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Title: The Boy Scouts of the Naval Reserve
Author: Shaler, Robert
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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                             THE BOY SCOUTS
                                 OF THE
                             NAVAL RESERVE


                                   BY
                       SCOUT MASTER ROBERT SHALER

        AUTHOR OF “THE BOY SCOUTS OF THE SIGNAL CORPS,” “THE BOY
            SCOUTS OF PIONEER CAMP,” “THE BOY SCOUTS OF THE
                 GEOLOGICAL SURVEY,” “THE BOY SCOUTS ON
                        PICKET DUTY,” ETC., ETC.


                                NEW YORK
                            HURST & COMPANY
                               PUBLISHERS

                            Copyright, 1914,
                                   BY
                            HURST & COMPANY



                                CONTENTS


  CHAPTER                                                           PAGE
  I. The Trail Up Cedar Hill                                           5
  II. Scout Tactics                                                   18
  III. The Dancing Bear                                               31
  IV. The Tracking Game                                               44
  V. A Scout Ambulance                                                57
  VI. Billy’s Lucky Jinx                                              70
  VII. “All Aboard!”                                                  84
  VIII. Afloat with the Naval Militia                                 97
  IX. The Night Landing of the Scouts                                110
  X. Establishing the Signal Relay                                   123
  XI. A Temptation and a Victory                                     136
  XII. With the Battleship Squadron                                  149



                  The Boy Scouts of the Naval Reserve.



                               CHAPTER I.
                        THE TRAIL UP CEDAR HILL.


“_How-oo-ooo!_”

This weird sound, supposed to be very much like the mournful howl of the
timber wolf heard on a wintry night in the wilderness, caused the boy on
the bicycle to laugh softly to himself as he looked up.

After running an errand for his mother to one of the farmers’ wives, he
had been pedaling carelessly along up the dusty road.

A couple of fellows of about his own age, one of whom was inclined to be
rather stout, were coming along a side road, making frantic motions for
him to wait until they arrived; the boy chuckled again.

“Seems like Billy is getting that signal cry of the Wolf Patrol down
pretty pat,” he told himself, as he dropped off his wheel at the
junction of the two roads to await the arrival of his friends, both of
whom wore the well-known khaki uniforms of the scouts, just as the lone
rider did.

A minute later and they, too, dismounted, one gracefully, and the other
with the awkwardness that usually accompanies the heavy-weight boy. Both
of them were apparently pleased at having run across their comrade at
just that particular time.

“Hello! Hugh!” called out the stout boy, “we stopped in at your house,
and they told us you’d gone out to Farmer Benton’s on an errand for your
mother. So Arthur said we might run across you heading for home, which
we sure have done.”

“That’s right, Chief,” added the more slender lad who had been called
Arthur. “We want you to come along with us and pass judgment on my
contraption of a wireless outfit that I’ve rigged out up on Cedar Hill.
I finished the work yesterday morning, and meant to get some of you
fellows up there in the afternoon, but things kept on happening over at
our house one after the other, till it was too late to bother. You’ll go
along, I hope, Chief?”

These three lads were all members of the well-known Wolf Patrol of the
local troop of Boy Scouts. They had been chiefly instrumental in
starting the popular movement in town; and had passed through many
rather remarkable scenes in common, most of which have been described at
length in previous stories of the Series.

Hugh Hardin had early been made the patrol leader, and when the
assistant scout master of the troop had lately been compelled to resign,
Hugh, as the most popular fellow among the scouts, had been elected to
take his place. It is necessary that the boy who would take upon himself
the responsibility of being an assistant scout master should above all
be a first-class scout; secondly, he must be elected to the office by
his mates; and last of all be recommended by the chief scout officers of
that district. Only when these conditions have been met will the coveted
certificate be sent out from Boy Scout Headquarters in New York City.

Hugh had received approval some weeks before, and a few of the boys had
come to calling him “Chief” when off by themselves for a good time. Of
course, when the regular scout master, Lieutenant Denmead, a retired
United States army officer, was along, Hugh would expect to be treated
with the same courtesy that was extended to that gentleman, and insist
upon the usual scout salute at meeting.

Billy Worth had always been a great admirer and chum of Hugh. He
believed the other to be the best all-round boy in that whole country.
Consequently he had seemed more concerned than Hugh himself when Alec
Sands, the son of the rich railroad magnate, and in many ways a spoiled
boy, had on various occasions tried to get the better of Hugh. Alec was
the leader of the wideawake Otter Patrol, a clever scout, and with a
small following of his own; but he was none too popular among the
members of the Fox and Hawk patrols. This had accounted for his failure
to be elected to the office of assistant scout master at the time he and
Hugh locked horns while running for the position.

Arthur Cameron had been the last one to join the Wolf Patrol, completing
its roster of eight members, and for some time he had been called the
“tenderfoot.” Hugh, however, managed to arouse his interest in the
wonderful secrets of Nature a scout who keeps his eyes and ears wide
open may learn, especially when in the woods. From that day on Arthur
had striven to perfect himself in the knowledge of those things which a
boy must know in order to climb the ladder of scout preferment.

Arthur had after a while become a second-class scout, and only at the
last meeting of the troop he had been listed in the proud rank of those
who were entitled to wear the full official badge, denoting that they
were in the first division. The Wolf Patrol now had no tenderfoot and
only three second-class scouts. Hugh hoped that in due time even these
laggards would arouse themselves and show ambition to pluck the fruit
from the tree of knowledge that was within such easy reach.

When Arthur made his appeal, Hugh looked a little thoughtful; the other
boys at the same time showed signs of more or less eagerness. Hugh’s
opinion was worth considerable to Arthur. While perhaps the patrol
leader did not know half as much about the intricate details connected
with a wireless outfit as Arthur himself, at the same time he could
always grasp things in a broad way, and make valuable suggestions that
others might profit by.

“Well, I don’t see any reason why I shouldn’t turn around and take a
little spin up there with you boys,” Hugh announced, presently. “I’ve
done the errand for my mother, and have one of Mrs. Benton’s good yeast
cakes in my pocket. She wants my mother to try a loaf of her morning’s
baking. It’s tied to the handle bars of my wheel. But there’s no need of
my hurrying back home because mother doesn’t mean to use the yeast till
to-morrow, anyhow. All right, Arthur, I’ll go along. I’m mighty much
interested in this scheme of yours. Perhaps after all, if the wireless
works, and we get in touch with you while along the coast, you’ll have
nearly as much fun staying home here as the lucky scouts who accompany
the Naval Reserve on their maneuvering cruise aboard the scout cruiser,
_Vixen_.”

“Glad to hear you say so, Hugh,” said the other, flushing with pleasure.
“I was away down in the dumps when I found that I hadn’t a look-in on
that trip. It was Billy here who asked why I didn’t finish that wireless
I’d started up on the top of Cedar Hill. He said what was the harm in my
trying to pick up messages you fellows would send out from time to time
while aboard the scout cruiser, practicing all sorts of things, just as
though there was a regular war on between the United States and some
foreign power, Japan for instance. And now she’s ready for business.
Let’s be off. If you say my outfit works fairly decent I’ll be feeling
fifty per cent. better. It’s awful to see my chums going away on such a
picnic, while I have to stay home.”

“Huh!” grunted Billy, as he threw a plump leg over his saddle and
prepared to begin pedaling, “what about poor me? I came in _third_ on
the list when only two in a patrol could go. Just missed being a favored
son by a hair’s breadth. I nearly swooned when I saw what a narrow
escape I’d had from getting to go on the dandiest trip that ever came
down the pike. I’m getting as thin as a rail peeving about my hard luck.
By the time you fellows come back, Hugh, I’ll be fit to enter a freak
museum under the name of a Living Skeleton.”

“Like fun you will,” jeered Arthur, who knew Billy like a book. “I
notice that you’re just as fond of eating and sleeping as ever. No
fellow who can do the stunts along those lines that you’re capable of is
going to lose flesh. Don’t ever worry about Billy, Hugh. He may feel bad
about not going, but all the same, mark my words, he’ll have a good time
at home. He always carries the sunshine with him.”

And indeed that was about the truth, for Billy could joke and make merry
when many of his mates were pulling long faces over the troubles that
pressed thick and fast upon the patrol. It was his nature to be happy
and jolly; he could not help radiating sunshine all the time.

They sped along the road, gradually getting to where the woods came down
on either side, and elevations could be seen close by. The particular
place which the amateur wireless operator had chosen as the site for his
exploits in constructing his masts and aerials was known as Cedar Hill.
It chanced to be a bit of the extensive property which the Camerons
owned up in this region; which possibly was one reason Arthur had chosen
it. He could lop off branches from such trees as he wanted to use
without danger of being taken to task by some irate farmer, who might
seriously object to destruction of valuable cedars.

There was quite a dense woods leading up to the crown of the hill and
the boys would of course have to abandon their wheels down by the road.

“I guess I’d better take this precious home-made loaf of bread along
with me,” Hugh said as they thrust their bicycles in among the bushes
near by. “It’s got such a fine smell of baking about it that some
wandering hog might find it out. Wouldn’t I be mad clear through to get
back here and find it gone!”

“Say, that does go right to the spot,” remarked Billy as he leaned over
to sniff at the paper-covered package. “If we should happen to get lost
now, like the babes in the wood, why that same bully loaf’d keep us from
starving to death. Any danger of your losing the trail, Arthur?”

“Well, I’ve been up here so often that I’ve marked it pretty well,”
replied the other laughingly. “Suppose you lead the way, Billy, while I
talk with the Chief.”

“Sure I will,” Billy sang out cheerfully. “Always willing to be a
victim. Anything to oblige, boys. ‘Walk this way,’ please, as the
bow-legged salesman said to the haughty lady, before he started to show
her through the store. What impertinence! I should say you had worn a
plain trail, Arthur. A greenhorn could follow it in and out, past logs,
and around holes. You had your Injun woodcraft down fine when you laid
this out.”

Unconsciously the two who were engaged in some serious conversation,
lagged more or less, though perhaps it was Billy, anxious to reach the
crown of Cedar Hill, who displayed an unwonted animation in ascending
the rather steep rise, and see what the final result of the other
scout’s labors had been.

Once or twice Hugh—glancing up—saw that Billy had passed from sight,
though he could still be heard clambering through the brush beyond.
Occasionally some exclamation told that he might have clumsily stumbled
over a root or a clinging vine. They were all of two-thirds of the way
up when there came a sudden shriek from Billy that made the other boys
stop short and look startled. Billy, however, was so prone to play
practical jokes that no one knew how to take him. He could be plainly
heard tearing headlong down the face of the wooded hill, and in a few
seconds came panting back, his usually florid face white with sudden
fear.

“What ails you, Billy?” demanded Hugh, puzzled to account for his
actions.

“Seen a garter snake, did you, Billy?” jeered Arthur. “Oh! plenty of
that kind around here, but they can’t hurt you. Thought it was a
rattler, now, I bet you?”

“It’s a b-e-a-r—a great big black bear ’bout ten feet tall, and standin’
on his hind legs awaitin’ to hug a feller to death!” came from the white
lips of the scout who had led the van of the trail followers.



                              CHAPTER II.
                             SCOUT TACTICS.


Hugh had known Billy Worth to be addicted to playing practical jokes on
many occasions, but he was really puzzled to guess the truth when the
other so loudly declared he had met with a bear on the trail above.

There were a number of small wild animals still to be found in that
section of the country. Hugh himself had met with a ferocious wildcat on
one of the camping trips of the troop up at Pioneer Lake, but such a
thing as a black bear had not been seen by any one for many years.

Billy was certainly not playing a part, Hugh quickly decided. The patrol
leader had thrown out an arm, so as to block the passage and prevent
Billy from continuing his mad flight, for he gave evidences of being
inclined that way. He kept looking back along the hill trail as though
fully anticipating seeing a huge hairy monster suddenly loom up. He
stood ready to break away and once more dash down toward the road to the
place where the bicycles had been left.

Arthur, though not free from a touch of panic himself, began to suspect
that it was all a humbug. He turned on Billy and scornfully demanded:

“Show us your old bear, can’t you? March him up and let’s look him in
the eye! I reckon that you’re trying to rattle your boon companions,
that’s what you’re up to, Billy Worth. It don’t go, and you might as
well call it off.”

Billy began to get a grip on himself, for there is nothing like derision
to bring a boy to his proper senses. He straightened up, and a tinge of
color came back into his plump cheeks as he retorted:

“If you don’t believe me—let’s see you go right along up there, that’s
all! Let me tell you this, Arthur Cameron, if you’ll agree to walk
straight along this same trail right up to your old wireless fixing on
top of Cedar Hill, I’ll—yes, I’ll agree to _give_ you that hunting knife
of mine you asked me to trade for your spare compass. Get that, do you?
And I’m safe in making the offer, too, because I know you’ll get the
rattles as bad as I did just as soon as you set eyes on that terrible
monster!”

Hugh was still studying the other. He wondered what it could have been
that Billy had really seen to alarm him so much. As a rule the other
scout was not given to wild imaginings like several other boys connected
with the troop whom Hugh knew very well. On the contrary Billy had
generally shown a steadiness much to his credit; he was matter-of-fact
and not often given to romancing.

“This thing has gone far enough, Billy,” he said sternly.

“I know you don’t believe what I say, Chief,” complained the other, “but
I’m going to raise my hand, and on the honor of a scout say once more
that I did really and truly see a bear!”

“Well, let it go at that,” said Hugh. “We’ll believe that you thought
you saw some sort of thing that _looked like a bear_. I’ve known fellows
who saw ghosts and believed it as much as they could anything, till it
was proven that the moving white object was a pillow-slip left out on
the clothes line, floating up and down in the soft night air. Sometimes
in the dim woods a stump can look mighty like a big black bear, I’m
told.”

“P’raps that’s all true enough, Hugh,” persisted the other, “but when
you see it rear up on its hind legs, and start at you—that looks
different, don’t it?” demanded the other.

“Oh! then it moved, did it? actually got up on its hind legs and wanted
to give you the high sign?” jeered Arthur still unconvinced. “Well,
that’s what you get for belonging to the Wolf Patrol. This wonderful
bear thought you might be his own cousin. He meant to shake hands with
you, Billy.”

Billy shrugged his broad shoulders. Though still looking a little
anxious, he was no longer white in the face. This scepticism on the part
of Arthur had the good effect of arousing what was combative in his
jolly nature, and putting fresh courage in his boyish heart.

“Well,” he went on to say resolutely, “I can see that you’ll never be
satisfied till you meet up with that bear for yourself, Arthur. So
s’pose you hike out. We’ll follow after you. I dare you to, get that?”

