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Title: Stormy Voyage - Sandy Steele Adventures #3
Author: Leckie, 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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STORMY VOYAGE


      *      *      *      *      *      *

Sandy Steele Adventures

Black Treasure
Danger at Mormon Crossing
Stormy Voyage
Fire at Red Lake
Secret Mission to Alaska
Troubled Waters

      *      *      *      *      *      *


Sandy Steele Adventures

STORMY VOYAGE

by

ROGER BARLOW



Simon and Schuster
New York, 1959

All Rights Reserved
Including the Right of Reproduction
in Whole or in Part in Any Form
Copyright © 1959 by Simon and Schuster, Inc.
Published by Simon and Schuster, Inc.
Rockefeller Center, 630 Fifth Avenue
New York 20, N. Y.

First Printing

Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 59-13882
Manufactured in the United States of America
By H. Wolff Book Mfg. Co., Inc., New York



CONTENTS


  CHAPTER                                                           PAGE
  1 Off to the Mesabi                                                 11
  2 The Long Boats                                                    22
  3 Bull’s-Eye                                                        34
  4 A Plot Discovered                                                 45
  5 A New Friend                                                      58
  6 Man Overboard!                                                    73
  7 In the Locks                                                      81
  8 Fire!                                                             93
  9 Charged with Arson                                               105
  10 The Unsalted Seas                                               116
  11 The Big Blow                                                    130
  12 A Web of Lies                                                   142
  13 Cookie to the Rescue                                            156
  14 Checkmated                                                      167
  15 Safe in Port                                                    178
  16 Summer’s End                                                    184



                              CHAPTER ONE
                           Off to the Mesabi


Jerry James’s foot came down gently on the brake pedal of Old Faithful,
his cut-down, open-air jalopy, and as the car slowed, Sandy Steele
vaulted lightly over the side onto the pavement. With a wave of his hand
and the shout, “See you tonight, Jerry,” Sandy whirled and sprinted up
the front walk.

His long, gangling legs gobbled up the distance with astonishing ease
and catapulted Sandy up the porch steps three at a time. But then, after
the screen door had slammed shut behind him, Sandy Steele came to a
sudden halt as though tackled by an entire enemy football team.

“Dad!” he cried. “But I thought you’d be in Alaska by now!”

“Signals off, Sandy,” John Steele said, rising from the porch hammock
and laying aside his evening newspaper. He gazed soberly at his tall,
blond son. “You know, Sandy,” he went on, “I believe you’ve grown
another two inches in the few days I’ve been away.”

“It’s Mom’s cooking,” Sandy said, smiling. He brushed aside the cowlick
that had flopped over his eyes as he ran up the walk. His face resumed
its normal expression of quiet thoughtfulness, and he said, “What
happened, Dad?”

“Change of plans, Sandy. Instead of testing for uranium in Alaska, the
government has decided that I’d better spend the summer on the Mesabi
Range.”

“Mesabi?” Sandy repeated, frowning. Then, brightening, he exclaimed, “Oh
sure. That’s in Minnesota. The ore mines. Mr. Wilson told us all about
it in class the other day. Why are you going there instead of to Alaska,
Dad?”

John Steele’s face became grave.

“I don’t know how much your teacher told you about the Mesabi iron-ore
mines, son. But the truth is that these ore deposits are among our
country’s greatest treasures.” His voice turned grim. “And I’m afraid
they’re running out.”

Sandy looked perplexed. “But I thought there were whole mountains of ore
up there. At least, that’s what Mr. Wilson said.”

“Your teacher’s right, Sandy. But, unfortunately, most of these deposits
are of low-grade ore. As the son of a government geologist, you should
know what that means.” Sandy nodded soberly and automatically lifted a
hand to brush back the cowlick that had fallen forward again. His father
continued, “The average iron content of the Mesabi ore has been dropping
pretty steadily. If it gets much below 50 per cent, it would be doubtful
if it would be worth working. And the Mesabi, son—the Mesabi is the
greatest producer of iron ore in the world.”

“Gee,” Sandy said. “That _is_ serious, isn’t it?”

“Couldn’t be worse, son. From iron ore comes steel, and steel is the
backbone of any modern nation. That’s why it’s important for somebody to
uncover some high-grade deposits. And that,” he said, smiling at the
expression of deep seriousness on the face of his son, “that explains
why John Steele will spend his summer in Minnesota instead of Alaska.”

Suddenly he laughed. Leaning forward, he ruffled Sandy’s hair.

“Come, now. There are other important things in the world. Such as the
score of this afternoon’s game between Valley View and Poplar City. You
haven’t told me who won yet.”

Sandy grinned jubilantly. “We did,” he said. “Three to nothing.”

“Oh, ho! Shut ’em out, eh? How many strike-outs?”

“Twelve,” Sandy said, blushing. “But you should have seen the homer
Jerry hit! Boy! It must have traveled close to four hundred feet in the
air. Honestly, Dad, Jerry James could play in the big leagues if he
wanted to. Why, he’s got a big-league arm already. Today he caught two
men trying to steal second and he picked another man off third.”

Inwardly pleased at his son’s refusal to boast of his shut-out victory,
John Steele said, “Well, the pitching helps, too, Sandy.” He turned to
lead the way into the dining room of their comfortable home, when he was
stopped in his tracks by a cry of dismay from Sandy.

“What’s wrong, son?” he said, turning. “What is it?”

“Alaska!” Sandy burst out. “Don’t you remember, Dad? Jerry and I were
going to join you in Alaska this summer! That’s why we’d saved all the
money we made at Mr. James’s drugstore.”

Sandy’s father struck his forehead with the flat of his hand. “By
George, I’d forgotten all about it,” he said.

“Yes,” Sandy said, dejected. “It looks as if Jerry James and I will be
the only ones around Valley View this summer.” His face darkened.
“Pepper March is going to South America with his father. Won’t he rub it
in when he hears that our Alaska trip is off!” He shook his head. “And
Quiz Taylor’s got a job as counselor at a boys’ camp.”

“Oh, come now,” his father said. “It isn’t that bad. Maybe you and Jerry
can use all that spare time to sharpen up your forward-passing
combination.”

Suddenly, the look of disappointment disappeared from Sandy’s face. In
an instant he was his old high-spirited self, and he all but shouted,
“Dad! Dad! I’ve got it! Why can’t Jerry and I go to Minnesota?”

“Minnesota! What on earth would you do there?”

“Oh, I don’t know. Of course it isn’t as romantic as Alaska and all
that. But still—why, we could even ride cross-country in Old
Faithful—you know, Jerry’s jalopy. We’ve got enough money. And, maybe,”
he said, growing more excited, “maybe by the time we got there, you
could find a job for us in the ore mines!”

“Son,” John Steele said, “it’s an idea.”

“Sure, Dad—it isn’t as though Jerry and I aren’t strong enough to do a
man’s work.”

“Well,” his father said with a grin, “I don’t know for sure if you can
do a man’s work, yet, son—but I do know you can put away a man’s meal.
And unless I miss my guess, that’s fried chicken that I smell cooking in
there. So let’s go in and eat, and talk some more about this Minnesota
business.”


Jerry James was already behind the soda fountain in his father’s
drugstore when Sandy Steele came walking through the door. Sandy put on
a long face as he moved around the counter and began winding a white
apron around his own slender, hard-muscled waist.

“Hey, what’s wrong, Sandy?” Jerry said. “To look at you, you’d think it
was Poplar City that won this afternoon.”

“Bad news, Jerry.”

“What?”

“The Alaska trip’s off.”

“Oh, no!” Jerry groaned. “And after we saved all that money!” He slumped
forward on the counter and propped his lean, lantern jaw into his hands.
Then he ran his hands back over his close-cropped inky-black hair and
said, “I could tear it out by the handful! What happened, Sandy?”

“Dad’s orders were changed,” Sandy replied, carefully making his voice
sound glum. Then, unable to contain himself any longer, he let out a
whoop and whacked his chum soundly on the back. “But we’re going to
Minnesota instead!”

“Minnesota?”

“Sure thing! Dad says he’s pretty sure he can get us jobs in the ore
mines. Honest, Jerry, it’ll be great! Maybe it’s a chance we’d never get
again ... to go east I mean. The mines are right on the Great Lakes, you
know. Who knows? We might even take a trip on the Great Lakes.”

“Sa-ay,” Jerry breathed, his dark eyes gleaming. “That would be
something, wouldn’t it? But how will we get there? I mean, would we have
enough money for the train fare?”

“Don’t be a chump, Jerry. Have you forgotten Old Faithful?”

Well, Jerry James had forgotten. But the instant he remembered it, his
face lighted up with an expression of purest joy.

“What a trip!” he shouted. “Driving Old Faithful all the way from
California to Minnesota! Sleeping out at night under the stars! Boy, oh
boy, Sandy, I can hardly wait until—”

“I can hardly wait any longer,” an unfriendly voice cut in, and, turning
around, both boys looked into the features of Stanley Peperdine March.

“Pepper!” Jerry exclaimed. “Have you been waiting here all this time?”

“I have,” Pepper March said coldly. “I was wondering if you two brave
explorers were ever going to stop telling each other fairy stories.”

“I guess we were kind of charged up,” Jerry said sheepishly. “What’ll
you have, Pepper?”

“A Coke, please. And please remember not to put cracked ice in it.”

“Why no ice, Pepper?”

“It makes my teeth chatter,” Pepper said, and then, hearing Jerry
snicker, he flushed darkly and turned to Sandy to sneer, “So your old
man’s going to Minnesota?”

“Do you mean my father?” Sandy said, with a quiet note of warning in his
voice.

Sandy’s reply flustered Pepper March. He turned away to sip his drink,
pretending not to have heard. Sandy studied his old rival. As usual,
Stanley Peperdine March was dressed in the height of fashion. When
Pepper March was around, it was never hard to tell which boy came from
the wealthiest family in Valley View. In fact, Pepper’s people were
among the richest in the state. And he rarely overlooked a chance to let
the world know about it.

Sandy Steele moved down behind the counter a bit so as to look Pepper in
the eye, and said, “As I said before, Pepper, did you mean my father?”

Pepper looked deliberately at the soda jerk’s cap and white apron that
Sandy wore and said, “It seems to me that you’re getting kind of uppity
for a hired hand.”

Sandy felt himself flushing. He fought hard to keep control of himself,
and he carefully avoided looking into Pepper’s taunting eyes for fear of
getting angrier. Then he felt Jerry’s reassuring hand on his arm and
heard him say, “Be careful, Pepper, I’m warning you.”

“Oh, you two. Can’t you take a little joke? Of course, I meant his
father. What’s the difference, anyway? Father, old man—”

“Careful!” Jerry snapped.

“Oh, all right. All I meant was that I was wondering if Sandy’s old, uh,
if Mr. Steele was going to Minnesota to make ore testings. Is he?”
Pepper rushed on eagerly, dropping his customary air of superiority.

“Nosy, aren’t you?” Jerry grinned, but Sandy stopped him before he could
make further sport of the nettled Pepper.

“Why do you want to know?” Sandy asked evenly.

Pepper shrugged. “Just curious, that’s all.” He finished his Coke and
got off his stool with a jaunty air, and just then, Sandy Steele had a
sudden inspiration.

“I know why you want to know!” he said triumphantly. “That’s why you’re
going to South America with your father, isn’t it? To inspect the South
American ore fields!”

Pepper whirled in anger. “Think you’re smart, don’t you?” he snarled,
and Sandy smiled and said, “_I_ never said it, Pepper.”

“Oh, yes, you do!” Pepper went on, furious by now. “But let me tell you,
Mr. Goody-Goody, maybe we _are_ going to South America to look for ore!
And that’s nobody’s business but ours. And furthermore, my old man says
that anybody who bothers with the Mesabi mines any more must be crazy!
You hear that, Steele? So your old—” he stopped short at a warning
glance from Sandy, before racing on—“so your father’s going to Minnesota
on a wild-goose chase. He isn’t going to find anything but a lot of
dirt! And while you two dopes are sweating away in a worked-out iron
mine, I’ll be sailing up the Orinoco River on my father’s yacht.” He
smirked, threw a dime on the counter, made a little mocking bow at the
door, and went out.

For a moment, there was silence in the drugstore. Then Jerry James
picked up Pepper’s glass, rinsed it and dried it off and returned it to
the shelf. With a wink, he turned to his friend and said, “That Pepper’s
sure a windbag, isn’t he?” Sandy shook his head. His face was sober.

“I wish it was just talk, Jerry,” he said. “But I’m afraid it’s true.
Dad said tonight there was a possibility of just that very thing
happening. And he said it would be a terrible thing for American
industry if we had to start buying our iron ore in South America.”

For another moment, Sandy Steele frowned. He pushed his cowlick back
from his eyes and struck the counter top with the flat of his hand.
“Boy,” he said grimly, “now I’ve got another good reason for hoping that
Dad finds what he’s looking for in Minnesota!”



                              CHAPTER TWO
                             The Long Boats


Two weeks later, Old Faithful chugged away from the curb in front of the
Steele home with the farewells of Sandy’s mother ringing in the ears of
both boys.

“Goodbye, Sandy; goodbye, Jerry,” she had cried, waving one hand with a
gaiety that was at odds with the tears forming in her eyes. “Be good
boys, both of you. And please be careful! Give my love to your father,
Sandy.”

“Okay, Mom,” Sandy had shouted back. “And tell Aunt Netty I’ll send her
a postcard.”

Mrs. Steele had nodded and brushed a hand across her eyes. Then she
waved again. For fully another minute, she stood on the porch steps
watching until the freshly painted jalopy piled high with luggage and
other belongings at last disappeared around a corner. Then, with a sigh,
she went inside to begin packing for her own visit to a widowed sister
who lived in northern California.

In the front seat of Old Faithful, meanwhile, there was anything but
tears. Both boys wore wide grins on their faces as they rolled down the
main street in Valley View, waving and calling cheerfully to friends
that they passed. As they neared the bus terminal, they saw Quiz Taylor
herding a group of boys into a big station wagon.

“So long, Quiz,” Sandy called. “See you in September.”

Quiz Taylor looked up and his round, bespectacled face broke into an
affectionate grin. “So long, boys,” he yelled. “Hope you have an
ore-full time.”

Both Jerry and Sandy made wry faces at Quiz’s terrible pun, but then
they burst into good-natured laughter and waved again to their stubby
friend as Old Faithful sped on down the street.

“He’s something, that Quiz,” Jerry said.

“He sure is,” Sandy said. “I kind of wish he were coming along.”

“Well,” Jerry said slowly, spinning the wheel to make the turn that
would take them through the higher part of town lying between them and
the highway, “Quiz would be okay if we were going to write a history
about ore mines. But _working_ in one? Nosirree!”

“I guess you’re right, Jerry. Give Quiz a week up there and he’d have
the whole history of mining memorized, backward and for—”

“Oh, ho,” Jerry said, interrupting. “Do you see what I see?”

Sandy leaned forward. They were passing along Ridge Road, the finest
street in town. A hundred yards ahead of them, in front of the March
mansion, a big black Cadillac limousine was drawn up to the curb. A
uniformed chauffeur held the rear door open while Mr. March got in.
Standing on the curb, awaiting his turn, was Stanley Peperdine March.

“Shall we wave to the stinker?” Jerry asked with a grin.

“Might as well,” Sandy said. “No sense in holding a grudge.”

“Okay,” Jerry said, and as Old Faithful came abreast of the shining,
expensive March car, he tooted the horn gaily and called out, “Hi-ya,
Pepper, old sport.”

“Hi, Pepper,” Sandy yelled, and lifted his hand to wave. But Pepper
March had looked up and stiffened when he heard Jerry’s voice. He stared
straight at them both with open dislike, and then, as Sandy Steele
raised his hand in greeting, Pepper March raised his to his nose and
wiggled his fingers at both of them!

There was a silence in the front seat of Old Faithful. At last, it was
broken by Jerry James, saying in disgust, “See what I mean, Sandy?
You’re too nice to that stinker.”

“Oh, well,” Sandy said. “At least we can look forward to a whole summer
without Pepper.”

Then Jerry slipped his jalopy into second gear as they descended the
steep ramp leading down to the highway. In a moment, they had reached
the broad cement strip and Jerry carefully forced the speedometer up to
a point a few miles below the limit. Then he let out a long exultant
yell. “Only two thousand miles to go, Sandy!” he shouted above the roar
of Old Faithful’s motor.

“Yep,” Sandy said. “Minnesota, here we come!”


What a trip it was, from inland California east and north to the shores
of Lake Superior! The boys alternated at the wheel during those glorious
five days. They averaged 400 miles a day. For the first time, they got a
notion of the grandeur of their country, as Old Faithful whined
patiently up the terrific grades of the Rocky Mountains and the boys
could see the gigantic peaks rearing grandly in the air.

Then they were rushing down again into the valley of the Great Salt Lake
in Utah and through the clean, neat streets of Salt Lake City. After
climbing again into Wyoming, they drove across the Bad Lands of South
Dakota into Minnesota. It was wonderful, indeed, driving by day,
frequently pausing to take in the sights, and sleeping out under the
stars.

One night they chose a farmer’s field to spread their sleeping bags in.
In the morning, Sandy awoke suddenly. He had dreamed that his mother had
come into his bedroom and was smothering him with kisses. “Aw, Mom,” he
protested, “cut the kissing.” When he opened his eyes, he saw that he
was really being kissed—by a big brown cow who was busily licking his
face.

“I guess the cow didn’t like your sleeping on the best eating-grass,”
Jerry laughed as they ran from the field and jumped back into Old
Faithful.

That was on the morning of the last day, and by that afternoon, they had
driven through Duluth and finally come to the Lake Superior port of Two
Harbors—not far from the Mesabi pits inland.

When the two of them got their first glimpse of the lake they couldn’t
believe their eyes.

“It’s as big as the ocean,” Sandy said in amazement.

“You can’t even see the sides, let alone the other end,” Jerry said. “It
sure is different seeing a thing than reading about it in school.”

But they _really_ boggled when they saw the enormous ore docks built out
into the water, with the famous “long boats” of the Great Lakes nestled
beneath them. The size of the equipment for loading the boats with
precious ore was truly unbelievable.

“They’re like skyscrapers lying on their sides,” Sandy said. “Look,
look, Jerry! See all those railroad cars up on top of the docks. There
must be hundreds of them.”

“Railroad cars! Is that what they are? They look like Tootsie Toys from
here.”

“Yes, but how about those ore boats? I never saw ships so long. Look at
that big one over there, will you, Jerry? It must be twice as long as a
football field.”

Although Sandy was not aware of it, he had come pretty close to hitting
a bull’s-eye. Some of the ships, or boats as they call the Great Lakes
vessels, actually were 600 feet and more in length, and a football
field, as Sandy well knew, is only 300 feet long. Just then, the boys
heard a terrific clanking and clanging above them. Looking up, they saw
a gigantic crane seize a railroad car as though it truly were a toy,
turn it over in the air and let the ore run out of it—like a boy shaking
sand from his shoes. The ore dropped down through chutes into the holds
of the freighters below.

For a full minute, neither youth could speak. They were too filled with
admiration for the vast industry their country had created on the shores
of the inland seas, and too full of pride in the achievement.

Then Sandy said, “We’d better go find my father before it gets too
dark.”

Jerry nodded and they climbed back into Old Faithful and drove on. At
last, when they came to what appeared to be a series of hills filled
with puffing and panting steam shovels occupied in slicing deep cuts
into the hillside, Jerry stopped the car in front of a sign that said:

                          Lake Ore Mines, Inc.

“That’s it!” Sandy exclaimed. “That’s where Dad’s doing his testing.
Lake Ore Mines. Come on, Jerry, drive through the gate.”

“But, Sandy,” Jerry said in disbelief. “These can’t be mines. I don’t
see any mine shafts.”

Sandy grinned. “If you’d paid more attention to Mr. Wilson instead of
diagraming football plays you’d know that the Mesabi doesn’t have
shafts. There’s so much ore on top of the ground here that they don’t
need them. They just skim it off with steam shovels. Strip mining, they
call it.” With a sheepish shrug of his broad shoulders, Jerry James let
out the clutch and Old Faithful leaped ahead. They drove along a bumpy
dirt road, raising clouds of dust. They went for about a mile across a
maze of railroad tracks over which the ore cars passed, before they
reached a rough wooden shack.

The front door opened and a short, strongly built man stepped out. He
had the rolling gait of a sea captain, and from this and the nautical,
visored cap that he wore, Sandy guessed that he was a skipper of one of
the ore boats. The man stopped and looked at them, and both boys saw
that he had a small, flat nose, little brown, close-set eyes and thin,
tight lips. He needed a shave, too.

“Pardon me, sir,” Sandy said politely. “But can you direct us to the
Government Geologist’s station?”

The man paused and gave them a searching look before he answered. “Back
there,” he said, jerking his finger over his shoulder—and walked away.

Jerry and Sandy exchanged glances. Then the shack door opened again.
This time, John Steele stepped out—trim and youthful-looking in his
leggings and whipcord breeches and open-necked shirt and wearing the
campaign hat he’d saved from his days in the U.S. Marines.

“Dad!” Sandy shouted, overjoyed. He almost knocked his friend down in
his haste to greet his father.

“Well, well,” John Steele said. “If it isn’t the adventure twins from
Valley View, California. How are you, son?” he said, grasping Sandy’s
hand. Then he gave Jerry a hearty whack on the arm. “Glad to see you
again, Jerry. How was the trip out?”

