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Title: What Happened at Quasi - The Story of a Carolina Cruise
Author: Eggleston, George Cary, Edwards, H. C. (Harry C.)
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "What Happened at Quasi - The Story of a Carolina Cruise" ***

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                        WHAT HAPPENED AT QUASI

                    THE STORY OF A CAROLINA CRUISE



                            BOOKS FOR BOYS

                                  BY

                         GEORGE CARY EGGLESTON

       Each Handsomely Illustrated. Price of Each Volume, $1.50


     THE LAST OF THE FLATBOATS. A Story of the Mississippi and Its
                     Interesting Family of Rivers.

 CAMP VENTURE. A Story of the Virginia Mountains. Adventures among the
                            “Moonshiners.”

        THE BALE MARKED CIRCLE X. A Blockade-Running Adventure.

            JACK SHELBY. A Story of the Indiana Backwoods.

   LONG KNIVES. The Story of How They Won the West. A Tale of George
                      Rogers Clark’s Expedition.

   WHAT HAPPENED AT QUASI. The Story of a Carolina Cruise. A Tale of
                         Sport and Adventure.

 _For Sale by All Booksellers, or Sent Postpaid on Receipt of Price by
                            the Publishers_


                  LOTHROP, LEE & SHEPARD CO., BOSTON

[Illustration: AS TOM TUGGED HARD AT ONE OF THE LARGER ROOTS, THE KEG
SUDDENLY FELL TO PIECES.—_Page 353._]



                        WHAT HAPPENED AT QUASI

                    THE STORY OF A CAROLINA CRUISE

                                  BY

                         GEORGE CARY EGGLESTON

                     ILLUSTRATED BY H. C. EDWARDS

                            [Illustration]

                                BOSTON

                      LOTHROP, LEE & SHEPARD CO.



                        Published, April, 1911


                            Copyright, 1911
                     BY LOTHROP, LEE & SHEPARD CO.

                         _All rights reserved_

                        WHAT HAPPENED AT QUASI


                             NORWOOD PRESS
                          BERWICK & SMITH CO.
                            NORWOOD, MASS.
                               U. S. A.



                I INSCRIBE THIS STORY WITH AFFECTION TO


                            [Illustration]

                         GEORGE DUNN EGGLESTON

             MY GRANDSON, IN THE BELIEF THAT WHEN HE GROWS
             OLD ENOUGH HE WILL WANT TO KNOW “WHAT HAPPENED
              AT QUASI,” AND WILL READ THE BOOK BY WAY OF
                              FINDING OUT



CONTENTS


  CHAPTER                                               PAGE

       I. INTERSTATE CHUMMING                              3

      II. THE STORY OF QUASI                              15

     III. A PROGRAMME SUBJECT TO CIRCUMSTANCES            25

      IV. TOM FIGHTS IT OUT                               30

       V. A RATHER BAD NIGHT                              39

      VI. A LITTLE SPORT BY THE WAY                       54

     VII. AN ENEMY IN CAMP                                67

    VIII. CAL BEGINS TO DO THINGS                         76

      IX. A FANCY SHOT                                    89

       X. TOM’S DISCOVERIES                               97

      XI. PERILOUS SPYING                                108

     XII. TOM’S DARING VENTURE                           119

    XIII. CAL’S EXPERIENCE AS THE PRODIGAL SON           135

     XIV. CAL RELATES A FABLE                            149

      XV. CAL GATHERS THE MANNA                          156

     XVI. FOG-BOUND                                      164

    XVII. THE OBLIGATION OF A GENTLEMAN                  174

   XVIII. FIGHT OR FAIR PLAY                             182

     XIX. WHY LARRY WAS READY FOR BATTLE                 191

      XX. ABOARD THE CUTTER                              197

     XXI. TOM’S SCOUTING SCHEME                          204

    XXII. TOM DISCOVERS THINGS                           212

   XXIII. TOM AND THE MAN WITH THE GAME LEG              222

    XXIV. THE LAME MAN’S CONFESSION                      230

     XXV. A SIGNAL OF DISTRESS                           238

    XXVI. AN UNEXPECTED INTERRUPTION                     246

   XXVII. THE HERMIT OF QUASI                            258

  XXVIII. RUDOLF DUNBAR’S ACCOUNT OF HIMSELF             265

    XXIX. TOM FINDS THINGS                               271

     XXX. DUNBAR TALKS AND SLEEPS                        283

    XXXI. DUNBAR’S STRANGE BEHAVIOR                      295

   XXXII. A RAINY DAY WITH DUNBAR                        306

  XXXIII. A GREAT CATASTROPHE                            316

   XXXIV. MAROONED AT QUASI                              331

    XXXV. AGAIN TOM FINDS SOMETHING                      339

   XXXVI. WHAT THE EARTH GAVE UP                         350

  XXXVII. TOM’S FINAL “FIND”                             360



ILLUSTRATIONS


  As Tom tugged hard at one of the larger
  roots, the keg suddenly fell to pieces
  (Page 353)                                  _Frontispiece_

                                                 FACING PAGE

  Dick, Cal, and Tom searched the man’s clothes           72

  “In my haste I forgot to conceal my gun”               126

  “Stand where you are or we’ll shoot”                   182

  “No, ’tain’t no use. I’ve got to take my medicine”     226

  A minute more, it would have been too late             320



WHAT HAPPENED AT QUASI

THE STORY OF A CAROLINA CRUISE



WHAT HAPPENED AT QUASI

THE STORY OF A CAROLINA CRUISE



I

INTERSTATE CHUMMING


IT was hot in Charleston—intensely hot—with not a breath of air
in motion anywhere. The glossy leaves of the magnolia trees in the
grounds that surrounded the Rutledge house drooped despairingly in the
withering, scorching, blistering sunlight of a summer afternoon in the
year 1886. The cocker spaniel in the courtyard panted with tongue out,
between the dips he took at brief intervals in the water-vat provided
for his use. A glance down King Street showed no living creature, man
or beast, astir in Charleston’s busiest thoroughfare.

In the upper verandah of the Rutledge mansion, four boys, as lightly
dressed as propriety permitted, were doing their best to keep endurably
cool and three of them were succeeding. The fourth was making a
dismal failure of the attempt. He was Richard Wentworth of Boston,
and he naturally knew little of the arts by which the people of hot
climates manage to endure torrid weather with tolerable comfort and
satisfaction. He kept his blood excited by the exertion of violently
fanning himself. While the others sat perfectly still in bamboo chairs,
or lay motionless on joggling boards, Dick Wentworth was constantly
stirring about in search of a cooler place which he did not find.

Presently he went for the fourth or fifth time to the end of the porch,
where he could see a part of the street by peering through the great
green jalousies or slatted shutters that barred out the fierce sunlight.

“What do you do that for, Dick?” asked Lawrence Rutledge in a languid
tone and without lifting his head from the head-rest of the joggling
board.

“What do I do what for?” asked Dick in return.

“Why run to the end of the verandah every five minutes? What do you
do it for? Don’t you know it’s hot? Don’t you realize that violent
exertion like that is unfit for weather like this? Why, I regard
unnecessary winking as exercise altogether too strenuous at such a
time, and so I don’t open my eyes except in little slits, and I do even
that only when I must. You see, I’m doing my best to keep cool, while
you are stirring about all the time and fretting and fuming in a way
that would set a kettle boiling. Why do you do it?”

“Oh, I’m only observing, in a strange land,” answered Dick, sinking
into a wicker chair. “I’ll be quiet, now that I have found out the
facts.”

“What are they, Dick?” asked Tom Garnett, otherwise known to his
companions as “the Virginia delegation,” he being the only Virginian in
the group. “What have you found out?”

“Only that the cobblestones, with which the street out there is paved,
have been vulcanized, just as dentists treat rubber mouth plates.
Otherwise they would melt.”

“I’d laugh at that joke, Dick, if I dared risk the exertion,” drawled
Calhoun Rutledge, the fourth boy in the group, and Lawrence Rutledge’s
twin brother. “Ah, there it comes!” he exclaimed, rolling off his
joggling board and busying himself with turning the broad slats of the
jalousies so as to admit the cool sea breeze that had set in with the
turning of the tide.

Lawrence—or “Larry”—Rutledge did the same, and Tom Garnett slid out
of his bamboo chair, stretched himself and exclaimed:

“Well, that _is_ a relief!”

Dick Wentworth sat still, not realizing the sudden change until a stiff
breeze streaming in through the blinds blew straight into his face,
bearing with it a delicious odor from the cape jessamines that grew
thickly about the house. Then he rose and hurried to an open lattice,
quite as if he had expected to discover there some huge bellows or some
gigantic electric fan stirring the air into rapid motion.

“What has happened?” he asked in astonishment.

“Nothing, except that the tide has turned,” answered Larry.

“But the breeze? Where does that come from?”

“From the sea. It always comes in with the flood-tide, and we’ve been
waiting for it. Pull on your coat or stand out of the draught; the
sudden change might give you a cold.”

“Then you don’t have to melt for whole days at a time, but get a little
relief like this, now and then?”

“We don’t melt at all. We don’t suffer half as much from hot weather as
the people of northern cities do—particularly New York.”

“But why not, if you have to undergo a grilling like this every day?”

“It doesn’t happen every day, or anything like every day. It never
lasts long and we know how to endure it.”

“How? I’m anxious to learn. I may be put on the broiler again and I
want to be prepared.”

“Well, we begin by recognizing facts and meeting them sensibly. It is
always hot here in the sun, during the summer months, and so we don’t
go out into the glare during the torrid hours. From about eleven till
four o’clock nobody thinks of quitting the coolest, shadiest place he
can find, while in northern cities those are the busiest hours of the
day, even when the mercury is in the nineties. We do what we have to
do in the early forenoon and the late afternoon. During the heat and
burden of the day we keep still, avoiding exertion of every kind as we
might shun pestilence or poison. The result is that sun strokes and
heat prostrations are unknown here, while at the north during every hot
spell your newspapers print long columns of the names of persons who
have fallen victims.”

“Then again,” added Calhoun, “we build for hot weather while you build
to meet arctic blasts. We set our houses separately in large plots of
ground, while you pack yours as close together as possible. We provide
ourselves with broad verandahs and bury ourselves in shade, while you
are planning your heating apparatus and doubling up your window sashes
to keep the cold out.”

“It distresses me sorely,” broke in Larry, “to interrupt an interesting
discussion to which I have contributed all the wisdom I care to spare,
but the sun is more than half way down the western slope of the
firmament, and if we are to get the dory into the water this afternoon
it is high time for us to be wending our way through Spring Street to
the neighborhood of Gadsden’s Green—so called, I believe, because some
Gadsden of ancient times intended it to become green.”

The four boys had been classmates for several years in a noted
preparatory school in Virginia. Dick Wentworth had been sent thither
four years before for the sake of his threatened health. He had
quickly grown strong again in the kindly climate of Virginia, but in
the meanwhile he had learned to like his school and his schoolmates,
particularly the two Rutledges and the Virginia boy, Tom Garnett. He
had therefore remained at the school throughout the preparatory course.

Their school days were at an end now, all of them having passed their
college entrance examinations; but they planned to be classmates still,
all attending the same university at the North.

They were to spend the rest of the summer vacation together, with the
Charleston home of the Rutledge boys for their base of operations,
while campaigning for sport and adventure far and wide on the coast.

That accounted for the dory. No boat of that type had ever been seen on
the Carolina coast, but Larry and Cal Rutledge had learned to know its
cruising qualities while on a visit to Dick Wentworth during the summer
before, and this year their father had given them a dory, specially
built to his order at Swampscott and shipped south by a coasting
steamer.

When she arrived, she had only a priming coat of dirty-looking white
paint upon her, and the boys promptly set to work painting her in a
little boathouse of theirs on the Ashley river side of the city. The
new paint was dry now and the boat was ready to take the water.

“She’s a beauty and no mistake,” said Cal as the group studied her
lines and examined her rather elaborate lockers and other fittings.

“Yes, she’s all that,” responded his brother, “and we’ll try her paces
to-morrow morning.”

“Not if she’s like all the other dories I’ve had anything to do with,”
answered Dick. “She’s been out of water ever since she left her cradle,
and it’ll take some time for her to soak up.”

“Oh, of course she’ll leak a little, even after a night in the water,”
said Cal, with his peculiar drawl which always made whatever he said
sound about equally like a mocking joke and the profoundest philosophy.
“But who minds getting his feet wet in warm salt water?”

“Leak a little?” responded Dick; “leak a little? Why, she’ll fill
herself half full within five minutes after we shove her in, and if we
get into her to-morrow morning the other half will follow suit. It’ll
take two days at least to make her seams tight.”

“Why didn’t the caulkers put more oakum into her seams, then?” queried
Tom, whose acquaintance with boats was very scant. “I should think
they’d jam and cram every seam so full that the boat would be water
tight from the first.”

“Perhaps they would,” languidly drawled Cal, “if they knew no more
about such things than you do, Tom.”

“How much do you know, Cal?” sharply asked the other.

“Oh, not much—not half or a quarter as much as Dick does. But a part
of the little that I know is the fact that when you wet a dry, white
cedar board it swells, and the further fact that when you soak dry
oakum in water, it swells a great deal more. It is my conviction that
if a boat were caulked to water tightness while she was dry and then
put into the water, the swelling would warp and split and twist her
into a very fair imitation of a tall silk hat after a crazy mule has
danced the highland fling upon it.”

“Oh, I see, of course. But will she be really tight after she swells
up?”

“As tight as a drum. But we’ll take some oakum along, and a caulking
tool or two, and a pot of white lead, so that if she gets a jolt of any
kind and springs a leak we can haul her out and repair damages. We’ll
take a little pot of paint, too, in one of the lockers.”

“There’ll be time enough after supper,” interrupted Larry, “to discuss
everything like that, and we must be prompt at supper, too, for you
know father is to leave for the North to-night to meet mother on Cape
Cod and his ship sails at midnight. So get hold of the boat, every
fellow of you, and let’s shove her in.”

The launching was done within a minute or two, and after that the dory
rocked herself to sleep—that’s what Cal said.

“She’s certainly a beauty,” said Dick Wentworth. “And of course she’s
better finished and finer every way than any dory I ever saw. You know,
Tom, dories up north are rough fishing boats. This one is finished
like a yacht, and—”

“Oh, she’s hunky dory,” answered Tom, lapsing into slang.

“That’s what we’ll name her, then,” drawled Cal. “She’s certainly
‘hunky’ and she’s a dory, and if that doesn’t make her the _Hunkydory_,
I’d very much like to know what s-o-x spells.”

There was a little laugh all round. As the incoming water floated the
bottom boards, the name of the boat was unanimously adopted, and after
another admiring look at her, the four hurried away to supper. On the
way Dick explained to Tom that a dory is built for sailing or rowing in
rough seas, and running ashore through the surf on shelving beaches.

“That accounts for the peculiar shape of her narrow, flat bottom, her
heavy overhang at bow and stern, her widely sloping sides, and for the
still odder shape and set of her centre board and rudder. She can come
head-on to a beach, and as she glides up the sloping sand it shuts up
her centre board and lifts her rudder out of its sockets without the
least danger of injuring either. In the water a dory is as nervous as a
schoolgirl in a thunder storm. The least wind pressure on her sails or
the least shifting of her passengers or cargo, sends her heeling over
almost to her beam ends, but she is very hard to capsize, because her
gunwales are so built out that they act as bilge keels.”

“I’d understand all that a good deal better,” answered Tom, laughing,
“if I had the smallest notion what the words mean. I have a vague idea
that I know what a rudder is, but when you talk of centre boards,
overhangs, gunwales, and bilge keels, you tow me out beyond my depth.”

“Never mind,” said Cal. “Wait till we get you out on the water, you
land lubber, and then Dick can give you a rudimentary course of
instruction in nautical nomenclature. Just now there is neither time
nor occasion to think about anything but the broiled spring chickens
and plates full of rice that we’re to have for supper, with a casual
reflection upon the okra, the green peas and the sliced tomatoes that
will escort them into our presence.”

In an aside to Dick Wentworth—but spoken so that all could hear—Tom
said:

“I don’t believe Cal can help talking that way. I think if he were
drowning he’d put his cries of ‘help’ into elaborate sentences.”

“Certainly, I should do precisely that,” answered Cal. “Why not? Our
thoughts are the children of our brains, and I think enough of my
brain-children to dress them as well as I can.”

In part, Cal’s explanation was correct enough. But his habit of
elaborate speech was, in fact, also meant to be mildly humorous. This
was especially so when he deliberately overdressed his brain-children
in ponderous words and stilted phrases.

They were at the Rutledge mansion by this time, however, and further
chatter was cut off by a negro servant’s announcement that “Supper’s
ready an’ yo’ fathah’s a waitin’.”



II

THE STORY OF QUASI


MAJOR RUTLEDGE entertained the boys at supper with accounts of his own
experiences along the coast during the war, and incidentally gave them
a good deal of detailed information likely to be useful to them in
their journeyings. But he gave them no instructions and no cautions. He
firmly believed that youths of their age and intelligence ought to know
how to take care of themselves, and that if they did not it was high
time for them to learn in the school of experience. He knew these to be
courageous boys, manly, self-reliant, intelligent, and tactful. He was,
therefore, disposed to leave them to their own devices, trusting to
their wits to meet any emergencies that might arise.

One bit of assistance of great value he did give them, namely, a
complete set of coast charts, prepared by the government officials at
Washington.

“You see,” he explained to the two visitors, “this is a very low-lying
coast, interlaced by a tangled network of rivers, creeks, inlets,
bayous, and the like, so that in many places it is difficult even for
persons intimately familiar with its intricacies to find their way. My
boys know the geography of it fairly well, but you’ll find they will
have frequent need to consult the charts. I’ve had them encased in
water-tight tin receptacles.”

“May I ask a question?” interjected Tom Garnett, as he minutely scanned
one of the charts.

“Certainly, as many as you like.”

“What do those little figures mean that are dotted thickly all over the
sheets?”

“They show the depth of water at every spot, at mean high tide. You’ll
find them useful—particularly in making short cuts. You see, Tom, many
of the narrowest of our creeks are very deep, and many broad bays very
shallow in places. Besides, there are mud banks scattered all about,
some of them under water all the time, others under it only at high
tide. You boys don’t want to get stuck on them, and you won’t, if you
study the figures on your charts closely. By the way, Larry, how much
water does your boat draw?”

“Three feet, six inches, when loaded, with the centre board down—six
inches, perhaps, when light, with the board up.”

“There, Tom, you see how easily the chart soundings may save you a
lot of trouble. There may be times when you can save miles of sailing
by laying your course over sunken sandbars if sailing before the wind,
though you couldn’t pass over them at all if sailing on the wind.”

“But what difference does the way of sailing make? You see, I am very
ignorant, Major Rutledge.”

“You’ll learn fast enough, because you aren’t afraid to ask questions.
Now to answer your last one; when you sail before the wind you’ll have
no need of your centre board and can draw it up, making your draught
only six or eight inches, while on the wind you must have the centre
board down—my boys will explain that when you’re all afloat—so if
you are sailing with the wind dead astern, or nearly so, it will be
safe enough to lay a course that offers you only two or three feet
of water in its shoalest parts, while if the wind is abeam, or in a
beating direction, you must keep your centre board down and stick to
deeper channels. However, the boys will soon teach you all that on the
journey. They’re better sailors than I am.”

Then, turning to his own sons, he said:

“I have arranged with my bank to honor any checks either of you may
draw. So if you have need of more money than you take with you, you’ll
know how to get it. Any planter or merchant down the coast will cash
your checks for you. Now I must say good-bye to all of you, as I have
many things to do before leaving. I wish all of you a very jolly time.”

With that he quitted the room, but a few minutes later he opened the
door to say:

“If you get that far down the coast, boys, I wish you would take a look
over Quasi and see that there are no squatters there.”

When he had gone, Cal said:

“Wonder if father hopes to win yet in that Quasi matter, after all
these years?”

“I’m sure I don’t know,” answered Larry. “Anyhow, we’ll go that far
down, if only to gratify his wish.”

“Is Quasi a town?” asked Dick, whose curiosity was awakened by the
oddity of the name.

“No. It’s a plantation, and one with a story.”

Dick asked no more questions, but presently Cal said to his brother:

“Why don’t you go on, Larry, and tell him all about it? I have always
been taught by my pastors and masters, and most other people I have
ever known, that it is exceedingly bad manners to talk in enigmas
before guests. Besides, there’s no secret about this. Everybody in
South Carolina who ever heard the name Rutledge knows all about Quasi.
Go on and tell the fellows, lest they think our family has a skeleton
in some one or other of its closets, and is cherishing some dark,
mysterious secret.”

“Why don’t you tell it yourself, Cal? You know the story as well as I
do.”

“Because, oh my brother, it was your remark that aroused the curiosity
which it is our hospitable duty to satisfy. I do not wish to trespass
upon your privileges or take your obligations upon myself. Go on! There
is harkening all about you. You have your audience and your theme. We
hang upon your lips.”

“Oh, it isn’t much of a story, but I may as well tell it,” said Larry,
smiling at his brother’s ponderous speech.

“Quasi is a very large plantation occupying the end of a peninsula.
Except on the mainland side a dozen miles of salt water, mud banks
and marsh islands, separate it from the nearest land. On the mainland
side there is a marsh two or three miles wide and a thousand miles
deep, I think. At any rate, it is utterly impassable—a mere mass of
semi-liquid mud, though it looks solid enough with its growth of tall
salt marsh grass covering its ugliness and hiding its treachery. The
point might as well be an island, so far as possibilities of approach
to it are concerned, and in effect it is an island, or quasi an island.
I suppose some humorous old owner of it had that in mind when he named
it Quasi.

“It is sea island cotton land of the very finest and richest kind, and
when it was cultivated it was better worth working than a gold mine.
There are large tracts of original timber on it, and as it has been
abandoned and running wild for more than twenty years, even the young
tree growths are large and fine now.

“That is where the story begins. Quasi belonged to our grandfather
Rutledge. He didn’t live there, but he had the place under thorough
cultivation. When the war broke out my grandfather was one of the few
men in the South who doubted our side’s ability to win, and as no man
could foresee what financial disturbances might occur, he decided to
secure his two daughters—our father’s sisters, who were then young
girls—against all possibility of poverty, by giving Quasi to them in
their own right. ‘Then,’ he thought, ‘they will be comfortably well
off, no matter what happens.’ So he deeded Quasi to them.

“When the Federals succeeded, early in the war, in seizing upon the sea
island defences, establishing themselves at Beaufort, Hilton Head, and
other places, it was necessary for my grandfather to remove all the
negroes from Quasi, lest they be carried off by the enemy. The place
was therefore abandoned, but my grandfather said that, at any rate,
nobody could carry off the land, and that that would make my aunts
easy in their finances, whenever peace should come again. As he was a
hard-fighting officer, noted for his dare-devil recklessness of danger,
he did not think it likely that he would live to see the end. But he
believed he had made his daughters secure against poverty, and as for
my father, he thought him man enough to take care of himself.”

“The which he abundantly proved himself to be when the time came,”
interrupted Cal, with a note of pride in his tone.

“Oh, that was a matter of course,” answered Larry. “It’s a way the
Rutledges have always had. But that is no part of the story I’m
telling. During the last year of the war, when everything was going
against the South, grandfather saw clearly what the result must be,
and he understood the effect it would have upon his fortunes. He was a
well-to-do man—I may even say a wealthy one—but he foresaw that with
the negroes set free and the industries of the South paralyzed for the
time, his estate would be hopelessly insolvent. But like the brave man
that he was, he did not let these things trouble him. Believing that
his daughters were amply provided for, and that my father—who at the
age of twenty-five had fought his way from private to major—could look
out for himself, the grim old warrior went on with his soldierly work
and bothered not at all as to results.

“In the last months of the war, when the Southern armies were being
broken to pieces, the clerk’s office, in which his deeds of Quasi to my
aunts were recorded, was burned with all its contents. As evidence of
the gift to his daughters nothing remained except his original deeds,
and these might easily be destroyed in the clearly impending collapse
of everything. To put those deeds in some place of safety was now his
most earnest purpose. He took two or three days’ leave of absence,
hurried to Charleston, secured the precious papers and put them in a
place of safety—so safe a place, indeed, that to this day nobody has
ever found them. That was not his fault. For the moment he returned to
his post of command he sat down to write a letter to my aunts, telling
them what he had done and how to find the documents. He had not written
more than twenty lines when the enemy fell upon his command, and during
the fight that ensued, he was shot through the head and instantly
killed. His unfinished letter was sent to my aunts, but it threw no
light upon the hiding place he had selected.

“When the war ended, a few weeks later, the estate was insolvent, as my
grandfather had foreseen. In the eagerness to get hold of even a little
money to live upon, which was general at that time, my grandfather’s
creditors were ready to sell their claims upon the estate for any price
they could get, and two of the carrion crows called money-lenders
bought up all the outstanding obligations.

“When they brought suit for the possession of my grandfather’s
property, they included Quasi in their claim. When my father
protested that Quasi belonged to his sisters by deeds of gift
executed years before, he could offer no satisfactory proof of his
contention—nothing, indeed, except the testimony of certain persons
who could swear that the transfer had been a matter of general
understanding, often mentioned in their presence, and other evidence of
a similarly vague character.

“Of course this was not enough, but my father is a born fighter and
would not give up. He secured delay and set about searching everywhere
for the missing papers. In the meanwhile he was energetically working
to rebuild his own fortunes, and he succeeded. As soon as he had money
of his own to fight with, he employed the shrewdest and ablest lawyers
he could find to keep up the contest in behalf of his sisters. He has
kept that fight up until now, and will keep it up until he wins it or
dies. Of course he has himself amply provided for my aunts, so that it
isn’t the property but a principle he is fighting for.

“By the way, the shooting ought to be good at Quasi—the place has run
wild for so long and is so inaccessible to casual sportsmen. If the
rest of you agree, we’ll make our way down there with no long stops as
we go. Then we can take our time coming back.”

The others agreed, and after a little Dick Wentworth, who had remained
silent for a time, turned to Larry, saying:

“Why did you say it wasn’t much of a story, Larry?”



III

A PROGRAMME—SUBJECT TO CIRCUMSTANCES


THE _Hunkydory_ was an unusually large boat for a craft of that kind.
She was about twenty-five feet long, very wide amidships—as dories
always are—and capable of carrying a heavy load without much increase
in her draught of water. She was built of white cedar with a stout
oak frame, fastened with copper bolts and rivets, and fitted with
capacious, water-tight lockers at bow and stern, with narrower lockers
running along her sides at the bilge, for use in carrying tools and the
like.

She carried a broad mainsail and a large jib, and had rowlocks for four
pairs of oars. Sitting on the forward or after rowing thwart, where
she was narrow enough for sculls, one person could row her at a fair
rate of speed, so little resistance did her peculiar shape offer to the
water. With two pairs of oars, or better still, with all the rowlocks
in use, she seemed to offer no resistance at all.

It was the plan of the boys to depend upon the sails whenever there was
wind enough to make any progress at all, and ply the oars only when a
calm compelled them to do so.

“We’re in no sort of hurry,” explained Larry, “and it really makes no
difference whether we run one mile an hour or ten. There aren’t any
trains to catch down where we are going.”

“Just where are we going, Larry,” asked Dick. “We’ve never talked that
over, except in the vaguest way.”

“Show the boys, Cal,” said Larry, turning to his brother. “You’re
better at coast geography than I am.”

“Hydrography would be the more accurate word in this case,” slowly
answered Cal, “but it makes no difference.”

With that he lighted three or four more gas burners, and spread a large
map of the coast upon the table.

“Now let me invoke your earnest attention, young gentlemen,” he began.
“That’s the way the lecturers always introduce their talks, isn’t
it? You see before you a somewhat detailed map of the coast and its
waterways from Charleston, south to Brunswick, Georgia. It is grossly
inaccurate in some particulars and slightly but annoyingly so in
others! Fortunately your lecturer is possessed of a large and entirely
trustworthy fund of information, the garnerings, as it were, of
prolonged and repeated personal observation. He will be able to correct
the errors of the cartographer as he proceeds.

“We will take the Rutledge boathouse on the Ashley River near the foot
of Spring Street as our point of departure, if you please. _Enteuthen
exelauni_—pardon the lapse into Xenophontic Greek—I mean thence we
shall sail across the Ashley to the mouth of Wappoo Creek which, as you
see by the map, extends from Charleston Harbor to Stono Inlet or river,
separating James Island from the main. Thence we shall proceed up
Stono River, past John’s Island, and having thus disposed of James and
John—familiar characters in that well-remembered work of fiction, the
First Reader—we shall enter the so called North Edisto River, which
is, in fact, an inlet or estuary, and sail up until we reach the point
where the real Edisto River empties itself. Thence we shall proceed
down the inlet known as South Edisto River round Edisto Island, and,
by a little detour into the outside sea, pass into St. Helena Sound.
From that point on we shall have a tangled network of big and little
waterways to choose among, and we’ll run up and down as many of them
as tempt us with the promise of sport or adventure. We shall pass our
nights ashore, and most of our days also, for that matter. Wherever we
camp we will remain as long as we like. That is the programme. Like
the prices in a grocer’s catalogue and the schedules of a railway, it
is ‘subject to change without notice.’ That is to say, accident and
unforeseen circumstances may interfere with it at any time.”

“Yes, and we may ourselves change it,” said Larry. “Indeed, I propose
one change in it to start with.”

“What is it?” asked the others in chorus.

“Simply that we sail down the harbor first to give Dick and Tom a
glimpse of the points of interest there. We’ll load the boat first and
then, when we’ve made the circuit of the bay, we needn’t come back to
the boat house, but can go on down Wappoo cut.”

The plan commended itself and was adopted, and as soon as the
_Hunkydory’s_ seams were sufficiently soaked the boat was put in
readiness. There was not much cargo to be carried, as the boys intended
to depend mainly upon their guns and fishing tackle for food supplies.
A side of bacon, a water-tight firkin of rice, a box of salt, another
of coffee, a tin coffee-pot, and a few other cooking utensils were
about all. The tools and lanterns were snuggled into the places
prepared for them, an abundance of rope was bestowed, and the guns,
ammunition and fishing tackle completed the outfit. Each member of the
little company carried a large, well-stocked, damp-proof box of matches
in his pocket, and each had a large clasp knife. There were no forks or
plates, but the boat herself was well supplied with agate iron drinking
cups.

It was well after dark when the loading was finished and the boat in
readiness to begin her voyage. It was planned to set sail at sunrise,
and so the crew went early to the joggling boards for a night’s rest in
the breezy veranda.

“We’ll start if there’s a wind,” said Cal.

“We’ll start anyhow, wind or no wind,” answered Larry.

“Of course we will,” said Cal. “But you used the term ‘set sail.’ I
object to it as an attempt to describe or characterize the process of
making a start with the oars.”

“Be quiet, Cal, will you?” interjected Dick. “I was just falling into a
doze when you punched me in the ribs with that criticism.”



IV

TOM FIGHTS IT OUT


FORTUNATELY there was a breeze, rather light but sufficient, when the
sun rose next morning. The _Hunkydory_ was cast off and, with Cal at
the tiller, her sails filled, she heeled over and “slid on her side,”
as Tom described it, out of the Ashley River and on down the harbor
where the wind was so much fresher that all the ship’s company had to
brace themselves up against the windward gunwale, making live ballast
of themselves.

The course was a frequently changing one, because the Rutledge boys
wanted their guests to pass near all the points of interest, and also
because they wanted Dick Wentworth, who was the most expert sailor
in the company, to study the boat’s sailing peculiarities. To that
end Dick went to the helm as soon as the wind freshened, and while
following in a general way the sight-seeing course suggested by the
Rutledges, he made many brief departures from it in order to test this
or that peculiarity of the boat, for, as Larry explained to Tom,
“Every sailing craft has ways of her own, and you want to know what
they are.”

After an hour of experiment, Dick said:

“We’ll have to get some sand bags somewhere. We need more ballast,
especially around the mast. As she is, she shakes her head too much and
is inclined to slew off to leeward.”

“Let me take the tiller, then, and we’ll get what we need,” answered
Larry, going to the helm.

“Where?”

“At Fort Sumter. I know the officer in command there—in fact, he’s an
intimate friend of our family,—and he’ll provide us with what we need.
How much do you think?”

“About three hundred pounds—in fifty pound bags for distribution. Two
hundred might do, but three hundred won’t be too much, I think, and if
it is we can empty out the surplus.”

“How on earth can you tell a thing like that by mere guess work, Dick?”
queried Tom in astonishment.

“It isn’t mere guess work,” said Dick. “In fact, it isn’t guess work at
all.”

“What is it, then?”

“Experience and observation. You see, I’ve sailed many dories,
Tom, and I’ve studied the behavior of boats under mighty good sea
schoolmasters—the Gloucester fishermen—and so with a little feeling
of a boat in a wind I can judge pretty accurately what she needs in the
way of ballast, just as anybody who has sailed a boat much, can judge
how much wind to take and how much to spill.”

“I’d like to learn something about sailing if I could,” said Tom.

“You can and you shall,” broke in Cal. “Dick will teach you on this
trip, and Larry and I will act as his subordinate instructors, so that
before we get back from our wanderings you shall know how to handle a
boat as well as we do; that is to say, if you don’t manage to send us
all to Davy Jones during your apprenticeship. There’s a chance of that,
but we’ll take the risk.”

“Yes, and there’s no better time to begin than right now,” said Dick.
“That’s a ticklish landing Larry is about to make at Fort Sumter. Watch
it closely and see just how he does it. Making a landing is the most
difficult and dangerous thing one has to do in sailing.”

“Yes,” said Cal; “it’s like leaving off when you find you’re talking
too much. It’s hard to do.”

The little company tarried at the fort only long enough for the
soldiers to make and fill six canvas sand bags. When they were afloat
again and Dick had tested the bestowal of the ballast, he suggested
that Tom should take his first lesson at the tiller. Sitting close
beside him, the more expert youth directed him minutely until, after
perhaps an hour of instruction, during which Dick so chose his courses
as to give the novice both windward work and running to do, Tom could
really make a fair showing in handling the sails and the rudder. He
was still a trifle clumsy at the work and often somewhat unready and
uncertain in his movements, but Dick pronounced him an apt scholar, and
predicted his quick success in learning the art.

They were nearing the mouth of the harbor when Dick deemed it best
to suspend the lesson and handle the boat himself. The wind had
freshened still further, and a lumpy sea was coming in over the bar,
so that while there was no danger to a boat properly handled, a little
clumsiness might easily work mischief.

The boys were delighted with the behavior of the craft and were
gleefully commenting on it when Larry observed that Tom, instead of
bracing himself against the gunwale, was sitting limply on the bottom,
with a face as white as the newly made sail.

“I say, boys, Tom’s seasick,” he called out. “We’d better put about
and run in under the lee of Morris Island.”

“No, don’t,” answered Tom, feebly. “I’m not going to be a spoil-sport,
and I’ll fight this thing out. If I could only throw up my boots, I’d
be all right. I’m sure it’s my boots that sit so heavily on my stomach.”

“Good for you, Tom,” said Larry, “but we’ll run into stiller waters
anyhow. We don’t want you to suffer. If you were rid of this, I’d—”

He hesitated, and didn’t finish his sentence.

“What is it you’d do if I weren’t playing the baby this way?”

“Oh, it’s all right.”

“No, it isn’t,” protested Tom, feeling his seasickness less because of
his determination to contest the point. “What is it you’d do? You shall
do it anyhow. If you don’t, I’ll jump overboard. I tell you I’m no
spoil-sport and I’m no whining baby to be coddled either. Tell me what
you had in mind.”

“Oh, it was only a sudden thought, and probably a foolish one. I was
seized with an insane desire to give the _Hunkydory_ a fair chance to
show what stuff she’s made of by running outside down the coast to the
mouth of Stono Inlet, instead of going back and making our way through
Wappoo creek.”

“Do it! Do it!” cried Tom, dragging himself up to his former posture.
“If you don’t do it I’ll quit the expedition and go home to be put into
pinafores again.”

“You’re a brick, Tom, and you shan’t be humiliated. We’ll make the
outside trip. It won’t take very long, and maybe you’ll get over the
worst of your sickness when we get outside.”

“If I don’t I’ll just grin and bear it,” answered Tom resolutely.

As the boat cleared the harbor and headed south, the sea grew much
calmer, though the breeze continued as before. It was the choking of
the channel that had made the water so “lumpy” at the harbor’s mouth.
Tom was the first to observe the relief, and before the dory slipped
into the calm waters of Stono Inlet he had only a trifling nausea to
remind him of his suffering.

“This is the fulfillment of prophecy number one,” he said to Cal, while
they were yet outside.

“What is?”

“Why this way of getting into Stono Inlet. You said our programme was
likely to be ‘changed without notice,’ and this is the first change.
You know it’s nearly always so. People very rarely carry out their
plans exactly.”

“I suppose not,” interrupted Larry as the Stono entrance was made,
“but I’ve a plan in mind that we’ll carry out just as I’ve made it, and
that not very long hence, either.”

“What is it, Larry?”

“Why to pick out a fit place for landing, go ashore, build a fire, and
have supper. Does it occur to you that we had breakfast at daylight and
that we’ve not had a bite to eat since, though it is nearly sunset?”

As he spoke, a bend of the shore line cut off what little breeze there
was, the sail flapped and the dory moved only with the tide.

“Lower away the sail,” he called to Cal and Dick, at the same time
hauling the boom inboard. “We must use the oars in making a landing,
and I see the place. We’ll camp for the night on the bluff just ahead.”

“Bluff?” asked Tom, scanning the shore. “I don’t see any bluff.”

“Why there—straight ahead, and not five hundred yards away.”

“Do you call that a bluff? Why, it isn’t three feet higher than the
low-lying land all around it.”

“After you’ve been a month on this coast,” said Cal, pulling at an oar,
“you’ll learn that after all, terms are purely relative as expressions
of human thought. We call that a bluff because it fronts the water
and is three feet higher than the general lay of the land. There
aren’t many places down here that can boast so great a superiority to
their surroundings. An elevation of ten feet we’d call high. It is all
comparative.”

“Well, my appetite isn’t comparative, at any rate,” said Tom. “It’s
both positive and superlative.”

“The usual sequel to an attack of seasickness, and I assure you—”

Cal never finished his assurance, whatever it was, for at that moment
the boat made her landing, and Larry, who acted as commander of the
expedition, quickly had everybody at work. The boat was to be secured
so that the rise and fall of the tide would do her no harm; wood was to
be gathered, a fire built and coffee made.

“And I am going out to see if I can’t get a few squirrels for supper,
while you fellows get some oysters and catch a few crabs if you can.
Oh, no, that’s too slow work. Take the cast net, Cal, and get a gallon
or so of shrimps, in case I don’t find any squirrels.”

“I can save you some trouble and disappointment on that score,” said
Cal, “by telling you now that you’ll get no squirrels and no game of
any other kind, unless perhaps you sprain your ankle or something and
get a game leg.”

“But why not? How do you know?”

“We’re too close to Charleston. The pot-hunters haven’t left so much as
a ground squirrel in these woods. I have been all over them and so I
know. Better take the cartridges out of your gun and try for some fish.
The tide’s right and you’ve an hour to do it in.”

Larry accepted the suggestion, and rowing the dory to a promising spot,
secured a dozen whiting within half the time at disposal.

Supper was eaten with that keen enjoyment which only a camping meal
ever gives, and with a crackling fire to stir enthusiasm, the boys
sat for hours telling stories and listening to Dick’s account of his
fishing trips along the northern shores, and his one summer’s camping
in the Maine woods.



V

A RATHER BAD NIGHT


DURING the next two or three days the expedition worked its way through
the tangled maze of big and little waterways, stopping only at night,
in order that they might the sooner reach a point where game was
plentiful.

At last Cal, who knew more about the matter than any one else in the
party, pointed out a vast forest-covered region that lay ahead, with a
broad stretch of water between.

“We’ll camp there for a day or two,” he said, “and get something
besides sea food to eat. There are deer there and wild turkeys, and
game birds, while squirrels and the like literally abound. I’ve hunted
there for a week at a time. It’s only about six miles from here, and
there’s a good breeze. We can easily make the run before night.”

Tom, who had by that time learned to handle the boat fairly well for a
novice, was at the tiller, and the others, a trifle too confident of
his skill perhaps, were paying scant attention to what he was doing.
The stretch of water they had to cross was generally deep, as the chart
showed, but there were a few shoals and mud banks to be avoided. While
the boys were eagerly listening to Cal’s description of the hunting
grounds ahead, the boat was speeding rapidly, with the sail trimmed
nearly flat, when there came a sudden flaw in the wind and Tom, in his
nervous anxiety to meet the difficulty managed to put the helm the
wrong way. A second later the dory was pushing her way through mud and
submerged marsh grass. Tom’s error had driven her, head on, upon one of
the grass covered mud banks.

Dick was instantly at work. Without waiting to haul the boom inboard,
he let go the throat and peak halyards, and the sails ran down while
the outer end of the boom buried itself in the mud.

“Now haul in the boom,” he said.

“Why didn’t you wait and do that first?” asked Tom, who was half out of
his wits with chagrin over his blunder.

“Because, with the centre board up, if we’d hauled it in against the
wind the boat would have rolled over and we should all have been
floundering.”

“But the centre board was down,” answered Tom.

“Look at it,” said Cal. “Doubtless it was down when we struck, but as
we slid up into the grass it was shut up like a jackknife.”

“Stop talking,” commanded Larry, “and get to the oars. It’s now or
never. If we don’t get clear of this within five minutes we’ll have
to lie here all night. The tide is just past full flood and the depth
will grow less every minute. Now then! All together and back her out of
this!”

With all their might the four boys backed with the oars, but the boat
refused to move. Dick shifted the ballast a little and they made
another effort, with no result except that Tom, in his well-nigh insane
eagerness to repair the damage done, managed to break an oar.

“It’s no use, fellows,” said Larry. “You might as well ship your oars.
We’re stuck for all night and must make the best of the situation.”

“Can’t we get out and push her off?” asked Tom in desperation.

“No. We’ve no bottom to stand on. The mud is too soft.”

“That’s one disadvantage in a dory,” said Dick, settling himself on a
thwart. “If we had a keel under us, we could have worked her free with
the oars.”

“If, yes, and perhaps,” broke in Cal, who was disposed to be cheerfully
philosophical under all circumstances. “What’s the use in iffing,
yessing and perhapsing? We’re unfortunate in being stuck on a mud bank
for the night, but stuck we are and there’s an end of that. We can’t
make the matter better by wishing, or regretting, or bemoaning our
fate, or making ourselves miserable in any other of the many ways that
evil ingenuity has devised for the needless chastisement of the spirit.
Let us ‘look forward not back, up and not down, out and not in,’ as
Dr. Hale puts it. Instead of thinking how much happier we might be if
we were spinning along over the water, let us think how much happier
we _shall_ be when we get out of this and set sail again. By the way,
what have we on board that we can eat before the shades of night begin
falling fast?”

“Well, if you will ‘look forward,’ as you’ve advised us all to do,”
said Dick Wentworth, “by which I mean if you will explore the forward
locker, you’ll find there a ten-pound can of sea biscuit, and half a
dozen gnarled and twisted bologna sausages of the imported variety,
warranted to keep in any climate and entirely capable of putting a
strain upon the digestion of an ostrich accustomed to dine on tenpenny
nails and the fragments of broken beer bottles.”

“Where on earth did they come from?” asked Larry. “I superintended the
lading of the boat—”

“Yes, I know you did, and I watched you. I observed that you had made
no provision for shipwreck and so I surreptitiously purchased and
bestowed these provisions myself. The old tars at Gloucester deeply
impressed it upon my mind that it is never safe to venture upon salt
water without a reserve supply of imperishable provisions to fall back
upon in case of accidents like this.”

“This isn’t an accident,” said Tom, who had been silent for an unusual
time; “it isn’t an accident; it’s the result of my stupidity and
nothing else, and I can never—”

“Now stop that, Tom!” commanded Cal; “stop it quick, or you’ll meet
with the accident of being chucked overboard. This was a mishap that
might occur to anyone, and if there was any fault in the case every
one of us is as much to blame as you are. You don’t profess to be an
expert sailor, and we know it. We ought some of us to have helped you
by observing things. Now quit blaming yourself, quit worrying and get
to work chewing bologna.”