No boy can easily stand being put on his mettle. With quaking heart many
a lad has started into a country churchyard on a dark night or in some
other such reckless venture just because his mates have given him the
“dare.”

Arthur gave a quick look up the trail. So far as he could see, there did
not appear to be anything amiss in that direction. Surely if a hungry
bear did lurk near by he would have been apt to show himself ere this.

So Arthur, feeling that he had gone too far now to show the white
feather, threw out his chest, and stepped ahead of the other two.

“All right, you watch me show you up for the biggest fakir going,
Billy,” he remarked with all the firmness he could command. “I’ve passed
up and down along the same trail dozens of times, and if there’d been
such a thing as a bear around—well, wouldn’t I be apt to know it? Guess
I would. Now, I’ve seen a fox once, a little red fox; likewise a skunk
that I gave a wide berth to. There was a rabbit that used to jump out of
the bushes every single day, sometimes giving me a start, if I happened
to be thinking hard and forgot about it. Wonder whether anybody could
make out one of those to be a bear!”

“Oh! go on and climb, that’s all,” chuckled the confident Billy. “You’ll
see if I’ve got magnifiers in my eyes this time.”

“And what if we don’t see your bear?” asked Arthur. He started rather
slowly to mount the trail, keeping a bright lookout ahead, which caution
rather belied his confident way of expressing his disbelief.

“You will, all right,” replied the other from behind Hugh. “Even if he’s
dusted out, can’t we look for his tracks? What’s the use of being scouts
if we aren’t able to tell what the marks of a bear’s paw and claws look
like?”

Arthur did not reply in words. He did cast a quick glance over his
shoulder, however, which may have been simply to make sure his chums
were close at his heels, though Hugh rather suspected the leader to be
desirous of making certain that there was a clear field for flight open
to him in case of necessity. Caution as well as valor is a part of a
scout’s education, and he who is wise will always know of a way for
retreat though scorning to make use of the same.

Billy in the rear was evidently very much in earnest. Hugh could hear
him breathing hard, as if his excitement were returning in full force
the closer they drew to the place where he had met his recent alarming
adventure.

Although he could not believe it possible that Billy had actually seen
such a thing as a bear, still Hugh confessed to feeling considerable
curiosity himself in the matter. He had already made up his mind that it
would turn out to be some old stump that stood in a rather dark and
gloomy spot. Perhaps a squirrel had run up the stump, frightened by the
sudden appearance of the boy, and this movement, coupled with the queer
appearance of the remnant of a tree, had given Billy his scare.

Well, they would soon know what it might have been. Arthur was steadily
advancing up the hillside, none too swiftly it must be confessed. He had
apparently remembered all he had ever learned about the habits of a real
scout when passing through lonely woods where dangers were apt to lurk,
for it could be seen that he was turning his head to the right and to
the left from time to time, as if determined that nothing should escape
his observation.

“Listen! didn’t you hear something that sounded like a whine?” asked
Billy from his position of safety in the rear.

It might have been just like him to try and add to the nervousness of
the scout who led the van, but Hugh knew that this was not so; he too
had caught some sort of odd sound at the same time that the other spoke
so thrillingly. As for Arthur, he stopped short.

“What could that have been, Hugh?” he asked anxiously, while the
satisfied Billy actually began to chuckle with glee at seeing the
doubting one begin to show signs of wavering.

“I couldn’t say, Arthur,” replied the scout master promptly. “Some sort
of animal made it. I should think even a fox could bark loud enough for
that, or a weasel snarl because he was bothered while feeding. Want me
to lead off, Arthur?”

Perhaps the boy would have been glad of the chance to say yes, but
knowing how Billy would exult at his sudden change of heart he shut his
teeth hard together and merely replied:

“Well, I should say not, Hugh. I don’t make out to be the bravest scout
in the troop in the Wolf Patrol, but I hope I am not ready to lie down
and crawl just because I happen to hear a silly old whine. Chances are
it’s some dog that’s been digging out a rabbit burrow up here and wants
to let us know he’s on deck. Come on, both of you, and let’s see what’s
up.”

With that Arthur resumed his upward progress, covering foot after foot,
continuing his careful survey ahead. Hugh was really proud of the way
the late “tenderfoot” managed to carry on the lead so successfully; even
under the exciting conditions the scout master could pay attention to
such things, since they concerned his duties as instructor.

“Just a little further, Arthur, and you’ll turn that sharp bend,” almost
whispered Billy, pressing up against Hugh in his intense eagerness to
see what would happen. “Oh! there was that whine again, Hugh! Mebbe
you’ll believe me after a bit. Mebbe you’ll give me credit for havin’
eyes in my head! Steady now, old wireless! A few more steps, and you’re
bound to strike something or I’ll eat my hat!”

This sort of talk was well calculated to increase the manifest
nervousness of Arthur, but he was at least game to the backbone, not
dreaming of showing the white feather, the thing above all others that
any ordinary boy dreads to do.

Hugh pressed a little closer to the leader. He wanted to be on hand for
what was going to happen, no matter whether this turned out to be along
tragic or comical lines. And besides, Arthur was visibly trembling, as
though he needed some strong arm to back him up. If he felt Hugh
touching his elbow it would doubtless afford him more or less comfort.

Then Arthur, with set jaws, summoning all his resolution to the fore,
made the last step needed to take him around that bend in the trail
where the tall bushes seemed to shut out what lay beyond.

No sooner had he done so than he seemed to be changed into stone, for he
stood there like a statue carved out of marble, staring at something
that lay just beyond. Billy came pushing up just in time to hear the
pilot of the expedition gasp:

“Look! look, Hugh! Is that really a bear, or am I seeing things I
shouldn’t?”

When the scout master had taken a second look he made a discovery that
seemed to afford him more or less satisfaction, for he immediately
called out:

“It’s a live bear, all right, Arthur. Billy wasn’t dreaming, it seems.
Look closer and you’ll find that the poor thing is tied to that tree
with a rope; and chances are it’s the performing bear I heard was over
at Salem last week!”

At that both of the other boys breathed freely once more. Billy puffed
out his chest, filled with pride because his astonishing declaration had
at least been proven true.



                              CHAPTER III.
                           THE DANCING BEAR.


“But it is a bear all right, isn’t it?” Billy was saying with evident
satisfaction, “and you’ll have to take back all you said about my being
so scared ’cause I saw a whole lot of things that never could happen,
Arthur. Mebbe there aren’t any wild bears a-roamin’ around these parts
any more, but I did see a hairy monster, didn’t I? And when I told you
he reared up on his hind legs and made like he wanted to dance with me,
I wasn’t yarning, you see. Huh! next time you won’t be so ready to make
out I’m a fakir. Magnifying a stump into a live beast! Whew! look at him
stretching right now, will you? What are you meaning to do, Hugh?”

The patrol leader had started toward the imprisoned bear, causing Billy
to ask this last question.

“Why, I wonder where his master can be?” Hugh Hardin readily observed,
his curiosity aroused afresh.

“Oh! taking a good long sleep somewhere in the bushes around most
likely,” Billy remarked unconcernedly. “You know the breed all right,
fellows. They’re as cruel a bunch as you’d find anywhere. I reckon this
poor thing’s got heaps and heaps of big welts under his hair from being
whipped when he wouldn’t feel like dancing, his pole held in his
forepaws. I’ve watched ’em do it.”

All of them now approached the bear more closely. The animal did not
seem to be of the common black American variety, but had a sort of
cinnamon hue.

“I think they bring them over from Russia, down along some part of the
Caucasus or Ural Mountains,” Hugh was saying as the shaggy beast, still
standing erect on its haunches, started to make those queer whining
sounds again.

“What d’ye reckon the old thing means by that, Hugh?” asked Arthur.

“And look at the way he keeps working his mouth, will you?” added Billy.
“Tell you what, I think he must be hungry! He smells that fine loaf of
bread you’ve got under your arm, Chief. Better give it to the poor
beggar. Look at him putting out his tongue, and slathering his lips.
He’s sure begging for something.”

“I think I know what he wants most of all,” said Hugh. “You can see from
the way the ground’s torn up around that he must have been tied here all
night.”

“Whew! that would be tough on the poor thing, wouldn’t it?” declared
Billy, who had a tender heart and could not bear to see any beast or
bird suffer when it lay in his power to change things for the better.

“He wants a drink of water the worst kind, boys,” continued the patrol
leader.

“And I know of a fine little spring not five minutes’ walk away from
here, too. I’ve often stepped over there when working at my wireless to
get a cold drink,” Arthur hastened to remark.

“You’re elected then unanimously, seeing that you’re the only one that
knows where the water tank lies,” Billy told him.

“Elected to what?” demanded the other scout.

“Why to lead the poor old bear to his drink,” Billy went on to say,
without betraying the least sign of humor in his round face. “Step right
up and unfasten that greasy rope, Arthur, while I stand by this tree
ready to climb, if so be he breaks away and comes my way. He keeps on
looking at me like he thought I was good enough to eat. That’s the
trouble with being nice and plump. But what ails you, Chum Arthur? I
don’t see you jumping forward to pat our hairy brother and tell him his
troubles are all over, since you’ve come along.”

“Hugh! what are we going to do about it?” Arthur asked, turning from his
tormentor toward the scout master.

“If you lead the way, I’ll go along with you to that spring,” replied
the other quietly. “We might fill our hats and perhaps that’ll be
enough. I never saw a bear drink water, but in hot summer weather I
should think they’d want it as well as any other animal. Come along,
Arthur.”

Billy seemed in doubt whether to offer to accompany his comrades or
remain there. He did not altogether like the idea of finding himself
left alone with the bear. The rope looked thin and worn, and might
break. So as soon as the others had departed, and he could hear their
voices growing fainter as they hurried on toward Arthur’s pet spring,
Billy proceeded to climb the tree against which he had been leaning.

“Gives a fellow a better outlook, for one thing,” he told himself, as he
straddled the lower limb, “and then in case the sly old rascal did break
loose, why I’d have a halfway chance to kick at him, and keep him down
below till they came back and Hugh tied him up again. Scouts should be
cautious as well as brave; that’s always been my motto. There, Hugh went
and left that loaf of bread when he took Arthur with him to get the
water. See that bear sniffing as hard as anything, would you? One thing
sure, if he did break loose he’d start in to gobble that bread, and let
me alone.”

Listening he could hear the other two talking some little distance away.
It was from this that Billy judged they had arrived at the spring, and
were proceeding to fill their campaign hats. Although this idea of
Hugh’s might seem a little strange on the face of it, there was really
nothing uncommon about his desire to relieve the sufferings of the
thirsty animal. Scouts are taught to do just these helpful things
whenever the opportunity comes along; and many a fellow has found a
chance to turn his reversed medal over for the day by an act of mercy
toward dumb beasts,—horses, cows, or even dogs in pain or trouble of any
sort.

Given time, Billy might have thought to the same end himself, but his
brain did not work as rapidly as that of some of the other boys, and as
a rule he made slow progress.

He sat there, keeping a wary eye on the performing bear and guessing at
the progress of his chums by catching the sound of their voices coming
louder and louder with every half minute.

Then Billy breathed more freely when he saw their figures flitting
carefully among the trees near by, so as not to spill more of the water
than could be helped.

“Good for you, boys!” he called out as he hastened to slip down from his
elevated perch, but not soon enough to escape the sharp eyes of Arthur,
who immediately took him to task for deserting the solid earth.

“Wise old Billy, ain’t it?” he remarked, jeeringly. “He wasn’t going to
take any chances of being nibbled at by the tame bear, was he? Climbed a
tree, didn’t you, son? Just as if bears couldn’t shin up a trunk like
hot cakes! You’re a bright one, I must say, Billy.”

“That’s all right and I am not ashamed to admit it, either,” asserted
the other stoutly. “A scout should never be rash, the rules say. Why
should I take unnecessary chances, when I knew that bear had his eye on
me, and thought I’d make a good lunch? If he’d been tackling you,
Arthur, I’d show you what I’d do if I had to grab him from the back, and
wrestle with him like his master does; only he hasn’t his muzzle on
right now, and that’d be bad. Does he drink, Hugh?”

While the others were indulging in this little exchange of sentiments,
the scout master had advanced toward the tied bear holding out his hat
water-pail. The animal eagerly thrust his snout into the cool liquid and
seemed to be drinking after a fashion, which told that Hugh had been
right when he said the beast must have been fastened here for some time.

“He wasn’t there when I came down from the top of the hill yesterday
morning, I give you my word for that, Chief,” Arthur announced, as he
stood ready to hand his hat of water over to the other, should the first
supply prove insufficient to satisfy the poor beast. “You can see for
yourself that it would be impossible for me to have passed on this trail
and missed running across him.”

“But what d’ye reckon has become of his master, and how are we goin’ to
get the dancing bear back to town, when he don’t know us? That’s what
I’d like to know,” Billy demanded apprehensively, not as yet daring to
come within five feet of the sleek monster.

“I’m bothered to know what it all means,” Hugh told them. “When he
fastened the bear here, the man must have had some notion in his head
but he’s been kept from coming back again.”

“Would he want to abandon the poor thing just because it wasn’t paying
him to tote the bear along?” asked Arthur.

“I wouldn’t think that could be,” said Hugh. “As far as I know, these
men who own trained bears always make a good deal of money and they
spend mighty little. Besides, such an animal would be worth fifty or a
hundred dollars for exhibition purposes, I’d think. No, there’s some
other reason for it. I’ve got half a notion to try to find the man’s
track leading away from here, and see which way he did go. What if he
fell down some little precipice—there are such things around these
hills—and broke his leg? Why, he might lie there and die for all
anybody’d hear him call, up in this lonely region.”

Both of the other scouts were more or less worked up by what the patrol
leader had just said. It was not very difficult for them to picture a
variety of serious perils along the lines suggested by Hugh; they rather
liked the idea of picking up the departing trail of the foreigner just
to see if they would be equal to the task of discovering him, perhaps
asleep, near by.

“But I don’t see how anybody could sleep through all that noise Billy
here put up,” Arthur chose to remark, “when he came rushing down the
hill with his hair standing on end, and his eyes looking as if they
would drop out of his head.”

“Oh! hold on, there, go easy with a fellow, can’t you?” urged Billy
reproachfully. “Of course I own up I was some scared, but it wasn’t as
bad as all that, and you know it, Arthur. Guess anybody’d have had some
shock to run across that thing all of a sudden and believe it to be a
wild bear.”

“Why, before we’re done with it,” boasted Arthur, “you may see me riding
on the old fellow’s broad back like as not. They’re really as tame and
docile as kittens, I was told; that is, after they get to know you, and
you’ve fed ’em a few times so they’ll look on you as a friend. There, he
acts as though he’d had all the water he wanted, Hugh. Just throw out
the rest, and I’ll put on my wet hat, which ought to feel nice and cool
after all that soaking.”

