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Title: Sea Scouts All - How the 'Olivette' was won
Author: Westerman, Percy F. (Percy Francis)
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.

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[Illustration: cover art]



SEA SCOUTS ALL



BLACKIE & SON LIMITED
50 Old Bailey, LONDON
17 Stanhope Street, GLASGOW


BLACKIE & SON (INDIA) LIMITED
Warwick House, Fort Street, BOMBAY


BLACKIE & SON (CANADA) LIMITED
1118 Bay Street, TORONTO



[Illustration: SHE SIMPLY LAY OVER AND REFUSED TO RECOVER]



SEA SCOUTS ALL

How the "Olivette"
was Won



BY

PERCY F. WESTERMAN



_Illustrated by Charles Pears_



BLACKIE & SON LIMITED
LONDON AND GLASGOW



By Percy F. Westerman


  Rivals of the Reef.
  A Shanghai Adventure.
  Pat Stobart in the "Golden Dawn".
  The Junior Cadet.
  Captain Starlight.
  The Sea-Girt Fortress.
  On the Wings of the Wind.
  Captured at Tripoli.
  Captain Blundell's Treasure.
  The Third Officer.
  Unconquered Wings.
  The Buccaneers of Boya.
  The Riddle of the Air.
  Chums of the "Golden Vanity".
  The Luck of the "Golden Dawn".
  Clipped Wings.
  The Salving of the "Fusi Yama".
  Winning his Wings.
  A Lively Bit of the Front.
  A Cadet of the Mercantile Marine.
  The Good Ship "Golden Effort".
  East in the "Golden Gain".
  The Quest of the "Golden Hope".
  Sea Scouts Abroad.
  Sea Scouts Up-Channel.
  The Wireless Officer.
  A Lad of Grit.
  The Submarine Hunters.
  Sea-Scouts All.
  The Thick of the Fray.
  A Sub and a Submarine.
  Under the White Ensign.
  The Fight for Constantinople.
  With Beatty off Jutland.


_Printed in Great Britain by Blackie & Son, Ltd., Glasgow_



  Contents

  CHAP.
      I. THE SCOUTMASTER'S PLAN
     II. TWO OFFERS
    III. THE "OLIVETTE"
     IV. PETER TO THE RESCUE
      V. DOWN STREAM
     VI. THIEVES
    VII. STRANDED
   VIII. A TOW
     IX. CAUGHT OUT
      X. WOODLEIGH THE PILOT
     XI. THE "ROSALIE"
    XII. THE SQUALL
   XIII. A FIND ON THE GUNFLEET
    XIV. BRUIN
     XV. BRUIN'S VINDICATION
    XVI. DOWN CHANNEL
   XVII. ON HER BEAM ENDS
  XVIII. WEATHERBOUND
    XIX. THE PATROL-LEADER SCORES
     XX. SALVAGE
    XXI. "PIPE DOWN"



Illustrations

  SHE SIMPLY LAY OVER AND REFUSED TO RECOVER
                                 _Frontispiece_

  THE SKIFF TAKES THE ROPE ASHORE

  RAISING HIS VOICE, HE SHOUTED, "LET GO!"

  IT WAS WITH FEELINGS OF RELIEF THAT STRATTON
    SAW THE RESCUED ANIMAL LIFTED INTO THE BOAT

  "STAND CLEAR OF THE HAWSER AS SHE TAKES UP THE STRAIN"



SEA SCOUTS ALL



CHAPTER I

The Scoutmaster's Plan


"What's the state of the treasury, Peter?" inquired Scoutmaster
Armitage.

"Sixteen pounds, sixteen shillings, and sixpence, sir," replied
Patrol-leader Peter Stratton of the 1st Milford Sea Scouts. "That
includes the profits from our latest concert."

"Hardly enough to buy a boat in these days of dear wages and
materials," commented the Scoutmaster. "I'm very much afraid that our
plans for acquiring a little cruiser will have to be deferred to a
more favourable season--next year, perhaps."

"After all, sir," said Dick Roche, "we can rub along with our present
boat. She's not much to look at, but we get quite a good deal of fun
out of her."

The Milford Sea Scouts had been in existence only since the war.
Under the scoutmastership of Mr. Armitage--late lieutenant
R.N.V.R.--eight promising and undoubtedly keen youths were being
grounded in the principles of seamanship and coastal navigation. The
troop laboured under great disadvantages, but, as Dick Roche the
optimist remarked, overcoming difficulties is often the best part of
the game.

For one thing, Milford, although on the sea, possesses what is known
as an open beach, and is unsuited for boating. For another, the lads
had great difficulty in obtaining a boat of any description, owing to
lack of funds and the scarcity of craft of all sorts. But within a
few months of the founding of the troop the Sea Scouts raised the
wind sufficiently to become the proud owners of an ex-naval gig,
which by the aid of paint and varnish was made to look quite smart
and shipshape.

The beach being unsuitable, they kept their boat at Keyhaven, a small
creek a mile or so from Milford, which had the advantage of opening
into the comparatively sheltered waters of the Solent.

Here they learnt to respect the furious tides that surge through
Hurst Channel, to avoid the mudbanks that fringe the Hampshire shore,
and to navigate their somewhat unhandy craft under sail into the
intricate creeks and harbours of the Isle of Wight between Ryde and
the old-world town of Yarmouth.

Their varied experiences only whetted their appetite for bigger
things afloat, and the Scouts' ambition was centred upon the
acquisition of a real yacht with cabin accommodation, so that they
would be able to make extended cruises during the holidays.

Unfortunately, summer found them still short of their cherished goal.
Old yachts, that in pre-war days might have been picked up for a few
pounds, increased in value by leaps and bounds; and even the more
sanguine of the troop had to admit that for the present it looked as
if they would have to be content with their gig.

"Getting up entertainments seems a toshy way of raising funds,"
remarked Peter Stratton. "We give rotten shows. We can't act for
nuts. People buy tickets because they are good-natured. They must
know what they are in for when they hear I'm going to recite, or that
Flemming and Woodleigh are billed to render a duet."

"Quite," agreed Dick Roche. "Pity we can't do something seamanlike. A
bit of salvage, for instance."

He looked wistfully across the open sea, picturing in his mind's eye
a vessel in distress requiring immediate assistance from the Milford
Sea Scouts. Roche was of Cornish descent. His ancestors were probably
wreckers and smugglers, and that possibly accounted for his yearning
for a salvage job.

"Not much chance of that," said Reggie Warkworth. "The Totland Bay
lifeboatmen are always ready for that sort of work, and there are
always pilots knocking around in the Needles Channel."

"Couldn't we all sign on for a voyage in a coaster these holidays,
sir?" inquired Alan Hepburn. "We'd improve our seamanship, and get a
fairly tidy sum towards our new boat. Much better than knocking about
here."

"Quite a sound suggestion of yours, Alan," said the Scoutmaster. "But
it's open to a grave objection. For one thing, seven or eight
youngsters are rather a tall order for one coasting vessel."

"Pity we couldn't get an M.-L." suggested Peter. "Like the one you
had command of, sir."

Mr. Armitage did not reply. He had strong views on that subject. It
was a matter of intense regret to him that the sturdy little fleet of
miniature warships had not been put to better use by the Admiralty
instead of being sold abroad. In a few isolated instances craft of
this type were given by the Admiralty to cadet organizations, but
such instances were few and far between. Already the lessons learnt
by the Great War were being forgotten. One was the need of expert
coastal navigators--men who could confidently take a small craft
where others with deep-sea experience would fail hopelessly. From his
own knowledge Mr. Armitage knew this. He had seen officers, trained
in the Royal Navy and the big shipping companies, literally at sea
when called upon to navigate a light-draughted craft amongst the
shallows of the Thames Estuary, or the sand-banks off the Belgian
coast; while yachtsmen and masters of small coasting vessels, who,
during the Great War, had worn His Majesty's uniform as members of
the once derided "Harry Tate's Navy" could and did perform deeds of
daring in shallow waters under conditions that would have completely
"floored" their deep-sea colleagues.

Armitage had hoped to be able to purchase the M.-L. he once
commanded, and use her profitably and pleasurably for the instruction
of his troop of Sea Scouts. He made a fair offer for her, but his
advances were cold-shouldered by an unsympathetic and incompetent
Small Craft Disposal Board. He had the mortification of seeing his
former command rot at her moorings in an out-of-the-way creek, until
'longshore sharks "pinched" most of her fittings, and finally she was
sold abroad.

"Are you sure the coaster stunt couldn't be worked, sir?" asked Alan
Hepburn, returning to the charge.

"'Fraid not," replied Mr. Armitage. "What we might do is to offer to
take a craft from one port to another. You see there are plenty of
yachts changing hands. Their new owners might want them taken to
other ports, and at the present time crews are both expensive and
difficult to obtain. We could offer to navigate a small craft
anywhere, say, between the Humber and Falmouth. It would give us the
benefit of a fairly long coastal voyage, and as a troop our funds
would benefit. We might even raise enough to buy a ten-ton cutter or
yawl."

"How do we go about it?" asked Peter Stratton.

"Advertise," replied the Scoutmaster briefly. Then, after a pause, he
added: "Of course, your parents' consent would have to be obtained
for a job of this description. But with ordinary caution there should
be little risk. A careful study of the barometer, and the knowledge
that all around the coast there are harbours within a few miles of
each other, ought practically to eliminate all danger. I've no use
for a man who puts to sea before a rising gale, but I've the keenest
admiration for the one who, 'caught out' in the open, knows how to
bring his craft safely back to port. Courage and foolhardiness are as
remote as the poles."

"What sort of craft do you think we might have to take, sir?" asked
Woodleigh.

"Any sort, providing it is seaworthy," replied the Scoutmaster.

"I don't think my people would object," said Flemming.