“Thank you, Cal,” was all that Tom could say in reply, and all set to
work on what Dick called their “frugal meal,” adding:

“That phrase used to fool me. I found it in Sunday School books, where
some Scotch cotter and his interesting family sat down to eat scones or
porridge, and I thought it suggestive of something particularly good to
eat. Having the chronically unsatisfied appetite of a growing boy, the
thing made me hungry.”

“This bologna isn’t a bit bad after you’ve chewed enough of the dry out
of it to get the taste,” said Larry, cutting off several slices of the
smoke-hardened sausage.

“No,” said Dick, “it isn’t bad; but I judge from results that the
Dutchman who made it had rather an exalted opinion of garlic as a
flavoring.”

“Yes,” Cal answered, speaking slowly after his habit, “the thing
is thoroughly impregnated with the flavor and odor of the _allium
sativum_, and I was just revolving—”

“What’s that, Cal?” asked Larry, interrupting.

“What’s what?”

“Why, _allium_ something or other—the thing you mentioned.”

“Oh, you mean _allium sativum_? Why, that is the botanical name of the
cultivated garlic plant, you ignoramus.”

“Well, how did you come to know that? You never studied botany.”

“No, of course not. I’ll put myself to the trouble of explaining a
matter which would be obvious enough to you if you gave it proper
thought. I found the term in the dictionary a month or so ago when you
and I had some discussion as to the relationship between the garlic
and the onion. I may have been positive in such assertions as I found
it necessary to make in maintaining my side of the argument; doubtless
I was so; but I was not sufficiently confident of the soundness of
my views to make an open appeal to the dictionary. I consulted it
secretly, surreptitiously, meaning to fling it at your head if I found
that it sustained my contentions. As I found that it was strongly
prejudiced on your side, I refrained from dragging it into the
discussion. But I learned from it that garlic is _allium sativum_, and
I made up my mind to floor you with that morsel of erudition at the
first opportunity. This is it.”

“This is what?”

“Why, the first opportunity, to be sure. I’m glad it came now instead
of at some other time.”

“Why, Cal?”

“Why because we have about eleven hours of tedious waiting time
before us and must get rid of it in the best way we can. I’ve managed
to wear away several minutes of it by talking cheerful nonsense and
spreading it out over as many words as I could. I’ve noticed that
chatter helps mightily to pass away a tedious waiting time, and I’m
profoundly convinced that the very worst thing one can do in a case
like ours is to stretch the time out by grumbling and fretting. If ever
I’m sentenced to be hanged, I shall pass my last night pouring forth
drivelling idiocy, just by way of getting through what I suppose must
be rather a trying time to a condemned man.”

“By the way, Cal, you were just beginning to say something else when
Larry interrupted you to ask about the Latin name of garlic. You
said you were ‘just revolving.’ As you paused without any downward
inflection, and as you certainly were not turning around, I suppose you
meant you were just revolving something or other in your mind.”

“Your sagacity was not at fault, Tom, but my memory is. I was revolving
something in my mind, some nonsense I suppose, but what it was, I am
wholly unable to remember. Never mind; I’ll think of a hundred other
equally foolish things to say between now and midnight, and by that
time we’ll all be asleep, I suppose.”

It was entirely dark now, and Dick Wentworth lighted a lantern and
hoisted it as an anchor light.

“What’s the use, Dick, away out here?” asked one of the others.

“There may be no use in it,” replied Dick, “but a good seaman never
asks himself that question. He just does what the rules of navigation
require, and carries a clear conscience. If a ship has to stop in mid
ocean to repair her machinery even on the calmest and brightest of days
when the whole horizon is clear, the captain orders the three discs set
that mean ‘ship not under control.’ So we’ll let our anchor light do
its duty whether there is need of it or not.”

“That’s right in principle,” said Larry, “and after all it makes no
difference as that lantern hasn’t more than a spoonful of oil in it.
But most accidents, as they are called—”

Larry was not permitted to say what happened to “most accidents,” for
as he spoke Tom called out:

“Hello! it’s raining!”

“Yes—sprinkling,” answered Larry, holding out his hand to feel the
drops, “but it’ll be pouring in five minutes. We must hurry into our
oilskins. There! the anchor light has burned out and we must fumble in
the dark.”

With that he opened a receptacle and hurriedly dragged the yellow,
oil-stiffened garments out, saying as he did so:

“It’s too dark to see which is whose, but we’re all about of a size and
they don’t cut slickers to a very nice fit. So help yourselves and put
’em on as quickly as you can, for it’s beginning to pour down.”

The boys felt about in the dark until presently Cal called out:

“I say, fellows, I want to do some trading. I’ve got hold of three
pairs of trousers and two squams, but no coat. Who wants to swap a coat
for two pairs of trousers and a sou’wester?”

The exchanges were soon made and the waterproof garments donned, but
not before everybody had got pretty wet, for the rain was coming
down in torrents now, such as are never seen except in tropical or
subtropical regions.

The hurried performance served to divert the boys’ minds and cheer
their spirits for a while, but when the “slickers” were on and closely
fastened up, there was nothing to do but sit down again in the dismal
night and wait for the time to wear away.

“Now this is just what we needed,” said Cal, as soon as the others
began to grow silent and moody.

“What, the rain?”

“Yes. It helps to occupy the mind. It gives us something to think
about. It is a thing of interest. By adding to our wretchedness, it
teaches us the lesson that—”

“Oh, we don’t want any lessons, Cal; school’s out,” said Dick. “What I
want to know is whether you ever saw so heavy a rain before. I never
did. Why, there are no longer any drops—nothing but steady streams.
Did you ever see anything like it?”

“Often, and worse,” Larry answered. “This is only an ordinary summer
rain for this coast.”

“Well now, I understand—”

“Permit me to interrupt,” broke in Cal, “long enough to suggest that
the water in this boat is now half way between my ankles and my knees,
and I doubt the propriety of suffering it to rise any higher. Suppose
you pass the pump, Dick.”

Dick handed the pump to his companion, who was not long in clearing the
boat of the water. Then Tom took it and fitfully renewed the pumping
from time to time, by way of keeping her clear. After, perhaps, an
hour, the rain slackened to a drizzle far more depressing to the
spirits than the heavy downpour had been. The worst of the matter was
that the night was an intensely warm one, and the oilskin clothing
in which the boys were closely encased, was oppressive almost beyond
endurance. Presently Dick began unbuttoning his.

“What are you doing, Dick? “Tom asked as he heard the rustle.

“Opening the cerements that encase my person,” Dick answered.

“But what for?”

“Why, to keep from getting too wet. In these things the sweat that
flows through my skin is distinctly more dampening than the drizzling
rain.”

“I’d smile at that,” said Cal, “if it were worth while, as it isn’t.
We’re in the situation Charles Lamb pityingly imagined all mankind to
have been during the ages before candles were invented. If we crack a
joke after nightfall we must feel of our neighbor’s cheek to see if he
is smiling.”

The desire for sleep was strong upon all the company, and one by one
they settled themselves in the least uncomfortable positions possible
under the circumstances, and became silent in the hope of catching at
least a cat nap now and then. There was very little to be done in that
way, for the moment one part of the body was adjusted so that nothing
hurt it, a thwart or a rib, or the edge of the rail, or something else
would begin “digging holes,” as Larry said, in some other part.

Cal was the first to give up the attempt to sleep. After suffering as
much torture as he thought he was called upon to endure he undoubled
himself and sat upright. The rest soon followed his example, and Cal
thought it best to set conversation going again.

“After all,” he said meditatively, “this is precisely what we came to
seek.”

“What? The wretchedness of this night? I confess I am unable to take
that view of it,” answered Larry almost irritatedly.

“That is simply because your sunny temper is enshrouded in the murky
gloom of the night, and your customary ardor dampened by the drizzle.
You are not philosophical. You shouldn’t suffer external things to
disturb your spiritual calm. It does you much harm and no manner of
good. Besides, it is obvious that you judged and condemned my thought
without analyzing it.”

“How is that, Cal? Tell us about it,” said Dick. “Your prosing may put
us to sleep in spite of the angularity and intrusive impertinence of
everything we try to rest ourselves upon. Do your own analyzing and let
us have the benefit of it.”

“Oh, it’s simple enough. I indulged in the reflection that this sort
of thing is precisely what we set out on this expedition to find,
and it is so, if you’ll only think of it. We came in search of two
things—adventure and game. Surely this mud-bank experience is an
adventure, and I’m doing my best to persuade you fellows to be ‘game’
in its endurance.”

“That finishes us,” said Dick. “A pun is discouraging at all times; a
poor, weak-kneed, anæmic pun like that is simply disheartening, and
coming at a time of despondency like this, it reduces every fibre of
character to a pulp. I feel that under its influence my back bone has
been converted into guava jelly.”

“Your speech betrayeth you, Dick. I never heard you sling English more
vigorously than now. And you have regained your cheerfulness too, and
your capacity to take interest. Upon my word, I’ll think up another pun
and hurl it at you if it is to have any such effect as that.”

“While you’re doing it,” said Larry, “I’m going to get myself out of
the sweatbox I’ve been in all night. You may or may not have observed
it, but the rain has ceased, and the tide has turned and if I may be
permitted to quote Shakespeare, ‘The glow-worm shows the matin to be
near.’ In modern phrase, day is breaking, and within about two hours
the _Hunkydory_ will be afloat again.”

With the relief of doffing the oppressive oilskins, and the rapidly
coming daylight, the spirits of the little company revived, and it was
almost a jolly mood in which they made their second meal on hard ship
biscuit and still harder smoked bolognas.



VI

A LITTLE SPORT BY THE WAY


THE day had just asserted itself when Larry, looking out upon the broad
waters of a sound that lay between the dory and the point at which the
dory would have been if she had not gone aground, rather gleefully said:

“We’ll be out of our trouble sooner than we hoped. The _Hunkydory_ will
float well before the full flood.”

“Why do you think so, Larry?” asked Tom, who had not yet recovered
from his depression and was still blaming himself for the mishap and
doubting the possibility of an escape that morning.

“I don’t think it; I know,” answered Larry, beginning to shift ballast
in a way that would make backing off the mud bank easier.

“But how do you know?”

“Because there’s a high wind outside and it’s blowing on shore. Look at
the white caps out there where the water is open to the sea. We’re in
a sort of pocket here, and feel nothing more than a stiff breeze, but
it’s blowing great guns outside, and when that happens on an incoming
tide the water rises a good deal higher than usual. We’ll float before
the tide is at the full.”

“In my judgment we’re afloat now,” said Dick, who had been scrutinizing
the water just around them. “We’re resting on the marsh grass, that’s
all.”

“So we are,” said Cal, after scanning things a bit. “Let’s get to the
oars!”

“Better wait for five or ten minutes,” objected Dick. “We might foul
the rudder in backing off. Then we’d be in worse trouble than we were
before.”

“That’s so, Dick,” answered Cal, restraining his impatience and falling
at once into his peculiarly deliberate utterance. “That is certainly
so, and I have been pleased to observe, Dick, that many things you say
are so.”

“Thank you for the compliment, Cal, and for what it implies to the
contrary.”

“Pray don’t mention it. Take a look over the bow instead and see how
she lies now.”

In spite of their banter, that last ten minutes of waiting seemed
tediously long, especially to Tom, who wanted to feel the boat gliding
through the water again before forgiving himself for having run her
aground. At last the bow caught the force of the incoming flood, and
without help from anybody the dory lifted herself out of the grass and
drifted clear of the mud bank.

The centre board was quickly lowered, the sails hoisted, the burgee
run up to the masthead, and, as the _Hunkydory_ heeled over and began
plowing through the water with a swish, her crew set up a shout of glee
that told of young hearts glad again.

A kindly, gentle thought occurred to Dick Wentworth at that moment. It
was that by way of reassuring Tom and showing him that their confidence
in him was in no way shaken, they should call him to the helm at once.
Dick signalled his suggestion to Larry, by nodding and pointing to Tom,
whose eyes were turned away. Larry was quick to understand.

“I say, Tom,” he called out, “come to the tiller and finish your job.
It’s still your turn to navigate the craft.”

Tom hesitated for a second, but only for a second. Perhaps he
understood the kindly, generous meaning of the summons. However that
might be, he promptly responded, and taking the helm from Larry’s hand,
said, “Thank you, Larry—and all of you.”

That was all he said; indeed, it was all that he could say just then.

Suspecting something of the sort and dreading every manifestation of
emotion, as boys so often do, Larry quickly diverted all minds by
calling out:

“See there! Look! There’s a school of skipjacks breaking water dead
ahead. Let’s have some fun trolling for them. We haven’t any appointed
hours and we’re in no hurry, and trolling for skipjacks is prime sport.”

“What are they, anyhow?” asked Dick, who had become a good deal
interested in the strange varieties of fish he had seen for the first
time on the southern coast.

“Why, fish, of course. Did you think they were humming birds?”

“Well, I don’t know that I should have been greatly astonished if I had
found them to be something of that kind. Since you introduced me to
flying fish the other day, I’m prepared for anything. But what I wanted
to know was what sort of fish the skipjacks are.”

“Oh, that was it? Well, they’re what you call bluefish up north, I
believe. They are variously named along the coast—bluefish, jack
mackerel, horse mackerel, skipfish, skipjacks, and by some other names,
I believe, and they’re about as good fish to eat as any that swims in
salt water, by whatever name you call them.”

“Yes, I’ve eaten them as bluefish,” answered Dick. “They’re considered
a great dainty in Boston and up north generally.”

“They’re all that,” answered Larry, “and catching them is great sport
besides, as you’ll agree after you’ve had an hour or so of it. We must
have some bait first. Tom, run her in toward the mouth of the slough
you see on her starboard bow about a mile away. See it? There, where
the palmetto trees stand. That’s it. She’s heading straight at the
point I mean. Run her in there and bring her head into the wind. Then
we’ll find a good place and beach her, and I’ll go ashore with the cast
net and get a supply of shrimps.”

“Is it a wallflower or a widow you’re talking about, Larry?” languidly
asked Cal, while his brother was getting the cast net out and arranging
it for use.

“What do you mean, Cal? Some pestilent nonsense, I’ll be bound.”

“Not at all,” drawled Cal. “I was chivalrously concerned for the
unattached and unattended female of whom you’ve been speaking. You’ve
mentioned her six times, and always without an escort.”

“Oh, I see,” answered Larry, who was always quick to catch Cal’s rather
obscure jests. “Well, by the pronouns ‘she’ and ‘her,’ I meant the good
ship _Hunkydory_. She is now nearing the shore and if you don’t busy
yourself arranging trolling lines and have them ready by the time I
get back on board of her with a supply of shrimps, I’ll see to it that
you’re in no fit condition to get off another feeble-minded joke like
that for hours to come. There, Tom, give her just a capful of wind and
run her gently up that little scrap of sandy beach. No, no, don’t haul
your sheet so far—ease it off a bit, or she’ll run too far up the
shore. There! That’s better. The moment her nose touches let the sheet
run free. Good! Dick himself couldn’t have done that better.”

With that he sprang ashore, and with the heavily leaded cast net over
his arm and a galvanized iron bait pail in his hand, hurried along
the bank to the mouth of the slough, where he knew there would be
multitudes of shrimps gathered for purposes of feeding. After three
or four casts of the net he spread it, folded, over the top of his
bait bucket to keep the shrimps he had caught from jumping out. Within
fifteen minutes after leaping ashore he was back on board again with a
bucket full of the bait he wanted.

“Now, then,” he said to Dick and Tom, “Cal will show you how to do the
thing. I’ll sail the boat back and forth through the schools, spilling
wind so as to keep speed down. Oh, it’s great sport.”

“Well, you shall have your share of it then,” said Dick, carefully
coiling his line. “After I’ve tried it a little, and seen what sort of
sailing it needs, I’ll relieve you at the tiller and you shall take my
line.”

“You’ll do nothing of the kind,” said Cal with a slower drawl than
usual by way of giving emphasis to his words. “Not if I see you first.
After Larry has run us through the school two or three times, missing
it more than half the time, I’ll take the tiller myself and give you a
real chance to hook a fish or two.”

Dick knew Cal well enough to understand that he was in earnest and that
there would be no use in protesting or arguing the matter. Besides
that, he hooked a big fish just at that moment, and was jerked nearly
off his feet. The strength of the pull astonished him for a moment. He
had never encountered a fish of any kind that could tug like that, and
for the moment he forgot that the dory was doing most of the pulling.
In the meanwhile he had lost his fish by holding his line too firmly
and dragging the hook out of its mouth.

“That’s your first lesson,” said Cal, as deliberately as if there had
been no exciting sport on hand, and with like deliberation letting his
own line slip slowly through his tightened fingers. “You must do it as
I am doing it now,” he continued. “You see, I have a fish at the other
end of my line and I want to bring him aboard. So instead of holding
as hard as a check post, I yield a little to the exigencies of the
situation, letting the line slip with difficulty through my fingers at
first and long enough to transmit the momentum of the boat to the fish.
Then, having got his finny excellency well started in the way he should
go, I encourage persistency in well doing on his part by drawing in
line. Never mind your own line now. We’ve run through the school and
Larry is heaving-to to let Tom and me land our fish. You observe that
Tom has so far profited by his close study of my performance that—yes,
he has landed the first fish, and here comes mine into the boat. You
can set her going again, Larry; I won’t drag a line this time, but
devote all my abilities to the instruction of Dick.”

On the next dash and the next no fish were hooked. Then, as the boat
sailed through the school again, Dick landed two beauties, and Tom one.

“That ends it for to-day,” said Larry, laying the boat’s course toward
the heavily wooded mainland at the point where Cal had suggested a stay
of several days for shooting.

“But why not make one more try?” eagerly asked Tom, whose enthusiasm in
the sport was thoroughly aroused; “haven’t we time enough?”

“Yes,” said Larry, “but we have fish enough also. The catch will last
us as long as we can keep the fish fresh, which isn’t very long in this
climate, and we never catch more fish or kill more game than we can
dispose of. It is unsportsmanlike to do that, and it is wanton cruelty
besides.”

“That’s sound, and sensible, and sportsmanlike,” said Dick,
approvingly. “And besides, we really haven’t any time to spare if we’re
going to stop on the island yonder for dinner, as we agreed, and—”

“And as at least one appetite aboard the _Hunkydory_ insists that we
shall,” interrupted Cal. “It’s after three o’clock now.”

“So say we all of us,” sang Tom to the familiar after-dinner tune, and
Larry shifted the course so as to head for an island nearly a mile
away.

There a hasty dinner was cooked and eaten, but hasty as it was, it
occupied more time in preparation than had been reckoned upon, so that
it was fully five o’clock when the dory was again cast off.

In the meanwhile the wind had sunk to a mere zephyr, scarcely
sufficient to give the heavy boat steerage way, and, late in the day,
as it was, the sun shone with a sweltering fervor that caused the boys
to look forward with dread to the prospect of having to resort to the
oars.

That time came quickly, and the sails, now useless in the hot, still
air, were reluctantly lowered.

A stretch of water, more than half a dozen miles in width, lay before
them, and the tide was strong against them. But they pluckily plied the
oars and the heavy boat slowly but surely overcame the distance.

They had found no fresh water on the island, and there was very little
in the water kegs when they left it for their far-away destination. The
hard work of rowing against the tide in a hot atmosphere, made them all
thirsty, so that long before they reached their chosen landing place,
the last drop of the water was gone, with at least two more hours of
rowing in prospect.

“There’s a spring where I propose to land,” said Cal, by way of
reassuring his companions. “As I remember it, the water’s a bit
brackish, but it is drinkable at any rate.”

“Are you sure you can find the spot in the dark, Cal?” asked Larry,
with some anxiety in his voice. “For it’ll be pitch dark before we get
there.”

“Oh, yes, I can find it,” his brother answered.

“There’s a deep indentation in the coast there—an inlet, in fact,
which runs several miles up through the woods. We’ll run in toward the
shore presently and skirt along till we come to the mouth of the creek.
I’ll find it easily enough.”

But in spite of his assurances, the boys, now severely suffering with
thirst, had doubts, and to make sure, they approached the shore and
insisted that Cal should place himself on the bow, where he could see
the land as the boat skirted it.

This left three of them to handle four oars. One of them used a pair,
in the stern rowlocks, where the width of the boat was not too great
for sculls, while the other two plied each an oar amidships.

In their impatience, and tortured by thirst as they were, the three
oarsmen put their backs into the rowing and maintained a stroke that
sent the boat along at a greater speed than she had ever before made
with the oars alone. Still it seemed to them that their progress was
insufferably slow.

Presently Cal called to them: “Port—more to port—steady! there! we’re
in the creek and have only to round one bend of it. Starboard! Steady!
Way enough.”

A moment later the dory slid easily up a little sloping beach and
rested there.

“Where’s your spring, Cal?” the whole company cried in chorus, leaping
ashore.

“This way—here it is.”

The spring was a small pool, badly choked, but the boys threw
themselves down and drank of it greedily. It was not until their thirst
was considerably quenched that they began to observe how brackish the
water was. When the matter was mentioned at last, Cal dismissed it with
one of his profound discourses.

“I’ve drunk better water than that, I’ll admit; but I never drank any
water that I enjoyed more.” Then he added:

“You fellows are ungrateful, illogical, unfair, altogether
unreasonable. That water is so good that you never found out its
badness till after it had done you a better service than any other
water in the world ever did. Yet now you ungratefully revile its lately
discovered badness, while omitting to remember its previously enjoyed
and surpassing goodness. I am so ashamed of you that I’m going to
start a fire and get supper going. I for one want some coffee, and it
is going to be made of water from that spring, too. Those who object to
brackish coffee will simply have to go without.”



VII

AN ENEMY IN CAMP


NO sooner was the camp fire started than Cal went to the boat and
brought away a piece of tarpaulin, used to protect things against rain.
With this and a lighted lantern he started off through the thicket
toward the mouth of the little estuary, leaving Dick to make coffee and
fry fish, while Larry mixed a paste of corn meal, water and a little
salt, which he meant presently to spread into thin sheets and bake in
the hot embers, as soon as the fire should burn down sufficiently to
make a bed of coals.

As Cal was setting out, Tom, who had no particular duty to do at the
moment, asked:

“Where are you off to, Cal?”

“Come along with me and see,” Cal responded without answering the
direct question. “I may need your help. Suppose you bring the big bait
bucket with you. Empty the shrimps somewhere. They’re all too dead to
eat, but we may need ’em for bait.”

Tom accepted the invitation and the two were quickly beyond the bend
in the creek and well out of sight of the camp. As they neared the
open water, Cal stopped, held the lantern high above his head, and
looked about him as if in search of something. Presently he lowered the
lantern, cried out, “Ah, there it is,” and strode on rapidly through
the dense undergrowth.

Tom had no time to ask questions. He had enough to do to follow his
long-legged companion.

After a brief struggle with vines and undergrowths of every kind,
the pair came out upon a little sandy beach with a large oyster bank
behind it, and Tom had no further need to ask questions, for Cal spread
the tarpaulin out flat upon the sands, and both boys began gathering
oysters, not from the solid bank where thousands of them had their
shells tightly welded together, but from the water’s edge, and even
from the water itself wherever it did not exceed a foot or so in depth.
Cal explained that these submerged oysters, being nearly all the time
under salt water, and growing singly, or nearly so, were far fatter and
better than those in the bank or near its foot.

It did not take long to gather quite as many of the fat bivalves as the
two could conveniently carry in the tarpaulin and the bait pail, and as
Cal was tying up the corners of the cloth Tom began scrutinizing the
sandy beach at a point which the ordinary tides did not reach. As he
did so he observed a queer depression in the sand and asked Cal to come
and see what it meant.

After a single glance at it, Cal exclaimed gleefully:

“Good for you, Tom. This is the luckiest find yet.”

With that he placed the lantern in a favorable position, emptied the
bait pail, hurriedly knelt down, and with his hands began digging away
the sand.

“But what is it, Cal? What are you digging for?”

“I’ll show you in half a minute,” said the other, continuing to dig
diligently. Less than the half minute later he began drawing out of the
sand a multitude of snow-white eggs about the size of a walnut. As Tom
looked on in open-mouthed wonder, he thought there must be no end to
the supply.

“What are they, Cal?” the boy asked.

“Turtle’s eggs, and there’s a bait bucket full of them. You’ve made the
luckiest find of all, Tom,” he said again in congratulation.

“Are they good to eat?”

“Good to eat? Is anything you ever tasted good to eat? Why, Tom,
they’re about the rarest delicacy known to civilized man. In Charleston
they sell at fabulous prices, when there happen to be any there to
sell. Now we must hurry back to the fire, for the ash cakes must be
about done and the coffee made.”

After a moment or two of silence, Tom asked:

“Why did you think there was an oyster bank down there, Cal?”

“I noticed it as we came into the creek and I took pains to remember
its location. But here we are. See, fellows, what Tom has found! Now
bring on your coffee and your ash cakes and your fish, and we’ll feast
like a company of Homer’s warriors. It won’t take long to boil the eggs
in salt water—ten minutes is the allotted time, I believe, in the
case of turtle’s eggs, and during that time we can be eating the other
things and filling up with fire-opened oysters.”

With that he threw three or four oysters upon the coals, removing them
as soon as they opened and swallowing them from the shell. The others
followed his example.

Of course it really was an excellent supper the boys were eating out
there under the stars, but sharp-set hunger made it seem even better
than it was, and the contrast between it and the supper of bologna
sausages and hardtack of the night before, added greatly to the zest
of their feasting. They rejoiced, too, in being free, out there in
the woodlands, with no dismal rain to depress their spirits and no
restraint of any kind upon their liberty.

But they were all very tired after their sleepless night before and
their hard-working day, and without argument or discussion, one by one
of them stretched himself before the fire not long after supper, and
fell asleep. Cal remained awake longer than the rest, though he, too,
was lying flat upon his back, ready to welcome sleep as soon as it
should come to his eyelids.

Before it came he was moved by jealousy or mischief to disturb the
others with an admonition.

“You fellows are recklessly trifling with your health, every one of
you, and it is my duty to warn you of the consequences. In allowing
so brief a time to elapse between the consumption of food in generous
quantities, and your retirement to your couches, you are inviting
indigestion, courting bad dreams and recklessly risking the permanent
organic and functional impairment of your constitutions—to say nothing
of your by-laws, orders of business, rules of procedure and other
things that should be equally precious to you.”

“_Will_ you shut up, Cal?” muttered Dick, half awake. Tom remained
unconscious and Larry responded only with a snore.

Presently even Cal’s wakefulness yielded, his thoughts wandered, and he
fell into a sound slumber.

The woodlands were as still as woodlands at night ever are; the stars
shone brilliantly in a perfectly clear sky; the brush wood fire died
down to a mass of glowing coals and gray ashes, and still the weary
ship’s company slept on without waking or even moving.

Then something happened, and Larry, who was always alert, even in his
sleep, suddenly sat up, at the same time silently grasping the gun
that lay by his side. He was sure he had heard a noise in his sleep,
but now that he was wide awake, everything seemed profoundly still.
Nevertheless he waited and watched. Then suddenly he brought his gun to
his shoulder, and in sharp, ringing tones cried out:

“Drop that!”

Instantly all the boys were standing with their guns in hand, not
knowing what had happened, but ready to meet whatever might come. A
second or two later Larry, still sitting and aiming his gun over his
bent knees, called out again:

“Drop that, I say! Drop it instantly or I’ll shoot. I’ve got a bead on
you. Now throw up your hands! Quick, and no fooling.”

[Illustration: DICK, CAL, AND TOM SEARCHED THE MAN’S CLOTHES.
_Page 73._]

As he gave this command he rose and slowly advanced toward the dory,
keeping his gun levelled from his shoulder.

It was difficult to see anything, until Tom thought to throw a bunch
of dry brush upon the coals. As it blazed up the boys saw the man whom
Larry had held up. He was standing by the boat, his back toward them
and his hands, held up in obedience to Larry’s command.

“Now, boys, see what shooting irons he has about him,” directed Larry,
who stood with the muzzle of his shotgun less than three feet away from
the prisoner.

Dick, Cal and Tom searched the man’s clothes, but found no weapons
of any sort there. Tom was thoughtful enough to search his
long-legged leather boots, and from each of them he presently drew a
murderous-looking army revolver. Without saying a word, the boy sprung
the pistols open and emptied them of their cartridges, which he tossed
into the creek.

“Now you may let your hands down,” said Larry, at the same time
lowering his piece, but continuing to hold it with both barrels at full
cock.

“Cal, take care of that box of cartridges I made him drop, and take a
lantern and look the boat over. He may have done some damage before
trying to steal our ammunition.”

Up to this time the intruder, a huge man of evil countenance, had
spoken no word. Now he suddenly took the initiative.

“Who are you fellers, anyhow, and what are you a-doing here?” he asked.

“Curiously enough,” responded Cal, “those are precisely the questions
I was going to ask you. Suppose you answer first. Who are you and what
are you doing here?”

“That’s for me to know and you to find out,” the intruder replied,
truculently.

“Perhaps you’d better reconsider that,” said Cal. “You’re a prisoner,
you know, caught in the act of stealing our ammunition, and we are
armed. We can chuck you into our boat and take you to a magistrate, who
will provide you with jail accommodations for a while. Give an account
of yourself. What did you come to our camp for?”

“I come,” he replied with somewhat less assurance in his tone, “to find
out who you fellers was, and what you’re a-doin’ here where you don’t
belong, and to give you fair warnin’ to git away from here jest as
quick as you know how. Ef you don’t, it’ll be a good deal the worse for
you.”

“We’ll do nothing of the kind,” broke in Larry. “We’re on land that
belongs to Mr. Hayward, a friend of ours, and we’re going to stay here
as long as we like.”

“You’ll do it at your own resk, then. You’ve got me hard and fast, but
they’s others besides me.”

“Now listen to me,” said Larry, rising and speaking sharply. “We’ve
got you hard and fast, as you say, and we could take you to jail or we
could hold you as a hostage, if you know what that means; but we’ll do
neither. We’re not afraid of you or the ‘others’ you mentioned. We are
going to turn you loose and dare you to do your worst. We’ve a right to
be where we are, and we’re going to stay here till we’re ready to go.
We’re armed, and we know how to shoot. But there’ll be no holding up
of hands the next time any of you invade our camp, and there’ll be no
challenging. It’ll be quick triggers. Now go! We expect to stay here
for three or four days. Go!”

The man moved off through the woods, with a peculiar limp in his left
leg, turning about when at a little distance, and shouting:

“It’ll be the worse for you! I’ve give you fair warnin’.”



VIII

CAL BEGINS TO DO THINGS


“WONDER what it all means,” said Tom, when the man had limped away
through the undergrowth and out of hearing.

“It means, for one thing,” said Cal, “that we’re practically in a state
of siege here. We must all be on the alert and never all sleep at once.”

“Yes,” said Larry, “and that isn’t enough. We must guard ourselves
against surprise by day as well as by night. As soon as it grows light
enough in the morning I’ll explore our surroundings and see what may
best be done. It is now a trifle after four o’clock, and we shan’t go
to sleep again. Why not have breakfast and make a long day of it. I
want to get some game, for one thing. I wonder if that fellow’s gang,
whoever they are, have cleaned all the wild things out of these woods.”

“You can rest easy as to that,” said Cal. “We’ll have something fit
to eat for dinner to-day, and I’ll have it here in time to cook it
properly for that meal. What I am wondering about is who those fellows
are, and what they are doing around here, and why they don’t want us
around.”

“Then you believe what that fellow said?” asked Dick. “You believe in
the existence of those others’ with whose vengeance he threatened us?”

“Yes, of course.”

“Well, I don’t. There may be another man down here with that one,
fishing or hunting, but I don’t believe in the presence of a company of
them.”

“But why not, Dick?”

“Simply because it is unlikely. On its face it seems to me more likely
that, as we had caught that fellow stealing, he invented the formidable
and vengeful force theory just to scare us into letting him go. What
would there be for such a band as he suggests to do down here in these
lonely woods? What is there here to attract such a band?”

“I am not prepared to answer those questions,” said Cal. “I can’t
imagine what a gang of that sort could be doing here, or why they are
here, or anything about it. But it is my firm conviction that we have
need to keep cartridges in our guns and about our persons.”

“Oh, that’s of course,” answered Dick; “though if there is any such
gang and they don’t attack us early this morning, we needn’t look for
them before night, so we’ll have plenty of time for getting a good
supply of game.”

“All right,” said Cal. “And by way of making sure, as it’s coming on
daylight now, I’ll go and get that turkey gobbler I was speaking of.
I’ll be back to breakfast.”

With that Cal started off, gun in hand, leaving the rest to wonder.

“How can he be so confident of finding game?” Dick asked, with a note
of incredulity in his voice.

“I don’t know,” answered Larry, “but it’s nine chances in ten that
he’ll do it. He’s the wiliest hunter I ever knew, and with all his
chatter, he never says a thing of that kind without meaning it;
especially he never gives a positive promise unless he is confident of
his ability to fulfill it. So I expect to see him back here before we
have breakfast ready, with a turkey gobbler slung over his shoulders.”

“Why ‘gobbler,’ Larry?” Dick asked, looking up from the mortar in which
he was pounding the coffee.

“How do you mean, Dick?”

“Why, it wasn’t just a turkey that Cal promised us, but specifically a
gobbler, and now when you speak of it you also assume that the bird he
is to kill will be of the male sex. Why may it not be a turkey hen?”

“Why, he wouldn’t think of shooting a turkey hen at this time of year.
They’re bringing up their chicks now and they won’t be fit to eat for a
month yet. So if he brings any turkey with him it’ll be a bearded old
gobbler as fat as butter.”

At that moment a shot was heard at some distance. The next instant
there was another, after which all was still.

“I say, Larry, I don’t like that,” said Tom uneasily.

“Don’t like what?”

“Why, those two shots in quick succession. Maybe Cal has met some of
that gang and they’ve shot him. Hadn’t we better go to his assistance?”

“You may go if you are uneasy, Tom,” answered Larry; “but it isn’t at
all necessary I think. Cal knows how to take care of himself.”

“But how do you account for the two shots in such quick succession?”

“By the fact that Cal usually hunts with cartridges in both barrels of
his gun just as other people do. He may have missed at the first fire.
In that case he would take a second shot if he could get it.”

Tom was somewhat reassured by this suggestion, but he was not entirely
free from anxiety until ten minutes later when he heard the crackling
of dry branches under Cal’s big boots. A moment afterwards Cal himself
appeared, with two huge gobblers slung over his neck.

“So you got one with each barrel,” quietly commented Larry, feeling of
the birds to test their fatness.

“Yes, of course. That’s what I fired twice for. Did you imagine I’d
shoot the second barrel just for fun? By the way, isn’t breakfast
nearly ready? I’m pretty sharp set in this crisp morning air.”

“I must say, Cal,” said Dick, as the little company sat on the ground
to eat their breakfast, “you’re the very coolest hand I ever saw.
Why, if I had shot two big gobblers out of one flock of turkeys I’d
be tiring the rest of you with minute descriptions—more or less
inaccurate, perhaps—of just how I did it, and just how I felt while
doing it, and just how the turkeys behaved, and all the rest of it.”

“What’s the use?” asked Cal between sips of coffee. “The facts are
simple enough. We wanted some turkeys and I went out to get them. I
knew where they were roosting and I got there before time for them to
quit the roost. I shot one from the limb on which he had passed the
night. The others flew, of course, and I shot one of them on the wing.
That’s absolutely all there is to tell. I like to get my game when I
go for it but I never could see the use of holding a coroner’s inquest
over it.”

“What puzzles me,” said Tom, “is how on earth you knew just where those
turkeys were roosting. Did you just guess it?”

“No, of course not. If I had, I shouldn’t have been so ready to promise
you a gobbler as I was.”

“Then how did you know?”

“I saw the roost last night.”

“When, and how?”

“When you and I were out after the oysters. Do you remember that just
before we came out of the woods and upon the beach, I stopped and held
up the lantern and looked all around?”

“Yes, but you were looking for the oyster bed and you found it.”

“I was looking for the oyster bed, of course. But I was looking for
anything else there might be to see, too. I always do that. When I was
at the bow last night looking for the mouth of this creek I saw the
oyster bed, and marked its locality in my mind. In the same way, when
I was looking for the oyster bed with the lantern above my head, I saw
the turkey-roost and carefully made mental note of its surroundings
so that I might go straight to it this morning. Is there any other
gentleman in the company who would like to ask me questions with a view
to the satisfaction of his curiosity or the improvement of his mind?”

“I for one would like to ask you what else you saw this morning while
you were out after the turkeys,” answered Tom. “Apparently you never
look for one thing without finding some others of equal or superior
importance. Did you do anything of that sort this morning?”

“Yes, I think so. I made two observations, in fact, and both of them
seem to me to possess a certain measure of interest.”

Cal paused in his speech at this point and proceeded to eat his
breakfast quite as if the others had not been waiting for him to go on
with whatever it was that he had to tell.

“You’re the most provoking fellow I ever saw, Cal,” said Tom,
impatiently. “When you have nothing to say that is in the least worth
saying, you grind out words like a water mill, till you bury yourself
and the rest of us in the chaffy nonsense. But when you have something
to tell that we’re all eager to hear, you shut up like a clam at low
tide. Go on, can’t you?”

“I have always heard,” replied Cal, in leisurely fashion, as if his
only purpose had been to prevent the conversation from flagging, “that
one of the most necessary arts of the orator is that of getting his
audience into a condition of anxious waiting for his words before he
really says the thing they want to hear. I cannot myself claim the
title of orator, but I’m practicing and—”

“_Will_ you stop that nonsense, Cal, and tell us what you have in mind?
If not we’ll duck you in the creek.”

It was Larry who uttered this threat.

“I’ve had worse things than that happen to me,” answered Cal,
imperturbably. “The morning is sunny and the sea water on this coast
closely approximates tepidity. By the way, Dick, our higher water
temperature seems to mar the edibility of some fish that are deemed
good at the North. There’s what you call the weak fish—”

He stopped suddenly, for the reason that Dick had approached him from
behind, seized his shoulders and toppled him over upon the ground.

“Now tell us what we’re waiting to hear!” Dick commanded, still holding
his comrade down upon his back.

“My mouth’s full of sand,” Cal managed to say; “let me up and I’ll make
a clean breast of it, on honor.”

Dick loosed his hold, and as soon as Cal had rinsed his mouth, he
redeemed his promise.

“Well, the first thing I discovered was that there’s a promising young
deer at present haunting this neck of the woods, and we’re all going
out to involve it in controversy with us to-day, and then shoot it as
its just due for defying us in such impudent fashion.”

“Venison!” exclaimed Tom enthusiastically; “how my mouth waters for a
taste of its juiciness! But how do you know about it, Cal?”

“It isn’t venison yet,” slowly answered the other. “You are much too
hasty in jumping at conclusions. That deer will not be venison until
we find it and convert it into meat of that justly esteemed sort. Now
to answer your question; I discovered its tracks and followed them far
enough to know whither it was wending its way and about where to look
for it when you fellows quit your ceaseless talking and are ready for
the chase. There’s no great hurry, however, as the tracks were made
this morning and—”

“How do you know that?” interrupted Tom.

“I smelt them.”

“But how? I don’t understand.”

“It oughtn’t to be difficult for even you, Tom, to make out that if I
smelt the tracks, I employed my nose for that purpose. I usually smell
things in just that way.”

“Oh, pshaw, you know what I mean. I didn’t imagine any creature but a
well-trained hound could discover a scent in a deer’s track.”

“Obviously your imagination is in need of a reinforcement of facts
then. I’ll furnish them. In the middle of a deer’s foot there is a
little spot that bears an odor sweeter than that of attar of roses
and quite as pronounced. For that reason many young ladies, and some
who are not so young perhaps, like to keep a deer’s foot among their
daintiest lingerie. Now, when a deer puts his foot down it spreads
sufficiently to bring that perfumed spot in contact with the earth
and the track is delicately perfumed. When the odor is pronounced it
indicates that the track is newly made.

“Now that I have fully answered your intruded, if not intrusive
question, Tom, perhaps I may be permitted to finish the sentence you
interrupted.”

“Certainly, go on. Really, Cal, I didn’t mean—”

“I know you didn’t. I was saying that there is no need of haste in
going after that deer, because the tracks were made this morning,
and the marshy thicket toward which the deer was making his way is
sufficiently rich in succulent grasses and juicy young cane to occupy
his mind for the entire day, and several days. A little later we’ll cut
off his retreat on the land side of the point, and if we don’t get him
the fault will be with our inexpertness with our guns.”

“That’s all right, Cal,” broke in Larry, “and I’m glad you’ve marked
down the deer; but just now I must be off to plan our defense. You’ve
taken so long to tell us about your first discovery that I can’t wait
to hear about the second.”

“Oh, yes, you can,” replied Cal. “It will save you a lot of trouble,
and I can tell it in about half a dozen words.”

“Go ahead and tell it, then.”

“It is simply that I have solved the whole problem of defense.”

“How? Tell us about it!”

“Why, just above our camp—up the creek a few hundred yards, there’s
a big gum tree, with an easily accessible crotch, comfortable to sit
in, from which the one playing sentinel can see everything we want to
see. He can look clear across this point and half a mile or more up
the creek, and by turning his head he can see the camp itself and the
_Hunkydory_ and even the soiled spots on your coats. All we’ve got to
do is to keep a sentinel in that gum tree, and nobody can approach our
camp unseen, whether he comes by land or by water. Come on and I’ll
show you.”

The whole company followed Cal, and after a minute inspection found the
lookout to be quite as satisfactory as he had represented it to be. But
Tom, who had made up his mind to acquire Cal’s habit of observation,
noticed some things about the place that aroused his curiosity. He
said nothing about them at the time, but resolved to read the riddle
of their meaning if he could. To that end he asked to be the first to
serve as sentinel.

“All right,” said Larry. “You can stay here till we’re ready to go
after that deer. Then I’ll take your place.”

“But why?”

“Oh, so that you may have your share in the deer hunt.”

“You needn’t either of you bother about that,” said Cal. “Our camp can
be seen all the way to the cane brake where the deer is browsing, and
also from one of the points at which a man must stand with his gun
when we drive the deer. So we shan’t need any other sentinel and we’ll
all go. With all of us together over there we’ll be ready to repel any
attack on ourselves, and if anybody invades the camp we’ll swoop down
upon him and exterminate him.”

There was a good deal to be done at the camp before going after the
deer. The turkeys were to be picked and dressed and one of them to be
roasted. Some fishing was to be done and it was necessary to put up
some sort of bush shelter for use in case of rain. So, leaving Tom as
sentinel, the other boys went back to the anchorage, and Tom began his
scrutiny of the things he had observed.

As a last injunction Larry said: “You can come in to dinner, Tom, when
I whistle through my fingers. If there’s nobody in sight then, we can
risk the dinner hour without a sentry.”



IX

A FANCY SHOT


THE things that had attracted Tom’s attention were so trifling in
themselves that only a person alertly observing would have noticed them
at all. Yet Tom thought they might have significance, and he was bent
upon finding out what that significance was.

First of all, he had observed that a little blind trail seemed to lead
westward from the tree, and in no other direction, as if it had been
made by someone who visited the tree and then returned by the way he
had come, going no farther in any direction. The trail was so blind
that Tom could not be sure it was a trail at all. If so, it had been
traversed very infrequently, and at rather long intervals. If it had
been the only suggestive thing seen, the boy would probably not have
given it a thought. But he observed also that the bark of the gum tree
was a trifle scarred at two points, suggesting that some one with heavy
boots on had recently climbed it.

As soon as the other boys had gone back to camp, Tom set to work to
make a closer inspection of his surroundings. He climbed the tree to
the crotch and looked about him. There was nothing there, but from that
height he could trace the little trail through the bushes for perhaps
fifty or a hundred yards. He satisfied himself in that way that it was
really a trail, made by the passage of some living thing, man or beast,
through the dense undergrowth.

“I’ll follow that trail after a while,” he resolved, “but I’ll say
nothing about it now. I might be laughed at for my pains. Not that I
mind that, of course. We fellows are well used to being laughed at
among ourselves. But when I say anything about this, I want to have
something to tell that is worth telling. After all, it may be only the
path of a deer or of one of the queer little wild horses—tackeys, they
call them—that live in the swamps. Or a wild hog may have made it. I
don’t know, and I’m not going to talk about the thing till I can talk
to some purpose.”