Hugh was already commencing to cast around in search of tracks that
would be of a far different type from their own,—prints made by
broad-soled hob-nailed shoes, such as these Russian immigrants wear.
This made it look as though he had been quite in earnest when he made
that assertion about feeling in the humor to try and follow the trail
the bear’s master had left when he departed on his unknown errand.

Billy happened to think of that loaf of bread which the patrol leader
had laid down when arriving on the scene. Some spirit of mischief caused
the boy to step over, and picking the package up advance toward the tied
bear, holding it out to see what the animal would do.

He found out, and in a big hurry too, after a fashion he had evidently
not suspected would come to pass. The animal sniffed harder than ever as
he caught the tantalizing odor of the freshly baked bread. If it had
held a good scent for the boy who had stuffed himself at breakfast only
an hour or two ago, fancy how it excited the bear, which must have been
very hungry indeed.

Before Billy could realize how all those frantic pullings might result,
he heard the worn rope give a sudden sharp snap where it had gone around
the tree. Then he saw that the eager bear was now loose, and advancing
quickly toward him, growling and whining with eagerness, and impatient
to break his long fast!



                              CHAPTER IV.
                           THE TRACKING GAME.


“Hugh, oh! Hugh! he’s loose!”

These boys of the Wolf Patrol had become so accustomed to depending on
their energetic leader when trouble threatened that this cry pealed from
the lips of Billy Worth as naturally as he would eat his supper, given
half a chance.

The sight of that bear standing on his two hind legs and advancing
eagerly toward him gave Billy the shock of his life. He realized that
being without any kind of weapon, he was powerless to resist should the
hungry animal seize hold of him, and commence breaking his fast. Billy
did not know, or at least failed to remember then under such tremendous
excitement, that bears, at least of this species, are more addicted to a
diet of roots, berries, and cereals when they can get them, than flesh.

He dropped the loaf of bread, though the act was more the result of his
fright than any idea of coaxing the beast to turn his attention
elsewhere, and let him, Billy, alone.

Arthur was close by, but as incapable of assisting his chum as Billy was
of helping himself; it seemed as though Arthur must have been paralyzed
by the sight of that tall monster pushing directly at the other scout.
Arthur remained standing there with open mouth and staring eyes, never
so much as lifting a hand.

When the bear began to sniff eagerly, and then dropped suddenly on all
fours, as though meaning to hunt for the loaf which had fallen, Billy
experienced a feeling of intense relief.

He was actually able to get some momentum, for up to then, while
desirous of beating a retreat he had seemed frozen to the ground; he
could remember passing through a similar experience when suffering from
a species of nightmare.

So Billy fell back several paces, all the while observing the actions of
the educated bear as though fascinated.

It would seem that the animal must have been given a loaf of bread tied
up in paper many times in the past. Perhaps that was his customary daily
allowance. He started to tear the covering away, undoubtedly fully aware
of the necessity for doing this before he could get at the contents. And
Billy thought he showed almost human intelligence about it, too; in
fact, he afterward declared his positive belief that Bruin had
deliberately untied the string with his teeth and claws.

At any rate, whether that was true or only imagination on the part of
the staring boy, the bear was munching eagerly at the bread by the time
Hugh arrived on the spot, which proved how quickly all this had been
accomplished.

“What’s happening, Billy?” asked the patrol leader, though of course he
could see that the bear was busily engaged with something just then.

“He’s hooked your lovely bread, that’s what, Hugh!” gasped the other,
pointing.

“Oh! well, let it go at that,” replied Hugh, with a short laugh. “Seems
like a pity to waste Mrs. Benton’s prime bread on such a beast; but
since he’s nearly starved, and has got his teeth in the loaf, there’s no
stopping him now. But how did it happen _you_ had the bread in your
hands, Billy?”

“It was all my fault, I guess, Hugh,” answered the now contrite Billy.
“I just thought I’d see how he acted when he got a whiff of that new
bread, and would you believe me, he just leaned so hard on his rope that
it snapped where it was fastened around the tree. Whoo! if I hadn’t had
the good sense to drop the bread I reckon he’d have bitten a hunk out of
my leg!”

“But he’s free now, Hugh,” spoke up Arthur. “What can we do about it?”

“While he’s so busy with the bread I’ll try and see if I can get hold of
that rope and fix him again,” remarked the patrol leader, not believing
it would prove a very difficult task.

“Be careful, Hugh. He’s got wicked-looking teeth! I can see ’em!” Billy
warned his chum anxiously.

“And his claws haven’t been trimmed this long while, seems like,” added
Arthur.

“I’ll look out, make your minds easy on that question,” Hugh told them.
“Both of you stand where you are, and keep moving your arms so as to
sort of hold his attention. I think I can see how the job is going to be
done.”

“A good idea, sure it is!” Billy declared and immediately began to swing
both of his arms as though they were parts of some windmill with a
twenty-mile-an-hour gale blowing.

“Easy now, not quite so hard, Billy!” Hugh admonished as he started to
pass to the rear of the munching brute, where he had discovered the
broken end of the rope lying on the ground.

The others continued to move their arms and talk as they watched Hugh
work. In the first place he bent down and secured the rope. He found
that by advancing closer to the bear he would be able to pass it around
a stout little sapling and knot the end securely. What if the munching
beast did growl more or less as he became conscious of Hugh’s presence.
That was just the way any dog would do when disturbed while crunching a
bone between his teeth; and the scout master did not mean to let it
deter him from the task he had set out to perform.

“All done, Hugh?” burst out the admiring Billy when he saw the other
starting to move back.

“Yes, and if the rope only holds this time he’ll stay there till his
master shows up to take him in charge,” came from the other.

“You did it in first-class style, and that’s a fact, Chief!” asserted
the relieved Arthur.

“Now, what’s next on the program?” demanded Billy.

“Why, as I’ve managed to find the tracks of the foreigner leaving here,
I thought we might start out and follow the trail,” suggested the patrol
leader.

“Fine!” ejaculated Billy.

“And I think the same,” added Arthur, “though I hope that after we’re
all through with this job you’ll still come back with me, and try out my
wireless, Hugh. Promise me that, won’t you, please?”

“You can count on me, Arthur,” the other assured him. “I’m almost as
much interested in your experiment as you can be yourself. I think it
would be a great thing if we could talk across all the distance between
while you’re home here and some of the scouts are on board the _Vixen_
bound up the coast. It would show the boys of the Naval Reserve that
scouts are not so _slow_ after all to keep up with the procession. Yes,
you can count on me, Arthur, to watch you work your wireless.”

“All right, Hugh. Let’s see if we can find out what’s become of the man
who owns this poor bear.”

Hugh immediately led his chums over where he had been working at the
moment that the tocsin of alarm from Billy announced that something
unusual had happened, and that he was needed in another quarter.

“See here and here,” Hugh told them, pointing as he spoke to the ground.

“That is his trail as sure as anything,” admitted Billy instantly. “And
he’s wearing shoes with great big hob-nails in them, too. Most of these
foreigners do that, I guess. They make their shoes wear twice as long;
and every cent saved means they can go back all the sooner to their old
home with a little fortune tucked away in their corduroys or jeans. Lead
off, Hugh, and we’ll be right at your heels. And show us anything queer
you happen to run across on the trail, see?”

“Because as scouts,” added Arthur, promptly, “we want to be up to all
the wrinkles of the business, you know. I find out new things every day,
and it seems like the more you know the more you discover you don’t
know.”

“That’s a queer way of saying it, Arthur,” laughed Hugh, “but it covers
the ground, I think. You mean the field keeps on getting larger the more
our horizon is extended, which is what one writer says. Come on then,
we’ll leave the bear to finish his bread, and lick up the crumbs. I had
thought to have a share of that brown loaf myself, but it went in a good
cause and I don’t feel sorry.”

With the scout master leading them and all bending low so as to keep a
close watch on the tracks, they started forth. None of them could tell
just where that trail might take them,—a dozen possibilities opened up
before their mental vision. If they thought anything at all, possibly
Billy and Arthur were convinced that the foreigner may have wanted to
get rid of his charge, and had thus basely abandoned the poor bear to
its fate. Then again there was a chance that in going to town he may
have been arrested for some trivial thing, and was even then languishing
in the lockup, unable to make the police understand that his performing
bear would starve unless some one went up to Cedar Hill to relieve the
animal’s wants.

Several times Hugh did call a temporary halt. He had come upon some
phase of the trail that might have mystified a greenhorn, but which
proved no puzzle to him, because of his wide experience in these things.
And he took pleasure in explaining to his comrades what the combination
meant.

“It seems that the fellow might be trying to blind anybody that chanced
to be following his tracks,” Hugh once told his mates. “Three times now
he’s even gone to the trouble to walk along a fallen tree trunk, and
jump from the further end. If I didn’t know the old Indian dodge, it
would have fooled me, too.”

“And I never heard about such a game,” admitted Arthur, while Billy
nodded his head acknowledging the same thing.

“But whatever do you think he wants to do that for, Hugh?” the last
named asked.

“I don’t know, Billy,” replied the patrol leader thoughtfully. “Seems to
me he might be following a series of marks somehow, for look here at
this plain ‘blaze’ on this tree, made at least several months ago,
perhaps even last year. Now, it might be possible that the man has got a
secret _cache_ somewhere around, where he keeps his valuables; and
whenever he finds himself in this neighborhood he goes there to add to
the hoard, looking to the time when he thinks he will have enough saved
to go back home with. And he has made a secret trail from where he left
his bear to this hiding place.”

“Yes, but while that sounds all to the good, Hugh,” protested Billy,
“why should he stay away so long?”

“We’ll hope to find that out before we’re done,” Hugh told them; “that
is, fellows, if you don’t say you’ve had enough of this tracking game,
and want to call it off.”

Both the others immediately vigorously protested that they were not
dreaming of such a thing; that they stood ready to back the scout master
up, even if they had to continue this rambling around up and down among
the rough places of the mountain until dark set in.

“All right, that settles it,” said Hugh. “Let me tell you this is just
pie for me. I’m never so happy as when trying to find out the answer to
some knotty problem. We’ll keep right on, even if the zigzag trail takes
us all the way to the town lock-up!”

Ten minutes later Hugh held up his hand warningly.

“Steady, boys!” he remarked quietly. “Here’s a bad place where the
bushes seem to screen the brink of a little precipice; you can see for
yourselves that the man we’re tracking must have stumbled at the worst
spot he could have picked out to take the dip. Here is where he crashed
through the bushes; and look, when I part them with my hands, you can
see that there’s a bad drop beyond.”

“Listen!” said Arthur.

“What did you think you heard?” gasped Billy, looking somewhat awed.

“Sounded awfully like a groan!” replied the other solemnly.



                               CHAPTER V.
                           A SCOUT AMBULANCE.


All of them crouching there listened eagerly.

“There it comes again!” exclaimed Arthur, excitedly.

“And it is a groan as sure as anything!” added Billy.

“Yes, the poor fellow must have fallen over here, and been hurt so badly
that he wasn’t able to get up again,” Hugh announced, and then crawling
forward to the verge of the precipice he took an observation.

“See him, Hugh?” questioned Billy.

“Yes, he’s down there in a heap,” came the reply. “Looks as if he might
have tried again and again to work his way up, and had to quit through
weakness. Come on, let’s work our way around, boys. I think there must
be some easier path down there than the one he took.”

“Gee whiz! I should hope so!” muttered Billy, who had also ventured to
take a peep over the edge, though without seeing the fallen master of
the bear.

They skirted the precipice and as Hugh had predicted, soon discovered
that it was possible to make the descent by means of a shelving path,
which doubtless the wretched man had not found out. Presently they had
reached the place where he lay.

He was looking terribly gaunt and haggard, more from the result of his
intense pain and anxiety than because he had been imprisoned so long in
that trap. When the trio of scouts came upon him, the man’s face lighted
up with new hope. He held out his hands eagerly toward them, bursting
into a torrent of words, most of which they failed to understand because
they may have been Russian, and like so much gibberish in their ears.

If the poor fellow was in any doubt as to their pacific and kindly
intentions, the reassuring smiles on the faces of the scouts must have
soon allayed his fears.

Hugh tried to tell him that they had found his bear, and followed his
trail all the way along the side of old Stormberg Mountain to this place
where he had met with his accident. He also gave the man to understand
that they would stay by, and get him to a place of safety.

First of all the young scout master started to make an examination so
that he might understand the extent of the man’s injuries.

“Isn’t it queer how history likes to repeat itself?” remarked Billy
while he and the third chum stood there watching Hugh go through with
this examination. “Just the other day it seems we saw our leader look
over another party who had met with an accident, only in his case it was
a fractured arm and not his leg.”

“Yes,” added Arthur, “an aeronaut in one case, and the owner of a
dancing bear this time. They say extremes meet, and I guess that’s so
with us. But it makes no difference who’s in pain and trouble, a scout
has got to stand by him; isn’t that right, Hugh?”

“Every time,” replied the scout master promptly. “I find that this man
has broken a bone in his left leg. I can feel it grate when I press it,
even if it hasn’t come through, like some do when the fracture is extra
bad. But he’s been trying to stand on it, and drag himself up here, only
to fall back again and again, so that it’s pretty badly inflamed by now.
Want of attention has hurt him more than the original break. I’m going
to fix that leg as best I can, and wrap it up with the fresh surgeons’
tape I happen to be carrying with me.”

There was really no “happen” about it, for Hugh always made it a point
to carry a small supply of that useful bandage tape with him all the
time. It is one of those things which when required at all is needed
badly. On several previous occasions the scout master had found cause to
thank his forethought in thus going prepared for emergencies. Boys take
so many desperate chances in their rough play that they are in constant
danger of meeting with some accident.

The man seemed to understand that he was in the hands of Good
Samaritans, though it doubtless hurt him keenly when Hugh worked; he
stifled many a groan, he gritted his teeth, and managed to keep from
fainting under the strain.

“There, that’s all done, and as good a job as anything I ever tackled,”
Hugh finally declared, as he arose and stretched his cramped limbs. “And
now the next thing is to get him up out of here. Suppose both of you try
taking him by the shoulders while I look after his legs. I know how to
handle him with as little pain as can be done. We can move him a little
way, and then rest, till we’re up on the level again. Ready, boys?”

The others understood what Hugh had in mind. They had practiced carrying
a helpless person in some of their “first aid to the injured” lessons;
and hence were quite competent to attend to their end. Hugh knew that
the wounded man was in for more painful experiences, but then there was
no other way of getting him out of that deep gully.

Resting as many as half a dozen times, the three scouts finally reached
the level ground again. All of them were panting heavily, for the man
was no light weight, and climbing the steep side of the ravine under
such conditions was a much more difficult task than they had found when
descending.