“Great, sir!” Jerry said with enthusiasm. “I’ll never forget it.”

“That’s the ticket. Do these things while you’re young, boys. Sort of
gives you a cushion of memories for your old age.”

John Steele’s face went grave.

“You didn’t get my telegram, did you, Sandy?”

“Telegram, sir?”

“I see you didn’t. Well, boys, buck up—there’s another dose of bad news
coming. I’m afraid I won’t be able to get jobs for you.”

“No jobs!” the two youths chorused disbelievingly.

“That’s right. This low-grade ore situation has gotten so bad that ...
well, to make a long story short, boys, there’s not as much work around
here as there used to be. And that means jobs only for those who really
need them.”

Sandy and Jerry stood as though thunderstruck. They felt as though their
world had suddenly caved in on them. Neither of them knew what to say,
but both felt the same weary, sinking feeling in their stomachs. For a
long second, Sandy Steele stared at his father. It had been on the tip
of his tongue to argue with him, to say that they could do the job as
well as any grown man. But Sandy knew better.

He knew that his father would be angered by any such suggestion. He
would remind Sandy that most of the men in the mines were family men
with responsibilities. No, Sandy thought, this is just another one of
those times where I’ve got to “take it on the chin,” as Dad says.

Taking it on the chin was sort of a Steele family motto. John Steele had
no use for whiners or whimperers, boys who complained that their coach
didn’t like them or their teacher was unfair. He had always taught his
son to be dogged. “It’s the dogged men who get things done, Sandy,” he
would say. “Even if most of the world’s applause often goes to the
flash-in-the-pan.”

Remembering this, Sandy lifted his chin and tried to grin. “What do we
do now, Dad,” he said, “punt?”

Mr. Steele smiled. “That’s the spirit, son,” he said. “Now, listen. The
sun will come up tomorrow just as it always does and by then you may be
over this little disappointment. So supposing you two walk around the
mines a bit while I finish my work, and then we can have dinner and talk
things over.”

“Okay, Dad,” Sandy said.

“Sure thing, Mr. Steele,” said Jerry.

Trying to hold their heads higher than they felt like holding them, the
two boys turned and strolled off toward the lake shore. As they walked,
they hardly heard the rattle-and-bang of the steam shovels digging ever
deeper into the hillsides. Nor were they very much aware of the railroad
cars that would receive the ore and then go clattering out on the ore
docks to fill the holds of the ships. They were too deeply plunged into
gloomy thoughts of the long, dull summer that lay ahead of them back
home in Valley View.



                             CHAPTER THREE
                               Bull’s-Eye


Suddenly, Sandy Steele stiffened. He grabbed his chum by the arm and
pointed in horror toward the lake.

There, not a hundred feet away, an elderly, white-haired, finely dressed
gentleman stood gazing at one of the loading boats. He was absolutely
unaware of the certain death that traveled toward him in the shape of a
wildly swinging ore bucket.

“Down!” Sandy shouted. “Down, sir!”

The old man did not hear him. There was too much clamor about him.

Sandy and Jerry both dug their toes into the hard surface of the ground
beneath them—like track sprinters ready to go off their mark. But the
man was too far away. They could not have covered twenty feet before
that horrible bucket would have done its awful work. With dreadful
speed, the huge bucket—weighing two tons or more—was swinging closer,
ever closer. And still the old man was unconscious of the fact that
perhaps only a few seconds lay between his life and his death.

With a cry of despair, Sandy Steele sought to tear his eyes away. But he
could not. Sandy was not that sort of youth. In anguish, his eyes roved
the surrounding area—hunting for some means to save the old man’s life.
Then they fell upon a chunk of ore. It was just a trifle bigger than a
baseball.

Without a second’s delay, Sandy Steele pounced upon the piece of ore. He
grasped it with his two-fingered, pitcher’s grip and whirled and threw
with all his might. Every ounce of strength in Sandy Steele’s lanky,
cablelike muscles went into that throw. The ore left his hand and
whizzed toward the big bucket with all the speed that had had the Poplar
City batters eating out of Sandy’s hand only a few weeks ago.

CLANG!

The ore struck the bucket with a resounding, echoing ring!

Instantly, the old man’s head turned.

He saw death but a few feet from his head.

In the next instant, he dropped to the ground and the bucket passed
harmlessly above him.

“Are you all right, sir?” Sandy Steele cried.

Both Sandy and Jerry had charged up to the old man’s assistance
immediately after Sandy had made his splendid throw. Now, they helped
him regain his feet.

“Why, I guess I _am_ all right, boys,” the man said, giving just the
smallest shudder as he dusted himself off. “But one more second, and I
guess I _wouldn’t_ be.” He looked sharply at Sandy.

“Was it you who threw that rock?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Well, son, it must have been a great throw. Worthy of old Christy
Mathewson himself. But better than that, boy, you saved my life. And I’m
much obliged.” He held out his hand. “What’s your name, son?”

“Steele, sir. Sandy Steele. This is my friend Jerry James.”

“Pleased to meet you, boys. My name is John Kennedy.” He adjusted his
coat lapels and turned to look out at the loading docks again. “See that
boat out there? That’s one of mine. The _James Kennedy_. Named after my
father, boys. He founded the family shipping line.” A shadow passed over
the man’s normally ruddy and pleasant features. “I guess I was too busy
watching the _James Kennedy_ loading to notice that confounded bucket
was getting set to whack my head off.” Mr. Kennedy shot them a sly look.
“Like to go aboard her?”

“Would we!”

“I’ll say!”

Smiling, Mr. Kennedy led the way toward the long narrow ore freighter.
Loading operations had been completed by the time they reached the dock,
so they were allowed to proceed with little danger. They walked in awe
beneath the now silent ore chutes, conscious as never before of their
great size. Then, when they had come abreast of the _James Kennedy_’s
wheelhouse and superstructure in the after part of the ship, their host
said genially, “All right now, boys—hop to it. Down the ramp there and
wait for me.”

As Sandy’s feet struck the slightly grimy steel deck, he noticed that
the crewmen were busily covering up the load of ore that had just been
deposited in the vessel’s holds. For a moment, he watched them. Then he
gave a start.

The man who was directing them was the same short, powerfully built man
that they had seen coming out of John Steele’s field-testing shack a
little earlier.

“Oh, ho,” said Mr. Kennedy, observing Sandy’s gesture. “So you know
Captain West, eh?”

“Not exactly, sir. But I do remember seeing him coming out of my
father’s field station only a few minutes ago.”

“Your father’s field sta—” Mr. Kennedy struck his hands together
sharply. “Why, of course! How could I have missed the resemblance!
You’re John Steele’s son, aren’t you?” Sandy nodded proudly, and Mr.
Kennedy rambled on, beaming: “Nothing like having your life saved by
your friend’s son. Sort of keeps it in the family. And I certainly must
tell John Steele what a fine boy he has! Ah, that’s it—down that ladder
there. Smells like we’re just in time, boys.”

Still chuckling, Mr. Kennedy gingerly followed Sandy and Jerry as they
clambered down a narrow, steep, iron stairway that led into a cabin
fitted with a long table having benches on either side. A few of the
crewmen in faded blue shirts and dungarees were already seated, eating.
They smiled at the two youths.

“This is the galley, boys,” Mr. Kennedy said. “Ah, here’s Cookie.”

Sandy and Jerry burst out laughing as the little man shuffled into the
galley, and then, seeing them, threw up his hands in mock horror and
made a dive as though to save the platters of food on the table from
destruction.

“S.O.S.,” he wailed, “S.O.S. Save Our Suppers!”

“All right, Cookie,” Mr. Kennedy chuckled. “That’ll be enough. How about
rustling up a feed for my two young friends? This lad here,” he started
to say, looking at Sandy. But then, seeing Sandy blush, he went on:
“This lad here has just done the Kennedy Shipping Line a great favor.
Show him how we treat our friends, Cookie.”

“Aye, aye, sir,” Cookie said, bobbing his bald head and grinning. He
shuffled off, and when he returned, he almost staggered under the burden
of the platter he held. Boy, Sandy and Jerry thought, eying the platter
hungrily, Mr. Kennedy sure does treat his friends well!

There were thick, juicy steaks and plates of French fried potatoes,
pitchers of cold milk and plates of hot rolls and hard, cold butter—and,
after dinner, two kinds of pie and plenty of ice cream.

“Boy, oh, boy,” Jerry James said weakly, after he had at last put down
his fork. “I’d say that meal was worth the drive from California—even if
we didn’t get jobs in the mines.”

“Jobs?” Mr. Kennedy said. “Mines?”

“Yes, sir,” Sandy put in. “You see, Dad thought that he’d be able to
land us summer jobs. That’s why Jerry and I drove all the way from
Valley View, where we live. But when we got here, Dad told us that work
was so slow in the mines there just weren’t any jobs.”

As he spoke, Sandy’s good spirits began to drop a little. So did
Jerry’s. For the moment, in the excitement of the events following the
incident with the ore bucket, they had forgotten all about their
disappointment. But now they realized once more that they were stranded
2,000 miles from home, without a job and just enough money to take them
right back where they’d started from.

Mr. Kennedy looked at them soberly. “That _is_ too bad,” he said. “But
what your father says about the mines is true, Sandy.” He frowned. “How
I wish it were not! Listen, boys, and I’ll let you in on a little
business secret.” They leaned toward him, and Mr. Kennedy went on. “This
boat, the _James Kennedy_, is making one of my firm’s last runs down the
lakes to Buffalo.” He shook his head. “There’s just nothing to be done
about this low-grade-ore situation, and I’ve decided to sell the
shipping line.” He grimaced. “In fact, I’m selling out to my worst
competitor, not the sort of fellow I’d like to sit down to dinner with,
boys. But he’s made me an offer, and I’m taking it.

“That’s business, boys. So, you young fellows have the rather doubtful
honor of sitting in the galley of the last of the Kennedy boats to—”

Mr. Kennedy’s mouth came open and he brought his clenched hand down on
the table with a crash that startled Sandy and Jerry.

“Why not?” he said, smiling at them.

“Why not what, sir?” Sandy asked in polite puzzlement.

“Why not sign on a pair of young huskies from California as a sort of
small reward for saving this leathery old skin of mine—that’s what!”

Sandy Steele drew a sharp breath of joy and Jerry James had to keep from
jumping on the mess table to dance a jig.

“You don’t mean it, sir!” Sandy gasped.

“Certainly, I mean it. Why, wouldn’t you boys rather see the Great Lakes
from the decks of a long boat than from the bottom of some dusty old ore
digging?”

“Would we!” Jerry shouted. “Just ask us, that’s all—just ask us!”

“I already have,” Mr. Kennedy said, chuckling. He was obviously enjoying
the sensation his offer had created.

“Well, then, we accept,” Sandy Steele said quickly. “When do we start?”

“You can come aboard tonight, if you like. In fact, you probably should.
The _James Kennedy_ is shoving off in the morning. You’d better not take
any chances on missing her.”

“Right,” Sandy said, grinning in delight at his friend Jerry. Then, his
face fell and he exclaimed, “Dad! We promised Dad we’d have dinner with
him!”

Mr. Kennedy glanced at his watch. “Why, it’s only six o’clock,” he said.
“If I know John Steele, he’ll be working well past that.” Looking up, he
said, “Don’t tell me two deck hands like yourselves are going to object
to eating a second dinner?”

Jerry James grinned sheepishly. “Well, sir, if you put it that way—I
guess not. In fact,” he said, rubbing his stomach gently, “I’m not quite
as full as I thought I was.”

“I thought so,” Mr. Kennedy said, getting to his feet and leading the
way out of the galley. “Now,” he continued, puffing at the exertion of
climbing the ladder topside, “you boys had better get your things
together and report back here to Captain West. He’ll be notified that
you’re shipping aboard. Captain West’s one of the finest skippers on the
Kennedy Line.”

They walked together to the lake shore. At the end of the dock, Sandy
could see a handsome, well-kept limousine—not flashy and loaded with
chrome, like Pepper March’s.

“I’m driving back to Buffalo, boys,” Mr. Kennedy told them. “Getting too
old to weather those Great Lakes storms, I guess. I’ve sailed the
Kennedy boats since I was fifteen, but now....” His voice trailed off
and his kindly face saddened. “Well, now, I guess things are changing.
The Kennedy boats will soon be the Chadwick boats. By the time I get
home, I suppose Paul Chadwick will have the whole deal drawn up and
waiting for my signature.”

He held out his hand. “Goodbye, boys. Have a happy voyage—and remember
to give your father my best, Sandy.” He turned and walked slowly to the
car and the chauffeur who held a rear door open for him. He was a
mournful figure as he got in the back and drove off in silence.

Sandy and Jerry waved as the car departed, and then Sandy said through
clenched teeth, “Oh, how I hope Dad can locate some high-grade ore
deposits!”

“Me, too!” Jerry James exclaimed. “I’d hate to see a fine old gentleman
like Mr. Kennedy forced to sell his shipping line.”

“And to someone he doesn’t trust!” Sandy added, his face serious and his
voice grim. “Come on, Jerry, we’d better hurry if we want to get to
Dad’s place before dark.”



                              CHAPTER FOUR
                           A Plot Discovered


“Now, supposing I tell you my good news?”

The speaker was John Steele. He asked his question as he and Sandy and
Jerry carried their loaded trays from the cafeteria-style mess hall to
their table on a terrace outdoors overlooking the lake.

Ever since the two youths had rejoined Sandy’s father—almost bumping
into Captain West as he came out of the field shack for the second time
that day—they had been eagerly recounting their good fortune. Sandy’s
father had been delighted to hear that his old friend John Kennedy had
signed on his son and Jerry for the Duluth-to-Buffalo run. At one point,
when he asked Sandy how they had met Mr. Kennedy, Sandy flushed and
looked away.

Jerry James had proudly jumped into the breach. “Sandy saved Mr.
Kennedy’s life, Mr. Steele,” Jerry had said.

Then, of course, nothing would do but that Jerry should relate the
entire episode while John Steele listened with shining eyes. At last,
Mr. Steele had proposed dinner. Now, as he said, “Supposing I tell you
my good news?” Sandy was glad to have someone change the subject.

“Sure, Dad,” he said. “Fire away.”

John Steele drew a deep breath. “I’ve discovered some high-grade ore
deposits,” he said.

For the second time that day, Sandy and Jerry felt a wild thrill of joy.
For a day that had started out so badly, things were indeed looking up!

“Wonderful, Dad, wonderful! Where?”

“Not too far from Lake Superior. Of course, they’ll have to run the
railroad spur a bit farther inland, but that’s really no problem.” John
Steele’s voice took on a note of pride. “Matter of fact, these deposits
are rather rich. Sixty per cent iron content, I’d say—maybe even more.”

“What a day, huh, Jerry? Just think, this means that Mr. Kennedy may not
have to sell his lake boats, after all.”

“That’s right, son. If this vein is as rich as I think it is, he may
even have to build a few more boats—to take care of the load.”

Sandy Steele’s eyes sparkled with excitement. “Dad,” he burst out, “I’ve
got a great idea!”

“What’s that, Sandy?”

“Where can I get in touch with Mr. Kennedy? He was leaving for Buffalo.”

“Why, I would say he’s heading for Minneapolis first. He won’t be there
until quite late. Why, Sandy—what do you have in mind?”

“I’m going to put in a long-distance call and tell him the good news!
After all, he’s been pretty good to Jerry and me. This is the least we
can do for him.”

“I’d say you’ve been pretty helpful already, Sandy,” Mr. Steele drawled.
Then, smiling, he went on, “But you don’t need to worry. That’s all been
taken care of. Captain West has been informed, and he will tell Mr.
Kennedy.”

“Oh,” Sandy said, a note of doubt mingling with the disappointment in
his voice.

“Sandy!” John Steele’s voice was sharp. “What did you mean by that ‘Oh’?
You make it sound as though Captain West is not to be trusted.”

“Oh, no, sir,” Sandy rushed on, embarrassed. “Nothing of the kind. I
don’t even know him, Dad—except by sight. And I’ve heard Mr. Kennedy
himself say that Captain West was a very fine skipper.”

“He is that,” Sandy’s father said, relaxing. “I guess I misunderstood
you, son.”

“Anyway,” Jerry James put in, “it will all be in the newspapers, won’t
it, Mr. Steele?”

“Not exactly, Jerry. You see, these things take weeks, even after you’ve
made your initial discovery. Not that I’m not certain of these deposits.
Far from it! I’ve never been more so. But there is always a certain
amount of time before a report is properly nailed down—firmly enough for
the newspapers to print it, that is.”

“But what you’ve discovered today, Dad—that’s enough to make Mr. Kennedy
change his mind about selling?”

“It certainly is!”

“Good,” Sandy said. Then, laying down his knife and fork, he leaned back
in his chair with a sigh. He brushed back his cowlick and looked
sorrowfully at the slice of roast beef remaining on his plate.

“Honestly,” he said, “I don’t think I’ve got room for another single
ounce.”

“Well, well,” Jerry James said, apologetically, as he reached over and
speared the morsel with his fork. “I think that I just might be able to
handle it.”


The unbelievably long silhouette of the _James Kennedy_ lay long and
dark like a great sea serpent against the looming bulk of the ore dock
as Sandy Steele and Jerry James returned to the lake shore. They carried
suitcases in which they had hurriedly stuffed the few things they’d be
needing for shipboard life. Each had put in soap and comb and toothpaste
and toothbrushes and two sets of dungarees for working hours, plus a
good pair of slacks and a sport shirt for those days when they hoped to
go ashore in Great Lakes ports like Detroit or Cleveland.

They had disposed of Old Faithful easily enough. Sandy’s father had been
pleased to take charge of Jerry’s jalopy while they were gone. It was
just what he needed for the short trips between his field shack and the
ore borings.

As the two friends walked up the _James Kennedy_’s ramp, their feet were
dragging just a trifle. They had had a long and eventful day, and they
were tired. When they stepped on deck, Jerry lost his balance and
stumbled. Sandy had to shoot out an arm to keep him from falling.
Suddenly, out of the dark, a voice growled, “Late, ain’cha?”

Sandy stopped dead, his hand still grasping Jerry’s arm. He heard a low
snicker, and then the voice said, “Jumpy, too, ain’cha?”

“Well, no,” Sandy Steele said slowly, his eyes searching the darkness.
“Where are you?”

“Over here.”

As their eyes became accustomed to the darkness, the two youths made out
the figure of a tall man seated on a canvas chair. He leaned back
against the bulkhead and stared at them from unfriendly eyes.

“I guess you two are Ma Kennedy’s little chicks,” he sneered. “That
right?”

Sandy Steele felt a quick rush of anger. But he controlled himself and
said, “We’re the men Mr. Kennedy signed on, if that’s what you mean.”
“Men!” The tall man slapped his feet on the deck and cackled. “‘Men,’ he
says! Ain’t that a hot one?” He glared at them. “Which one of you’s
named Steele?”

“I am,” Sandy said.

“Go down below and report to the skipper. He’s waiting for you. First
deck down, first cabin to starboard.”

“To starboard?” Sandy repeated, and then, remembering that he was aboard
ship, he blushed in the dark. The tall man’s cackle of derision didn’t
help his self-control any. But Sandy resolved to ignore the man. With a
reassuring squeeze of Jerry’s arm, he left his friend and clambered
below.

Going down the ladder, Sandy Steele hoped the unfriendly tall man would
not make Jerry a target for his ridicule. Jerry James was good-natured
enough, but he did have a hair-trigger temper.

When Sandy reached Captain West’s cabin, he stopped and knocked.

“Come in,” a gruff voice called, and Sandy pulled the heavy bulkhead
open and stepped inside a small, dimly lighted room. Captain West was
seated at a desk. He had his back to the door, but he swung around when
Sandy entered. Sandy noticed that he still hadn’t shaved. Apparently he
had been writing a letter, for he laid down a fountain pen with the air
of a man who has been interrupted.

“Who are you?” Captain West growled, even though Sandy was sure that he
had recognized him.

“Sandy Steele is my name, sir.”

“Oh, you’re one of the two kids old man Kennedy—” Captain West stopped
and ran a thick stubby hand across his lips. “How well do you know
Kennedy?” he snapped.

Sandy was taken aback. “I don’t understand you, sir.”

“Don’t play dumb with me, Steele. You know what I mean. Are you a
relative of his, or something? A nephew, maybe?”

“No, sir. I met him today for the first time.”

Captain West showed his disbelief. His thin lips parted and he started
to laugh. It wasn’t a friendly laugh. Listening to it made Sandy feel
anything but good-humored.

“C’mon, kid.” Captain West stared. “Let’s have the truth. What’s your
connection with Old Man Kennedy?”

Sandy Steele was furious inwardly. He hadn’t liked the way the tall man
topside had referred to Mr. Kennedy, but to hear Captain West—the valued
skipper of the Kennedy Shipping Line—going on in the same disrespectful
tone, well, that was going too far.

“I _am_ telling the truth, Captain,” Sandy said coldly. “I only met
_Mr._ Kennedy today, and that was by accident.” Captain West raised his
thick, dark eyebrows quizzically, and Sandy, with great reluctance,
launched into the tale of the ore bucket.

When he had finished, he found, to his amazement, that Captain West was
regarding him with what could only be disgust!