As he wriggled around in the crotch, he dropped his knife from his
pocket.

“That’s a reminder,” he reflected, “that people sometimes drop things
when they don’t intend to. If anybody else has been roosting up here
he may have dropped things, too. I’ll recover my knife and then I’ll
search around the tree.”

He was on the ground now, and having replaced his knife he began a
minute search of the space for ten or twenty feet around the tree. It
was thickly carpeted with the densely-growing vegetation that is always
quick to take possession of every unoccupied inch of ground in the far
southern swamps and woodlands. Searching such a space for small objects
was almost a hopeless task, and finding nothing, Tom was on the point
of giving up the attempt, when he trod upon something. Examining it,
he found it to be an old corncob pipe with a short cane stem. It was
blackened by long smoking, and that side of it which had lain next to
the ground had begun to decay. But there was half-burned tobacco in it
still.

From all these facts Tom thought it likely that the pipe, while still
alight, had been dropped from the tree, and that its owner had failed
to find it upon his descent.

“That means that somebody was using this tree for a lookout a good
while ago. I can’t imagine why or wherefore, but I mean to find out if
I can. Just now I hear Larry’s whistle calling me to dinner. I wonder
how he manages to make that shrill shrieking noise by putting two
fingers into his mouth and blowing between them. I must get him to
teach me the trick.”

It was decided at dinner that the deer hunt should occur as soon as
that meal was finished.

“The deer will be lying down, chewing the cud, at this time of day,”
explained Larry to his two guests, who had never shared a deer hunt,
“and so we shan’t disturb him in placing ourselves. What’s the nature
of the ground, Cal? Can three of us cover it while the fourth drives?”

“We must,” Cal answered. “It may give some one of us a very long shot,
but with nitro-powder cartridges these modern guns of ours will pitch
buckshot a long way. The marsh in which the deer is feeding is on a
sort of peninsula which is surrounded by water except on one side. That
land side is a rather narrow neck, narrow enough for three guns to
cover it, I think, if the guns are well handled. Fortunately the marsh
itself is small. If it weren’t we might drive all day, as we have no
dogs, without routing the deer out. As it is, I think I can start him,
and I’ll do the driving after I post you three at the three best points
of observation.”

“How do you ‘drive,’ as you call it, Cal?” Dick asked.

“Well, if we had dogs and horses, as we always do in a regular deer
hunt, the man appointed to drive would ride around to the farther side
of the swamp, and put the dogs into it. The dogs would scatter out
into an irregular line and zigzag to one side and the other in search
of the quarry. In that way they would advance till they found the deer
and set him running toward the line of men on the posts. Every one of
these would be intently looking and listening till the deer should come
running at top speed in an effort to dash past his enemies and escape.
The man on the post nearest where he breaks through is expected to
bring him down with a quick shot aimed at his side, just behind the
shoulder.”

“But what if he misses?”

“In that case the deer has won the game. As we have no dogs and there
are only four of us, I mean to post you three at the points I find best
suited, and then I’ll play hounds myself. I’ll go round to the farther
side of the little swamp, invade it as noisily as I can, whooping and
hallooing in the hope of getting the deer up. If I do, he’ll make a
dash to get out of the swamp, and if no one of you manages to shoot
him in the act, we’ll have none of that juicy venison that you, Tom,
thought you had almost in your mouth when I first told you that the
deer was here. Now let us be off. We’re burning daylight. Load with
buckshot cartridges.”

When the neck of the little peninsula was reached, Cal bade his
comrades wait at the point from which their camp could be seen, while
he should go over the ground and pick out the places to be occupied as
posts.

On his return he placed the others each at the point he had chosen for
him, taking care that Tom and Dick should have the places near which
the quarry was most likely to make his effort to break through.

“Now, you must keep perfectly still,” he admonished the two
inexperienced ones, “and keep both eyes and three ears, if you have so
many, wide open. You may see the deer without hearing him, or you may
hear him tearing through the bushes before you see him. That will give
you notice of his coming, but don’t let him fool you. He may not come
straight on from the spot at which you hear him. If he catches sight,
sound or smell of you, he’ll veer off in some other direction. So if
you hear him coming don’t move a muscle except those of your eyes.

“Now I’m off to drive. If I can, I’ll get him up and away. After that
everything will depend upon you.”

It was nearly half an hour before the boys heard Cal’s shoutings in the
distance, but slowly coming nearer. After that, in the eager watching
and waiting, the seconds seemed minutes, and the minutes dragged
themselves out into what seemed hours.

At last, however, Dick heard the deer breaking through bushes just
ahead of him. In another second the frightened creature burst into view
and Dick fired, missing the game, which instantly changed its course
and ran away toward its left, with the speed of the wind. Dick, in his
excited disappointment, fired his second barrel at a hopelessly long
range.

Almost immediately he heard a shot from Tom’s gun, and after that
all was still. Cal struggled out of the swamp, while Larry and Dick
made their way toward Tom’s post, “to hear,” Cal said, “just what
excuses the novices have invented on the spur of the moment by way of
accounting for their bad marksmanship.”

“I have none to offer,” said Dick, manfully. “I missed my shot, that’s
all.”

“How is it with you, Tom? What plea have you to offer?”

“None whatever,” answered Tom. “Yonder lies the deer by the side of the
fallen tree. He was taking a flying leap over it when I shot him—on
the wing, as it were.”

The congratulations that followed this complete surprise may be
imagined. Cal fairly “wreaked himself upon expression” in sounding his
praises of Tom’s superb marksmanship, and better still, his coolness
and calmness under circumstances, as Cal phrased it, “that might have
disturbed the equipoise of an Egyptian mummy’s nerve centres.”

Tom took all this congratulation and extravagance of praise modestly
and with as little show of emotion as he had manifested while making
his difficult shot.

Perhaps this was even more to his credit than the other. For this was
the first time Tom Garnett had ever seen a deer hunt, or a live deer,
either, for that matter.



X

TOM’S DISCOVERIES


AS no attack had been made upon the camp the boys gradually relaxed
the vigilance of their guard duty; but they still maintained a sentry
at the lookout tree at night and made occasional visits of observation
during the day, going to the tree sufficiently often to avoid being
taken by surprise.

“And what if they should attack us in daytime?” argued Dick. “We’d be
here, armed and ready for them.”

There was fishing to be done, and a game of chess or backgammon was
usually in progress. Moreover, like any other company of bright youths
accustomed to think, they had enough to talk about, many things to
explain to each other, many stories to tell, and many questions
to discuss. Thus the daytime sentry duty was reduced to nearly no
activity, except upon Tom’s part. He was apparently fond of going to
the lookout and remaining there sometimes for hours at a time.

The others did not know why he should care for that as for an
amusement. Tom did, but he said nothing. Tom was finding out something
that the others knew nothing about.

On the next morning but one after the deer hunt he had climbed to
the crotch of the tree to make a further study of the trail he had
discovered. After a little while he decided to climb farther up the
tree, in order to secure a better view.

From that loftier perch he saw something at a distance that deeply
interested him. It was a sort of hovel, so buried in undergrowth that
it would have been scarcely visible at all except to one looking from a
high place as he was.

But what interested him most was that presently he saw the lame
intruder of two nights before come out of the hovel and limp down
toward the shore, where, as Tom easily made out, there was a small,
crooked little cove running into the woods, not from the creek, but
from the broader water outside.

Tom lost sight of the man when he reached the cove, and so did not make
out what he was doing there, but after a time he saw him limp away
again and go back to the neighborhood of the hovel, which, however, he
did not enter or approach very nearly.

He loitered around for awhile, like one who must remain where he is,
but who has nothing to do there during an indefinitely long and tedious
waiting time. At last he stretched himself out on a log in the shadow
of the trees, as if to pass away the time in sleep.

Tom’s curiosity was by this time master of him. Having seen so much,
he was eager to see more. Accordingly he clambered down the tree, and,
with gun in hand, set out to follow the blind trail.

He moved silently from the first, and very cautiously toward the end of
his half-mile journey. He was careful not to tread upon any of the dry
sticks that might make a noise in breaking, and to permit no bush to
swish as he let it go.

At last he reached the neighborhood of the hovel, and, securing a
good hiding place in the dense undergrowth, minutely studied his
surroundings. The lame man lay still on his log and apparently asleep,
until after awhile the sun’s changing position brought his face into
the strong glare. Then he rose lazily, rubbing his eyes as if the sleep
were not yet out of them. Rising at last, with muttered maledictions
upon the heat, he limped over to a clump of palmetes and from among
them lifted a stone jug, from which he took a prolonged draught.

“That’s the stuff to brace a man up!” he muttered as he replaced the
jug in its hiding place.

Tom observed that there were nowhere any traces of a camp fire, present
or past, a fact that puzzled him at first, for obviously the man lived
there in the thicket, or at least remained there for prolonged periods
at a time, and, as Tom reflected, “he must eat.”

The man himself solved the riddle for him presently by going to another
of his hiding places and bringing thence a great handful of coarse ship
biscuit and a huge piece of cold pickled beef of the kind that sailors
call “salt-horse,” which he proceeded to devour.

“Obviously,” reflected Tom, “his food, such as it is, is brought to
him here already cooked. He makes no fire, probably because he fears
its light by night or the smoke of it by day might reveal his presence
here. But why does he stay here? What is he here for? Who are they
who bring him food, and when or how often do they come, and for what
purpose? It’s a Chinese puzzle, but I mean to work it out.”

Having made his observation of the place as minute as he could Tom
silently crept away, not walking in the trail, but through the bushes
near enough to let him see it and follow its winding course. He did
this lest by walking too often in the trail he should leave signs of
its recent use.

When he reached the lookout tree, to his surprise he found his three
comrades there.

“Hello! What are you fellows doing here?” he asked, breaking out of
the bushes and thus giving the first sign his comrades had had of his
approach, for even to the end of his little journey he had been at
pains to travel in absolute silence as an Indian on the war path does.

“Why, Tom, where have you been?” was the first greeting the others gave
him.

“We’ve been dreadfully uneasy about you,” Larry explained, “and when I
whistled through my fingers to call you to dinner and you didn’t come,
we hurried out here to look for you. Where _have_ you been and what
have you been doing?”

“I say, Larry, that reminds me that I want you to teach me the trick of
whistling through my fingers in that way. Will you?”

“I’ll teach you some things that are easier to learn than that,”
answered his companion, “if you try any more of Cal’s tricks of beating
round the bush. Why don’t you tell us where you’ve been and why, and
all the rest of it? Don’t you understand that we’ve been on tenterhooks
of anxiety about you for an hour?”

“Well, as I’m here, safe and sound, there is no further need of
anxiety, and as for your curiosity to hear what I have to tell, I’ll
relieve that while we’re at dinner. Come on! I’m hungry and I reckon
the rest of you are, too. Anyhow, what I’ve got to tell you is well
worth hearing, and I shall not tell you a word till we sit down on our
haunches and begin to enjoy again the flavor of that venison, broiled
on the live coals. You haven’t cooked it yet, have you?”

“No. We got the chops ready for the fire, and then I whistled for you,
so that we might all have them fresh from the coals. As you didn’t
come, we got uneasy and went to look for you. So come on and we’ll have
a late dinner and sharp appetites.”

No sooner were the juicy venison chops taken from the fire and served
upon a piece of bark that did duty as a platter than the demand for the
story of Tom’s morning adventure became clamorous.

With a chop in one hand and half an ash cake in the other, Tom told all
that he had done and seen, giving the details as the reader already
knows them. Then, after finishing the meal and washing his hands, face
and head in the salt water of the creek, he set forth the conclusions
and conjectures he had formed.

“In the first place,” he said, “I am certain that our late visitor—he
with the game leg—is the only person anywhere around. We are in no
danger of an attack, either by night or by day, until his comrades,
whoever they may be, come here and join him. We have no need of doing
sentry duty out there at the gum tree, except to keep a sufficient
lookout to make sure that we know when they do come. In my opinion that
will be at night sometime.”

“Why do you think so, Tom?”

“Simply because it is evident that they don’t come here for any good
or lawful purpose. If that lame fellow with the whisky jug is a fair
sample of the crew, they are the sort that prefer darkness to light
because their deeds are evil.”

“Who do you think they are, Tom?” asked Cal, “and what, in your
opinion, are they up to?”

“I don’t know, but I mean to find out.”

“How, Tom?”

“By watching, and, if I don’t find out sooner, by being within sight
when they do come. I’m going to reconnoiter the place again to-night to
see what that fellow does down there. Perhaps I may make out something
from that. At any rate, it’s worth trying.”

“Why shouldn’t we all go with you?” Dick asked eagerly. “Then if by any
accident that evil-visaged person with the lame leg should discover
you, we’ll be there in force enough to handle him and the situation.
I’ve heard that one of your southern generals during the Civil War once
said that strategy is ‘getting there first with the most men.’ Why
shouldn’t we practice strategy?”

“Why, of course, I counted on that,” Tom answered. “I knew all you
fellows would want to go, and I reckon that’s our best plan. Anyhow,
we’ll try it.”

“Now,” said Cal, “I have something to report which I regard as of
some little importance, particularly as it means that the _Hunkydory_
will have to leave this port pretty soon—probably within the next
forty-eight hours, and possibly sooner.”

“Why, what’s the matter, Cal?” asked all the others together.

“Only that our spring is rapidly drying up, and as there is no other
fresh water supply within reach, we shall simply be obliged to quit
these parts as soon as we can get ourselves in shape to risk it.”

“To risk what?”

“Why, putting off in a boat on salt water. We can’t do that without
some fresh water on board. I’ve already begun the filling of the kegs
by thimblefuls. It promises to be a slow process, as the spring seems
unable to yield more than a gill or so at a time.”

“But, Cal,” interrupted Tom, “we can get all the water we want by
digging a little anywhere around here. It doesn’t lie three feet below
the surface.”

“Neither does the fever,” answered Cal.

“How do you mean?”

“Why, I mean that the milky-looking water you find by digging a few
feet into the soil of these low-lying lands is poisonous. It is surface
water, an exudation from the mass of decaying vegetable matter that
constitutes the soil of the swamps. To drink it is to issue a pressing
invitation to fever, dysentery and other dangerous and deadly diseases,
to take up their permanent residence in our intestinal tracts.”

“But why isn’t the water of our spring just as bad?”

“Because it isn’t surface water at all, but spring water that comes
from a source very different from that of the swamp soil. You have
perhaps observed that the bottom of our spring is composed of clean,
white sand, through which the water rises. That sand was brought up by
that water from strata that lie far below the soil.”

“What makes it brackish, then?”

“It is brackish because a certain measure of sea water from the creek
there sipes into it. The sea water is filtered through the sand,
losing most of its salt in the process. You’ve noticed, perhaps, that
the spring water is more brackish at high than at low tide. That’s
because—”

“Oh, I see all that now. I hadn’t thought of it before. But really,
Cal, it seems rather hard that we must sail away from here just when
we’ve run up against something mysterious and interesting. Now, doesn’t
it?”

“Let me remind you,” answered Cal in his most elaborate manner of
mock-serious speaking, “that I am in nowise called upon to assume
responsibility for the vagaries of a casually encountered spring. I
did not bring up that spring. I had no part in its early education or
training. Presumably it is even my superior in age and experience. In
any case, I feel myself powerless to control or even to influence its
behavior. Moreover, I feel as keen a disappointment as you can in the
fact that we shall have to abandon our search for knowledge of the
purposes of our neighbor with the game leg. But it is not certain that
we shall have to sail away with that inquiry unfinished. It will take
a considerable time to fill our water kegs, and in the meanwhile we may
penetrate the mystery sooner than we expect. Anyhow, we’ll see what we
shall see to-night.”



XI

PERILOUS SPYING


AT Dick’s suggestion the boys cut a number of larger logs than usual
and placed them on their camp fire that evening before setting out on
their expedition.

“It will avert suspicion of what we are at,” Dick said in explanation
of his proposal. “So long as the camp fire burns up brightly nobody
seeing it from a distance will doubt that we are here. It isn’t much
trouble, anyhow.”

The night proved to be an unusually dark one, with an overcast sky,
threatening rain, and on the chance of that Cal rigged up the largest
tarpaulin the company owned and so arranged it as to conduct all
the water that might fall upon it into the bait pail and such other
receptacles as would hold it. “If it rains hard,” he explained, “we’ll
catch enough water before morning to fill both the kegs.”

Going to the big gum tree, Tom climbed to the top of it to see if
he could discover anything the little company might want to know.
After a careful scrutiny of the landscape to the west he came down
again, reporting that everything was quiet “in the region of our late
visitor’s country seat.”

Then the party set out on their exploring expedition. Tom, acting as
guide, followed the little blind trail, while the rest made their way
through the undergrowth on either side, keeping near enough to the
trail to hear even a whispered warning or direction if Tom should have
need to give any such.

Slowly, carefully, and in profound silence, they made their way to the
point from which Tom had watched the place during the day. Then, as had
been arranged in advance, the four stretched out their little line, so
as to see the place from different points of view.

At first there was not much to see, and on so dark a night even that
little could be seen only indistinctly and with difficulty. The “man
with the game leg,” as the boys called him, was moving about the place
in a leisurely fashion, but what he was doing none of the investigating
party could make out in the darkness, though they had crept very close
to the camp and were watching intently.

At last their watching and waiting were rewarded by a happening which
interested them, though they did not understand it. The man with the
game leg went into the hovel Tom had seen, and after remaining there
for a considerable time, came out again. As he did so the boys were
easily able to make out that he carried a dark lantern in his hand. It
was carefully closed, but there were little leaks of light from its
fastenings, as there always are from such contrivances when they are of
the common, cheap variety as this one obviously was.

Carrying it in his hand and still closed, the man limped off down the
trail that led toward the cove.

No sooner had he got well clear of the camp than the four watchers
began scrambling up the trees nearest to them for the sake of a better
view. There was nobody to hear them, but under the impulse of that
caution which their presence in such a place required of them, they
were careful to climb as silently as possible.

Very dimly, but with certainty, they could see the glow of the closed
dark lantern and in that way trace the man carrying it throughout his
brief journey.

When at last he reached the mouth of the cove where the view opened out
toward the broad inlet, he opened his lamp for a brief second, holding
it so that its gleam should show down the inlet to his right. A moment
later he flashed it again, this time straight across the broad inlet.
Presently he opened it for the third time, sending the flash up the
inlet.

The whole proceeding did not occupy half a minute, and after that all
remained in darkness except that the boys could still locate the dark
lantern by the dim halo of light that surrounded it.

For half an hour or more there were no further developments. The man
with the game leg seemed to be sitting still, waiting for time to pass
or for something to happen. At last he opened the lamp again, sending
its flash down the inlet as before. Then he showed his gleam straight
out upon the water.

This time the boys in the tree tops saw a brief answering gleam from
the open water half a mile or more from shore.

It was safe for the boys to speak now, and Tom thought it best for all
of them to come down out of the trees before the man with the game
leg, who had started slowly back toward the camp, should reach their
neighborhood.

“Come down off your roosts, fellows,” he directed, “and secrete
yourselves well in the bushes. The ‘others’ are coming to-night, sure
enough. Be careful to hide yourselves so that a flash from that dark
lantern won’t search you out. By the way, after they come and we see
all we can, we must get out of here. I can’t speak then, but notice
when you see me moving away, and follow my example. Now, no more
talking, even in a whisper.”

The man with the game leg did not return immediately, as Tom had
expected. Instead, he made his way up the bank of the cove and around
its bend, to a point only two or three hundred yards away. Obviously
that was to be the landing place, hidden as it was by the bend and the
dense forest growth from all possible observation on the part of boats
in the sound outside. The man with the game leg had gone to the mouth
of the cove only to send his signals to his companions outside. Now
that they had been seen and answered, he had gone to the landing-place,
there to await their coming.

Fortunately for the purposes of the boys, the landing was in full view
from their hiding place, and after the man with the game leg had gone
thither they had only that one point to watch while they waited.

The wait was a long one, and perhaps it seemed longer because a
drizzling rain had set in, soaking them to the skin. After a long time,
however, the man with the game leg turned his dark lantern and flashed
it once down the cove.

By its light the watchers made out three large boats slowly moving up
the cove, apparently with carefully muffled oars, as their strokes
could not be heard even at the short distance that now separated them
from their destination. As they approached the landing with obvious
care, there were frequent flashes from the dark lanterns that all of
them seemed to be carrying, and by these flashes Tom and his companions
saw that the boats were piled high with freight of some kind, so
bestowed as to occupy every inch of space except what was necessary for
the use of the men at the oars. Of these there were only two in each
boat, each plying a single oar, while a third, perched upon a freight
pile at the stern, was steering. Thus there were nine men in the three
boats, who, with the man on shore, constituted a rather formidable
company for four boys to face if they should decide to attack the
_Hunkydory’s_ camp, as the man with the game leg had threatened.

Whence the boats had come, Tom could not in any wise guess, and of
course he could not discuss the matter with his comrades while hiding
there in the bushes under a life-and-death necessity of keeping
perfectly silent. Two things he was sure of: the boats could not have
come very far, with only two oarsmen to each of them, and they could
not have traversed any but smooth waters, with their freight piled high
above their gunwales, as it was.

As soon as the boats were landed, the men began unloading them and
carrying their freight to the camp, which was evidently to be its
hiding place for a time at least. In the main it seemed to consist of
light boxes or packages, many of them bound together into single large
bundles which one man could carry. There were also some kegs, which
seemed pretty heavy, as the men carried them on their shoulders. But
it was difficult to make out anything more definite than this, as the
darkness was dispelled infrequently by flashes from a dark lantern, and
then only for a fraction of a second at a time.

When the greater part of the freight had been brought to the camp the
man who seemed to be in authority over the rest set some of them to
work bestowing it in the hovels, of which there appeared to be several,
each securely hidden in the thick undergrowth so that a person casually
passing that way would never have suspected their existence. Even
while this work was in progress the man in charge permitted as little
show of light as possible. When all was done a hamper of provisions was
brought from one of the boats, together with a demijohn, and the whole
crew assembled around the midnight spread, eating and drinking in the
dark, except when now and then it became necessary to permit a little
show of light for a moment.

At first they feasted in silence, too, but after awhile the liquor they
were drinking seemed to go to their heads and they quarreled among
themselves a good deal. Some of them wandered about now and then as if
searching the bushes jealously.

It was clearly time for the boys to leave the place and they watched
and listened for Tom’s beginning of the retreat. At last they heard
him moving and, assuming that he had begun the withdrawal, they all
cautiously crept away to the rear. As each was following a separate
trail there was no word spoken among them until Larry, Dick and Cal
came out of the bushes and joined each other at the gum tree.

“But where is Tom?” one of them asked.

Nobody knew. Nobody had seen or known anything about him since his
first stirring of the bushes had set the retreat in motion. They had
all heard a commotion in what they called “the scoundrels’ camp,” with
sounds as of angry quarreling and fighting; but they had heard nothing
of Tom.

The boys were in consternation.

“Do you suppose those scoundrels can have caught him?” asked Dick, with
horror in his tones.

“I don’t know,” Larry answered through his set teeth. “But there’s only
one thing to do.”

“Only one thing,” answered Dick. “We must go to his assistance, and if
they have him prisoner we must rescue him or all die trying. I for one
will never come back alive unless we bring him with us.”

“That’s of course,” said Cal, who for once spoke crisply, wasting no
words. “Wait a second, Larry! How many cartridges have you—each of
you?”

When they answered, Cal said:

“Here, take six more apiece. You may need ’em.”

As he spoke he took the extra cartridges from his pockets and hurriedly
distributed them. It was Cal’s rule in hunting never to be without
abundant ammunition.

“Now then, Larry,” he said, when the others had pocketed the
cartridges, “give your orders; you’re the captain.”

“All right! Come on at a run, but don’t trip and fall. There’s no time
to lose.”

Down the trail they went, not at a run, for running was impossible in
such a tangle of vines and bushes, but at as fast a trot as they could
manage. Suddenly there was a collision. Larry had met Tom “head on,”
as he afterwards said. Tom was making his way as fast as he could to
the gum tree, knowing that his friends would be in terror when they
missed him, while they were hurrying to his rescue. In the darkness and
the heavy downpour of rain he and Larry had failed to see or hear each
other till they came into actual collision.

“Where on earth have you been, Tom?”

“Why did you fellows retreat before the time?”

These were questions instantly exchanged.

“Why, you gave the signal, Tom. You began moving off and we followed as
agreed.”

“I understand now,” Tom answered, resuming the journey, “but it was
a mistake of signal. Come on out of here. Let’s go to camp and talk
it all over there. I’ve found out all about this thing and it’s
interesting.”

“What does it mean? Tell us!”

“Not here in the downpour. We’ll go to camp first and get under the
shelter and put on some dry clothes. My teeth are chattering and I
don’t care to imitate them. Come on!”



XII

TOM’S DARING VENTURE


TOM’S teeth were indeed chattering when the company reached their camp.
He was chilled “clear through,” he said, and his companions were very
uneasy. They feared, and not without reason, that he had contracted
a swamp fever, which always begins with a chill. To avoid that, the
Rutledge boys, who knew the coast and its dangers, had carefully kept
on or very near the salt water, and had chosen for their camp a spot
where there were no live oaks, no gray moss and no black sand. Still
Tom might have caught a fever.

Cal piled wood on the fire with a lavish hand, so that an abundance of
heat might be reflected into their dry bush shelter, the open side of
which faced the fire, and Dick busied himself searching out dry clothes
from the lockers, while Larry helped Tom to strip himself as speedily
as possible.

“Now run and jump into the creek,” he directed, as soon as the last of
Tom’s clothes were off. “The salt water is luke-warm or even warmer
than that. I’ll wring out your clothes while your bath is warming you,
and when you come out we’ll give you a rub down that would stimulate
circulation in a bronze statue. Hurry into the water, and don’t hurry
out too soon.”

By the time Tom had been rubbed down and had got into dry clothes, he
declared himself to be “as warm as a toast, as hungry as a schoolgirl,
and ready to stand a rigid examination as to the character and purposes
of our scoundrel friends down there.”

“Good!” exclaimed Larry. “That’s proof positive that you haven’t caught
the fever. I was afraid you might.”

“Fever? Why, I was as cold as the Arctic circle—but then perhaps you
keep your fevers on ice down here and serve ’em cold. You have so many
queer ways that nothing surprises me.”

Larry explained, and Tom laughed at him for his pains, for of course
Tom knew what he had meant.

It was well past midnight, and the others shared Tom’s hunger in full
measure, so they were not greatly disappointed when, in response to
their eager demands for the story he had to tell, he answered:

“I’ll tell you all about it when we get something to eat. Till then my
loquacity will closely resemble that of a clam.”

One of the party had killed some fat black squirrels during the
preceding day, and as these were already “dressed for the banquet,”
in Dick’s phrase, they were spread upon a mass of coals, and within a
brief while the meal—supper or breakfast, or post-midnight luncheon,
or whatever else it might be called—was ready to receive their
attention.

“Now, Tom, tell us!” demanded Larry, when their hunger was partially
appeased.

“Wait a minute,” interposed Dick. “Isn’t this rather risky?”

“What?”

“Why, sitting here on our haunches, rejoicing in the genial warmth
of the fire—over-genial, I should call it, as it’s blistering my
knees—and having no sentry out to see that the scoundrels don’t pounce
down on us by surprise.”

“There’s no more risk in it,” answered Tom, confidently, “than in
wearing socks, or playing dominoes, or trying to trace out the features
of the man in the moon.”

“But why not, Tom?”

“Because the scoundrels down there are all dead—dead drunk, I
mean—and they have all they can do just now in sleeping it off.”

“Are you sure of that?”

“Yes, entirely sure. You saw how they were drinking—half a pint of
rum at a dose, repeated every five minutes. Well, they kept that up
as long as they could find the way to their mouths. They had emptied
the demijohn before you fellows left, and not being satisfied, they
got out a keg of the fiery stuff, had a rough and tumble fight over
some question relating to it, beat each others’ faces into something
very much like Hamburger steaks, and then decided to let the keg
arbitrate the dispute. Four or five of them had been arbitrated into
a comatose state before I left, another was trying to sing something
about ‘Melinda,’ setting forth that he had ‘seen her at the windah,’
and was prepared to give his hat and boots if he could ‘only have been
dah.’ The rest were drunkenly silent as they sat there by an open dark
lantern which they had forgotten to close, I suppose, and drinking rum
from tin cups whenever they could remember to do so. They will give
nobody any trouble to-night.”

“But, Tom,” interposed Dick, “how do you know it was rum they were
drinking?”

“Now, see here,” said Tom, “I’d like to know who’s telling this story.
If I’m the one the rest of you had better let me tell it in my own way.
I was going to begin at the beginning and tell it straight through, but
your intrusive questions have switched me off the track. Now listen,
and I’ll tell you all I know and how I know it, and what I think of it,
and what I think you think of it, and all the rest of it.”

“Go ahead, Tom!” said Cal; “I’ll keep the peace for you; you’ll bear me
witness that I haven’t spoken a word since you began. Go on!”

“All right,” said Tom. “I thought you were about to give us a
disquisition when you began to say that, but you didn’t, so I’ll
forgive you. Well, you see when you fellows heard me moving out
there in the thicket and thought I was instituting a retreat, I was
only changing my base, as the military men say. I had seen something
that aroused my curiosity, and my curiosity is like a baby after
midnight—if you once rouse it, you simply can’t coax it to go to sleep
again.”

“What was it you had seen, Tom?” Larry began.

“Silence!” commanded Cal. “Tom has the floor.”

“Oh, I beg pardon—” Larry began apologetically.

“No, don’t do even that. Go on, Tom.”

“I will as soon as you two twin brothers cease your quarreling. As
I was saying, I had seen something that aroused my curiosity. As I
was peering through the bushes, looking toward the main body of the
roisterers, I saw the limping one slip away from the general company
and sneak off. He went very cautiously through the undergrowth to the
hovel nearest me and entered it, closing the door after him. I could
see a little pencil of light streaming out through a crack, so I knew
he had opened his lamp in there. After a little fumbling he came out
again, but he was so drunk he forgot to take his lamp with him, as I
discovered by the continued streaming out of that little pencil of
light.

“That was what aroused my curiosity. I wanted to know what was in that
hovel, and as the lame gentleman with the ‘load’ on had obligingly
left his lamp there for my accommodation, I resolved to embrace the
opportunity offered. I moved cautiously upon the enemy’s works. That
is to say, I crept forward toward the hovel. That’s what you fellows
mistook for the signal to retreat.

“Now I am convinced that our temporary neighbors, the scoundrels,
are disposed to be in all ways obliging. At any rate they had
considerately placed the door of the hovel so that it fronted my side
of the structure and not theirs. Thus, when I opened the door the light
from the burning lamp did not shine toward them and thus give the alarm.

“I entered the place and rather minutely examined its contents.”

“What was in there?” asked Cal, forgetting in his eagerness that he had
himself undertaken to prevent the interruption of Tom’s narrative by
questions from any source.

“I’ll tell you about that when I come to it. Story first, Cal.

“I had just finished my inspection when I heard footsteps of rather
uncertain purpose passing round the hovel toward the door, which of
course I had closed behind me. As there is only one door to that
hovel and it has no windows by which ‘lovers might enter or burglars
elope’—that’s wrong end first but it’s no matter—I realized that
there was no time to lose. I hurriedly settled down behind a pile of
cigar boxes—”

“Their plunder is cigars, then?” asked Dick, forgetting.

“I did not say so,” Tom answered teasingly. “I made no mention of
cigars, so far as I can remember. I spoke only of cigar boxes. They
might be filled with anything, you know. At any rate your interruption
has spoiled the most thrilling part of my narrative, which must now be
continued prosaically and without the dramatic fire and fervor I had
planned to put into it.

“My concealment was hasty and at best very imperfect. In my haste
I forgot to conceal my gun, which stuck up a foot or two above the
barrier of boxes that imperfectly hid my person. Fortunately, however,
the lame gentleman was too blind drunk even to see double and, as he
made no mention of the matter, I refrained from alluding to it.

“Apparently he had entered the hovel with a single purpose, namely, to
close his lantern and take it away. With what I cannot help regarding
as praiseworthy persistence, he carried out that purpose, giving heed
to nothing else. He omitted even to close the door after him, and as
the place was without heating apparatus of any kind—except rum for
internal combustion—I took my leave as soon as I felt confident that
the lame gentleman had either rejoined his comrades or had fallen
into dreamless slumber on his way to do so. My next adventure was the
head-on collision with Larry in the trail.”

[Illustration: “IN MY HASTE I FORGOT TO CONCEAL MY GUN.”
_Page 126._]

Tom paused, took another bite at the squirrel’s leg he had been eating
between sentences, and it seemed necessary to set him going again by
means of questions.

“Why don’t you go on, Tom? You haven’t told us yet what you found in
the hut.”

“I’m thirsty,” answered the boy. “Speaking is dry work, as you know, if
you ever read Hawthorn’s ‘A Rill from the Town Pump!’ Have we enough
water in the spring, Cal, for me to waste it in slaking my thirst?”

“We’ve caught all our things full, I reckon. I’ll see.”

When Cal returned he brought with him a small supply of rain water.

“What made you so long about it, Cal?” asked Larry. “We’re all waiting
for you.”

“So I see,” answered Cal. “I make all required apologies for having
kept this distinguished company waiting while I attended to some
matters that are even more vitally interesting to all of us than is
Tom’s promised inventory of the things discovered by him in the tents
of the wicked, if I may so designate a slab hovel in a cane brake.”

“What have you been doing, Cal? And why didn’t you call the rest of
us to help you?” asked Dick, whose New England conscience was apt to
scourge his spirit if he thought he had been doing less than his share
of whatever there was to do.

“I’ll reply to your questions in inverse order,” Cal replied. “I did
not call for help because I did not need help. In what I had to do one
person was as good as a dozen. I may have been a trifle slow about
it, but that is chiefly because water won’t run through a hole faster
than nature intended it to do. As for your other question, I’ve been
engaged in a job of water-supply engineering. All the receptacles I
set to catch water were nearly full, and as it still rains—a fact
that you may have observed for yourselves—I thought it best to empty
their contents into the water kegs and set them to catch more. As
nobody thought to bring a funnel along, I have had to resort to simpler
methods, and I have found that it is by no means easy to pour water
from a four-gallon bait pail into a one-inch bung hole without spilling
it. For the rest, Captain Larry, I beg to report that one of our water
kegs is now full and the other perhaps one-third full. I hope to catch
enough more water before the rain ceases to finish filling that keg and
to serve all camp purposes during the few hours that we shall probably
remain here.”

“Why, I should think we might stay as long as we like, now,” said Tom;
“this rain must have filled up our spring.”

“It has, and it has spoiled it for use for many days to come.”

“But how?” persisted Tom.

“Let me remind you, Tom, that we are all eagerly waiting for you to
tell us some things that are distinctly more interesting to us than
the condition and prospects of a swamp spring can be when we’ve enough
water for our present and immediate future need. Go on with your story.”

“Oh, the story is finished,” Tom replied, “but you want to hear about
the contents of the hovel. They consist in part of little kegs—three
or five gallon kegs, I should think—of Santa Cruz Rum. At least that’s
what I made out the letters branded on them to mean. These kegs are
lying on the ground in rows that impressed me as far more orderly than
the scoundrels themselves ever think of being. I should say there are
fifteen or twenty of the kegs in that hovel.

“The rest of the stuff consists of cigars in boxes, and the boxes are
carefully tied together in parcels—thirty boxes to the parcel. That’s
the way we all saw them carry them up from their boats.”

“Where on earth can they have got all that rum and all those cigars,
anyhow? And what do they bring them away down here in the woods for, I
wonder?” speculated Dick. “What’s your guess, Tom?”

“Pirates,” answered Tom; “and those things are their plunder.”

“Curious sort of pirates,” said Cal, scoffingly. “Unlike any pirates
I ever heard of. Why, Tom, did you ever hear of pirates contenting
themselves with taking the rum and cigars they found on the ships they
overhauled? You’ve got to guess two or three times more if you’re going
to guess right.”

“Well, what do you think they are?” asked Tom, a trifle disappointed to
find his theory bowled over so easily.

“Smugglers,” answered Cal. “And I don’t just think it either—I know.”

“But, Cal,” interrupted Larry, “smugglers must bring their goods from
foreign ports, and we all know enough about boats to know that those
flat-bottomed tubs of theirs wouldn’t live five minutes in a little
blow on blue water.”

“No, nor five seconds either, and those precious rascals know all that
quite as well as we do. For that reason, among others, they refrain
from risking their valuable lives by venturing upon blue water.”

“Then how do they carry on their traffic?”

“I have often remonstrated with you, Larry, for your neglect to read
the newspapers. But for that you might have been as well informed on
this and other subjects as I am. About a month ago I read in a New York
newspaper that fell in my way a somewhat detailed account of the way in
which certain kinds of smuggling is carried on along the Atlantic and
Gulf coasts wherever the conditions are favorable, and the conditions
are nowhere so favorable as right here on this South Carolina coast,
where deep, but often very narrow and crooked, inlets and creeks open
from the broader waters of the sounds directly into densely wooded
regions that are often wholly unpeopled for many miles in every
direction.

“This is the way they do it: Schooners and other small sea-going craft
load at West Indian ports and take out clearance papers for New York or
Halifax or some other big port which can be best reached by skirting
this coast. Under pretense of stress of weather, or shortness of water
or provisions, they put into some harbor of refuge like that sound out
there. They make no effort to land anything, and if questioned by the
revenue officers they can show perfectly regular papers. Then when
opportunity offers, their shore gangs—like the one over there—slip
out in the darkness, take on full loads of freight, and land it in some
secluded spot like the one down there, and the schooner sails away to
her destination.”

“But how do they get their goods from the woods to market?” Tom asked.

“By wagons, I suppose, and a little at a time. That doesn’t concern us
very deeply. What does concern us, is that we’ve got to get away from
here as soon as this rain stops. The clouds seem to be breaking, by the
way, and the wind has shifted to the northwest,” said Cal, stepping
out of the shelter to observe the weather. “It will clear pretty early
in the morning, I think, and in the meantime I for one want to get a
little sleep.”

“But what’s the hurry, Cal?” asked Tom. “Why can’t we stay here a day
or two longer? I’d like to see what the smugglers do when they come to.”

“There are several reasons for getting away at once,” answered Cal.
“For one thing, we’re running short of some necessary supplies and must
go to Beaufort to replenish our stores. Then there’s the question of
water supply. After I finish filling the kegs we’ll have barely enough
left to get through the day on.”

“But how has the rain put the spring out of commission, Cal?” asked
Tom. “You promised to explain that.”

“By filling it full of surface water. It will be a week or more before
the water there is fit to drink, at least as a steady diet.”

“There’s a much better reason than that,” said Larry.

“What is it?”

“Why, we must hurry to put ourselves in communication with the
authorities, so that they can come down on that place before the
scoundrels get away, or get their plunder away.”

“Yes,” said Tom, who was reluctant to leave the place and give up the
adventure, “I suppose we ought to do that.”

“Ought to? Why, we simply must. Every decent citizen owes it as a duty
to give notice of crime when he discovers it, and to aid the officers
of the law in stopping it. Civilized life would come to an end if
men generally refused to support the authorities in their efforts to
enforce the law. We’ve discovered a den of thieves, engaged in robbing
the Government—that is to say, robbing all of us. So we’ll get away
from here just as early in the morning as we can. Now let’s get some
sleep.”

It was easy to say, “Let’s get some sleep,” but not easy to get it
in the excited condition of mind that had come upon every member of
the little party. But, by keeping silence and lying still, the weary
fellows did manage to sleep a little after awhile, and it was the sun
shining full in their faces that at last aroused them to a busy day.



XIII

CAL’S EXPERIENCE AS THE PRODIGAL SON


BREAKFAST next morning was not a very satisfactory meal. There was
plenty of fish and game, of course, but there was little else. The
coffee supply had been used up, but the boys regarded that as a matter
of no consequence.

“Coffee is a mere luxury anyhow,” Dick said, “and we can go without it
as well as not. It isn’t like being without bread or substitutes for
bread. If we had some sweet potatoes now, or some rice—”

“The which we haven’t,” interrupted Cal. “No more can we get any here.
As for corn meal, we have enough for one more ash cake, but it is full
of weevil and, therefore, when we consume it we shall be eating the
bread of bitterness in an entirely literal sense. For quinine biscuit
would taste like cookies as compared with weevely corn bread. You were
wise in your generation, Dick, when you surreptitiously placed that
tin of ship biscuit on board, but your imagination lacked breadth and
comprehensiveness. It was not commensurate with our appetites, and so
the ship bread is all consumed and would have been if you’d brought
a barrel of it on board instead of that little tin box full. You
neglected that, however, and we must endure the consequences as best we
may.”

“For the present, yes,” said Larry; “but not for long. We must make all
the haste we can till we get to Beaufort and stock up again.”

“I know a trick worth two of that,” Cal said apart to Dick, but he did
not explain himself. Dick had found out, however, that Cal’s knowledge
of the region round about them and of the tortuous waterways that
interlaced the coast in every direction was singularly minute and
accurate. It was not until that morning, however, that Cal explained
to him how he had come to be so well versed in the geography and
hydrography of the region. It had been decided by Captain Larry that
before leaving their present camp that day the company should cook
enough food to last for a day or two, so that they might not have
to waste any time hunting or fishing while making as quick a trip
to Beaufort as they could. As there was very little game left after
breakfast, Cal and Dick set out with their guns to secure a supply
of squirrels and whatever else they could find, while Larry and Tom
should load the boat and catch some fish.

During this little shooting expedition some small manifestation of
Cal’s minute information prompted a question from Dick.

“How on earth, Cal, can you remember every little detail like that? And
how did you learn so much about things around here, anyhow?”

“I got that part of my education,” Cal answered, “partly by being a
very good boy and partly by being a very bad one. I’m inclined to
think the bad-boy influence contributed even more than the good-boy
experience to my store of information. As for remembering things,
that is a habit of mind easily cultivated, though the great majority
of people neglect it. It consists mainly in careful observation. When
people tell you they don’t remember things they have seen, or remember
them only vaguely, it usually means that they did not observe the
things seen. For example, I remembered where that spring of ours was
when we were all parched with thirst, and I knew how to go to it in
the dark. That was simply because when I first saw that spring and
quenched a very lively thirst there, I decided to remember it and its
surroundings in case I should ever have occasion to find it again.
So I looked carefully at everything round about from every point of
view. I observed that the spring lay just beyond the first bend of the
creek and that there was a cluster of big cypress trees very near it.
I noticed that the mouth of the creek lay between a little stretch of
beach on one side and a dense cane thicket on the other. In short, I
carefully observed all the bearings, and having done that, of course I
could never forget how to find the spring.”

“Do you always do that sort of thing when you think you may want to
find a place again?”

“Yes, of course. Indeed, I do it anyhow, whether there is any occasion
or not. For example, when I was visiting you in Boston last year
I noticed that there was a little dent in the silver cap over the
speaking tube in the dining-room, as if somebody had hit it a little
blow. The dent was triangular, I remember.”

“That’s because the thing I hit it with had a triangular face, for I
made that dent when I was a little fellow with a curious-looking tool
that a repairer of old furniture had in use there. It’s curious that
you should have noticed the dent, as it is very small and your back was
toward it as you sat at table.”

“Yes, but not as I entered the room. It was then that I saw it.”

“Then that sort of close observation is a habit of mind with you?”

“Yes. I suppose it is partly natural and partly cultivated. I don’t
know.”

The two had come by this time to that part of the woods that Tom had
named the “squirrel pasture,” and they were soon busy with their
guns. But as they walked back toward the camp, loaded with black and
gray squirrels, Dick came back to the subject, which seemed deeply to
interest him.

“I wonder, Cal,” he said, “if you would mind telling me about those two
epochs in your young life—the good-boy and the bad-boy periods?”

Cal laughed, half under his breath.