“And now what?” asked Billy as he looked to Hugh to lay out a plan.

“We must make a litter or stretcher, just as we’ve done more than a few
times when practicing this game of carrying a wounded comrade,” the
scout master told them.

“That would be easy enough if only we had some sort of hatchet along,”
Arthur declared, “but you see, none of us dreamed we’d need such a
thing. Now, I’ve got an old one hidden near where my wireless masts
stand up on the top of Cedar Hill, if only you’d wait till I could go
there and back.”

“No need,” observed Hugh, who had as usual been keeping his eyes on the
alert, and made a few discoveries. “Here are all the poles we’ll need,
lying in a bunch. Probably some fellow had been gathering them for bean
poles or something like that, and then forgot to take them away.”

“Talk to me about luck, we get it in hunks, don’t we?” cried Billy.
“Why, where could we have run across better poles to make a stretcher?
All we want is some stout cord to fasten the ends together, so they
won’t slip.”

“Here’s a piece of rope the bear man seemed to have been carrying along
with him for some purpose or other,” said Hugh. “I picked it up near
where he lay, knowing we might make use of it some way. By unwinding
these strands we’ll have more than all the cord we need to tie the poles
across each other.”

All of them immediately busied themselves, and so well had their lesson
been learned that in a very short time they had fashioned a splendid
litter. The wounded man watched them work with a sparkle of gratitude in
his eyes. He must have realized by now that those khaki uniforms which
these boys wore meant succor for him, and it is greatly to the credit of
Boy Scouts everywhere that seldom does this confidence in their
willingness to give aid in times of distress meet with disappointment.

After the litter had been finished, they laid enough hemlock browse upon
it to make a pretty soft mattress. As Billy felt of that and scented the
delightful piney odor, he nodded his head and remarked:

“I only hope that if ever I break a leg and have to be carried to the
doctor’s, I’ll be lucky enough to lie on as fine a stretcher as this,
that’s all I can say.”

Hugh took hold of one end, and Billy started at the other. They meant to
take turns and in this way “rest up,” as Billy called it.

“You’re heading so as to reach the road, I take it?” remarked Arthur
presently.

“Just what I’m doing,” the scout master replied. “We ought to make use
of our wheels in some way to take off most of the strain of carrying
this man to town.”

“Who’d ever have thought of that but you, Chief?” cried Billy, who was
looking a little tired. The task of stumbling along, bearing half of
that weight over rough ground, was far from an easy one.

When they reached the spot where the bicycles had been hidden these were
brought out, and it was found that the stretcher could be rested on the
handle bars of two of the wheels. By taking care, there was little
danger of an upset. So presently a queer procession was passing along
the road. Everything seemed to work so nicely that while they met
several farmers going home from market, the boys declined the offer when
they proposed turning back so as to carry the wounded Russian to the
hospital.

Perhaps there was a little vein of pride about it, and the scouts wanted
to let scoffers see how well they were able to manage when a sudden
emergency confronted them. They were only boys after all, and felt that
they had a perfect right to be proud of the way they had managed.

Hugh at such times as they paused—once to rest and again to give the
injured man a drink from a spring that bubbled up near the road—managed
to converse a little with the grateful fellow. He told the boy, whom he
now looked upon as a good and tried friend, that he did have a little
_cache_ among the rocks on the side of Stormberg, where he kept his
savings, being afraid to trust banks, and knowing what danger there must
always be of his being robbed if he carried all his money along with him
in his erratic wanderings. For three years he had come back here late
every summer and in the early spring to add secretly to his hoard.

On the present occasion it had been his intention to carry his
accumulations away with him, for he meant to sail across the sea to his
old home, where he could live in what he considered comfort on the
amount he had saved. Misfortune had overtaken him, however, and with a
broken leg he must delay his departure a long time.

They reached the town limits at length, and great was the surprise of
the good citizens when this queer ambulance took its way along the main
street, headed for the hospital. As the excitement spread, people rushed
out of stores and dwelling houses, and upon every tongue could be heard
praises of the Boy Scouts.

“What won’t they be doing next?” men asked each other as they noted how
splendidly Hugh and his two chums had made that stretcher for the
wounded man, and how cleverly they were utilizing their wheels in place
of a wagon in order to convey him from a distance to the town hospital.
“It certainly was the best thing that ever happened for the boys of this
country when that scout movement started here, and it has spread like
wildfire. Why, it was only lately that they rescued that aeronaut, and
the doctor said they’d fix his broken arm about as well as he could have
done the job himself under the same conditions. If your boy doesn’t
belong already, you can’t coax him to be a scout any too soon, believe
me, neighbor.”

Having seen the wounded man safely cared for, and received his thanks,
uttered in broken English it is true, but just as heartfelt for all
that, Hugh next thought of the bear, left there in the hills. He hunted
up a lot more of the scouts who were of a stripe to enjoy any lark of
that kind, and armed with plenty of rope they started forth.

In the end they succeeded in bringing the trained bear all the way back
to town, and as Hugh had been thoughtful enough to take along a supply
of food for the animal, the task proved much easier than any of them had
anticipated. All they had to do was to keep him well roped from several
quarters, and then tempt him to shuffle along by holding some of the
food so he could see it.

Their arrival created another furore. People once more came flocking to
the streets to watch the little procession pass by. They were telling
each other that nowadays there hardly seemed to arise any sort of
necessity but what somehow the Boy Scouts were being counted on to meet
and overcome the difficulty,—from finding a lost child to rescuing a
wrecked balloon pilot or saving the life of a poor foreigner who had
fallen over a precipice and broken his leg.

All of which must have been so intensely gratifying to Hugh and his
chums that the fatigue caused by their strenuous exertions was for the
time being quite forgotten.



                              CHAPTER VI.
                          BILLY’S LUCKY JINX.


“To-morrow is the day set for starting to Boston to go aboard the
Government vessel handed over to the Naval Reserve for their late summer
cruise and practice, isn’t it, Hugh?” remarked Billy Worth sadly on the
Monday following their adventure up on the side of Cedar Hill and
Stormberg Mountain.

He and Arthur happened to meet at Hugh’s house that afternoon to help
the scout master finish his packing, though that was probably only an
excuse to be in his society, for Hugh was not the one to neglect the
slightest thing, or leave it to annoy him in the rush toward the last
moment.

“Yes, we leave on the ten-five morning train, and will be aboard before
sunset, if all goes well,” replied Hugh. “I wish both of you were going
along; but as only two could be selected from each patrol, and Billy
just missed being the second Wolf chosen, it can’t be helped.”

“Worst streak of luck I ever ran up against!” declared that individual
with a look of supreme disgust on his face. “Just a measly five points
stood between me and that dandy cruise. Oh! I’ll never get over it, I
tell you. Slowly but surely I’m crumbling away, losing flesh every
single day, until when you come back none of you’ll recognize me.”

Hugh only chuckled at hearing this, but Arthur jeered the speaker.

“Well, my word for it you can keep on ‘crumbling’ like you say you are,
for the next sixteen years and then beat me in weight two to one.
Crumbling agrees with some people, it seems. But besides you and Andy
Scott, who’s on the lucky list, Hugh? I’ve been feeling so bad about it,
and so busy working on my wireless, that I haven’t paid much attention
to these other things lately.”

“From the Hawks there are Walter Osborne and Blake Merton; from the Fox
Patrol Don Miller and that new member who took the place of the one
moving away from our town; and they do say that ‘Monkey’ Stallings has
belonged to a New York troop—he is entitled to wear the badge of a first
class scout—and certainly gave Don a close race for first honors in the
examination. Then from the Otters of course there will be Alec Sands and
with him Sam Winter. That makes the full eight boys.”

“But how about the Owl Patrol; don’t they send representatives along
too?” asked Arthur, surprised.

“No,” Hugh replied, “because it was stipulated that only first-class
scouts could go on this great voyage up the coast with the Naval
Reserve; and you know that nearly all of our new members belonging to
the Owl Patrol are tenderfeet, fellows who have a lot to learn before
they can call themselves real scouts.”

“I am glad that you think I have done a pretty decent job with my affair
up at the Cedar Hill Station of the wireless circuit, Hugh,” remarked
Arthur.

“It was only what I expected to find. I happened to know what a clever
hand you were at all such contraptions, Arthur,” the scout master told
him.

“And to think how fortunate it was that we were all there just when my
aerials were working in sympathy with that Government station over on
the coast near Cape Cod,” continued the other with a happy light dancing
in his eyes. “Say, let me tell you it was the proudest time of my whole
life when I stood there and actually read a part of that Marconigram
sent from the beach station to some other point, telling about a wreck
that had happened on the coast. What was better, each of you had the
pleasure of listening to some of that message too, sent a hundred miles
away from here.”

“Yes,” said Hugh, “and that was further than I had ever heard a message
before by wireless. One thing seems sure, Arthur, if they let us get in
touch with you, we can have great times while we’re away from home. And
that code you gave me will enable us to simplify matters just fine. A
letter stands for a sentence to the home folks, and every one of us has
a particular sign. By the way, who’s heard the latest news about our
friend, the Russian bear man, and his pet?”

“Somebody was saying at our house they heard he meant to be around on
crutches soon,” remarked Billy, “but we happen to know the reason he
won’t leave town till he can pay another visit up there to the rocky
side of old Stormberg. He wants to gather in that snug little nest egg
he’s got hidden away there. He sold his bear to the park people, who are
thinking of starting a sort of zoo, you must know, to interest the
children and teach them more about wild animals than they can ever get
from traveling shows.”

“I’m glad of that,” Hugh observed. “Whenever any of us happens to be in
the park we can give the old chap some peanuts, and remember the great
times we had up there when we found him hitched to that tree, and as
hungry as they make them.”

“Wonder if he’ll always look at me the same way he did then,” mused
Billy as he rubbed his chin reflectively. “Honest, fellows, I believe
only for that loaf of Mrs. Benton’s home-made bread that I tossed him as
a coaxer, he’d have taken a nab at one of my legs. But we did our duty
as scouts, didn’t we?”

“Why, we found a hungry and thirsty bear tied up, and not only fetched
him water in our hats but fed him with the best there was,” Arthur went
on to say in a tone that was full of boyish satisfaction. “Then not only
that but we tracked his master, and rescued him from that bad hole,
fixed his broken leg, toted him all the way to the hospital on a
stretcher that only scouts would know how to make, and then brought the
bear down in the bargain. I’m glad I took my camera that last time
because I got a dandy picture of him standing on his hind legs and
dancing, holding that long pole all the while. I have to laugh every
time I look at that picture, boys. It enlarges fine, and some day I’ll
print each of you one six inches square, because all three of us are in
the picture, along with Dancing Jumbo.”

“That’s good of you to make such an offer, Arthur,” avowed Billy, “and
I’ve got just the right place to put it over the desk in my den. It’s
fine to have something to show for your work, and a picture is the best
every time. When you look at it you seem to be living the whole thing
over again. That album of yours is something I never get tired of
hanging over whenever I’m at your house. What great times it covers, and
how some of those adventures stand out, eh?”

“How about that new member of the Foxes, Monkey Stallings, though I
believe he is called Eben at home? Have you seen enough of him to know
whether he’s going to make a good addition to our troop, Hugh?” Arthur
asked, changing the subject.

“I know that he’s seen more or less service as a scout, and that counts
for considerable, you know,” the patrol leader answered. “Somehow I
haven’t happened to see enough of him at close quarters to say I know
him real well. He’s a regular gymnast and contortionist, they tell me,
and can hang from the highest limb of a tree by his toes without a
quiver, climb like a regular monkey, stand on his head as well as walk
on his hands or his toes as it pleases him. In fact, he’s a bundle of
nerves, and can hardly keep quiet.”

“Perhaps you’ll be apt to know him better by the time you get back from
this gay cruise,” Billy told him. “Don Miller seems to think he’s the
best thing that’s struck the troop this season, and I reckon he ought to
know. But isn’t there anything I could help you do in packing your
outfit, Hugh? If I can’t go along myself, the next best thing is to have
a hand in getting you ready.”

“Not a single thing left to do, Billy,” the scout master assured him.
“You see, I made out this little list, taking along only what I must
have. We got pointers about that from Lieutenant Denmead, who was afraid
some of the boys would load themselves down with all sorts of truck from
camping stuff to banjoes. I checked things off as I put them in my
knapsack, and it’s all there with my blanket. When the time comes to say
good-by, I’ll be ready to shoulder this and be off.”

Billy drew a tremendous sigh that seemed to come straight from his big
heart. If he had ever been grievously disappointed in his life, it was
right when Hugh and those seven other lucky fellows were about starting
off on what promised to be a most glorious cruise on salt water, and he
had to stay home all through those two long dreary weeks, just going
along in the same old rut day after day with nothing exciting happening.

“There’s somebody ringing your ’phone bell like fun, Hugh!” remarked
Arthur.

“That’s so, and I forgot that about everybody happens to be out now; so
I’d better go and attend to it myself. Excuse me, boys, I’ll be back in
a jiffy.” And with these words Hugh hurried into the hall where the
telephone hung.

They heard him talking with some one, but paid little or no attention to
what was going on. Arthur was examining some pictures he had run across
on Hugh’s table taken by a cousin out West, which depicted cowboy scenes
that stirred the blood of the boy, who loved life in the open. Billy on
his part was studying the list mentioned by Hugh, which had a blue
pencil check against every item; and he seemed so intent on this labor
that one might even think he contemplated packing his own knapsack,
waylaying the column somewhere, and forcibly taking the place of some
other scout.

When Hugh came back, his face was shining and his eyes dancing so that
both of the other boys guessed he must have been hearing some very
pleasant news over the wire.

“Who was it, and what did they want?” asked Arthur with a chum’s
familiarity.

“It was Lieutenant Denmead,” replied Hugh, still smiling broadly as he
looked straight at Billy.

“What did he want with you, Hugh, tell us?” appealed Arthur. “It had
something to do with that trip to-morrow, didn’t it?”

“You are a good guesser, Arthur—it certainly did,” Hugh told him.

“Look here, I hope there hasn’t been any fluke, or that something’s
happened to block the game?” Billy exclaimed, though he ought to have
known that such a dreadful disaster would never have made Hugh grin as
he was doing.

“It has been blocked for one scout, it appears, because his folks have
decided at the last minute they don’t want him to go,” Hugh explained.
“You see his brother was drowned only last summer, and they tremble at
the thought of their only boy spending two long weeks aboard a boat at
sea and in the coast harbors.”

Billy became almost white as he clutched the arm of the other.