“So _that’s_ the answer,” Captain West muttered. With a sort of
displeasure, he swung around and began writing again.

“All right, Steele,” he said over his shoulder. “Mr. Briggs will show
you and the other boy to your quarters. And you can report to Cookie in
the morning.”

“Cookie!”

Sandy Steele couldn’t believe his ears. Before he could stop himself, he
had taken two quick steps around to the side of Captain West’s desk.
With swift, reddening anger, Captain West threw down his fountain pen
and slapped two hairy paws over the letter he’d been writing.

“Are you insubordinate already?” he shouted. “Who do you think you are,
questioning a skipper’s orders like that? D’ya think I’m going to let a
pair of punk kids the likes of you work topside where the men are? Not
on your life! You’ll report to the galley where you belong, and leave
the men’s work to the men. Now, get out of my sight!”

Sandy Steele felt himself going hot and cold by turns. He clenched and
unclenched his fists as he stood there, looking down into the little
piggish eyes of Captain West. They seemed to gleam wickedly in the
reflected light of the desk lamp. Finally, with a low, mumbled “Aye,
aye, sir,” Sandy Steele turned slowly around and left.

Abovedeck, he found Mr. Briggs. Apparently, he had not bothered to make
game of Jerry, for the two of them stood against the rail gazing out at
the moon that had just begun to rise over Lake Superior. In the light of
the moonlight shimmering on the water, Mr. Briggs got a look at Sandy’s
whitened face.

“Ho, ho,” he cackled. “Skipper gave you the rough side of his tongue,
eh? Well, you’ll get used to it. Here, let me show you two below.”

They went down, down and down, to the lowest hold, and as they descended
the ladder, Sandy Steele wondered to himself if he could ever possibly
get used to an insulting man like Captain West. He was thinking the same
thing as he and Jerry tumbled wearily into the bunks which occupied
almost all the space in their tiny cabin. Jerry slept below, and Sandy
above.

The more Sandy thought of Captain West, the more convinced he became
that he and Jerry should leave the ship before the _James Kennedy_ cast
off her moorings and got under way. But, no, he thought again, that
would be too much like quitting. Still, what were they to do? For some
unexplained reason, Captain West despised them and was determined to
make their voyage as unpleasant as he could. But why? Sandy could not
understand it. He forced his tired brain to go over all the events of
the day. He could recall seeing Captain West twice at his father’s field
station. Then, he had seen him again when Mr. Kennedy brought them
aboard ship. Apart from that, he had never seen the man before.

Suddenly, in a tiny corner of Sandy Steele’s brain, a light flashed.
Astounded, unable to believe what he remembered seeing, Sandy shot
erect. His head struck the overhead a painful blow, and below him Jerry
James sputtered out of a sound sleep.

“Sandy! Sandy, what happened?”

“I just hit my head, but never mind that, Jerry,” Sandy whispered.
“Listen, remember when Mr. Kennedy was saying so sadly that the Kennedy
boats would have another name soon?”

“Yes?”

“Can you remember the other name?”

“Sure. It was Chadwick. He said he was completing a deal with Paul
Chadwick.”

Jerry James heard a sharp hiss above him, and then the rustling of
bedclothes. Then, to his surprise, a pair of long, lean-muscled legs
dropped down in front of his eyes. In the next instant, Sandy Steele was
crouching in his underwear alongside Jerry’s bunk, whispering excitedly.

“Chadwick! That’s it! Listen, Jerry, when I came in to Captain West’s
cabin tonight, I interrupted him as he was writing a letter. I didn’t
mean to see who it was addressed to, but I did.” Sandy paused
dramatically. “It was addressed to Mr. Paul Chadwick!”

For a long second, there was a silence in the little cabin, a silence
broken only by the heavy breathing of the two youths. Then, as Jerry
James scrambled quickly from his bunk, Sandy whispered, “We’ve got to
get out of here and warn Mr. Kennedy, Jerry. I’m positive that Captain
West is working for the Chadwick shipping interests, and against Mr.
Kennedy. He’ll never tell Mr. Kennedy about the deposits Dad discovered!
And Mr. Kennedy will go right ahead and sell his boats for practically
nothing!”

“You’re right, Sandy,” Jerry whispered, hastily pulling on his dungaree
pants. “Good thing you found out about Captain West before it was too
late. Our ship doesn’t sail until to—”

Jerry James cut short his sentence with a groan. In their mad rush to
get dressed, Sandy and Jerry had not noticed the steady shuddering of
the _James Kennedy_’s sides. They had paid no heed to the regular
throbbing of her motors.

The _James Kennedy_ had put out on Lake Superior ten minutes ago.



                              CHAPTER FIVE
                              A New Friend


In the morning, there was no time to make further plans, as the two
friends had promised each other before they finally dropped off to
sleep. They were awakened by the sound of Cookie’s voice as the little
man leaned in the door of their cabin and cried, “Up and at ’em, boys,
up and at ’em! It’s five o’clock, and that’s the time to rise and
shine!”

Still sleepy-eyed, Sandy and Jerry tumbled out of their bunks and stood
looking at Cookie with blank expressions on their faces. Cookie returned
their stare with a toothless grin.

“Don’t rightly know where you are, hey, boys? Well, you’re aboard the
_James Kennedy_ and right now we’re out in the middle of Lake Superior.”
He cocked a twinkling eye at them and flashed another one of his smiles,
and the youths were heartened to find someone, at least, who seemed to
want to be friendly with them.

“Go ahead and wash up,” Cookie said. “Be in the galley in fifteen
minutes and I’ll have your breakfasts ready. In fact, you might just
have the time to go topside and see the sun come up.”

Then he was gone.

Sandy and Jerry obediently headed for the washroom. There, they sloshed
cold water on their faces and brushed their teeth. That made them feel
better. By the time they had grasped the handrail of the ladder leading
abovedeck, they had recovered their normal high spirits.

“Shucks,” Jerry said. “I don’t see what we got so riled up about last
night. We’ll be in Buffalo in plenty of time to warn Mr. Kennedy.”

“You’re right, Jerry,” Sandy said. “That’s what I was thinking, too.
Funny how you forget that a boat can make good time because it’s moving
in a straight line. Driving in an automobile, Mr. Kennedy will have to
go through six or seven states.”

“Sure. And don’t forget that a boat keeps moving all the time, like a
railroad train. In a car, you have to stop to get some sleep or eat.”

It was still dark as they came out on deck. Far out in front of them,
they could see the bulk of the forward superstructure—the navigation
bridge and the deck gang’s quarters—rearing out of the black. Beneath
their feet they felt the steady throbbing of the _James Kennedy_’s
engines. All around them, for miles and miles, stretched the flat, black
surface of Lake Superior. Ahead of them, for they were sailing due east,
there was a light rosy glow that heralded the rising of the sun. Even
then, as they looked, a line of horizon was beginning to take shape.

“Isn’t it something?” Sandy whispered. “Here we are, thousands of miles
inland. Yet, it’s just like sailing on an ocean.” Sandy Steele stretched
his neck and stood on his tiptoes and turned slowly around. “You can’t
see anything but water,” he said.

“Boy, what a country!” Jerry James breathed.

The two youths fell silent. Carefully, they looked away from each other,
for neither one wished to betray the strong emotions that held him at
that moment. Their feelings were a mixture of pride and love of country
and a certain awe in the presence of its beauty and grandeur.

“Hey,” Jerry said, suddenly breaking the spell. “What’s that light out
there?”

He pointed and Sandy Steele’s eyes followed his finger.

“I’ll bet it’s another lake boat,” Sandy said. “Sure! That’s what it is.
And there’s another one. There must be a half dozen of them, Jerry.”

Jerry James chuckled. “Say,” he said, “this lake’s a regular freeway,
isn’t it?”

Sandy nodded. “I think I hear Cookie calling us, Jerry,” he said. “Let’s
go below.”

On their way down, Sandy went on, “We’d better keep what we know about
Captain West a secret. We’ll wait until we get to Buffalo to telephone
Mr. Kennedy. Of course, if we’re delayed or a storm comes up, we’ll have
to think of something else. Who knows? Maybe we’ll stop in Detroit or
some other Great Lakes port, and we can call him from there.”

“Right,” Jerry said, and then, “Hey, do you smell what I smell?”

Sandy did, indeed, and the eyes of both of them went wide with wonder at
the sight of the breakfast Cookie had set up for them on a tiny table at
the end of his gleaming, spotless, aluminum galley.

“Eat hearty, boys,” Cookie said, bobbing his bald head in the direction
of the ham and eggs and stacks of toast and jars of jelly. “Plenty more
where that came from.”

“Boy,” Jerry said, “do you always eat like this?”

“On the Kennedy boats, you do,” Cookie said. “Of course, almost all of
the lake boats feed good. But there ain’t any to compare with the old
white K Line.” Cookie’s face darkened. “Now, if you was aboard a
Chadwicker, I don’t think you’d be chowing down so good.”

“How’s that, Cookie?” Jerry said, squaring himself away to attack his
fourth egg.

“Humph!” Cookie grunted, as he started to sharpen a long thin knife.
After a series of expert, clashing strokes against the sharpening steel
he held in his hand, he bent over a haunch of bacon on his board and
began to slice it down. “Chadwick’s the cheapest line on the lakes,
that’s why,” he went on. “And I ought to know. Sailed on the Chadwickers
for five years, I did. And not a night went by that I didn’t have to
count the eggs and hand the keys to the icebox over to the skipper.”

Jerry chortled at the notion of a crestfallen Cookie locking up his
beloved icebox for the night. “Boy,” he said, forgetting himself,
“that’s one more reason why we’ve got to stop Mr. Kennedy from selling—”

Sandy Steele’s foot moved swiftly under the table, and Jerry clutched
his ankle with a surprised expression of pain on his face.

“Hey, that hurt!” he started to say, but then, remembering their secret,
he flushed in embarrassment.

Cookie had whirled and was looking at them with an expression of
bewilderment.

“Selling?” he repeated. “Did you say selling?”

“Oh, no,” Jerry choked, his face getting redder and redder. “I said
_sailing_. You see,” he rushed on frantically, trying to think of a good
story, “what I really meant was....”

Poor Jerry. He had begun to flounder, because he wasn’t used to the
strain of making up a good lie on the spur of the moment. But just then
one of the crewmen came to his rescue.

“Hey, Cookie,” he said irritably as he poked his head inside the galley.
“When do we eat? I’ve been sitting out here for five minutes.”

To the great relief of both Jerry and Sandy, Cookie instantly forgot his
question and turned to covering his grill with sizzling slices of bacon
and gently popping eggs.

“All right, boys,” he said. “Turn to.”

For the next hour or so, Sandy and Jerry flew back and forth between the
mess hall and the galley, bringing the breakfasts of the crewmen and
clearing the dirty dishes away. Then, when breakfast was over, Cookie
set them to work washing the dishes. When this was done, Cookie opened a
cupboard and took out a bucket and mop together with a long-handled,
T-shaped instrument that looked something like a window washer’s rubber
blade.

“Know what this is, Jerry?” he said, grinning.

Jerry James shook his head.

“This here’s what they call a squeegee. And she’s going to be your
sweetheart until we get to Buffalo.”

Sandy laughed at the look of displeasure on his chum’s face, as Cookie
gave them a demonstration of how the squeegee is handled. First he
filled the bucket with soapy water. This he sloshed over the deck in the
mess hall. Then, with the motion of a man raking a lawn, he worked the
squeegee across the deck. The rubbery blade made squeaking noises as it
moved.

“That’s how the squeegee got its name,” Cookie said. “Hear it? Squee ...
gee ... squee ... gee....” He winked at Sandy. “Now, you, Sandy, you go
over the deck with this mop after Jerry’s finished. Do the same in the
galley. And remember, you do this after every meal.”

“Every meal!” Jerry exclaimed.

“That’s right, boy. A ship’s galley has to be as clean as a hospital.
You’ve got men living aboard ship in close quarters and you can’t take
any chances with dirt and germs. Now, turn to!”

They turned to.

And by the time they had gotten the mess hall and the galley sparkling
again to Cookie’s liking, it was time for lunch! They had to go through
the same process again, and Jerry James moaned, “Honestly, Sandy, the
water in this bucket is probably the only water we’ll see until we get
to Buffalo!”

But the second time they went through their round of chores, they moved
with more speed because they were more practiced. By a little after four
o’clock, they had finished. Cookie ran an approving eye over their
handiwork, and said, “Good job, boys. What say we go topside and have a
talk while I smoke my pipe?”

They were only too glad to agree.

Up above, they noticed that Captain West was standing at the starboard
rail, talking to his mate, Mr. Briggs. The skipper scowled when he saw
the boys. He spoke quickly to his mate, and Mr. Briggs hurried over to
them. As he came up, Sandy saw that he did not look so fierce by
daylight as he had seemed at night. In fact, his chin was a trifle weak
and he had the worried air of a man who suffers from indigestion.

“You,” Mr. Briggs said, aiming a dirty fingernail at Sandy. “Skipper
wants you.”

Sandy nodded and followed him to Captain West.

“Ain’t I seen you and your friend somewheres before?” the captain asked.

Sandy nodded. He knew that he shouldn’t have, but he couldn’t help
himself. He was not fond of Captain West.

The skipper’s eyes flashed and his face reddened and his hand came up
involuntarily. But he held it back, and snarled, “When I ask a question,
I want it answered out loud! And when you talk to me, you say ’Sir.’
Now, answer my question.”

“Yes, sir,” Sandy said evenly. “You saw us in front of my father’s
testing station.”

“Your father’s testing—” Captain West began to repeat, puzzled. But then
his face cleared, and he said, “So that’s it! Certainly, your name’s
Steele, too.” Now, a look of cunning crept into his face. He softened
his voice. “Young fellow, perhaps I was a bit hard on you last night.
Step over here to the rail for a moment. I want to ask you a few
questions.”

Sandy followed him.

“Well, well, well,” Captain West said, pretending to be jovial. “You
certainly are a chip off the old block.”

Sandy flushed, and the skipper mistook it for a sign of pleasure.
Actually, Sandy was disgusted by the man’s attempt to fool him.

“Now, my boy,” Captain West went on. “When did you see your old, ahem,
see your father last?”

“Just before we came aboard,” Sandy said stiffly.

“Hmmm. Your father didn’t, ah, that is to say, did your father say
anything about—”

Sandy saw his chance and interrupted swiftly. “Excuse me, sir, if you
mean did he mention you, the fact is that he did.”

“Ah?”

“He said,” Sandy told Captain West in all truthfulness, “he said that
you were one of the Kennedy Line’s finest skippers.”

“Well, well,” Captain West said, plainly pleased. “That was very kind of
your father. Did he, ah, by the way, say anything about his work?”

“In what way, sir?” Sandy asked innocently. For a moment, Captain West
hemmed and hawed, but then, probably because he was satisfied that Sandy
knew nothing of the important information which he was disloyally
keeping from his employer, he dropped the question. He sent Sandy back
to Cookie and Jerry with the promise that if the two youths worked well
enough in the galley, he would bring them topside for the return trip.

Jerry eyed Sandy questioningly upon his return, but Sandy merely
shrugged and squatted alongside Cookie to listen to the old man talk.

“You see, boys,” Cookie said, waving his pipe in the air, “we’re within
sight of land again. That shoreline way ahead, to either side, means
that we’re getting close to the Soo.”

“The Soo?”

“Yup, the Sault Sainte Marie. They call it the Soo, though, probably
because nobody but the Frenchies can pronounce it right. That’s where
Lake Superior empties into Lake Huron through the St. Mary’s River.
That’s where the Soo Locks are, boys. If you’re headed downlake, they
float you down to a lower level. If you’re headed uplake, they raise you
up.”

“Like the Panama Canal?” Sandy asked.

“Right. Now, you take us. We’re going downlake. So, once we’ve entered
Lake Huron from Lake Superior, we can keep on going down Huron and
through the Detroit River into Lake Erie, past Detroit and Cleveland and
on to Buffalo. Or else, we can sort of double back, head west, that is,
and sail through the Straits of Mackinac into Lake Michigan and hit
Milwaukee and Chicago.”

Both Sandy and Jerry shook their heads in wonder.

“You know, Cookie,” Sandy said, “it’s hard for us to get used to the
idea of Chicago and Milwaukee and Detroit and Cleveland as port cities.
We’re from the West, and when we think of a port we think of San
Francisco or Los Angeles. Or, if it’s in the East, we think of Boston or
New York.”

“Well, that’s only natural. You think of the ocean. But let me tell you,
boys, some of these Great Lakes ports are among the biggest in the
world! Ocean or no ocean.”

Cookie removed his pipe from his mouth and pointed with the stem at the
boat that trailed the _James Kennedy_ about a half mile to port. It was
not quite half as long as the _Kennedy_, though it seemed to be about as
wide. Its decks were loaded with railroad cars.

“See that?” Cookie said. “That’s a car ferry. You won’t see ships like
that hardly anywhere else in the world. It’s even a bit out of place on
Lake Superior. Usually, they use ’em more on Lake Michigan to carry the
new cars from the factories in Detroit. And this,” Cookie went on,
pointing his pipe at the long row of hatches separating the _Kennedy_’s
stern and bow superstructures, “this is something you’ll never see
outside of the Lakes. Put these long boats on the ocean, boys, and those
deep ocean swells would break them in two.

“But they’re just right for the Lakes. It’s what your biology teacher
might call a perfect example of adaptation. Lake freighters are built
for just two reasons, boys—to carry bulk cargoes like ore or coal or
grain and to fit through the narrow locks at the Soo. They can build
them as long as a city block, but they can’t be too wide or too deep.”

“Do they have storms on the Lakes, Cookie?” Jerry asked.

Cookie’s eyes danced merrily and he jabbed his pipe at Jerry as he said,
“Storms, hey! Let me tell you, boy, there’s plenty of rough weather
around the Great Lakes. Four months out of the year they’re empty, the
weather’s so bad. That’s why the boats are built to load and unload so
fast. Sometimes you don’t get more than seven months in a season. Rest
of the time, the boats stay in port.”

Cookie puffed thoughtfully in his pipe. He glanced downward. Below them,
the dark lake water flowed swiftly past the _James Kennedy_’s hull.

“When a lake boat sinks,” Cookie said somberly, “there ain’t many
survivors, if any.”

“Why not, Cookie?” Sandy asked, surprised.

“That’s pretty cold water down there, that’s why. You don’t last very
long in that water if it happens to be early spring or fall. I’ve seen
ice floating in these waters as late as it is now.” He shivered a bit.
“Cold water, boys. I remember once a feller I knew broke his leg and we
didn’t have no medicines aboard to help ease the pain while we was
setting it. So we just hauled up a bucket of cold Lake Superior water
and stuck his leg in it a while. By gum, it got numb in no time. He
didn’t feel a thing until after we’d got him all fixed up with a splint
and bandages.”

Cookie got to his feet. “That’s one reason I never bothered to learn how
to swim.” He looked at the sky. “Well, time to go below again. We ought
to hit the Soo just before dark.”

He arose and walked over to the leeward, or starboard, side of the ship
and began emptying his pipe. He leaned far over the rail to make sure
that none of the still-glowing coals would land aboard ship.

As he did, a long, gathering swell from the wake of the car ferry that
had overtaken and passed the _James Kennedy_ struck the ship’s port
stern with savage force. The _Kennedy_ heeled slightly to starboard, and
poor little Cookie, knocked off balance by the force of the blow,
slithered over the rail.

With a long, wailing cry of despair, the little man plunged into the
freezing-cold waters of Lake Superior.



                              CHAPTER SIX
                             Man Overboard!


“_Man overboard!_”

From fore and aft, from port to starboard, from every quarter of the
_James Kennedy_’s great length, that ancient rallying cry of the sea
arose.

“Man overboard!”

“Where?” they shouted. “Where?”

“Man overboard off the starboard stern!”

There was a mad scuffling of feet on the steel decks as the crewmen
rushed for the rail, some to reach for a line and a life preserver,
others merely to stare.

Hardly had Cookie’s body entered the water with a resounding splash,
than there was a clanging of bells in the engine room beneath Sandy and
Jerry. The ship’s motors roared in a rising crescendo of power. The
_James Kennedy_ shivered and shuddered like a live thing, and out from
beneath its stern there issued a wild, white boiling of angry water.

“Full speed astern!” someone cried.

Then, with another great quiver, the _James Kennedy_ seemed to come to a
halt.

All of this happened quickly, perhaps within only a few seconds. But
rapid as had been the reactions of these trained seamen, they were still
far behind the swift decisiveness of Sandy Steele.

The moment he had seen Cookie lose his balance, Sandy had braced his
steel-muscled legs, ready to go to his aid. When their little friend’s
body had vanished, Sandy had raced over to the railing. Jerry was not
far behind.

Sandy did not hesitate. He recalled, with dread, what Cookie had been
telling them only moments before about the killing cold of the lake
water. As he ran, he stripped off his own shirt and threw it to the
winds. As he reached the railing, he knelt, swiftly untied his shoes,
and pulled them off.

Down below him, Cookie’s bald head had appeared above the surface.

“Help!” he called weakly. “Help!”

Then, before the horrified gaze of all aboard the _Kennedy_, the little
man choked on a mouthful of water, threw up his hands and sank out of
sight.

Splash!

Straight as an arrow, Sandy Steele’s body had swept out from the ship’s
side—hitting the water only a few feet to the side of the spot where
Cookie had gone under.

