and notable flights in the name of the Government;
  nor are they always able to fly beyond the reach of their old
  "enemies," who are also airmen.

            Any volume sent postpaid upon receipt of price.
                HURST & COMPANY - Publishers - NEW YORK

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

                           BORDER BOYS SERIES

                  Mexican and Canadian Frontier Series

                         By FREMONT B. DEERING.

        Cloth Bound. Illustrated. Price, 50c. per vol., postpaid

[Illustration]

THE BORDER BOYS ON THE TRAIL.

  What it meant to make an enemy of Black Ramon De Barios--that is the
  problem that Jack Merrill and his friends, including Coyote Pete, face
  in this exciting tale.

THE BORDER BOYS ACROSS THE FRONTIER.

  Read of the Haunted Mesa and its mysteries, of the Subterranean River
  and its strange uses, of the value of gasolene and steam "in running
  the gauntlet," and you will feel that not even the ancient splendors
  of the Old World can furnish a better setting for romantic action than
  the Border of the New.

THE BORDER BOYS WITH THE MEXICAN RANGERS.

  As every day is making history--faster, it is said, than ever
  before--so books that keep pace with the changes are full of rapid
  action and accurate facts. This book deals with lively times on the
  Mexican border.

THE BORDER BOYS WITH THE TEXAS RANGERS.

  The Border Boys have already had much excitement and adventure in
  their lives, but all this has served to prepare them for the
  experiences related in this volume. They are stronger, braver and more
  resourceful than ever, and the exigencies of their life in connection
  with the Texas Rangers demand all their trained ability.

            Any volume sent postpaid upon receipt of price.
                HURST & COMPANY - Publishers - NEW YORK

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

                          BUNGALOW BOYS SERIES

                      LIVE STORIES OF OUTDOOR LIFE

                        By DEXTER J. FORRESTER.

        Cloth Bound. Illustrated. Price, 50c. per vol., postpaid

[Illustration]

THE BUNGALOW BOYS.

  How the Bungalow Boys received their title and how they retained the
  right to it in spite of much opposition makes a lively narrative for
  lively boys.

THE BUNGALOW BOYS MAROONED IN THE TROPICS.

  A real treasure hunt of the most thrilling kind, with a sunken Spanish
  galleon as its object, makes a subject of intense interest at any
  time, but add to that a band of desperate men, a dark plot and a devil
  fish, and you have the combination that brings strange adventures into
  the lives of the Bungalow Boys.

THE BUNGALOW BOYS IN THE GREAT NORTHWEST.

  The clever assistance of a young detective saves the boys from the
  clutches of Chinese smugglers, of whose nefarious trade they know too
  much. How the Professor's invention relieves a critical situation is
  also an exciting incident of this book.

THE BUNGALOW BOYS ON THE GREAT LAKES.

  The Bungalow Boys start out for a quiet cruise on the Great Lakes and
  a visit to an island. A storm and a band of wreckers interfere with
  the serenity of their trip, and a submarine adds zest and adventure to
  it.

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

                          BOY INVENTORS SERIES

                     Stories of Skill and Ingenuity

                           By RICHARD BONNER

        Cloth Bound. Illustrated. Price, 50c. per vol., postpaid

[Illustration]

THE BOY INVENTORS' WIRELESS TELEGRAPH.

  Blest with natural curiosity,--sometimes called the instinct of
  investigation,--favored with golden opportunity, and gifted with
  creative ability, the Boy Inventors meet emergencies and contrive
  mechanical wonders that interest and convince the reader because they
  always "work" when put to the test.

THE BOY INVENTORS' VANISHING GUN.

  A thought, a belief, an experiment; discouragement, hope, effort and
  final success--this is the history of many an invention; a history in
  which excitement, competition, danger, despair and persistence figure.
  This merely suggests the circumstances which draw the daring Boy
  Inventors into strange experiences and startling adventures, and which
  demonstrate the practical use of their vanishing gun.

THE BOY INVENTORS' DIVING TORPEDO BOAT.

  As in the previous stories of the Boy Inventors, new and interesting
  triumphs of mechanism are produced which become immediately valuable,
  and the stage for their proving and testing is again the water. On the
  surface and below it, the boys have jolly, contagious fun, and the
  story of their serious, purposeful inventions challenge the reader's
  deepest attention.

            Any volume sent postpaid upon receipt of price.
                HURST & COMPANY - Publishers - NEW YORK

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

                         FRANK ARMSTRONG SERIES

                   Twentieth Century Athletic Stories

                          By MATHEW M. COLTON.

        Cloth Bound. Illustrated. Price, 60c. per vol., postpaid

[Illustration]

FRANK ARMSTRONG'S VACATION.

  How Frank's summer experience with his boy friends make him into a
  sturdy young athlete through swimming, boating, and baseball contests,
  and a tramp through the Everglades, is the subject of this splendid
  story.

FRANK ARMSTRONG AT QUEENS.

  We find among the jolly boys at Queen's School, Frank, the
  student-athlete, Jimmy, the baseball enthusiast, and Lewis, the
  unconsciously-funny youth who furnishes comedy for every page that
  bears his name. Fall and winter sports between intensely rival school
  teams are expertly described.