“A boy drowned, did you say, Hugh? Why, that must be Benjy Scott you’re
referring to! Am I right, Hugh? Oh! please hurry and tell me, for I’m
nearly choking with suspense. Because you see it was his brother, Andy
Scott, that just nosed me out of going on this bully trip. Is _Andy_ the
one that’s had to back down? Is that what our scout master said, Hugh?
Tell me!”

“That was what happened, Billy,” replied the other as he held out his
hand to the excited boy, “and when he tried to get you at your home,
they said you were probably over here. Anyway, the lieutenant told me
that as you were a close _third_ on the list, and as Andy couldn’t go
along with the rest, I was commissioned to say that the place was open
to you, if you cared to accept!”

“What, me accept?” gasped Billy, beginning to recover his usual rosy
color as the delightful prospect arose before him. “Why, I’d stay up
half the night getting my pack ready so I wouldn’t miss that train!
Whoop! think of it, will you! I’m to go along after all? The same old
lucky jinx is playing his tricks on me. Hugh, loan me this list of
yours; it will save me lots of trouble. And where’s my hat? I ought to
slide over home in three shakes of a wolf’s tail and get busy packing
up. No sleep for me to-night, I’m afraid, with my nerves all singing
little songs of joy like they are right now. If I don’t see you again,
Arthur, till at the train, here’s the best of luck to you with your
wireless! Be sure to stay up around that tree station every day you can!
We’ll try our level best to talk with you. Just to think how things
change around! One minute I was eating my heart out with envy, and now I
know I’m going along. Whoop! don’t stop me—I’m off!”



                              CHAPTER VII.
                             “ALL ABOARD!”


“That was the go-ashore whistle, Hugh! It means we’re due to leave the
dock in five or ten minutes more!”

“And still nothing to be seen of those two hold-out scouts, Sam Winter
and the latest recruit, Monkey Stallings. I’m beginning to believe
they’ve got adrift seeing the sights of old Boston, and will lose the
number of their mess.”

“What fools some fellows can be, Hugh! As for me, now that I’m on the
deck of this bully boat, nothing could hire me to go ashore again till
the cruise is over. A life on the wide, wide sea for me, tral-la-la!”
and Billy Worth danced a few steps as though he might already imagine
himself a seasoned old salt practicing what is known as the “sailor’s
hornpipe.”

“Better wait and see before you boast too loud, Billy,” returned the
scout master, grimly. “I’ve heard about all sorts of terrible things
that happen to landsmen the first time they feel the roll of the ship
under them. Solid earth may seem like the finest thing you can think of
before many hours.”

“Huh! don’t make me out a regular greeny, Chief. Remember I’ve sailed on
a bay before. I reckon some fellows with weak stomachs will double up;
but it’s different with me.”

“You never can tell,” Hugh remarked dryly. “So I say it’s wise not to
blow your horn too loud before you know. But whatever can be keeping
those boys? Looks as if we might only count six noses at roll-call
instead of the full eight.”

The two members of the Wolf Patrol were leaning over the side of the
Government vessel of the type known as a scout cruiser. This one had
been fitted up especially for the convenience and education of the young
jack tars who thronged the deck and the dock nearby, dressed for the
most part in white togs, and with all the airs of experienced sea-going
mariners.

These jaunty looking fellows constituted a branch of the auxiliary arm
of the United States Government known as the Naval Reserve, upon which
Uncle Sam expected to call immediately should any war break out, to man
his extra ships, and defend the coasts against an enemy.

They were from all walks of life, and as a rule bright, eager young men
who knew considerable about what the duties aboard a warship were like.
They had nearly all been afloat on preceding summers, since this cruise
was a regular institution. Still, they desired to learn all possible new
wrinkles connected with their vocation as voluntary naval men; and the
two weeks’ cruise along the New England coast was going to widen their
knowledge wonderfully.

Just what the Boy Scouts were expected to do aboard the _Vixen_, Hugh
did not as yet fully know. It was supposed, however, that they would be
very useful in many capacities, especially when landing parties went
ashore, defended by the big guns of the cruiser, with a force concealed
behind land defenses to carry out the part of a hostile army.

It had all been a piece of tremendous good luck, this chance that came
to some of the scouts to accompany the Naval Reserve on this summer
cruise. Such a thing had, so far as Hugh knew, never been dreamed of
before; and it all came about through the gratitude of the rich
aeronaut, Mr. Perkins, whom Hugh and several of his chums had rescued
from the top of a tall tree, where he had been stranded when his runaway
balloon lurched and threw him out.

It seemed that he was a personal friend of the Secretary of the Navy; in
fact they had been old-time chums in their school days. And Professor
Perkins had used his influence with the Naval Department so as to have
this wonderful invitation extended to the troop in which he had taken
such a keen interest.

The scouts had all left the home town on the scheduled train, and before
five that evening were aboard the cruiser, wild with delight over the
prospect that loomed up ahead. They were given quarters forward with the
men, and being accustomed to camping, believed they would be able to
make themselves very comfortable while sleeping in hammocks.

And indeed, that night they had no complaint to make, though it did seem
pretty noisy around the docks, especially to lads accustomed to the
quiet of country life.

On the following day they were allowed shore leave with explicit
instructions to be aboard at one o’clock, since that was close to the
hour set for sailing; and as Hugh put it, “neither time, nor tide, nor
yet Government war vessels wait for any man.”

Here one o’clock had come, and as yet two of the scouts had failed to
show up, so that Hugh was naturally bothered, for he considered this
tardiness inexcusable in boys who had been taught the value of keeping
their engagements to the letter.

All of the other scouts had lined up on that side of the vessel with
scores of the Naval Reserves, deeply interested in what was going on. As
is usually the case when a boat is due to move out, there was great
confusion. Trucks were being rushed this way and that, to get some late
luggage or food supplies aboard; officers were shouting orders; men
bidding good-by to wives and friends; and all in all, it was a sight the
boys would never be apt to forget no matter what they might experience
in coming days, such an indelible impression did it make on their young
minds.

Again did the long and shrill whistle start blowing with frequent
breaks. The Reserves, knowing that this meant “all aboard,” broke away
from the various little groups on the crowded dock and started up the
gangways. Gradually order was coming out of apparent chaos, and it could
be seen that every man was now aboard the _Vixen_; the vessel trembled
from the escaping steam that roared like a giant, impatient to be off.

“Too bad,” said Hugh, as this racket suddenly ceased, and he saw the men
begin to unfasten the heavy hawsers that held the cruiser close to the
wharf. “Those fellows have missed the chance of their lives.”

“Look! there comes one on the run!” exclaimed Walter Osborne near by.

“It’s Sam Winter, and he’ll just make it, and no more!” echoed Alec
Sands, who probably felt a deeper interest in the success or failure of
the runner than any of the other boys, since he and Sam represented the
Otter Patrol aboard.

The six scouts started a cheer to encourage the runner, and recognizing
the familiar signal of the scout’s troop, Sam looked up and waved his
hand. He just managed to set his foot on the last gangway as it trembled
on the rise; and the next moment was dragged aboard the boat, saved by
an inch.

“That makes seven, anyhow!” said Billy. “But that new recruit, Monkey
Stallings, is left in the lurch. Wow! what’s that I see back yonder,
Hugh? Looks mighty like a scout in uniform breaking through the crowd,
doesn’t it? Say, they’ve gone and got that boy blocked so he just can’t
make it in time! Now isn’t that too bad? Whatever can he do, I’d like to
know? So near and yet so far, with the boat beginning to move out, too.
Poor Monkey, I’m sorry for you, sure I am!”

“Oh! look at that! Look at him, boys!” shrieked Blake Merton.

“It’s going to be a cold day when Monkey gets left, let me tell you!”
cried Don Miller, who, being the leader of the Fox Patrol, to which the
new recruit belonged, probably knew more about the varied
accomplishments of Monkey than any other scout.

Seeing that he had no chance to break through the solid crowd that
barred his passage, the recruit had leaped up to the top of a pile of
freight on the dock, and was even then skipping along almost over the
heads of the dense mass of cheering spectators, clinging to all sorts of
friendly objects, and exhibiting a nimbleness that caused his seven
comrades fairly to hold their breath.

The entire crowd had by this time begun to understand that one of the
Boy Scouts was in danger of being left behind; and like all crowds, this
one started to send out volleys of encouraging shouts amidst much
laughter. For the moment even bitter partings were utterly forgotten;
everyone present became vitally interested in whether the daring and
nimble lad was going to make it or not.

Monkey had apparently sized up the situation at a single glance. All of
his efforts were directed to reaching the end of the pier in time to
make a wild leap as the boat swept past, for she was going out stern
first as was customary.

There never was greater excitement over the sailing of a vessel with a
consignment of the Naval Reserve aboard, and all on account of one
belated passenger who seemed bent on making a last desperate effort not
to be left. The sympathies of every witness had been aroused, and
encouraging cheers doubtless nerved the boy to even greater exertions.

As the crisis came, Hugh became rigid with anxiety, for it looked nip
and tuck as to whether Monkey would land on the boat or drop with a
splash in Boston harbor.

Monkey managed to catch hold of the rail, and clung there like a
squirrel does to the trunk of a tree while cheer after cheer greeted the
successful carrying out of the daring act. And then friendly jackies
reached down to lift him over, for it seemed as though every fellow
aboard felt that he would be glad to give the plucky scout a helping
hand.

Of course the other boys considered that Monkey’s achievement shed more
or less luster on the entire organization; and for the next half hour
they felt themselves of considerable importance aboard that boat, and
doubtless puffed out their chests more or less in consequence.

Alas! pride is often doomed to have a fall, and it was almost due in
this case, though few of those lads suspected from what quarter their
Waterloo was fated to come.

They sat there looking back at the beautiful scene, as the _Vixen_
passed down the harbor. Bunker Hill monument stood up like a finger
pointing to the heavens, and as all the boys had climbed to its top the
first thing that morning, they paid more attention to this than any
other feature that opened before them.

“There’s Nantasket Beach!” they heard someone, who was probably a Boston
man, say near by, as he pointed to a strip of shore that seemed to be
given up to all manner of merry-go-rounds, Ferris wheels, and the like,
to be found at shore resorts such as have become known under the name of
“Coney Islands.”

“Sorry we didn’t have time to run down there,” remarked Billy, who was
moving uneasily about along the deck. “Mebbe we’ll get a chance to do it
when we come back. Let’s see, that will be in about twelve days, won’t
it, Hugh?”

“Yes, but I hope you’re not counting the days already, Billy?” remarked
the other with a twinkle in his eye, for he suspected what was coming.

“What, me? Well, I should guess not. If it was forty days, it would make
me all the happier. But we must be getting out to sea, aren’t we, Hugh?
The boat has begun to dip the queer way they told me it would when it
had left the harbor behind. And say, what an odd, nasty motion it has,
too?”

“Oh! let up on that, Billy! Just as if we don’t know it without you
forcing the fact in our faces,” Walter Osborne told him, for Walter was
sitting there, holding his head in his hands, and apparently trying to
keep from seeing how things had begun to move up and down in that dizzy
fashion.

As the roll of the sea became more pronounced, for it was rather rough
outside, first one fellow and then another made some silly excuse and
slipped away. Several of the Reserves seemed to be deeply interested in
the green water and the white foam under the vessel’s side, for they
kept leaning over steadily.

Hugh was really the last to give in, and he only felt that he ought to
be looking after the other fellows who had gone below to their hammocks.
He found every one of the seven there “taking things easy” they assured
him, though several had white faces, and their merriment was rather
forced.

When supper time came along, Hugh and Alec Sands were the only scouts
who cared to answer the bugle call and attend mess; and even they did
not seem to have the customary scout appetite of which they had once
been so proud.



                             CHAPTER VIII.
                     AFLOAT WITH THE NAVAL MILITIA.


As a rule boys seem to recover from seasickness much sooner than older
people. While several of the scouts still looked a bit “peaked,” and
seemed to have only a shadow of their former appetite on the first
morning out, Hugh knew they were coming around bravely. Before that day
ended they would be all right, having adjusted themselves to the motion
of the vessel.

With such a delightful experience before them, it would have been
strange indeed if any fellow could have allowed himself to be chained
down by such a small thing. And a determination to overcome the
distressing malady is after all half the battle.

The _Vixen_ was heading almost due north. It was no part of the
commander’s plan of campaign to go very far out of sight of land at any
time. The annual practice of the naval militia is only entered into with
the idea of giving the boys a certain amount of familiarity with
handling a war vessel and all that this implies.

Uncle Sam does not expect to man all his battleships, cruisers, torpedo
boats and other fighting craft in the piping times of peace. It would be
altogether unnecessary and at the same time very expensive. From time to
time some of these grim vessels of war are laid up in the various
Government yards, either undergoing repairs or just standing idle.

At such times their former crews are distributed around on other boats,
or else discharged, the time of the enlistment of the men having
expired. In case a sudden need should arise for manning these idle
craft, the services of the Naval Reserve would become very valuable.
Uncle Sam recognizes this fact, and in gratitude to the young men who
form the main part of the reserve corps, extends every facility possible
toward making their several weeks’ practice afloat of real benefit.

On the _Vixen_ they took almost sole charge, and with a few seasoned
officers to superintend things, pursued a systematic course of drill
that would enable them to man a cruiser or a torpedo boat during war
times with the skill of regulars.

Besides this they showed the utmost enthusiasm in their work that was
most promising. Their time being so short, and all these things so new
and novel, the practice took on the atmosphere of a holiday rather than
a working period. Perhaps had they been compelled to look forward to
three long years of the same sort of thing, they might not have enjoyed
it half so well.

As that first day wore on some of the scouts began to show signs of
disappointment. There seemed to be next to nothing that they could do
aboard but watch the drills of the Reserve men; and to boys that soon
becomes tiresome since they aspire to have a hand in whatever is going
on.

It is true that they learned many valuable things connected with the
working of a war vessel, all of which would remain pleasant memories
long after this cruise had become a thing of the past. The clever way in
which the crew was piped to quarters as an enemy’s vessel was supposed
to be sighted ahead, being really a floating target previously arranged
and anchored, was thrilling in the extreme. And then, as the guns with
which the _Vixen_ was armed began to thunder, with the water flying up
like a big geyser whenever the shot struck alongside the wooden
target—would they ever forget how it made their ears ring for hours!

Since the percentage of “hits” turned out to be larger than ever before
in a given number of shots, everybody aboard was in fine humor. Only
some of the scouts pulled long faces, because they did not have a share
in the grand work.

Hugh had been talking with the commander, however, for whom he conceived
a great liking, and was in a position to cheer up the drooping spirits
of these grumblers, of whom Alec Sands and Billy Worth were the chief
offenders.