Even as Sandy went beneath the surface, he felt a shiver run through his
body from the tips of his toes to the top of his head. It was not only
from the impact of having dropped twenty feet. It was from the terrible,
numbing drop in temperature. For a moment he felt as though his body
were a thing of stone.

But Sandy quickly got his legs and arms working. He surfaced and looked
around him. Nothing.

Sandy dove down once more.

It was as black as night under the surface. Still, he forced himself
farther and farther down, swinging his arms in front of him in long,
slow, underwater breast strokes. He hoped to touch Cookie in this way,
if he could not see him.

Sandy’s lungs were bursting.

In another moment or two, he would have to come back up. He dared not go
down a second time, either, for the cold was creeping into even his
tough young body.

Suddenly, his finger tips brushed against some object....

Sandy felt a thrill of joy. He stretched out his hands and felt
something hard and unbending. His heart sang. He had grasped Cookie’s
shoe!

It was only just in time.

The little man had swallowed so much water and been in the lake so long
that he had lost consciousness. When Sandy discovered him, he was headed
down in what might have been his death dive.

Quickly, Sandy slid his hands along from Cookie’s shoes to seize him
firmly by the ankles.

With a savage, scissor kick of his long legs, Sandy drove upward to the
surface.

How happy he was when his head at last burst into the open air and he
could breathe again! Even though his ears had begun to ring, he could
hear the great cheer that went up when he came into view, with Cookie
safely in his arms.

“He’s got him!” the crewmen cried. “He’s got Cookie! Here, throw him a
line!”

There was a splash beside his head and Sandy saw a length of rope
floating in the water. Weakly, he put out his hand to grasp it. With the
other, he struggled to hold the unconscious Cookie’s head above the
water. Sandy felt himself getting weaker and weaker.

Would he make it? He felt a tug at the other end of the line. In
despair, he felt the rope sliding through his powerless fingers.

There came another, far heavier, splash beside him.

Jerry James had come to his chum’s rescue.

He had jumped in!

Blowing noisily through his nose, Jerry stroked over to Sandy’s side.
There were two more thuds in the water.

Life preservers.

“Here,” Jerry gasped, getting his hands under Cookie’s limp shoulders.
“Let’s get one of these doughnuts over his head.”

Together, the two chums slipped the preserver over Cookie’s head. They
yanked up his arms and draped them over the ring, to make sure that he
would not slip through it. Then, they pushed him over to the side of the
gently rolling freighter, winding the rope about his waist.

“Okay,” Sandy called, lifting a hand weakly from the water. “Haul away!”

The men at the rails pulled and Cookie slowly left the water. As they
lifted him, the pressure of the rope around his waist acted like a kind
of artificial respiration. Water streamed from his open mouth as he made
his ascent. At last, he was safely on deck, and then the two friends
were pulled from the lake.

Instantly, they were wrapped in warm blankets. They were both glad that
it was June, and not November, as they realized how cold they were, even
though swathed in wool and bathed in sunlight. Somebody forced Sandy to
swallow a little glass of burning liquid, and he guessed that it was rum
from the heat of it in his stomach and the way his eyes began to water.

“Ugh,” Sandy said, “I’d sooner drink a gallon of lake water.”

“You nearly did,” a harsh voice said; and, opening his eyes, Sandy saw
Captain West forcing his way through the knot of sailors who had
surrounded him. For once the skipper had shaved, though his eyes were
bloodshot.

“That was a foolhardy stunt, boy,” Captain West went on, growling and
not noticing the rush of color into Sandy Steele’s face. “You could have
drowned.”

“But what about Cookie, then? Did you want me to let him drown—sir?”

“Mind your tongue, boy. We’ve got lifeboats for that sort of thing. We’d
have had him out of there in no time.”

“But what about the lake cold?” Jerry James put in hotly. “It might have
killed him before you could get to him.”

Captain West sneered. “I can see you’ve been listening to Cookie’s sea
stories. The Lakes aren’t that cold in June.”

“Oh, n-no?” Jerry James asked wryly, pulling his blankets closer about
him. “Th-then why are m-my t-t-teeth ch-chattering?”

A ripple of laughter ran through the onlooking men and Captain West
swung on Jerry with his eyes sparking fiercely, furious at getting an
argument from any of his crew.

“You young whippersnapper!” he roared. “If I had a brig aboard this
ship, I’d put you in it—just to teach you some respect for your betters.
Here,” he snarled, whirling on the men, “get back to work, you lazy
louts.” He glanced at his watch. “You’ll hear about it if we’re late for
the locks. All this grandstanding over a ship’s cook!” He glared at
Sandy and Jerry. “You two! Down below to the galley! And
remember—jumping in after your bald-headed friend may have made extra
work for yourselves. While Cookie’s in bed for the next day or two, I’m
going to be expecting you to do his work!”

Then Captain West spun around and rolled forward to his bridge.

As Sandy Steele and his friend went down the ladder, hardly able to
believe that any man could be so unfair, they felt the ship’s engines
begin to throb again.

The _James Kennedy_ was once more making for the Soo.



                             CHAPTER SEVEN
                              In the Locks


“Sandy, we’re sinking!”

Jerry James’s forehead was wrinkled with concern beneath his jet-black
hair as he uttered those words. It was the first thing either youth had
said since they had returned to the galley and gone to work preparing
the evening meal.

An hour ago, they had been shivering beneath their blankets. Now, the
exertion of working in that overheated room, where the hard aluminum
fixtures only served to refract the heat, had forced them to strip to
the waist. Even so, their bodies glistened with sweat.

“I said we’re sinking, Sandy,” Jerry repeated, somewhat nervously.

Sandy nonchalantly swung the oven door shut as though his friend had
said nothing more upsetting than, “It’s raining outside.” Smiling, he
took off his asbestos glove and laid it on the stove top.

“You know, Jerry, I believe you’re right.”

“But, Sandy, I’m not joking! I tell you, I can feel the ship going
down.”

“Of course you can,” Sandy said easily. “Let’s go watch it.”

Then Sandy grinned—and Jerry James clapped his hands to his forehead in
dismay and cried, “Of course; we’re in the locks!”

“Right the second time,” Sandy laughed. “And I’ll bet if we had been
going uplake, you would have sworn that we were flying! Come on, let’s
go topside.”

They clambered above and feasted their eyes on one of the strangest
sights they had ever seen.

The _James Kennedy_ was floating in what can only be described as a
long, narrow tub—almost a quarter mile in length and with about ten or
fifteen feet clearance on either side of the sixty-foot-wide ship. What
amazed Sandy and Jerry was that there were at least four more of these
enormous, man-made tubs, some as large, others smaller. All of them held
vessels of about the same size as the _Kennedy_. Some even held two of
them.

The tubs were formed by huge water gates at either end. Behind their
boat, Sandy and Jerry could see the water level of Lake Superior. What
astonished them was that it seemed to be higher than they were!

And it was.

At that very moment, as the two friends glanced over the side, they
could see that water was being pumped out of their tub. They were, as
Jerry James had said, sinking! The level of the water in their tub was
dropping so fast that more and more of the water gate behind them became
visible. Now, they could see, it had actually become a dam, holding out
the waters of Lake Superior that rose above them.

One of the strangest sensations was to turn and glance at another one of
the locks—for that is what these tubs are called—to see a boat that was
headed upstream rising higher and higher in the air. Its tub was filling
with water, making it float higher and higher until it would reach the
same level as Lake Superior, and then it would sail out.

“Boy, oh, boy,” Jerry said, rolling his eyes. “I’m getting the same
dizzy feeling you get in a department store. You know, Sandy—when you’re
on the down escalator and you pass somebody on the up escalator.”

Sandy nodded in silence. He was too intent upon what was happening to
bother to talk.

He craned his neck over the side to see what was happening up forward.
Sandy saw that the _James Kennedy_ was now well over ten feet below the
level of Lake Superior. Suddenly, the water gates at the forward end of
the lock swung open.

They sailed out!

Sandy shook his head in amazement, and then he heard a friendly voice
beside him say, “Pretty tricky, hey?” Turning around, Sandy saw one of
the seamen who had helped pull Cookie out of the water. He was short but
well-built, with dark-red hair and warm brown eyes. Sandy knew that the
other men called him Sam.

“Did you ever sail through the Soo before?” Sam asked.

He seemed pleased when Sandy shook his head, as though he was delighted
to have someone he could explain things to. As he began to talk, Jerry
joined them.

“First off, boys,” Sam said, “I want you to know that the men all feel
that was a mighty brave thing you did this afternoon. Don’t feel too bad
about what the skipper said, either. He has his good days and his bad
ones, and I guess today was one of the bad ones.”

Sandy and Jerry both bobbed their heads politely, hiding the grins that
sprang to their faces when they realized that they were both thinking it
was about time for Captain West to have one of his good days!

“Now,” Sam said, with a note of pride in his voice, “I’ll bet you didn’t
know that you’ve just passed through the biggest shipping highway in the
world.”

“Oh, no,” Jerry argued. “You don’t mean that the Soo is bigger than the
Panama Canal.”

“And the Suez, too?” Sandy asked.

“Bigger’n both, boys. Of course, I mean more ships pass through these
locks. Look,” he said, turning to survey the scene that was rapidly
falling behind them. “Just look at that.”

Sandy Steele and Jerry James did take a long look, and when they had
finished, they were inclined to agree with Sam. In all, there must have
been fifty of those peculiar long boats passing through the locks at one
stage or another, their stubby smokestacks sending thin columns of smoke
into the darkening sky.

“Boy, oh, boy,” Jerry said. “And to think I never knew there was such a
place two weeks ago.”

“You weren’t the only one, Jerry,” Sam said, smiling. “There aren’t too
many Americans who know what you mean when you say Sault Sainte Marie.”

“What does that mean, anyway?” Sandy asked.

“Simple. It’s French for Rapids of St. Mary. You see, where we’re
sailing now, the St. Mary’s River dropped twenty feet in less than a
mile. With all of Lake Superior pouring through here down into Huron,
that made for mighty rapid rapids. The Indians used to carry their
canoes around the rapids. So did the Frenchies. Of course, as soon as
commerce started springing up between the Lakes cities, and as soon as
they started tapping all that ore up north, they had to have a way into
Lake Superior that was safe for the big boats. So they built the locks.”

Neither youth opened his mouth to speak. They were impressed. But Sam’s
reference to the ore deposits had also recalled to their minds the fact
that this was no ordinary summer’s voyage for them. During the hard work
of the day, and the excitement of pulling poor Cookie out of the water,
they had forgotten their resolve to inform Mr. Kennedy of the good news
that Captain West was treacherously keeping from him.

But now that Sam had spoken of ore, they remembered it, and Sandy asked
the seaman, “Where are we headed now, Sam?”

“Well, now we’re on Lake Huron. We’ll head downlake for Detroit.”

“I didn’t know Detroit was on the Lakes.”

“It isn’t. Not properly, anyway. It’s on the Detroit River, but that’s
just the waterway where Huron narrows and empties into Lake Erie.”

“Oh. Will we lay over there?”

“Well—” Sam grinned—“if we don’t—then I’m going to have a mighty
disappointed wife and kids.”

“Oh, you live there. Well, thanks, Sam. Come on, Jerry—we’d better be
getting back to work.”

The two friends went below. As they entered the galley and began setting
up dinner, Sandy said to Jerry, “Maybe Captain West will let us go
ashore in Detroit, tomorrow. If he does, we can telephone Mr. Kennedy.”

Jerry pursed his lips. “You know, Sandy, I’ve been thinking. We don’t
really know that the skipper is working for that rival firm. I mean, all
we have to go on is the fact that you saw him writing a letter addressed
to a Mr. Paul Chadwick. That could just be coincidence.”

“Pretty tall coincidence.”

“Well, yes. But then again, Captain West might just happen to know Mr.
Chadwick. It might be a personal letter.”

“That’s worse! Don’t you remember what Mr. Kennedy said about Chadwick?
He said he wasn’t the sort of man he’d like to sit down to dinner with.
He said he was only selling out because it was good business to accept
his offer. If Captain West’s a friend of Chadwick’s, then he’s no friend
of Mr. Kennedy’s!”

Sandy Steele was becoming excited. As usual, he had to keep brushing
back the cowlick that kept falling in his eyes as he talked.

“Be reasonable, Jerry. Don’t you remember how Mr. Briggs talked so
insultingly of Mr. Kennedy when we first came aboard? ‘Ma Kennedy’ he
called him. Then, when I was in Captain West’s cabin, he kept calling
him ‘Old Man Kennedy.’ Doesn’t sound like much respect for their
employer. And this afternoon, when we came on deck with Cookie, the
skipper tried to pump me.”

Jerry’s eyes flew open.

“That’s right,” Sandy rushed on. “I didn’t have time to tell you before.
But he pretended to be friendly, just so he could find out how much I
knew about Dad’s discovery of the high-grade ore deposits.”

Sandy Steele’s lips tightened.

“No, Jerry,” he said grimly. “Captain West is not to be trusted.”

Then, to the horror of both youths, they heard an ugly, mocking voice
saying, “You don’t say?”

Sandy Steele and Jerry James turned and looked straight into the leering
face of Captain West’s mate.

He stood in the doorway of the galley. His slender, tall body swayed
slightly, and from the glazed expression of his eyes, Sandy and Jerry
could guess that he was drunk. There was a bottle bulging in his hip
pocket, and Sandy recognized it as the one from which someone had poured
that drink of rum for him abovedecks.

“So!” Mr. Briggs lisped in a drink-thickened voice. “So Ma Kennedy’s
little chicks don’t trust their skipper, eh?”

“You’d better get some sleep, Mr. Briggs,” Sandy said evenly.

The mate flushed angrily.

“Don’t tell me what to do, you double-crossing little show-off!” he
grated. “Here, stand aside there, and let a man pass.”

He stepped into the galley, grinning wickedly, plainly unaware of how he
wavered on his feet and disgusted, rather than frightened, the two
youths. He all but fell as he moved to the little table on which Cookie
had served them their breakfasts that morning. He sat down at it and
pulled out the nearly empty bottle of rum and stood it at his elbow.

“So you’re going to run and tell tales out of school, hey? Going to
tattle on us, are you?” He brought his hand down on the table top with a
crash. “Not if I can help it!”

The rum bottle jumped and nearly fell to the floor. But Mr. Briggs
grabbed it just in time. He threw back his head and tilted the bottle to
his lips. “Ahhhh!” he said. “Now, serve me my dinner!”

Neither Sandy nor Jerry moved.

“You hear me?” the mate yelled angrily. “I’m mate aboard this scow.
Bring me my dinner!”

Reluctantly, Jerry moved to obey. Mr. Briggs watched him, scowling. Then
he banged the bottle on the table and said, “Have a drink, Blackie.
That’ll put some zip into those lazy legs of yours.”

“My name’s Jerry,” Jerry replied hotly. “And I don’t drink.”

“Don’t drink, hey? Regular sissy, aren’t you? Well, I’m mate aboard this
scow, and when I tell a man to drink, he drinks!”

Mr. Briggs lurched to his feet. Still swaying, he seized the bottle by
its neck and moved toward Jerry.

Sandy Steele moved quickly to head him off. He well knew Jerry’s
split-second temper and he wanted to stop the mate before he did
something he would regret.

“Please, sir,” he pleaded. “Don’t! He’s getting your dinner. Now, if
you’ll just sit down—”

The mate shouldered Sandy roughly aside.

“Out of my way,” he mumbled. “Here, you,” he said to Jerry, swinging the
bottle up in an arc, “take a drink like I ordered you to.”

As Mr. Briggs brought the bottle up with a speed that might have dug the
mouth of it deep into Jerry’s throat, the youth raised his own arm to
defend himself. The bottle struck him on the forearm. A jet of rum came
streaming out. It fell on the open flame of the stove, and a sheet of
blue flame leaped up into the air.

It came dangerously close to the reeling mate. Frightened, Mr. Briggs
brought his right arm around as though to shield his face from the
flames. But he had forgotten that he still held the bottle. His gesture
emptied the remainder of the bottle onto the stove and another jet of
flames leaped toward him. This time, the fire reached one of the roasts
standing on the stove.

With a popping and sizzling, the roast came alight, and now the panicky
Mr. Briggs lunged for the roasting pan to remove it from danger. But all
he succeeded in doing was to overturn a pan of grease, into which, in
terror, he dropped the flaming roast.

In an instant, Cookie’s beloved galley had become a roaring caldron of
flames.

“Fire!” he shrieked, and charged blindly into the passageway, covering
his face with his hands.

“Fire! Fire! All hands on deck! Captain, Captain—come quick! Those
blasted boys of Kennedy’s have set the ship on fire!”



                             CHAPTER EIGHT
                                 Fire!


For a split second, Sandy and Jerry stood rooted in helpless anger.

It was bad enough that the drunken, clumsy mate had set the galley
ablaze. But now he had shifted the blame to them! The injustice of it
was an outrage, and for the space of that split second, the two youths
were so stunned that they could not move.

Then they sprang into action.

And to Jerry James’s amazement, Sandy Steele turned and ran from the
flaming room.

“Sandy!” Jerry called. “Sandy, come back!”

But Sandy Steele kept on running up the passageway, and Jerry could not
believe what he saw. Then, when Sandy disappeared into the cabin where
Cookie had been placed, Jerry understood. “Good old Sandy,” he said
proudly, and then he whirled and dashed down the passageway in the other
direction—hunting for a fire extinguisher.


Cookie was half out of his bunk when Sandy rushed through the opened
door. The little man had heard Mr. Briggs’s shout, and he had
immediately dragged himself from his pillows. He was going to help put
out the fire!

But he was too weak to get very far, and he lay half in, half out of his
bed, panting, when Sandy burst in on him.

“Quick, Cookie!” Sandy said. “The galley’s on fire.”

“I know, boy,” Cookie gasped. “I heard the mate.” His eyes were sad as
he gazed at Sandy. “How could you do it, Sandy?”

“I didn’t!” Sandy gritted between clenched teeth, as he stooped to wrap
blankets around Cookie, before coming erect in the fireman’s carry.

“But the mate said—”

“He did it, not us!” Sandy replied. “Come on, Cookie—there’s no time for
explanations.”

Gently supporting the little man on his right shoulder, Sandy hurried
from the room. He took him to the cabin farthest from the blaze. Once
inside, he placed Cookie on the bunk. The weakened little man looked
around him in astonishment.

“This is the mate’s quarters,” he burst out. “You can’t put me in here,
boy.”

“Never mind that,” Sandy said grimly. “I’d put you in the captain’s
quarters, if I thought it would be safer. I’m not taking any chances on
your getting trapped by the fire, Cookie.”

“Is it really that bad?”

“I don’t know, but I’ll soon find out! Now, you just stay put while I go
back and help fight the fire.”

Without another word, Sandy turned and raced back down the passageway.


A wild scene greeted Sandy’s eyes.

Thick, greasy clouds of smoke—from the roasts and the other cuts of meat
that had caught fire—rolled from the galley. Through the smoke, he could
see the red and yellow of the flames. Sometimes a sheet of fire would
lance out through the smoke, and there would be a hissing and a
crackling that would warn the smoke-grimed and panting fire fighters
that another big can of lard had exploded and caught fire and was now
making their task even harder.

All along the passageway lay thick lines of hose. They were crisscrossed
and intertwined, and, sometimes, when they leaped under the pressure of
the water coursing through them, they gave the passageway the look of a
snake pit.

Crewmen wearing fire helmets dashed up and down, helter-skelter, some of
them with fire extinguishers in their hands, others carrying fire axes.
A bucket brigade had been formed among the spare crewmen, and Sandy saw
the buckets passing from hand to hand with the precision of an assembly
line in a factory. The empty buckets would be passed up the ladder to be
refilled by a man who fastened them to a rope and then lowered them into
the lake.

From what Sandy could see, most of the fire seemed to be centered in the
middle of the galley, next to the stove. Luckily, Cookie had wisely
insisted that his old grease-soaked wooden cabinets be replaced by
nonflammable metal ones, otherwise the fire would have been
uncontrollable. As it was, it was bad enough. Flames shot higher and
higher from the meat-chopping table. Here, the thick slab of wood had
become thoroughly soaked by the overturned grease. Beneath the terrible
roaring sound it gave off as it burned, Sandy could hear the hissing and
snapping of the grease.

Above all the sound and fury of the fire itself, and the excited babble
of the men as they rushed here and there to prevent the flames from
spreading to the mess hall, Sandy could hear the booming of Captain
West’s voice.

“You, there!” he shouted at Jerry James. “You with the fire
extinguisher—over here! Now, then, through the smoke here onto that
table!”

With his head picturesquely swathed in an undershirt which he kept
removing to soak with water, Captain West was a romantic figure as he
rushed up and down the passageway directing the fire fighting.

“Water!” he would thunder. “More water!” Or else: “You ax men, get busy
in the mess hall! Chop up those tables and benches and get the wood
abovedecks!”

Seeing him, hearing him, Sandy wished that Captain West was as loyal as
he was commanding.

But there was little time for Sandy to waste in admiration of the
skipper. All of these things that he witnessed passed through his mind
in one swift, crowding instant—and then he too leaped into action.

The moment that Sandy rushed up there had been a loud explosion in the
galley, and one of the ax men was thrown back against the bulkhead by
the force of it. He slumped to the deck, unconscious, and his ax slipped
from his hand.