"Nor mine," added Reggie Warkworth. "If they knew that you were with
us," he added loyally.

Mr. Armitage smiled.

"I'm not infallible," he protested, "and quite liable to commit
errors of judgment, but I'm pretty well used to this sort of thing.
Well, I propose we draft an advertisement and get it inserted in the
_Yachting Press_." The Scouts waited in expectancy while their
Scoutmaster scribbled on the back of an envelope.

"How will this do?" he inquired, "'Scoutmaster (Lieutenant, R.N.V.R.)
and Troop of Sea Scouts are open to navigate yachts and small craft
to and from British ports, South and East Coast preferred. Moderate
and inclusive terms. Reply Box so-and-so.'"

"That ought to work all right, sir," said Dick Roche. "We ought to
get in quite a lot of decent sailing during the holidays."

"There's not much time to be lost, then," added Woodleigh. "We're
well into July already."

"Very well, then," concluded Mr. Armitage briskly. "I'll get this
advertisement inserted. Now, suppose we turn from dreams of
anticipation to the stern necessities of the present. The boat-house
wants setting straight, and I see that the recent gales have loosened
some of the weather-board. All hands to work."

The conclave had assembled in a wooden hut built by the Sea Scouts
entirely by themselves. It was a substantial wooden structure, 14
feet by 10, resting on a solid concrete foundation on a ledge
half-way up the cliff. It had been built in sections on Mr.
Armitage's lawn, and the sections fastened together solely by
twenty-four coach-screws. The hut had been built during the Easter
holidays, and, although its construction took seventeen days of hard
work, the task of conveying it to the cliff and erecting it complete
occupied the short space of six hours.

It was plainly and simply furnished. Wooden lockers served a double
purpose, as seats and receptacles for storing boat's gear. A folding
table, large enough to take a full-sized Admiralty chart, was an
object of considerable ingenuity and good workmanship. On the walls
were framed and varnished charts of "The Solent", "The Approaches to
Spithead", and "Owers to Christchurch", in addition to a bookcase
filled with story-books and textbooks dealing with the sea.

In the corner stood a signal-locker containing the flags of the
International Code, the flags, like the furniture, being the
handiwork of the Sea Scouts. On the locker stood an azimuth compass;
while on a pair of brackets by the side of the door was a powerful
telescope.

In front of the hut was a flagstaff and a windlass. The latter,
purchased for a mere song, came from the wreck of a barge, and served
the useful purpose of hauling the Sea Scouts' gig up the
steeply-shelving pebble beach, when the state of the sea permitted
its being brought round from Keyhaven.

The hut and its contents alone were sufficient to prove that the
Milford Sea Scouts were handy and industrious youngsters; but that
was not enough to satisfy Mr. Armitage's ambitions. He wanted them to
be Sea Scouts in deed as well as in name, skilled in the art of
coastal navigation and smart in elementary seamanship, so that in
time to come they would be worthy members of the Empire whose
existence depends upon the sea.

There were difficulties in his way. He was not a wealthy man,
although fairly well off. He had a considerable amount of spare time,
which he decided he could put to a good purpose by raising and
training a troop of Sea Scouts. The locality was unsuitable, the
facilities for getting afloat few. He realized that, like a
schoolmaster, he was bound to lose his boys almost as soon as they
were thoroughly trained. Others would take their places, and the
moulding process would continue until the time came when he, too,
would have to "hand over" to a successor.

His own experience had taught him that anyone who knew how to handle
a small sailing dinghy properly can sail a yacht, but it did not
necessarily follow that a person who could manage a large vessel
could sail a dinghy. Carrying the process still further, it was
fairly safe to assume that a single-handed yachtsman could be of
material assistance if he found himself on board a big craft; hence
the advantage of fostering the art of boat-sailing--a pastime of
which the joys never pale--is incalculable both in peace and war.

A week elapsed, after the appearance of Mr. Armitage's advertisement,
and nothing resulted. The Sea Scouts, scorning the adage "Hope
deferred maketh the heart sick", kept a stiff upper lip and went
about their tasks unconcernedly, "carrying on" with seamanship and
navigation, and taking advantage of every opportunity of getting
afloat in their gig. But, at the same time, the fact was apparent
that only a month of the holidays remained.

One morning--it was the last Friday in July--the Sea Scouts were
preparing to launch their boat, when Mr. Armitage appeared, looking,
as Dick Roche afterwards observed, like a dog with two tails.

"Heard anything, sir?" inquired the Patrol-leader.

"It never rains but it pours," replied the Scoutmaster. "We've had
two trips offered us."

"Cheerio!" ejaculated Hepburn. "Let's have it, sir."



CHAPTER II

Two Offers


"Palaver!" exclaimed Mr. Armitage. "We'll adjourn to the boat-house
and go into the matter. Now, then. The first offer is by telegram.
Here it is: 'Can you undertake navigation of 50-foot motor-boat from
Oxford to Teddington, starting Monday next? Terms fifteen pounds and
travelling expenses. Confirming by letter. Murgatroyd.'"

"A trip down the Thames--how jolly!" remarked Reggie Warkworth.

"But it's not a sea-voyage," objected Eric Flemming. "We're Sea
Scouts, not canal bargees."

"Fifteen pounds is fifteen pounds," observed Alan Hepburn
sententiously. "And we'd be afloat, even if it's only on the Thames."

"What's the other offer, sir?" asked the matter-of-fact Peter
Stratton.

In reply Mr. Armitage drew an envelope from his pocket, extracted its
contents, and read:
                              "PENNINGTON HALL,
                                 PARKSTONE, DORSET.
                                    _29th July, 19--._
    "DEAR SIR,
      "With reference to your advertisement, I should be glad to
avail myself of your offer. I have recently bought the 35-ton
motor-yacht _Rosalie_, now lying at Great Yarmouth, and wish to have
her brought round to Poole Harbour. As I am unable, owing to
professional engagements, to sail her round myself, and quotations
from agents being prohibitive, the idea of engaging a crew of Sea
Scouts rather appeals to me. I, therefore, offer the sum of
twenty-five pounds, in addition to travelling expenses and incidental
charges, for your services, the boat to be delivered, weather and
other circumstances permitting, not later than the 16th August. I
might mention that _Rosalie_ is an excellent sea-boat, and has been
in Auxiliary Patrol in the North Sea during the late war. If you are
agreeable to my terms, will you kindly wire or write by return, and I
will forward the necessary documents to obtain the yacht from her
late owner.
                                "Yours truly,
                                   "ANDREW TRELAWNEY."

"Now, boys," said the Scoutmaster, "discuss, as Shakespeare puts it."

He charged and lit his pipe, and listened.

Mr. Armitage was quite content to let his Sea Scouts do the debating,
only volunteering a statement when it was asked for, until the time
came for him to arrive at a decision upon the matter in hand. It gave
the boys confidence in themselves, and, although he was a boy at
heart himself, he recognized the advantages of allowing the lads to
build their own plans.

"The Yarmouth stunt's the thing!" decided Peter.

"M'yes," remarked Woodleigh dubiously. Never having sailed beyond the
shelter of the Isle of Wight, the suddenness of the proposition
rather took him aback. "About three hundred miles, isn't it?"

Reference was made to an atlas, in default of a chart covering the
"ground".

"Plenty of harbours," reported the Patrol-leader.

"It looks a terrific long way to the North Foreland," observed the
cautious Woodleigh, "and the whole of the Thames Estuary seems bunged
up with sand-banks."

"That's part of the fun," added Reggie Warkworth. "Not bumping on
them, of course, but dodging between them. It's a bit tricky, I
admit, but once we're in the English Channel it's as easy as
winking."

"How long will it take?" inquired Roche. "The longer the better, as
far as I am concerned."

"We ought to make Harwich in one day, Ramsgate the next, then
Newhaven and Poole the fifth day," said Stratton, roughly measuring
off the distances. "Allowing delays for bad weather, we ought to do
it comfortably in the time."

"And the Thames trip?" asked Alan. "Steamers do that in a couple of
days, I believe."

"Ever been on the Thames, anyone?" asked the Patrol-leader.

"I have," replied Flemming. "I was only a kid at the time. I went
from Charing Cross Pier to Hampton Court. It was jolly fine, I
remember."

Alan Hepburn was still pondering over the matter of the fifteen
pounds.

"I suppose," he said in a rather slow drawl, "I suppose we couldn't
tackle both jobs?"

"What do you mean?" asked Peter Stratton. "Half of us take on the
Oxford trip, and the rest sail the _Rosalie_ round?"

"No," replied Alan. "Not exactly. We could take the motor-boat down
to Teddington, and then go on to Yarmouth. Two birds with one stone,
so to speak. What do you say, sir?"

Mr. Armitage, thus appealed to, "put his spoke in".

"A good suggestion, Hepburn. I had that idea in my mind directly I
received Mr. Trelawney's letter. Of course, if we had to choose,
bringing round the _Rosalie_ would be preferable. At the same time,
although taking a motor-boat--and a pretty big one at that, I should
imagine--does not involve any navigation in the strict sense of the
word, there would be opportunities for improving our seamanship. I've
never taken a craft up or down the Thames, and some of the locks
might cause a little excitement, but I see no reason why we shouldn't
take on the job."

Armitage knew by this time what his capabilities were in the handling
of various craft. During his service career he had taken M.-L.'s in
and out of narrow docks, navigated "drifters", towed lighters, been
in command of swift motor-boats, and slow and ungainly tugs. To him
the task of navigating Mr. Murgatroyd's 50-foot motor-boat was mere
child's play, since there was little possibility of coming to grief
on the bosom of Old Father Thames.

"Right-o," decided the Scoutmaster. "Warkworth, take these two
telegrams to the post office. We'll draft confirmatory letters and
get them away by the midday mail."