The scout master managed to get all of the fellows forward where they
would not be in the way. At the time they were within plain sight of the
coast, and the sea happened to be fairly smooth so that even the sickest
of the scouts had become himself again.

“You fellows must stop looking as though you felt sorry you’d come,”
Hugh told them. “Just see what we’ve learned already, and there are
heaps of other things on the program that we’ve read all about, never
thinking we’d have a chance to see with our own eyes how they were done.
Just feel that salty air, will you? It makes me sniff right along, as if
I couldn’t get enough of it. Now I know what ails the lot of you; and
let me say right here that in good time we’re going to have our share in
this war game!”

“Bully for you, Hugh!” exclaimed Billy, forgetting the respect due to
the assistant scout master, which lack, however, went unnoticed in the
general eagerness to learn what Hugh meant.

“You’ve had chances to pick up information,” remarked Alec, in an
aggrieved tone, as though he could not get over being jealous of Hugh’s
having been placed in the high position he occupied, “that none of the
rest of us could command. I’ve seen you chatting time and again with the
captain of the crew in charge here.”

“That’s where I got my information,” replied the other smilingly. “You
see, Captain Conrad had met our friend, Professor Perkins, and I guess
he told him a lot about what the scouts have done in the past, for he
mentioned several things, and asked me a lot of questions about how they
really happened. To-morrow’s program, if the weather permits, covers
several maneuvers, the principal one of which is torpedo-launching
practice. You know they have two tubes arranged for that very purpose
aboard the _Vixen_, though as a rule scout cruisers don’t go in much for
that sort of thing, depending on their speed to work damage, and
surprise the enemy.”

“Torpedo practice, hey?” cried Billy, always having something to say.
“That’s a thing I always wanted to see done, and I’ll be tickled half to
death to get the chance right now.”

“But what part do we take in the game, Mr. Scout Master?” asked Alec
with just the slightest sneer in his voice as he pronounced the title.
He had long ago convinced himself that the boys had made a great mistake
when they selected Hugh to that high office and that his own general
knowledge of scoutcraft should have entitled him to holding it, instead.

“Yes,” added Monkey Stallings, “do we play the part of the torpedo, or
the whale that we used to sing about, you remember in ‘Pinafore’? I
don’t care who acts as the big fish so long as I’m allowed to be the
shooting stick that gallops through the water and rams things in its
way. You want to give Captain Conrad a hint that I’d make the finest
torpedo in the bunch.”

“I guess that’s right, Monkey,” laughed Don Miller, who thought the new
recruit as comical a specimen as he had ever met, and was never tired of
being amused by his remarks and antics. “If they chucked you into a
torpedo tube and shot you out headed for a hostile ship there’d sure be
something doing right away. You’d beat any old torpedo that ever wiggled
its way under water. But we can’t spare you, Monkey. We need you to keep
the blues away, don’t we, fellows?”

“So say we all of us!” declared Sam Winter. “But, Hugh, you haven’t told
us if we’re going to have any part in the torpedo-launching practice?”

“Nothing to count for much, I’m sorry to say,” replied the leader. “The
boats are sent out to recover the torpedo that has been shot and some of
us may be allowed to go along. Our time comes on the third day!”

“That sounds more like it, Chief!” exclaimed Billy gleefully. “Please
let us know what the program calls for then.”

“You know,” said Hugh, “that the Coast Artillery have their summer
maneuvers about this time, and it happens that some of the boys are
occupying a certain fort not more than fifty miles away from here,
practicing firing at a target away out on the water with some of the big
coast defense disappearing guns of a modern make.”

“Oh! I begin to smell a rat!” Blake Merton exclaimed, his face lighting
up with sudden enthusiasm and hope.

“Well, it has been arranged as a part of the practice for both arms of
the Government service that the Naval Reservists try to take the fort by
surprise. Of course the defenders will be on the watch every minute, and
it is a part of the game that if those aboard the _Vixen_ manage to get
within a certain distance unobserved, after making a landing under cover
of darkness, they will be credited with a victory; while the Coast
Battery must be given a black mark. Well, that’s where the commander
gave me to understand the scouts might be used to good advantage!”

“Go on and tell us some more, Chief! You’ve got the whole bunch worked
up to fever pitch right now!” urged Billy.

“Are we to be detailed to take the fort by creeping up in the dark?”
questioned Walter Osborne, plainly very much excited at the idea of such
a thrilling episode. If successful, it would go down in history as a
gallant deed, and perhaps engrave their names on the scroll of fame
alongside that of Paul Revere, he thought.

“Remember that I’m a champion crawler!” admonished Monkey, who evidently
did not believe in keeping his light hidden under a bushel and felt that
no one could blow his horn so well as himself.

“The plans have not all been worked out yet,” Hugh told them, “but from
certain things the captain let fall, I’m of the opinion the scouts will
be set ashore at some secret cove with instructions to make their way up
the beach unobserved until they can spy on the fort. After that I reckon
it’s up to them to have a series of posts, so that they can send the
news flashing down the line. The scout who is furthest south can relay
it aboard where one of our number will be waiting to take the messages.
In that way you see it will be all scout work from beginning to end. If
only the fellows at the head can find out the weak points of the defense
of the fort, the Naval Reserve men can capture the place as easy as you
please.”

“It sounds like the boss scheme, Chief,” Billy admitted. “And please
don’t pick me out to stay aboard while the rest of you have such a
glorious time ashore, with chances of your being captured by the enemy
and put in the darkest dungeon under the magazine of the fort.”

“You forget that the one who does have to stay will occupy a post of
honor,” Hugh told him. “The receiving of the messages will depend on the
able way he takes them, whether by heliograph or wigwag work. And
besides, a scout always stands ready to do his duty, however
disagreeable it may seem.”

“Oh! I reckon I’d look at it that way if I _had_ to,” admitted Billy,
“but I only hope I’m lucky enough to be one of the shore party, that’s
all.”

“Now, if only Arthur were along,” said Don Miller. “He might get up some
kind of a scheme to work his wireless on this job. We’ve got the
fixtures right on board here,” and as he spoke he glanced upward to
where the delicate antennae of the naval outfit could be seen strung
like spiders’ web tracery between the wireless masts of the _Vixen_.

“I don’t believe that would answer,” said Hugh. “There’d be too much
chance of the enemy discovering our tall masts. The relay system is
better all around. Besides it gives us scouts an opening to show what we
can do. When the full plans are worked out I’ll be in a position to tell
you more. By then, too, I’ll have decided just what part each scout is
to have in the game. And now let’s go aft to see what’s the next thing
on the program for to-day.”

“I’m a-hopin’ it’ll be that sweet bugle call,” sighed Billy as he rubbed
a hand over his stomach. “Beats all how keen this salt air makes a
fellow. Seems like I could begin one meal where the other left off. A
little seasickness must be a sort of tonic calculated to build up poor
appetites.”

At that remark the others broke out into a jeering laugh that indicated
that they did not believe the speaker could be so afflicted.



                              CHAPTER IX.
                    THE NIGHT LANDING OF THE SCOUTS.


Another day saw the scouts feeling more like seasoned veterans. The
motion of the vessel no longer had any terrors for the weakest among
them, even though it chanced that in the afternoon the ocean began to
get so rough that the boat fairly wallowed in the seas.

Luckily the commander had chosen to select the morning hours for the
torpedo-launching practice, and it proved of considerable interest to
the boys. They were on hand to see everything that was done, and they
did not hesitate to ask many questions readily answered by the young men
who made up the Reserve crew.

Hugh had cautioned the others to try and make good friends of the men
who temporarily manned the _Vixen_, the vessel having been given
completely over into their charge for the entire two weeks. This bore
good fruit, and the wearers of the khaki suits had become prime
favorites at every mess. Indeed, they were known to have already had
considerable experience for boys, and of course it took very little
urging to coax any one of them to relate some of the things that had
come their way in the past, with which most of our readers are already
familiar.

All of the scouts were really glad when night again set in, with half a
gale blowing and the cruiser heading for an anchorage in a certain
harbor.

“If this keeps up to-morrow, good-bye to our hopes of being set ashore
on the coast,” Alec told several of the others as they gathered around
some of the crew who were bent on having a pleasant evening, discipline
having been relaxed for a spell in order to ease the strain under which
they were laboring.

“Yes,” added Walter, “because they couldn’t take chances of launching a
boat to land us without danger of a capsize in the surf. It’s nice and
quiet back of this point, but you can hear the sea smashing up against
the rocks out there right along.”

“But there’s no storm coming because Hugh told me he saw the barometer,
and it reads well up to thirty, which means fair weather, though windy,”
Don Miller went on to say, and the information brought fresh hope to the
rest.

“Like as not the breeze will have gone down more or less before night
sets in again,” Blake Merton gave as his opinion, though of course it
was mere guesswork, as he did not pretend to be a weather prophet, and
knew nothing, about the signs on the sea, even if he were something of a
woodsman ashore.

“That’s a fact,” Alec remarked. “We don’t land till long after dark, I
understand. So there’s plenty of time for it to quiet down.”

“And to-morrow Hugh says the commander promised that he’d give a try to
see if our Arthur can be reached by wireless,” Billy announced with
considerable pride. He had at various times assisted Arthur in
perfecting his station on the crown of Cedar Hill, and Billy had some
sort of proprietary rights in the wireless.

“Well, for the honor of the troop I certainly hope they get in touch
with Arthur,” Alec observed. He showed signs of envy and jealousy at
times, but when his old nature got the upper hand of him, the leader of
the Otters was really proud of the organization to which he belonged,
and would exert himself manfully in order to reflect credit on the name
of a scout.

“More than that, Hugh says,” Billy went on, seeming to have been
delegated to act as the mouthpiece of the scout master in order to
convey all this important news. “The captain promised him that if we did
our part of the landing game all right, he’d allow us to have half an
hour’s talk with our comrade at home every day that the wireless could
be used. So that’s a spur to make us try to do our best, fellows, to spy
on the fort defenders, and get the information aboard without making
mistakes.”

“Yes,” added Don, “and we ought to go into this business seriously, too.
No careless handling of messages will pass when so much depends on
accuracy. Every fellow must be up on his toes, and bent on doing his
level best.”

“You are right there, Don,” echoed Blake Merton. “We want to show these
Reserve men that scouts can do things right up to the handle. Our signal
corps work was always first class. Just now I kind of wish we had Bud
Morgan along, because he worked with a surveying party, too, you
remember, and is familiar with the business.”

“Oh! don’t let that bother you any,” Alec told him jauntily. “There are
others besides Bud Morgan who know the ins and outs of wigwag work,
telegraphing, and the use of the mirror in the sun that we call
heliographing. Why, there isn’t a fellow in our bunch aboard this boat
but who can stand his spell with the flags, and make mighty few
blunders, too.”

“Thank you, Alec, for the taffy,” chuckled Billy, “but we ought to be up
in that sort of work. Goodness knows, we’ve practiced it enough. Hi!
Blake, they’re calling for you to take your turn with a song. Somebody
must have given them a tip that you’ve got Caruso beaten to a frazzle
with that fine tenor voice you own. So step forward and remember to do
the troop proud every time.”

Blake Merton certainly did have a good voice, and while somewhat bashful
about singing in the midst of such a large company of young fellows, he
soon got over his timidity. Indeed, they gave him so warm an ovation
after he had sung once that he arose to the occasion, and from that time
on became the most popular scout aboard the _Vixen_. His services were
called for to entertain the crew every night after discipline had been
relaxed while they sat around on deck enjoying the salty breeze.

To these boys from inland there was no end to the new sights and sounds
of their first trip afloat on the briny sea. They enjoyed taking a
salt-water bath whenever the opportunity arose, drank in the wonderful
sight of the seemingly endless ocean bounded by the horizon, often on
all sides, and in every way possible sought to get the utmost enjoyment
from this novel experience.

It was still pretty rough outside the next morning, and the _Vixen_
remained comfortably anchored behind the point. There were numerous
things to be done that could be carried out just as well there as at
sea. Besides, the fort against which the Naval Reserve men had designs
was not a great distance up the coast, so that the plans of the
commander called for caution at this point in the war game.

It was a rather exciting time for the scouts when they gathered around
the wireless operator, and watched him call the station of Cedar Hill.
It was just at ten o’clock, the time Arthur had promised to be on hand
every single day that it was not storming wildly.

There was more or less vain calling, and things began to look pretty
blue when all at once there came a response. Every scout knew that some
one was replying to the groping signal that the operator had sent out
through space; and they only hoped that it might be their comrade a
hundred miles away.

Presently the young operator looked up toward Hugh and said:

“Well, Old Brutus was poisoned last night by some mean party unknown!”

Now every fellow there knew just as well as anything that the old and
faithful watchdog owned by the Cameron family was named Brutus; and this
little piece of home news convinced them as nothing else could have done
that they were in communication with Arthur perched up there at his
station on dear old Cedar Hill.

To most of the boys this method of sending messages was a complete
mystery, but there were several who had dabbled more or less in
wireless, as some boys have a habit of wanting to know everything that
comes along.

The operator was already aware that Hugh could send and receive messages
after a fashion; he had talked with the scout master on several
occasions, and even showed him many little things connected with this
special outfit aboard the _Vixen_.

“He wants to know how you are all getting on,” the obliging operator
remarked presently after another series of flashes and crackling had
announced the receipt of another message. “Suppose you tell him
yourself, Mr. Scout Master?”

So Hugh sat down, and with trembling hands transmitted his answer, the
regular operator gladly assisting him. The boy’s confidence returned
when he found that he was easily able to catch the strange dots and
dashes as utilized in wireless work, and could even send a short message
to far-away Arthur to the effect that they were all well.

He meant to make use of the code which had been arranged with Arthur
should he have other opportunities to converse, which seemed likely.
Then Alec asked for the privilege of exchanging a few words with Arthur,
because he would never have been happy to have missed the glorious
chance of saying he had once talked from a war vessel over a hundred
miles away from the home town with the scout who had made his own
wireless station.

The boys were allowed shore leave after the noon hour, being cautioned
not to go out of sight of the boat. They were liable to be signaled to
come aboard almost at any minute, should the commander decide to steam
out of the harbor and continue the northward cruise. And with the
recollection of what stirring times were ahead of them, there was little
danger of any scout wandering off. Indeed, all they really did ashore
was to roam the beach, wade in the shallows, hunt for pretty sea shells,
and keep one eye anxiously fastened on the anchored _Vixen_, so as to
discover the very first signal that would be hoisted to tell the boys to
come aboard at once.

The night promised to be fairly dark, at least sufficiently so to cover
the landing of the scouts from the cruiser. At three o’clock the anchor
came up, and they steamed slowly out of the snug harbor to find that the
sea had gone down, and nothing seemed to be in the way of making a
successful landing when the proper time had arrived.