“It isn’t much to tell,” he replied; “but if you’re interested I’ll
tell you about it. You see the old families down here are a good
deal mixed up in their relationships, just as the old families in
Massachusetts are, because of frequent intermarriages. The Rutledges
and the Calhouns, and the Hugers, and the Huguenins, and Barnwells, and
Haywards, and the rest, are all more or less related to each other.
Indeed, there is such a tangle of relationships that I long ago gave up
trying to work out the puzzle. It is enough for you to know that the
particular Mr. Hayward who owns all this wild land around here and
half a dozen plantations besides is my kinsman—my mother’s uncle, I
believe. Anyhow, from my earliest childhood there was never anything
that I liked so well as visiting at Uncle Hayward’s. Perfect candor
compels me to say that I was not particularly fond of Uncle Hayward or
of any member of the family, for that matter. Uncle Hayward used to
take me for long rides on a marsh tackey by way of entertaining me in
the way he thought I liked best, and I resented that whenever I wanted
to do something else instead. He is one of the best and kindliest men
alive and I am very fond of him now, but when I was a little fellow
I thought he interfered with my own plans too much, and so I made up
my mind that I didn’t like him. As for the ladies of the family, I
detested them because they were always combing my hair and ‘dressing me
up’ when I didn’t want to be dressed up.

“Nevertheless, nothing delighted me like a prolonged visit at Uncle
Hayward’s. That was because I particularly appreciated an intimate
association with Sam. Sam was a black boy—or young man, rather—who
seemed to me to be the most delightfully accomplished person I had
ever known. He could roll his eyes up until only the white below the
iris was visible. He could stand on his head, walk on his hands, turn
handsprings, and disjoint himself in the most astonishing fashion
imaginable. He could move his scalp and wiggle his ears. His gifts and
accomplishments in such ways as these seemed to me without limit.

“As Uncle Hayward could never keep Sam out of the woods, he made up his
mind to assign him to duty in the woods as a sort of ranger. There was
plenty for Sam to do there, for besides all these vast tracts of wild
land, Uncle Hayward had a deer park consisting of many thousand acres
of woodland under a single fence. To watch for fires, to keep poachers
out, to catch and tame half a dozen marsh tackeys every now and then,
and a score of similar duties were assigned to Sam.

“When I was a little fellow my customary reward for being a
particularly ‘good boy’ for a season was permission to go into the
woods with Sam and live like a wild creature for weeks at a time. In
that way, and under Sam’s tuition, I learned much about these regions
and about the waterways, for Sam seemed always to know where a boat
of some kind lay hidden, and he and I became tireless navigators and
explorers.

“That, in brief, is the history of the ‘good-boy’ epoch. The story of
the other is a trifle more dramatic, perhaps. It occurred three or
four years ago when Larry and I were planning to go to Virginia to
prepare for college. I was fourteen or fifteen years old then and I had
continued to spend a part of every year down here in the woods with
Sam for guide, servant, and hunting factotum. At the time I speak of I
had some rather ‘lame ducks’ in my studies. The fact is, I had idled a
good deal, while Larry had mastered all the tasks set him. Accordingly,
when my father and mother went North that year—they go every summer on
account of mother’s health—Larry went up country to visit some of our
relatives there, while I decided to stay at home and work with a tutor
whom my father had hired for me.

“He and I lived alone in the house with only the servants, and I
found him to be in many ways disagreeable. He was an Englishman,
for one thing, and at that period of my life I had not yet got
over the detestation of Englishmen which the school histories and
revolutionary legends had instilled into my mind. He was brusque and
even unmannerly at times, judged by the standards of courtesy that we
Carolinians accept. More important than all else, he and I entertained
irreconcilable views as to our relations with each other. He thought he
was employed to be my master, while I held that he was hired only as my
tutor. This led to some friction, but we managed to get on together
for a time until I found that the difference of opinion between him
and me extended to other things than our personal relations. He seemed
to think himself not only my master but master of the house also in
my father’s absence. He did not know how to treat the servants. He
gave them orders in a harsh, peremptory way to which house servants in
Carolina are not accustomed. His manner with them was rather that of
an ox-driver toward his cattle than that of a gentleman dealing with
well-mannered and well-meaning servants.

“This grated on me, and I suppose I have a pretty well-defined temper
when occasion arouses it. The Rutledges generally have. At any rate
I one day remonstrated with the tutor on the subject, intending the
remonstrance to be all there was of the incident, but he answered me
in that tone of a master which I more and more resented. High words
followed, from which he learned my opinion of his character and manners
much more definitely than I had cared to express it before.

“At last he threatened me with a flogging, and picked up a cane with
which to administer it. I was mad all over and clear through by that
time. I had never had a flogging and I certainly would not submit to
one at his hands. But my anger had passed beyond expression in words
by that time. I did not feel the flush of it—I felt deathly pale
instead. I was no longer hot; on the contrary I was never cooler in
my life. I did not threaten my antagonist or give him warning as he
advanced toward me with the cane uplifted. I simply selected a certain
plank in the floor which I made up my mind should be his Rubicon. I
stood perfectly still, waiting for him to cross it.

“Presently he stepped across the line I had fixed upon. The instant he
did so I sprang upon him, delivering my blows so fast and furiously
that in two or three seconds he went down in a heap. He claimed to be
an expert boxer, and I suppose he was, but my attack was so sudden and
so unexpected that his science seemed to have no chance. At any rate,
he was so nearly ‘knocked out’ that he had no disposition to renew the
contest. He went to his room, washed himself, packed his trunk, leaving
it to be called for later, and left the house.

“Before leaving he wrote me a curt note, saying that he would
immediately get a warrant for my arrest on a charge of assault and
battery.

“That rather staggered me. I wouldn’t have given one inch in fear of
that man. No power on earth could have made me run away from him or
apologize to him or in any other way flinch from anything he might
do to me. But I had a terrifying misconception of the law and its
processes. I was only a fifteen-year-old boy, you know, and I knew
nothing whatever of legal proceedings; or rather, I knew just enough
about them to mislead my mind. I knew that a warrant meant arrest, and
as I lay abed worrying that night I convinced myself that if I should
be arrested when my father was not in Charleston to furnish bail for
me, I must lie in a loathsome jail until his return, forbidden to
communicate with anybody and compelled to live on a diet of bread and
water.

“I saw no way out except to keep out of reach of that warrant till my
father’s return, and the only secure way of doing that, I thought,
was to run away and live down here in the woods. So after lying awake
all night I got up at daybreak, got one of the servants to give
me breakfast and put up a luncheon for me. Then I took a little,
flat-bottomed skiff that I owned and made my way down here. I had
some money with me, but I did not dare go to any town, or village, or
country store, to buy anything lest the man with the warrant should
find out where I was. I learned where all the little negro settlements
were, however, and there I bought sweet potatoes and the like as I
needed them. I had my shotgun and fish lines with me, of course, and
so I had no difficulty in feeding myself. For amusement I wandered
about in every direction by land and water, and in that way greatly
improved my education in coast country geography.

“After a while I found myself running short of ammunition, and I didn’t
know how to procure a fresh supply. I was afraid to go to Beaufort, or
up to Grahamville, or Coosawhatchie, or anywhere else where there were
stores, and besides that I was in no fit condition to go anywhere. I
had forgotten to bring any clothes with me and what I had on were worn
literally to rags.

“Fortunately I had got acquainted with a negro boy who often brought me
vegetables and fruit and sold them to me for low prices. I suppose now
that he stole them, although that didn’t occur to me then.

“One day I hit upon the plan of sending him to Beaufort for ammunition.
He expressed doubt that anybody there would sell it to him, and I
shared the doubt. But it was my only chance, so I gave him some money
and sent him. He was gone for two days, during which I fired my last
cartridge at a deer and missed him. I had begun to think the negro
boy had simply pocketed the money and disappeared, never to return
again, but I consoled myself with the thought that there were plenty of
fish and oysters to be had, and that I could buy sweet potatoes and
vegetables.

“That night the negro boy returned, bringing me rather more ammunition
than I had sent for, and when I questioned him about the matter his
reply was that that was what the storekeeper had given him for the
money. Later, however, he confessed to me that finding nobody willing
to sell cartridges to him, he had simply stolen them and, being
prepared to bring me the goods I had sent for, he thought the money
he had saved in that way justly belonged to him. He had squandered it
for candy and in satisfaction of such other desires as possessed him.
Of course I paid the merchant afterwards, and equally of course it was
impossible to collect the amount from the boy.

“All that is an episode. One day by some chance I encountered Sam in my
wanderings, and he told me people were looking for me—that my father
had heard of my disappearance and had hurried back to Charleston.

“I went to Beaufort, bought some sort of clothes, and like the other
prodigal son, returned to my father. But he utterly failed to play his
part according to the story. Instead of falling on my neck, he laughed
at the clothes I wore. Instead of killing the fatted calf, he told me
to take a bath and put on something fit to wear. All that evening I
heard him chuckling under his breath as I related my experiences in
answer to his questions. Finally he said to me:

“‘You’ll do, Cal. I’ll never feel uneasy about you again. You know how
to take care of yourself.’

“There, Dick, you’ve heard the whole story, both of my righteousness
and of my wickedness.”

“And a mighty interesting story it has been to me,” Dick replied.
“Thank you for telling it.”



XIV

CAL RELATES A FABLE


THE _Hunkydory_ was completely loaded when Cal and Dick returned, and
there was nothing further to do except cook the fish and game, so that
there might be no need to stop anywhere to get dinner.

There was a fairly stiff breeze blowing when the anchors were weighed,
but sailing was impracticable until the boat should be well out of the
narrow creek, so all hands went to the oars.

When the land was cleared, Larry ordered that the oars be stowed
in their fastenings and the sails raised. Without discussion or
arrangement of any kind, Cal went to the helm. It seemed the proper
thing to do in view of his superior knowledge of the surroundings, but
Cal was not thinking of that. He had a plan and purpose of his own to
carry out, though he said nothing about the matter.

There was quite an hour of sailing necessary before the course could
be laid in the direction of the waterway that led toward Beaufort, and
when the time came for heading in that direction, Cal laid quite a
different course, heading for a shore that lay several miles away.

Larry was dozing in the forepeak and did not at first observe on what
course his brother was sailing. When at last he did notice it, he
assumed that something in the direction of the wind made Cal’s course
desirable, but after a glance at the sails he changed his mind.

“Why are you heading in that direction, Cal?” he asked, looking about
him. “Your course will take us several miles out of our way. Head her
toward the point of land over there where the palmettos are.”

Cal made no change and he waited a full minute before he answered. When
he did so it was in his most languid drawl.

“Larry,” he said, quite as if he had not heard a word that his brother
had uttered, “there was a schooner sailing down the Hudson River one
day. The captain of that craft was a Dutchman of phlegmatic temperament
and extreme obstinacy. The mate was a Yankee, noted for his alert
readiness of resource. The schooner was loaded with brick. The captain
was loaded with beer. The mate wasn’t loaded at all. It was the
captain’s business to steer and manage things in the after half of the
ship. It was the function of the mate to manage things forward. But
when the mate saw that the schooner’s course was carrying her straight
upon the rocks, he went aft and remonstrated with the captain. For
reply the captain said:

“‘Mate, you go forward and run your end of the schooner and leave me to
run my end.’

“The mate went forward and ordered the anchor heaved overboard. Then
going aft again, he said:

“‘Captain, I have anchored my end of the schooner; you can do what you
please with your end.’”

Cal ceased, as if he had finished speaking. The others laughed at the
story, and Larry said:

“What’s the moral of that yarn, Cal?”

“_Haec fabula docet_,” replied Cal, “that _I’m_ sailing the _Hunkydory_
just now; that I know where we are going and why.”

“Would you mind telling us, then?” demanded Larry.

“Not in the least. We are heading for the shore, on our lee; as for
why, there are several reasons: One is that the tide will turn pretty
soon, and when it does it will run out of the creek you want me to
enter as fast as it does out of the Bay of Fundy. Another is, that
the wind is falling and we shall have to take to the oars presently.
Another is, that I am persuaded it will be easier rowing across the
small current out here than against a tide that rushes out of the
creek like a mill tail. There are other and controlling reasons, but
I have already given you as many as your intellectual digestion can
assimilate. The rest will keep till we’re comfortably ashore. There,
that’s the last puff of the wind.”

With that he hauled the boom inboard, let go the halyards and left the
rudder-bar.

“It is now after three o’clock,” he said, while the others were
unstepping the mast, “and the distance is about three miles or a trifle
less. Rowing easily we shall have time after we get there to settle
ourselves comfortably before nightfall.”

“I suppose you’re right, of course,” Larry answered, “but it means
several more meals on meat and fish alone.”

“Better not cross that bridge till you come to it, Larry. You see we
might find manna over there, or some bread-fruit trees newly imported
from Tahiti—who knows?”

The others shared Larry’s regret as to the food prospect, but they all
recognized Cal’s superior knowledge of conditions as a controlling
consideration; so all rowed on in silence.

When at last they reached the neighborhood of the shore, Cal began
scrutinizing it closely as if searching for the landing place he had
selected in his mind. He was in fact looking for the very narrow and
cane-hidden entrance to a land-locked bay that he remembered very well.
Presently he turned into it and shot the boat through a channel that
one might have passed a dozen times without seeing it. It wound about
among the dense growths for a little way and then opened out into a
considerable little bay.

Here Cal directed the landing, but instead of arranging to anchor the
boat a little way from shore he put on all speed with the oars and ran
her hard and fast upon a gently sloping beach.

“What’s that for, Cal?” asked Dick, whose nautical instincts were
offended by the manœuvre.

“To save trouble,” Cal answered. “You see this is a considerable little
bay, and the entrance to it is so very narrow that before much of a
flood tide can run into the broad basin the time comes for it to turn
and run out again, so there is never a rise and fall of more than six
or eight inches in here. The boat will lie comfortably where she is so
long as we choose to stay here. We can reach her without much if any
wading, and we can shove her off into deep water whenever we like.”

“Is there a spring about here?” asked Tom, whose concern about water
supply had become specially active.

“No, but we can make one in fifteen minutes.”

Then selecting a sort of depression in the sandy beach about sixty
yards from the water’s edge, Cal said:

“We have only to scoop out a basin in the sand here—about three feet
deep as I reckon it, and we’ll have all the water we want.”

“But will it be good water?”

“Perfectly good. You see, Tom, this beach is composed of clean white
sand. The water in the bay sipes through it at a uniform level, and
we’ve only to dig down to that level in order to get at it.”

“But won’t it be salt water?”

“Slightly brackish, perhaps, or possibly not at all so. You see before
reaching this point it is filtered through sixty or seventy yards of
closely packed sand, which takes up all the salt and would take up all
other impurities if there were any, as there are not. Suppose you dig
for the water, Tom, while the other fellows make camp and pick up wood.
It’s very easy digging and it won’t take long. I’m going off a little
way to see what there is to see—and to look for the manna I spoke of a
while ago.”

So saying, Cal took up his gun and set out inland. It was more than
an hour before he returned and the dusk was falling. But to the
astonishment of the others a string of young negroes followed close
upon his heels, all carrying burdens of some sort, mostly poised upon
their heads.



XV

CAL GATHERS THE MANNA


WHEN Cal appeared at the head of his dusky little caravan the others
advanced to meet him and bombard him with a rapid fire of questions
as to where he had been, and what the negro boys were carrying, and
where he had discovered the source of supply, and whatever else their
curiosity suggested.

Instead of replying at once he asked.

“Did you find the water, Tom?”

“Yes, easily, and it isn’t brackish at all.”

“That’s excellent, and now let us eat, drink and be merry. I couldn’t
give you that injunction till I learned that we had the water for the
drinking part.”

Without waiting for him to finish his sentence the others busied
themselves in examining what the negroes had brought. As they did so,
Cal catalogued the supplies orally with comments:

“That bag contains a half bushel of rice—enough to serve us as
a breadstuff for a long time to come, as we require only three
teacupfuls—measured by guess—for a meal; the bag by the side of it is
badly out at elbows and knees, but it holds a fine supply of new sweet
potatoes which will help the endurance of the rice. What’s that? Oh,
that’s a little okra, and the red-turbaned old darky woman who sold
it to me carefully explained how to cook the mucilaginous vegetable.
As she delivered her instructions in the language of the Upper Congo,
I cannot say that my conception of the way in which okra should be
prepared for the table is especially clear, but we’ll find some way out
of that difficulty. Yes, the big bag on the right contains a few dozen
ears of green corn, and the one next to it is full of well-ripened
tomatoes, smooth of surface, shapely of contour and tempting to
the appetite. Finally, we have here half a dozen cantaloupes, or
‘mush millions,’ as the colored youth who supplied them called his
merchandise. Now scamper, you little vagabonds. I’ve paid you once for
toting the things and it is a matter of principle with me never to pay
twice for a single service.”

“Where on earth, Cal, did you find all these things?” asked Larry, the
others looking the same question out of their eyes as it were.

“I found them in the garden patches where they were grown,” he replied.
“That’s what I went out to do. They are the ‘manna,’ the finding of
which somewhere in this neighborhood I foreshadowed in answer to your
querulous predictions of an exclusively meat diet for some days to
come.”

As he spoke, Cal was throwing sweet potatoes into the fire and covering
them with red-hot ashes with glowing coals on top.

“You’re a most unsatisfactory fellow, Cal,” said Dick. “Why don’t you
tell us where you got the provender and how you happened to find so
rich a source of supply. Anybody else would be eager to talk about such
an exploit.”

“I’ll tell you,” Cal answered, “as soon as I get the potato roast
properly going. I’m hungry. Suppose you cut some cantaloupes for us to
eat while the potatoes are cooking.”

Not until he had half a melon in hand did Cal begin.

“There’s one of the finest rice plantations on all this coast about
a mile above here. Or rather, the plantation house is there. As for
the plantation itself, we’re sitting on it now. It belongs to Colonel
Huguenin, and of course the house is closed in summer.”

“Why?” interrupted Dick, whose thirst for information concerning
southern customs was insatiable.

“Do you really want me to interrupt my story of ‘How Cal Went Foraging’
in order to answer your interjected inquiry? If I must talk it’s all
one to me what I talk about. So make your choice.”

“Go on and tell us of the foraging. The other thing can wait.”

“Well, then; I happened to know of this plantation. I’ve bivouacked
on the shores of this bay before, and when I turned the _Hunkydory’s_
nose in this direction I was impelled by an intelligent purpose. I had
alluring visions of the things I could buy from the negroes up there at
the quarters.”

“Why didn’t you tell us then instead of getting off all that rigmarole
about rowing against the tide and the rest of it?” asked Larry, not
with irritation, but with a laugh, for the cantaloupe he was eating and
the smell of the sweet potatoes roasting in the ashes had put him and
the others into an entirely peaceful and contented frame of mind.

“I never like to raise hopes,” answered Cal, “that I cannot certainly
fulfill. Performance is better than promises—as much better as the
supper we are about to eat is better than a printed bill of fare.
Wonder how the potatoes are coming on?”

With that he dug one of the yams out of the ashes, examined it, and put
it back, saying:

“Five or six minutes more will do the business. I picked out the
smallest ones on purpose to hurry supper. Let’s set the table. Tom, if
your kettle of water is boiling, suppose you shuck some corn and plunge
it in it. It must boil from five to six minutes—just long enough to
get it thoroughly hot through. If it boils longer the sweetness all
goes out of it. Dick, won’t you wash some of the tomatoes while Larry
and I arrange the dishes?”

Arranging the dishes consisted in cutting a number of broad palmete
leaves, some to hold the supplies of food and others to serve as plates.

“I’m sorry I cannot offer you young gentlemen some fresh butter for
your corn and potatoes,” said Cal, as they sat down to supper, “but to
be perfectly candid with you, our cows seem to have deserted us and we
haven’t churned for several days past. After all, the corn and potatoes
will be very palatable with a little salt sprinkled upon them, and we
have plenty of salt. Don’t hesitate to help yourselves freely to it.”

“To my mind,” said Dick, “this is as good a supper as I ever ate.”

“That’s because of our sharp appetites,” answered Larry. “We’re hungry
enough to relish anything.”

“Appetite helps, of course,” said Dick, thoughtfully; “but so does
contrast. An hour ago we had all made up our minds to content ourselves
for many meals to come with the exclusive diet of fish and game, which
has been our lot for many meals past. To find ourselves eating a supper
like this instead is like waking from a bad dream and finding it only a
nightmare.”

“It would be better still not to have the nightmare,” answered Cal,
speaking more seriously than he usually did. “When you have a nightmare
it is usually your own fault, and pessimism is always so. You fellows
were pessimistic over the prospect of a supper you could not enjoy. As
you have a supper that you can enjoy, the suffering you inflicted upon
yourselves was wholly needless.”

“Yes, I know,” interposed Tom; “but we couldn’t know that you were
going to get all these good things for us.”

“No, of course not. But if you hadn’t allowed your pessimistic
forebodings to make you unhappy, you needn’t have been unhappy at
all. If things had turned out as you expected you’d have been unhappy
twice—once in lamenting your lot and once in suffering it. As it
is, you’ve been needlessly unhappy once and unexpectedly happy once,
instead of being happy all the while. I tell you optimism is the only
true philosophy.”

“I suppose it is,” Dick admitted, “but it leads to disappointment very
often.”

“Of course. But in that case you suffer the ill, whatever it is, only
once; while the pessimist suffers it both before it befalls and when it
comes. That involves a sheer waste of the power of endurance.”

Larry had forgotten to eat while his brother delivered this little
discourse, for he had never heard Cal talk in so serious a fashion.
Indeed, he had come to think of his brother as a trifler who could
never be persuaded to seriousness.

“Where on earth did you get that thought, Cal?” he asked, when Cal
ceased to speak.

“It is perfectly sound, isn’t it?” was the boy’s reply.

“I think it is. But where did you get it?”

“If it is sound, it doesn’t matter where I got it, or how. But to
satisfy your curiosity, I’ll tell you that I thought it out down here
in the woods when I was a runaway. I was so often in trouble as to what
was going to happen, and it so often happened that it didn’t happen
after all, that I got to wondering one day what was the use of worrying
about things that might never happen. I was alone in the woods, you
know, and I had plenty of time to think. So little by little I thought
out the optimistic philosophy and adopted it as the rule of my life.
Of course I could not formulate it then as I do now. I didn’t know
what the words ‘optimism’ and ‘pessimism’ meant, but my mind got a
good grasp upon the ideas underlying them. There! My sermon is done.
I have only to announce that there will be no more preaching at this
camp-meeting. I’m going to take a look at your well, Tom, and if the
water is as good as you say, I’m going to empty the rain water out of
the kegs and refill them. Rain water, you know, goes bad a good deal
sooner than other water—especially sand-filtered water.”

“I reckon Cal is right, Dick,” said Tom, when their companion was out
of earshot.

“Yes, of course he is, but did you ever stub your toe? It’s a little
bit hard to be optimistic on occasions like that.”

“I reckon that’s hardly what Cal meant—”

“Of course it isn’t. I was jesting.”



XVI

FOG BOUND


THE boys were not tired that evening, and after their abundant supper
they sat late talking and telling stories and “just being happy,” Dick
said. The day had been a torrid one, but in the evening there was a
chill in the air which made a crackling camp-fire welcome. When at last
they grew sleepy they simply rolled themselves in their blankets and
lay down upon the sand and under the stars. They had built no shelter,
as it was not their purpose to remain where they were except for a
single night.

It was not long after daylight when Tom, shivering, sprang up, saying:

“I’m cold—hello! What’s this? Fog?”

“Yes,” said Larry, “a visitor from the gulf stream. And it is almost
thick enough to cut, too. What shall we do?”

“Do? Why, make the best of it and be happy, of course,” answered Cal,
piling wood upon the embers to set the camp-fire going again. “The
first step in that direction is to get your blood circulating. Stir
around. Bring a bucket of water and set the kettle to boil—that is
to say, if you can open a trail through this fog and find the water
hole without falling into it. Whew! but this is a marrow-searching
atmosphere.”

The fog was indeed so dense that nothing could be seen at more than
twenty paces away, while the damp, penetrating chill set all teeth
chattering and kept them at it until rapid exercise set pulses going
again. Then came breakfast to “confirm the cure,” Dick suggested, and
the little company was comfortable again. That is to say, all of them
but Larry. He was obviously uneasy in his mind, so much so that he had
little relish for his breakfast.

“What’s the matter, Larry,” asked Tom, presently; “aren’t you warm yet?”

“Oh, yes, I’m warm enough, but there isn’t a breath of air stirring,
and this fog may last all day. What do you think, Cal?”

“I think that very likely. I’ve seen fogs like this that lasted two or
three days.”

“How on earth are we to get to Beaufort while it lasts?”

The question revealed the nature of Larry’s trouble.

“Why, of course we can’t do anything of the kind,” Cal answered. “We
should get lost in the fog and go butting into mud banks and unexpected
shoals. No. Till this fog clears away we can’t think of leaving the
altogether agreeable shore upon which a kindly fate has cast us. But
we can be happy while we stay, unless we make ourselves unhappy by
worrying. I know what is troubling you, Larry, and it’s nonsense to
worry about it. I often think I wouldn’t carry your conscience about
with me for thirty cents a month.”

“But, Cal, you see it is our duty to notify the revenue officers of our
discovery before those smugglers get away.”

“It may relieve your mind,” Cal answered in his usual roundabout
fashion, “to reflect that they can’t get away. If they were still
there when this fog came in from the sea, they will stay there till it
clears away again. So we are really losing no time. In addition to that
consolation, you should take comfort to yourself in the thought that
even if the revenue officers were in possession of the information we
have, they could do nothing till the fog lifts. So far as I know, at
least, they can see no farther through fog than other people can, and
shoals and mud banks are unlikely to respect their authority by keeping
out of the way of such craft as they may navigate.”

Suddenly Cal put aside his playful manner of speech, and became
thoroughly earnest.

“Think a minute, Larry. We have absolutely no official duty to do in
this matter. We are doing our best as good citizens to notify the
authorities. At present we can’t do it. There’s an end of that. We
have a pleasant bivouac here, with plenty of food and more where it
came from. Why shouldn’t we make the best of things and be happy? Why
should you go brooding around, making the rest of us miserable? I tell
you it’s nonsense. Cheer up, and give the rest of us a chance to enjoy
ourselves.”

“You are right, Cal,” Larry answered; “and I won’t spoil sport. I
didn’t mean to, and my worrying was foolish. By the way, what shall we
do to pass the time to-day?”

“Well, for one thing, we ought to put up a shelter. A fog like this is
very apt to end in soaking rain, and if it does that to-night, we’ll
sleep more comfortably under a roof of palmete leaves than out in the
open. However, there’s no hurry about that, and you can let Dick wallop
you at chess for an hour or so while Tom and I go foraging. You see
I’ve thought of a good many things that I ought to have bought last
night, but didn’t. Do you want to go along, Tom?”

Tom did, and as they started away, Cal called back:

“I say, Larry, suppose you put on a kettle of rice to boil for dinner
when the time comes. I think I’ll bring back something to eat with it.”

Then walking on with Tom by his side, he fell into his customary
drawling, half-frivolous mode of speech. Tom had expressed his pleasure
in the prospect of rice for dinner—rice cooked in the Carolina way, a
dish he had never tasted before his present visit began.

“Yes,” answered Cal, “I was tenderly and affectionately thinking of you
when I suggested the dish. And I had it in mind to make the occasion
memorable in another way. I remember very vividly how greatly—I will
not say greedily—you enjoyed the combination of rice and broiled
spring chicken while we were in Charleston. I remember that at first
you seemed disposed to scorn the rice under the mistaken impression
that rice must always be the pasty, mush-like mess that they made of it
at school. I remember how when I insisted upon filling your plate with
it you contemplated it with surprise, and, contemplating, tasted the
dainty result of proper cooking. After that all was plain sailing. I
had only to place half a broiled chicken upon the rice foundation in
your plate—half a chicken at a time I mean—and observe the gustatory
delight with which you devoted yourself to our favorite Carolina dish.”

“Oh, well, your Carolina way of cooking it makes rice good even when
you have no chicken to go with it. If the fog would thin itself down a
bit—”

“Which it won’t do in time for you to kill the squirrels you were
thinking of as a possible substitute for chicken. Perish the thought.
It is utterly unworthy. You and I are out after spring chickens, Tom.”

“Good! Do you think we can find any?”

“With the aid of the currency of our country as an excitant of the
negro imagination, we can.”

“You saw chickens at the negro quarters last night, then?”

“No, I did not. But I observed a large pan on a shelf in front of one
of the cabins, and with more curiosity than politeness I stood up on my
tiptoes and looked into it. Tom, that pan was more than half full of
chicken feed, and it was fresh at that. Knowing the habits of persons
of the colored persuasion, I am entirely certain that no one of them
would have taken the trouble to prepare that chicken feed unless he
was the happy possessor of chickens. I’m going to call upon the dusky
proprietor of that pan this morning.”

“That’s another case of noticing, Cal, and another proof of its value.
We are likely to have broiled spring chickens for dinner to-day just
because you observed that pan of chicken feed. What else did you notice
up there? I ask solely out of curiosity.”

“There wasn’t much else to observe. I saw some fig bushes but they’ve
been stripped. Otherwise we should have had some figs for breakfast
this morning. Just now I observe that the fog is manifesting a decided
tendency to resolve itself into rain, and if it does, that we must
satisfy Larry’s conscience by getting away from our present camp this
afternoon—or as soon as the fog is sufficiently cleared away. So you
and I must hurry on if we’re to have those broiled chickens.”

As results proved, Cal was mistaken in his reckoning of the time
necessary to dissipate the fog. It was merely taking the form of what
is known as a “Scotch mist,” which does not form itself into rain drops
and fall, but collects in drops upon whatever it touches, saturating
clothing even more speedily than actual rain does and making all but
the sunniest dispositions uncomfortable.

But even a Scotch mist condition served to thin the fog a little,
though by no means enough to make navigation possible. Larry watched
conditions anxiously, as Cal expected him to do, and his first question
when Cal and Tom returned with their chickens revealed his state of
mind.

“What do you think of it, Cal?” he asked.

“Of what? If you refer to the moon, I am satisfied in my own mind—”

“Pshaw! You know what I mean. Do be serious for once and tell me what
you think of the prospect?”

“Conscience bothering you again?”

“Yes. We must get away from here to-day if possible—and as soon as
possible.”

“Can’t you give us time to have dinner and cook some extra food for
consumption when we get hopelessly lost out there in the fog banks that
are still rolling in from the sea?”

“Oh, of course we can’t leave here till the fog clears away. But do you
think it ever will clear away?”

“It always has,” answered Cal, determined to laugh his brother out of
his brooding if he could not reason him out of it. “In such experience
as I have had with fogs I never yet encountered one that didn’t
ultimately disappear, did you?”

“But what do you think of the prospect?” persisted Larry.

“I can see so little of it through the fog,” Cal provokingly replied,
“that I am really unable to form an intelligent opinion of it. What I
do see is that you haven’t begun to make our shelter yet. In my opinion
it would be well to do so, if only to keep the chess board dry while
a game is in progress. Moreover, I have an interesting book or two
wrapped up in my oilskins, and if we are doomed to remain here over
night—”

“You don’t think then that—”

“Frankly, Larry, I don’t know anything about it. Neither do you, and
neither does anybody else. We’re in a very wet fog bank. We’ve got
to stay where we are till the weather changes. Don’t you think our
wisest course is to make ourselves as comfortable and keep ourselves as
cheerful as we can while it lasts.”

“Yes, of course, but it’s pretty hard you know to—”

“Not half as hard as chopping wood and ‘toting’ it in from the woods
over there, and that is what Tom and I are going to do after dinner as
our contribution to the general comfort. You’ll find yourself feeling
a great deal better if you busy yourself making a really comfortable
shelter while we’re at the other job. It may come on to rain torrents
this afternoon, and of course we won’t leave here in the boat if it
does.”

“That will do, Cal. I’m convinced, and I’m a trifle ashamed of myself
besides. I promise not to worry any more. I decree that we shall not
leave port in a rain storm, and unless the weather conditions become
favorable before four o’clock this afternoon we’ll not leave here any
how until to-morrow.”



XVII

THE OBLIGATION OF A GENTLEMAN


THE fog held throughout the day, changing to a deluge of rain about
nightfall, but Cal and Tom had provided an abundance of firewood, the
palmete shelter was waterproof, the long gray moss with which it was
carpeted was soft to loll upon, and the book from which they read
aloud by turns proved to be an amusing one. Larry kept his promise and
indulged in no further impatience.

When morning came the rain was still coming down in torrents, and it
was unanimously agreed that no attempt should be made to quit the place
until it should cease.

“An open rowboat in a heavy rain is about the wettest place
imaginable,” Dick said, and the experience of the rest had been such as
to confirm the judgment.

When at last a brisk westerly wind began to tear the clouds to pieces,
all agreed that Larry’s patience had fairly earned its reward, and all
hands worked hard to get as early a start as possible. It was two
o’clock in fact when they finally set sail, with Cal again at the helm
because he knew of a narrow but navigable passage which would enable
them to avoid the heavy ebb tide of the channel that Larry had selected
two days before. The tide would not begin to ebb for two or three hours
to come, and by taking this short cut Cal hoped to reach broad waters
before that time.

He did so in fact, but upon running out of the little creek he was
disappointed to find that a shift had given him a headwind to contend
with. There was nothing for it but to beat to windward, and the breeze
was so light that their progress was slow. Cal made the best of
conditions as he found them, according to his custom, but about sunset
the tide turned against him, and worse than that, the wind went down
with the sun, leaving not a breath to fill the sails.

Then Cal asked for orders.

“What is your wish, Captain Larry?” he asked. “Shall we take to the
oars and push on against the tide, or land for the night? Without a
favoring wind we can’t possibly make Beaufort to-night.”

“What do the rest of you say?” asked Larry, in some perplexity.

“Never mind what anybody else says,” broke in Cal, before the others
could answer. “This isn’t a debating club or an advisory council of
ancients, or anything else of the kind. We’re a ship’s company and you
are the captain; so give your orders.”

“Very well, we’ll run ashore. Do you know of a suitable place, Cal?”

“No, not from personal experience in these parts, but I’ve been
watching the coast-line over there to starboard, and I think I make out
the mouth of a small creek or inlet. The chart doesn’t show it very
distinctly, but it roughly indicates a number of small indentations in
the land, and the soundings given for all that shore seem satisfactory.”

“To the oars then,” said Larry, “and we’ll look for a landing place
somewhere over there. The whole shore seems to be heavily wooded. Pull
away.”

It was fully dark when Cal’s keen eyes found what he was looking
for, namely, the sheltered mouth of a small creek or inlet, heavily
overshadowed by woods and a tangled undergrowth.

Running into it the company landed on a small bluff-like bit of shore
and made things snug for the night. The heavy dew, so prevalent on
that coast, was already dripping from the trees, and the air was very
chill. To avoid the dew drippings the camp-fire was built close to the
margin of the inlet at a point where a little patch of star-studded sky
showed clear overhead.

The little company sat with their backs against a large fallen tree as
they ate their supper and planned an early start for the morrow. All
were eager to make the visit to Beaufort and have it over with as soon
as possible, for a reason which Dick put into words:

“I’m anxious to go to Quasi. The very name of the place appeals to my
imagination; the story of it fascinates me. How long will it take us to
get there, Cal, after we finish what we have to do at Beaufort?”

“The wind bloweth where it listeth, you know,” Cal answered; “and worse
still, it doesn’t blow at all unless it is doing a little ‘listing’;
the tides are subservient to the will of the sun and moon, and we must
reckon upon them as a frequently opposing force; then too, there are
fogs sometimes, as recent experience has taught us, to say nothing of
possible encounters with smugglers, from which we may not escape so
easily next time as we did before. How, then, shall I presume to set a
time for our arrival at Quasi, particularly when I do not know how long
we shall be detained at Beaufort.”

“Oh, not long,” broke in Larry. “We have nothing to do there but report
to the customs authorities and spend an hour or so buying coffee, ship
biscuit, some hams—for we’re out of bacon—and such other supplies of
a non-perishable sort as we need. Two hours ought to cover our stay
there.”

“Well, I’m not so certain of that,” said Cal. “As likely as not our
detention will last for two days, or possibly two weeks, and if—”

“But how, Cal?” Tom interrupted with a look almost of consternation on
his face, for he, too, was impatient to reach Quasi and try the hunting
there.

“Let Cal finish, Tom,” said Larry. “He has something in mind.”

“Something on my mind,” Cal replied; “and it weighs heavily too. I’ve
been thinking of it ever since we turned our prow toward Beaufort.”

“You must have thought it out by this time, then; so go on and tell us
about it,” said Dick, impatiently.

“I wonder the rest of you haven’t thought of it for yourselves,”
resumed Cal; “but it isn’t worth while to speculate about that. I
was going to say that we four fellows have the misfortune to be
eye-witnesses in the case of those smugglers. We saw them bring their
goods ashore. Now I don’t know what the revenue officers do with
smugglers when they catch them. I suppose they take them to a United
States Court somewhere, though where I don’t know. Charleston is the
most likely place in the case of men caught along this coast. In any
case I suppose they need witnesses to testify to the smuggling, and
unfortunately we are the witnesses in this case. Is it really necessary
to set the matter forth more fully? It all comes to this, that we may
be detained for an indefinite length of time at Beaufort, or we may
even be taken back to Charleston as witnesses. For that reason I am
reluctant to go to Beaufort at all—at least until we’ve had our trip
out.”

“You’re quite right, Cal,” answered Dick; “it would be a shame to have
our jolly outing spoiled. As for supplies, I suppose we might run down
to Bluffton and pick up the absolutely necessary things—”

“Yes, or we can do without them,” interposed Tom, to whom every hour
of their sporting trip seemed a precious thing not to be lost on any
account.

“Oh, yes, we could get them by going a little out of our way,” said
Cal, “or we could go without. I spent two or three months alone down
among these woods and waters without such things, and I can’t remember
that I was the worse for it—though I confess my breeches and my shirt
and shoes suffered. Anyhow, Larry is our captain this time, and he must
decide. He hasn’t spoken a word yet.”

“It has not seemed necessary,” Larry answered. “Of course we shall go
to Beaufort just as fast as we can.”

“But why, Larry?” asked Tom.

“Simply because it is our duty.”

“But why can’t we wait till we’re on our way back?”

“It would be too late then.”

“But I say, Larry,” interposed Dick, “do you really think we are under
so imperative an obligation as that?”

“To do one’s duty is always an imperative obligation. We are all of
us the sons of gentlemen. We have been trained to think—and truly
so—that a gentleman must do his duty regardless of consequences to
himself. So we are going to start for Beaufort at daylight, no matter
what annoyances it may bring upon us.”

“Of course you are right,” said Dick and Tom in a breath. Cal said
nothing until one of them asked him why he remained silent.

“I’m a Rutledge,” he answered, “and what Larry has said is the gospel
in which I have been bred. I hadn’t thought it out till Larry spoke,
that’s all.”

“Neither had I,” said Dick.

“Nor I,” said Tom. “Of course we’ve all been bred in the same creed,
and I for one shall never again wait to be reminded of it when a duty
presents itself.”

“Your decision is unanimously sustained and approved, Larry,” added
Dick, by way of relaxing the seriousness of the talk. “The Rutledges,
the Garnetts and the Wentworths echo your thought, if not your
words—for Echo insists upon pronouncing them—‘Bully for you!’”

At that moment something happened which brought all four of the boys
to their feet and prompted Cal to slip the cartridges out of his gun
and substitute others carrying buckshot in their stead. The others,
observing his act, quickly imitated it.



XVIII

FIGHT OR FAIR PLAY


AS the exchange of cartridges was in progress, five men, all armed,
approached the bivouac. They had landed from a boat a hundred yards or
so further down the creek, and attempted to creep upon the camp and
take it by surprise.

Fortunately Larry’s quick ears had caught sound of them, and by the
time the exchange of bird for buckshot was completed they were in plain
view and not more than a dozen or twenty yards away.

“Halt!” Larry cried out to them, and as they seemed indisposed to obey
the command, he called again:

“Stand where you are or we’ll shoot!”

There was no doubt in Larry’s mind that these men were a band of
smugglers, or that they were trying to spring upon his party unawares.
He had no mind to be taken by surprise by murderous ruffians.
Fortunately for all concerned, his command was obeyed.

[Illustration: “STAND WHERE YOU ARE OR WE’LL SHOOT.”
_Pag. 182._]

“Who are you and what do you want?”

“That we decline to say,” said the spokesman of the party.

“Then stand off,” said Larry, “or go back to your own place, wherever
it is, or take the consequences.”

Larry was quick to observe that neither the words nor the tone of the
one who had spoken were such as the drunken, degraded, ignorant men he
had seen in the smugglers’ camp would have used, and the fact puzzled
him. After a moment’s reflection he called out:

“If you have any business with us you may come ahead a few paces into
the full light of the fire and say what you have to say. But if one of
you raises a gun we’ll give you a volley of buckshot straight at your
breasts. Come on out of the bushes and tell us what you want.”

As the advance was made and the full firelight fell upon the five men,
Larry saw that they were in the uniform of the revenue cutter service,
with which he was familiar.

“I beg your pardon, Boatswain,” he said, but without relaxing his
watchfulness; “I couldn’t see your uniforms until now, and mistook your
party for one of a very different sort. Come to the fire and tell us
what you want; your men can stay where they are till we understand
each other better.”

This last was said because of an apparent purpose on the part of the
men to move forward in a body.

“Now then, Boatswain, what have you to say to us?” Larry asked, while
the other three boys stood watchfully by the huge trunk of the fallen
tree with their shotguns held precisely as they would have been had
their owners been alertly waiting for a pointer to flush a flock of
birds for them to shoot on the wing.

“We are men in the revenue service,” the boatswain answered. “We were
sent ashore from the cutter that lies just off the mouth of the creek
to ask who you are and what you are doing here—in short, to give an
account of yourselves. It will save trouble if you answer us.”

“Coming from an agent of the revenue,” answered Larry, with dignity,
“your questions are entirely proper. It was not necessary to couple
an implied threat with them. However, that was nothing worse than a
bit of ill manners, and I’ll overlook it. To answer your questions: My
name is Lawrence Rutledge; one of the others is my brother. We live
in Charleston, and with our two guests we are down here for a little
sporting trip. Is there anything else you’d like to know about us?”

“That’s a queer sort of boat you’ve got,” answered the other.

“I asked if there was anything else you wanted to know,” said Larry,
ignoring the comment on the dory’s appearance as an impertinent one.

“I guess you’ll have to talk with the lieutenant about that. You see
I’m only a warrant officer.”

“Very well. Where is he?”

“On board the cutter.”

“Send for him then. We’ll give him any information we can.”

“I think I see myself sending for him! I’ll have to take you on board.”

“But we won’t go,” answered Larry, with eyes snapping.

“You’ll have to go.”

“But we won’t. We are American citizens, attending to our honest
business. If your lieutenant or any other officer of the Government
wishes to ask us any legitimate question, we’re ready to answer. But we
will not endure insult or wrong. If you have a warrant for our arrest
we’ll not resist, but we’ll not submit to arrest without authority.”

“We don’t have to bother about warrants when we’ve got smugglers dead
to rights.”

“But we are not smugglers.”

“That’s for you to settle with the lieutenant. It’s my business to
arrest all of you and take you on board the cutter.”

In a low voice, before the boatswain had finished his sentence, Larry
said to his comrades:

“Jump over the log—we’ll make a breastwork of it,” and instantly they
obeyed, leaving him on the side next the revenue men. Then to the
boatswain he said:

“You’ve no right to arrest without a warrant. I tell you once for all
we’ll not submit to arrest.”

“What’ll you do then?”

“We’ll fight first,” answered Larry, delivering the words like shots
from a pistol, and leaping to the farther side of the fallen tree as he
spoke.

The boatswain was bewildered. He knew, in a vague way, that no one can
legally make an arrest without a warrant, except when he sees a person
in the act of committing crime or running away from officers; but he
had never before had an experience of determined resistance. He was
accustomed to the summary ways of brute force that prevail in military
life, and to him it seemed absurd for anybody to resist the only kind
of constituted authority with which he was familiar.

He was sorely perplexed. He was by no means sure that the boys were
the smugglers he had been sent to arrest. On the contrary, their
manner, their speech and all other appearances were in their favor.
Nevertheless his superior officers had been watching the dory’s
movements for several days and had sent him ashore in full assurance
that they had their quarry at bay. He was convinced that he ought to
arrest the party, but he had only four men and himself for the work,
and there stood four stalwart young fellows behind the fallen tree
trunk with four double-barreled shotguns bristling across the barrier.
The creek, with a sharp bend, lay upon their left and completely
covered their rear, while on their right was a swamp so densely grown
up in cane and entangled vines, to say nothing of the treacherous mud
below, that passage across it would have been nearly impossible in the
broadest light of day. Clearly Larry’s party must be assailed in front
if assailed at all, and the boatswain was not to blame for hesitating
to make an assault which would almost certainly cost the lives of
himself and all his men. Add to this his uncertainty as to his right to
make any assault at all, and what he did is easily understood.