FRANK ARMSTRONG'S SECOND TERM.

  The gymnasium, the track and the field make the background for the
  stirring events of this volume, in which David, Jimmy, Lewis, the "Wee
  One" and the "Codfish" figure, while Frank "saves the day."

FRANK ARMSTRONG, DROP KICKER.

  With the same persistent determination that won him success in
  swimming, running and baseball playing, Frank Armstrong acquired the
  art of "drop kicking," and the Queen's football team profits thereby.

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

                           MOTOR MAIDS SERIES

                     Wholesome Stories of Adventure

                          By KATHERINE STOKES.

        Cloth Bound. Illustrated. Price, 50c. per vol., postpaid

[Illustration]

THE MOTOR MAIDS' SCHOOL DAYS.

  Billie Campbell was just the type of a straightforward, athletic girl
  to be successful as a practical Motor Maid. She took her car, as she
  did her class-mates, to her heart, and many a grand good time did they
  have all together. The road over which she ran her red machine had
  many an unexpected turning,--now it led her into peculiar danger; now
  into contact with strange travelers; and again into experiences by
  fire and water. But, best of all, "The Comet" never failed its brave
  girl owner.

THE MOTOR MAIDS BY PALM AND PINE.

  Wherever the Motor Maids went there were lively times, for these were
  companionable girls who looked upon the world as a vastly interesting
  place full of unique adventures--and so, of course, they found them.

THE MOTOR MAIDS ACROSS THE CONTINENT.

  It is always interesting to travel, and it is wonderfully entertaining
  to see old scenes through fresh eyes. It is that privilege, therefore,
  that makes it worth while to join the Motor Maids in their first
  'cross-country run.

THE MOTOR MAIDS BY ROSE, SHAMROCK AND HEATHER.

  South and West had the Motor Maids motored, nor could their education
  by travel have been more wisely begun. But now a speaking acquaintance
  with their own country enriched their anticipation of an introduction
  to the British Isles. How they made their polite American bow and how
  they were received on the other side is a tale of interest and
  inspiration.

            Any volume sent postpaid upon receipt of price.
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------------------------------------------------------------------------

                           MOLLY BROWN SERIES

                     College Life Stories for Girls

                             By NELL SPEED.

        Cloth Bound. Illustrated. Price, 60c. per vol., postpaid

[Illustration]

MOLLY BROWN'S FRESHMAN DAYS.

  Would you like to admit to your circle of friends the most charming of
  college girls--the typical college girl for whom we are always looking
  but not always finding; the type that contains so many delightful
  characteristics, yet without unpleasant perfection in any; the
  natural, unaffected, sweet-tempered girl, loved because she is
  lovable? Then seek an introduction to Molly Brown. You will find the
  baggage-master, the cook, the Professor of English Literature, and the
  College President in the same company.

MOLLY BROWN'S SOPHOMORE DAYS.

  What is more delightful than a re-union of college girls after the
  summer vacation? Certainly nothing that precedes it in their
  experience--at least, if all class-mates are as happy together as the
  Wellington girls of this story. Among Molly's interesting friends of
  the second year is a young Japanese girl, who ingratiates her "humbly"
  self into everybody's affections speedily and permanently.

MOLLY BROWN'S JUNIOR DAYS.

  Financial stumbling blocks are not the only things that hinder the
  ease and increase the strength of college girls. Their troubles and
  their triumphs are their own, often peculiar to their environment. How
  Wellington students meet the experiences outside the class-rooms is
  worth the doing, the telling and the reading.

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

                          GIRL AVIATORS SERIES

                         Clean Aviation Stories

                          By MARGARET BURNHAM.

        Cloth Bound. Illustrated. Price, 50c. per vol., postpaid

[Illustration]

THE GIRL AVIATORS AND THE PHANTOM AIRSHIP.

  Roy Prescott was fortunate in having a sister so clever and devoted to
  him and his interests that they could share work and play with mutual
  pleasure and to mutual advantage. This proved especially true in
  relation to the manufacture and manipulation of their aeroplane, and
  Peggy won well deserved fame for her skill and good sense as an
  aviator. There were many stumbling-blocks in their terrestrial path,
  but they soared above them all to ultimate success.

THE GIRL AVIATORS ON GOLDEN WINGS.

  That there is a peculiar fascination about aviation that wins and
  holds girl enthusiasts as well as boys is proved by this tale. On
  golden wings the girl aviators rose for many an exciting flight, and
  met strange and unexpected experiences.

THE GIRL AVIATORS' SKY CRUISE.

  To most girls a coaching or yachting trip is an adventure. How much
  more perilous an adventure a "sky cruise" might be is suggested by the
  title and proved by the story itself.

THE GIRL AVIATORS' MOTOR BUTTERFLY.

  The delicacy of flight suggested by the word "butterfly," the
  mechanical power implied by "motor," the ability to control assured in
  the title "aviator," all combined with the personality and enthusiasm
  of girls themselves, make this story one for any girl or other reader
  "to go crazy over."

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                HURST & COMPANY - Publishers - NEW YORK





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