Hugh talked the whole thing over again with the captain, and received
his final instructions. The scouts were each given some food to be taken
along, since it was possible they might have to remain ashore until the
storming party was put off to creep up the beach and try to surprise the
garrison, who were constantly on the watch for signs of the enemy in
either direction.

Charts of the coast had been shown the boys, and Hugh even made a rude
map for his own guidance so that if in doubt he might consult it and
shape his plans accordingly.

Again darkness came, with a young moon hanging in the western heavens.
It would not set until about ten o’clock; and preparations had been made
for sending a boat ashore soon after that hour containing all the scouts
save Blake Merton, whom Hugh had finally selected as the receiving end
of the signal chain because he was especially clever at this particular
work.

When they dropped down over the side and huddled in the boat, the scouts
felt their hearts beating much faster than ordinarily. Of course it
might have been somewhat more exciting had there been a real enemy to be
spied on instead of just a make-believe one, but for all that the
sensation of having the success or failure of the whole maneuver
depending on their work gave each boy a feeling of vast importance.

Almost noiselessly the oars dipped into the water, and they headed for
the shore not more than a quarter of a mile away from where the cruiser
was anchored. Finally through the darkness they could begin to
distinguish objects faintly as the trees were outlined against the sky.
Then they entered the gentle surf, and presently the keel of the boat
ran up on the sand.

“Steady now, and no hurrying!” warned Hugh softly. The six other scouts
proceeded to clamber out of the boat as silently as they could, after
which it put back to where the one light aboard the _Vixen_ showed her
anchorage.

“Now for a tramp along the beach of a couple of miles,” said Hugh, “and
remember there’s to be no talking above a whisper. I understand that the
defenders of the fort may have men out on the watch. Forward now, and
move along like ghosts.”



                               CHAPTER X.
                     ESTABLISHING THE SIGNAL RELAY.


The seven scouts were soon moving along the beach, headed north. They
quickly lost sight of the single light aboard the cruiser and to some of
them this seemed like the cutting of all communications with their
allies. From that time on they must count every one ashore as an enemy
who would betray them if given half a chance.

When two miles or more had probably been passed over, Hugh began to pay
strict attention to the landmarks as they opened up. The stars overhead
gave abundant light on the beach for them to see fairly well where they
were going. On the right the soft murmur of the little wavelets rolling
up the pebbly strand, so new a sound to these lads from the interior,
was like sweet music in their ears. On the left lay sand dunes that were
like great Indian mounds, and which might conceal any number of spies
should the defenders of the coast fort have thought it worth while to
send them out in order to keep watch for the coming of the enemy; Hugh
hoped this would not prove to be the case.

Several times the boys had little scares. An owl that had been prowling
in search of food close to the water’s edge suddenly flew off with a
rush, and went winnowing its way to the nearby woods. Then a little
later on some small animal scurried away, none of them being able to
identify it positively in the uncertain light, although Hugh guessed it
might have been a fox that had wandered down in hopes of picking up
something worth eating.

These were small matters, it is true, but with the nerves of the scouts
on edge, as it were, they served to keep them thrilled with
anticipations of possible discovery. Hugh redoubled his caution when the
second mile had been passed over. He knew that they were now getting
near the shore front. If by the use of marine glasses the commander in
charge had been able to pick up the distant _Vixen_ before the shades of
night had enveloped her advance, he would of course have his men use
double vigilance in order that the fortunes of war might not be decided
against them by the Naval Reserve capturing his post.

Here was where the knowledge obtained from the chart on board came in
handy for Hugh. He was able at any time to know just where they had
arrived, and to understand the situation ahead.

The scouts were now advancing very slowly, bringing into use many of the
little tricks they had learned when playing the Indian game in the
woods. It was easy work making their way along the open beach. Hugh had
now taken them away from the water so as to secure more or less
protection from the trees further back. Here they felt more at home, and
the forward movement was kept up steadily, minute after minute.

Then finally the scout master discovered that just ahead of them there
lay a peculiar formation of rocks. It ran all the way down to the water,
and further out, until lost to sight under the sea. This line of ragged
rocks had all the characteristics of a reef, only that it did not agree
with the conformation of the coast as most reefs do.

Here was the place that had been selected for the clever work of the
signal corps on the morrow. The scouts were to hide amidst these rocks
until dawn allowed the leaders to spy upon the fort with the field
glasses they had brought along for the purpose.

An hour or so before daybreak three of their number were to start back
along the beach to take up positions which had been pointed out by the
scout master while they were making their advance. These were to remain
constantly on the watch for any signals which might come in the shape of
the semaphore alphabet, wigwag work, or through the use of a piece of
broken mirror, with which each fellow had been armed before leaving the
ship, and which, in case of the sun shining, was to be used as a means
of sending messages along the line.

Should Hugh deem it safe to wave the white flag with its red square in
the center, he would expect that method to be put in practice, but as
this would mean more or less exposure on the beach, possibly it could
not be used.

It was with more or less thankfulness that he led his scouts into the
clump of rocks where they meant to make themselves as comfortable as the
conditions would allow. Here they could move around even after day came,
so long as they kept themselves from being seen by those in the fort.
Doubtless, the garrison would have numerous duties to perform, and
beyond keeping a fairly smart lookout for signs of an advancing
suspicious vessel, it would not go to any further trouble.

It was far from comfortable, though, sitting on those hard rocks, but
the boys made themselves believe that they were enjoying themselves
hugely. They could only converse in whispers, and Hugh even cautioned
them against doing too much of this, so that the time hung heavy on
their hands.

As they had all had considerable experience in roughing it at various
times, they finally settled down in the softest places they could find
near together, and managed to secure some sleep, though it came in what
Billy termed “cat naps.”

Hugh himself did not expect to get any rest. The whole success or
failure of the enterprise depended pretty much upon him. At least he
would be held responsible for any lapse that spelled defeat for the bold
mariners from the _Vixen_, when they attempted on another night to get
close to the fort in order that they could command its unconditional
surrender with the coming of dawn.

So the anxious scout master kept moving about much of the time. He would
crawl to a certain spot he had selected near the crest of the ridge of
rocks, and from which he was able to see the lights of the fort. Here he
expected in the morning to take observations through his powerful
glasses, and when the sun was suitable transmit any important
intelligence he had gleaned along to the scout next in line. In turn the
latter would pass it on until finally it was received aboard the war
vessel by Blake Merton, the entire work having been done by scouts.

Midnight came and went with all being well.

By now the other fellows seemed to have sunk into a sound sleep, and
this impressed Hugh so much that he tried his best to follow their
example. But the excitement under which he labored was so intense that
while he secured some comfort from stretching out at full length and
closing his eyes, not for a single minute was he able to forget himself.

Long practice in camping out in the woods at night had enabled Hugh to
tell successfully what the time might be from observing the stars in
their never-ceasing march toward the western horizon. When the young
moon went down it had been a few minutes after ten. That was nearly
three hours ago, as it must now be close on one o’clock. As daylight
could not be looked for until somewhere near half-past four he knew
there were still three more hours for him to lie around, first on one
side until that felt sore, and then turning on the other for a change.

When another hour had passed Hugh aroused three of the scouts, these
being the fellows who were to take up their stations as arranged on the
back trail, and relay each message as it came along. Perhaps there was
really little necessity for doing this, but Hugh believed in making
things doubly sure. If one of the signal senders failed to receive
properly the message, the next in line would likely have read it
correctly, and could relay it on.

There was another hour or so to wait after Sam, Walter and Billy had
been dispatched to their posts. Hugh allowed the rest to sleep on. He
stood watch, and cast many anxious glances toward the east where the
first faint flush of dawn would finally make itself manifest.

He knew that the _Vixen_ would have slipped her anchor, and gone further
down the coast before then, to take up a new anchorage at a place where
the conformation of the land promised to hide her presence from the
watchers at the fort. The scout who was located at the most southerly
station would thus still be in position to communicate with those
aboard.

Once Hugh had been greatly tempted to sally forth under cover of
darkness, and approach closer to the unseen fort, urged by the
impression that he might be lucky enough to pick up valuable information
in some fashion.

On second thought, however, he decided that his orders did not
contemplate any such rash movement. If in taking such a hazard he were
discovered and made a prisoner of war, of course all hope of taking the
garrison by surprise must be abandoned, and the game would go against
the Naval Reserve men.

Hugh had learned how scout law meant implicit compliance with orders,
and that under such conditions nothing should be attempted beyond the
bare reading of the duties as set forth by the commanding officer. He
must crush down any temptation looking to self-elevation, and the desire
to engage in an adventure for the sake of enjoying the thrill it might
entail.

How slowly the minutes dragged along! Hugh did not remember of ever
before being in a position where he almost counted the passing seconds.
But it could not be for long, and before daylight came he expected to
have the balance of his little band scattered among the rocks. In this
way they would run small chances of discovery, even though officers or
men from the fort took a notion to cross over to the land reef for some
purpose or other during the day.

He had just aroused Alec, Monkey Stallings and Don Miller by a gentle
touch and whispered words when he plainly heard the crunch of heavy
footfalls approaching.

Whoever it might be, the fact that he was coming from the direction of
the unseen fort, and would likely cross the rocky reef just at the point
where they happened to be crouching, made matters look serious.

“We will have to capture him, most likely!” Hugh whispered again, for he
knew that if they started to creep away there was already enough light
with the coming of dawn for them to be seen.

It was supposed that every member of the Coast Artillery in charge of
the fortifications beyond knew the rules by which these mock attacks are
governed. If they suddenly confronted this enemy, and made a demand for
his surrender he must immediately elevate his hands, and refrain from
trying to call out so as to warn his comrades of the impending peril.
That was one of the rules to be strictly observed on both sides. It
meant that the man had unwittingly placed himself in a position where
his capture or death at the hands of the hidden foeman could have been
easily accomplished, and therefore he must eliminate himself from
subsequent events just as though his life had indeed been sacrificed.

Hugh, however, thought that they would do better to leap suddenly upon
the other, and get him down before demanding that he surrender. They
were only boys, to be sure, but four to one is pretty heavy odds; and
besides they would have all the advantage that comes of a surprise.

Nearer came the crunching footsteps. Plainly the party did not seem
anxious to take any one unawares, for he walked as though wearing heavy
sea boots. Now he was ascending the reef, and the night air blew a whiff
of tobacco smoke from his pipe to the nostrils of the crouching scouts.
They saw his head, surmounted by a fisherman’s sou’easter hat rise above
the ridge, and then he walked straight into their extended arms.

They sprang on him furiously, and Alec, catching his leg adroitly in
that of the unknown, by a movement along the jiu-jitsu order as
practiced by the Japanese, managed to throw the man over, with every one
of the boys clinging to him.

“Surrender!” hissed Hugh, as he poked the man in the ribs with a shell
he had picked up. “Not a sound above a whisper, you hear? You’re a
prisoner of war, and held in the hands of the enemy!”

“Gosh all hemlock! whatever does this here mean?” gurgled the fallen
man; and when he heard him speak, Hugh knew their prisoner was not an
artilleryman, but a lobster catcher.



                              CHAPTER XI.
                      A TEMPTATION AND A VICTORY.


The four scouts were all sitting on their prisoner, and Alec Sands was
feeling around the man’s throat as though half tempted to try to shut
off his wind if he manifested any inclination to shout. But the captive
seemed to be so overcome with surprise that he could only express his
feelings in that short sentence ending the last chapter.

Quick to think, Hugh realized that he must enter into some sort of
explanation if he wished to save the day. This fisherman was not
supposed to be in the confidence of the fort’s commander and would know
next to nothing about the rules governing the great landing game. At the
same time if they allowed him to get away he might betray them to those
who were defending the shore batteries.

“What’s your name?” he asked shortly, in a tense whisper.

“Bige Quick!” came the ready reply.

“You’re a fisherman?” Hugh said next.

“I got some lobster traps out yonder, boss,” answered the man.

“And you were going out to make your regular morning visit to the
crawls—is that right, Bige?”

“That’s just what I calkerlated on doing as soon as sun-up kim erlong.”

“Well, you can’t go this morning, Bige,” continued Hugh. “And I’ll tell
you why. We belong on board a Government war vessel, and there’s one of
those war games on right now, you see? The Coast Artillery are manning
the fort, and they’ve defied the jackies to get close enough to demand
their surrender. We expect to hang out here all day, and you’ll have to
give us your promise that you’ll act with us. For letting your lobster
pots go till to-morrow I’ll promise you a five-dollar bill. Swear to
stand by us, and act just as though you belonged on board the scout
cruiser _Vixen_. Understand all that, do you, Bige?”

“Reckon as haow I do, Mister,” replied the man cheerfully, as it began
to dawn on his mind that he had stumbled on great luck at the peep of
dawn, since he could not make that much money half as easy by attending
to his lobster pots.

“Will you give us your solemn promise to stick by us through thick and
thin, and not try to get away at any time?” the scout master went on to
say.

“Yuh kin count on me bein’ with yuh, Mister. I ain’t got any too much
love for the sojers naow in thet fort. Every day they keep abangin’ away
with them big guns, till nigh all the chiny we got tuh hum hes been
broke. ’Sides thet, hang the luck, if they ain’t sot their old target
nigh bout over where I hes my lobster pots. Skeered ’bout all the fish
away sense they kim up here, they has. I give yuh my solemn promise, and
I sure hopes as haow yuh captures the hull shebang. Mebbe then they’ll
clear aout, an’ leave honest fishermen tuh their business.”

“All right, Bige, we’ll call it a bargain,” said Hugh, as he reached for
the big fist of the prostrate coast dweller. “Get up, boys. No need of
sitting on him any longer. Bige is one of us from now on. I’ll explain
some of the things to him while we hide among the rocks.”

After all, the seeming difficulty had turned out to be a blessing in
disguise; they had gained a recruit who might be useful to them in many
ways.

Hugh managed to let considerable light in on Bige Quick’s mind as they
lay hidden awaiting signs of life at the fort. In return the lobster
fisherman told him not a few valuable things about the habits of the
Coast Artillery, all of which Hugh soaked in, with an eye to making the
knowledge useful later on.

They were close enough to the fort to see the sentries walking up and
down, and when the breeze proved favorable they could even hear loud
voices at times, for close to the sea, the air was a good conductor of
sound.

When they knew the garrison must be at breakfast, the boys bethought
them of the cooked food they had carried along in their haversacks. So
Hugh gave the order that they should break their fast, which every one
proceeded to do, according to his fancy. They even fed Bige, having an
abundance of eatables along—trust boys for looking out to this end when
allowed to stock up of their own accord, for they know how a fellow’s
appetite may stretch.