He ordered his men to fall back to their boat, and as they did so he
stood alone where he had been. When the men were well away, he said to
Larry:

“You don’t think me a coward, do you?”

“Certainly not,” Larry answered.

“Well, this thing may get me into trouble you know, and if you’re the
man you say you are, I may want you to help me out as a witness. Will
you do it?”

“Yes, certainly. But what’s the use of getting into trouble? I’m
willing to trust your word as an honorable fellow; if you’ll trust mine
in the same way you and I can settle this whole matter in ten minutes
in a way that will bring you praise instead of blame. Don’t go aboard
the cutter and report a failure and be blamed for it; stay here and
talk the matter over and then go aboard with a report that will do you
honor. What do you say to that?”

“What are your terms?”

“Only that you meet me in the same spirit in which I meet you. Give up
your notion that we are a gang of smugglers—you must see how absurd it
is—and give up your claim of a right to arrest us without a warrant;
meet me half way and I’ll show you how to get out of a scrape that you
wouldn’t have got into but for those two mistaken guesses. We have no
feeling of enmity toward you and no wish to injure you. If we were
ready to fight you to the death, it was only in defense of our rights.
Give up your attempt to invade those rights and there will be no
quarrel between us. Is it a bargain?”

“Well, you speak fair anyhow. I don’t see what else I can do than meet
you half way. I’m ready.”

“Very well, then,” said Larry, emptying his gun of its cartridges and
signing to his comrades to do likewise. “As you have sent your men
away, we’ll make things even by disarming ourselves.”

With instinctive recognition of the manly generosity thus shown the
boatswain tossed his own gun to the ground and, advancing, held out his
hand, saying:

“You wouldn’t have done that if you hadn’t been what you say you are.
I’m ready to sit down now and talk things over.”

Larry sprang over the log that separated them and took the proffered
hand. Then all sat down, and Larry said:

“I’m willing to tell you now what I never would have told you under a
threat. We have seen the smugglers you are looking for; we know where
they are, or at any rate where they were two days ago; we know where
their plunder is hidden, and we are prepared to go with you to the
place. We were on our way to Beaufort to report all this to the revenue
authorities when you came to arrest us.”

The two had risen and were standing now, and the boatswain was
continually shaking Larry’s hand. He tried to say what was in his mind
but couldn’t. His wits were bewildered for the moment, and Larry came
to their rescue.

“Pull yourself together, Boatswain,” he said, “and listen to me. Hurry
back to your boat, go aboard the cutter at once, and report that you
haven’t found a smuggler’s camp but that you’ve found somebody who can
and will show your commanding officer where one is. Tell him Lawrence
Rutledge and his companions offer their services as guides who know
where to go. Be off, quick. We’ll wait here for his answer.”

The boatswain’s wits were all in his control now and he hurried away.
He had achieved victory where only defeat had seemed possible. He had
met with success where a few minutes before he had hoped for nothing
better than failure. He was going on board to receive commendation
instead of the censure he had expected. Honor was his in lieu of
dreaded disgrace.



XIX

WHY LARRY WAS READY FOR BATTLE


“LARRY, you ought to be a major-general,” said Dick, with enthusiasm,
as soon as the boatswain was well out of earshot. “I never saw anything
better managed than that was. From the moment you put us behind the
log, the fight—if there was to be a fight—was all ours.”

“Yes,” said Tom, “we’d have had no difficulty in cleaning those fellows
out if it had come to that, and the boatswain saw it as clearly as we
did. But I don’t yet understand why you did it, Larry.”

“Why, simply to make sure of success in self-defense. That seems simple
enough,” responded Larry.

“Oh, yes, that’s simple enough, but I wasn’t thinking about that. I
meant I don’t see why you made any objection to going aboard at first
and telling the officers there all you’re going to tell them now. You
are going of your own accord now; why didn’t you go when he wanted you
to?”

“Because there was a principle at stake,” answered Larry, setting his
teeth together as he recalled the controversy. “We are going aboard now
of our own accord, as you say. That’s very different from going aboard
as prisoners, under compulsion.”

“But I don’t see what difference it would have made when you knew the
officers there would make guests instead of prisoners of us as soon as
they heard what you had to say. It seems to me it would have come to
the same thing in the end.”

“Not by a long shot,” answered Larry, speaking with particular
earnestness. “Think a minute, Tom. We are free men, living under a free
government that exists for the express purpose of securing liberty to
all its people and protecting them in the enjoyment of that liberty.
If one man, or one set of men, could arrest others without a warrant
from a court, there would be no security for liberty and no liberty in
fact. Whenever the people of any country are ready to submit to any
infringement of their rights as free men, liberty in that country is
dead, and tyranny is free to work its evil will. And in a free country
it is the most sacred duty of every man to resist the smallest as
well as the largest trespass upon his rights as a man. Usually he can
do this by appealing to the courts of law, but in a case like ours
to-night, where there is no possibility of making such an appeal, every
man must be ready to fight for his rights—yes, to fight to the death
for them if necessary.”

“But the matter was so small in this case—”

“What possible difference does that make? A principle is never small;
liberty is always of supreme consequence, and it makes no difference
how trifling the trespass upon one’s liberty is in itself, the duty to
resist it at all costs and all hazards is just the same. Convenience
and comfort do not count in any way. The difficulty is that men are
not always ready to take trouble and endure inconvenience in defense
of their rights where the matter in question seems to them of small
moment. They forget that ‘eternal vigilance is the price of liberty,’
or if they remember it, they are too self-indulgent to undertake a
troublesome resistance. It was not so that the men of the Revolutionary
time looked at the matter. Webster said that the Americans ‘went to war
against a preamble,’ and perhaps they did, but the preamble involved a
fundamental principle. It was for the principle, not for the preamble,
that they fought for seven long years. The colonists could easily have
submitted to the impositions of a half crazy king and his tyrannical
prime minister. It would have saved them a vast deal of inconvenience,
expense and danger to do so. It would have been far more comfortable
for them if they had done so. But if they had, this great, free nation
of ours would never have existed, and the people in other civilized
countries would not have enjoyed anything like the liberty they do now.
In the same way it would have saved a lot of trouble if we had let
those people arrest us to-night, but we had no right to submit to that.
It was our duty to stand upon our rights and defend the principle by
defending them.

“There! The lecture is over, and I promise not to let it happen again,”
said Larry, by way of indirect apology for his seriousness.

“Well,” said Tom, “I for one am glad I heard the lecture as you call
it. I needed it badly, for I had never thought of these things in that
way. How did you come to have all that on the tip of your tongue,
Larry?”

“I don’t know, or, yes I do. I was born and brought up on that gospel,
and I have heard it preached all my life. My father has taught Cal and
me from childhood that ‘the only legitimate function of government is
to maintain the conditions of liberty,’ and that the highest duty of
every citizen is to insist that the government under which he lives
shall do precisely that. Now let’s talk of something else, or you
fellows talk, rather, for I’ve talked more than my share already.”

“Before we do,” broke in Dick, “there’s just one thing I’d like to ask.”

“All right. Go ahead. Ask anything you please if it isn’t a conundrum.”

“Well, it isn’t a conundrum. It is only that I wonder how you know
there isn’t some law authorizing the revenue officers to make arrests
without warrants?”

“I know it simply because such a law is impossible.”

“How so?”

“Because there is no power on earth that can make such a law for this
country.”

“Couldn’t Congress make it?”

“No. Congress has no more power to make it than a flock of crows has.”

“I don’t understand. If Congress should pass an act to that effect and
the President should sign it, what then?”

“What then? Why just nothing at all. It wouldn’t be a law. It would
have no more force or effect than the decree of a company of lunatics
that the sun shall hereafter rise in the west and set in the east.”

“But why not?”

“Why, simply because Congress has no power to make any law that
violates the Constitution. The Constitution expressly secures certain
rights to every citizen. If Congress passes an act in violation of the
Constitution, or even an act that the Constitution does not authorize
it to pass, the courts refuse to enforce it or in any way to recognize
it as a law. Now we’ve simply got to stop all this discussion, for I
hear the revenue officers coming.”



XX

ABOARD THE CUTTER


WHEN the boatswain made his report to the lieutenant on board he did
not confine himself to the points Larry had suggested. It had been his
first thought to do so, reporting only that he had found no smugglers
but had discovered a law-abiding company of youths who knew where the
smugglers were and were willing to act as guides to the point indicated.

But on his way it occurred to him that the lieutenant might ask him
questions—how he knew the character of the boys, and why he had not
placed them under arrest, and other things relating to the conduct of
his expedition.

It would be humiliating to have the story thus drawn out of him, and it
would be awkward for him to explain why he had not reported the whole
thing in the first place. So, upon reflection, he told the story in
full, though briefly.

When he mentioned Larry’s name the lieutenant gave a little start and
leaning forward as if to make sure he heard aright, asked:

“What did you say his name is?”

“Lawrence Rutledge is the name he gave me, sir.”

“Of Charleston?”

“That’s where he said he lived, sir,” answered the boatswain, wondering
why his superior was so closely questioning him on these points.

The lieutenant resumed his upright position and with a half laugh said:

“It’s lucky for you that you chose discretion as the better part of
valor this time. If Lawrence Rutledge is any way akin to his father,
you’d have had the tidiest little fight you ever heard of on your hands
if you’d charged him.”

“I don’t think there would have been any fight at all, sir, if you’ll
pardon me.”

“Why not?”

“Only that I think every man of us would have bitten dust before we
could have fired a gun. Those fellows were ready with guns cocked and
leveled.”

“The moral of that is that you too should always be ready and have your
men ready. Order the gig alongside—men unarmed.”

When the gig was ready, which was almost instantly, the lieutenant ran
down the ladder, dropped into her, took the helm, and gave the orders:

“Oars!” “Let fall!” “Give way!” and the boat shot away toward the
plainly visible camp-fire.

Landing, he introduced himself to Larry, who received him cordially and
in turn presented his comrades.

“I have the pleasure of knowing your father very well, Mr. Rutledge,”
he began.

“Then, please,” Larry interrupted, “call me ‘Lawrence,’ or ‘Larry,’ and
not ‘Mr. Rutledge,’ Lieutenant. I’m only a boy yet, and I’ll never be
‘Mister’ to any of my father’s friends.”

“Very well. ‘Larry’ it shall be then, the more gladly because that is
what I called you years ago when, as I remember, I was telling a lot of
sea stories to you and your brother Calhoun—”

“Make it Cal, Lieutenant,” said the youth mentioned. “Larry and I are
twins, you know, and always share things evenly between us. We did so
with your stories, you know. I remember it very well, though we were a
pair of very small youngsters then.”

“So you were—so young that I didn’t think you would remember the
matter. But we’re losing time, and time may be precious in this case.
My petty officer tells me you young gentlemen have seen the miscreants
I’ve been hunting for and can tell me where they are.”

“We’ve seen them, and our friend Tom Garnett here has been inside one
of their caches and inspected their goods. We can tell you where they
were two nights or so ago, and perhaps they are there yet.”

“Almost certainly they are,” broke in the lieutenant. “It is calm
weather outside, and not a craft of any kind has put in here under plea
of weather stress since the _Senorita_ sailed two or three days ago.”

“The _Senorita_?” Tom repeated; “why, that’s the ship’s name I saw
marked on some of the cigar cases and rum kegs they had.”

“Good, good, good!” said the officer enthusiastically. “If we can get
to that hiding place before they remove the goods, I’ll telegraph to
Baltimore to nab the ship also when she comes in. We _must_ get there
in time. My officer understood that you and your party were willing to
go with us. Was his understanding correct?”

“Yes,” Larry answered, “we’ll be glad to do that, but we must make some
provision for the safety of our boat while we are gone.”

“She’ll be safe enough when she rests on the cutter’s deck. I’ll send
a crew to take her alongside and we’ll hoist her on board. When all’s
over I’ll put you in the water again at any point you choose. Is that
satisfactory?”

“I should say so,” answered Larry. “We’re ready, Lieutenant.”

“Come on then, and I’ll take you aboard. I’ll leave a man with your
craft till a boat’s crew can come and tow her alongside. Then we’ll
weigh anchor and be off.”

It was less than fifteen minutes later when the boys saw the
_Hunkydory_ carefully braced upon the little steamer’s deck and closely
covered with a tarpaulin.

But it was nearly midnight and the lieutenant invited the boys to
sleep in the comfortable berths provided for them until the cutter
should reach the neighborhood of the smugglers’ camp. He thought he
sufficiently recognized the locality from Cal’s description, and
probably he could have steamed to it without further guidance. But
there was no sleep in the eyes of the boys after their adventurous
night, and they all heartily echoed Cal’s sentiment when he answered:

“What good is there in the frazzled end of a ragged night for sleeping
purposes. I for one will stay up till we see this thing through, if it
is going through to-night.”

The little cutter was a fleet-winged craft, built for speed, and
carrying greatly more horse power than ordinary steamers of twice her
size. Her navigator and all her officers, indeed, knew every detail
of the waters they were traversing, and so the lieutenant hoped that
he might reach his destination in time to descend upon the smugglers
before morning.

In this he was disappointed. Some accident to the cutter’s machinery
compelled a delay of two or three hours in a narrow strait where, to
add to the annoyance of delay, a swarm of sand flies descended upon
the ship’s company. These are minute insects, so minute that no screen
or netting, however finely woven, interferes in the least with their
free passage in or out of any opening. Their bite or sting is even more
painful than that of a mosquito, and they come in myriads.

Under the advice of the commanding officer the boys retreated to a
closed cabin below and remained there until the ship was under way
again—otherwise for two or three hours, during which they lolled about
and managed to get some sleep in spite of their impatience over the
delay and the otherwise excited condition of their minds.

By way of making themselves more comfortable, they all drew off their
boots, but they could not be persuaded to go to the bunks assigned to
their use, because the ship might start again at any moment and they
were determined to be ready for that whenever it should occur.

Cal, as usual, was the most wakeful of the party, and at first he was
disposed to talk, but his impulse in that way was promptly checked when
Tom and Larry each threw a boot at him and Dick, half asleep, muttered:

“I second the motion.”

As a consequence of this drastic treatment Cal closed his lips and his
eyes at the same moment and was presently breathing as only a sleeper
does. The others, tired and worn out with an excitement that had by
this time passed away, were soon in a profound slumber which lasted
until the engines began to throb again and the ship to jar and tremble
with the rapid revolutions of the screw.

The sun was well up by that time, and after going on deck, where a
sailor doused bucketfuls of salt water over them as an eye-opener, they
were invited to breakfast with the commanding officer.



XXI

TOM’S SCOUTING SCHEME


DURING breakfast the talk was, of course, about the smugglers and
the chances of capturing them. In the course of it the lieutenant
manifested some confusion or uncertainty of mind as to the exact
position of the smugglers’ rendezvous and of the approaches to it.

“Won’t you please clear that up a little for me?” he asked Larry, after
a vain attempt to clear it up for himself. “I don’t quite understand.
Perhaps you can make it plain to my dullness.”

“Cal can do that better than any other member of our party,” Larry
answered. “He was all about there three or four years ago, while the
rest of us have been there only once. Besides, Cal has a nose for
geographical detail, and he observes everything and remembers it.
Explain the thing, Cal.”

“After such an introduction,” Cal replied, smiling, “I fear I shall not
be able to live up to the character so generously attributed to me.
Still, I think I can explain the thing; it is simple enough. May I
have paper and a pencil?”

These were promptly furnished, and Cal made a hasty diagram.

“You see, Lieutenant, there is a little creek or estuary here. It is
very narrow, especially at the mouth, and it runs inland for only a few
miles. I can’t find it on the chart. Probably it is too insignificant
to be noted there. You observe that it runs in a tortuous course,
‘slantwise’ to the shore, and keeping always within a comparatively
short distance of the broad water, thus forming a sort of tongue of
land.

“A little further along the shore of the broader water is another
little estuary or cove, only a few hundred yards in its total length,
but that length extends toward the creek on the other side, so that
only about half a mile or less of swamp and thicket separates the two.

“Right there, about midway between the two, those thieves have their
den. They can approach it in their boats from either side, coming up
the creek or entering the cove, and in either case landing within less
than a quarter of a mile of their thicket-hidden rendezvous. As both
the creek and the smaller estuary make a sharp bend near their mouths,
a boat slipping into either of them is at once lost to view. I wonder
if I have made the geography clear?”

“Perfectly so, and I thank you. Our plan will be to send boats up both
the little waterways at once. Can we find their mouths, think you?”

“I can, and Tom knows both of them. He and I will be your pilots.”

“Thank you. But you know you may get shot in the mêlée and you are
under no sort of obligation to take that risk.”

“Oh, we want to see the fun,” said Tom. “We’ll be with you, you may
depend.”

“Is it your plan,” Larry asked after dinner that day, “to attack by
daylight?”

“I think we must make the descent as promptly as possible. So I intend
to make it to-day, as soon as we get to that neighborhood.”

Larry made no reply and the officer observed the fact.

“What is it you have on your mind, Larry?” he asked. “Have you any
suggestion to offer?”

“No, I would not presume to do that. I was only thinking that in a
daylight descent you might miss the game.”

“Go on, please. Tell me all you had in mind.”

“Well, for one thing, those rascals have a lookout tree from which
they can see for miles in every direction. We used it for purposes
of observation when we were there. It is true that they seem to visit
it very seldom, but they might happen to climb it just in time to see
this cutter hovering around. In that case they would probably go into
hiding somewhere. If not, they would at least keep a sharp lookout for
your boats. If you kept entirely away from there until night you would
probably take them by surprise. But of course you know best.”

“I’m not so sure of that. What you suggest is a matter to be
considered. But I’m afraid to wait until night lest in the meantime the
rascals leave the place.”

“That is possible,” said Cal, joining in the conversation for the first
time, “but it seems to me exceedingly unlikely.”

“Why so, Cal?”

“Well, we’ve pretty closely observed those gentry, and they seem to me
of that variety that does most of its comings and goings under cover
of darkness. If they were in their camp this morning they are pretty
sure to remain there until to-night. There is another point that Larry
didn’t suggest. If you attack the camp in daylight the ruffians can
easily save themselves by scattering and making their escape through
the well-nigh impenetrable swamp. They would have the advantage over
your men in that, as of course they know every little blind trail and
could avoid tangles in which your men would become hopelessly involved.”

“But wouldn’t they be at still greater advantage in a night attack?”

“I think not. They will probably get blind drunk by night, for one
thing. They’re apt to sleep profoundly. We can land without being seen,
and once ashore, we can creep clear up to their lair without alarming
them. Then we’ll be on them with our boot heels as it were.”

“Why do you think they won’t be on the alert at night, with pickets out
and all that?”

“Because we’ve experimented,” answered Cal. “We’ve crept up to the very
edge of their camp and watched them there by the hour. Tom here even
entered one of the hovels where they bestow the smuggled goods.”

The officer was much impressed with these suggestions. He meditated for
a while, and then exclaimed:

“If I could only know whether they are still there or not! I’d give ten
dollars to know that!”

“You can get the job done for less, Lieutenant,” said Tom, who was
always eager for perilous adventure and almost insanely reckless in his
pursuit of it. “If you’ll bring the cutter to anchor somewhere around
here and let me go ashore, I’ll find out all about it and not charge
you a cent either.”

“What’s your plan?”

“It isn’t much of a plan. It is only to go to the smugglers’ den, see
if they are there, and then come back and tell you.”

“But—”

“Oh, it’s easy enough. The smugglers can’t see the cutter so long as
she’s in this bay, even if they climb to the top of their lookout tree.
I’m sure of that, because I’ve tried to see the bay from there and
couldn’t, although I knew just where it lay.”

At this point the lieutenant interrupted:

“Pardon me a moment. I’ll bring her to anchor.”

Before he returned to the company a minute or so later, the engines
stopped, and as he sat down the boys heard the chains rattle as the
anchor was cast overboard.

“Now go ahead, please, and tell me all about your plan,” the officer
said with eager interest.

“Well, it isn’t more than three or four miles, I should say, from this
point to the mouth of our creek, and the tide is with me all the way.
If you’ll set our dory in the water and Cal will go with me to help
row—”

“We’ll all four go, of course,” said Larry.

“In that case, we can put ourselves back at our old camp in about an
hour with such a tide as this to help us. When we land there I’ll go at
once to the lookout tree, climb to the very top of it and see what is
going on. Then, if there’s anything more to be found out, I’ll creep
down to the neighborhood of the rascals’ place and take a closer look.
When the dory gets back here I can tell you all you want to know.”

“Excellent!” exclaimed the officer. “Only, instead of having you boys
row the dory all that way, I’ll have you taken to the place you want to
reach in a ship’s boat.”

“They might see that,” objected Tom, “and take the alarm, while if they
see the dory returning to her old anchorage they’ll think nothing about
it. Besides, we don’t mind a little rowing. The tide’s with us going,
and if necessary, we can stay up there in the creek till it turns and
is ready to help us come back.”

“There won’t be any waiting,” said Cal. “It’ll turn just about the time
we get there—or even before that if we don’t get away from here pretty
quick.”

“Very well,” said the lieutenant. “The plan is yours, Tom, and you
shall have your own way in carrying it out.”

A hurried order from the commanding officer, a little well-directed
scurrying on the part of the seamen, and the _Hunkydory_ lay alongside,
ready for her crew to drop from a rope ladder into her.

They nimbly did so, and as they bent to their oars they passed around a
point and out of sight of the cutter.



XXII

TOM DISCOVERS THINGS


BY advice of the lieutenant, the boys left their shotguns on board the
cutter and carried instead the short, hard-shooting repeating rifles
that he furnished them. Armed in this way, each could fire many shots
in rapid succession, instead of the two which alone their shotguns
permitted.

“We can defend ourselves now if the gang discovers and assails us,”
said Larry, with a satisfied smile. “With these guns we’re a good
deal more than a match for those ten smugglers armed as they are with
nothing better than pistols. By the way, Tom, what’s the plan of
campaign?”

“That’s for you to say,” Tom answered. “You’re the captain.”

“Not a bit of it this time,” responded Larry. “This is _your_
expedition and you must manage it in your own way.”

“That’s only fair,” said Dick. “Tom has undertaken to go ashore, find
out certain facts and report them. We’re here to help him in any way
he wishes, but he is responsible for results and must choose his own
methods.”

“I congratulate you, Dick, on having another lucid interval,” broke
in Cal, who could never endure seriousness for long. “‘Pon my word,
they’re growing more and more frequent and by the time we get back to
Charleston we’ll have to discharge you as ‘cured.’”

“Stop your nonsense, Cal,” said Larry, “and let Tom give us our
instructions.”

“Fortunately, I’m under no sort of obligation to stop my nonsense at
your command, Larry, as by your own voluntary declaration you’re not
captain of this special trip ashore, and Tom is.”

“All right,” said Tom, laughing. “I’ll give the order myself. Stop your
nonsense till I get through mine—for I dare say you’ll all think my
plan is nonsensical.”

“All right as to that,” said Larry, “but what is your plan? It doesn’t
matter what we think of it.”

“Well, then, my notion is not to pull the _Hunkydory_ up on shore, but
to anchor her at our old landing, so that we can handle her quickly
in case of need. Two of you are to stay by her—that will be you and
Dick, Larry. If we should be discovered, and those rascals should want
to catch us, their first effort would be to get possession of our
boat and put us into a trap. So you two will stay with the dory, and
if you are in trouble, Cal and I will come to your assistance as fast
as our legs can carry us. Cal will go with me to the lookout tree and
stay there while I creep down to the lair of the thieves. If I get
into trouble he’ll know it and signal you by firing one shot. Then, of
course, you’ll all come to my support. How does that strike you as a
plan, Larry?”

“A Lee or a Grant couldn’t make a better one. Here we are at the mouth
of the creek.”

“Isn’t it ridiculous?” asked Cal, as they turned into the inlet.

“Isn’t what ridiculous—the creek, or its mouth, or what?” Tom
responded.

“Why, the way things keep turning themselves around. First, the
gentleman with the impaired walking apparatus, representing the
smugglers, mistook us for officers or agents of the revenue, and sought
to make prisoners of us by getting possession of our boat, so that we
had to disarm him in self-defense. Next, the officers of the revenue
mistook us for the smugglers and we had to defend ourselves against
them. Now we are helping our later assailants to capture our foes of an
earlier date. Wonder if we shall presently have to join the smugglers
and assist them against the revenue people?”

“That last question answers itself, Cal,” said Tom; “and if it didn’t,
there’s no time to discuss it now, for here we are at the landing. Run
her head to the shore, fellows, and let Cal and me jump out. Then back
her out a little way and anchor her. I leave you in charge of the ship
in my absence, Lieutenant Larry. You have your instructions; see that
you obey them to the letter.”

With footsteps quickened by eager interest, Tom and Cal were not long
in making the journey to the lookout tree. Tom climbed it to the top
and very carefully studied what lay before him. Cal, who was watching
him, observed that he seemed specially interested by something over to
the left where the creek lay, and perhaps a little puzzled by it. But
he asked no questions as Tom hurried from the tree-top and set off down
the blind trail.

He was gone for so long a time—nearly two hours—that Cal became very
uneasy about him, but at last he came out of the thicket and set off
toward the dory’s anchorage at as rapid a trot as the nature of the
ground would permit. He said nothing to Cal except the three words: “We
must hurry,” and as he neared the landing, he called out:

“Up anchor, quick.”

Then as the boat was moved toward the shore he impatiently waded out
to meet her in water leg-length deep. Cal followed, though he did not
know the cause of Tom’s hurry.

“Are they after us?” asked Larry and Dick, both speaking at once.

“No. But we must hurry or it’ll be too late.”

In response Larry shipped his oars as the mouth of the creek was passed
and, with Dick’s assistance, stepped the mast, hoisted sail and let the
sheet run out until the boom was almost at right angles with the keel.

“There’s a stiff wind,” he said by way of explanation, “and it’s almost
exactly astern. We can make better time with the sails. Here, Dick,
you’re the best sailor; take the helm and get all you can out of the
breeze.”

“Don’t hug the port rail so close,” Dick ordered; “trim toward the
kelson and let her heel over to starboard; there, that will do; she
makes her best running with the rail awash.”

As they sped on, nobody asked Tom what the occasion for his hurry
was. He seemed still out of breath for one thing, and for another the
rush of the dory’s rail through the water made it difficult to hear
words spoken in an ordinary tone, for though the wind was steadily
freshening, Dick refused to spill even a capful of it. He was sailing
now for speed, and he wanted to get all he could out of the wind. But
chief among the reasons for not asking questions was the instinctive
courtesy of Tom’s comrades. They realized that he had discovered
something of importance, and they felt that he ought to have the
pleasure of himself reporting it to the commanding officer of the
cutter before telling anybody else about it.

In the same spirit, when the dory was laid along the cutter’s side,
they held back to let Tom be the first to climb to the deck, where the
lieutenant was awaiting him.

Tom’s excitement was gone, now that he had accomplished his purpose of
reaching the cutter before dark—a thing he had feared he might not
do. His report was made calmly, therefore, and with smiles rippling
over his face—smiles of rejoicing over his success, and other smiles,
prompted by recollections of what seemed to him the humorous aspects of
what he had seen and done.

The report was utterly informal, of course; Tom was not used to
military methods.

“They are all there, Lieutenant,” he began, “but they won’t be there
long after it grows dark. They’re preparing to leave to-night, as early
as they can get the drunken ones among them sober enough to sit on a
thwart and hold an oar.”

“How do you know that, Tom?”

“Why, I heard the boss brute say so while he was rousing one of the
drunkest of them into semi-consciousness by kicking him in the ribs
with force enough to break the whole basket I should think. I won’t
repeat his language—it wasn’t fit for publication—but the substance
of it was that the victim of his boot blows had ‘got to git a move onto
him’ because ‘them boats has got to git away from here jest as soon as
it’s good and dark.’”

“Why, were you near enough to hear?”

“Oh, yes. I wasn’t more than ten paces away from the pair at the time
that interesting conversation occurred.”

“Tell us all about it, Tom—the whole story. There’s plenty of time. It
won’t be ‘good and dark,’ as criminals reckon such things, for nearly
two hours yet. Begin at the beginning.”

“There isn’t any story in it,” said Tom, “but I’ll tell you what I
did. When I climbed to the top of the lookout tree, I saw first of all
that our game was still there. But I noticed that some of them—all
that weren’t drunk, I suppose—were busy. I couldn’t make out at that
distance what they were doing, but I thought they seemed to be carrying
things, not down to the cove where we saw them land the other night,
but over toward our creek, as we call it. I tried to see their landing
place there, but couldn’t.

“Of course I had already found out all you wanted to know, but I wanted
to know something more. My curiosity was aroused, and I determined to
gratify it. So, sliding down, I made my way to my old hiding place in
the thicket near their camp. Then I saw what they were at. They were
taking the cigars and rum out of the little hovels they use as caches,
and carrying them over to their landing on the creek. I wondered why,
but I could not see the landing, so I had to let that remain as an
‘unexplored region,’ for the time being at least.

“Presently the gentleman of the impaired locomotor attachments made
a final visit to the hut that stood nearest me—the one I had myself
entered on a previous occasion. As he came out and passed the boss
bully, he said:

“‘That’s all they is in there.’

“‘Well, I’ll look and see for myself,’ said the boss, seeming to doubt
the veracity of his follower. He went into the hut and presently came
out, muttering:

“‘Well, he told the truth for once—I didn’t ’spose he knew how.’

“As he walked away from the empty hovel it occurred to me that I might
find it a safer point of observation than the one I had. So I slipped
into it, and dug out one of the chinks in the log wall, to make a peep
hole. It was then that I saw the boss making a football of his follower
and heard him say what he did about getting the boats away.

“That still further stimulated my curiosity. I wanted to see how nearly
the boats were loaded, and the sort of landing place they had, and all
the rest of it. So I determined to go over that way. It was slow work,
of course. The undergrowth was terribly tangled, and then the smugglers
were passing back and forth with their loads. As their path was often
very near me, I had to stop and lie down whenever I saw any of them
approaching.

“I got down there at last and saw the boats. They were partly loaded,
but most of the freight was still on the bank. I suppose that was
because they wanted to get all the things there before bestowing them.
All the rum kegs that had been brought down were in the boats, while
all the cigars were piled on the banks.

“I noticed one thing that puzzled me; instead of anchoring the boats
and loading them afloat, they had pulled them up on shore. As the tide
had begun to ebb, I wondered how they were to get them into the water
again after putting their cargoes aboard. However, that was their
business and not mine. I had seen all there was to see, so I slowly
crept back again till I reached the trail. Then I hurried for fear the
quarry would escape before we could get there with your boats.

“That’s all there is to tell.”

The lieutenant smiled his satisfaction as he commended Tom’s exploit,
adding:

“We can let it ‘get good and dark’ before pouncing upon them. They
won’t get away in a hurry. They’ll have trouble getting their boats
afloat again. Indeed, they’ll probably wait for the next flood tide.
Anyhow, we won’t leave here till it is thoroughly dark. You’re sure you
can find your way into the creeks in the dark? It’s cloudy, and the
night promises to be very black.”

“Oh, there’ll be no trouble about that,” answered Cal.



XXIII

TOM AND THE MAN WITH THE GAME LEG


IT was very dark indeed when the ship’s boats, well manned and with
carefully muffled oars, set out for the capture.

Tom was at the bow of one of them and Cal at that of the other, to act
as pilots. It was planned that these two boats should lead the way into
the two entrances, the others closely following.

Silently the two fleets made their way to the two points of landing.
The one which passed up the creek halted as soon as it came within
sight of the landing where the smugglers were busily and noisily
trying to get their loaded boats afloat, a task in which they were
encountering much difficulty, as the lieutenant had foreseen that they
must. It was the lieutenant’s plan that his boats should lie there,
hidden by the darkness, until the men entering by the cove should land,
march across the neck of swamp, and take the smugglers in the rear,
thus cutting off all possibility of their escape into the bushes.

As soon as he saw the signal light that Tom showed to announce the
readiness of the party he accompanied, the lieutenant rushed his boats
ashore, and the two revenue parties, without firing a shot, seized and
disarmed their foes, who, until their captors were actually upon them,
had had no dream of their coming.

In the meanwhile, under the lieutenant’s previously given orders, the
cutter had slowly steamed up toward the mouth of the creek, where, at a
signal, she came to anchor.

Hurriedly the captured booty was loaded into the ship’s boats and
carried to the revenue vessel. Then the smugglers’ camp was minutely
searched to see if any goods remained there, and the hovels were set on
fire.

While all this was going on that curiosity on Tom’s part, which had
done so much already, was again at work. Tom wanted to know something
that was not yet clear to him, and he set to work to find out.
Detaching the lame smuggler from his companions, Tom entered into
conversation with him. Fortunately the man was sober now, and had been
so long enough to render him despondent.

“You’re not fit for this sort of thing,” Tom said to him after he had
broken through the man’s moody surliness and silence. “With your game
leg and the brutal way the others treat you, I should think you’d have
got out of it long ago.”

“They’d ’a’ killed me if I’d tried,” the man answered.

“Well, they can’t do that now,” said Tom, “for they’re in for a term in
prison.”

“But they’s others, jest as I told you that night you fellers caught me
at your boat. There’s the fellers up the creek what’s a-waitin’ this
minute for us to come up with the goods.”

This was what Tom wanted to find out.

“Yes, of course,” he replied; “they’ll be disappointed, won’t they? I
suppose they expect to get the goods well inland before morning?”

“No, not exactly; but they’d ’a’ got ’em hid into a little store
they’ve got up there, so’s they could work ’em off up to Charleston or
down to Savannah, little at a time, like. Howsomever, the game’s up
now, and them what’s got all the profits out’n it’ll play pious an’ go
scot free, while us fellers what’s done all the work an’ took all the
risks has got to go to jail.”

A new thought suddenly struck Tom.

“_You_ needn’t, if I’m not mistaken. Anyhow, there’s a chance for you
that’s worth working for.”

“What’s the good o’ talkin’ that away? Ain’t I ketched long o’ the
rest?”

“Yes, of course. I was only thinking—”

“What was you a-thinkin’?”

“Oh, only that the revenue people would a good deal rather have the
‘others’ you speak of—the men further up the creek and the men behind
them—than to have you.”

“I reckon they would, but what’s that got to do with it?”

“Only that if you made up your mind to turn Government’s witness and
give the whole snap away; they’d be pretty apt to let you off easily.”

The man sat silent for a time. At last he muttered:

“First place, I don’t know enough. Them fellers ain’t no fools an’ they
ain’t a-lettin’ fellers like me into their secrets. I ain’t never seed
any of ’em, ‘ceptin’ the storekeeper up that away what takes the stuff
from us, an’ pays us little enough for gittin’ it there. ’Sides that,
them fellers has got money an’ lots o’ sense. Even ef I know’d all
about it an’ ef I give it away, ’twould be only the wuss for me. They’d
have me follered to the furdest corner o’ the earth an’ killed like a
dog at last. No, ’tain’t no use. I’ve got to take my medicine. Time for
runnin’ away is past, an’ I ain’t got but one good leg to run with, you
see.”

“What made you lame, anyhow?” asked Tom, by way of keeping up the
conversation without seeming too insistent on his suggestion that the
man should confess.

“That bully with the red face—our captain, as he calls hisself. He
kicked my hip out’n jint one day when I was drunk, an’ seein’s they
wa’nt no doctor anywheres about, he sot it hisself, an’ sot it wrong
somehow. Anyhow, I’d like to do him up if I could.”

Tom noted the remark and the vindictive tone in which it was made, but
he did not reply to it at once. Instead, he said:

“They must pay him better than they do the rest of you?”

“Him? You bet! He gits a lot out’n the business, an’ he’s got dead
oodles and scads o’ money put away in the bank. He’s close in with
the big ones what’s backin’ the game. It was him what set it up fust
off—leastways him an’ Pedro Mendez.”

“Who is Pedro Mendez?”

“Oh, he’s—never you mind who he is. See here, young feller, you’s a
axin’ too many questions.”

[Illustration: “NO, ’TAIN’T NO USE. I’VE GOT TO TAKE MY MEDICINE.”
_Page 225._]

“Not too many for your good if you have sense enough to take my advice.
Listen to me! You know a great deal more about this lawless business
than you pretend. You know enough to make you a very valuable witness.
If you choose to help the revenue people in getting at the bottom of it
and breaking it up, they’re sure to let you off very easily, and as for
killing you, the people in the thing will have enough to do in looking
out for themselves without bothering about that after they get out of
jail.”

Tom explained and elaborated this point, and at last the lame man began
to see hope ahead for himself.

“Will they make a certain sure promise to let me off if I tell all I
know?” he asked.

“No. They can’t do that, for if they did your testimony would be
worthless. But they always do let state’s witnesses off easily, and in
such a case as this they’re sure to do so. You can be very easy about
that.”

“An’ they’d bear down all the harder on the cap’n when they found out
he was one o’ the big managers o’ the game, wouldn’t they?”

“I should say they would give him the largest dose the law allows.”

“I’ll do it then, jest to git even with him. I’ll do it even if they
don’t reckon it up much to my credit. How’ll I go about it?”

“I’ll arrange that for you. I’ll tell the lieutenant who is in command
here that you’re ready to ‘give the snap away,’ and he’ll take your
statement. Then, when the time comes you’ll only have to go into court
and tell your story over again.”

“But if them fellers finds out I’ve been chinnin’ with the lieutenant
they’ll kill me right there on board the ship.”

“The lieutenant will take care of that. He’ll see that they have no
chance to get at you.”

“Is that certain—sure—hard an’ fast?”

“Yes—certain, sure, hard and fast,” answered Tom, with a gleefulness
that he found it difficult to keep out of his voice and manner.

Going to the lieutenant and interrupting him in the directions he was
busily giving, Tom said under his breath:

“Separate the lame man from the rest. He’ll confess, and it’s a big
story. The others will kill him if they suspect.”

The lieutenant was quick to catch Tom’s meaning and to act upon it.
Turning to a petty officer he gave the order:

“Take the prisoners aboard under a strong guard. The rest of the
freight can wait. Put the lame man in my boat and leave him behind
under a guard.”

As the boats containing the prisoners moved off down the creek, Tom’s
curiosity again got the best of him. Turning to Larry he said:

“They’re arresting these men without a warrant, Larry, and we’ve helped
them to do the very thing you said we ought to fight to prevent.”

“No warrant is needed in this case. The gang has been ‘caught in the
act’ of committing crime, and caught with the goods on them.”

“Oh, I see,” said Tom. “That makes all the difference in the world.”



XXIV

THE LAME MAN’S CONFESSION


“COME, Tom, let’s go aboard,” said the lieutenant, as soon as the
boat that carried the prisoners was well away down the creek. “A
quartermaster can finish up what there is to do here, and I’m anxious
to let you boys get away on your sporting trip as soon as possible; but
I simply can’t let you go till—till we finish the matter you spoke
of just now. If we can manage that to-night I’ll send you on your way
rejoicing as early to-morrow morning as you please.”

“Thank you for all of us,” said Tom, as the two, with the lame man and
his guards, seated themselves in the waiting boat; “but you mustn’t
think this thing has interfered with us. It has been right in our line
and strictly according to the programme.”

“How is that?” the lieutenant asked, enjoying Tom’s evident relish for
the experience he had just gone through.

“Why, you see we set out not merely for sport, but with the declared
purpose of seeking ‘sport and adventure.’ This thing has been sport to
us, and you’ll not deny that it has had a distinct flavor of adventure
in it.”

“Tom, you ought to be a sailor or a soldier,” was the officer’s only
reply.

As soon as they went aboard the lieutenant ordered the lame man taken
to his own cabin and the rest of the prisoners to the forehold under
a strong guard. When the other boys, who were closely following, came
over the side, he invited the four to go with him to his quarters.

“Stop a minute, though. Tell me just what you’ve arranged, Tom, so that
I may know how to proceed.”

“Well, I’ve drawn a little information out of the lame man and got him
to promise more—all he knows in fact, and that seems to be a good
deal. These outlaws are only the agents of conspirators ‘higher up,’ as
the phrase goes—ruffians hired by the conspirators to do the work and
take the risks, while the men higher up pocket all the proceeds except
the pittance allowed to their hired outlaws. The red-faced bully down
there, who acts as captain of the band, seems to be an exception to all
this. According to the lame man, that burly brute was the originator
of the conspiracy, he and some man named Pedro Mendez.”

“What? Pedro Mendez?” interrupted the lieutenant.

“That’s the name the lame man mentioned. Do you know Pedro, or know who
he is?”

“I should say I do. He’s—by the way, he’s the owner of the good ship
_Senorita_, from whose cargo some of the smuggled goods came! Wait a
minute.”

The officer pressed a button and a subordinate promptly appeared to
receive orders.

“Tell Mr. Chisolm to get the ship under way as soon as all the boats
are aboard, and steam at full speed for Beaufort.”

When the orderly had disappeared, the lieutenant exclaimed:

“I must get to a telegraph office before morning, and we’ll have the
smiling Pedro under arrest in Baltimore before another night comes. Go
on, Tom! This is the biggest haul made in ten years and we have you
boys to thank for it. Go on, please.”

“There isn’t much more for me to tell. The lame man will tell the
rest. He has a grudge against the red-faced captain—a life and death
enmity—I should say—and it is chiefly to get his foe into all
possible trouble that he is willing to tell all he knows. I’ve assured
him that if he gives the information necessary to secure the capture of
the whole gang and the breaking up the business, the authorities are
pretty sure to let him off easily.”

“That’s all right. Now we’ll go to the cabin and see how much our man
can tell.”

What the lame man told the lieutenant has no place in this story. He
knew, as Tom had supposed, practically all that was needed, and once
started in his story he told it all.

It was taken down in shorthand as he told it, and after some
difficulties with the pen the man signed it, the four boys signing as
witnesses. A few days later the newspapers were filled with news of
a “stupendous Revenue capture” and the arrest of a number of highly
respectable men caught in a conspiracy to defraud the Government.

When the confessing prisoner had been removed to secure quarters for
the night the officer shook hands warmly with the boys, saying:

“You young men have rendered a much greater service to the Government
than you can well imagine, and as an officer commissioned by the
Government I want to thank you for it as adequately as I can. It is
not only that some smugglers have been captured as a result of what
you have done, and a lot of smuggled goods seized. That, indeed, is
the smallest part of it. This capture will make an end to this sort
of smuggling for all time. I was sent here six weeks ago expressly to
accomplish this purpose, and but for you young men and the assistance
you have given me I doubt that I should ever have accomplished it at
all, although, as you know, a half company of marines was furnished me
in addition to the ship’s own force, in order that I might be strong
enough for any emergency.

“Now if I talked all night I couldn’t thank you enough. Let me turn to
another matter. I promised you to set you afloat at any point you wish,
and I’ll do it. But I’m taking you to Beaufort now because I _must_ get
to a telegraph office. As soon as I possibly can in the morning I’ll
steam to the point you choose.”

“Beaufort suits us very well, indeed,” Larry answered. “You see we’re
short of stores and when we’re afloat again we’ll lay our course for a
region where no stores can be had except such as we can secure with our
shotguns.”

“What stores do you need?” asked the officer.

“Coffee, a side of bacon to fry fish with, two hams, and as many boxes
of ship biscuit as we can manage to stow away in our boat. That’s all,
except some salt, I think. I suppose we can buy all such things at
Beaufort. If not, we can go without them.”

“No, you can’t buy them at Beaufort or anywhere else,” the lieutenant
answered; “because I’m going to furnish them from my own ship’s stores.”

“But, Lieutenant,” said Larry, flushing, “your stores belong to the
Government, don’t they?”

“Yes, certainly. What of that?”

“Why, we can’t let you give us goods that belong to the Government.”

“Oh, I see your scruple, but you’re wrong about the facts. It is a part
of every revenue cutter’s duty to provision craft in distress, and—”

“But pardon me, we are not in distress. It is only that for our comfort
we need certain supplies that we are perfectly well able to buy, and
when we get to Beaufort a market will be open to us. We’ll provision
ourselves, if you don’t mind.”