Accordingly the two offers were accepted, although in his letter to
Mr. Murgatroyd the Scoutmaster pointed out that the nature of the
task was hardly what he was accustomed to, but there was no apparent
reason why the boat should not be safely handed over at Teddington.

The Sea Scouts were in high feather. Every member of the troop except
two had succeeded by dint of more or less persuasion in obtaining his
parents' consent to adventure himself on the High Seas.

The journey to Oxford was fixed for Saturday, as the following Monday
was Bank Holiday, and railway travelling would certainly be a matter
of considerable difficulty. It would, Mr. Armitage decided, give the
boys a chance to have a good look round the venerable University
city.

The eventful morning dawned fair and bright, with every prospect of a
prolonged spell of fine weather. At seven the Sea Scouts assembled at
their club hut, each with his kit-bag, containing blankets, change of
clothing, and toilet requisites, and a haversack with two days'
rations. In addition, Stratton carried a First Aid outfit; Roche, as
troop photographer, was equipped with a film camera; while the
Scoutmaster arrived with his navigating instruments and a bundle of
Admiralty and "blue-backed" charts.

"I've just received a letter from Mr. Murgatroyd," reported Mr.
Armitage. "He intends to make the trip with us. This is what he says:

    "DEAR ARMITAGE,
        "The boat-builders suggest that, as the
river is in flood owing to the recent rains, we ought to take a
pilot. We won't take a pilot; we'll have some fun. Bring a tow-rope,
and, if she runs aground, we'll pull her off with it. I hope to join
the boat at Oxford at 9 a.m. on Monday, but must be in the city early
on Thursday; so, if possible, try and get the boat to Teddington by
Wednesday night.
                      "Yours truly,
                          "JAMES MURGATROYD."

"I wish he weren't coming," said Flemming bluntly. "It's rotten
having a stranger on board."

"He'll be all right, I feel certain," rejoined Patrol-leader
Stratton. "By the way he writes he evidently means everybody to have
a good time. Besides, it's his boat, and he has a perfect right to be
on board."

"Plenty of time to discuss our employer when you see him," observed
Patrol-leader Stratton briskly. "Come along; get on with it. There's
a lot to be done before we go and precious little time to do it in.
Roche, see that all the gear is taken out of the boat. You others
carry on and make the hut shipshape. Hepburn, I want you to make sure
that the windows are fastened. We don't want our hut pillaged while
we are away."

Peter Stratton was a capable patrol-leader. He knew how to handle the
troop firmly and judiciously. When he gave an order he invariably saw
that it was carried out properly. Mr. Armitage knew the lad's
abilities and was content to let a lot of responsibility fall on
Stratton's shoulders; while, on the other hand, Peter never hesitated
when in doubt to ask the advice of his Scoutmaster.

"Here it comes, sir!" exclaimed Warkworth, who, having completed his
allotted task, had gone to the top of the cliff to watch for the
motor-bus that was to take the Milford Sea Scouts and their baggage
to the railway station.

The door of the hut was closed and locked, the Sea Scouts fell in,
each lad shouldering his kit-bag.

"Quick march," came the crisp order, and the patrol made its way up
the cliff path on the first stage of its adventures on the river and
on the sea.



CHAPTER III

The "Olivette"


It was quite a jolly journey, frequent stoppages at stations and
changes notwithstanding. Few of the boys had been off the main London
line before, and the run between Basingstoke and Oxford was quite new
to them. Mr. Armitage pointed out the chief objects of interest,
while the Sea Scouts plied him with innumerable questions, some of
which were beyond him. They worked out the speed of the train by
observing how long it took to cover the distance between two
telegraph posts, since these are placed eighty-eight yards, or one
twentieth of a mile apart.

"What river is that, sir?" asked Hepburn.

"It isn't a river," declared Woodleigh. "It's a canal. Look, there's
a tow-path and a lock."

"Strictly speaking, it's both," said Mr. Armitage. "It's a canalized
river, and it happens to be the Thames."

"The Thames!" exclaimed Roche. "Why, it's quite narrow. If we wanted
to turn the boat round we wouldn't have room."

"I think so," corrected the Scoutmaster. "Viewed from a height it
looks narrower than it actually is. We'll cross it several times
before we get to Oxford."

"I wonder what sort of motor the boat has," remarked Roche.

"Mr. Murgatroyd gave no details," replied the Scoutmaster. "It's
probably a well-known one. I don't think it ought to be beyond you."

Already the Sea Scouts had a good theoretical and practical knowledge
of marine motors; Roche, Flemming, and Woodleigh showing quite good
promise in that direction. They had the instinctive gift for locating
troubles in internal-combustion engines, and not once but many times,
during their short cruises on the Solent, they had assisted amateur
yachtsmen whose motors had proved refractory.

Upon arriving at Oxford, the party hired a somewhat decrepit horse
and cab to take their gear down to the river. The Scouts decided to
walk. For one thing, it was a change after being in a railway
carriage for the best part of four hours; for another, it enabled
them to get a better view of the city.

"We shan't see many of the colleges," observed Mr. Armitage. "They
lie, for the most part, in the north-eastern and south-eastern
portions of the city. We'll have to visit them later."

"Rather a difference from Milford," declared Hepburn, as the Sea
Scouts threaded their way through the crowds in Carfax. "Jolly fine
old place, eh, what?"

Just then a tall, bronze-complexioned man of about thirty stopped Mr.
Armitage, and extended his left hand true scout fashion.

"Excuse me, sir," he exclaimed, "but Sea Scouts are not often seen
here, although I believe they are 'common objects by the seaside'. My
name's Jackson, not that that will interest you, but it is the usual
thing to give it. I'm Scoutmaster of one of the Oxford troops. I
thought, perhaps, that you are on a visit; in which case my fellows
could show you round."

"Hardly on a visit," replied Mr. Armitage, and he indicated the
nature of the business that brought him and six Sea Scouts to Oxford.

"I rather envy you," said Mr. Jackson. "I know the boat. However, I
suppose you want to be getting on."

"We shall be delighted if, to-morrow afternoon, your troop will take
us in hand," remarked Mr. Armitage. "We want to make the best of the
opportunity and see the sights, and I quite realize that your
suggestion offers the best solution to the question of what to and
what not to see."

A little later on, as the Sea Scouts were crossing Folly Bridge, they
had their first view of the _Olivette_--that being the name painted
on the bows of the 50-footer.

She was lying alongside a floating stage, just below the bridge, and,
if the truth be told, the _Olivette_ was not at all the type of boat
Mr. Armitage and his troop had expected to find.

Closer acquaintance showed that she was 54 feet in length with a beam
of 12 feet. She drew 3 feet 4 inches aft--dimensions that were rather
excessive for the upper Thames.

"Why, she's a tug, sir!" exclaimed Stratton, pointing to a massive
beam at the after end of the coach-roof, in the centre of which was a
strong, swivelled towing-hook.

"Apparently," agreed the Scoutmaster. "At any rate she's strongly
built, and has a terrifically big rubbing strake. She'll stand some
knocking about."

"She's more like a sea-going boat," remarked Roche. "She's different
from all the other steamers and motor-launches about here."

"I'd like to take her to sea," observed Mr. Armitage. "Let's get on
board, and see what she's like down below."

Later on the Scoutmaster learnt that the _Olivette_ was a
Government-owned motor-tug, built at Oxford, but never used, owing to
the Armistice. Becoming "surplus to requirements", she was sold to
Mr. Murgatroyd, who christened her _Olivette_. Previously she had
been designated by a number.

"Going below" meant descending a short iron ladder into a spacious
cockpit, with seats and lockers under the waterways on either side.
Opening aft out of the cockpit were three doors. The centre one led
to a small, two-berthed cabin, with folding iron cots over lockered
seats. The one great drawback was the lack of sufficient
headroom--even Hepburn, the smallest of the troop, having to duck his
head.

On the starboard side of the entrance to the after cabin was a neat
and compact galley, equipped with an atmospheric stove and an array
of pots, pans, and crocks. On the port side was a lavatory.

For'ard of the cockpit, and gained by the simple method of stooping
under the towing-beam, was the engine-room, with a coach-built roof
over.

"Some engine!" declared Roche enthusiastically. "Paraffin, 60--80
horse-power too."

He opened the four compression taps, and proceeded to try to turn the
starting-handle.

"My word!" he ejaculated. "She is stiff. Hasn't been used for
months."

"You'll have to be careful to keep clear of that fly-wheel,"
cautioned Mr. Armitage. "It's awfully in the way, and should anyone
get mixed up with it there'll be a fatal or very serious accident.
Wonder they didn't put a guard-rail to it."

A couple of feet in front of the engine was a raised platform forming
the floor of a "sunk" wheel-house. The helmsman would thus be able to
see across the fore-deck, although the bows of the vessel interrupted
a direct view of the surface of the water within a distance of 50
feet, which was, Mr. Armitage pointed out, a decided disadvantage
when entering a lock.

"However," he added optimistically, "we'll soon get used to that."

"She is a sea-going craft after all, sir!" declared Roche
triumphantly. "I thought she was."

"How do you know?" inquired Woodleigh sceptically.

"Because she has a compass. She wouldn't want one if she was designed
for the Thames, would she?" replied Roche.

One by one Scoutmaster and Sea Scouts crawled through a very small
doorway in the wheel-house bulkhead and gained the fo'c'sle, to which
access was also obtainable by means of a fore-hatch.

"Quite spacious," commented Mr. Armitage, "and, what is equally
important, dry. I see that there are four cots, so two of you will
have to sleep on the side lockers in the cockpit. After all, a plank
bed isn't so bad when you once get used to it. If it rains, then the
fellow on the leeward berth will have to sleep in the after cabin,
unless the owner doesn't sleep ashore, as I hope he will. And, by the
by, it's as well that we didn't carry out Mr. Murgatroyd's suggestion
and bring a tow-rope. There are some in that locker, I see. Get them
out, Stratton. We're bound to want them, and we can see what we have
got."