Quick as a flash, Sandy seized the ax and joined the men at work in the
mess hall, while two others quickly jumped to obey the skipper’s orders
to remove the stricken man to a safe place. With a thrilling surge of
confidence in the strength of his lean-muscled body, Sandy Steele began
to swing his ax. His first stroke went whistling through the air and the
ax blade bit deep into the thick wood of a bench. With a wrench
requiring all of his power, Sandy yanked it free. Once again, he drove
the blade downward.

Swish! Crack!

The bench split in two. Quickly, shortening his grip on the ax handle
like a batter dragging a hit, Sandy stroked twice, backward and forward,
and the bench had become a neatly stacked pile of kindling. With a
glance of admiration, one of the crewmen scuttled forward, seized the
bundle of sticks in his arms and carried them topside.

Meanwhile, as the men with the axes steadily demolished the mess-hall
furniture, getting it safely out of harm’s way, the fire in the galley
seemed to rage higher and higher. The heat in the passageway was now
intense. The naked torsos of the fire fighters gleamed in the reflected
light of the flames, and rivulets of sweat marked their course down
flesh blackened by the greasy smoke. As the roar of the flames grew
louder and louder, the expression of concern on Captain West’s face grew
deeper.

He was thinking of the coal bunkers directly beneath the galley. If the
fire should ever get to them, that would be the end!

Anxiously, Captain West peered through the smoke. It stung his eyes and
made them water. He had to wind a wet cloth around his mouth to keep
from choking. But he saw what he wanted to see.

That chopping table was still blazing away like an enormous torch. In
fact, it was a torch—for the grease had prepared it for burning as
completely as any stick dipped in pitch. But Captain West had seen that
the fiery table had been partially burned through at the point where it
was fastened to the wall. If he could chop it the rest of the way, the
table would fall down. Then it could be pulled out into the passageway
with hooks and the hoses could play upon it with full force.

In that way, Captain West reasoned, he could attack the fire at its very
heart. Immediately, the skipper called for one of the ax-bearing crewmen
to attempt the job. There was no time to lose. Another five or ten
minutes, and the coal would go up!

The crewman slipped quickly into a heavy raincoat to shield his body
from the flames. He saturated a cloth with water, wound it around his
lower face, and plunged into the smoke.

In an instant, he came reeling back—choking and sputtering.

“It’s too much, sir,” he gasped. “No man can go into that stuff and
live.”

Before Captain West could reply, Sandy Steele had raced down the
passageway from the mess hall.

“Let me have that raincoat,” he said to the astounded man. “I think I
know a way to get that table out.”

Still choking, the man took off his coat. Captain West opened his mouth
to protest, but then, seeing that Sandy was dead serious, he closed it
again and let the determined youth take over.

“Jerry!” Sandy called to his chum. “Quick! You get one on, too. Then,
you protect me with the fire extinguisher while I swing the ax.”

Jerry James nodded. Like his friend, he garbed himself in one of the
heavy black slickers, covered his nose and mouth with a soaked cloth,
and preceded him into the smoke. Jerry held his extinguisher like a
soldier wielding a light machine gun, spraying the flames with a
constant stream of thick, white chemicals.

Behind him moved Sandy Steele, grasping his ax.

The combination that worked so well on the playing fields of their home
state of California was now going into action far, far from home, and in
a far more serious cause. But it was working just as well!

Choking, sputtering, staggering, all but blinded, Sandy Steele charged
to the reddish blur he could see a few feet ahead of him in the smoke.
Waves of heat rolled against his body and he felt himself going weak.
But he lowered his head and struck on.

Once, a tongue of flame seemed about to gather in volume and leap toward
him from the roaring chopping-block. Just in time, a jet of thick white
liquid streamed out toward it and smothered it before it could get
started. Good old Jerry, Sandy thought.

At last, he had made it to within a few feet of the burning table!

It was as close as he dared go.

Without hesitation, Sandy Steele raised his ax and brought it down,
hard.

Crash!

The table seemed to sway. Sandy raised his arms again, wondering if he
would have the strength for another blow. He was thoroughly sick,
now—nauseated by that sickening, grease-laden smoke. The effort of his
first mighty stroke had all but sapped his strength. Yet, he could not
falter now! He had to do it! One more stroke would slice through the
remaining wood. Calling upon all his reserves, Sandy Steele rocked
backward on his heels, rose on his toes and brought the ax down upon the
wood.

It was a blow that rang out even above the roar of the flames! Even the
weary men gathered in the passageway could hear it.

And it severed the table from the thick bolt that had held it to the
bulkhead.

Sandy Steele jumped back just in time.

With a loud crash and a flashing of sparks and a shooting of flames, the
table fell toward him.

The momentum of Sandy’s jump sent him staggering backward, off balance.
That was how he emerged from the cloud of smoke that separated the
excited, yelling crewmen from the fire inside the galley.

Behind Sandy, running low and gasping, but still clutching his fire
extinguisher, came Jerry James.

If someone had not caught Sandy, he would have gone sprawling. As it
was, he was having difficulty keeping his legs under him. They seemed to
have gone all rubbery from his ordeal. But he clenched his teeth and
stayed erect, watching as the crewmen began to drag the blazing table
from the galley into the direct play of massed hoses and extinguishers.
It sizzled and smoked and sent off clouds of steam as though it were a
small volcano, but the fire was at last put out.

Then, one by one, all of the other burning articles within the galley
were separated from the main body of the fire and doused. The hoses sent
streams of lake water splashing against the now-smoldering and smoking
bulkheads. The bucket brigade was disbanded, for it was no longer
needed.

And then, as Sandy Steele felt the youthful vigor of his body swiftly
returning, his eyes fell on an object that he dearly wished to preserve
for the eyes of Captain West.

It was the rum bottle.

It lay beside the stove, almost at the exact point where it had fallen
from the hand of Mr. Briggs.

Here was not only the cause of the fire. Here was proof of who really
had started it!

Sandy slipped from the support of the friendly arms that had grasped
him. He bent to pick up an asbestos glove dropped by one of the crewmen.
He slipped it on his right hand and walked quickly forward to retrieve
the bottle.

As he leaned over, he felt himself jostled aside. He nearly fell down
again. A tall man stepped in front of him and swung the flat of an ax
down on the bottle. He did it deliberately. He shattered the bottle into
a hundred pieces.

“Why did you do that?” Sandy cried, unable to hide his anger.

The man in front of him turned with a wicked smile, and said, “You could
have burned yourself on that, Little Lord Show-off—and you’re in enough
hot water already.”

It was Mr. Briggs.



                              CHAPTER NINE
                           Charged with Arson


No one was less surprised than Sandy Steele when the order came for him
and Jerry James to report to Captain West in his cabin.

It was by then close to midnight. Once the fire had been put out, there
had remained the task of clearing away the debris and cleaning up. This
had occupied the crew for a few more hours, and Sandy and Jerry had not
been happy to hear the grumbles about burned suppers and lost sleep or
to see the glances of hostility that were directed their way. Mr.
Briggs, it seemed, had been as expert in spreading his falsehoods among
the crew as he had been in taking them to Captain West.

Only Sam had remained friendly, and it had been Sam who had brought the
order.

“Captain says you two are to report to him right away,” Sam said. He
shook his head sadly. “Too bad, boys,” he went on. “If I can read storm
signals right, I’d say you were in for it.”

“In for it!” Jerry burst out hotly. “Is that what we get for putting out
the fire?”

“Hold it, Jerry,” Sandy said gently, calming his friend down. “That
won’t do any good.” He looked at Sam. “I suppose Mr. Briggs is with
him?”

Sam seemed surprised. “Now, how do you know that?”

Sandy’s answer was a grim tightening of his lips. On the subject of Mr.
Briggs, he did not trust himself to speak. Sandy wondered how much
longer he was going to be able to control his temper. It seemed to him
that every time either he or Jerry did something they were supposed to
do, even something they really needn’t have done, their only reward was
some penalty or a leer from Mr. Briggs or an insult from the skipper.
What had begun as a high school boy’s dream of a splendid way to spend
the summer seemed to be turning into a nightmare. Sandy let out his
breath in a deep sigh. He looked at Jerry and was startled to see the
sulky expression on his friend’s normally cheerful countenance.

“I’m not going,” Jerry said sullenly.

“Wha-a-at?” Sam said, as though he couldn’t believe his ears. “What did
you say, young fellow?”

Before Jerry could reply, Sandy had propelled him up the passageway and
out of earshot. He didn’t want their friend Sam to get the notion that
they were mutinous.

“Jerry,” he whispered fiercely, “you’ve got to stop talking like that!”

“I don’t care!” Jerry said stoutly. “We’ve been pushed around long
enough, and now I’ve got to get it off my chest. Listen, Sandy—you know
very well what’s going to happen when we get in there with the captain.
He’s going to accuse us with a lot of lies that he’s heard from the
mate. He’ll not only forget that we risked our lives to get at that
table, but he’ll turn around and say we started the fire.”

“Shhh!” Sandy said, looking around anxiously.

Jerry lowered his voice, but he didn’t stop talking. “It’s true! Why,
look what he said to you after you rescued poor old Cookie from
drowning! He acted as though you’d jumped in just to make him late for
the Soo Locks. Honestly, Sandy, I don’t know why you bother—”

“Because we’ve got to!” Sandy insisted, squeezing Jerry’s arm. “Don’t
you realize that a captain aboard ship is a lot different from a teacher
or a football coach? He’s got you in his power, Jerry. His word is law!
Really. You can’t disobey him!”

“Oh, no?” Jerry said.

“If you do,” Sandy warned, “you’ll wind up in jail. I mean it, Jerry.
Now is just the time when we’ve got to keep our heads.” He dropped his
voice to a whisper. Then he went on: “Captain West must know by now that
we’ve found out about him. You remember that Mr. Briggs was out in the
passageway, eavesdropping, while we were talking about it. He’s
certainly told the skipper. Now, with the fire, he’s got an excuse to do
something that will keep us from warning Mr. Kennedy.”

Jerry’s eyes widened. “Such as what?” he asked. “Such as locking us up
somewhere.”

There was a momentary silence, and then Jerry James groaned and said,
“Boy, oh, boy, we really _are_ in trouble, aren’t we?”

Sandy smiled in relief. He could tell by the tone of his friend’s voice
that he had gotten over his resentment. With a reassuring squeeze of
Jerry’s arm, Sandy continued, “We are. That’s why we’ve got to stay
calm. So, whatever you do, Jerry, don’t say or do anything foolish when
we get in there with Captain West.”

Jerry James’s jaw tightened and he clapped his friend on the arm.
“Right,” he said, and then the two of them walked up the passageway and
knocked on the door of Captain West’s cabin.

“Come in,” the skipper growled.

They entered.

“What took you so long?” Captain West snapped.

“We were delayed,” Sandy said.

“Oh,” the skipper mocked, glancing over at his mate, who sat on the
bunk. “Did you hear that, Briggs? They were delayed, he says. Well,” he
sneered, his voice turning ugly, “you’ll have plenty of time for delays
where I’m putting you.”

The skipper peered at them with eager expectation, as though he hoped
his remarks would goad them into losing their tempers. Observing this,
Sandy was inwardly pleased. He realized that the skipper could not be
too confident of himself, that he was not sure of how much the youths
actually knew—no matter what Mr. Briggs had said to him.

“Well?” the skipper roared, crashing his fist down on his desk. “What
have you to say to that?”

“Nothing, sir,” Sandy replied evenly.

A red flush began to spread over Captain West’s face. But it was
supplanted by a cunning look.

“Playing doggo, eh?” he muttered. “Well, we’ll see.” He looked over at
his mate with a grin, and said, “Now, you just tell that story of yours
again, Mr. Briggs.”

The mate nodded.

“It was this way, sir,” he started, gazing up at the overhead with an
expression of shocked innocence. “Just before suppertime, I happened to
be passing the galley and saw these two.” He lowered his eyes and jabbed
a dirty thumb in the direction of Sandy and Jerry. Then he raised his
eyes again and said, “They were playing catch with a can of tomatoes.”

Jerry gasped in indignation, and Sandy quickly gave him a warning nudge.

“That’s what they were doing, sir—throwing it back and forth like a
couple of schoolkids at a picnic. Then this black-haired fellow here, he
let go a good one and it went right through the grandstander’s hands and
hit the can of fat on the stove and knocked it over on the fire. And
then, sir,” the mate concluded, a note of smugness in his voice, “then,
sir, the fat was really in the fire.”

With a look of gloating, the captain swung his eyes on Sandy and
Jerry—and that was when Sandy opened his mouth and said, “He’s a liar.”

Almost the moment that the words dropped from his lips, Sandy Steele
wished he could have bitten his tongue in two. But he had finally had to
give in to the resentment that had been smoldering inside him almost
from the moment he had walked aboard the _James Kennedy_. But, to say
that, after all his good advice to Jerry! He glanced over at his friend,
half expecting him to be disgusted with him.

He was grinning!

Then Sandy had to laugh, too—if not from the delight so plain on Jerry’s
saucy face, then from the look of injury on the face of the mate. Mr.
Briggs actually acted as though he had been unfairly accused! So, Sandy
laughed—and when he did, Captain West arose from his chair with a roar
of rage.

“Get out of here! You smooth-faced, insubordinate little firebugs! Get
back to your quarters and stand by to face a court of inquiry on charges
of arson and insubordination! That’ll teach you to laugh at me and call
my mate a liar! Eh? How about that, eh? How will your friend, Old Man
Kennedy, like that, eh, when he hears that his white-faced schoolboys
are headed for some Buffalo jail? And you, Mr. Briggs, I’m ordering you
to keep these two under lock and key until we get to Buffalo.” Then,
puffing up his chest like a giant bullfrog, Captain West issued a final
roar:

“GET OUT!”

Their heads held high, Sandy and Jerry marched back to their quarters.

And the door had hardly swung shut behind them, before the skipper
whirled and pounced upon his mate with the low snarl of an enraged puma.
With a cry and a whimper, the fawning mate who had opened his mouth for
words of toadying praise, cringed back against the bulkhead.

“No, Skipper, don’t,” he whined, but Captain West ignored his pleas and
seized him by the shirt collar and began to shake him.

“You lying, sniveling drunk!” the skipper growled. “Do you think you
fooled me for a moment? I saw you smash that rum bottle in front of that
Steele boy’s face tonight. I smelled your breath when you came reeling
down the passageway, shrieking like the lily-livered ninny you are.” He
shook Mr. Briggs again, fiercely. “Do you think I believed that
cock-and-bull story of yours? Do you? Answer me!”

Terrified, the mate babbled, “N-no, sir.”

“But you still took me for a fool, is that it?” the skipper snarled,
almost beside himself. Then, seeing Mr. Briggs burst into a fit of
uncontrollable blubbering, he uttered a growl of disgust and flung him
back on the bunk like a sack of wheat. He returned to his desk and sat
down again.

“Briggs,” he said heavily, “if it wasn’t for the fact that I can make
use of you, I’d have skinned you alive long ago. I pretended to believe
you tonight only because I saw a chance to put those nosy brats of
Kennedy’s in their place. I want them under lock and key until that deal
is signed in Buffalo. And that’s the day after tomorrow.” The skipper
drew another deep breath. “They belong to you, Briggs,” he said. “And
you’ll answer for them with your hide.” His voice took on an ugly,
menacing tone that raised bumps of fear all along the mate’s spine.

“If something goes wrong, Briggs, if I see you so much as look at
another bottle, I’ll flay that hide of yours from one end of the Lakes
to the other. I’ve got too much at stake to fool around! Paul Chadwick
wants those Kennedy boats and I want him to get them. If it’s the last
thing I do, I’m going to be chief captain of the combined Chadwick and
Kennedy lines—and no high school kids are going to get in my way by
telling Old Man Kennedy about those high-grade ore discoveries. So,
remember that, Briggs—and now get out of here and let me get some
sleep.”

Still trembling, the shaken mate crept from Captain West’s quarters and
closed the door softly behind him. Then he slipped down the passageway
toward the tiny cabin occupied by Sandy Steele and Jerry James.

The moment Mr. Briggs vanished from sight, the door of the cabin
adjoining the skipper’s came stealthily open. Then, slowly, the figure
of a little bald-headed man emerged. He shut the door carefully behind
him, and then glanced swiftly up and down the corridor.

On tiptoe, he slipped over to Captain West’s door. He bent his head to
listen. Then he backed off carefully and raised both clenched fists to
shake them in a gesture of anger and defiance, before he whirled
silently and made his way out of sight.

The little bald-headed man was Cookie.

He had heard every word spoken in the captain’s cabin since Sandy and
Jerry had made their appearance there. Every inch of his little frame
burned with determination to come to the rescue of his young friends and
help thwart the schemes of the crafty Captain West.

In their own cabin, meanwhile, the two friends had just climbed wearily
into their bunks.

Suddenly they shot erect as they heard a rattling and clanking outside
their door. But they knew in the next instant what the noise meant. It
was Mr. Briggs “dogging down” the heavy outside handle.

“Well,” Jerry said, “now we’re prisoners.”

“Yes,” Sandy said, “but I have a funny feeling that things are going to
start to get better.”

“Why?”

“Because,” Sandy said grimly, “they couldn’t possibly get any worse.”



                              CHAPTER TEN
                           The Unsalted Seas


Unfortunately, Sandy Steele was wrong.

Things could get worse, and they did.

They worsened, not only for the two youths from Valley View, California,
but for everyone aboard the _James Kennedy_—to say nothing of all those
other thousands of human souls who sailed the lower Lakes on that
memorable summer morning.

For it was on that morning that a freak summer storm that had been
rushing down from the north, roared like a scourge across Lake Huron
before bursting in all its fury upon the shallow waters of Lake Erie. It
was a storm that blew with shattering force across a body of water
notorious for rough weather.

There are no storms so sudden and so strong as those that fall upon the
Great Lakes, and Sandy Steele and Jerry James were about to witness one
of the worst within the memory of the grizzled sailors of “the unsalted
seas.”

There are the treacherous gales, and sometimes hurricanes, of late fall
or early winter—those wailing winds that sheathe a ship in fresh-water
ice, before driving it to its destruction.

In the days of sailing ships, there have been single storms upon the
Lakes in which as many as a hundred ships—with thousands of sailors and
passengers—have perished within twenty-four hours. Steam-driven
freighters, and motorships, too, have sunk to the bottom of these cold
waters—and more than a few of the ocean liners that have managed to make
their way to the Lakes via the St. Lawrence River have gone to a
fresh-water grave.

The very first ship to sail the Lakes was the bark, _Griffon_, of the
famous French explorer, LaSalle. It set sail from Buffalo on August 7,
1679, reached the shores of Lake Michigan, and then disappeared
completely on its return voyage.

From Superior to Ontario, the floors of the Lakes are littered with all
manner of ships that have gone down in these storms—with their cargoes,
their jewels, their gold, their stacks of currency still undamaged in
safes.

And it is above the surface of Lake Erie, the body of water toward which
the _James Kennedy_ was placidly steaming, that the Great Lakes storms
blow the worst and the wildest. For Lake Erie is the shallowest of all
the lakes. Its average depth is only 70 feet, compared to that of 250
for the rest of them. At its deepest, it is only 210 feet—compared to
1,180 feet on Lake Superior.

Erie is a shallow saucer, a basin, and when the winds go whistling
across its surface they create something of the effect that a boy might
make by blowing onto a shallow saucer of water—but on a much, much
greater scale. The winds whip up mountainous waves that can break a
freighter in two. There have been storms on Lake Erie as freakish and
furious as that recorded by the veteran mariner who had moored his
vessel on the Canadian shore opposite Buffalo. To his amazement, the
wind blew so savagely that it drove the water out and away from his
ship’s hull and left him sitting there, high and dry!

Even today, in our modern age, there have been freighters that have
ventured into Erie storms, from whom nothing has been heard except a
last, despairing message: “We are breaking up.”

So it was on Lake Erie that this unusual summer storm struck with such
violence, only a few hours after the _James Kennedy_ had left the
Detroit River and swung its prow east by north for Buffalo.


Oddly enough, Captain West was elated when the storm broke.

He would not have been quite so overjoyed had he known how terrible it
would become. But his first reaction to the gale was simply that this
would probably keep the _James Kennedy_, and the two youths, out on the
Lakes until well after Mr. Paul Chadwick had finished his deal with Mr.
Kennedy.

In fact, Captain West had decided against going ashore in Detroit for
much the same reasons. He had suddenly realized that it might be risky
to place Sandy Steele and Jerry James within reach of a big city—with
its telephones and telegraphs, and, worse, its buses and railroads. They
might, in some way, get off the ship. Then they would be free to warn
Mr. Kennedy.

So Captain West had left orders to make downriver past Detroit and out
into Lake Erie.

He awoke to the shudder and roll of his ship. In his ears, he could hear
the whine of a rising wind. When he gazed out of his porthole, his eyes
fell on a slate-gray sea.

“A storm!” he cried, grinning with wicked delight. “Oh, ho, Captain
West’s luck is running good. This’ll close that deal for good and all!”

Pleased as could be, the skipper sprang from his bunk and began putting
on his foul-weather clothing. He strode briskly from his cabin. About to
make topside, he paused at the mate’s door. He swung it open and leaned
in.

“Briggs, I think you’d better unlock those boys.”