“I wish you’d let me do it. It is little enough, in all conscience,
considering the service you’ve rendered the Government.”

“We didn’t do that for pay,” Larry answered.

“I quite understand that. Still I have full authority to issue the
stores to you, and the disposition made of them will of course be set
forth in my official report.”

“Thank you, very much, for your good will in the matter,” Larry said,
in a tone that left no chance for further argument, “but we prefer to
buy for ourselves. Then if you’ll have your men lower our boat, we’ll
say ‘Good-bye and good luck’ to you and take ourselves off your hands.”

“That is final?”

“Yes—final.”

“Very well. It shall be as you say. But I’m sorry you won’t let me do
even so small a thing as that by way of showing you my gratitude.”

A little later Larry sought out the lieutenant on deck.

“I’ll tell you what you may do for us, Lieutenant, if you are still so
minded.”

“Of course I am. I’ll do whatever you suggest. What is it?”

“Why, write a brief letter to Tom and let me have it for delivery after
we get away from Beaufort. He’ll cherish that as long as he lives,
and you see after all it was Tom who did it all. He first found the
smugglers’ camp and investigated it; he made the later reconnoissance
on which you acted, and he led the—”

“Say no more,” the lieutenant answered. “I’ll write the letter and give
it to you.”

The lieutenant had another thought in mind; he did not mention it;
but when at last the boys got back to Charleston, they found a letter
awaiting each of them, a letter of thanks and commendation. Those
letters were not from the commanding officer of a revenue cutter, but
from the Secretary of the Treasury himself, and they were signed by his
own hand.

All that occurred later, however. At present the story has to do only
with what further adventures the boys encountered in their coast
wanderings.



XXV

A SIGNAL OF DISTRESS


THE _Hunkydory_ was loaded to the point of inconvenience when, about
noon, she set sail again. For it was the purpose of the boys to make
their way to Quasi quickly now, stopping only long enough here and
there to replenish their supply of game and fish, and they wanted to be
free to stay as long as they pleased at Quasi, when at last they should
reach that place, without being compelled to hurry away in search of
supplies. Accordingly they bought at Beaufort all the hard bread,
coffee and other such things that they could in any wise induce the
dory to make room for.

“Never mind, Dory dear,” Cal said to the boat as he squeezed in a dozen
cans of condensed milk for which it was hard to find a place. “Never
mind, Dory dear; with four such appetites as ours to help you out, your
load will rapidly grow lighter, and when we get to Quasi we’ll relieve
you of it altogether.”

It was planned to establish a comfortable little camp at Quasi, to hunt
and fish at will, to rest when that seemed the best thing to do, and to
indulge in that limitless talk which intelligent boys rejoice in when
freed for a time from all obligation to do anything else. In short, a
considerable period of camping at Quasi had come to be regarded as the
main purpose of the voyage. With their guns and their fishing tackle,
the boys had no concern for their meat supply, but, as Cal said:

“We can’t expect to flush coveys of ship biscuit or catch coffee
on tight lines, so we must take as much as we can of that sort of
provender.”

About two o’clock on the afternoon of the third day of their voyage
from Beaufort the boat was lazily edging her way through an almost
perfectly smooth sea, with just a sufficient suggestion of breeze to
give her steerage way. Tom was at the tiller, with next to nothing to
do there. Larry and Dick were dozing in the shadow of the mainsail,
while Cal, after his custom, was watching the porpoises at play and the
gulls circling about overhead and everything else that could be watched
whether there was any apparent reason for watching it or not.

Presently he turned to Tom and, indicating his meaning by an
inclination of the head toward a peninsula five or six miles away,
which had just come into view as the boat cleared a marsh island, said:

“That’s it.”

“What’s it? and what is it?” asked Tom, too indolent now to disentangle
his sentences.

“Quasi,” said Cal.

“Where?”

“Over the port bow. Change your course a little to starboard—there’s a
mud bank just under water ahead and we must sail round it.”

“Quasi at last!” exclaimed Tom gleefully, as he pushed the helm to port
and hauled in the sheet a trifle in order to spill none of the all too
scanty breeze.

Instantly Dick and Larry were wide awake, and for a time conversation
quickened as Cal pointed out the salient features of the land ahead.

“How far away do you reckon it, Cal?” asked Dick.

“About five miles.”

“Is it clear water? Can we lay a straight course?”

“Yes, after we clear this mud bank. A little more to starboard, Tom, or
you’ll go aground.”

“We ought to make it by nightfall then,” said Larry—“unless this
plaything of a breeze fails us entirely.”

“We’ll make it sooner than that,” said Dick, standing up and steadying
himself by the mast. “Look, Cal. There’s business in that.”

Dick had seen white caps coming in between two islands ahead, and had
rightly judged that in her present position the dory was temporarily
blanketed by a great island that lay between it and the sea.

“I don’t need to stand up,” answered Cal, “and it’s hot. I saw the sea
running in ahead. I’d have suggested a resort to the oars if I hadn’t.
As it is, we’ll toy with this infantile zephyr for half an hour more.
By that time we’ll clear the land here and set our caps on a little
tighter or have them carried away. That’s a stiff blow out there, and
by the way, we’re catching the ragged edges of it already. A little
more to starboard, Tom, and jibe the boom over.”

“It’ll be windward work all the way,” said Larry, as he looked out
ahead.

“So much the better,” said Cal, who found something to rejoice in in
every situation. “It’ll blow the ‘hot’ off us before we make Quasi, and
besides, there’s nothing like sailing on the wind if the wind happens
to be stiff enough.”

“It’ll be stiff enough presently,” said Larry; then after looking about
for a moment, he added: “I only hope we sha’n’t ship enough water to
dampen down our clothes. The dory is _very_ heavily loaded.”

“Don’t worry,” said Dick. “She’s built to carry a heavy load in a rough
sea and a high wind. In fact, she points up better and foots better,
carries herself better every way when she has a load on than when she
hasn’t.”

“H’m!” muttered Cal, going to the helm where Tom was manifesting some
distrust of his own skill in the freshening wind and the “lumpy” seaway
they were beginning to meet. “I’ve known men to think they were like
the _Hunkydory_ in that.”

“Diagram it, Cal,” said Larry.

“Oh, I’ve seen men who thought they could do things better with a ‘load
on’ than without. Trim ship! I’m going to take the other tack.”

Then, as the boat heeled over to starboard, her rail fairly making the
water boil, Cal completed his sentence. “But they were mistaken.”

“It’s different with boats,” Dick answered; “and besides, the dory’s
‘load’ is of quite another sort.”

Sailing on the wind with a skittish boat of the dory type is about as
exhilarating a thing, when the wind pipes high and the sea surges white
with foam, as can be imagined. In order that the pleasure of it might
not all be his, Cal presently surrendered the tiller to Dick, who in
his turn gave it over to Larry after his own pulses were set a-tingle.
Larry offered Tom his turn, but Tom modestly refused, doubting the
sufficiency of his skill for such work as this.

“The tools to those who can use them, is sound philosophy, I think,” he
said in refusing. “Besides, I don’t want to be responsible if we turn
turtle before we reach Quasi, after all our trouble.”

After half an hour or so of speedy windward work the _Hunkydory_
drew near enough to Quasi for Cal to study details of the shore line
somewhat. Lying in the bow, just under the jib, he was silently but
diligently engaged in scrutinizing every feature he could make out in
a shore that lay half a mile or a trifle more away. The others asked
him questions now and then, but he made no answer. Under his general
instructions the dory was skirting along the shore, making short legs,
so as to maintain her half mile distance until Cal should find the
place he was looking for as a landing.

Presently he turned and spoke to Dick, who was now at the tiller again.

“Run in a quarter of a mile, Dick, and bring us nearer shore,” he said.

Dick obeyed, while Cal seemed to be studying something on shore with
more than ordinary interest. Presently he said:

“There’s something wrong over there. As soon as we round the point
ahead, Dick, you’ll have fairly sheltered water and sloping sands.
Beach her there.”

“What is it, Cal? What’s the matter? Why do you say there’s something
wrong?” These questions were promptly hurled at Cal’s head by his
companions.

“Look!” he answered. “Do you see the little flag up there on top of the
bluff? It is flying union down—a signal of distress. But I can’t make
out anybody there. Can any of you?”

All eyes were strained now, but no living thing could be seen anywhere
along the shore. Tom ventured a suggestion:

“The flag is badly faded and a good deal whipped out, as if it had been
flying there for a long time. Perhaps the people who put it up have all
died since.”

“No, they haven’t,” answered Cal.

“Why, do you see anybody?”

“No. But I see a little curling smoke that probably rises from a half
burned-out camp-fire.”

“It’s all right then?” half asked, half declared Tom.

“You forget the flag flying union down, Tom. That isn’t suggestive of
all-rightness. Bring her around quick, Dick, and beach her there just
under the bluff!”

Half a minute more and the dory lay with her head well up on the
sloping sand. The boys all leaped ashore except Larry, who busied
himself housing the mast and sails and making things snug. The rest
scrambled up the bluff, which was an earth bank about twenty feet high
and protected at its base by a closely welded oyster bank.



XXVI

AN UNEXPECTED INTERRUPTION


THERE was nobody near the half burned-out camp-fire, but there were
evidences in plenty of the fact that somebody had cooked and eaten
there that day. There were no cooking utensils lying about, but there
was a structure of green sticks upon which somebody had evidently
been roasting meat; there were freshly opened oyster shells scattered
around—“the beginnings of a kitchen midden,” Dick observed—and many
other small indications of recent human presence. Especially, Cal
noticed, that some smouldering brands of the fire had been carefully
buried in ashes—manifestly to serve as the kindlers of a fresh fire
when one should be needed. Finally, Tom discovered a hunting knife with
its point stuck into the bark of a tree, as if its owner had planned
to secure it in that way until it should be needed again, just as a
house-wife hangs up her gridiron when done with it for the time being.

As the three were discovering these things and interpreting their
meaning, Larry joined them and suggested a search of the woods and
thickets round about.

“Why not try nature’s own method first?” Tom asked.

“How’s that?”

“Yelling. That’s the way a baby does when it wants to attract
attention, and it generally accomplishes its purpose. That’s why I call
it nature’s own method. Besides, it covers more ground than looking
can, especially in an undergrowth as thick as that around this little
open spot.”

“It is rather thick,” said Larry, looking round him.

“Thick? Why, a cane brake is wind-swept prairie land in comparison.
Let’s yell all together and see if we can’t make the hermit of Quasi
hear.”

The experiment was tried, not once, but many times, with no effect, and
a search of the immediate vicinity proved equally futile.

“There seems to be nothing to do but wait,” Larry declared, at last.
“The man in distress must have gone away in search of food. He is
starving perhaps, and—”

“Not quite that,” said Cal. “He may be craving a tapioca pudding or
some other particular article of diet, but he isn’t starving.”

“How do you know, Cal?”

“Oh, it is only that he has a haunch of venison—sun-crusted for
purposes of preservation—hanging in that tree there”—pointing—“and
unless he is more different kinds of a lunatic than the chief engineer
of any insane asylum ever heard of, he wouldn’t starve with that on
hand.”

“Perhaps it is spoiled,” said Tom, looking up the tree where the
venison hung and where Cal alone had seen it.

“It isn’t spoiled, either,” answered Cal, with assurance.

“But how can you tell when you’re ten or twenty feet away from it?” Tom
stopped to ask.

“The carrion crows can tell at almost any distance,” Cal returned, “and
if it were even tainted, they’d be quarreling over it.”

Tom was not satisfied, and so he climbed the tree to inspect. Sliding
down again, he gave judgment:

“Why, the thing’s as black as ink and as hard as the bark of a white
oak tree. It’s dried beef—or dried venison, rather.”

“You’re mistaken, Tom,” said Larry. “It is sun-crusted, as Cal said,
but that’s very different. Inside it is probably as juicy as a steak
from a stall-fed ox.”

“What do you mean by ‘sun-crusted,’” asked Dick.

“Oh, I see,” Larry answered. “You and Tom are not familiar with our way
of preserving meat in emergencies. When we are out hunting and have a
joint of fresh red meat that we want to keep fresh, we don’t salt it
or smoke it or do anything of that sort to it. We just hang it out in
the very strongest sunlight we can find. In a brief while the surface
of the meat is dried into a thin black crust as hard as wood, and after
that it will keep for days in any cool, shady place. Flies cannot bore
through the hard crust, and the air itself is shut out from the meat
below the surface.”

“How long will it keep in that way?”

“How long, Cal?” asked Larry, referring the question to his brother’s
larger experience.

“That depends on several things,” Cal answered. “I’ve kept meat in that
way for a week or ten days, and at other times I’ve eaten my whole
supply at the first meal. But I say, fellows, we’re wasting precious
time. The night cometh when no man can work, and we have a good deal to
do before it comes. We must find a safe anchorage for the _Hunkydory_
and set up a camp for ourselves. In aid of that we must find fresh
water, and I have an idea we’ll find that somewhere along under the
line of bluffs—at some point where they trend well back from the shore
with a sandy beach between. The hermit must get water from somewhere
near, and there’s no sign of any around here.”

Cal’s conjecture proved to be right. A little spring at the foot of the
bluff had been dug out and framed around with sticks to keep the margin
from crumbling.

Obviously this was the hermit’s source of water supply.

“But why in the name of common sense,” said Larry, “didn’t he set up
his Lares and Penates somewhere near the spring?”

“I can think of two reasons,” Cal answered, “either of which is
sufficient to answer your question.”

“Go ahead—what are they?”

“One is, that he may be a crank, and another is, that he may be a
prudent, sensible person, preferring comfort with inconvenience, to
convenience with discomfort.”

“Now, then, Sphinx, unravel your riddle.”

“Its meaning ought to be obvious,” Cal drawled, “but as it isn’t, I’ll
explain it. The man is probably a crank. If not, he wouldn’t have set
up a signal of distress and then have gone away and hidden himself so
that if rescuers came they couldn’t find him. To a crank like that any
foolishness is easily possible. On the other hand, if he happens to be
a man of practical common sense—as there is equally good reason to
believe—he would very naturally pitch his camp up where it is, rather
than here where you fellows are already fighting the sand flies that
will be heavily reinforced toward nightfall.”

“That’s so!” said the others.

“Of course it’s so. Anybody would know that, after slapping his cheeks
till they feel as if they had been cured with mustard plasters, and
weren’t half well yet.”

“What shall we do, Cal?” Tom asked.

“Why, imitate the hermit and improve upon his ideas.”

“You mean—” began Larry.

“I mean we must go up on the bluff and pitch our camp a hundred yards
or so back from the beach. Otherwise we shall all be bored as full of
holes as a colander before we stretch our weary limbs upon mother earth
for sleep.”

“That’s all right,” said Tom, “but you haven’t told us about the
improvement upon the hermit’s ideas. Do you mean we should go farther
back from the water?”

“No, I didn’t mean that, though we’ll do it. I meant that instead of
carrying water from this brackish spring we’ll dig a well where we
pitch our tent of palmete leaves.”

“But you said—”

“I know I did; but that was in swampy land where the only water to
be had by digging was an exudation from muck. It is very different
here. These bluffs and all the high ground that lies back of them
are composed of clean clay and clean sand. Look at the bank and see
for yourself. Now all we’ve got to do to get sweet, wholesome water
anywhere on the higher land—which isn’t as high a little way back as
it is here at the face of the bluff—is to dig down to the level of the
sea. There we’ll find sea water that has been freed from salt and all
other impurities by siping through a mixture of clay and sand that is
as perfect a filter as can be imagined.”

“Now if you’ve finished that cataract of words, Cal,” said Larry, “we
must get to work or night will be on us before we’re ready for it. You
go and pick out a camping place, and the rest of us will follow you
with things from the boat. We can dig the well and build a shelter
to-morrow.”

But Tom and Dick were full of enthusiasm, now that they had at last got
to Quasi, and they had both tasted the water of the spring. Its flavor
strongly stimulated their eagerness for something more palatable.

“Why not begin the well now—as soon as we get the things up from the
boat?” asked Dick. “There’ll be a moon nearly full, and the sea breeze
here is cool. I for one am ready to dig till midnight.”

“I’ll dig all night,” said Tom, “rather than take another swig of that
stuff. If we work hard we can get the well in commission before we use
all the water left in the kegs.”

“We sha’n’t have to dig all night,” said Cal. “I’ll pick out a place
where we needn’t go down more than eight or nine feet, and this sandy
earth is easily handled. If we’re really industrious and don’t waste
more time over supper than we must, we’ll strike water within a few
hours, and it’ll be settled and clear by morning. But we must hustle
if we’re to do that. So load yourselves up while I pick out a camp and
I’ll join the caravan of carriers in the next load.”

It was necessary, of course, to remove everything from the boat to
the bivouac, as it was the purpose of the company to make this their
headquarters for several weeks to come, or at least for as long as
they liked.

It was nearly sunset, therefore, when that part of the work was done,
and it was decreed that Larry should get supper while the rest worked
at well-digging.

As there remained no fresh meat among their stores, Larry’s first task
was to go out with his gun in search of game. Squirrels were abundant
all about the place, and very easily shot, as they had never been
hunted. As the time was short, Larry contented himself with the killing
of a dozen or so of the fat rodents, suppressing for the time being
his strong impulse to go after game of a more elusive and therefore
more aristocratic sort. He did indeed take one shot at a flock of
rice birds, killing a good many of them, but mutilating their tender
little butter-balls of bodies because he used bird shot instead of the
“mustard seed” size, which alone is fit for rice-bird shooting.

On his return to the bivouac to cook his game, he found the well
already sunk to nearly half the required depth, and by the time he was
ready to bid his comrades cease their work and come to supper, at least
another foot had been added to its depth.

The work was easy, not only because the sandy soil was easily shoveled
out without the use of picks or spades, but because of the form Cal’s
observation of other temporary well digging had taught him to give to
the excavation.

“We’re not really digging a well,” he explained at the outset. “We’re
only scooping out a basin in order to get to water. So instead of
working in a narrow hole, we’ll take a bowl for our model—a bowl eight
or ten feet across at the top and growing rapidly narrower as we go
down. Working in that way, we’ll not only get on faster and with less
labor, but we’ll spare ourselves the necessity of cribbing up the sides
of our water hole to keep them from falling in. Besides, the farther
down we get the less work each additional foot of digging will cost us.”

When Larry announced supper, all the company admitted that they “had
their appetites with them”; but Cal did not at once “fall to” as the
others did. Instead, he went into the woods a little way, secured a
dry, dead and barkless stick about five feet long, and drove it into
the bottom of the excavation. Pulling it out again after waiting
for twenty or thirty seconds, he closely scrutinized its end. Then,
measuring off a part of it with his hands so placed as to cover
approximately a foot of space at each application, he tossed the stick
aside and joined the others at their meal.

Nobody interrupted the beginning of his supper by asking him questions,
but after he had devoured two or three rice birds the size of marbles
and had begun on the hind leg of a broiled squirrel which lay upon an
open baked sweet potato, he volunteered a hint of what he had been
doing.

“As nearly as I can measure it with my hands, we’ll come to water
about three feet further down, boys. We’ve acquitted ourselves nobly
as sappers and miners, and are entitled to take plenty of time for
supper and a good little rest afterwards—say till the moon, which is
just now coming up out of its bath in the sea out there, rises high
enough to shine into our hole. That will be an hour hence, perhaps, and
then we’ll shovel sand like plasterers making mortar. It won’t take us
more than an hour or so to finish the job, and we’ll get to sleep long
before midnight.”

“How did you find out how far down the water was, Cal,” asked Tom,
who was always as hungry for information as a school boy is for green
apples or any other thing that carries a threat of stomach ache with it.

“Why, I drove a dry stick down—one that would show a wetting if it got
it—till it moved easily up and down. I knew then that it had reached
the water-saturated sand. I pushed it on down till the upper end was
level with our present bottom. Then I drew it out and measured the dry
part and six inches or so of the wet. That told me how far down we must
go for the water.”

“It’s very simple,” said Tom.

“I’ve noticed that most things are so when one understands them,” said
Dick. “For example—”

What Dick’s example was there is now no way of finding out, for at that
point in his little speech the conversation was interrupted by a rather
oddly-dressed man who broke through the barrier of bushes and presented
himself, bowing and smiling, to the company.



XXVII

THE HERMIT OF QUASI


THE newcomer was a man of fifty or fifty-five years of age. He was
slender, but rather with the slenderness of the red Indian than with
that suggestive of weakness. Indeed, the boys observed that his muscles
seemed to be developed out of proportion to his frame, as if he had
been intended by nature for a scholar and had made an athlete of
himself instead.

There was not an ounce of unnecessary fat upon his person, and yet he
gave no sign of being underfed. Instead his flesh had the peculiar
hardness of the frontiersman’s who eats meat largely in excess of other
foods.

A little strip across the upper part of his forehead, which showed as
he stood there with his hat removed, suggested that his complexion
had once been fair, but that exposure had tanned it to the color of a
saddle.

His costume was an odd one, but it was made of the best of materials,
now somewhat worn, but fit still to hold their own in comparison with
far newer garments of cheaper quality. Perhaps they were aided in this
by the fact that they had evidently been made for him by some tailor
who knew how to make clothes set upon their wearer as if they were a
part of him.

Yet his dress was perfectly simple. He wore a sort of Norfolk jacket
of silk corduroy—a cloth well nigh as durable as sole leather—with
breeches of the same, buttoned at and below the knee, and covered at
bottom with close-fitting calf-skin leggings of the kind that grooms
and dandy horsemen affect.

The hat he held in his hand, as he addressed the company that had
courteously risen to receive him, was an exceedingly limp felt affair,
soft to the head, light in weight and capable of assuming any shape its
wearer might choose to give it. His shoes were Indian moccasins.

No sign of linen appeared anywhere about his person, but just above the
top button of his jacket a bit of gray flannel shirt showed in color
harmony with his other garments.

“Good evening, young gentlemen,” he said; “I trust I do not intrude,
and if I do so it shall not be for long. My name is Rudolf Dunbar. May
I ask if you young gentlemen are the rescuers I have been hoping to
see during the three or four weeks that I have been marooned on this
peninsula which nobody seems ever to visit?”

“We are here to rescue you if you so desire,” answered Larry, “but we
set out with no such purpose. We were on our way here to fish, hunt,
live in the open air and be happy in natural ways for a time. We
caught sight of your signal of distress and hurried ourselves as much
as possible, fearing that your distress might be extreme. As we found
your camp showing no signs of starvation or illness, and could not find
you, we set to work to establish ourselves for a prolonged stay here
and wait for you to return. It seemed the only thing to do under the
circumstances.”

“Quite right! Quite right! and I thank you for your kindly impulse. But
you should have taken possession of my camp, making it your own—at
least until you could establish yourselves more to your liking. I don’t
know, though—my camp is bare of everything, so that you’re better off
as you are.”

As he paused, Larry introduced himself and his comrades by name, and
offered the stranger the hospitality of their camp, inviting him
especially to sit down and share their supper.

He accepted the invitation, and after a little Larry said to him:

“May I ask the nature of your distress here, and how pressing it is? We
are ready, of course, to take you to the village over yonder, ten or a
dozen miles away, at any time you like. From there you can go anywhere
you please.”

“Thank you very much. My distress is quite over now. Indeed, I am not
accustomed to let circumstances distress me overmuch. I found myself
marooned here, and naturally I wanted to establish communication with
the mainland again—or the possibility of such communication. But if
it had been necessary I could have remained here for a year in fair
contentment. Long experience has taught me how to reconcile myself with
my surroundings, whatever they may be, and game and fish are plentiful
here. May I ask how long you young gentlemen have planned to remain
here?”

“Three or four weeks, probably,” answered Larry. “But as I said before,
we’ll set you ashore on the mainland at any time you like.”

“Thank you very much. But if it will be quite agreeable to you, I’ll
remain here as long as you do. I haven’t finished my work here, and the
place is extremely favorable for my business. If my presence is in any
way annoying—”

“Oh, not at all. We shall build a comfortable shelter to-morrow, and
we’ll be glad to have you for our guest. As you see, we’re digging a
well, and we’ll have good sweet water by morning.”

“That is very wise. I should have dug one myself if I had had any sort
of implement to dig with, but I have none.”

“And so you’ve had to get on with the rather repulsive water from the
spring down there?”

“Yes, and no. I have used that water, but I distil it first. You
see, in my peculiar business, I must wander in all sorts of places,
wholesome and unwholesome, and it is often impossible to find good
water to drink. So for years past I have always carried a little
distilling apparatus of my own devising with me. It is very small and
very light, and, of course, when I have to depend upon it for a water
supply, I must use water very sparingly. I think I must bid you good
evening now, as I did not sleep at all last night. I will see you in
the morning.”

“We’ll expect you to join us at breakfast,” said Larry.

“It will give me great pleasure to do so. Good night.”

With that he nimbly tripped away, leaving the boys to wonder who and
what he was, and especially what the “business” was that he had not
yet finished at Quasi. Cal interrupted the chatter presently, saying:

“We’ve annexed a riddle, and you’re wasting time trying to guess it
out. Nobody ever did guess the answer to a riddle. Let’s get to work
and finish the well.”

The boys set to work, of course, but they did not cease to speculate
concerning the stranger. Even after the well was finished and when they
should all have been asleep they could not drive the subject from their
minds.

“I wonder how he got here, anyhow,” said Tom, after all the other
subjects of wonder had been discussed to no purpose. “He has no boat
and he couldn’t have got here without one.”

“What I wonder,” said Dick, “is why and how his ‘business’ has
compelled him to wander in out-of-the-way places, as he says he has.”

“_I_ am wondering,” said Cal, sleepily, “when you fellows will stop
talking and let me go to sleep. You can’t find out anything by
wondering and chattering. The enigma will read itself to us very soon.”

“Do you mean he’ll tell us his story?” asked Tom.

“Yes, of course.”

“Why do you think he’ll do that?”

“He can’t possibly help it. When a man lives alone for so long as he
has done, he must talk about himself. It’s the only thing he knows, and
the only thing that seems to him interesting.”

“There’s a better reason than that,” said Larry.

“What is it?”

“Why, that he is obviously a gentleman. A gentleman wouldn’t think of
coming here to remain indefinitely as our guest without letting us know
who and what he is and all the rest of it.”

“_Finis!_” said Cal.

Silence followed, and soon the little company was dreaming of queerly
dressed marooners carrying flags union down.



XXVIII

RUDOLF DUNBAR’S ACCOUNT OF HIMSELF


CAL and Larry were right. Both out of a sense of duty to his
entertainers and because of a not unnatural impulse to tell of his
unusual mode of life, Dunbar began the very next morning to talk freely
of his experiences.

“It is proper that I explain to you how I came to be here without the
means of getting away again,” he said at breakfast. “Indeed, I was a
little troubled in my mind last night when I remembered that I had
received your kindly offer of rescue without telling you that. But in
my anxiety to get away from your bivouac and let you sleep, I forgot it.

“You see my entire life is spent in the woods or upon the water. I
go wherever there is promise of anything to reward the labors of a
naturalist, and when I heard of this long-abandoned plantation, where
for twenty-five years or so Nature has had things all her own way, I
knew a visit would be richly worth while. So I purchased a little
rowboat and came over here about three or four weeks ago. I cannot fix
the time more definitely because I never can keep accurate account
of the days or weeks, living alone in the woods as I do and having
no engagements to fulfill. I pulled my boat up on the beach a little
way, selected a place in which to live, and proceeded to remove my
things from the boat to the place chosen. Unfortunately, just as I
had finished doing so, a peculiar moth attracted my attention—a moth
not mentioned or described in any of the books, and quite unknown to
science, I think. I went at once in chase of it, but it led me a merry
dance through the thickets, and it was two hours, I should say—though
I carry no timepiece—before I caught the creature. In the meanwhile I
had forgotten all about my boat, and when I got back I saw it drifting
out to sea with quite a strong breeze to aid the tide in carrying
it away. It seems the tide had reached the flood during my absence,
setting the boat afloat, and had then begun to ebb, carrying her away.

“There was nothing to be done, of course, but hoist my little flag,
union down, and go on with the very interesting task of studying the
habits of my new moth, of which I have since found several specimens,
besides three cocoons which I am hatching in the hope that they will
prove to belong to the species. I’ve been hard at work at that task
ever since, and I have made some very interesting discoveries with
regard to that moth’s choice of habitat. I made the most important one
the night before you arrived. That is why I got no sleep that night.”

“Let us hope,” said Cal, “that the excitement of it did not interfere
with your rest last night.”

“Oh, not at all. I am never excited, and I can sleep whenever I choose.
I have only to lie down and close my eyes in order to accomplish that.”

“Then you have a shelter or hut up there somewhere—though we saw none?”

“Oh, no. I never sleep under shelter of any kind; I haven’t done so
for more than twenty years past. Indeed, that is one of the conditions
upon which I live at all. My health is good now, but it would fail me
rapidly if I slept anywhere under a roof.”

“But when these heavy subtropical rains come?” asked Dick.

“Ah, I am prepared for them. I have only to spread one rubber cloth on
the ground and a much thinner one over my blanket, and I take no harm.”

“Your specialty then is the study of butterflies and moths?” asked
Dick.

“No, not at all. Indeed I have no specialty. When I was teaching I held
the chair of Natural History, with several specialists as tutors under
my general direction. When my health broke down—pray, don’t suppose I
am going to weary you with a profitless catalogue of symptoms—I simply
had to take to the woods. I had nobody dependent upon me—nobody for
whom it was my duty to provide then or later. I had a little money,
very little, but living as I do I need very little, and my work yields
me a good deal more than I need or want. The little rifle I always have
with me provides me with all the food I want, so that I am rarely under
expense on that account.”

“But you must have bread or some substitute,” said Tom.

“I do not find it necessary. When I have access to starchy foods—of
which there are many in tropical and subtropical forests if one knows
how to find and utilize them—I eat them with relish, but when they
are not to be had I get on very well without them. You see man is an
omnivorous animal, and can live in health upon either starchy or flesh
foods. It is best to have both, of course, unless the starchy foods are
perverted as they so often are in civilized life, and made ministers to
depraved appetites.”

“May I ask just how you mean that?” asked Dick.

“Yes, certainly. The starch we consumed last night in the form of sweet
potatoes was altogether good for us; so is that we are taking now in
these ship biscuits. But if the flour we are eating had been mixed with
lard, sugar, eggs, milk and the like, and made into pastry, we should
be greatly the better without it.

“However, I’m not a physician, equipped to deliver a lecture on
food stuffs and their preparation. I was betrayed into that by your
question. I was explaining the extreme smallness of my personal needs.
After food, which costs me nothing, comes clothing, which costs me very
little.”

“Why certainly you are expensively dressed for woodland wandering,”
said Dick. Then instantly he began an apology for the reference to so
purely personal a matter, but Rudolf Dunbar interrupted him.

“No apology is due. I was voluntarily talking of my own personal
affairs, and your remark was entirely pertinent. My garments are made
of very costly fabrics, but as such materials endure all sorts of hard
usage and last for a very long time, I find it cheaper in the end to
buy only such; more important still is the convenience of it, to one
leading the sort of life I do. Instead of having to visit a tailor
three or four times a year, I have need of his services only at long
intervals. The garments I now have on were made for me in London three
years or so ago, and I have worn no others since. In the meanwhile
I have been up the Amazon for thousands of miles, besides visiting
Labrador and the southern coast of Greenland.

“That brings me to my principal item of expense, which is the passage
money I must pay in order to get to the regions I wish to explore. That
costs me a good deal at each considerable removal, but in the meanwhile
I have earned greatly more by my work.

“But pardon me for prosing so about myself. I’ll say not another word
now, so that you young gentlemen may be free to make whatever use
you wish of this superb day. I shall spend the greater part of it in
figuring some specimens with my colored crayons. Good morning!”



XXIX

TOM FINDS THINGS


AS soon as the visitor disappeared through a tangled growth of bushes,
Larry began marking out the duties of the day.

“First of all we must make ourselves comfortable,” he said, as if
reflecting.

“That means a bush shelter of some sort,” interrupted Tom.

“No, it doesn’t either,” Larry answered, in a tone of playfulness like
Tom’s own.

“What does it mean, then?”

“It means a shelter—not ‘of some sort’ as you say, but of a good sort.
The wind blows hard here sometimes as the place is so exposed to a
broad passage leading to the sea outside. So we must build something
that isn’t easily carried away by a squall.”

“It would mean a good many other things,” said Cal, “if I were the
architect selected to make designs, with front elevations, floor plans,
estimates and all the other things they do before beginning to put up
a building.”

“Why, of course, Cal, you are to direct the work,” answered Larry. “You
know more about such things than all the rest of us combined.”

“Well, then, first of all, our palatial country residence must face
directly away from the sea,” said Cal. “If it had its wide open side
in any other direction we’d be drenched inside of it every time a rain
came in from the sea, and that is where nearly all the hard rains come
from here. Then, again, if the hovel faced the wrong way it would be
filled full of smoke every time a sea breeze blew, and in this exposed
place that is nearly all the time. There are seventeen other good
and sufficient reasons for fronting the structure in the way I have
decreed, but the two I have mentioned are sufficient to occupy and
divert your young minds as we go on with the work. Now let all hands
except Larry busy themselves chopping crotched poles of the several
dimensions that I’ll mark here in the sand, for lack of other and more
civilized stationery.”

With a sharpened stick Cal began writing in the sand.

“Four poles, 12 feet long, and three or four inches thick.”

“But what do you want me to do, Cal?” asked Larry.

“Go fishing,” said Cal. “We must have some dinner after awhile. See if
you can’t bring in a sheepshead or some other fish weighing five or six
pounds and fit for roasting.”

In an instant Larry was off with cast net, shrimp bucket and some fish
lines.

Cal resumed his sand writing, cataloguing the various sorts and sizes
of poles wanted. Presently he stopped short, muttering:

“But then we’re not lumbermen, and the only tool we have to chop with
is our one poor little hand ax. It won’t take three of us to wield that
toy. Say, Tom, suppose you take your gun and see if you can’t get us
some game. We’ll do well enough with fish for dinner, but we must have
some meat for to-night. So go and get some. I know you’re half crazy
to be off in the woods shooting. Dick and I will work at the poles
and palmetes—that’s apt alliteration, but it was quite accidental, I
assure you. One can use the ax and the other cut palmete leaves with
his jackknife, exchanging jobs now and then. We’ll need a great stack
of the palmetes with which to cover the roof and three sides of our
mansion.”

“Yes, of course, and fortunately they grow very thick just out there
in the woods,” said Dick. “I saw them early this morning.”

“Yes, I know. I saw them yesterday when I picked out a place for the
camp. Our need of them was one of the considerations I had in mind. By
the way, Dick”—the two were busily at work now—“what do you think of
the professor’s plan of sleeping?”

“It saves him a lot of trouble,” Dick answered.

“Yes, in one way. But if he had anything with him that water would
spoil, it would make more trouble than it saves. As he has nothing of
the kind—”

“How about his reserve ammunition? A man who depends upon his gun for
all his food must have a lot of cartridges somewhere.”

“That’s so, but his rifle is probably of very small calibre, so that a
good many cartridges can be packed in a small space. Of course we can’t
ask him.”

At that moment “the professor,” as Cal had called him, appeared, with
profuse apologies.

“It was really inexcusable,” he protested, “for me to go away as I did
when you young gentlemen had a shelter to build. I should have stayed
to help in the work, as I am to share in its advantages. But I am so
unused to providing shelter for myself that I quite forgot your larger
necessities. Fortunately I heard the blows of your ax and was reminded
of my duty. I have come at once to assist you.”

“Oh, you mustn’t think of that, Professor,” answered Cal. “We really
need no assistance. My brother and Tom have gone off for supplies of
meat and fish, but they’ll be back presently, and meanwhile we two can
use the only tools we have for this kind of work. Besides, you have
something of your own to do.”

“Nothing that may not be as well done at another time. I must insist
upon bearing my share of the work of constructing a camp which you have
been courteous enough to invite me to share.”

“But you don’t sleep under a roof—even a flimsy one of palmete
leaves,” objected Dick. “We invited you to join us here only because we
like good company.”

“Thank you for the compliment. No, I do not sleep under a roof, but
your roof will be a great convenience and comfort to me in other ways.”

“I don’t see—” Cal began, but Dunbar broke in.

“You don’t see how? No, of course not. How should you? But that is only
because you know so little of my tasks. I must write my scientific
reports and articles carefully and voluminously, and I must make
accurate color drawings of my specimens to accompany my text. I am
badly behind with my work in these ways, and the very best time to
bring up the arrears is of long, rainy days, when the living things
I must study—all of them except the fishes—are hidden away in such
shelters as they can find. But I cannot sit in the rain and write
or draw. That would only be to spoil materials of which I have all
too little already. So the rainy days are lost to me, or have been,
hitherto. Now that I am to enjoy your hospitality, I shall sit in your
shelter when it rains, and get a world of writing and drawing done.”

“Well, at any rate, we shall not need your help in this work, and
we have no tool for you to work with if we did. As to our little
hospitality, it mustn’t and doesn’t involve any obligation on your
part. If it did it wouldn’t be hospitality at all, but something very
different. Why not put in your time on your own work?”

“I would, if my head didn’t object,” the man of science answered rather
dejectedly, Cal thought, but with a smile.

“Have you a headache, then?” the youth asked, putting as much
sympathy into his tone as was possible to a robust specimen of young
manhood who had never had a headache in his life. “It must be very
distressing.”

“No, I haven’t a headache,” the professor answered. “I wish it was only
that. No, my head isn’t clear to-day, and when I try to work it gets
things jumbled up a bit. I tried this morning to write a scientific
account of the habits of a certain fish that these waters bear, and
somehow I got him out into the bushes using wings that I had never
observed before. Now I must go and catch another specimen of that fish
and examine it carefully to see if the wings are really there or not.
You see in cases of doubt a scientist dares not trust anything to
conjecture or memory. He must examine and make sure.”

So saying, the professor started off to catch the fish he wanted. He
had spoken in a half jocular tone and with a mischievous smile playing
about his lips, though his words were serious enough.

“What do you think, Dick?” Cal asked as soon as the man was well beyond
earshot; “is he a trifle ‘off’? has he lost some of his buttons?”

“Possibly, but I doubt it.”

“But what nonsense he talked!”

“Yes, I know. But did you observe his smile? He was only doing in his
way what you so often do in yours. Your smile often contradicts your
words—making its bow, as it were, to the nonsense you are uttering.
Yet we don’t suspect you of having slipped your cable.”

“I suppose that’s it,” said Cal, “but allow me to suggest that our
chatter cuts no palmetes, and we’re in need of a great number.”

By the time the needed poles and crotch sticks were cut and sharpened
for driving into the ground, Larry returned, bringing with him one huge
fish and a bucket full of croakers and whiting, all of which he had
dressed on the shore.

He wrapped the large fish in a mass of wet sea weed and buried it in
the hot ashes and coals to bake. After setting such other things to
cook as he thought necessary, he joined the others in the work of
setting up the poles and fastening their ends securely together with
vines as flexible as hempen rope. The wetter parts of the woodlands
yielded such vines in abundance, and as somewhat experienced sailors
the boys all knew how to tie knots that no strain could loosen.

By the time that the dinner was cooked the framework of the shelter was
more than half done.

“We’ll knock off for dinner now,” Larry suggested, “and after dinner
the whole force will set to work finishing the framework and covering
it. There are bunks to be made, too, and filled with long gray moss,
so we’ll have a very full afternoon.”

“By the way, Professor,” asked Cal, as the man of science rejoined the
group, “are you quite sure you won’t let us make a bunk for you?”

“Oh, yes—quite sure.”

“Did you catch the fish you wanted to examine, or did he take to his
wings and fly away?”

“Oh, that was only my poor little jest. You didn’t take it seriously,
did you?”

Then, interrupting the reply that Cal had begun to make, he said
rapidly:

“But I did want to make another examination of the fish in question.
You see, when I examined a specimen a few days ago, my attention was
concentrated upon certain definite points, and when I casually observed
something that suggested the possibility of its having a sense of
taste, I went on with the other questions in my mind and quite forgot
to satisfy myself on this point. But when I sat down this morning to
write notes of my observations, the point came back to my mind, and I
saw that I must examine another specimen before writing at all. That is
what I meant by saying, in figurative speech, that my fish went flying
away among the bushes, or whatever else it was that I said.”

“But, Professor,” said Larry, “something you said about a fish’s sense
of taste just now awakens my curiosity. May I ask you—”

“Not now,” said Dick. “Let’s reserve all that for this evening after
supper. You see Tom isn’t here now, and he will want to hear it all.
Maybe the professor will let us turn loose our tongues to-night and ask
him the dozen questions we have in our minds.”

“Yes—a thousand, if you wish,” Dunbar answered. “I have studied fish
with more interest, perhaps, than I ever felt in investigating any
other subject, and naturally I like to air the results of my inquiries.”

Larry busied himself taking the dinner from the fire, and as he did so
Tom returned.

“Hello, Tom!” called out Cal as the boy was struggling through the
bushes back of the camp. “Just in time for dinner. Did you get anything
worth while?”

“Judge for yourself,” he replied, entering the open space and dropping
a huge turkey gobbler on the ground. “Isn’t that a beauty? Got him on
the wing, too. But I forgot, Cal, you don’t approve of post-mortem
chatter over game. One thing I must tell you, anyhow. I found a patch
of these and brought home some samples in my pockets to see if it’s
worth while to go after more.”

As he spoke he drew out a number of sweet potatoes and cast them down.

“Are there more to be had?” Larry asked eagerly.

“Yes, bushels of them—growing wild.”

“Good! Tom, you’ve a positive genius for finding precisely what we
want. Our supply of bread and bread substitutes is very scant, or
was before you made this discovery, and with all due respect for
your opinion, Professor, I am satisfied that we need a considerable
proportion of starchy foods to go with our meat.”

“Oh, I agree with you as to that,” quickly answered the professor.
“I have never doubted it. I only said that man, being an omnivorous
animal, can live upon an exclusive diet of meat just as he can live on
the starchy foods alone. I think I stated distinctly that he is better
off with both than with either alone.”

“You certainly did say that, Professor,” said Dick; “it is only that
Larry was inattentive at the time of your lecture. But I say, Tom, is
it far to your potato patch?”

“Only about half a mile or a little less.”

They were all busily eating dinner now, and for a minute there was
nothing more said. Presently Tom spoke:

“I say, Larry, which of you fellows can best be spared to go with me
after dinner, and help me bring in the deer?”

“What deer?” asked all in a breath.

“Why, the one I shot an hour or so ago. I managed to hang him up in a
tree out of reach of other animals, I think, but I suppose he ought to
be brought to camp pretty soon.”

Cal rose threateningly.

“I am strongly tempted to throw things at you, Tom Garnett,” he
began. “But there isn’t anything to throw except the ax, and if I
threw that I might incapacitate you for walking, and without your
assistance we might not be able to find that deer. What do you mean,
sir, by interrupting us at dinner with a surprise like that? Don’t you
realize that it is bad for the digestion? In plain language that even
your intelligence can perhaps grasp, why in the name of all that is
sensible, didn’t you tell us about the thing when you first came?”

“I’ve associated with you, Cal, too long and too intimately to retain
a just appreciation of what is sensible. Anyhow, I wanted the fun of
springing the thing on you in that way. If you’ve finished your dinner,
we’ll be off after the venison. It isn’t half a mile away.”



XXX

DUNBAR TALKS AND SLEEPS


IT required nearly all the afternoon for Tom and Cal to bring the deer
to camp and dress it. In the meantime Larry, Dick and Dunbar—who
insisted upon helping and did his part very cleverly—worked upon the
shelter and the bunks inside. As a result the hut was ready for use
that night, though not quite finished in certain details.

By Larry’s orders no further work was to be done after supper, but
supper was to be late, as there was the turkey to be roasted, and he
wanted to roast it right. While he was preparing the bird for the fire,
Dick was rigging up a vine contrivance to serve in lieu of a spit, and
Tom and Cal employed the time in bringing a bushel or two of Tom’s wild
sweet potatoes to camp.