Examination showed that there were 50 fathoms of 4-inch coir rope and
two 25 fathoms of 2-inch Manila.

"Yes, we've saved ourselves the fag of bringing a coil of rope with
us," continued the Scoutmaster. "And there's an anchor and chain and
a powerful little winch, so we ought to be all right on that score.
Now stow away your gear, and we'll have something to eat. After that,
Roche, Flemming, and Woodleigh, can give the engine a run. Warkworth
and Hepburn, you'll undertake the catering. Remember, to-morrow's
Sunday and Monday's Bank Holiday, so be prepared, and don't land us
in the cart."



CHAPTER IV

Peter to the Rescue


"What a brute!" exclaimed Flemming breathlessly.

"A regular mule!" ejaculated Woodleigh, mopping his heated brow.

"I agree," added Roche, desisting from his labours in sheer
exhaustion, and, resting his hands on his hips, he surveyed the
object of his companions' adverse comments.

For thirty-five minutes they had tussled with the refractory motor,
and had not yet succeeded in getting a solitary "kick" out of it.
They had cleaned the plugs, "doped" the cylinders, tried her first on
the coil and then on magneto, and, finally, on both; and had with
their united efforts "swung the engine" until physical force failed
them.

"We'll have to tow her down to Teddington," declared Flemming.
"There's nothing in the contract against that, is there? And how far
is Teddington, by the way?"

"A mere matter of 93 miles," replied Roche jauntily. "That's nothing,
of course. Now, then, stand by. Flemming, you tackle the fly-wheel.
Mind yourself if she fires; 'if', I said. Woodleigh, my festive, help
me with the starting-handle. Now, together."

With a chattering of tappets and the hiss of escaping air the engine
was "turned over", but the hoped-for explosion failed to take place.

"What, not got her going yet!" exclaimed Mr. Armitage, who had just
returned from interviewing the representative of the Thames
Conservancy in order to obtain a lock pass.

"No, sir; we've tried all sorts of things," replied Roche.

The Scoutmaster put half a dozen questions which were satisfactorily
answered.

"Where's your dope can?" he asked.

"Here, sir," replied Woodleigh, handing him a metal tin with a spout.
"We've primed all the cylinders half a dozen times at least."

Mr. Armitage poured a few drops of petrol into the palm of his hand.

"That's the trouble," he declared. "Bad petrol; little better than
paraffin. Besides there's water in it. The stuff won't evaporate."

He went ashore to see the owner of the yard, to return presently with
a can of petrol.

"Try that, Roche," he said. "That ought to do the trick. I'll bear a
hand."

With the united efforts of Mr. Armitage and the three Sea Scouts the
motor fired. Flemming looked with glee at his companions.

"She's buzzing!" he shouted to make himself heard above the roar of
the engine. "What shall we be able to knock out of her, sir? Eighteen
knots?"

The Scoutmaster shook his head.

"She's good for nine, I believe," he replied, "but if we were to do
that there'd be trouble with the Conservancy Authorities. She's warm
enough now, Roche; change over to paraffin."

They kept the engine running for another ten minutes, until the
amateur engineers declared themselves satisfied.

"I hope she'll start quicker on Monday," remarked Roche. "I feel as
if I had been flogged--stiff all over."

The return of the foraging-party diverted conversation into other
channels, and by the time the _Olivette_ was scrubbed down and tidied
up, the Sea Scouts were quite ready for tea.

"There's no dinghy," observed Hepburn.

"No; but it doesn't matter," replied Mr. Armitage, "unless, of
course, we want to run out a rope. In ordinary circumstances we can
bring the boat alongside the bank if we want to land."

"What puzzles me," remarked Stratton, "is how we are going to turn.
There's not room enough here. We'd foul one of the college barges."

"That rather troubled me," agreed Mr. Armitage, "until I made
inquiries. I find that the large pleasure steamers--like the one
ahead of us--go astern until the counter nearly touches that bridge.
The current then bears against the bows and turns the boat until she
can go ahead. When we've finished tea and washed up, we'll stroll
along the tow-path as far as the first lock--Iffley Lock--and see
what it looks like. Then we shan't be altogether strangers to it when
we bring the _Olivette_ down."

"It's only three o'clock by Greenwich time," observed Warkworth as
the Sea Scouts set out on their walk. "Jolly sound scheme, summer
time."

"Yes; but we must remember that when we have to consult tide tables,"
added Mr. Armitage, "otherwise we may find ourselves in a fix."

It was a pleasant ramble along the tow-path. Past the college barges
and the confluence of the Cherwell the river was almost deserted,
most of the pleasure-seekers afloat having made for the sheltered
backwaters to enjoy alfresco tea.

The Sea Scouts were crossing the Long Bridges, rather more than
half-way to Iffley, when Peter Stratton noticed a couple of Canadian
canoes drifting side by side. In one was a man in boating flannels,
holding an animated but one-sided conversation with a lady, in the
other.

Even as the Patrol-leader glanced in that direction, he saw to his
astonishment the man stand upright in the frail craft and aim a
terrific blow with his paddle at the lady.

Attracted by Stratton's exclamation, the other Sea Scouts saw the
rest of the affair. The canoe containing the lady toppled completely
over, while the perpetrator of the cowardly deed paddled off as hard
as he could go, leaving his victim apparently stunned and floating
face upwards in the water.

Already Stratton was sprinting along the tow-path as quickly as
possible, until he reached a spot abreast of the scene of the
outrage. Then, without waiting to kick off his shoes, he waded in and
struck out towards the victim.

"Hi! hi! you! Come back out of that!" shouted a bull-throated fellow
who had suddenly appeared from behind a clump of bushes.

Stratton paid not the slightest heed to the peremptory mandate, but
continued to strike out with powerful breast-strokes towards the
object of his attention. Evidently, he decided, the man was an
accomplice. His fellow Sea Scouts would deal with him.

At length, after a strenuous effort, for swimming in his clothes was
a fatiguing business, Peter reached the motionless woman.

"Well, I'm blowed!" he ejaculated in utter disgust, and turned to
swim back to the bank.

Meanwhile, Mr. Armitage and the rest of the Patrol were "having it
out" with the bull-throated individual, although at the same time the
Scoutmaster kept a watchful eye on the swimmer.

"You've spoilt the reel," declared the man. "Couldn't you tumble to
it that we were making cinematograph pictures?"

"How was my Patrol-leader to know?" asked Mr. Armitage; "or any of us
for that matter? Surely you could have warned people, and saved the
youngster getting wet through just for your amusement."

"My amusement!" echoed the other. "I like that. If we were to start
warning people, there'd be a crowd knocking around, and that would
spoil the picture. That's why we camouflage the camera."

By this time the "villain" of the film had paddled back, after
retrieving the swamped canoe and the dummy, while Stratton had swum
ashore, landing a full hundred yards lower down than the spot where
he had entered the water, so strong was the current.

The Patrol-leader hurried towards the group, water streaming from his
saturated clothes and a broad grin on his face. He was the first to
"see the funny side of it", and his mirth was infectious. The others
all joined in.

"After all," declared the manager of the film company, "there's not
much harm done. We stopped the reel, so that's not wasted, although
if I'd thought about it we might have made something of it. 'Gallant
rescue by Sea Scout' stunt. Sorry you got your clothes wet, m' lad,
but you look pretty healthy, and a wetting won't hurt if you go back
at once and change. Plucky lad that, sir."

"I suppose I ought to thank you for your gallantry in attempting to
save me," said a lady's voice, and, turning, Peter saw the living
counterpart of the dummy--a tall, graceful girl, who was accompanied
by the villain of the piece, and apparently on the best of terms.

"Show's off for to-day," decided the manager. "We'll have to get the
lay figure dry and presentable. Now hook it, young man, and change
your gear."

The assembly broke up, Peter to run back along the tow-path, the
cinema actors to pack up and return to their quarters, while Mr.
Armitage and the rest of the Patrol continued their tour of
investigation.

When, after having inspected the lock, the Sea Scouts returned to the
_Olivette_, they found Peter in his bunk, while his clothes festooned
the open cockpit.

The Patrol-leader came in for a good deal of chaff from his
companions, who, in spite of the ludicrous ending of the episode,
were proud of their plucky chum.

"By the way," asked Roche. "Why didn't you take a header in true
nautical style?"

"Because I wasn't quite such an ass," replied Peter. "The water was
shallow--we'll have to keep clear of that side of the river,
sir--and, if I had dived, I would have butted my head see? So I just
waded in."



CHAPTER V

Down Stream


The Milford Sea Scouts had a most pleasant afternoon's ramble round
Oxford, with Mr. Jackson's scouts. They saw as much as anyone could
possibly expect to see and appreciate in so short a space of time.

"I can't help envying you, Armitage," said the Oxford Scoutmaster
towards the end of the afternoon. "There's nothing like a sea life.
Knocking about on a river is very good sport, but, when all's said
and done, it doesn't come up to a sea voyage. You don't get the lift
of the ocean and the stinging salt breezes and all that sort of thing
here."

"You've been afloat a good deal, I take it?" asked Mr. Armitage.

"Yes--before the war," replied Mr. Jackson. He offered no further
information, but it was a case of being hard hit. Previous to
"joining up" he had a small yacht on the Crouch. This he sold for a
mere song before he donned khaki, only to find, on being demobilized
four years later, that the price of all types of craft had risen so
enormously that he was compelled to abandon any idea of purchasing
another yacht.

"Do you know the East Coast?" asked Mr. Armitage.

"Fairly well," admitted the Scoutmaster modestly. "Knocked about
there in and out of most of the creeks and harbours for the best part
of ten years."