The mate gawked as though he couldn’t believe his ears, but Captain West
held up a thick, hairy paw when he opened his mouth to protest.

“Do as I say! They’re not going anywhere, especially in this storm. It’s
one thing to keep them locked up like that under the pretext of facing
charges, Briggs. But it’s another to have them trapped below decks
during a storm.”

The mate nodded obediently, and Captain West wheeled and headed for the
ladder. Moving along the passageway, he was surprised to find that he
had to stretch out flat against the bulkhead to keep from falling. The
_James Kennedy_ was bucking that much!

Clambering up the ladder, he needed all his strength to keep from being
thrown below. When he got on deck, the wind seemed to whistle through
his ears, and he pursed his lips in a whistle of his own when he
observed the huge, rising seas and the dirty clouds scudding low and
threatening above him.

Glancing over the side, Captain West whistled again.

There was a good two feet less of freeboard already, and the _James
Kennedy_ seemed to be plunging deeper into the steely, rain-dimpled
waves. Captain West pulled his cap lower on his forehead and thrust one
powerful shoulder ahead of him as he bucked into the screaming wind. The
rain came slanting at him in sheets and raked his face. He ducked his
chin deeper into his shoulder, not quite so jubilant a skipper as he had
been upon awakening.

For this, indeed, was the start of a real blow!


Below decks, Sandy Steele and Jerry James were awake, too. They had been
so for perhaps a half hour before Captain West, roused from a deep sleep
by the unfamiliar pitching of the vessel. Now they sat on the lower
bunk. Both boys had deeply serious expressions on their faces. Sandy was
not even aware of the cowlick that hung forward on his forehead, and
Jerry James’s brow was a mass of wrinkles. They were listening to the
steady clanking and groaning of the _James Kennedy_’s steel fibers as
the laden ore boat rolled in the rising seas. Even below, they could
hear the thin wailing of the winds above.

“Sounds like a real storm, Sandy.”

“Yes, and do you realize what this could mean?”

“Well, I guess it could mean anything—that is, if it got bad enough.”

“Oh, I don’t mean sinking or anything like that. I mean it could keep us
from reaching Buffalo in time.”

“Oh,” Jerry said, in a small, glum voice, and for a time neither youth
spoke. Then they heard a rattling at their door.

It opened, and the unfriendly face of Mr. Briggs peeped in. The two
youths leaped to their feet.

“Stay where you are!” the mate snapped. “You ain’t going anywheres.” He
grunted, pushing the door back and securing it against the bulkhead.
“Skipper says he wants your door open. Can’t say as I agree with him,
but he’s the skipper.”

“Can we go out?” Sandy asked.

“No.”

“How about some food?” Jerry queried, rubbing his stomach.

The mate snickered. “You’ll get the same as the others—biscuits and
water.” He snickered again. “That’s all the food that’s left after what
you two boobs done to the galley.”

“What _we_ did!” they chorused, indignantly.

“Yes, you!” the mate snarled, backing into the passageway. “And don’t
try to come it over me with that innocent-angels business.”

Sandy and Jerry exchanged glances of amazement, and then, again, they
burst out laughing.

“Boy, oh, boy,” Jerry breathed, to the annoyance of the mate, “when our
Mr. Briggs tells a story, he sticks to it!”

The mate’s mouth flew open for an angry reply, but then, it just
remained agape and not a sound issued forth.

The mate seemed to be rising in the air, towering over the two youths in
the cabin. He lost his balance and fell. His mouth still yawning and his
hands frantically clawing for a hold on the smooth steel deck, he began
to slide toward them.

Then the boys were hurled backward against the bulkhead. They struck it
with a crash and slithered to the floor, all but stunned.

For one long dreadful moment, it seemed to all three of them that the
_James Kennedy_ would never return from that sickening roll to
starboard. There was that bottomless instant when it appeared that the
heavily burdened vessel would never stop heeling over until it had
turned turtle and plunged to the bottom.

Then, it stopped.

It seemed to hang in the air.

Sandy and Jerry drew their breath in sharply. They had the terrible
sensation that there was nothing beneath the _James Kennedy_ to support
it, and that once this long, hanging pause had ended—it would drop,
drop, drop. Slowly, they let their breath out.

The vessel had begun to right itself.

With the same slow, deliberate, rolling motion, it heeled over to port,
and now it was Sandy and Jerry who rose in the air above the mate and
who felt themselves sliding toward him. Again, it seemed that the _James
Kennedy_ would overturn, and the hanging sensation was repeated. But
when the vessel had righted itself this time, it seemed merely to
shiver—before plowing straight ahead.

Scrambling erect, the two youths stared at Mr. Briggs. The mate’s face
had been drained of color and his little eyes glistened with fear.

“That,” he said, in a voice hoarse with awe and disbelief, “was a wave!”


Up above, in the pilothouse, Captain West had watched that monster swell
come and go, and now even he was a trifle shaken as he mopped his brow
in relief. He wondered what would have happened if that wall of water
had struck them fore and aft, rather than abeam.

He gazed through his windows and wagged his head gravely. The winds
still rose in violence. They whipped at the _James Kennedy_ from every
quarter, seeming to change direction every other moment like a cyclone
gone mad. The seas were a battering confusion. The waves ran this way,
the wind another. Between them, they tore at the ship’s superstructure
and thundered against her sides. Sometimes two great waves would dash at
each other from opposite directions, colliding with a great roar and a
shattering shower of spray.

Captain West saw with alarm that the waves were increasing in height.
They were already well past ten feet. They would go on to twenty, of
that he was disturbingly certain—and after that?

After that, Captain West knew, waves and running seas of that height
would batter the long, narrow, shallow _James Kennedy_ until she broke
in two. He no longer placed such great importance on staying out of port
to make sure of Mr. Chadwick’s deal. He would have given anything, just
then, to be safe and snug behind the breakwater at Buffalo.

Peering through his rain-splashed windows, the skipper sought a glimpse
of some other vessel. But his visibility had been greatly reduced by the
sheets of rain and the darkening skies. The unearthly light that had
greeted him when he came on deck had been slowly subsiding. Now, as the
clock raced on toward noon and the storm raged on in unabated fury, he
could see only the clashing seas around him and hear that high-pitched
wailing of the wind.

He shook himself.

“This is bad, very bad,” he said to Sam, who had taken over as
wheelsman.

“Aye, aye, sir,” Sam said. “I’ve been through some bad ones on the
Lakes—but I’ve not seen any worse than this one. And it’s just starting,
if I read the signals right.”

The captain bobbed his head in unhappy assent. The _James Kennedy_
staggered and seemed to shake herself as she drove forward into a wall
of lake water, and he embraced a stanchion to keep his feet. He waited
until the vessel had steadied herself, and then he lurched across the
pilothouse to the rear windows to stare with dismay at the spectacle
below him.

Grayish seas were swamping the decks of the _James Kennedy_, and the
crewmen were frantically at work trying to secure the hatch of one of
the holds. Wind and water had torn at a corner of the steel hatch and
had peeled it back as though a giant can opener had been at work. Each
time the _Kennedy_ dug into one of the heavy seas swinging toward it,
the crewmen would seize the rails and hang on for dear life while the
water swept down on them.

Then, while the vessel rose high again and the waters ran off the sides,
they would resume the battle against the hatch—battering away at it with
sledge hammers in an attempt to seal the hold.

One look at this scene was enough for Captain West. He could see at a
glance that more men were needed.

“Mr. Briggs!” he shouted at his mate through the speaking tube. “Get
every available man up on deck to Number Four hatch!”

The mate’s voice wailed hollowly in reply: “They’re all up there
already, sir—every man that can be spared.”

“Nonsense, Briggs! Who else have you got down there?”

“Just myself and those two high school brats.”

Captain West fell silent. He frowned. The ship shuddered and he was
forced to grab Sam’s shoulder for support. Below, he could see the angry
waters sweeping down the decks while the crewmen clung in terror to the
rail. Many of them, he noticed, had wrapped lines around their waists
and secured them to the railing. But there just weren’t enough of
them—and that hatch, yawning like a fatal hole in the ship’s armor, just
had to be closed! If it was not, if it grew larger, then the lake water
would pour through. It would saturate the tons and tons of ore that lay
in the typical ore freighter’s single huge hold. The weight of the
_James Kennedy_ would be at least doubled, and the merest ripple or
slightest breeze might suffice to send her plunging to the bottom!

No, that hatch must be sealed! Every available hand was needed to do it,
and quickly, even though they might belong to the most troublesome pair
of youths Captain West had ever known.

“Send them up, Mr. Briggs,” he ordered, and turned to give additional
orders to the wheelsman, Sam.

Below, Mr. Briggs aimed a thumb at his “prisoners” and grunted, “Get up
to Number Four hatch on the double. You heard the captain, so you know
what’s wanted. Take a crowbar there, and you both better have a line.”
He leered. “If you want to get to Buffalo, you’d better tie yourself to
the rail up there and hang on tight.”

Without a word, Sandy Steele and Jerry James seized coils of rope from
hooks along the passageway. Then Sandy grasped a crowbar and the two
hastened topside.



                             CHAPTER ELEVEN
                              The Big Blow


Sandy could not suppress a gasp of astonishment the moment he emerged on
deck and felt the smashing power of that screaming wind, and sensed,
rather than felt, the awesome force of those mountainous seas thundering
down on the _James Kennedy_ with the crunching sound of huge boulders
colliding. There was water everywhere, pelting down from above in the
rain and rising in great shafts of spray and spume as the waves cracked
and crashed on the wallowing freighter.

Jerry James was aghast. He opened his mouth and shouted something at
Sandy, but the wind tore the words from his mouth. The two boys were
forced to talk in gestures. Sandy laid down his crowbar, placing a foot
on it to keep it from rolling over the side. Then he pointed to the
rail. He wound his rope around his waist. Next, he looped it over the
railing, before fashioning a good strong slipknot. He backed off a few
feet, the muscles of his calves straining to maintain a purchase on the
slippery, heeling decks. Carefully, he tugged. The rope held. He nodded
at Jerry and his friend followed suit. Once, just before Jerry had
finished, the black-haired youth looked up and saw, in fright, a huge
wave bearing down on them amidships. It struck the side just as the
_James Kennedy_ rolled away from it—luckily for the two youths.

The impact of that wave sent a long shiver through the 600-foot length
of their freighter and what seemed a very wall of water shot high into
the air before it fell on them with a drenching crash. It drove them to
their knees.

So great was the shock, that neither Sandy nor Jerry could remember the
sensation of coldness or wetness. All they could think of was that
mighty weight that flattened them, almost driving the breath from their
bodies.

Then the water began to wash away, and Sandy Steele felt an almost
irresistible tug. Quickly, he wound his arms around the line he had only
just fastened to the railing. He tried to stand up, but the rushing
water knocked his legs out from under him. He seemed immersed in a
whitish, greenish froth, but then, as his eyes and ears cleared he saw
the low clouds swinging overhead and the lake water boiling by beneath
him, and heard the despairing cry of his friend:

“Help, Sandy! Help, I’m going!”

Too late, Jerry James had rushed to finish tying his slipknot. But he
had it only half finished when the wave struck. The water swept him up
like a chip and now it was rushing him toward his destruction, over the
side.

Sandy Steele saw his friend’s peril.

Without hesitation, he released his own grip on the line and dove for
Jerry’s body.

He dove against the water and he struck Jerry with a waist-high tackle.

As his wiry arms closed around his friend’s middle, Sandy snapped his
own body around in a half-twist, whirling himself against the pressure
of the rope. It was well that he did, for the receding wave was pushing
him in the other direction. That way, the rope would have unwound and
the two boys would have rolled over the side and drowned.

But Sandy Steele’s split-second thinking applied the pressure in the
right place and the rope held.

Gasping, the two lay on the deck. They could see the angry, running seas
beneath them, and then, as the _James Kennedy_ heeled away, the rim of
the lake and then only the clouds.

They were saved.

But they were too weak to congratulate each other, and all that Jerry
James could do to show his gratitude was to flop his hand weakly on his
friend’s back. Now, as they blew lake water from their mouths, they were
aware of the cold, of their drenched clothing clinging to their
goose-pimpled flesh, and of the chill breath of the wind.

“Let’s go!” Sandy finally shouted. “If we stand here, we may get socked
with another one.”

Jerry nodded and quickly secured himself to the rail, glancing up every
now and then as though he expected to see another great black wave
racing toward him. Then they made their way forward to the Number Four
hatch where the little band of lake sailors struggled bravely to keep
the lake out of the _James Kennedy_’s hold.

There were nine deck hands and one deck officer, a tall, serious-looking
man named Davis. Through his water-filled eyes, Sandy could see that Mr.
Davis had taped his spectacles securely to his temples, for fear they
would be washed away. He remembered Sam saying that Mr. Davis was “as
blind as a bat” without his glasses. Sam was with the group, too—ordered
down from the pilothouse by Captain West. That was probably because the
skipper wanted to make good use of the great strength that lay in Sam’s
deep chest and thick shoulders. Sam swung a heavy sledge hammer, as he
and two other men—one of them a blond, Swedish giant named
Gunnar—attempted to batter the sprung steel hatch cover back into place.
Sandy could hear the metallic clanging of their blows above the wind and
sea as he and Jerry approached, both of them side-stepping along the
rail while they clung to their ropes.

Then Mr. Davis yelled, “All hands to the rails!”

To his horror, Sandy saw that the _James Kennedy_’s prow had plunged
into a wall of water that reared before it. The bow sliced into it as
the _V_ of a plow might pierce a snowbank—and though the boat itself
remained steady, that parted wave was now flowing around either side of
the forward cabins and sweeping down the decks!

Swiftly, the men whirled and scurried for the rails. They dove for them,
in fact! They curled around them and bent and turned their heads away
from the onrushing water, and Sandy noticed that the hammer-swingers had
fastened their tools to their wrists by thick lengths of rope.

Then the water hit.

It was far worse than the wave that had nearly carried Jerry James to
his death.

But it did not last as long. It struck with swift savagery, lifting
Sandy and Jerry and the rest of them from their feet. It sought to tear
them free of the rail and drive them aft and into the water. But that
great crushing blow and terrible tug was only of a few seconds’
duration, and then it was gone.

Sandy looked around. Water was spilling back over the sides of the
_James Kennedy_, but at the rail, where there had been ten men, there
were now only eight.

Two men had been washed overboard, one of them a hammer man.

But there was little time to dwell upon the horror of those missing
figures at the rail.

Mr. Davis had lost his glasses. The wave had torn them from his head.
The tall deck officer peered wildly about him. He had backed from the
rail, digging furiously at his eyes to clear them of water. Now, as he
looked around him on the deck of the heaving ship, it was plain that he
had lost his bearings. He took a step forward. Another. Then, rapidly,
two more. He was walking toward the rail!

Involuntarily, Sandy and Jerry took two steps toward him. But they were
too far away.

Their friend Sam wasn’t.

The stocky seaman with the muscles like steel hawsers swiftly shot out a
clutching hand and stopped his superior officer before he drowned
himself.

“You’ll have to go back, sir!” Sam shouted above the wind. “You can’t
stay out here blinded like that. Here,” he shouted at one of the men,
“help Mr. Davis below.”

The man wound a guiding arm around the deck officer, and together, they
made their way aft along the rail.

Sam glanced at Sandy Steele and Jerry and shouted, “You two—we need your
help. Come over here. That’s right, pay out the line.”

The two lads let go their tight hold on their safety lines and came over
to the torn hatch, turning around and around to unwind their ropes.

“Now,” Sam shouted again, cupping his hands so that he could be heard
above the storm and the rattling of the ship. “Now, we can’t waste any
more time rushing over to the rail every time we ship a little water.
That last wave must have poured a couple of tons of water into the hold.
A few more like that, and we’ll be down in Davy Jones’s locker. Here’s
what we’re going to do.

“We’ve got eight men left and two sledge hammers. So, Gunnar here takes
one hammer and I take the other. While we’re hammering down the hatch
cover, you three hold Gunnar,” he said, pointing to a trio of seamen,
“and you three hold me.” He pointed to Sandy and Jerry and a fourth
seaman. “If the water comes over the side again, well, we’ll just have
to ride it out. You men secure yourselves to those bits. And for gosh
sakes,” he yelled, his husky voice rising to full volume, “don’t anybody
let go of Gunnar or me when the water hits!”

Quickly, Sandy and Jerry did as they were ordered. They fastened
themselves to those stubby, mushroom-shaped iron pegs that are called
bits. Then, Jerry and the other seaman wound their arms around Sam’s
powerful legs and Sandy, because he was the tallest, grabbed him by the
waist.

Sam and Gunnar got to work.

Their hammers clanged rapidly against the stubborn steel, forcing it
down at a steady but agonizingly slow pace. Sandy marveled to feel the
strength surging through Sam’s hard torso, as he hugged the sturdy
seaman with all his might. Sam’s chest heaved and the muscles of his
back bunched as he brought the heavy hammer up and down, up and down.

Soon, Sandy’s own body ached from the strain of holding Sam erect
against the swaying and staggering of the _James Kennedy_. And the hole
was being closed so slowly!

Once, a fair-sized wave swept suddenly over them. Sandy felt Sam go down
under its onslaught, but he held him fast even though his body screamed
in pain from the effort. The seaman and Jerry held on, too, and when the
waters had spilled back into Lake Erie, a grinning Sam spat
contemptuously and scrambled to his feet and swung his hammer again.

The resumed clanging of the hammer swung by Gunnar, the Swede, told
Sandy that his crew had held fast as well.

Now, the hatch was closed. Sam and Gunnar were swiftly and skillfully
pounding the steel snugly into place when a sudden gust of wind spun Sam
around just as he was bringing his hammer down for the final blow.

Unable to stop himself, Sam now had his whistling sledge hammer aimed
directly at the unsuspecting head of Gunnar! In a fraction of a second,
the iron hammerhead would drive deep into Gunnar’s skull. It would smash
it open as easily as an eggshell, with Sam’s great strength propelling
it.

In that tiny interval of time, Sandy Steele swiftly sat down. He buckled
his legs and dragged Sam back with him, and as he did, he heard a
familiar voice beneath him yelp with pain. There was a loud metallic
clang—like the sound of a firebell—as Sam’s sledge hammer swished
harmlessly past the back of Gunnar’s head and struck the steel deck with
terrific force. But the big Swede had been saved, even if Sandy’s friend
Jerry seemed to have wound up a casualty.

He lay writhing on the deck and Sandy had to bend quickly to make sure
the rolling of the ship didn’t roll him over the side.

“What’s wrong?” he shouted in Jerry’s ear.

“My ankle,” Jerry yelled back, grimacing. “I think it’s sprained. When
you fell on me, I guess.”

Sandy groaned. He was sorry that his friend had been hurt, of course,
but now, he realized, he would have to go it alone. He glanced up and
saw the Swede staring down with a puzzled look on his face. His gaze
wavered from Jerry to the spot where Sam’s hammer had struck, making him
jump in surprise. Now Sam was waving his arms wildly and shouting an
explanation of what had happened. As he spoke, Gunnar’s mouth came open
and his blue eyes grew round.

When Sam had finished, Gunnar came over to Sandy. He leaned down and
yelled in his ear, “Tanks. You ban safe my life. You goot poy.”

Sandy nodded, embarrassed. Then he said, “Can you help me move my
friend? I think he’s sprained his ankle.”

Gunnar bent and lifted Valley View High School’s husky right end as
easily as a child. “Ay take him below,” he said simply, shifting Jerry’s
weight to one side and supporting him with one huge arm, while with the
other he held fast to the rail. He staggered off.

Sam grinned at Sandy. “Nice work, Sandy,” he said, shouting through
cupped hands again. “You sure made a friend today.”

Sandy nodded. He had glanced up to see Captain West staring down at him
from the pilothouse. It recalled to him that the most important mission
of his voyage still lay ahead of him, and that his dependable friend,
Jerry, probably would no longer be of help.

“I sure hope so, Sam,” Sandy said. “Because I think I may be needing
one.”

Then Sandy Steele and Sam swayed aft with the rest of the _James
Kennedy_’s weary deck hands.



                             CHAPTER TWELVE
                             A Web of Lies


Jerry James’s ankle seemed swollen to twice its normal size by the time
the big seaman, Gunnar, had carried him below and gently deposited him
on the bottom bunk of Sandy’s and Jerry’s cabin.

“It’s yust a sprain, Ay tank,” Gunnar mumbled as he peered at the ankle
after having removed Jerry’s dripping clothing and wrapped him in
blankets.

“Does it hurt much, Jerry?” Sandy asked anxiously.

Jerry tried to smile and shrug it off. But it was obvious to Sandy that
his friend was in great pain. He turned around, bumping into Sam, who
had also jammed himself into the tiny room. Outside the open door, Mr.
Briggs stared in at the scene with eyes of unpitying curiosity.

“Have you got any medicine, Sam?” Sandy asked. “I mean, something to
kill his pain a little.”

Sam shrugged. “Best thing that we can do is give him some rest and try
to get that swelling down. He’ll need a doctor’s care when we get to
port.” He paused as the _James Kennedy_ began to heel over in a long
roll. Everybody reached for support, and Sam grinned and added, “_If_ we
get to port.”

“We will,” the mate butted in. “Captain just called down to say the
wind’s going down.”

“Py yiminy,” said the big Swede, beaming, “Ay tank Ay live long enough
for farm, after all.”