The turkey was suspended by a long vine from the limb of a tree, so
hung as to bring the fowl immediately in front of a fire built at
that point especially for this roasting. Dick had bethought him to
go to the dory and bring away a square of sheet copper, carried for
boat-repairing purposes. This he scoured to brightness with sand, after
which he fashioned it into a rude dripping pan, and placed it under
the turkey to catch the juices for basting purposes. There was nothing
remotely resembling a spoon in the camp or the boat, but Dick was handy
with his jackknife, and it did not take him long to whittle out a
long-handled wooden ladle with which to do the basting.

By another device of his the roasting fowl was kept turning as fast
or as slowly as might seem desirable. This device consisted of two
very slender vines attached to the supporting vine at a point several
feet above the fire. One of the “twirlers,” as Dick called the slender
vines, was wrapped several times around the supporting vine in one
direction and the other in the opposite way.

Sitting on opposite sides of the fire, and each grasping a “twirler,”
Dick and Larry kept the turkey turning first one way and then the other.

While they were engaged in this, an abundant supply of Tom’s sweet
potatoes were roasting in the ashes.

“Now we are at Quasi,” said Cal, just before the turkey was declared
“done to a turn”—“at Quasi, the object of all our hopes, the goal of
our endeavors, and the guiding star of all our aspirations during a
period of buffetings, trials and sore afflictions. We are securely at
Quasi, and our residence—which prosaic people might call a hut, hovel
or shanty, but which is to us a mansion—is practically finished. It
is only meet and fit, and in accordance with Homeric custom, that we
should celebrate the occasion and the toilsome achievements that have
made it possible, by all possible lavishness of feasting. All of which
means that I am going to make a pot of robust and red-hot coffee to
drink with the turkey and ‘taters.’”

It was a hungry company that sat down on the ground to eat that supper,
and if there was anything lacking in the bill of fare, such appetites
as theirs did not permit the boys to find out the fact.

“It is an inflexible rule of good housewives,” drawled Cal, when the
dinner was done, “that the ‘things’ as they call the dishes, pots,
pans, and the like, shall be cleared away and cleansed. So here goes,”
gathering up the palmete leaves that had served for plates and tossing
them, together with the bones and fragments of the feast, upon the
fire, where they quickly crackled into nothingness. “There aren’t any
cooking utensils, and as for these exquisitely shaped agate iron cups,
it is the function of each fellow to rinse the coffee out of his own.
Oh, yes, there’s the coffee pot I forgot it, and by way of impressing
the enormity of my fault upon a dull intelligence I’ll clean that
myself. A hurried scouring with some sand and water, followed by a
thorough rinsing, ought to do the business finely.”

“I say, Cal,” said Dick, “I wish you would remember that this is your
off night.”

“I confess I don’t understand. Do you mean that I shall leave the
coffee pot for some other member of the company to scour?”

“No. I mean this is your off night for word-slinging. The professor is
going to tell us some things and we want to hear him. So, ‘dry up.’”

“I bow my head in contriteness and deep humiliation. You have the
floor, Professor.”

“May I ask you young gentlemen not to call me ‘professor’?” Dunbar
asked very earnestly.

“Why, of course, we will do as you like about that,” answered Larry;
“we have been calling you ‘professor’ merely out of respect, and you
told us you were or had been a professor in a college.”

“Yes, I know, and I thank you for your impulse of courtesy. I used the
word descriptively when I told you I had been a ‘professor’ of Natural
History. Used in that way it is inoffensive enough, but when employed
as a title—well, you know every tight-rope walker and every trapeze
performer calls himself ‘professor.’”

“Well, you must at least have a doctorate of some kind,” said Dick,
“and so you are entitled to be addressed as ‘Dr. Dunbar.’”

“No, not at all. Of course a number of colleges have offered me baubles
of that cheap sort—asking to make me ‘LL.D.,’ or ‘Ph. D.,’ or ‘L. H.
D.,’ or some other sham sort of a doctor, but I have always refused
upon principle. I hate shams, and as to these things, they seem to
me to work a grievous injustice. No man ought to be called ‘Doctor’
unless he has earned the degree by a prescribed course of study and
examinations. Honorary degrees are an affront to the men who have
won real degrees by years of hard study. With two or three hundred
colleges in this country, each scattering honorary degrees around and
multiplying them every year, all degrees have lost something of their
value and significance.”

“How shall we address you then?” asked Larry.

“Simply as ‘Mr. Dunbar.’ The President of the United States is entitled
to no other address than ‘Mr. President.’ In a republic certainly
‘Mr.’ ought to be title enough for any man. Call me ‘Mr. Dunbar,’
please.”

“Well, now, Mr. Dunbar, won’t you go on and tell us what you promised?”

“What was it? I have quite forgotten.”

“Why, you said you had been led to suspect that your fish—the kind
that takes wing and flies away into the bushes—had a sense of taste.
Did you mean to imply that fishes generally have no such sense?”

“Yes, certainly. There are very few fishes that have capacity of taste.
They have no need of it, as they bolt their food whole, and usually
alive. There are curious exceptions, and—”

“But, Mr. Dunbar,” interrupted Tom, “is it only because they swallow
their food whole that you think they have no sense of taste? Is there
any more certain way of finding out?”

“Yes, of course. The sense of taste is located in certain nerves,
called for that reason ‘gustatory nerves,’ or ‘taste goblets.’ Now,
as the fishes generally have no gustatory nerves or taste goblets, we
know positively that they do not and cannot taste their food. That is
definite; but the other reason I gave is sufficient in itself to settle
the matter. The gustatory nerves cannot taste any substance until it
is partially dissolved and brought into contact with them in its
dissolved state. You can test that for yourself by placing a dry lump
of sugar in your mouth. Until the saliva begins to dissolve it you can
no more recognize any taste in it than in a similar lump of marble.”

“But why do they eat so voraciously then? What pleasure do they find in
it?” asked Dick.

“Chiefly the pleasure of distending the stomach, but there is also
the natural craving of every living organism for sustenance, without
which it must suffer and die. That craving for sustenance is ordinarily
satisfied only by eating, but it may be satisfied in other ways.
Sometimes a man cannot swallow because of an obstruction in the canal
by which food reaches the stomach. In such cases the surgeons insert a
tube through the walls of the body and introduce food directly into the
stomach. That satisfies the desire for sustenance, though the patient
has not tasted anything. When a fish takes a run and jump at a minnow
and swallows it whole at a gulp, he is doing for himself much the same
thing that the surgeon does for his patient.”

“But, Mr. Dunbar,” Tom asked, “why is it then that the same species
of fish will take a particular kind of bait at one time of year and
won’t touch it at other times? In the very early spring I’ve caught
lots of perch on worms, while a little later they would take nothing
but live bait, and still later, when they were feeding on insects on
the surface, I’ve known them to nose even live bait out of their way,
refusing to take anything but the insects. If they don’t taste their
food, why do they behave in that way?”

“Frankly, I don’t know,” Dunbar answered. “I have formed many
conjectures on the subject, but all of them are unsatisfactory. Perhaps
somebody will solve the riddle some day, but at present I confess I
can’t answer it.”

Dunbar stopped as if he meant to say no more, and Tom became apologetic.

“Won’t you please go on, Mr. Dunbar? I’m sorry I interrupted.”

“Oh, but you must interrupt. If you don’t interpose with questions,
how am I to know whether I’ve made my meaning clear or not? And how am
I to know what else you wish to hear? No, no, no. Don’t withhold any
question that comes into your mind, or I shall feel that I’m making a
bore of myself by talking too much.”

“You spoke,” said Dick, “of certain fishes that are exceptions to the
rule.”

“Oh, yes; thank you. I meant to come back to that but forgot it. The
chief exception I know of is the bullhead, a small species of catfish
that abounds in northern waters, particularly in the Adirondack lakes.
The bullhead has gustatory nerves all over him. He can taste with his
tail, or his side, or his head, as well as with his mouth. Of course
there’s a good reason for the difference.”

“I suppose so, but I can’t imagine what it is,” said Larry.

“Neither can I,” echoed Tom and Dick. Cal continued the silence he had
not broken by a word since Dunbar had begun. Observing the fact, Dick
was troubled lest his playful suppression of Cal at the beginning had
wounded him. So, rising, he went over to Cal’s side, passed his arm
around him in warm friendly fashion, and said under his breath:

“Did you take me seriously, Cal? Are you hurt or offended?”

“No, you sympathetically sublimated idiot, of course not. It is only
that I want to hear all I can of Mr. Dunbar’s talk. You know I’ve
always been interested in fish—even when they refuse to take bait.
Hush. He’s about to begin again.”

“Oh, it is obvious enough when you think about it,” said Dunbar. “It
is a fundamental law of nature that every living thing, animal or
vegetable, shall tend to develop whatever organs or functions it has
need of, for defense against enemies or for securing the food it needs.
You see that everywhere, in the coloring of animals and in a thousand
other ways. The upper side of a flounder is exactly the color of the
sand on which he lies. That is to prevent the shark and other enemies
from seeing him and eating him up. But his under side, which cannot be
seen at all by his enemies, is white, because there is no need of color
in it. I could give you a hundred illustrations, but there is no need.
Your own daily observation will supply them.”

Again Dunbar paused, as if his mind had wandered far away and was
occupying itself with other subjects. After waiting for a minute or two
Cal ventured to jog his memory:

“As we are not familiar with the bullhead—we who live down South—we
don’t quite see the application of what you’ve been saying, Mr. Dunbar.
Would you mind explaining?”

“Oh, certainly not,” quickly answered the man of science, rousing
himself as if from sleep. “I was saying—it’s very ridiculous, but I’ve
quite forgotten what I was saying. Tell me.”

“You were telling us about the bullhead’s possession—”

“Oh, yes, I remember now. You see fishes generally hunt their prey
by sight, in the clear upper water and in broad daylight. They quit
feeding as soon as it becomes too dark to see the minnows or other
things they want to eat. As they hunt only by sight, they have no need
of the senses of smell and taste, and so those senses are not developed
in them. With the bullhead the thing is exactly turned around. He never
swims or feeds in the upper waters. He lives always on or very near
the bottom of comparatively deep water, in thick growths of grass,
where sight would be of little use to him for want of light. He feeds
almost entirely at night, so that those who fish for him rarely begin
their sport before the dusk falls. In such conditions Mr. Bullhead
finds it exceedingly convenient to be able to taste anything he may
happen to touch in his gropings. So with him the sense of taste is
the food-finding sense, and in the long ages since his species came
into being that sense has been developed out of all proportion to
the others. He has very little feeling and his nervous system is so
rudimentary that if you leave him in a pail without water and packed in
with a hundred others of his species, he seems to find very little to
distress him in the experience. You may keep him in the waterless pail
for twenty-four hours or more, and yet if you put him back into the
pond or lake he will swim away as unconcernedly as if nothing out of
the ordinary had happened. But then all species of fish are among the
very lowest forms of vertebrate creatures, so that they feel neither
pain nor pleasure at all keenly.”

Suddenly Dunbar ceased speaking for a minute. Then he seemed to speak
with some effort, saying:

“There are many other things I could tell you about fish, and if you’re
interested, I’ll do so at another time. I’m very sleepy now. May I pass
the night here?”

“Certainly. I’ll bring you some moss—”

“It isn’t at all necessary,” he answered, as he threw himself flat upon
the earth and fell instantly into a slumber so profound that it lasted
until Cal called him to breakfast next morning.



XXXI

DUNBAR’S STRANGE BEHAVIOR


DUNBAR was very silent during breakfast. He answered courteously when
spoken to, as he always did, and there was no suggestion of surliness
in his silence. In response to inquiries he declared that he had slept
well and hoped the boys had done the same. But he added no unnecessary
word to anything he said, and made no inquiries as to plans for
the day. His manner was that of a person suffering under grief or
apprehension or both.

As soon as breakfast was over he started off into the woods in a
direction opposite to that in which his camp lay. He took neither
his rifle nor his butterfly net with him. He simply walked into the
woodlands and disappeared.

At dinner time he was nowhere to be found. As evening drew near the
boys agreed to postpone their supper to a later hour than usual in
anticipation of his return. But late as it was when at last they sat
down to their evening meal, he was still missing.

The boys were beginning to be alarmed about him, for they had already
learned to like the man and regard him as a friend.

“We must do something at once,” suggested Dick.

“But what can we do?” asked Larry. “I confess I can think of few
possibilities in the way of searching for him at this time of a very
dark night—for the clouds completely shut out the moonlight. Has
anybody a suggestion to offer? What say you, Cal?”

“First of all,” was the reply, “we must carefully consider all the
possibilities of the situation. Then we shall be better able to lay
plans of rescue that may result in something. Let’s see. To begin
with, he hasn’t left Quasi. He hasn’t any boat and there is absolutely
no land communication with the main. So he is somewhere on Quasi
plantation.

“Secondly, what can have happened to him? Not many things that I can
think of. Old woods wanderer that he is, it isn’t likely that he has
succumbed to any woodland danger, if there are any such dangers here,
as there aren’t. There isn’t any wild beast here more threatening than
a deer or a ’possum. He had no gun with him, so he cannot have shot
himself by accident. He may have got lost, but that is exceedingly
unlikely. He is used to finding his way in the woods, and it is certain
that he thoroughly explored Quasi during the time he was marooned here
and flying his distress signal. If by any possible chance he is lost,
he’ll soon find himself again. The only other thing I think of is that
he may have tripped and fallen, breaking something.”

“I should doubt his doing that,” said Larry, “for he’s as nimble as any
cat I ever saw. Still, there’s the chance. What shall we do to meet it?”

“We can’t scatter out and search the woods and thickets in the dark,”
suggested Dick.

“No,” said Tom; “if we did he would have to go in search of four other
lost fellows if he should happen to turn up. But we can keep up a big
fire and we can go out a little way into the woods, fire our shotguns,
give all the college yells we know, and then listen.”

“Good suggestion, that about shooting and yelling,” said Cal. “Besides,
I like to yell on general principles. But we shan’t need to keep up a
bonfire, and the night is very hot.”

“But he might see the bonfire,” answered Tom in defense of his plan,
“and he’d come straight to it, of course, if he’s lost.”

“We’ll put up something else that he can see farther and better.”

“What?”

“A fat pine torch.”

“Where?”

“Did you observe a catalpa tree that stands all alone over there on the
highest part of the bluff, which is also the highest point in the whole
land of Quasi?”

“Of course, if you mean over there, near the _Hunkydory’s_ anchorage.”

“Yes, I mean that. There isn’t another tree anywhere near it. I can’t
imagine how it came to grow out there on that bald bluff, unless
somebody planted it. However, that’s no matter. The tree is there and
a torch fixed in the top of it could be seen from almost every nook
and corner of Quasi, while here we are in a pocket of trees and thick
growths of every kind. A bonfire here could be seen a very little way
off.”

Cal’s modification of Tom’s plan was promptly approved as the best
possible for that night. The company went into the woods, pausing at
several points to fire their guns and to yell like demons.

No results following, they returned and set to work making huge torches
of fat pine, one of which was kept burning in the tree-top throughout
the night, a fresh one being lighted whenever an old one burned out.

It was all to no purpose. Morning came and still there was no sign of
Dunbar.

Breakfast was cooked and eaten, together with a reserve supply of food
for the boys to carry with them on the search of the plantation, which
they had decided to make that day. Still no sign of the missing man!

“Now, Cal,” said Larry, “this thing is becoming serious. We must find
poor Mr. Dunbar to-day whatever else happens. We must scour the place
till we accomplish that. We must scatter, but we must see to it that
we get together again. Suppose you suggest a plan of procedure. You’re
better than any of us at that.”

“I will,” said Cal, who had lost all disposition to be facetious. “He
may be along the shore somewhere, so two of us had better follow the
sealine, one going one way and the other in the opposite direction.
They can cover double ground by going through the woods and open
glades, only keeping near enough the shore to see it well. The other
two will need no directions. Their duty will be to search the woods and
thickets. Where the woods are open they can cover the ground rapidly,
and also in the old fields wherever they haven’t grown up too thickly.
But the denser woods and canebrakes must be searched. Look particularly
for trails. No one can possibly pass into or through such growths
without leaving a trail behind. Look for trails and follow them; don’t
bother about the unbroken growths. Now as to getting back here. We
must all come back well before nightfall. No matter where we may be
on Quasi, it will be easy to find some point near from which the lone
catalpa tree can be seen. Make for that all of you and nobody will
get lost. Finally, if any of you find Mr. Dunbar and need help, fire
three shots about half a minute apart and we’ll all go to the point of
firing. Now let’s be off.”

It was nearly sunset when Tom reached the catalpa tree on his return.
He had not found Dunbar, but for reasons of his own he waited rather
impatiently for the coming of his comrades. They were not long delayed,
but the blank, anxious face of each as he appeared was a sufficient
report to the others.

“The search is a failure!” said Larry, dejectedly.

“Absolutely,” answered Cal.

“No, not absolutely,” said Tom, feeling in his pocket. “I found
something, and I’ve waited till you should all be here before speaking
of it.”

“What is it? Tell us quick.”

“This,” answered Tom, drawing forth a letter, “and this,” producing a
pruning knife with a curved blade, which they had all seen Dunbar use.
“The letter was pinned to a tree with the point of the knife blade.”

“Never mind that,” said Larry, impatiently; “read the letter.”

Tom read as follows:

 “I expect to be with you young gentlemen very soon. But in case
 I never see you again, please don’t think me ungrateful for all
 your kindnesses. There are times when I cannot endure a human
 presence—even the—”

Tom stopped reading, and explained:

“It breaks off right there, and there is no signature, or address, or
anything else.”

The boys stared at each other in amazement, and for a time uttered no
word. When they begun talking again it was only to wonder and offer
conjectures, and the conjectures seemed so futile that at last the
little company ceased to try to read the riddle. Then Larry said:

“Come on. There’s nothing more to be done to-night and we’re all half
famished. We must have a good hearty supper, and then perhaps we’ll
think of something more that we can do.”

“I doubt that,” said Cal; “but I say, Tom, you have a positive genius
for finding things—turtles’ eggs, smugglers’ camps, sweet potato
patches, letters hidden in the woods, and everything else. Perhaps
you’ll find poor Mr. Dunbar yet.”

“I was just thinking of some other things that we ought to find, and
that right away.”

“What things?”

“Why, Mr. Dunbar’s. You know he has never brought any of them to our
camp, and we know he writes and draws and all that. He must have some
place up near his old bivouac where he can keep his papers and drawings
and specimens dry. It seems to me we ought—”

“Of course we ought,” broke in Cal. “There may be something there to
give us a clue. What do you say, Larry?”

“It is a good suggestion of Tom’s, and we’ll act upon it at once.”

Turning in a direction opposite to that which led to their own camp the
boys visited the spot where Dunbar had lived before they came to Quasi.
They searched in every direction, but found no trace of any of the
man’s belongings. It was rapidly growing dark when at last they gave up
the work of exploring, and decided to resume it again in the morning.

As they approached their camp through the woods and thickets, they
were surprised to see their camp-fire blazing up briskly, though none
of them had been near it since the early morning. As they came out
of the bushes, they were still more astonished to see Dunbar busying
himself with supper preparations. Larry had just time enough before
Dunbar saw them to say to the others in an undertone:

“Not a word about this, boys, until he asks.”

“Good evening, young gentlemen,” was Dunbar’s greeting, delivered in
a cheery voice; “I have taken the liberty of getting supper under
way in anticipation of your coming. I am sure you must be tired and
hungry after a hard day’s shooting. By the way, a cup of tea is always
refreshing when one is tired, and fortunately I have a little packet of
the fragrant herb among my things. I’ll run up there and fetch it.”

As he spoke he started off briskly and nimbly.

“Evidently he isn’t tired, anyhow,” suggested Dick.

“And evidently he has some dry place in which to keep his things,”
added Cal, “and I mean to ask him about it.”

“Don’t,” said Larry, earnestly. “That would be grossly impertinent.”

“Not at all, if it’s done in the proper way,” Cal replied, “and I’ll do
it in that way.”

And he did. When Dunbar returned, he carried the tea, closely sealed up
in tin foil.

“Is that thin tin foil sufficient to keep tea dry?” Cal asked.

“If you keep the packet in a dry place it is,” Dunbar answered. “The
tin-foil prevents the delicate aroma of the tea from escaping, and at
the same time forbids the leaves to absorb moisture from the air. When
I’m moving about in a boat I carefully wrap any tea I may have in my
waterproof sheets, but that is apt to give it an undesirable flavor,
so my first care upon landing is to provide a dry storage place for
my tea, my ammunition, my papers and whatever else I may have that
needs protection. By the way, I’ve never shown you my locker up there.
I’ll do so to-morrow morning. I’ll not forget, as I must go there for
writing and drawing materials. I have some things in my mind that I
simply must put down on paper at once.”

At that moment he thrust his hand into his pocket and felt there for
some seconds. Then he said:

“That’s very unfortunate. I’ve managed to lose my knife.”

“I think I must have found it, then,” said Tom, holding it out; “isn’t
that it?”

“Yes, thank you. I’m particularly glad to get it again, as it is the
only one I have at Quasi. I usually buy half a dozen at a time, and so
the loss of one doesn’t annoy me. But just now I have only this one.”

He did not ask where or when Tom had found the knife, nor did he seem
in the least surprised that it was found. The circumstance did not seem
to remind him of his letter or of anything else.

The boys were full of wonder and curiosity, but they asked no
questions.



XXXII

A RAINY DAY WITH DUNBAR


DUNBAR was in excellent spirits that evening. He seemed indeed like one
who has had some specially good fortune happen to him, or one suddenly
relieved of some distress or sore annoyance.

Throughout the evening he talked with the boys in a way that greatly
interested them. He made no display of learning, but they easily
discovered that his information was both vast and varied, and better
still, that his thinking was sound, and that he was a master of the art
of so presenting his thought that others easily grasped and appreciated
it.

When at last the evening was completely gone, he bade his companions a
cheery good night, saying that he would go over to the bluff and sleep
near the catalpa tree.

“You see there are no sand flies to-night,” he explained, “and I like
to smell the salt water as I sleep.”

“What do you make of him, Larry?” Dick asked as soon as their guest was
beyond hearing.

“I don’t know. I’m puzzled. What’s your opinion?”

“Put it in the plural, for I’ve a different opinion every time I think
about it at all.”

“Anyhow,” said Tom, “he must be crazy. Just think—”

“Yes,” interrupted Cal, “but just think also how soundly he thinks.
Let’s just call him eccentric and let it go at that. And who wouldn’t
be eccentric, after living alone in the woods for so long?”

“After all,” Dick responded, “we’re not a commission in lunacy,
and we’re not under the smallest necessity of defining his mental
condition.”

“No,” Cal assented; “it’s a good deal better to enjoy his company and
his talk than to bother our heads about the condition of his. He’s one
of the most agreeable men I ever met—bright, cheerful, good natured,
scrupulously courteous, and about the most interesting talker I ever
listened to. So I for one give up trying to answer conundrums, and I’m
going to bed. I wouldn’t if he were here to go on talking, but after an
evening with him to lead the conversation, I find you fellows dull and
uninteresting. Good night. Oh, by the way, I’ll slip away from here
about daylight and get some pan fish for breakfast.”

Early as Cal was in setting out, he found Dunbar on the shore ready to
go with him.

“I hope to get a shark,” the naturalist said, “one big enough to show a
well-developed jaw, and they’re apt to bite at this early hour. I’ve a
line in the boat there with a copper wire snell.”

“Are you specially interested in sharks?”

“Oh, no, not ordinarily. It is only that I must make a careful drawing
or two, illustrative of the mechanical structure and action of a
shark’s jaw and teeth, to go with an article I’m writing on the general
subject of teeth in fishes, and I wish to draw the illustrations from
life rather than from memory. It will rain to-day, and I’m going to
avail myself of your hospitality and make the drawings under your
shelter.”

“Then perhaps you’ll let us see them?”

“Yes, of course, and all the other drawings I have in my portfolio, if
they interest you.”

“They will, if you will explain and expound a little.”

Dunbar gave a pleased little chuckle as he answered:

“I’ll do that to your heart’s content. You know, I really think I like
to hear myself talk sometimes.”

“Why shouldn’t you? Your talk would delight anybody else.”

“Here’s my shark,” excitedly cried Dunbar, as he played the fish. “He’s
nearly three feet long, too—a bigger one than I hoped for. Now if I
can only land him.”

“I’ll help you,” said Cal, leaning over the rail with a barbed gaff
hook in his hand. “Play him over this way—there, now once more
around—here he is safe and sound.”

As he spoke he lifted the savage-looking creature into the boat and
Dunbar managed, with some little difficulty, to free the hook from his
jaws without himself having a thumb or finger bitten off.

“Not a tooth broken!” he exclaimed with delight. “I’ll dissect out the
entire bony structure of the head to-day and make a drawing of it. Then
I’m going to pack it carefully in a little box that I’ll whittle out,
and present it—if you don’t mind—to young Wentworth. He may perhaps
value it as a souvenir of his visit to Quasi.”

Cal assented more than gladly, and the two busied themselves during
the next half hour completing their catch of whiting and croakers for
breakfast. When they reached the camp the rain Dunbar had predicted
had set in.

As soon as breakfast was over Dunbar redeemed his promise to show the
boys his lockers.

“I’m going over there now,” he said, “to get some paper, pencils and
drawing board. Suppose you go with me, if you want to see some of my
woodland devices.”

They assented gladly. They were very curious to see where and how their
guest cared for his perishable properties, the more because their own
search for the lockers had completely failed.

The matter proved simple enough. Dunbar led them a little way into the
woods and then, falling upon his knees, crawled into the end of a huge
hollow log. After he had reached the farther end of the hollow part he
lighted a little bunch of fat pine splinters to serve as a torch, and
invited his companions to look in. They saw that he had scraped away
all the decaying wood inside the log, leaving its hard shell as a bare
wall. In this he had fitted a number of little wooden hooks, to each of
which some of his belongings were suspended.

It was a curious collection. There were cards covered with butterflies,
moths and beetles, each impaled upon a large pin. There were the
beaks and talons of various birds of prey, each carefully labeled.
There were bunches of feathers of various hues, some dried botanical
specimens and much else of similar sorts.

From the farther end of the hollow he brought forth several compact
little portfolios, each so arranged that no rain could penetrate it
when all were bound together and carried like a knapsack.

“I’ll take two of these portfolios with me to your shelter,” he
said, taking them under his arm. “One of them contains the writing
and drawing materials that I shall need to-day. The other is filled
with my drawings of various interesting objects. Some of them may be
interesting to you during this rainy day, and each has a description
appended which will enable you to understand the meaning of it.”

But the boys had a rather brief time over the drawings that day. They
ran through a part of the portfolio while Dunbar was writing, but after
an hour he put his writing aside and began dissecting the shark’s head,
stopping now and then to make a little sketch of some detail. After
that the boys had no eyes but for the work he was doing and no ears but
for the things he said.

“You see there are comparatively few species of fish that have any
teeth at all. They have no need of teeth and therefore have never
developed them.”

“But why is that,” asked Tom; “I should think some of the toothless
varieties of fish would have developed teeth accidentally, as it were.”

“Development is never accidental in that sense, Tom. It is Nature’s
uniform law that every species of living thing, animal or vegetable,
shall tend to develop whatever is useful to it, and nothing else. That
is Nature’s plan for the perpetuation of life and the improvement of
species.”

After pausing in close attention to some detail of his work, Dunbar
went on:

“You can see the same dominant principle at work in the varying forms
of teeth developed by different species. The sheepshead needs teeth
only for the purpose of crushing the shells of barnacles and the like,
and in that way getting at its food. So in a sheepshead’s mouth you
find none but crushing teeth. The shark, as you see, has pointed teeth
so arranged in rows that one row closes down between two other rows in
the opposite jaw, and by a muscular arrangement the shark can work one
jaw to right and left with lightning-like rapidity, making the saw-like
row of teeth cut through almost anything after the manner of a reaping
machine. Then there is the pike. He has teeth altogether different from
either of the others. The pike swallows very large fish in proportion
to his own size, and his need is of teeth that will prevent his prey
from wriggling out of his mouth and escaping while he is slowly trying
to swallow it. Accordingly his teeth are as small and as sharp as
cambric needles. Moreover, he has them everywhere in his mouth—on his
lips, on his tongue, and even in his throat. However, this is no time
for a lecture. If you are interested in the subject you can study it
better by looking into fishes’ mouths than by listening to anybody talk
or by reading books on the subject.”

Again Dunbar paused in order that his attention might be closely
concentrated upon some delicate detail of his work.

When the strain upon his attention seemed at last to relax, Cal
ventured to say something—and it was startling to his comrades.

“Of course you’re right about the books on such subjects,” he said.
“For example, the most interesting of all facts about fish isn’t so
much as mentioned in any book I can find, though I’ve searched through
several libraries for it.”

“What is your fact?” asked Dunbar, suspending his work to listen.

“Why that fish do not die natural deaths. Not one of them in a million
ever does that.”

“But why do you think that, Cal? What proof is there—”

“Why, the thing’s obvious on its face. A dead fish floats, doesn’t it?
Well, in any good fishing water, such as the Adirondack lakes, where I
fished with my father one summer, there are millions of fish—big and
little—scores of millions, even hundreds of millions, if you count
shiners and the other minnows, that of a clear day lie in banks from
the bottom of the water to its surface. Now, if fish died natural
deaths in anything like the proportion that all other living things do,
the surface of such lakes would be constantly covered with dead fish.
Right here at Quasi and in all these coast waters the same thing is
true. Every creek mouth is full of fish and every shoal is alive with
them, so that we know in advance when we go fishing that we can catch
them as fast as we can take them off the hook. If any reasonable rate
of natural mortality prevailed among them every flood tide would strew
the shores with tons of dead fish. As nothing of the kind happens, it
seems to me certain that as a rule fish do not die a natural death.
In fact, most of them have no chance to do that, as they spend pretty
nearly their entire time in swallowing each other alive.”

“You are a close observer, Cal. You ought to become a man of science,”
said Dunbar with enthusiasm. “Science needs men of your kind.”

“Oh, I don’t know,” answered Cal. “I imagine Science can get on very
comfortably without any help of mine.”

“How did you come to notice all that, anyhow, Cal?” asked Dick.

“Oh, it didn’t take much to suggest that sort of thing, when the facts
were staring me in the face. Besides, I may be all wrong. What do you
think of my wild guess, Mr. Dunbar?”

“It isn’t a wild guess. Your conclusion may be right or wrong—I must
think of the subject carefully before I can form any opinion as to
that. But at any rate it is a conclusion reasoned out from a careful
observation of facts, and that is nothing like a wild guess.”

Thus the conversation drifted on throughout the long rainy day, and
when night came the boys were agreed that they had learned to know
Dunbar and appreciate him more than they could have done in weeks of
ordinary intercourse.



XXXIII

A GREAT CATASTROPHE


DURING the next fortnight or so the association between Dunbar and
the boys was intimate and constant. When it rained, so that outdoor
expeditions were not inviting, he toiled diligently at his writing
and drawing, keeping up an interesting conversation in the meanwhile
on all manner of subjects. In the evenings especially the talk around
the fire was entertaining to the boys and Dunbar seemed to enjoy it as
much as they. He was fond of “drawing them out” and listening to such
revelations of personal character and capacity as their unrestrained
discussions gave.

On fine days he made himself one of them, joining heartily in every
task and enthusiastically sharing every sport afloat or afield. He
was a good, strong oarsman and he could sail a boat as well as even
Dick could. In hunting, his woodcraft was wonderfully ingenious, and
among other things he taught the boys a dozen ways of securing game by
trapping and snaring.

“You see,” he explained, “one is liable sometimes to be caught in the
woods without his gun or without ammunition, and when that happens it
is handy to know how to get game enough to eat in other ways than by
shooting.”

During all this time he had no more of his strange moods. He never once
fell into the peculiar slumber the boys had observed before, and he
never absented himself from the company. Indeed, his enjoyment of human
association seemed to be more than ordinarily keen.

Little by little his comrades let the memory of his former eccentricity
fade out of their minds, or if they thought of it at all they dismissed
it as a thing of no significance, due, doubtless, to habitual living in
solitude.

One rainy afternoon he suddenly turned to the boys and asked:

“Does any one of you happen to know what day of the month this is? By
my count it must be somewhere about the twenty-fifth of August.”

“My little calendar,” said Cal, drawing the card from a pocket
and looking at it attentively for a moment, “takes the liberty of
differing with you in opinion, Mr. Dunbar. It insists that this is
the thirty-first day of August, of the year eighteen hundred and
eighty-six.”

Dunbar almost leaped to his feet in surprise. After a brief period of
thought he turned to Larry and asked:

“I wonder if you boys would mind sailing with me over to the nearest
postoffice town early to-morrow morning.”

“Why, you know, Mr. Dunbar,” Larry answered, “to-morrow morning is
mortgaged. We’re all going out after that deer you’ve located. Won’t
the next day answer just as well for your trip?”

“Unfortunately, no. I gave my word that I would post certain writings
and drawings to the publisher not later than noon on September 1,
and the printers simply must not be kept waiting. Of course, if you
can’t—”

“But we can and will,” answered Larry. “Your business is important—the
deer hunt is of no consequence. But you’ll come back with us, will you
not?”

“I shall be delighted to do so if I may,” he answered. “I’m enjoying it
here with you, and my work never before got on so well with so little
toil over it. I shall like to come back with you and stay at Quasi as
long as you boys do.”

“That’s good news—altogether good. How long are you likely to be
detained at the village?”

“Only long enough to post my letter and the manuscript—not more than
half an hour at the most.”

“Very well, then. We shall want to buy all the bread and that sort of
thing there is to be had over there, but we can easily do that within
your half hour. We’ll start about sunrise, and if the wind favors us
we’ll be back by noon or a little later, and even if we have no wind,
the oars will bring us back before nightfall.”

Dunbar at once set to work to arrange and pack the drawings he wished
to send by mail, and as there were titles to write and explanatory
paragraphs to revise, the work occupied him until supper time. In the
meanwhile the boys prepared the boat, filled the water kegs, bestowed a
supply of fishing tackle, and overhauled the rigging to see that every
rope was clear and every pulley in free running order.

After supper there was not a very long evening for talk around the
fire, for, with an early morning start in view, they must go early to
their bunks.

They all rolled themselves in their blankets about nine o’clock and
soon were sleeping soundly—the boys under the shelter and Dunbar under
the starry sky—for the rain had passed away—by that side of the fire
which was opposite the camp hut.

Their slumber had not lasted for an hour when suddenly they were
awakened by a combination of disturbances amply sufficient, as Dick
afterwards said, “to waken the denizens of a cemetery.”

The very earth was swaying under them and rocking back and forth like
a boat lying side on to a swell. Deep down—miles beneath the surface
it seemed, there was a roar which sounded to Cal like “forty thousand
loose-jointed wagons pulled by runaway horses across a rheumatic
bridge.”

As the boys sprang to their feet they found difficulty in standing
erect, and before they could run out of their shelter, it plunged
forward and fell into the fire, where the now dried palmete leaves
which constituted its roof and walls, and the resinous pine poles of
its framework, instantly blazed up in a fierce, crackling flame.

“Quick!” cried Dunbar, as Larry, Dick and Cal extricated themselves
from the mass, “quick—help here! Tom is entangled in the ruins.”

The response was instantaneous, and before the rapidly-spreading
flames could reach him, the other four had literally dragged their
comrade from the confused mass of poles and vines in which he had been
imprisoned. If the work of rescue had been prolonged for even a minute
more, it would have been too late, and Tom would have been burned to a
crisp. As it was, he was choking with smoke, coughing with a violence
that threatened the rupture of his breathing apparatus somewhere, and
so nearly smothered for want of air as to be only half conscious.

[Illustration: A MINUTE MORE, IT WOULD HAVE BEEN TOO LATE.
_Page 320._]

A bucket of water which Dunbar had dashed over him “set him going
again,” as he afterwards described the process of recovering breath and
consciousness, and as the paroxysms of coughing slowly ceased he stood
erect by way of announcing a recovery which he was still unable to
proclaim in words.

At that moment a second shock of earthquake occurred, a shock less
violent than the first, but sufficient to topple Tom and Larry off
their feet again.

It did no harm, chiefly because there was no further harm to do, and
the little company busied themselves saving what they could of their
belongings from the burning ruins.

After they had worked at this for ten minutes, a third shock came. It
was feebler than either of the others, but just as the boys felt the
earth swaying again there was an explosion under the burning mass,
followed by a rapid succession of smaller explosions which scattered
shot about in a way so dangerous that at Cal’s command all the company
threw themselves prone upon the ground.

This lasted for perhaps a minute, and fortunately nobody received a
charge of shot in his person from the bursting cartridges that had made
the racket. Fortunately, too, the box of cartridges thus caught in the
flames and destroyed was the only one involved in the catastrophe. The
rest had been kept, not in the hut, but in the _Hunkydory’s_ lockers.

But when they came to take account of their losses, which they did
as soon as the first excitement had passed away, they found that the
damage done had been considerable.

For one thing, their entire supply of meat was destroyed; so was their
bread and their coffee.

“We shall not starve, anyhow,” Cal decided. “We can kill as much game
as we need and as the bottom doesn’t seem to have dropped out of the
sea, we can still catch fish, oysters, shrimps and crabs. As for bread,
we still have Tom’s sweet potato patch to draw upon. There wasn’t more
than a pound of coffee left, so that’s no great loss.”

For the rest, the very few clothes the boys had brought with them in
addition to what they wore, were all lost, but they decided that they
could get on without them—“Mr. Dunbar’s fashion.” Tom was the worst
sufferer in that respect, as the garments he wore had been badly torn
in his rescue from the fire, but he cheerfully announced:

“I can manage very well. I’ll decline all dinner, dance and other
invitations that require a change from every-day dress. I’ll have some
cards engraved announcing that ‘Mr. Thomas Garnett is detained at the
South and will not be at home to receive his friends until further
notice.’ Then I’ll borrow some of your beetle-detaining pins, Mr.
Dunbar, and pin up the worst of the rents in my trousers.”

“We’ll do better than that, Tom,” the naturalist answered. “I’ve quite
a little sewing kit tucked away in my log locker. You shall have
needles, thread and a thimble whenever you wish to use them.”

“Thank you, Mr. Dunbar; but please spare me the thimble. I never
could use a contrivance of that kind. Every time I have tried I have
succeeded only in driving the needle into my hand and breaking it off
well beneath the skin.”

“Boy like,” answered Dunbar. “You’re the victim of a traditional defect
in our system of education.”

“Would you mind explaining?” asked Cal.

“Certainly not. I hold that the education of every human being ought
to include a reasonable mastery of all the simple arts that one is
likely to find useful in emergencies. We do not expect girls to become
accountants, as a rule, but we do not on that account leave the
multiplication table out of a girl’s school studies. In the same way
we do not expect boys generally to do much sewing when they grow to
manhood, but as every man is liable to meet emergencies in which a
little skill in the use of needle, thread and scissors may make all the
difference between comfort and discomfort, every boy ought to be taught
plain sewing. However, we have other things to think of just now.”

“Indeed we have,” answered Cal, “and the most pressing one of those
other things is to-morrow morning’s breakfast. Does it occur to any of
you that, except the salt in the dory’s locker, we haven’t an ounce of
food of any kind in our possession?”

“That is so,” “I hadn’t thought of that;” “and we’ll all be hungry,
too, for of course we shall not sleep”—these were the responses that
came quickly in answer to Cal’s suggestion.

“We’ll manage the matter in this way,” said Cal, quite as if no one
else had spoken. “When ’yon grey streaks that fret the clouds give
indication of the dawn,’ Mr. Dunbar will go fishing. As soon as it
grows light enough for you to walk through the woods without breaking
more than two or three necks apiece, the rest of you can take that big
piece of tarpaulin, go out to Tom’s potato patch, and bring back a
large supply of sweet potatoes. After breakfast one or two of us can
go for some game, while the rest repair damages here. It will take two
or three days to do that.”

As he spoke he looked about him as if to estimate the extent of the
harm done.

“Hello!” he cried out a moment later. “That’s bad, very bad.”

“What is it, Cal?”

“Why, our well has completely disappeared—filled up to the level
by the surrounding earth, which seems to have lost its head and in
that way got itself ‘into a hole,’ just as people do when they forget
discretion. That means that we’ve got to dig out the well to-day, and
in the meantime drink that stuff from the spring down under the bluff.
Our day’s work is cut out for us, sure enough.”

Tom had disappeared in the darkness while Cal was speaking, and as Cal
continued to speak for a considerable time afterwards, marking out what
Dick called a “programme of convenience,” he had not finished when Tom
returned and in breathless excitement announced that the spring under
the bluff was no more.

“The whole of that part of the bluff has slumped down to the beach,”
he said, “and even the big catalpa tree is uprooted and overturned.
Of course the spring is completely filled up, and we’ll all be half
famished for water before we get the well dug out again.”

“Don’t indulge in too hopeless a grief over the loss of the spring,
Tom,” said Cal in his most confidently optimistic tone. “We can make
another just as good anywhere down there in half an hour or less. That
puddle held nothing but sea water that had leaked through the sand,
partly filtering itself in doing so. We can dig a little hole anywhere
down that way, and if we choose the right sort of place we’ll get
better water than the spring ever yielded. I’ll look after that when
Mr. Dunbar and I go fishing. We’ll have the sand out of this well by
noon, too—it’s very loose and easily handled.”

“But, Cal,” interrupted Tom; “we haven’t a thing to dig with. The two
shovels we had were in the hut.”

The others stood aghast; Cal faced the situation with hopeful
confidence.

“That’s bad,” he commented. “Of course the handles are burned up, but
the iron part remains, and even with the meagre supply of cutting tools
we have—which is to say our jackknives and the little ax—we can
fashion new ones. It will take valuable time, but we must reconcile
ourselves to that.”

“Well, we must get to work at something—it’s hard to know where to
begin,” said Larry in a despondent tone. “What’s the first thing to be
done, Cal?”

“The first thing to be done is to cheer up; the next thing is to stay
cheered up. You fellows are in the dumps worse than the well is, and
you’ve got to get out of them if you have to lift yourselves out by
the straps of your own boots. What’s the matter with you, anyhow? Have
we lived a life of easy luxury here at Quasi for so long that you’ve
forgotten that this is an expedition in search of sport and adventure?
Isn’t this earthquake overthrow an adventure of the liveliest sort?
Isn’t the loss of our belongings by fire a particularly adventurous
happening?”

“After all,” broke in Tom, who had a genuine relish for danger,
difficulty and hardship, “after all, we’re not in half as bad a
situation as we were when we faced the revenue officers from behind our
log breastwork. Our lives were really in danger then, while now we have
nothing worse than difficulty to face.”

“Yes, and a few months hence we’ll all remember this thing with joy and
talk of it with glee.”

“You’re right about that,” said Dunbar, “and it is always so. I have
gone through many trying experiences, and as I recall them the most
severely trying of them are the ones I remember with the greatest
pleasure. Besides, in this case the way of escape, even from such
difficulties as lie before you, is wide open. The dory is at anchor
down there and if you are so minded you can sail away from it all.”

“What! Turn tail and run!” exclaimed Tom, almost indignantly.

“No, we’re not thinking of that,” said Cal. “We’ll see the thing out,
and, by the way, it’s growing daylight. Come, Mr. Dunbar! We have a
pressing engagement with the fish and we must have an early breakfast
this morning on all accounts. We have a lot to do, and you mustn’t be
later than noon in reaching the postoffice, you know.”

“Oh, I’ve abandoned that,” responded Dunbar.

“But why?” asked Larry. “Of course we can’t go with you as we planned,
but you can take the dory and make the trip for yourself. And perhaps
you won’t mind taking some money along and buying out whatever food
supplies the country store over there can furnish. We need bread
especially, and coffee and—”

“And a few pounds of cheese won’t come amiss,” added Dick.

“But I tell you I am not going,” said Dunbar. “I have accepted and
enjoyed your hospitality when all was going well with you; do you
suppose I’m going to abandon you even for a day, now that you’re in
trouble and need all the help you can get?”

“Your reasoning is excellent,” said Cal, purposely lapsing into his
old habit of elaborate speech, by way of relieving the tension that
had made his comrades feel hurried and harassed; “your reasoning
is excellent, but your premises are utterly wrong. You can help us
mightily by sailing up to that postoffice town and bringing back the
supplies we need, while you cannot help us at all by remaining here. We
four are more than enough to keep the few tools we have left constantly
busy. With a fifth person included in the construction gang, there
would always be one of us who must idly hold his hands for want of
anything to work with. No, Mr. Dunbar, the best service you can render
to the common cause is to sail up to the village, redeem your promise
by mailing your papers, and bring back all you can of provisions
adapted to our use. So that’s settled, isn’t it, boys?”