"Like to have a trip in the _Rosalie_?" asked Mr. Armitage. "If so, I
think it can be arranged."

"Like a shot," said the other eagerly. "I haven't any fixed plans for
the holidays."

"Then meet me at Yarmouth next Saturday," continued the Milford
Scoutmaster. "Bring a couple of your boys if they care to come.
'Fraid there's not sufficient accommodation for more. No; nothing to
thank me for. You'll have to do your whack same as the rest of us,
and we'll be glad of your help."

Early on Monday morning the landing-stage, alongside which the
_Olivette_ was lying, was invaded with throngs of people anxious to
get on the river. Every available boat and punt was let, steamers and
motor-launches were packed, while crowds awaited their turn. It was
an animated scene, and the Sea Scouts, having washed decks and
snugged down, took a lively interest in the proceedings; while they
were objects of curiosity on the part of the waiting holiday-makers.

For the best part of an hour Mr. Armitage and the boys were answering
questions as to what the _Olivette_ was, where she was bound for, and
a hundred inquiries as to the duties performed by Sea Scouts.

Presently a short, stout, red-faced man, who looked like a farmer,
made his way to the front rank of the waiting throng and took a
studied interest in the boat.

"Good morning," he exclaimed at length.

"Good morning," replied Mr. Armitage.

"Any chance of a trip in this craft?" asked the stranger.

The Scoutmaster shook his head.

"Sorry," he replied. "This is a private boat."

"Then it's no use?"

"Not the slightest, I regret to say."

The stranger stepped back, treading heavily on the toe of a man
behind him.

"My mistake, sir; I apologize," he exclaimed, then he broke into a
roar of laughter.

"That's great!" he continued. "Great, absolutely! The owner refused
admittance. Something to tell my friends at the club. Murgatroyd
warned off the course, eh?"

Then, with considerable agility, he gained the _Olivette's_ deck and
extended a hand to the astonished Armitage.

"Course you weren't to know," said Mr. Murgatroyd, waving aside the
proffered apology. "I don't mind, so what's the trouble? Nothing. Now
then, can we be starting? I mean us all to have a jolly good time.
Nothing like being merry and bright, and dash the expense. Smart
youngsters those, Mr. Armitage. Makes me regret my lost youth."

Still talking vivaciously, Mr. Murgatroyd directed the shipment of a
portmanteau, a suit-case, and a big hamper of provisions.

"I know precious little about a boat, Mr. Armitage," he declared.
"It's up to you and your crew to teach me as much as I can grasp. You
think it strange that I've bought a boat at my time of life, eh? It's
never too late to learn, says the proverb, and I'm trying to prove
that the old tag is right. Matter of fact," he added proudly, "I've
had my licence endorsed three times; that's put a stopper on my
driving a car. Now, carry on, Mr. Armitage. You're skipper, and I'm
only a passenger. If I get in your way, push me out of it. If I
should show signs of mutinous conduct, maroon me on an island--the
Karsino, for preference, 'cause I've been there before."

Thereat, Mr. Murgatroyd went below to watch the operation of
"starting up", while the Scoutmaster, having satisfied himself that
the warps were in readiness and that the deck-hands knew what was
required of them, made his way to the wheel-house.

Waiting until the engine was well warmed up, the Scoutmaster beckoned
to Stratton.

"Take the wheel," he said as the Patrol-leader clambered upon the
steering-platform. "Act entirely on your own. I'll stand by in case
of accidents."

Feeling considerably "bucked" at being put in charge of the wheel,
and at the same time conscious of a slight sensation of nervousness,
Stratton turned the wheel hard over, first to port, and then to
starboard, bringing the helm back to 'midships. Having ascertained
the number of turns, he yelled:

"Let go, for'ard and aft. Touch astern."

Aided by the current, the _Olivette_ did not take long to go stern
foremost the length of the stage, but somewhat to Stratton's anxiety
she did not answer readily to her helm. Very slowly she fell away to
port, her bows just missing a barge moored on the left bank of the
river, until her counter was within ten yards of the right bank.

"Stop. Easy ahead... Stop... Touch astern.... Stop!"

Roche, at the reversing lever, obeyed promptly. Unable to see what
was going on outside, he rather wondered at the string of orders. It
was a novel experience, acting as engineer, and relying solely upon
the words of command of the coxswain.

With her after part in still water and the current boring against her
bows, the _Olivette_ swung round rapidly until her stem pointed
obliquely down stream. Stratton had succeeded in turning her. With a
feeling of elation he gave the order, "Easy ahead."

"Well done, Stratton!" exclaimed Mr. Armitage with whole-hearted
earnestness. Then after a minute or so he added: "We'll have to go
slower than that; look at the wash."

Peter glanced astern. The powerfully-engined craft, although well
throttled down, was leaving a turmoil of waves in her wake. Small
boats and canoes were bobbing in the swell, which broke heavily
against the bank on one side, and the college barges on the other.

"She's going as slow as possible," yelled Roche in reply to the
request for less speed. "If I throttle her any more she'll stop."

Peter looked inquiringly at the Scoutmaster.

"Cut out a couple of cylinders," suggested Mr. Armitage.

This was done, but the boat trembled excessively with the jerky
motion imparted by two cylinders only. At the same time the speed was
visibly reduced.

Just then Mr. Murgatroyd, who was sitting on the roof of the
deck-house determined to enjoy himself, inquired: "Won't she go any
faster?"

"We can't do it without causing damage to other craft," replied Mr.
Armitage.

"Then I'm hanged if I keep the boat on the Thames, if I can't get
more out of her than that," was the rejoinder. "Look at that launch,
she's going twice as fast as we are."

By the time Mr. Armitage had endeavoured to explain that the
difference in displacement and shape of the submerged surfaces had
everything to do with speed, the _Olivette_ was approaching Iffley
Lock.

"I'll take her," said the Scoutmaster. "Watch, and then you can carry
on through the next lock. There are thirty-two between here and
Teddington, I believe, so by the time we've tackled a quarter of them
we ought to be experts."

Even Mr. Armitage "had the wind up" as the _Olivette_ approached the
narrow lock, the upper gates of which were open. The current was
running strongly over a weir to the left of the lock, the river being
2 feet above the normal summer level.

Allowing, as he thought, plenty of margin to counteract the rush of
water over the weir, he gave the order for the crew to stand by with
the fore and aft warps.

Slowly the _Olivette_ approached the lock, until Mr. Armitage saw
that she was being swept out of her course. Too late he put the helm
to starboard. The boat's stern swung to port and her quarter crashed
into a massive post with a shock that nearly threw the owner
overboard.

The post saved her. A touch ahead with the propeller and the
_Olivette_ glided into the lock.

"That's how not to do it," commented the Scoutmaster. "Better luck
next time!"

Released from the lock, the _Olivette_ resumed her course past the
leafy woods of Nuneham. Sandford Lock was negotiated without
incident, and then Abingdon town hove in sight.

"Abingdon Bridge is, I believe, the lowest we have to encounter,"
observed Mr. Armitage, as the _Olivette_ passed out of the lock that
takes its name from the old-world town. "Stand by the
reversing-lever, Roche. There's a tricky piece of work ahead."

It was. Almost before the Scouts were aware of it, the low arch of
the bridge appeared to be advancing to meet them. It was narrow, too,
and the turgid waters foamed noisily between the buttresses.

"By Jove! Will it clear us?" thought Mr. Armitage.

Mr. Murgatroyd and the Sea Scouts on deck saw the danger, and
precipitately threw themselves flat on deck. There was no going back
now. The _Olivette_, in the grip of a current running as fast as, or
faster than, she could go astern--even if she answered readily to her
helm--was bearing down at a rate of nine knots "over the ground".

Viewed from the wheel-house it seemed impossible that the boat could
escape destruction. The Scoutmaster had a brief and vivid vision of
the frail wheel-house shattering itself against the crown of the
masonry, yet not for an instant did he lose control of the wheel.

Under it! By inches the _Olivette_ scraped through. Hepburn
afterwards declared that there wasn't the space of a hand's breadth
between the stonework and the roof of the wheel-house.

"Smart bit of work, Mr. Armitage," called out the owner. "We're
having some excitement!"

"No more of that sort, I hope," said the Scoutmaster frankly. "I
thought that navigating the Thames was child's play, but give me the
open sea any day."

"Take on, Warkworth," ordered Mr. Armitage. "I'm going below for a
few minutes. You've two miles before we come to the next lock. Send
word if you want me before."

Telling Flemming to relieve Roche in the engine-room, and asking the
Patrol-leader to give an eye to the coxswain, Mr Armitage went to his
cabin to change a roll of films. The camera was a brand new one, and
the operation required careful handling. Just as he had wound the
first of the new films into position he heard Warkworth shout.

"Stop. Easy astern!"

Thinking that perhaps it was an inexperienced oarsman who had got in
the way of the _Olivette_, the Scoutmaster hurried to the
wheel-house.

"What's wrong, Warkworth?"

"I don't know, sir," replied the perplexed youth. "The river seems to
stop here. There's no lock and no way out."

Too late the Scoutmaster remembered that there was such a thing as
Culham Cut, one of those artificial waterways that avoid a long
detour of the tortuous stream. This one had been missed, and the
_Olivette's_ progress was stopped by the weir of Sutton Courtney.

By dint of much manoeuvring the boat was turned, and finally got on
her proper course through the Cut--by a channel so narrow and with
such high, steep banks that, from the wheel-house, it seemed as if
the _Olivette's_ sides were scraping the embankments.