Hugh crept up to his lookout to use his glass cautiously. Bige had
assured him that seldom did any of the garrison venture to walk along
the beach in the direction of the rocky reef; they had too many things
to do each day connected with the manning of the defensive coast works,
and the firing of the big disappearing guns.

About ten o’clock the first heavy detonation told that they were at
their business, and at long intervals until nearly noon the boys were
almost deafened by the cannonading. They could understand that the work
must be progressing favorably, since hearty cheers often followed the
discharge. Hugh might have noted where each projectile struck only that
he could not change his position without some danger of being seen, and
he was there for a different purpose than that of marking the hits and
misses of the Coast Defense Artillery.

He had mapped out his plans, and knew how the jackies aboard the _Vixen_
could surprise the defenders of the fort, once they received his
instructions as to how to proceed up the shore. He had closely examined
every spot with his glass, and felt positive that they did not have any
videttes posted below the rocks; doubtless they depended entirely on
their lookouts on the ramparts to discover the first signs of a hostile
ship either to the south or the north.

It was now high time, while the garrison still kept up their exciting
gun practice, to get in touch with those aboard the scout cruiser. So
Hugh set himself to work to manage this.

He kept his glass handy, that he might detect the least evidence tending
to show that their presence was suspected. At the same time he wrote out
a short sentence in cipher, which he gave to the other boys to transmit.

The sun was shining brightly, and the conditions were as nearly perfect
as they could be for heliograph work, if only it could be managed that
the next relay station might pick up the messages without those in the
fort being any the wiser.

It required careful treatment, but Alec and Don were skillful
manipulators of the mirror, and could send the quick flashes in a way
that would not be seen at the other side of the rocky reef, which acted
as a friendly barrier.

Alec quickly reported that he was in communication with the next
station. Then the scout master gave the order for the first message to
be sent along. It was going to take some little time to manage all this;
but the code simplified matters, since a single sign frequently stood
for a whole sentence.

When the next station gave the pleasing information that it had all been
correctly received and sent along the line, Hugh felt that things were
certainly progressing splendidly. And it may be mentioned that the rough
lobster fisherman was watching all this wonderful work with open mouth
and staring eyes; it had never occurred before to him that people could
“talk” while many miles apart with only a piece of broken looking-glass
and the sun’s bright rays to assist them.

So far all had gone well. Hugh could detect no sign in the region of the
hostile fort to indicate that suspicion had been aroused. Nevertheless
he did not mean to send a single unnecessary word along the relay line,
since it would be taking needless chances of discovery.

What he told the commander of the scout cruiser was that if he landed a
force of jackies they could come up the shore safely by keeping back of
the scrub, and being careful not to show themselves even once. He knew
only too well that the white suits of the Naval Reserve men would be
instantly spotted by the glasses of those who were watching all through
the livelong day for the first token of a hostile force in the vicinity.

Three different short messages did Hugh send. They took upwards of an
hour to move along; and when the last sign had been given, to tell the
next station on the south that the signaling was done, Hugh breathed a
sigh of relief.

So far as he knew all was well. He could see nothing unusual going on in
the fort, where the men were evidently getting their midday meal, and
strict discipline must have been relaxed for a spell, since snatches of
laughter and even of song came floating to his ears.

He lay there counting the minutes, wondering how long it would take the
men from the cruiser to arrive. Again and again did Hugh turn his
glasses backward and survey the beach as far as he could see it. Orders
had gone forth that the natives should keep away from the vicinity of
the fort as much as possible during the two weeks when the Coast
Artillery manned the same for their annual practice with the big guns.
This would account for the fact that the beach seemed quite deserted as
far south as he could see.

But then Hugh did not expect to catch any glimpse of the coming force.
If they were unwise enough to show themselves so that he could discover
them, what would hinder the sharp-eyed videttes on the ramparts of the
fort from doing the same, since they had been posted there with
instructions to report the least suspicious sign in any direction?

The other boys were taking things easy according to their several
notions of what constituted comfort. Had Billy been present, his idea
would have run along the line of a nice nap, for sleeping was one of
Billy’s strong points. Alec, Don and Monkey Stallings were more inclined
to spy on the enemy than do anything else. Several times Alec gave a
quick glance toward Hugh. He seemed to be struggling with something that
was gripping him pretty hard, and apparently fighting an inward battle.

The truth of the matter was that Alec had made an important discovery,
and at the same time a terrible temptation had come upon him. By the
merest accident in the world he had sighted a couple of officers from
the fort approaching the reef from an angle that was really beyond
Hugh’s range of vision. No one else had as yet seen them but Alec. If he
remained silent, the chances were that they must presently discover the
figures of the scouts crouching among the rocks, taking them by surprise
as it were.

Well, such a thing would spell the ruin of the game, from the standpoint
of the Naval Reservists. At the same time the failure of the plan was
bound to give the young scout master a black mark.

Perhaps after making a failure of this important game, Hugh might feel
it incumbent to resign his position as assistant scout master of the
troop; or the boys on their part might request his stepping down into
the ranks. That would mean the elevation of Alec to the proud post he
aspired to fill!

The temptation was very strong for a brief time. Alec hardly breathed,
and had observers been watching the boy they would have seen that his
hands opened and shut many times almost fiercely. In fact it was one of
the greatest crises that would ever come into his young life; and much
depended on the result.

Perhaps his better nature arose to denounce any such treacherous action
for which he could find no excuse whatever. Possibly, too, he looked
back to that time when Hugh and he had been up on the side of old
Stormberg Mountain, and he sprained his ankle so that he could not walk;
when instead of deserting him, that loyal comrade had taken him on his
back and carried him much of the way, until he could limp along with his
arm around Hugh’s neck.

Then and there the victory was won. Alec gritted his teeth hard together
and his eyes flashed fire. With the resolution to do his full duty as a
true blue scout, he crept over to where Hugh lay, and communicated his
important discovery to the other. Of course after that, the four boys,
together with the raw recruit, Bige Quick, found places of concealment.
The two officers sat down on the rocks not twenty feet away, discussing
all manner of matters of interest connected with the occupation of the
fort and their readiness to anticipate any attack, not once up to the
time they moved off suspecting that enemies hovered near by.



                              CHAPTER XII.
                     WITH THE BATTLESHIP SQUADRON.


“No sign of the jackies yet, Chief?” asked Don Miller when another half
hour had crept by and the afternoon was well on its way.

The boys had emerged from their places of concealment after the
artillery officers departed, and from time to time the scout master made
good use of his glasses, either to observe what was going on around the
fort or else to scrutinize the shore to the south.

“I was just going to tell you,” began Hugh, “that there’s some reason to
believe they’re coming right now. I caught a flash from the next
station, and you remember the boys had orders to signal us in case the
force from the cruiser came along. Hold out for another half hour and
perhaps something will happen.”

“Whee! I’m glad to hear you say so, Chief,” whispered Monkey Stallings,
who was evidently having a harder time keeping quiet than any of his
chums because of his restless nature.

Slowly the minutes dragged along. Occasionally one of the boys would
believe he had caught some slight motion in the bushes below.
Imagination, however, must have magnified the movements of a rabbit or
some other small animal into the cautious advance of a human being, for
none of them really saw any one until there came creeping toward them
from the nearby bushes a figure that they recognized as belonging to Sam
Winter.

Behind him came a second scout in khaki, none other than Walter Osborne,
and as Hugh saw still a third, who turned out to be Billy, he understood
that the column from the cruiser must be at hand.

Sure enough the white-clad jackies came trailing along, some even
getting down on their stomachs in order not to be discovered by the
videttes walking the ramparts of the nearby shore fort.

One by one they came with several leading officers in charge until the
whole space back of the friendly rocky reef was peppered with uniformed
Reservists, to the great wonderment of Bige Quick, who crouched there
thinking it the strangest sight he had ever laid eyes on. No doubt he
would also believe that to be the easiest five-dollar bill he had ever
earned in all his life, when Hugh paid it over as agreed upon.

Everything was now ready for the surprise. They had reached a striking
distance of the fort without being discovered. All that remained was for
them to notify the artillerists who had been caught napping that they
were prisoners of war, according to the rules of the game. And great
would be the glory accorded the navy for having played their part so
successfully. The Boy Scouts would of course come in for their share of
the honors, and nothing would be too good for the eight aboard the
_Vixen_ during the remainder of that memorable cruise.

At a given signal the rocks swarmed with men in white uniforms, and as a
bugle pealed out, hearty cheers announced that the navy had sprung a
tremendous surprise upon the army. This, following the well-won victory
of the navy football team only the preceding Thanksgiving, when the army
was humbled in the dust, would convince many scoffers that one arm of
the Government service seemed to be just at that time vastly superior to
the other.

Although the defenders of the fort were very much shocked at the ease
with which an enemy had been enabled to creep up and capture their
stronghold, doubtless it served as a lasting warning to them in the
future. They soon recovered from their feeling of chagrin, and welcomed
the naval men with open arms.

While men and officers were fraternizing, Hugh, at the wish of the
commander of the expedition, made good use of the mirror again. Getting
into communication with Blake Merton aboard the _Vixen_, hidden behind
that cape of land that jutted out so conveniently, he forwarded orders
that the scout cruiser should steam up the coast and embark the shore
expedition later on in the day.

And when they finally did go aboard, after having formally received the
surrender of the fort in order to complete the war game, they were a
jolly lot of jackies, for success always warms the heart and brings
smiles to the face.

The Boy Scouts had by this time become greater favorites than ever. The
splendid manner in which Hugh and his comrades had played their parts in
spying on the enemy and relaying the information they had succeeded in
accumulating until it was received aboard, had quite won all hearts.

When torpedo practice came along again, they were given every
opportunity to observe the clever manner in which the deadly missile was
discharged through the tube, and to join in the cheers that announced
when a hit had been made, although of course the whitehead torpedo had
not been charged for explosion.

Other features of the cruise consisted of certain maneuvers in
connection with the North Atlantic Squadron of battleships, then first
starting in for their late summer gun practice at sea off Portsmouth.
Greatly to the delight of the boys they were given an opportunity to
observe some of this big gun shooting, in which the gunners acquitted
themselves so creditably as to beat all previous records.

As the commander had promised should be the case as a reward for their
services in helping capture the hostile fort, Hugh and his mates were
allowed to have possession of the wireless for a certain length of time
almost every day. What messages those boys did send home, each of them
being determined that there should be preserved in the family archives a
record of a true wireless message sent by the son of the house from
aboard a Government war vessel cruising along the coast.

In return the eager operator up at the tree station on Cedar Hill told
them all the latest gossip of the home town, understanding how anxious
those eight exiles would be getting by this time for news that concerned
their neighbors and friends.

They learned much during those never-to-be-forgotten days aboard the
gallant _Vixen_. Each setting sun was viewed with deep regret as marking
one day less for their wonderful vacation. And many times did Hugh and
the rest declare that the first thing they meant to do upon arriving at
home was to send a hearty vote of thanks to Professor Perkins for having
been instrumental in securing them this undreamed-of happiness.

“And forever after this I’m going to keep my eye aloft when out on a
hike, in hopes of another balloon coming along, where the aeronaut will
require a helping hand! It surely pays better than anything I ever ran
across before,” was the way Billy expressed his feelings in the matter.

“Lightning never strikes in the same place twice, Billy, they say,” Hugh
told him, “but it’s just as well to keep your eyes open all the time,
because you never know when you may happen to run across a good thing.
Besides, a scout is supposed to be wideawake and on the alert. I was
wondering whether Arthur has found time to print those copies of the
dancing bear, Jumbo, that he promised us. Next time we get in touch with
the Cedar Hill Wireless Station I mean to ask him.”

“At the same time will you ask if the Russian got well enough to go up
after his hidden money so that he could start across the sea for his
home land?” asked Alec, who had taken considerable interest in the
affair, even though fortune had not allowed him to be one of those
connected with the rescue of the wounded owner of the hungry bear.

Hugh remembered this, and greatly to his delight Arthur managed to tell,
by using their condensing code, of course, how he had actually
accompanied the foreigner, at the request of the latter, to get his
secreted money, which showed what confidence the poor fellow now placed
in every boy who wore that significant khaki uniform.

The man had succeeded in finding the secret _cache_ which he had been
aiming to reach on that day when he slipped and fell over the fatal
little precipice. And by the time Hugh took this message, the Russian
was probably outside of Boston harbor bound homeward.

All this home news, with much else connected with their girl and boy
friends, as well as the love sent by parents and brothers and sisters,
was eagerly received by the eight exiles. They cudgeled their brains
trying to think up the most important messages to send back to Arthur
_via_ wireless; and Hugh had to cull out many as impossible to transmit
in the limited time allowed them for their use of the apparatus,
considering the slow receiving capacity of the scout on Cedar Hill.

So day followed day and each one seemed to bring new experiences to the
boys who accompanied the Naval Reserve men along the coast. Once they
met with quite a lively storm, and some of the scouts even feared they
might never see the dear ones at home again, but good management on the
part of those who had charge of the vessel averted the danger.

Then there was a baffling experience with the dense fog that came
drifting down from the Banks. There the warm water of the Gulf Stream
meets with the colder currents of air from the region of perpetual ice
and snow, causing vapor to form almost every day in the year.

No accident occurred during the hours in which the _Vixen_ was shrouded
in fog, but they heard the fog horns sounding, and the heavy whistle
that told of a liner off her course.

Finally the time came when the _Vixen_ had to return to port, as the
vacations of the jackies aboard had about expired, and most of them
would have to buckle down to business again, much to their regret.

Hugh and his seven comrades took train for the home town, feeling that
their experience with the Naval Reserve on their annual cruise had been
a most valuable lesson all around, and one which had brought them new
laurels as well.

“It was the greatest time ever,” sighed Billy as he and Hugh watched
from the car the familiar landscape fly past as they drew near home.
“And chances are we’ll none of us ever have such a glorious opportunity
again.”

Hugh did not answer, for truth to tell Billy was voicing his own
sentiments when he said this. Yet how little could they see ahead! Even
at that very minute events were shaping themselves so as to bring about
another combination that was likely to afford certain of the scouts yet
another wonderful experience in a new field that none of them had ever
dreamed of occupying. Just what that might be it would hardly seem fair
to tell at this late point in the story. For the benefit of those
readers who have become interested in the fortunes of Hugh Hardin and
his chums, it ought to be enough to say that their further adventures
will be continued in the next volume of this Series under the title of
“The Boy Scouts in the Saddle.”


                                THE END



                          Transcriber’s Notes


--Copyright notice provided as in the original—this e-text is public
  domain in the country of publication.

--Silently corrected palpable typos; left non-standard spellings and
  dialect unchanged.

--In the text versions, delimited italics text in _underscores_ (the
  HTML version reproduces the font form of the printed book.)





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