Sam smiled fondly at Gunnar. “You big galoot,” he said, good-humoredly.
“You can’t stand to be ashore two days without getting landsick.” He
turned his gaze back to Jerry James. “You know,” he said, “I think I’ve
got just the thing to take down that swelling some and ease the pain,
too.”

“What’s that?” Sandy asked.

“Well, seeing as how you must have swallowed a couple of bucketfuls of
it yourself not long ago, I’ll tell you. It’s lake water!” He leaned out
into the passageway and called, “Hey, one of you lads, get up above and
fetch us a bucket of lake water, hear?” Then he grinned, plainly
enjoying himself. “All you have to do is stand on deck until the first
wave comes along!”

In another five minutes, Jerry James had been carefully lifted into a
sitting position by Gunnar and his sprained right foot had been thrust
into a bucket of cold Lake Erie water. Jerry had winced at his first
contact with it, but he soon grew accustomed to it. In half an hour
more, the swelling had gone down considerably and Jerry was able to turn
in with his ankle swathed in strips of sheeting soaked with water.

“Keep dousing it with water every hour or so,” Sam had suggested to
Sandy.

Then Sam and Gunnar had trudged back to the barren mess hall to join the
rest of the crewmen who squatted glumly against the bulkheads, munching
the hard biscuits and cold water passed out to them by a Cookie who
seemed to have lost his usual cheerful spirits.


Up above, meanwhile, Captain West saw, to his alarm, that he had been
mistaken about the storm. The winds had indeed died down, but only for a
time.

Now, with the coming of darkness, they were again rising. What had
resumed as the gentlest of whispers was now a wild screaming and
hammering around the pilothouse that threatened to smash in even those
stoutly reinforced windows. The seas were again pounding. The _James
Kennedy_ seemed to be weakening. No longer did she plow ahead, straight
and true, with the passage of each successive wave. Now she was
wallowing in the troughs—and the thundering seas battered her
mercilessly. Each time, she staggered and drove on. But each time, she
seemed to drive on a little less powerfully.

The waves roared at her in combinations now—sometimes two waves
following quickly upon another, frequently three.

Alone in his pilothouse, Captain West realized that a few hours more of
such punishment would mean the end of his ship and all aboard her.
Below, in the mess hall, the veteran sailors realized it, too. But they
said nothing, merely exchanging fearful glances. Only God could save
them now, they knew. In such a storm, even the most superb seamanship
was useless.

Captain West knew it, too. He wondered if he should radio for help. But
what good would that do? Who could get to him? Besides, Captain West had
no wish to make contact with the mainland. The storm had given him his
perfect excuse for arriving in Buffalo too late to communicate with his
employer, Mr. Kennedy. He wished to stay out of contact with the Kennedy
offices for as long as possible.

But something had to be done. Quickly, Captain West bent over his chart.
His eyes swept over it, eagerly searching for some island or outcropping
of land to which he might run for shelter. All around him now were the
voices of insane power, the clashing and crashing of that surging sea,
the wailing of the wind. As Captain West bent his head, a great wall of
water gathered before the _James Kennedy_’s bow.

It rose, black and awful, to the height of Captain West’s pilothouse—and
then it struck.

It fell with a roar. Captain West dove for a stanchion. He threw his
arms around it and held on. The water burst the bulkheads of the
pilothouse. It flattened those steel walls as though they were made of
paper. It swept away the pilothouse as easily as a wave washing away a
fruit crate.

Captain West heard that wrenching roar, and then the lake water poured
over him. He clung desperately to the stanchion. He felt that monstrous
weight—hundreds and hundreds of tons—driving the _James Kennedy_ down
and down, and he wondered if the vessel would ever re-emerge from it.

Down below, in his tiny cabin, Sandy Steele held his breath as he felt
that wave strike the ship and drive it down.

But the _James Kennedy_ came up.

Buried though she had been, the gallant vessel shook herself like a
soaked and weary mastiff, and her bow popped out of the frothing white
seas, streaming water from every side—and she gave a long shudder and
drove forward again.

A concerted sigh of relief broke from the throats of the lake sailors
huddled in the mess hall.

Sandy Steele felt the light film of perspiration that had gathered on
his forehead, and he involuntarily squeezed the arm of his friend.

Captain West slowly released his grip on the stanchion.

They had been through the worst of it, he knew now.

The wind was dropping as swiftly as it had risen. Above him, the clouds
were thinning out. A ghostly glow seemed to illuminate the scene as the
moon shone palely through them. In its light, Captain West could see the
dark seas running around him, glittering like polished black glass.

Captain West surveyed the damage to his pilothouse. The compass was
destroyed. The steering gear was so badly damaged that it would be
impossible to make any headway against a strong wind. But the wind was
falling to a murmur. He would be able to steer, and he would navigate by
hand compass from one of the lifeboats.

He decided to wait another few minutes to be certain that the storm was
over. Then he would go below to fetch Sam and the big Swede, Gunnar. He
couldn’t call them. The speaking system was ruined, too.

Captain West removed his hat and began to wring it dry. If he lived to
be a hundred, he told himself, he would never see another wave like that
one.


The men in the mess hall were in an ugly mood.

They knew that the worst was over, and so they had begun to grumble.
With nothing to fear, they had time to complain. Mr. Briggs was quick to
seize upon their discontent and turn it to his own ends.

He had been listening to two of them grumble bitterly about the fact
that they had had nothing solid to eat since lunch the day before. The
smaller of the pair, a man with sharp features and untidy, mouse-colored
hair, had begun to talk louder and louder.

“Thirty-six hours, Dick,” he complained. “Thirty-six hours since we’ve
had a real bite or a hot sup. Nothing but hard biscuits and stale
water.”

“Aye,” said his friend heavily. “And whose fault is it? What are we
doing out on Erie at a time like this, when we could be ashore in
Detroit? We could be drinking our coffee nice and easy in some
restaurant right now. Whose fault is it? That’s what I want to know.”

Mr. Briggs’s little eyes roved rapidly over the mess hall. He saw with
satisfaction that Sam and Gunnar had dozed off. He sidled over to the
two discontented men, who had begun to cast dark, threatening glances
about them as though they sought the author of their misfortunes.

“Who’s to blame, you say?” Mr. Briggs whispered, glancing quickly around
him. “I’ll tell you.” He pointed down the passageway. “It’s those snippy
brats of Old Man Kennedy’s, that’s who’s to blame!” he burst out.

“Oh, come, now,” the little man named Bogert said. “Don’t tell me that a
couple of vacationing high school boys have anything to do with running
this ship.”

“Just listen to me!” Mr. Briggs said fiercely. “Who do you think caused
that fire in the galley last night? It was those two blasted brats
tomfoolin’ around, that’s who it was! If you’re wondering who you’ve got
to thank for your empty bellies, it’s those kids down the way.
Especially the blond one. Every last scrap of decent food was burned up
in that fire. That’s why you’re getting biscuits and water.”

The two men exchanged angry glances. Seeing that he had convinced them,
Mr. Briggs rushed on.

“And why are we out on Lake Erie instead of being berthed in Detroit?
That’s their fault, too! The skipper didn’t want to make for Buffalo so
soon. But he had to. With a couple of firebugs like them aboard, he said
he couldn’t take any chances!”

The big man named Dick let out a low growl.

“How about Perkins, Dick?” the mate added, deliberately attempting to
goad the big man into a rage. “Perkins was your friend, wasn’t he, Dick?
And now he’s on the bottom of Lake Erie, washed over the side in a storm
we never should have been in! All because of a couple of dirty brats who
haven’t shaved yet!”

The big man shook his head. He got to his feet and gazed down at the
mate. He clenched and unclenched his hamlike hands and another deep
growl rumbled from his chest.

“What are you going to do, Dick?” his friend Bogert asked. The little
man was slightly nervous.

“I’m gonna pay ’em back,” the big man said slowly. He blinked his eyes
stupidly. “I’ve been starvin’ and I lost my best friend and I almost got
washed overboard myself and it’s all on account of them kids. I’m gonna
pay ’em back, Bogert.” He turned to the mate and growled, “Where are
they?”

But he needn’t have asked.

At that moment, Sandy Steele walked down the hall with a bucket. He
needed more water to freshen his friend’s bandages.

“There he is!” the mate shouted. “There’s the wise one—the one that
called me a liar!”

The big man whirled and pounced. Before Sandy knew what was happening,
he had been grasped by the collar and spun around. There was not even
time to struggle. The big man held him firmly in that left hand and drew
back his big right fist for a smashing blow.

“Wise kid,” Dick muttered. “I’m gonna give you a good one from old
Perkins.”

Sandy started to duck.

But the blow never landed.

Instead, it was Dick himself who was whirled around now, while an angry
voice said, “Ay tank Ay give you goot wan.”

Then there was a sharp spat of bone meeting bone. An expression of
amazement came over Dick’s face. Then his face went blank and his knees
buckled and he sank gently to the deck.

Gunnar smiled and lifted his enormous right fist for the rest of the
shocked sailors to see.

“Ay yust tell you maybe Ay hit real hard next time.”

Murmurs of admiration came from the lips of the onlookers, and at that
moment, Mr. Briggs sought to steal from the room. But Sam, who had also
been awakened, moved to head him off.

“What’s your hurry, mate?” he asked easily.

“Well, er, I was, er, just going to....” Mr. Briggs stammered, clearing
his throat. He cast a nervous glance at the big Swede, who stood glaring
at him while, behind him, the big man, Dick, slowly pushed himself up
from the deck. “Well, you see—” the mate stuttered, but then his eyes
lost their fear and his face grew spiteful and defiant again as Captain
West came sloshing into the room.

“What’s going on here?” he bellowed.

Every head spun toward him and there was a babble of excited voices in
reply. But, of course, it was Mr. Briggs who answered the skipper’s
question.

“Oh, nothing at all, sir,” he said, giving Captain West a broad wink.
“Just a bit of friendly horseplay, that’s all, sir.”

Captain West grunted and nodded. Then he said, “You, there, Sam and
Gunnar. Get up above to the pilothouse. A wave swept everything but the
deck away, but you can still steer by hand compass. Get one from one of
the lifeboats. The rest of you,” he roared, whirling quickly, “the rest
of you get back where you belong. The storm’s over! We’ll make Buffalo
by tomorrow night.”

A weak cheer followed that news. The men shuffled down the passageway.
Captain West waited until the sailors had gotten out of earshot, before
he jerked a rude thumb at Sandy and growled, “He making trouble again?”

The mate nodded. “Just before you came below, he stirred up a fight
between Dick and the Swede.”

Sandy Steele sucked his breath in sharply.

“That’s a lie!” he burst out sharply.

Captain West ignored his protest. He merely glared savagely at Sandy and
said, “Shut up!” He seemed to be pondering something. Then, his forehead
smoothed out and he spoke to his mate.

“Briggs, we’re only a few hours away from that Chadwick-Kennedy deal.
I’m taking no chances on Buster, here. So, he’s yours until we dock
tomorrow night. Take him into your cabin with you and batten down the
door. Don’t come out until I send for you. You hear me?”

The mate nodded glumly. “Don’t I get nothin’ to eat?” he whined.

“Stop bleating about your blasted belly,” the captain snapped. “I’ll
send Cookie in to you. Now, now, hold on! Whoa! What about the other
brat? Where’s he?”

“In bed,” the mate said. “He sprained his ankle during the storm.”

“Bad?”

Mr. Briggs grinned evilly.

“Bad enough to keep him in bed.”

“Good,” Captain West said. “Now, get out of here—and don’t let me see
your ugly face until we dock in Buffalo. And as for him,” he went on,
jerking his head toward Sandy, “I don’t _ever_ want to see _his_ face
again!”

Sadly assuring himself that the feeling was mutual, Sandy Steele
preceded the mate down the passageway to his cabin.



                            CHAPTER THIRTEEN
                          Cookie to the Rescue


Sandy Steele was not a quitter, yet it seemed to him that the game was
over and he had lost.

He sat on the bunk in Mr. Briggs’s cabin, with the mate leering at him
from a corner chair, and miserably considered his own plight. There
didn’t seem to be any way out. Jerry James could not move from his bed
for another day or two, so there was no help there. And here _he_ was, a
prisoner!

There wasn’t any way in the world for him to reach Mr. Kennedy.

Sandy shook his blond head mournfully. Seeing his gesture, the mate read
the feeling behind it and said, “If you had the brains you were born
with, you’d forget about everything and go to sleep.”

Sandy’s face went cold. He pretended not to have heard, but the mate was
not to be denied his favorite pleasure of gloating.

“Ma Kennedy’s little chick’s lost its tongue, eh?” he sneered. “Too bad
you ain’t going to see Ma Kennedy before tomorrow night. And by that
time, the skipper’ll be the chief captain of the Chadwick-Kennedy Line,
and yours truly’ll be a full master.”

Oho, Sandy thought to himself, so that’s the mate’s reward for his
treachery. He decided to remain quiet. The talkative Mr. Briggs might
give away some more secrets.

“Don’t think you can outwait me,” Mr. Briggs went on. “You’re the one
who needs the sleep—not me. While you heroes was battling the storm this
afternoon, I was having myself a little rest. So I’m fresh as a daisy.”

Sandy still said nothing.

“And furthermore,” the mate snapped, plainly nettled, “even if I did
doze off, it wouldn’t help you.” He tapped his breast pocket. “The key
to that there door is tucked away in here. You’d have to kill me to get
it.”

Sandy smiled, and the mate lost his temper.

“Why, you—” he began, but just then there was a knock on the door.

“Who’s there?” the mate called.

“It’s me. Cookie.”

Mr. Briggs relaxed. “Got some grub, hey, Cookie?”

“Yessirree. Got a little hot coffee, too.”

“Hot coffee!” the mate exclaimed, jumping to his feet and opening the
door to let Cookie enter. “How on earth did you ever rustle that up?”

“Oh, just a little of Cookie’s magic,” the little bald-headed man
chuckled as he slipped through the door carrying a tray.

Sure enough! He did have hot coffee! The aroma of it filled Sandy’s
nostrils and his mouth watered.

He smiled fondly at Cookie, and then, to his shocked disbelief, the
little man’s face went ugly with hatred.

“Don’t smirk at me, you Jonah, you!” Cookie shrilled. “I’ve had nothing
but bad luck since you and your friend came aboard this ship!” Sandy
recoiled from the little man as though he had been struck, and Cookie
raged on, “Yes, I mean you, Sandy Steele! First, I nearly drown because
of you. Then, you and your stupid friend burn my galley down. And now
look at the mess everybody’s in because of your silly meddling!” Sandy
shrank away from him, as insult after insult fell from the little man’s
trembling lips—to the intense delight of Mr. Briggs.

But Cookie, who had set his tray on the table, moved closer and closer
toward Sandy, until he had poked his wrinkled little face within a few
inches of the youth’s nose.

Then he winked and grinned.

Sandy Steele’s heart leaped for joy, and he almost jumped up and kissed
the little man. As it was, he knew his face must have given him away,
for Cookie had quickly flashed him a warning look, before he began
backing away, still mouthing insults.

Sandy felt better when he saw Mr. Briggs slap Cookie on the back and
heard him say, “Cookie, I couldn’t have said it better myself. The only
thing I can add to what you’ve said is that those brats are twice as bad
as you say they are.”

Still sputtering angrily, Cookie bent to his tray and began pouring the
mate a cup of steaming hot coffee.

Determined to play his part, Sandy put a pleading note into his voice
and said, “Aw, Cookie—how about some coffee?”

“You?” Cookie burst out, enraged. “I wouldn’t give you a glass of lake
water if you were dying of thirst!”

“Heh, heh,” the mate laughed, evidently pleased that the little man
shared his sentiments. “You’re in a rare mood tonight, Cookie. Why don’t
you sit down and talk a bit.”

“I will,” Cookie said. He took a seat, carefully smoothing his stained
white apron. He watched the mate take a sip. “How’s the coffee, mate?”
he asked.

“Fine, Cookie—fine.”

“Ah, yes, hot coffee’s good after a storm. Especially with a shot of rum
in it.”

“Rum? Did you say rum?”

With a sly wink, Cookie reached behind him and under his apron. He
brought out a bottle and brandished it happily.

“Aye, rum, mate.” He cast a dark look at Sandy. “It’s all that could be
salvaged from the fire. I’d been saving it to make mince meat.” He
unscrewed the cap and tilted it to pour it into the mate’s cup. “Here, a
little of this’ll warm your belly.”

“Oh, no, no, no!” the mate chattered, holding up a hand to block Cookie.
“I’d like to, Cookie—I swear I would! But I’d better not.”

“Why not?” Cookie asked innocently. “A man’s got a right to a proper
drink after a storm.”

“Well, er,” the mate stammered, “as a matter of fact, the skipper, er,
suggested to me that I’d better not.”

“Of course,” Cookie agreed, raising the bottle again. “But that was
before the storm. Now, you know Captain West would never begrudge a man
a snort after coming through what we’ve been through.”

Cookie’s voice was so easy and coaxing that Sandy marveled to hear it.
And the mate could not resist it.

“Well, Cookie, since you put it that way, I suppose you’re right. But,
just a little, now. Whoa, whoa! That’s plenty!”

“Oh-oh,” Cookie said, with exaggerated concern, “I hadn’t really meant
to put that much in.”

“No harm done,” Mr. Briggs said grandly. “No harm done, really.”

“Well, I’m certainly glad to hear that.”

“Perfectly okay, Cookie, perfectly okay. By the way, aren’t you going to
have a spot yourself?”

“Well, I don’t mind if I do. Here, I’ll just try a little in this cup
here.”

They gabbed on like that for a few minutes, their talk reaching Sandy’s
ears against the background of the mate’s noisy sipping of his coffee.
For a while, Sandy ignored their conversation. He was too busy trying to
figure out what Cookie was up to.

Obviously, the little man was trying to get the mate drunk. But why?
Cookie knew nothing of the forthcoming deal between Paul Chadwick and
Mr. Kennedy. At least, so Sandy thought. So he could not understand
Cookie’s actions. But he did see that the little man’s plan was working.
As time wore on, and the heaving of the _James Kennedy_ became less and
less pronounced, Sandy noticed that the words of Mr. Briggs were also
becoming less pronounced. His voice was thickening. He was not even
aware that Cookie’s drinks had dwindled away to almost nothing, while
his own had swelled in size.

“By the way, mate,” Cookie said, as Mr. Briggs’s head began to loll on
his shoulders. “I’ve got a funny one to tell you.”

“Whash that, Cookie, ol’ pal?”

“It’s about that big Swede, Gunnar. He told me he was going to use the
ship-to-shore telephone to call his girl-friend back in Duluth. I told
him he was crazy because it’s against the ship’s rules to use the
ship-to-shore.”

“Right, thash right. Phone’s locked up, anyway.”

“But you know what that big stupe said? He said he’d be able to make the
call in spite of that, because he knew that if he gave you five dollars
you’d give him the key.”

The mate’s brow darkened.

“He’sh a liar,” he mumbled. “Never take bribe.”

“He said you did,” Cookie rushed on eagerly. “In fact, he showed me the
key.”

“Liar!” the mate repeated. “He’sh liar!” He leaned forward drunkenly and
with a knowing leer on his face, he tapped Cookie on the knee. “I’ll
prove it,” he mumbled. “Prove he’sh liar.” He fumbled in his side
pocket. Then he drew out a bunch of keys on a ring. “Here’sh key!” he
gloated, swaying as he attempted to thump his chest. “Gunnar’s big liar.
Mr. Briggs don’t take bribes.”

“Well, well,” Cookie said, shaking his head as though grieved. “To think
he’d tell me a big one like that. Here, mate, have another drink.”

But the mate did not answer.

His head had sagged forward on his chest. Raising his voice, Cookie
repeated his request. But the mate still did not reply.

With a glance of utmost contempt, Cookie reached forward and grasped his
shoulder and shook him gently.

“Have a drink, mate,” he said.

The mate’s mouth fell open and his head snapped back and a long,
whistling snore broke from his throat.

With a grin of triumph, Cookie got to his feet. He walked over to Sandy
and stuck out his hand.

“Shake, pal,” he whispered.

With eyes shining with gratitude, Sandy Steele clasped his little
friend’s hand. He realized, now, that Cookie must know everything—else
why all that nonsense to find out where the key to the radio shack was
located. For that ship-to-shore telephone was Sandy Steele’s only hope!

“Wait ten more minutes,” Cookie whispered. “Wait until he’s so sound
asleep we can get that key away from him without waking him.”

Sandy nodded. He sat on his bunk for a time, watching the first pale
light of dawn growing steadily brighter outside, and as the day
brightened, his spirits soared with it. At last, his chance had come!

Cookie arose and moved softly to the snoring mate. He put his mouth to
his ear, and said in a loud voice, “Have another drink, mate.”

Mr. Briggs’s answer was a sputtering snore.

Cookie slapped him sharply on the cheek and cried, “Wake up, mate.” Mr.
Briggs slept on as though made of stone.

With another cocky grin, the little man reached down into Mr. Briggs’s
side pocket and pulled out his set of keys. He found the one he wanted,
separated it from the rest, removed it—and then stuck the others back
where they had come from.

“Let’s go,” he said to Sandy.

“Sure you have the right key, Cookie?” Sandy asked.

“Sure. I’d know it anywhere. Come on, follow me.”