Beyond Day's Lock two delays occurred. Once the boat had to be
stopped in order to retrieve Mr. Murgatroyd's hat, which was deftly
recovered by Hepburn by means of a boat-hook. The second stop
involved a complicated manoeuvre, because an inexperienced punter,
underrating the tenacious quality of the mud on the bottom of the
river, was left hanging on to the gradually-tilting pole, while his
punt glided sweetly down stream. By the time the _Olivette_, which
displayed her unhandiness more than ever when going astern, had
rescued the dripping and thoroughly-scared man and taken the punt in
tow, thirty-five minutes had elapsed.

"Far enough for to-day, I think," suggested Mr. Murgatroyd, after the
_Olivette_ had successfully passed through a fleet of "small
fry"--canoes, skiffs, and punts--in the neighbourhood of Wallingford.
"Of course, if you are keen on going farther, Mr. Armitage, do so.
You're skipper. But there is a decent little hotel in Wallingford
which I have been to before."

"Right-o; we'll bring up here," agreed the Scoutmaster. "Twenty-one
miles in eight hours isn't exactly exceeding the speed limit."

"It's been enjoyable," continued the owner of the _Olivette_, as she
was berthed alongside a stage. As he prepared to step ashore he
added: "And, by the by, there's a sort of tuck-box for the crew.
They've got to get outside the contents of that hamper before we
reach Teddington."



CHAPTER VI

Thieves


"What do you think of him, sir?" asked Flemming, indicating the
disappearing figure of Mr. Murgatroyd.

"Hardly cricket, Flemming," replied the Scoutmaster, "asking me to
pass an opinion. He's our employer, so to speak."

"I didn't mean anything disrespectful," explained the Sea Scout. "I
thought it was jolly decent of him to give us that hamper of
provisions. What with those we bought we'll feed like fighting-cocks.
He's been telling us awfully funny yarns as we came along; he's quite
a humorist, and so chirpy."

"Peter Pannish," declared Warkworth. "He doesn't seem to have grown
up. Hope I'll be as brisk as he is when I'm his age," he added, with
a philosophical air.

Having snugged down and cleaned the engine, all hands piped to tea.
It was a pleasant meal eaten on deck in the brilliant sunshine, while
Mr. Murgatroyd's contribution was of a choice and lavish kind.

"Now," said Mr. Armitage, consulting his wristlet watch, "it's six
o'clock. Time for a good brisk stroll before supper. What's that I
hear, Woodleigh? A suggestion to go to the 'pictures'? All those in
favour? None. Your motion's lost, Woodleigh. For my part, I wouldn't
waste a beautiful evening like this in a hot, stuffy room, and I'm
glad five of you share my opinion. On a long, dull winter's evening
it's different. One hand will have to remain on board, so you had
better toss for it."

A coin was spun until only Woodleigh and Roche were left in the
running.

Roche grinned at his companion.

"Hard lines if you lose, Bill," he remarked.

The coin glinted in the sunlight and fell head uppermost. Woodleigh
had chosen tails, and he had lost.

"Nemesis, ship-keeper!" exclaimed the Patrol-leader. "Never mind.
Basking on deck and watching the boats go by is preferable to the
cinema and a jolly sight more healthy."

At half-past nine the rest of the crew came back, and after supper
turned in. So tired were they with the long day in the open air that
they all slept like logs, until Mr. Armitage bawled in nautical style
into the fo'c'sle: "Show a leg, show a leg, and shine! Sun's over the
fore-yard!"

"Can we bathe, sir?" asked Roche.

The Scoutmaster gave a glance at the swift-flowing current.

"I don't think it's advisable," he replied. "There's too much run of
water. We'll put into a quiet backwater farther down stream, and all
hands can have a swim. Besides, there's none too much time. We must
have breakfast cleared away, and have everything in readiness for Mr.
Murgatroyd."

"'Fraid you won't!" exclaimed the owner, with a boisterous laugh, as
he stepped on board. "Caught you Sea Scouts napping, or nearly so.
Carry on and get breakfast. It will be a treat to watch you
youngsters eat. Remind me of the days when I had an appetite. Don't
worry, I'm an hour before my time; but all Nature seemed to be
calling, so I got up early."

While the engine was being started up--an operation that Mr.
Murgatroyd made a valiant and determined attempt to carry out but
without success--Stratton went up to his Scoutmaster.

"I can't find one of our Manila ropes, sir," he reported. "It was
coiled up on the fore-deck last night all right."

"Has anyone taken it below?" asked Mr. Armitage.

Inquiries of the rest of the crew resulted in the statement that none
had touched the rope, although several affirmed that it was there
when they turned in.

"In fact, sir," said Roche. "I remember moving it a couple of inches,
because part of the coils was resting on the fore-hatch."

"Apparently some of the light-fingered fraternity have paid us a
nocturnal visit," declared the Scoutmaster. "I hardly expected there
would be thieves on the upper Thames, although, I believe, their name
is legion lower down. Anything else missing?"

The loss was immediately reported to the _Olivette's_ owner, but Mr.
Murgatroyd treated the matter almost with indifference.

"Bad luck, Armitage," he observed. "It was considerate of the thief
not to pinch the other two, otherwise the boat might have drifted
down to the next lock or over the weir. That would have given you a
bit of a shock, wouldn't it?"

The second stage of the trip was begun in glorious weather, and
thanks to a comparative scarcity of other craft, and to the fact that
most of the locks were open, good progress was made. By this time the
Sea Scouts were quite expert in taking the _Olivette_ through the
locks, knowing exactly how much way to carry until the boat's nose
was within a few feet of the closed gate.

"Shall we ask Mr. Murgatroyd to have lunch with us?" asked Warkworth,
who, as cook for the day, was rather proud of his handiwork in the
culinary department.

"Delighted!" exclaimed the owner, when the proposition was put to
him.

"We'll stop at Goring," decided Mr. Armitage, "and climb the hill
above Streatley. The view is superb, I'm told. Lunch can come after.
It's a pity for half the crew to be feeding while we are passing such
lovely scenery."

This programme was duly carried out, and, on re-embarking, Mr.
Murgatroyd, Mr. Armitage, Roche, Woodleigh, and Warkworth went to
lunch, while the others remained on duty.

The meal was but half over when Stratton, from the wheel-house, gave
the order for Flemming to stand by. The latter grasped the lever of
the reversing-gear and awaited the next order.

"Surely we haven't got to Pangbourne Lock already," remarked the
Scoutmaster. "What is it, Peter?" he inquired raising his voice.

"Launch broken down, sir," replied the Patrol-leader. "They're asking
for assistance."

Even as he spoke, the _Olivette_ bumped on the bottom of the river,
listed heavily to starboard, sending an avalanche of plates, dishes,
and cups upon the floor of the cockpit. Still carrying way, she
grated over the obstruction into deeper water.

At the shock, Mr Armitage clambered up the iron ladder and looked
around. It was no fault on the part of Stratton that the boat had
grounded. She was almost exactly in the middle of the river, and had
hit upon a submerged bank that had evidently been formed during the
recent floods.

"Good job our propeller is above the keel line," declared the
Scoutmaster. "Apparently those fellows have bumped, but with
disastrous results."

He indicated a 35- or 40-foot launch, drifting broadside on at a
distance of 80 yards from the _Olivette_. Over her port quarter ran a
rope stretched as taut as an iron bar.

"Hi, gov'ner!" shouted the coxswain of the launch. "Kin yer give us
er tow as far as Readin'?"

"What's wrong?" asked Mr. Armitage.

"Hit summat fust goin' orf an' then our line got rahnd the screw.
Proper lash-up, that's wot it is."

"Right-o," agreed the Scoutmaster. "We'll give you a pluck as far as
Reading."

He went for'ard and, bending down, spoke through the open window of
the wheel-house.

"Something more for you to practise, Stratton," he said. "Now, carry
on, just as if I weren't here."

The Patrol-leader considered a few moments, then, "Stand by the
wheel, Hepburn," he ordered. "I'll go on deck and give directions
from there."

By this time the rest of the crew had left their interrupted meal and
were preparing to assist in the towing operations, Roche and
Warkworth going aft ready to heave a line.

Very slowly and deliberately the _Olivette_ was manoeuvred within 5
or 6 feet of the broken-down craft. Roche was preparing to heave a
line when the Patrol-leader hurried aft.

"Let them pass us a line," he said hurriedly, and in a low tone.
"I'll tell you why later."

As the _Olivette_ glided slowly past the launch, Stratton shouted:

"Now then, pass your rope smartly."

The man in the bows of the launch obeyed promptly; Peter took a turn
round the after towing bollard and gave the word "easy ahead".

As soon as the _Olivette_ and her tow had steadied on their course,
Stratton went up to the Scoutmaster.

"Very well done, Peter," said Mr. Armitage.

The Patrol-leader flushed with pleasure.

"It wasn't that I want to speak to you about, sir," he said. "It's
the towing-warp. It's the one that was stolen from us."

"By Jove!" exclaimed Mr. Armitage. "Are you quite sure of that?"

"Quite, sir. If you'll go into your cabin and look through the
after-scuttle--that won't arouse suspicion--you'll find that there's
West Country whipping on the rope. I noticed that the ordinary
whipping was almost chafed through, so I put on a fresh lot at
Oxford."

"We'll have that back then," decided the Scoutmaster. "I'll speak to
Mr. Murgatroyd about it. If he likes to prosecute he can; but,
personally, it would mean a great waste of time for us."

The owner was almost of the same opinion.

"I'd run the blighters in as a warning to others," he said, "only
there's the fuss of police proceedings. I think if we get the rope
back and give the thieves a jolly good scare that will answer our
purpose."

Evidently the purloiners of the warp were either ignorant of the fact
that the vessel that had them in tow was the same craft from which
they had "annexed" the rope very much earlier in the day, or else
they thought that there was no suspicion on the rightful owners'
part. One man was steering, while the other--puffing away at a
cigar--was staring vacantly at the water.