Their answer left no room for further argument, and as the daylight
was steadily growing stronger, the party separated, Cal and Dunbar
going in quest of fish for breakfast, and the others struggling through
tangled thickets toward the wild sweet potato field.



XXXIV

MAROONED AT QUASI


IT was a bright, sunny day that followed—a day offering no suggestion
of the convulsion of the night before. There was a good sailing breeze
blowing in from the sea. It gave Dunbar the wind over the starboard
quarter for his voyage to the village, and promised to be nearly abeam
for his return.

“The dory will take me there and back by noon or a little later,” he
called to the others as the sails filled and the boat heeled over to
port.

The Rutledge boys had urged him to take the money they offered him for
the purchase of supplies, but he had declined.

“I have a plenty of my own,” was his answer, “and whatever I can buy up
there I’ll bring back as my contribution to the general welfare.”

It was idle to argue the matter, and not very safe either, Dick
thought, for in their intercourse with him the boys had learned that
with all his kindly good-nature, Dunbar was exceedingly proud and very
sensitive.

When the dory had gone, the boys set to work with a will upon the task
of re-establishing Camp Quasi. Tom was sent out after game. Dick,
who was the cleverest of them all in using tools, and especially
his jackknife, busied himself in fitting new handles into their two
shovels. With these and the bait pails for excavating tools, the three
who remained in camp toiled diligently in removing the sand from their
well.

Tom returned a little before noon, bringing in game enough of one kind
and another to keep the company in meat for two days to come.

There was no sign of Dunbar and the dory as yet, and as the rest were
hungry, it was decided that Cal should cook dinner at once, while Tom
worked at the well in his stead. The cooking occupied a considerable
time, and it was two o’clock in the afternoon when the tired boys
finished eating. They had not slept since the earthquake at ten o’clock
the night before; they had worked hard during the night in an endeavor
to save what they could of their belongings, and they had worked still
harder ever since dawn. Moreover, the excitement had been even more
wearying than the work. Now that it had passed away and its victims
had eaten a hearty dinner, the desire for rest and sleep became
irresistible.

Cal had made measurements and reported that two hours more of digging,
or perhaps even less than that, would give them a water supply once
more. At Larry’s suggestion, therefore, the worn-out fellows decided to
sleep for an hour or two.

“We’ll do the rest of the well-digging in the cool of the late
afternoon,” he said between a succession of yawns.

“Let’s hope,” said Tom, “that Mr. Dunbar won’t get here and wake us up
before we’re ready.”

“There’s not much danger of that,” answered Cal.

“Why not, Cal?”

“You’d know without asking if you were as observant to-day as you
usually are. I suppose you didn’t notice that the wind died out before
noon, and there hasn’t been a sailing breath since.”

“That’s so,” said Tom, “and he’ll have to row the whole way. I ought to
have thought of that.”

“Well, please don’t apologize now. It would only keep us awake when
every moment is precious for slumber. I give notice now that I’m asleep
and you can’t pull another word out of me with a corkscrew.”

When the weary fellows waked the afternoon was nearly gone, but before
resuming their work, and by way of refreshing themselves for it, they
went down to the beach and took a plunge into the sea.

“No sign of Mr. Dunbar yet,” said Tom, who was beginning to be uneasy.

“No,” answered Larry, “but we needn’t bother about him. He’ll turn up
quite unexpectedly when he gets ready. He always does that you know.
What we’ve got to do is to finish our well in the shortest possible
time. So, on with your duds, and let’s get to work.”

“You’re ‘mighty right,’ Larry,” said Dick. “I’ve quenched my thirst
with sour wild grapes till my teeth have an edge like those of a
buck-saw, and I begin to crave some unseasoned water.”

“I imagine we’re all in the same condition,” said Cal, as they hurried
back to the ruins of the camp, “and it is altogether well that we are
so.”

“How’s that, Cal?”

“Why, stimulated by thirst and encouraged by a sure prospect of reward,
we’ll stop fooling away our time and do a little real work.”

Two hours later there was an abundant water supply in the well, and
it had so far “settled” that the boys drank it freely with their late
supper.

When the meal was over they all strolled down to the shore again and
listened for the sound of oars in the direction from which Dunbar was
expected. Nobody had suggested this. No word of uneasiness had been
uttered, but every member of the company was in fact uneasy about the
missing member of the group. After their return to camp this feeling
was recognized as something in the minds of all. Presently Tom offered
a suggestion:

“What do you think, Larry? Won’t it be just as well to show a light
down that way, in case he should have trouble in finding the landing
during the night?”

“That’s a good idea, Tom, but we’re so nearly out of oil now—indeed,
we haven’t any except what is in the lanterns—that it must be a
torch—”

“Or a camp-fire,” suggested Cal. “There are no sand flies to-night, and
there’s nothing to keep us here. Why not move down to the bluffs and
build a camp-fire there? Then we can sleep by it and keep it going all
night.”

This plan was carried out, but it resulted in nothing. When the boys
returned to their work of rebuilding the shelter the next morning,
Dunbar had not yet made his appearance, nor was anything to be seen of
the dory in such of the waterways as were open to view between the mud
marshes that dotted the great bay or inlet in every direction.

But as the boys busied themselves with their work on the hut, their
minds were occupied and their anxiety as to Dunbar was less than during
the night before.

When another day had passed, however, and still Dunbar did not return,
that anxiety became very keen indeed. They built their fire again on
the bluff, and they tried hard to sleep by it, but with little success.
They would resolve to stop talking and go to sleep, and for a few
minutes all would be quiet. Then one after another would grow restless
and sit up, or walk about, or say something that set the talk going
again.

Presently, when all had given up the attempt to sleep, Larry made a
final end of all efforts in that direction by saying:

“You see, boys, this thing is really very serious. We are all anxious
about Mr. Dunbar’s safety, but we’ve got our own to think about also.”

Every one of the company had thought of that, but until now all of them
had avoided mentioning it.

“You see it isn’t Mr. Dunbar alone that is missing; the dory is gone
too, and if he doesn’t return the dory won’t.”

“No, and in that case,” commented Dick, “our situation will be really
very serious. We are here on what is practically an island that nobody
ever visits; we are without a boat, and there is no possible way of
escape from here without one.”

“Can’t we build some sort of craft that will answer our purpose?” asked
Tom, hopefully.

“What with?” Larry responded. “We have no materials and no tools except
the one little ax. There isn’t so much as a nail anywhere on Quasi
plantation, and if there were kegs full, we haven’t a hammer to hit
them with.”

“We might drive nails with stones,” suggested Dick.

“We might if we had one of your Massachusetts quarries to furnish the
stones. But on all this coast there isn’t a rock or a stone as big as a
filbert. No, we have no tools and no substitutes for tools.”

“Yes,” growled Cal, who alone was lying down with closed eyes in an
endeavor to get to sleep, “and you fellows are doing all you can
to wear out the strength we need for the emergency by profitless
chatter, when we ought to be sleeping and refreshing ourselves to meet
conditions as they arise. Don’t you see the folly of that? Don’t you
realize that you aren’t bettering things, but making them worse?

“The very worst preparation for meeting difficulties is to fall into
a panic about them. Besides, there’s no occasion for panic or for
melancholy brooding; Dunbar may turn up with the dory safe and sound.
If he doesn’t, I grant you we’ll have some problems to wrestle with
and we’ll need the clearest heads we can keep on our shoulders. You’re
doing all you can to muddle them.”

“But, Cal, it is necessary to face this situation and think of ways in
which—”

“That’s precisely what you’re not doing. Not one of you has offered a
single suggestion that is worth while. Besides, this isn’t the time for
that. Troubles always look worse at night than by daylight. The best we
can do now is to make up our minds to two things.”

“What are they, Cal?”

“First, that if we’re in a hole, we’ll find some way of getting out of
it, and, second, that it is high time to go to sleep.”

“Have you thought of any plans, Cal?”

“Not exactly; but I have some ideas that may be worthy of attention on
the part of this distinguished company, if this distinguished company
will individually and collectively stop gabbing and let sleep respond
to the wooing of closed eyelids. Silence in camp!”



XXXV

AGAIN TOM FINDS SOMETHING


WHEN morning came all the boys admitted that Cal had been right in
saying that troubles exaggerate themselves at night and seem far
less hopeless when faced by daylight. The situation was the same
that morning that it had been at midnight, but it did not seem so
bad. Dunbar had not appeared and every hour that passed made it less
probable that he ever would return. But somehow even that prospect did
not altogether appal the boys when they thought of it by daylight.

Nevertheless, their minds were greatly disturbed as they waited
throughout that day for Cal to unbosom himself of the ideas and
suggestions he had promised to offer. They hoped he would do so at
breakfast, but he talked instead of plans for that day’s work in
rebuilding the hut. While they were engaged in building it there was no
opportunity for him to set forth his views; they could not get together
to hear his plans without delaying the work, and they were agreed that
nothing must be permitted to interrupt that. They looked forward to
dinner as the opportunity he would probably seize upon for explaining,
but when during that meal some one threw out a hint that that was as
good a time as any, Cal replied:

“We’ll wait till evening; we must give Mr. Dunbar till then to return.
If he doesn’t put in an appearance by sunset to-day we may as well give
up looking for him. Then will be the time for discussing the situation
and planning ways out of it. Now we’ll all get to work again.”

There was something in Cal’s manner and in his general cheerfulness
which comforted his comrades, though it would have puzzled them to say
how or why. It was evident at any rate that Cal had not lost hope. It
was obvious that he saw nothing in the situation that should suggest
despair, and his manifest confidence was in some degree contagious.

The sun was still an hour high when suddenly Cal called out:

“Suppose we let it go at that, boys. The thing’s good enough as it
stands and we can get on with it for the few weeks that remain of our
stay at Quasi.”

“Then you really see a way out?” asked Larry. “What is it?”

“Come on over to the bluff and we’ll have a last look for Mr. Dunbar.
If he isn’t within sight we’ll give him up and make up our minds that
we shall never see the _Hunkydory_ again. Then we’ll talk the thing
over and see what is to be done.”

They set out for the bluff, restraining their impatience to hear what
Cal might have to say with a good deal of difficulty, and only because
they must. They knew he would say nothing until he should be ready, and
that if they hurried him he would remain silent the longer.

No sign appearing of Dunbar or the dory, Cal sat down with the others
and seemed ready to say what was in his mind.

“This is a situation that we didn’t reckon upon, but it is by no means
hopeless, and we shall enjoy talking about it as the crowning event in
our trip to Quasi when we come to think of it only as a memory.”

“But we’re not out of it yet,” interrupted Larry, “and I for one see no
prospect of getting out.”

“There speaks despair, born of pessimism,” Cal smilingly said. “‘Hope
springs eternal in the human breast,’ you know, and my breast is
altogether human and hopeful. But let us suppose your despair is well
founded, and see what then. At worst we shall not starve to death.
There is plenty of game—”

“Yes, and fish too,” Tom interjected.

“Yes, and fish too. It won’t be easy to get them without a boat, but
we’ll manage in some way.”

“We can easily make a raft to fish from,” suggested Dick.

“I had thought of that,” resumed Cal, “but it’s impracticable.”

“Why so?”

“Because we have no anchor and nothing that will serve as a substitute
for one. Of course the tide would quickly sweep our raft away from any
bar we might try to fish upon. No, what fish we get will have to be
caught with the castnet at low tide, and in the mouths of sloughs where
mullets feed, particularly at night. But there is game, and there are
oysters, and no end of crabs. We shall not starve to death. We have no
bread left, and Tom’s sweet potato patch is about exhausted, but we can
live on the other things for the two or three weeks that we must stay
here.”

“You’ve said something like that several times, Cal,” said Larry, with
a touch of impatience. “What do you mean by it?”

“I mean that this is the beginning of September; that the college
session will begin on the first of October—less than a month hence;
that our honored parents expect us to be in attendance at that time;
and that if we don’t get home in time to pack our trunks they will
send out and search for us; and finally, that as Major Rutledge, of
Charleston, whom I have the honor to call father, knew in advance that
we intended to visit Quasi on this trip, Quasi will be the place at
which he will first look for us. So we’ll have our little frolic out
and it will be great fun to tell the fellows at college about it after
we get acquainted with them.”

The spirits of the boys responded promptly to Cal’s confident prophecy,
which indeed was not so much a prophecy as a statement of simple facts
known to all of them, though in their half panic-stricken mood they had
not thought of them before.

Presently Dick had something to say that added a new impulse to
activity.

“Of course, Cal is right, and we’ll be rescued from Quasi before the
end of the month, but I for one would like us to get away without being
rescued. Think of the alarm and distress our mothers will suffer if we
do not turn up in time, especially as this earthquake has happened.
They will think we’ve come to grief in some way and—I say, boys, we
simply _must_ get away from here before they take the alarm.”

“We certainly ought to if there was any way,” said Cal, “but of course
there isn’t.”

“Yes, there is,” answered Dick, confidently. “You’re the pessimist this
time, Cal.”

“Go ahead and tell us your plan,” responded Cal. “I’m always ready for
the hopeful prospect if I can find it. What do you propose, Dick?”

“To build a sort of catamaran. It can’t be much of a craft because we
have no tools and no fit materials, but these waters are so closely
land-locked that all we need is to make something that will float. We
can paddle it to the village up there, ten miles or so away, and from
there we can walk to the railroad.”

“So far, so good,” said Cal, when Dick ceased to speak. “Go on and tell
us the rest.”

“What do you mean?”

“Why the ‘how’ of it all. What is the plan of your catamaran, and how
are we to make it?”

“Don’t be sceptical, Cal, till you’ve—”

“I’m not sceptical—not a bit. I’m only asking what we are to do
and how, so that we may get to work at it early in the morning, or
to-night, for that matter, if there’s anything that can be done by fire
light. You spoke of our parents awhile ago, and of the alarm they must
feel if we don’t get back on time. I’ve been thinking of my mother
ever since. She’s an invalid, you know, and a shock of that sort might
kill her. So I’m ready to work by night or by day, or both, if it will
help to spare her. Go on and tell us your plan.”

“I will. You know, of course, what a catamaran is, so I need not
explain that. We will cut two logs, about twelve or fourteen feet long,
one of them eight or ten inches thick and the other a mere pole. We’ll
hew their ends sharp—boat-fashion—and lay them parallel to each
other, seven feet or so apart. We’ll fasten them securely in place with
stout poles at the bow and stern and amidships, binding the poles in
place with limber vines. That will complete our framework. Then we’ll
place a light pole longitudinally on the cross braces and about three
feet inside the larger of our two logs. From the log to this pole
we’ll construct a light deck of cane on which to stand as we paddle
and push the craft along. Of course it will be a rude thing, very hard
to manage, but as no part of it will be in the water except the two
logs—one a mere pole—it will offer very little resistance, not half
as much as a raft would.”

“No, not a tenth,” answered Larry.

“Come on,” said Cal. “We’re burning daylight. This job is yours, Dick,
and you are to boss it, but I’ll be foreman of the gang and keep
myself and the rest of you at work. We’ll let supper go till after
dark, and utilize what’s left of the daylight in cutting cane, vines,
poles and whatever else you need. Then we’ll be ready in the morning
to cut the logs and begin the work of construction. Hoop la! We’ll be
afloat again before the week’s up! Dick, you’re a dandy, and I’ll never
accuse you of pessimism again. ‘Look up and not down, forward and not
back, out and not in, and lend a hand.’ Dr. Hale put all there is of
sound philosophy into that one sentence.”

After the darkness made an end of work for that day the boys sat down
gleefully to their supper, and hopefully laid plans for the morrow.
Presently Larry jestingly turned to Tom:

“It’s your turn now, Tom. You are credited in this company with
something like a genius for finding things at the critical moment when
we need them most. Why don’t you bring your abilities to bear on the
present situation and find something—a chest of tools or a keg of
nails, or something else useful?”

“Perhaps I will,” answered Tom. “Anyhow, I’m going out now to see what
I can find in three traps I set yesterday. There have been coon tracks
over that way every morning recently, and the gentleman who made them
may have walked into one of my traps.”

The boys kept a number of torches ready for lighting, now that the lack
of oil rendered the lanterns useless, and taking one of these with
him, Tom set out to inspect his traps. He was gone for so long that
his comrades were wondering what had become of him, when suddenly he
appeared, coming from the direction of the bluff, though he had gone
quite the opposite way.

“Did you get your coon?” asked Larry.

“No,” said Tom; “but I found something.”

“What was it, and where is it?”

“Be patient and I’ll tell you about it. After I had looked at my traps
it occurred to me that I might as well come back by way of the bluffs,
on the chance—”

“Ah, I guess it all,” interrupted Cal. “You found the dory at anchor
there and Mr. Dunbar busy polishing his finger nails preparatory to his
return to camp. Or perhaps you found a—”

“Stop your nonsense, Cal,” commanded Larry. “Don’t you see that Tom
really has something to tell us!”

“Go ahead, Tom; I’m as mum as the Sphinx,” answered Cal, who found it
difficult to keep his jubilant spirits within bounds now that he had
something to do which promised results.

Tom resumed:

“I don’t know whether it means anything or not, but it’s interesting
at any rate and I may as well tell you about it. As I was passing the
uprooted catalpa tree, my foot sank into wet sand, and as the sand
there had always been as dry as powder, I looked about to see what it
meant. To my surprise I saw water trickling out from under the roots
of the tree, and I went close up to inspect. As I was looking at the
new-born spring my eye was caught by something curiously entangled
among the upturned roots of the tree. It was so wound about by the
roots and so buried in sand that I could make out its shape only in
part, and that with difficulty. To make matters worse my torch was
burned out by that time, so that I had only my fingers to explore with.
I felt of the thing carefully, and made out that it is a keg of the
kind that people sell gunpowder in. But I could get at only a small
part of the chine, so I could learn no more about it. We can cut the
roots away and dig it out to-morrow.”

“We’ll cut the roots away and dig it out to-night,” answered Cal,
rising and lighting a torch. “We have work to do to-morrow and can’t
spare time. Besides, this is a mystery and we sha’n’t sleep till we
solve it; grab a cold torch each of you and come on. I’ll carry the
little ax.”



XXXVI

WHAT THE EARTH GAVE UP


TOM’S account of the way in which the powderkeg was entangled in the
roots of the catalpa tree was more than borne out by the fact as the
boys found it. It seemed to them a wonder that Tom had discovered it
at all, so completely was it wrapped up in the knotted mass of root
growths.

After digging away the earth until the whole root entanglement was
exposed to view, the boys set Dick Wentworth at work cutting away the
roots with his jackknife, a thing at which only one person could work
at a time. When Dick’s hand grew tired, another of the boys relieved
him at the task and the work was hurried as much as possible, not
so much because it was growing late as because the little company’s
curiosity was intense.

“Wonder how on earth anybody ever got the thing under the roots of a
tree that way?” ventured Tom, as he toiled with his knife.

“Simple enough,” answered Cal. “He didn’t do it.”

“How did it get there, then?”

“Why, the tree grew there after the keg was buried, of course. Somebody
stuck a catalpa bean in the ground directly over the keg. Probably the
man who buried the thing did that; he wanted to provide a landmark by
which to find the spot again, and probably he knew there wasn’t another
catalpa tree on all Quasi plantation.”

“But that tree has been standing here a long time—twenty or
twenty-five years I should say.”

“That only means that the keg was buried here twenty or twenty-five
years ago at the least, and ’pon my word, it looks it.”

“What I’m wondering about,” interposed Larry, “is what the keg
contains. It must be something important or nobody would have taken the
pains to bury it and plant a tree over it.”

“And yet,” argued Dick, “if it is anything important, why did anybody
bury it away out here and never come back for it?”

“It all depends,” answered Cal, “on just what you mean by ‘important.’
Things are important sometimes and utterly unimportant at others;
important to one person and of no consequence to anybody else. At this
moment I feel that my breakfast in the morning is becoming a thing of
very great importance to me; but I don’t suppose poor Dunbar, wherever
he is, cares a fig about it.”

“By the way, what can have become of the poor fellow? I wonder if he
managed to fall out of the dory and get drowned?”

It was Tom who asked the question. Cal, who had thought a great deal
about the matter, answered it promptly:

“That isn’t likely,” he said. “Indeed, it is scarcely possible. Dunbar
was too good a boatman to fall overboard, and too good a swimmer to
drown if he did. He would have climbed back into the dory with no worse
consequence than a ducking in warm sea water.”

“What’s your theory then, Cal?”

“Why, that he has had one of his peculiar ‘spells.’ You remember that
when he was missing from camp the last time he wrote us a letter, but
when his lost knife was returned to him he seemed to remember nothing
about it. More than that, he seemed to think the day he returned was
the same as the day he went away. In other words, his memory was a
blank as to the time he was away. Then, too, you remember that when we
first found him here he couldn’t remember whether he had come three
weeks or four weeks before. Still again, you remember how badly he was
mixed up about the date just before he went away this time, and that
too in spite of the fact that he had important papers to post before a
given time.”

“Then you think he’s crazy?”

“I don’t know about that, because I’m not a doctor or an alienist, or
anything else of the kind. But I think he has a way of losing himself
now and then, though at ordinary times his head is a remarkably clear
one.”

“I have read of such cases,” said Dick. “They call it ‘double
consciousness,’ I believe. I don’t know whether it is regarded as a
kind of insanity or not. Then you think, Cal—”

“I hardly know what I think. You see I don’t know the facts in this
case. We know absolutely nothing of what Dunbar did or what happened
to him after he passed out of sight behind the marsh island over
there. So we haven’t enough facts to base any thinking at all upon.
But it has occurred to me that after he left us one of his fits of
self-forgetfulness may have come on, and it may have lasted ever since.”

At this point the discussion of Dunbar’s case was brought to an end by
an unexpected happening. As Tom tugged hard at one of the larger roots
in an effort to loosen its hold, the keg suddenly fell to pieces. The
oaken staves and headings seemed still to be fairly sound, but the
iron hoops that had held the keg together had been so eaten with rust
that they fell into fragments under the strain and the staves tumbled
together in a loose pile.

From among them Tom drew forth something, and all the boys held their
torches close while examining it.

“What is it, anyhow?” was the question on every lip.

“It’s very heavy for its size,” said Tom, poising it in his hand.

“Of course it is,” answered Cal. “Lead usually is heavy for its size.
But that’s a box, made of lead. If it were solid it would be a good
deal heavier. Open it, Tom.”

“I can’t. It doesn’t seem to have any opening or any seams of any kind.
Look at it for yourself, Cal.”

As he spoke he handed the thing to his comrade. It was an oblong mass,
seemingly hollow, but showing no sign of an opening anywhere. It was
about ten or eleven inches in length, a little more than four inches
wide, and about two inches thick from top to bottom. The surface was
much corroded, but Larry thought he discovered a partly obliterated
inscription of some kind upon it.

“We must stop handling the thing carelessly,” he said. “Corroded as
the surface is we might rub the inscription off, and in that way rob
ourselves of the means of making out the meaning of the thing. We’ll
carry it carefully to camp, quicken up the fire with plenty of light
wood, and then make a minute examination of the curious find. Tom, you
may have found a fortune for yourself this time, who knows?”

“Or a misfortune,” suggested Dick, who in his childhood had been a
firm believer in all the mysteries and wonder workings recorded in
the Arabian Night’s Entertainments, and still recalled them upon the
smallest suggestion. “Shut up as it is, with no sign of an opening, who
knows but that it bears Solomon’s seal on it? The inscription may be
Solomon’s autograph, put there to hold captive some malicious genie. We
all know what happened to the fisherman who let the smoke out of the
copper vase.”

“Oh, I’ll take my chances on that sort of thing,” laughingly answered
Tom, who, as the discoverer, was recognized by his comrades as the
rightful owner of the box and the person entitled to say what should be
done with it.

“Of course,” said Cal. “Genii don’t play tricks in our time and
country. They’re afraid of the constable.”

The boys had reached the camp now, and a few minutes later a pile of
blazing fat pine made the space around it as light as day. For an hour,
perhaps, the boys minutely examined the queer casket. There was, or
had been, an inscription cut upon its upper surface with the point of
a penknife, but the corroding of the surface had so far obliterated it
that the boys succeeded only in doubtfully guessing at a half-effaced
letter here and there and in making out the figures 865 at the end of
the writing.

“That’s the date,” said Larry—“1865, the figure one obliterated.
Obviously the inscription tells us nothing. What next, Tom?”

Tom was minutely examining the sides of the case, scraping off the rust
with his thumb nail. Presently, instead of answering Larry’s question,
he cried out:

“Eureka! See here, boys! This box was made in two pieces exactly alike,
one top and the other bottom. The two have been fitted together and
then a hot iron has been drawn over the seam, completely obliterating
it. It’s the nicest job of sealing a thing up water tight and air tight
that I ever saw, but I’m going to spoil it.”

With that he opened his jackknife and very carefully drew its point
along the line where the upper and lower halves of the casket had been
joined. After he had traced the line twice with the knife point the two
halves suddenly fell apart, and some neatly folded and endorsed papers
were found within.

Tom began reading the endorsements, but before he had run half through
the first one he leaped up, waving the documents over his head and
shouting “hurrah!” in a way that Cal said was “like the howling of a
demon accidentally involved with the accentuations of a buzz saw.”

After a moment the excited boy so far calmed his enthusiasm as to throw
the bundle of papers into Larry’s face, shouting:

“I’ve found the Quasi deeds! I’ve saved Quasi to its rightful owners!
Why don’t you all hurrah with me, you snails, you dormice or dormouses,
whichever is the proper plural of dormouse? There are the papers and it
was Tom Garnett who found them! For once prying curiosity has served a
good turn. Now, all together! Hip, hip, hip, hurrah!”

The others joined heartily in the cheering that seemed necessary for
the relief of Tom’s excitement, and half-spoken, half-ejaculated
congratulations occupied the next five minutes.

After that the whole party sat down to hear the results of the more
thorough examination of the papers, which Larry was delegated to make.

“Yes, these are the deeds,” he reported, “uninjured by time or damp or
anything else, thanks to our grandfather’s care in sealing that leaden
box. They were executed in May, 1861, and see, down in a corner of each
is written:

“‘Recorded in the clerk’s office of Beaufort District, liber 211, pp.
371, 372, 373. J. S., Clerk.’

“And here’s a memorandum in our grandfather’s handwriting and signed by
him. It is on a separate sheet, dated in February, 1865, and—”

“Read it!” suggested Cal.

“I will,” and he read as follows:

“‘The clerk’s office in which these deeds were recorded at the time
of their execution has been destroyed, together with all the books of
record. It is vitally necessary therefore that these original deeds
shall be preserved. In these troublous times there is no place of
deposit for them which can be deemed reasonably safe. I am sealing them
in this leaden box, therefore, and will bury them upon the abandoned
plantation of Quasi, to which they give title. I shall plant a catalpa
bean above them as a sure means of identifying the spot, there being no
other catalpa on the plantation. I shall send my daughters a detailed
statement of what I have done, with instructions as to the way of
finding the papers. I place this memorandum in the box with the deeds
themselves, so that if anyone finds it he may know to whom its contents
belong. The address of my daughters will be found endorsed upon the
deeds themselves.’”



XXXVII

TOM’S FINAL “FIND”


“TOM,” said Cal, taking the Virginia boy by the hand and warmly
greeting him, “you have crowned this expedition—”

“Oh, bother!” interrupted Tom. “You fellows are daffy. I’ve had the
good luck to find the deeds, but it was by sheer accident, and anybody
else might have—”

“But ‘anybody else’ didn’t, and that makes all the difference. Now
listen. I have the floor. I have restrained my natural impulse to do
all the talking lately until I’ve had to let out two holes in my belt.
I was going to hurl my best speech at your head, but you interrupted,
and now the graceful periods have slipped from memory’s grasp. I’ll
leave the task of adequate expression to my father. He’ll do it quite
as well as I can. But there’s one thing to which I must ask the
attention of the company here assembled.”

“What is it, Cal?” Dick asked.

“Why, simply that Tom has added another to the purposes with which this
expedition was undertaken. Our objects were sport and adventure. We
have had both, and now Tom has added a third—achievement.”

“That’s all very well,” answered Tom, “but we haven’t made the
achievement yet. That will be when we deliver the deeds to your father,
and not till then. And we’ll never, never do that unless you stop your
nonsense and let us get to work on the catamaran, or raft, or whatever
else you call it. Our present job is to get away from Quasi with the
golden fleece. I suppose we ought to sleep now, but—”

“But glue wouldn’t stick our eyelids together,” broke in Dick. “Work’s
the thing for us now. Let’s get at it. Oh, I say, Cal, what of the
tides? When will they set in strongly toward that little town up there?”

Cal reckoned the matter up and named the hours at which the young flood
tides would begin to run. Then Dick thought a little and asked:

“Is it all land-locked water from here to the town, or are there
openings to the sea?”

“All closely land-locked—all creeks,” Cal answered.

“Then if we work hard we can have the catamaran ready by to-morrow
noon—she won’t need to be much of a craft for such waters—and we can
make our start when the tide turns, about that time. Let’s see; the
distance is only ten or twelve miles, and the tide will run up for six
hours. That ought to take us there with no paddling or poling except
enough to keep the craft headed in the right direction.”

“We’ll do it,” declared Cal. “Now to work, all of us. Tell us what to
do, Dick.”

“Let one fellow make a lot of fresh torches,” the Boston boy answered.
“The rest of us can keep busy till daylight dragging bamboos, big cane
stalks and the cross braces down to the shore. As soon as it is light
enough in the morning we’ll fashion the two larger timbers, and get
them into the water. After that two or three hours’ work will finish
the job.”

“An excellent programme, so far as it goes,” muttered Cal, as if only
thinking aloud.

“Go ahead, Cal, what’s lacking?”

“Seems to me,” Cal responded, “that every member of this company is in
the habit of carrying a digestive apparatus somewhere about his person.
That’s all.”

“Right, Cal!” Larry broke in. “We must have breakfast and dinner,
and I think I remember hearing that experienced navigator, Richard
Wentworth, say, once upon a time, that one should never venture upon
salt water without carrying a supply of provisions along.”

“I humbly submit to the rebuke,” answered Dick, with a laugh. “It was
forgetfulness, but forgetfulness is never quite pardonable. Some one
must go for game immediately after breakfast. We have enough on hand
for that meal.”

“I delegate you to that task, Tom,” said Larry. “Your habit of finding
things may hasten the job.”

       *       *       *       *       *

It was a little past noon when the company pushed away from Quasi on
the rude raft that served them for a ship, and were driven by the
strong flood tide through the maze of broad and narrow passages among
the marsh islands that lay between them and the town on the mainland.

There was some discussion before they left Quasi as to what they should
do with the rifle and other things in Dunbar’s log lockup.

Larry settled the matter, saying:

“We’ll leave his belongings just where he placed them. We are not
likely to find him now, and—”

“And if he finds himself,” Tom broke in, “he’ll come to Quasi after
them. Wonder where the poor fellow is, anyhow, and what’s the matter
with him.”

Nobody could offer a conjecture that had not been discussed before, and
so the subject was dropped in favor of more immediate concerns.

       *       *       *       *       *

The tide ran strong, and Dick’s “palatial passenger craft,” as Tom
called the raft, proved to be cork-like in its ability to float almost
as fast as the tide itself flowed. About five o’clock the last of
the marsh islands was passed, and the little town, perched upon high
bluffs, appeared. As the raft neared it, Tom suddenly called out:

“I’ve found something else! There’s the _Hunkydory_ riding at anchor
in that little bay over yonder! Now, maybe the next find will be Mr.
Dunbar.”

While Larry was sending a telegram to his father, the others went to
the boat and with permission of the man in charge, examined it. No
accident had happened to it and nothing about it gave the least hint
that Dunbar had merely abandoned it. The sail was neatly lashed to the
boom; the mast and the rudder had been unshipped and bestowed in the
bilge. Every rope was coiled and every pulley block ran free.

More significant still was the fact that the lockers were all filled
with food stuffs.

“Obviously he intended to return to Quasi,” Cal argued, “and laid in
supplies for us as he had promised. Whatever happened to him must have
occurred after that and just before the time he had set for sailing.
Let’s go up into the town and see what we can learn about him.” Then
pausing, he turned to the man in charge of the boat and asked:

“Has she been lying at anchor and taking the chance of rain all this
time?”

“No,” the man answered. “She’s been in that there boat house, but
to-day the squire tole me to anchor her out in the sun for an hour or
two, an’ that’s what I’m a doin’.”

On their way they met Larry, who had telegraphed his father both at the
North and at Charleston, uncertain whether or not the earthquake had
hurried his home-coming. In his dispatches Larry had said:

“Quasi deeds found by Tom Garnett, now in my possession and in perfect
order. Dory sails for Charleston immediately.”

Two hours later there came two telegrams from Major Rutledge in
Charleston, one of them addressed to Larry and the other to Tom
Garnett. The one to Larry sent congratulations and asked him to hurry
home as fast as he could. What was in Tom’s none of the boys ever
knew. Tom’s eyes were full of tears as he read it, though his face
was a gladly smiling one as he replaced the paper in its envelope and
carefully bestowed it in his pocket.

While waiting for these dispatches the boys made diligent inquiries
concerning Dunbar. He had arrived at the town about three o’clock on
the day of his leaving Quasi. He had intelligently addressed and posted
his manuscript and drawings. After that he had bought camping supplies
of every kind that the town could furnish, and had loaded them very
carefully into the dory. An hour later he had been found sitting under
a big tree and seemingly in distress of some kind. He was unable to
tell who he was, in answer to inquiries. His mind seemed an absolute
blank. Papers found on his person gave a sufficient clue to his
identity and the addresses of his nearest friends. Telegrams were sent
to them, and as soon as possible they came and took the poor fellow
away with them, a magistrate meanwhile setting a deputy constable to
care for the boat and cargo till its owners should appear.

The young doctor whom Dunbar’s friends brought with them explained to
the old doctor of the town that for many years past Dunbar had been
the victim of a rather rare mental malady, causing occasional complete
lapses of memory.

“This present attack,” he added, “is lasting longer than usual. He has
hitherto been allowed to roam at will, to live in the woods and pursue
his investigations. Now, however, I shall strongly advise his friends
to keep him under some small restraint for the sake of his own safety.”

“That ends the Dunbar incident,” said Larry when the old doctor
finished his relation of the facts. “Now we must be off for Charleston.
What do you say, boys? There’s a moon to-night and we might as well get
a little start before it sets.”

“My own judgment,” ventured Dick, “is that as we worked all of last
night, we’d better stay here till morning and get some sleep. But ‘I’m
in the hands of my friends’ as the politicians say.”

Dick’s suggestion was approved, and the sun was just rising the next
morning when the _Hunkydory_ set sail. When the boys stepped ashore at
the Rutledge boathouse on the Ashley River, Major Rutledge was there to
greet them.

“We feared you boys might be in serious difficulty down at Quasi,” he
said, warmly shaking hands all round for the second time, “and I was
about setting out to rescue you, when Larry’s telegram came.”

“We rescued ourselves, instead,” Cal replied; “and to us that is more
satisfactory.”

“It is very much better,” answered the father, catching Cal’s meaning
and heartily sympathizing with the proud sense of personal achievement
that lay behind.

“Come on home now, and over a proper dinner tell your mother and me all
about what happened at Quasi.”


                                THE END



George Cary Eggleston’s Juveniles


The Bale Marked Circle X

A Blockade Running Adventure

Illustrated by C. Chase Emerson. 12mo, red cloth, illustrated cover,
$1.50.-

Another of Mr. Eggleston’s stirring books for youth. In it are told
the adventures of three boy soldiers in the Confederate Service who
are sent in a sloop on a secret voyage from Charleston to the Bahamas,
conveying a strange bale of cotton which holds important documents. The
boys pass through startling adventures: they run the blockade, suffer
shipwreck, and finally reach their destination after the pluckiest kind
of effort.


Camp Venture

A Story of the Virginia Mountains

Illustrated by W. A. McCullough. 12mo, dark red cloth, illustrated
cover, $1.50.

The _Louisville Courier Journal_ says: “George Cary Eggleston has
written a decidedly good tale of pluck and adventure in ‘Camp Venture.’
It will be of interest to young and old who enjoy an exciting story,
but there is also a great deal of instruction and information in the
book.”


The Last of the Flatboats

A Story of the Mississippi

Illustrated by Charlotte Harding. 12mo, green cloth, illustrated cover,
$1.50.

The _Brooklyn Eagle_ says: “Mr. George Cary Eggleston, the veteran
editor and author, has scored a double success in his new book,
‘The Last of the Flatboats,’ which has just been published. Written
primarily as a story for young readers, it contains many things that
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and well worth reading.”


Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Co., Boston.



DAVE PORTER SERIES

By EDWARD STRATEMEYER


VOLUME FIVE

_DAVE PORTER AND HIS CLASSMATES_

  _Or For the Honor of Oak Hall_

  Illustrated by Charles Nuttall      12mo      Cloth      Price, $1.25

IN this volume Dave is back at Oak Hall and he brings about the
complete reformation of a former bully, who was rapidly going to the
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 “The best type of American schoolboy.”—_Boston Globe._

 “Athletic events are told with a zest that shows the author’s ability
 in that direction.”—_News, Buffalo, N. Y._

 “Will hold the attention of the readers from beginning to
 end.”—_Citizen, Brooklyn, N. Y._


VOLUME SIX

_DAVE PORTER AT STAR RANCH_

  _Or The Cowboy’s Secret_

  Illustrated by Lyle T. Hammond      12mo      Cloth      Price, $1.25

FROM his home, Dave, in company with his sister and some chums,
journeys to the boundless west. At the ranch the lads fall in with both
good and bad cowboys, and the hero has a thrilling time of it riding
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There are many scenes of hunting and rounding-up of cattle, and once a
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the country he describes and gives a picture as accurate as it is
entertaining.

 “The author of ‘Dave Porter’ is a prime favorite with the
 boys.”—_Bookseller, Newsdealer and Stationer._

 “Edward Stratemeyer’s ‘Dave Porter’ has become exceedingly
 popular.”—_Boston Globe._

 “Dave and his friends are nice, manly chaps.”—_Times-Democrat, New
 Orleans._



THE BOYS OF BROOKFIELD ACADEMY

By WARREN L. ELDRED

  Illustrated by Arthur O. Scott      Large 12mo      Cloth      $1.50

[Illustration]

THIS story tells of a boys’ school, with a glorious past, but an
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The boys, after testing his patience in every way that youthful
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 “Things are doing all the way through the story, which is clean, manly
 and inspiring.”—_Christian Endeavor World._


THE LOOKOUT ISLAND CAMPERS

By WARREN L. ELDRED

  Illustrated by Arthur O. Scott      Large 12mo      Cloth      $1.50

[Illustration]

THIS is a story of active boys of fifteen or so. They are very
fortunate in the friendship of the principal of their school and his
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into camp on an island well suited to the purpose, and within easy
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and the boys display as many varieties of human nature as could their
elders.

 “Mr. Eldred’s book is almost certain to meet with a ready response
 from young readers, for not only are the boys filled with life and
 vigor of a true youthful and appreciable variety but their experiences
 are entertaining in themselves and may perhaps give the young readers
 ideas for summer plans of their own.”—_Chicago Tribune._


U. S. SERVICE SERIES

By FRANCIS ROLT-WHEELER

Illustrations from photographs taken in work for U. S. Government

  Large 12mo      Cloth      $1.50 per volume


THE BOY WITH THE U. S. SURVEY

[Illustration]

APPEALING to the boy’s love of excitement, this series gives actual
experiences in the different branches of United States Government work
little known to the general public. This story describes the thrilling
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books.

 “There is abundant charm and vigor in the narrative which is sure
 to please the boy readers and will do much toward stimulating their
 patriotism by making them alive to the needs of conservation of the
 vast resources of their country.”—_Chicago News._

 “This is a book one can heartily recommend for boys, and it has life
 enough to suit the most eager of them.”—_Christian Register, Boston._


THE BOY WITH THE U. S. FORESTERS

[Illustration]

THE life of a typical boy is followed in all its adventurous
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 “It is at once a most entertaining and instructive study of forestry
 and a most delightful story of boy life in the service.”—_Cincinnati
 Times-Star._

 “It is a fascinating romance of real life in our country, and will
 prove a great pleasure and inspiration to the boys who read it.”—_The
 Continent, Chicago._

 “No one beginning to read this book will willingly lay it down till he
 has reached the last chapter.”—_Christian Advocate, Cincinnati._


 FIVE CHUMS SERIES

 By NORMAN BRAINERD

  12mo      Cloth      Illustrated      $1.25 each


 Winning His Shoulder Straps

 [Illustration]

 A ROUSING story of life in a military school by one who thoroughly
 knows all its features. Bob Anderson, the hero, is a good friend to
 tie to, and each of his four particular friends is a worthy companion,
 with well-sustained individuality. Athletics are plentifully featured,
 and every boy, good, bad, and indifferent, is a natural fellow, who
 talks and acts like a bright, up-to-date lad in real life.

 “The story throughout is clean and wholesome, and will not fail
 to be appreciated by any boy reader who has red blood in his
 veins.”—_Kennebec Journal._

 “There are school and athletic competitions, pranks and frolics and
 all in all a book of which most boy readers will have no criticism to
 make.”—_Springfield Republican._


Winning the Eagle Prize

[Illustration]

THE hero not only works his way at Chatham Military School after his
father’s financial misfortune, but has the pluck to try for a prize
which means a scholarship in college. It is very hard for a lad of his
make-up to do the requisite studying, besides working and taking a
prominent part in athletics, and he is often in trouble, for, unlike
some others, who are naturally antagonistic to the frank, impulsive
Billy, he scorns to evade responsibility. His four friends are loyal to
the fullest extent, and all comes right in the end.

 Athletics play a prominent part in the story and the whole is
 delightfully stimulating in the fine ideals of life which it sets
 before its young readers.”—_Chicago News._

 “The workmanship of the author is up to his high mark and this book is
 one to be appreciated by any active reader who has not forgotten his
 boyhood, or, if he is a boy yet, has the real boy spirit, clean, and
 wholesome and natural.”—_Buffalo News._


Larry Burke, Freshman

By FRANK I. ODELL

  Illustrated by H. C. Edwards      $1.25

[Illustration]

THIS book bristles with activity: baseball, football, ice-hockey,
basketball, track and field events, and a regatta appearing, and each
sport brought in with expert accuracy of detail, and realism that
makes one live over his own most thrilling athletic experiences. Along
with this is a charming narrative of student life and comradeship—the
golden days that have no others like them. Every boy and man who ever
heard of a college can take delight in this book.

 “The high tone of most of the boys, their comradeship and good will
 toward one another are felt through the whole book. And if ever a boy
 deserved friends or success, it was the noble-hearted hero of the
 story, Larry Burke.”—_Louisville Courier-Journal._

 “A boys’ book that is filled with healthy adventure and action from
 cover to cover.”—_Cincinnati Times-Star._


Tim and Roy in Camp

By FRANK PENDLETON

  Illustrated by J. W. Kennedy      Large 12mo $1.50

[Illustration]

IN this book is crowded a wealth of sport, adventure, Indian stories,
hunting and camping, facts about animals encountered, and all that
will please a boy’s heart. A skilful hunter and trapper takes his son,
nephew, and two close friends on such a hunting and camping trip as
their most vivid imagination could not have improved upon. They are
supremely happy in their enjoyment in all that pertains to the woods,
and his camp-fire stories of experiences with Indians. Each of the boys
has a chance to show his bravery and resourcefulness, and each is equal
to the occasion.

 “The story is fascinating and contains not one thrill too
 many.”—_Chicago News._

 “This is a great book for live, active boys, vigorous, wholesome,
 instructive and entertaining, written by a man who certainly
 understands and knows boys, and who knows how to give them the best
 kind of a vacation.”—_Portland Express._


_For sale by all booksellers or sent postpaid on receipt of price by
the publishers_

LOTHROP, LEE & SHEPARD CO., BOSTON



                          TRANSCRIBER’S NOTE:

—Obvious print and punctuation errors were corrected.





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