As they went out, Cookie removed the key that the mate had left in the
lock when he opened the door to admit him. When they had stepped out
into the corridor, he closed the door softly behind him and locked it.

“Just in case,” he chirped, putting the key in his pocket.

Then the two made their way to the radio shack.


“Shhh!” Cookie said, as he quietly unlocked the door to the radio shack.
“Don’t show a light either.” He glanced rapidly around him. “There,” he
said, pointing to an object standing alongside a radio transmitter.
“That’s it.”

A tingling thrill shot through Sandy Steele’s body as his eyes pierced
the dim light that filtered through a porthole and fell on the
ship-to-shore telephone.

“You use it just like any other telephone,” Cookie whispered, as he bent
to lock the door. “Just give the operator the letters there at the
bottom, and then give her the number you want.”

Sandy Steele groaned.

“I don’t know Mr. Kennedy’s number,” he said.

Cookie’s brow puckered. “Well, ask the operator to locate him for you.
She might help.”

She did.

“You see,” Sandy explained, once the operator had let him know she was
on the line, “all I know about Mr. Kennedy is that he lives in Buffalo
and that he owns the Kennedy Shipping Lines. Is that enough to go on?”

His heart sang when a pert voice replied, “I think so. Would you hold
on, please?”

“Yes,” Sandy said, and then his heart stopped singing as another voice,
neither pert nor far away, roared from outside the door.

“Who’s in that radio shack?”

It was the voice of Captain West.



                            CHAPTER FOURTEEN
                               Checkmated


John Kennedy was an early riser. He had been so all his life. He had
made no exception to his custom on this warm summer morning, rising with
the first light of dawn.

But he was not happy to greet this day. It would mark the sale of the
shipping line that had been in his family for close to a century. Though
he hurried through his bath with his usual brisk, sure motions, Mr.
Kennedy was a sorrowing man by the time he had walked out on the sundeck
of his big stone house on Delaware Avenue.

Mechanically unwrapping his napkin and spreading it on his lap, he gazed
without appetite at the breakfast laid out for him. His ears were deaf
to the morning song of the birds, and his eyes were blind to the
pleasant prospect of the gardens and green lawns that stretched away
beneath him.

With a sigh, Mr. Kennedy picked up his knife and fork and began to eat.

There was the sound of footsteps and Mr. Kennedy glanced up to see his
valet advancing timidly toward him.

“Well, Jenkins?”

“I, I’m sorry to disturb you, sir—but there’s a young gentleman on the
telephone.”

“Jenkins,” Mr. Kennedy said gently, struggling to conceal his
irritation, “must I repeat my very plain orders that I am not to be
disturbed at breakfast?”

The valet’s face turned a deep red. He began to back away
apologetically.

“I beg your pardon, sir. I will inform young Mr. Steele that he may call
later.”

Mr. Kennedy’s eyebrows rose. “Steele? Did he say his name was Steele?”

“Yes, sir. He was quite excited, sir. Something to do with a discovery
of ore, I gathered.” The butler shrugged with an apologetic air.
“However, I will do as you say, sir.” He turned to go, and was all but
knocked off his feet by the elderly, white-haired tornado that had shot
past him.

Upon hearing those two words—“Steele” and “ore”—Mr. Kennedy had not
hesitated. He had thrown down his fork, torn his napkin from his knees
and leaped from his chair to bound into his bedroom and the telephone on
his bedside table. Jenkins was shocked. He had never seen Mr. Kennedy
run before—and never, never heard him shout over the telephone.

“Wha-a-at? What’s that, boy? Speak up, Sandy, I can’t hear you. What
_is_ that dreadful hammering noise?”


Wham! Wham! Wham!

That dreadful, hammering noise which Mr. Kennedy heard was the sound of
a sledge hammer striking the door of the radio shack. Captain West was
trying to batter it down.

He had run for a sledge hammer the moment he realized that his shouted
commands to open the door were being ignored. Cookie stood a little
aside, staring out of frightened eyes as the door jumped under the
captain’s powerful, bludgeoning blows.

“Hurry, Sandy,” he whispered feverishly. “Oh, hurry! The lock’s going to
give in another minute.”

Sandy had nodded. His own eyes were fastened on the door; his heart
seemed to thump in time to Captain West’s hammering; he cradled the
telephone as he waited for Mr. Kennedy in an agony of desperation.

It was at this point that Sandy Steele at last heard the familiar voice
of Mr. Kennedy come over the line.

Now, Sandy Steele did not care whether Captain West heard him or not. He
began to shout to make himself heard.

“Mr. Kennedy, don’t sell your boats!”

“What? What’s that, boy?”

“I said, don’t sell your boats. The ore! My father has discovered big
deposits of high-grade ore!”

There was a long silence at the other end. Then Sandy heard Mr. Kennedy
say: “Boy, I hope you know what you’re talking about. That’s mighty
important news.”

“Oh, I do, sir! My father told me all about it just before we left Two
Harbors.”

There was another pause, during which the hammering outside the door
became more insistent. Sandy could hear the lock beginning to give.

“That’s very strange, Sandy,” Mr. Kennedy said doubtfully. “I should
think I would have heard of it before now.”

“You were supposed to, you were supposed to, sir!” Sandy shouted.
“That’s what all that hammering’s about, sir. It’s Captain West trying
to break into the radio shack. He doesn’t want you to know!” Sandy
caught his breath and went on, “I hate to tell you this, sir, but I’m
afraid Captain West has been working for Mr. Chadwick and against you.”

This time, the silence at the other end was so prolonged that Sandy
feared he had been disconnected. At last, Mr. Kennedy spoke again,
sadly.

“Sandy, a moment ago, you lifted my spirits as they have seldom been
lifted. But, just now, you drove them down again with about the worst
piece of news I’ve ever heard. Let me speak to Captain West.”

Wham! Crrrash! Snap!

At that moment, with a blow of demonic strength, the enraged Captain
West burst the last shred of the barrier separating him from Sandy
Steele.

He charged into the room shouting threats and with his eyes shooting
sparks of hatred. As he did, Sandy held out the telephone to him, and
said, “Mr. Kennedy would like to speak to you.”

All of Captain West’s bluster and bravado seemed to vanish at the sight
of that tall, blond boy who had stood so unflinchingly in his path and
now extended the telephone toward him with that calm announcement. The
fight went out of his eyes. The color drained from his face. His
powerful shoulders sagged and his whole body seemed to slump.

Without a word, Captain West turned and dragged himself from the room.

“He doesn’t want to speak to you, sir.”

“So it’s true, then! Well, get me someone else in authority, Sandy. Put
Mr. Briggs on.”

Sandy paused, awkwardly.

“I’m sorry, Mr. Kennedy, but I think the mate was working against you,
too.”

“Oh, Lord, Lord! Am I surrounded by unfaithful employees? Goodness, is
there no one on the _James Kennedy_ that I can trust except you, boy?
Who else is there in authority?”

“There’s Mr. Davis, sir—the next officer. But he’s lost his glasses and
can’t see. We’ve just been through a terrible storm, sir.”

“Yes, yes, I read about it in the newspapers. But I thought you would be
in port at Detroit. Is there no one else?”

Sandy pondered. Then his face brightened. “There’s Sam and Gunnar.”

“Sam! Who on earth is Sam? Oh, no, no—never mind, Sandy. Forget that
question. Goodness knows I have good reason to trust your judgment. Put
Sam on, whoever he is!”

Sandy grinned.

“Get Sam up here, Cookie,” he shouted. Then, returning to Mr. Kennedy,
he asked, “Anything else, sir?”

“Anything else! My goodness, boy—what else is there? For the second time
within a week, I find myself in your debt.”

Sandy was too embarrassed to make any comment, and Mr. Kennedy rushed
on, “I don’t know how to thank you, boy—but I’ll think of something.
Remember, you’re to call me the moment you arrive in Buffalo. Both you
and your friend. By the way, how is he?”

“Jerry? Oh, he’s all right, sir—just a sprained ankle from the storm.”

“My goodness! You have had a stormy voyage, haven’t you?”

Sandy grinned again, remembering the plunge into Lake Superior to save
Cookie, the fire in the galley as the _James Kennedy_ steamed into Lake
Huron, that spanking storm on Lake Erie—to say nothing of the combined
badgering of Mr. Briggs and Captain West. But Sandy saw no reason to
tell Mr. Kennedy exactly how right he was. He just felt good, that was
all—so he grinned again and said: “Yes, sir, I guess you could call it a
stormy voyage. Here’s Sam.”

Sam stepped up and took the telephone from Sandy’s outstretched hand.
His manner was hesitant, for he had never spoken to the owner of the
line before. His face was grave, but as he listened, his eyes grew wider
and wider. Finally, with an expression of amazement and a snappy, “Yes,
sir!” he hung up and turned to Sandy and Cookie.

“Well, what do you know?” he murmured.

“Well, what?”

“I’m in charge!”

Cookie’s mouth popped open. He began to dance in excitement, flipping
his apron in the air. “Hooray for Sam!” he shouted. “Yippee! Yip,
yip—yippeee!”

“All right, Cookie,” Sam cautioned, laughing. “Take it easy, now. It’s
only until we get to Buffalo.”

“Who cares?” Cookie yelled. “Let’s celebrate, anyway. I’ll bake a cake!”

Both Sandy and Sam had to laugh again at the capering little man. His
eyes shone when he promised to bake a cake, but when Sandy reminded him
that he would have to do it with burned flour, a sly look came over his
face and he pointed an accusing finger at the blond youth and shouted,
“It’s all his fault, Skipper! There’s the culprit! That’s the landlubber
who burned down my nice, new galley!”

Sandy grinned happily. “Honestly, Cookie, you should have been an actor.
Why, I almost believed those things you said about me, myself.” His face
turned serious. “How did you know about Mr. Briggs and Captain West,
anyway?”

“I heard ’em talking,” Cookie said simply. “The night of the fire, you
put me in the mate’s cabin, remember? Well, it was after they called you
in that I overheard them talking about Mr. Kennedy selling out to
Chadwick.” Cookie struck his fist into his palm savagely. “Chadwick!” he
said. “Me sail on another Chadwicker? I’d sooner die on land! No, sir,
Sandy, when I heard that, I knew I had to help you. I told myself I’d
swim all the way to Buffalo with you on my back, if it meant blocking
that deal.”

“But you can’t swim, Cookie.”

“No matter,” the little man said grimly. “I’d’ve done it. I’d do
anything, before I’d sail a Chadwicker again.”

Of course, that unhappy notion was no longer a possibility—not after the
scene which took place in Mr. Kennedy’s office several hours after Sandy
and Cookie and Sam had gone below to break the news to Jerry James.

Mr. Paul Chadwick had arrived and been ushered into Mr. Kennedy’s
conference room, where the lawyers of both firms had assembled to handle
the details of the sale. Mr. Chadwick came striding in. He was a fat,
pompous man with pouches beneath his pale eyes. He had a sharp way of
speaking and he ordered his employees around as if he thought they
belonged to him, body and soul.

“Well, Kennedy,” he shot out as he took a seat at the table, “I presume
everything is in readiness?”

“Yes, Paul,” Mr. Kennedy said softly. “Everything is set.”

“Good. All right, Cogswell,” he snapped, turning to one of his lawyers.
“Let’s have the papers. Quick, man! The papers. Don’t dawdle like a
kindergarten child; give me the papers!”

Red-faced, the lawyer pulled a legal-looking document from his brief
case and passed it to Mr. Chadwick. In the embarrassed silence that
followed, the only sound that could be heard was the scratching of Mr.
Chadwick’s pen as he hurriedly signed his name.

“Here, John,” he said grandly, passing the document across the table.
“Now, you sign right there. And, then, the Kennedy boats will belong to
me.”

“I think not, Paul,” Mr. Kennedy said easily as he accepted the papers
and tore them swiftly in two. “I think they’ll still belong to me.”

He handed the torn contract back to his astounded shipping rival. Mr.
Chadwick stared at the pieces in disbelief.

“But this is preposterous!” he shouted. “You can’t do this to me! You
agreed to sell, Kennedy. Why, why,” he spluttered, his cheeks puffing
out like a frog’s, “why, I’ll sue!”

“Go ahead, Paul,” Mr. Kennedy said, getting to his feet. “And, by the
way, you may be getting busy soon, shipping all that new, high-grade ore
down from the Mesabi—as I expect to—and you may find yourself in need of
a skipper or a mate.” He smiled. “I know just the men for you, Paul.
Fine, dependable men—men like Captain West or Mr. Briggs.”

A shadow of dismay passed over Mr. Chadwick’s pale eyes. Without a word,
he jumped to his feet and hurried from the room.



                            CHAPTER FIFTEEN
                              Safe in Port


That night, under a star-dusted sky, with the lights of Buffalo to guide
her and beckon her on, the battered _James Kennedy_ limped into port.

And waiting to greet her, in addition to her owner and his personal
physician, was a throng of chattering newspaper reporters and
photographers. The tale of the _James Kennedy_’s ordeal at sea had
preceded her. Even as the vessel was slowly warped into her berth,
photographers raced alongside her in excitement-eagerly snapping
pictures of her damaged superstructure with its wrecked pilothouse. The
flashing of their light bulbs added to the general air of excitement.

The moment the ship was securely in port, the newspapermen came hurrying
up the gangplank.

“Where’s the skipper?” they shouted. “Where’s Captain West?”

“There he is!” one of them shouted in dismay. “He’s gone ashore
already.”

True enough. The moment the newshawks had come aboard the _James
Kennedy_ and spilled over her decks, Captain West had seized the chance
to slip down the gangplank. Now he was hastening out of sight. He all
but broke into a run when he heard the yell of the newsman who had
identified him. But he slowed again when he saw that his path would take
him past Mr. John Kennedy, the employer he had attempted to betray. His
step faltered. He tried to lift his eyes to the level of Mr. Kennedy’s,
to brazen it out. But he could not. His gaze fell.

He slunk by and disappeared in the darkness.

With a heavy sigh, Mr. Kennedy turned to the man beside him and said,
“Come, Doctor—we’d better have a look at that James boy.”

The two men made their way up the gangplank.

“Sandy!” Mr. Kennedy exclaimed, when he caught sight of the tall, blond
youth standing at the head of the ramp. “Goodness, boy, I’m certainly
glad to see you.” His face took on a worried look and his eyes searched
Sandy Steele’s lanky frame. “You’re all right, aren’t you, boy? I mean,
I certainly wouldn’t want John Steele holding me responsible for—”

“Oh, I’m fine, sir,” Sandy said, smiling. “Just a bit hungry, that’s
all.”

“We’ll fix that soon enough,” Mr. Kennedy vowed. “But let’s have a look
at your friend first. Where is he?”

“Down below, sir. Here, I’ll lead the way.”

Sandy and Mr. Kennedy and the physician, whose name was Dr. Hilliard,
disappeared down the hatch. As they did, a tall, thin, furtive figure
crept around the cabin. It glanced around fearfully, before sneaking
down the gangplank and running up the wharf.

It was Mr. Briggs.

Below, meanwhile, Dr. Hilliard had gently unwrapped the torn sheets
bound around Jerry James’s ankle. He studied the injured member with
professional concern. Both Jerry and Sandy watched his face anxiously,
for both of them were thinking of the football season that lay ahead.

“John,” Dr. Hilliard said, with mock gravity, “if they had more people
like this young oak stump around, I’d be out of business.”

“Hooray!” Sandy cried, and Jerry James grinned with delight.

“Of course,” the doctor hurried on, “you’ll need a cane for a week or
two, young man. But otherwise I’d say you’re none the worse for wear.”

At that remark, Jerry winked at his friend. He rubbed his stomach
sorrowfully. “Outside of being hungry, Doctor, I’d say—”

Mr. Kennedy broke in.

“Boys,” he said, glancing at his watch, “I promise you that in fifteen
minutes you will be in my dining room sitting down to the best meal that
was ever served up in Buffalo.”

And they were.


Less than a week later, the two friends were back on the Great Lakes
again—bound for Minnesota once more, this time to ship aboard a load of
grain.

They had had a wonderful time as the guests of Mr. Kennedy. They saw all
the sights of Buffalo, including Niagara Falls, that great escarpment
over which Lake Erie plunges, and they had crossed the Peace Bridge into
Canada to have one of those famous beefsteaks at the Chinaman’s in Fort
Erie. Then, after Dr. Hilliard had pronounced Jerry James fit to walk
again without the use of his cane, they had taken ship again.

Their vessel was now the _Cecil Rogers_ (almost all Great Lakes boats
are named for shipping leaders), for the beloved old _James Kennedy_ was
in drydock undergoing extensive repairs.

And their new skipper was?

“Sam!” the two youths cried as they came aboard.

Sure enough, it was their old friend, and there was Cookie, too,
grinning at them from over the rail. And there was Gunnar towering
behind him!

“Boys,” Sam said, chuckling, “meet my mate.”

There were shouts of jubilation and hand-shaking all around as Sandy and
Jerry got their gear aboard ship and into their quarters. This time,
they had a room twice as large as the rathole they had shared on the
_James Kennedy_. And this time, aboard the _Cecil Rogers_, they shipped
as deck hands.

“No more galley slavery for us,” Jerry exclaimed, and Sandy nodded in
agreement.

That was how the two lads from Valley View passed the remainder of that
summer. They sailed up and down the Lakes, as the _Cecil Rogers_ hauled
its cargoes of ore, grain and coal. Sometimes they made Canadian ports,
and once they passed through the Welland Ship Canal into Lake Ontario,
the lake that lies the farthest east.

At last came the sad day when they had to reclaim Old Faithful from the
hands of Sandy’s dad and say goodbye to their friends. School would
reopen in another week, and they had to be heading west.

“Gootpy, poys,” Gunnar called from the rail, as Jerry’s jalopy began to
chug away from the loading dock where the _Cecil Rogers_ lay. “Haf goot
trip.”

“Send us a picture of your football team,” Cookie yelled, and Sam
shouted, “Keep your chin up, boys. Maybe we’ll see you next summer.”

“Goodbye, goodbye,” Sandy Steele and Jerry James cried, and then they
were out of sight.



                            CHAPTER SIXTEEN
                              Summer’s End


There was a hint of autumn in the air as Jerry James swung Old Faithful
off the highway and up the ramp leading to Valley View. Both boys felt a
deep surge of pleasure run through them as they picked out the familiar
landmarks that told them they had come home again.

The dusty old jalopy rolled along Ridge Road and past the March mansion.

“Doesn’t look like anybody’s home,” Sandy said.

“That’s what I thought,” said Jerry. “I wonder what happened to our
friend Pepper.”

Sandy shrugged. “I don’t know. But it sure was good spending all those
weeks without him. Jerry!” he yelled. “Did you hear that?”

Jerry James had, and his eyes sparkled with delight.

What the two boys had heard was the unmistakable thud of a foot meeting
pigskin!

“Boy!” Sandy said. “I can hardly wait for school to open. Sounds funny,
I know, but if the fall means school, it means football, too!”

“You bet, Sandy. The only thing I missed on the Great Lakes was not
having a chance to practice.”

“Oh, we’ll be all right. At least, we stayed in shape.”

They had. They were as hard as the decks of the _James Kennedy_ and
their bodies were burned the color of walnut.

“Well, here we are,” Sandy said, as Old Faithful swung into his street.
Jerry nodded. In another instant, he had mechanically lifted his foot
from the gas pedal, as he always did when he approached Sandy’s house,
and the jalopy had begun to slow down. Grasping his jam-packed suitcase
in one hand, Sandy Steele vaulted lightly to the pavement. “See you
tonight at the drugstore, Jerry,” he called, and then he turned and ran
into the house.

“Mom!” Sandy Steele called as the screen door slammed shut behind him.
“Mom! It’s me. Sandy. I’m home!”


The whole crowd from Valley View High had gathered at the James
drugstore that night, and, of course, most of the talk was about how the
school’s football team would fare in the league competition that season,
and especially how its heroes stacked up against those from the arch
rivals in Poplar City.

As usual, Quiz Taylor was the center of a crowd as he spieled off the
weight, height and past season’s record of nearly all the boys who would
be playing for Poplar City in the coming fall.

“Honestly, fellows,” he said, his round face gloomy, “I don’t see how we
can beat them. Of course, we have Jerry and Sandy, but we don’t have a
runner to compare with their fullback, Tomkins.”

“What about Pepper March?” someone asked. “He scored six touchdowns for
Valley View last year.”

“Yes, Quiz,” Sandy said. “What about Pepper? Where is he, anyway? You’d
think he’d be here, the night before school opens.”

Quiz Taylor began to shake with laughter.

“D-didn’t you hear about Pepper?” he sputtered, his face crinkling with
merriment. “Haven’t you heard about what happened to Stanley Peperdine
March?”

“No. What happened?”

“Yeah, Quiz,” someone else said. “Cut the comedy, and let us in on the
joke, too.”

Still chuckling, Quiz Taylor said, “Pepper won’t be home for another two
weeks. A couple of the sailors aboard that ship they were on came down
with one of those rare, tropical diseases. Pepper and his father had to
spend the summer in quarantine.”

There was a roar of laughter at the expense of the unpopular Pepper.

Sandy Steele turned to his friend and said, “Well, Jerry, we may have
had a stormy voyage, but I’ll bet we had a better summer than Pepper
did.”



      *      *      *      *      *      *



Transcriber's note:

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

--Silently corrected obvious typographical errors; left non-standard
  spellings and dialect unchanged.





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