Entering the next lock presented more difficulty, owing to the
motor-launch towing astern, but Peter managed the operation quite
successfully.

"Right yer are!" sung out the helmsman of the launch, when both boats
were opposite a boat-yard in Reading. "Cast off, an' thanks."

"I'll trouble you to cast off," rejoined Mr. Armitage sternly.

A well-feigned look of astonishment appeared on the fellow's face.

"Wot for?" he asked. "It's our bloomin' rope, ain't it?"

The while the Sea Scouts were hauling in the slack until the two
boats were almost touching.

"Possession may be nine points of the law," continued the
Scoutmaster, "but that warp belongs to this craft."

"Rot!" ejaculated the man in the launch. "It's ours."

"Since how long?"

"Wot d'yer wanter know for?" asked the other insolently.

"We lost a warp like that this morning," pursued Mr. Armitage. "And
this happens to be the identical one."

"You'd better look somewhere else for it," suggested the fellow.
"This ain't it. If yer wants to know, I paid five bob for it a month
or more ago."

"It would have been dirt cheap at the price," commented Mr. Armitage
drily. "I wish I could get hold of a bargain like that--honestly, of
course. However, we are digressing. That's our warp. We recognize our
private marks. Either you cast off at once, or I shall be compelled
to put the matter into the hands of the police."

The threat was sufficient. Surlily the men slipped the warp from the
bits.

"Hold on a minute," cautioned Mr. Armitage. "We'll lay you alongside
the stage."

This was done. The Sea Scouts coiled away the retrieved rope and
prepared to resume, when to their surprise they saw three policemen
dart from behind a shed and neatly handcuff the crew of the launch.

"One moment, sir!" called out the sergeant authoritatively. "Come
alongside. I wish to ask you a few questions."

It quickly transpired that the prisoners were "old hands". They had
stolen the launch from Abingdon and were on their way to Reading,
where they hoped to ransack their prize and leave the hull for its
owner to claim.

Mr. Armitage explained how the _Olivette_ fell in with the disabled
craft, but made no mention of the stolen rope. Even then he had some
difficulty in convincing the representative of the law that the
evidence of the Sea Scouts would not materially assist the
prosecution.

"Another half-hour wasted," commented the Scoutmaster, glancing at
his watch. "We'll be lucky if we get as far as Henley to-night."



CHAPTER VII

Stranded


"Looks something like a river, sir," remarked Hepburn, as the
unlovely waterside buildings at Reading were left astern, and the
_Olivette_ gained the broad reach where the Kennet joins the Thames.

"Looks are sometimes deceptive," rejoined Mr. Armitage, who was
standing behind Hepburn in the wheel-house. "There's a tricky spot
just beyond Sonning. I'll tell you where when we come to it. Because
a river's wide it doesn't necessarily mean that it's deep. Edge a
little over towards the tow-path."

Sonning was duly admired and left astern. At about a mile below the
far-famed lock the Scoutmaster renewed his caution.

"See that broad stretch ahead, Hepburn?" he asked. "That's shallow
water. The deep channel runs hard to port, passing those two little
islands on your starboard hand. Give her all the helm you can,
because the current's pretty strong."

As a precautionary measure Mr. Armitage told Roche to stand by the
reversing-lever. It was as well that he did so, for as the sharp bend
became visible Hepburn gave the _Olivette_ full starboard helm.

The boat responded, but the current setting hard against her
broadside was too strong for her. By the time she had turned the
requisite eight points her bows were on a line with the little
islands.

"Stop!" shouted Alan. "Full speed astern."

The _Olivette_ quivered under the reverse action of the propeller,
and gathered sternway so quickly that she was in danger of ramming
the right bank stern foremost.

Hepburn saw the possibility, and, knowing how unhandy the boat was
when going astern, ordered "easy ahead", at the same time putting
his helm hard to starboard in an attempt to turn the craft up-stream.

Almost before he was aware of it the _Olivette_ grounded. Carrying
way until her bows were well out of the water she rammed her nose
right between the two islands, swung round and listed heavily to
starboard. A shower of leaves, branches of trees, and brushwood
descended on her foredeck, as the wheel-house scraped violently
against the verdure with which the island was densely covered.

"Sorry, sir," exclaimed the thoroughly perturbed Hepburn.

"Can't be helped," replied Mr. Armitage calmly. "You did your best.
It was the current, combined with the slowness of helm, that let you
down. Now comes the job of getting off."

Mr. Murgatroyd, who on the impact had narrowly escaped being jerked
overboard, seemed delighted with the stranding. It was what he had
anticipated. It was, as he had written to Mr. Armitage, "having some
fun"--an episode without which, in his opinion, a cruise falls short
of being up to the amateur sailor's standard.

Armed with his camera, the owner jumped ashore.


[Illustration: THE SKIFF TAKES A ROPE ASHORE]


"Don't get her off yet, Armitage," he called out. "I don't want to be
marooned here, but I do want some photographs."

While Mr. Murgatroyd was securing photographic records of the
stranding of the _Olivette_, the Scoutmaster took stock of his
immediate surroundings.

The boat was hard against a snag, with her bows touching one island.
Amidships she bridged the very narrow channel between the two islands
through which the current swirled strongly, while aft her starboard
quarter was within 6 feet of the second island. She was waterborne
aft, since the rudder was quite free, but her bows were a good 18
inches above the normal water-line. In addition she had quite a bad
list.

"We're on pretty hard, Peter," declared the Scoutmaster.

"Won't she come off with the engine going full speed astern, sir?"
asked the Patrol-leader.

"We can but try--directly Mr. Murgatroyd comes on board," replied Mr.
Armitage. "The main trouble is that the level of the river is falling
steadily. Since those heavy rains a week ago there's been no rainfall
at all. The _Olivette_ may be here for a couple of months."

"Cheerful that," remarked Stratton. "We'll manage it somehow, sir,"
he added optimistically.

When at length the exuberant Mr. Murgatroyd returned on board,
preparations were made to extricate the _Olivette_ from her
ignominious position.

The four cylinders were brought into action, and the motor run first
at half speed and then full speed astern. Beyond a terrific vibration
nothing happened. The boat obstinately refused to leave her
unofficial shore-berth.

"Roll her!" ordered the Scoutmaster. "All hands!"

Everyone, except Roche who stood by the engine, ran from side to
side, but this expedient proved to be of no avail.

"If we could only run out the big warp to the other bank," suggested
Peter tentatively.

"Unfortunately we've no dinghy," commented Mr. Armitage. "We'll have
to wait until a boat comes along."

They waited a very long time. Already the sun was well down in the
north-western sky. Two more hours would see darkness closing down
upon the stranded craft. Even the hitherto hilarious Mr. Murgatroyd
began to show signs of anxiety.

"Couldn't I swim to the other bank with a light line, sir?" asked
Warkworth.

Mr. Armitage shook his head.

"You're a good swimmer, Warkworth," he replied, "but the current's
too strong. Even without the drag of a light line you would have
great difficulty in getting across. Hampered by a rope your chances
of success would be nil. We'll have to wait."

A few minutes later a pair-oared skiff, manned by four scouts, came
laboriously up stream. In reply to a hail from the _Olivette_ they
pulled alongside.

"Only too glad to help you, sir," replied one of the scouts. "My
word, you are on it."

At Mr. Armitage's suggestion two of the scouts came on board the
_Olivette_, and their places in the skiff were taken up by a heavy
coil of 4-inch grass rope.

Thrice the skiff essayed the task of crossing the river. Twice the
pull of the current against the floating grass-rope baulked the
efforts of the scouts, but the third time, by dint of pulling
obliquely against the stream, they established communication with the
right bank, and the warp was made fast to a tree trunk.

"Let's hope those fellows know how to bend a rope," soliloquized the
Scoutmaster, as the Sea Scouts began to heave taut on the small but
powerful winch. "And I hope there'll be no traffic along this branch
of the stream. If there is there'll be a good chance of a nasty
accident."

He regarded the rope with misgivings. It was sagging with the
tremendous rush of water in spite of the strain upon it.

At first foot by foot, and then inch by inch the warp came inboard,
until not another turn of the winch could be made.

"Now, full speed astern again," ordered Mr. Armitage.

"She's moving!" exclaimed Flemming.

"Not a bit of it," declared Stratton.

The Patrol-leader was right. The _Olivette_ showed no tendency to
disengage herself from the tenacious embraces of the island.

"I'm afraid it's no use keeping you fellows," said the Scoutmaster
addressing the four scouts. "If you are going up as far as Reading,
perhaps you might report our plight to one of the river-side yards."

The pair-oared skiff pushed off, and was soon lost to sight in a bend
of the river. It was now sunset.

"There's no reason why we should go hungry, even if we are hard and
fast aground," observed Mr. Murgatroyd. "I'm peckish, very; and I
guess you hard-working lads are too. Let's get some tea."

"I can hang on a bit longer, sir," declared Stratton. "One of us
ought to remain on deck to warn any boat that might foul our hawser.
I'll keep watch."

For about five minutes the Patrol-leader paced the deck. It was a
ticklish task owing to the vessel's list, so presently he sat down.
Below, his companions were talking briskly to the accompaniment of
the rattle of spoons, and cups and saucers.

Peter was thinking hard. It was ignominious, he decided, to run
aground and stop there until outside help arrived.

"I wonder if I shifted the lead of that rope?" he soliloquized.
"Better still, bend the smaller Manila to the grass-rope, and run it
through the for'ard fair-lead. I'll try it, and the others can bear a
hand after tea."

He set to work on the lines he had suggested, then, merely as an
experiment, he began heaving taut on the winch. How it happened he
could never explain. The engine wasn't running, yet directly the rope
took the strain the _Olivette_ glided easily from her prison.

"We're afloat, sir!" shouted Stratton gleefully.

The tea-party broke up hurriedly. Roche, Flemming, and Woodleigh,
rushed to restart the motor. The others scrambled on deck, except Mr.
Armitage, who made for the wheel-house.

He was just in time to put the helm hard over, otherwise the boat
would have bumped broadside on to the opposite bank, held as she was
by the grass-warp.

Aided by the engine going slowly ahead, the Sea Scouts hauled in and
coiled away the grass-warp until all but 30 feet was inboard. The
difficulty that confronted them was how to cast off the end from the
tree trunk. Even by running the boat's bows gently aground there was
too wide a space of water to leap over.

"We don't want to cut the rope," said the Patrol-leader tentatively.
"Now then, you budding Blondins; who's going to walk the tight-rope?"

There were no volunteers. The prospect of falling into the
swift-flowing river, even in a mere three feet of water, was not
sufficiently tempting.

"I'll get ashore somehow," said Hepburn, who, holding himself
responsible for the grounding, was anxious to "make good". "I'll use
the boat-hook stave as a leaping-pole."

"How will you get back?" asked Stratton.

"Walk along the tow-path and get on board at the next lock," replied
the resourceful Alan.

"Which will be Sonning," decided Mr. Armitage. "We know our way back,
but we don't know what's down stream. It's too risky in the dark.
Right-o; carry on, Alan."

The Sea Scout sounded with the boat-hook. The bottom was hard,
consequently there was no risk of the pole sinking in the mud under
his weight.

Hepburn had to make a standing start. There was no chance of a
running leap from the deck. Nevertheless he alighted gracefully on
the bank, and handed back the boat-hook.

"Too long for a walking-stick," he remarked facetiously. "'Sides, you
may need it, Peter, if one of you tumble into the ditch. All ready,
sir?"

"Cast off!" ordered Mr. Armitage.

The run back to Sonning Lock was accomplished without incident, and
by the time Hepburn rejoined the boat, Mr. Murgatroyd had gone ashore
and the evening meal was in course of preparation.

"Two days gone and only forty miles covered," commented Mr. Armitage.
"We'll have to do better than that to-morrow, lads."



CHAPTER VIII

A Tow


"I wonder what Mr. Murgatroyd intends doing with the _Olivette_ when
he gets her to Teddington," remarked Roche next morning, while the
crew were awaiting the arrival of the owner. "She can't be run 'all
out', and there's a good engine practically wasted."

"It puzzles me," added Stratton, "why he should be content to be on
board as a mere passenger. He hasn't taken the wheel once. I know I
jolly well would if I were in his place."

"Perhaps he's going to engage a permanent crew," suggested Hepburn.

"'Tany rate she's the wrong type of boat for this ditch," declared
the Patrol-leader. "Wouldn't I like to try her in a sea-way! Give an
eye to that bacon, Dick. We don't want it burnt to a cinder."

"How's the glass this morning, sir?" inquired Alan, as Mr. Armitage
emerged from his cabin.

"Falling rapidly," replied the Scoutmaster, giving a glance aloft at
the clouds scudding across the sky. "We're in for a short, sharp
spell of dirty weather, I'm afraid. However, we must take the bad
with the good, and keep smiling. Any sign of Mr. Murgatroyd yet?"

"He's just coming, sir," replied Flemming. "There he is, walking
along the tow-path."

It was 5 a.m.--or four o'clock by Greenwich time. The sun had not yet
risen, although it was quite light. An early morning start was
desirable, and since Mr. Murgatroyd did not wish unduly to
inconvenience the hotel staff, he arranged to have breakfast on
board.

"Good morning, everyone!" he exclaimed. "Bless my soul! What a
delicious breakfast. Who's the cook? My hunger will astonish you."

He sniffed the air appreciatively.

"Do you know that this is the first time for twenty years that I've
seen the sun rise," he continued. "I feel like kicking myself for
having wasted my opportunities. Now, then, let's see who's the best
trencherman."

Directly breakfast was finished Warkworth was told off to wash up,
while the rest of the crew set to work to get under way. Mr.
Armitage, undaunted by the previous day's events, had sufficient
faith in Alan Hepburn to place him at the wheel.

"You know what that awkward bend is like, Alan," he remarked. "That's
half the battle. Carry on."

Hepburn felt decidedly "bucked". He realized that the stranding of
the _Olivette_ had not gone against him in his Scoutmaster's opinion.
He had been given an unqualified chance of again tackling what was
admittedly a difficult bit of navigation, taking into consideration
the length and general unhandiness of the boat when running under
considerably reduced power.

That notwithstanding, Alan found himself approaching the scene of the
grounding with a sense of suppressed excitement. He wasn't exactly
nervous, but he vaguely wondered whether he would be able to do the
trick this time.

Mr. Armitage noted with silent approval that the young helmsman was
hugging the right bank. That gave him a better turning circle when
the critical moment arrived to starboard helm.

This time the manoeuvre was successfully accomplished. Then followed
an intricate bit of the river through and beyond Wargrave, where the
stream is obstructed by numerous "aits", or islands.

Mile after mile was reeled off in grand style. By this time the locks
were no longer novelties to the Sea Scouts--they became monotonous.
Marlow, with its huge weir, interested them, but they voted the river
between Bourne End and Maidenhead the best from a picturesque point
of view.

As they approached Boulter's Lock it began to rain in torrents, so
oilskins and sou'westers were donned. The downpour proved a blessing
in disguise, because the _Olivette_ was spared the intricate business
of entering a lock crowded with frail pleasure-boats. As it happened,
the most famous lock on the Thames was almost deserted.

Windsor Castle, viewed in the sunlight as the clouds temporarily
cleared, enthralled the Sea Scouts. They realized that in that noble
pile was embodied the history of nearly a thousand years.

"I wish we had time to go over the Castle," remarked Roche wistfully.

"So do I," agreed Mr. Armitage. "But this is a business proposition,
Roche; we've contracted to undertake two tasks in a given time, and
it's up to us to carry them out."

Magna Carta Island, looking much like the rest of the Thames islands,
was passed soon afterwards--a flat, uninteresting strip of ground
famous for the fact that the greatest deed that gave the English
people their liberty was enacted here, when the barons forced King
John to sign the all-important charter.

The afternoon found the _Olivette_ off Hampton Court. Her voyage was
approaching the end. There were evidences that she was nearing the
great Metropolis.

"We'll do it easily this time," said Mr. Armitage, addressing the
owner.

"Yes," replied Mr. Murgatroyd dubiously. "I can't say that I'm at all
pleased with the river. From a scenic point of view it's all right;
but what's the use of a big boat like this? I can't run her at any
speed."

He paused to watch a long, lean motor-launch glide past, overtaking
the _Olivette_ with the greatest ease, yet leaving hardly any wash in
her wake.

"That's the sort of thing," he continued.

"For the Thames above London," agreed the Scoutmaster. "I wouldn't
care to take her down to the Nore, but this boat would go anywhere."

"I wonder if I would be a good sailor," remarked Mr. Murgatroyd.

"You'll be able to find that out later, if you wish," said Mr.
Armitage. "With a competent engineer and coxswain, you ought to get
heaps of pleasure out of her on the East Coast."

"Good idea that," agreed the owner. "East Coast--bracing air, open
sea, go as fast as you can. That's sensible. No ditch-crawling with
two cylinders cut out and the throttle almost closed. I remember
spending a pleasant holiday years ago at a little place called
Brightlingsea. Know it?"

"I've heard of it," admitted Mr. Armitage. "Although during the war I
was stationed some time at Harwich, I never put into the Colne, which
is only about thirty miles distant."

"Will you take the _Olivette_ to Brightlingsea for me?" asked Mr.
Murgatroyd bluntly. "I'll willingly pay another ten pounds."

The Scoutmaster hesitated a few moments. He had to think things out.
It would give the lads an opportunity of open sea work in a boat that
they were by this time fairly well acquainted with. In addition,
Brightlingsea was well on the way to Great Yarmouth.

"We'll manage it," he replied. "If there are no delays, unavoidable
or otherwise; it will fit in with our present arrangements."

"What are you doing this sort of thing for?" asked Mr. Murgatroyd
with his natural bluntness. Needless to say, he hailed from 'twixt
Tees and Trent. "Making a living out of it?"

Mr. Armitage smiled.

"Hardly," he replied. "Otherwise I might soon find myself in the
'cart'. No, it's a scheme to help my Sea Scouts to purchase a
weatherly sort of boat, one on which they can sleep under cover.
Since by the Scout Regulations they are not allowed to receive
monetary rewards for doing nothing--in other words, cadging--they
must earn their salt honestly."

"Good scheme," agreed Mr. Murgatroyd. "Take it from me, a self-made
old buffer, that money easily acquired is not appreciated to anything
like the extent as if you'd had to work jolly hard for it. Right-o!
we're for Brightlingsea, then. Anything you require for the voyage?"

"More fuel," replied the Scoutmaster. "If we refill the
paraffin-tank, it ought to take us there. Provisions, I think, are
sufficient. I'll have to go ashore near London Bridge and buy a chart
of the mouth of the Thames. Mine is from the Nore eastwards."

It was early in the afternoon when the _Olivette_ passed through the
great lock at Teddington, and entered the tidal waters of the Thames.
It was now just after high water, and the mud-banks on the northern
shore were covered.

"Can't we increase speed, sir?" asked Stratton, noticing several
fussy, high-powered steam-tugs making quite a swell.

"Connect up all four cylinders, and see how she takes it," assented
the Scoutmaster. "Don't give her full throttle. Many a good motor has
been spoiled by opening out before the bearings have been properly
run in."

The _Olivette_ increased speed. Although there was a fair amount of
vibration, it was not so marked as when the motor was running on two
cylinders. It was possible to leave a plate on the cabin table and
not find it making steady progress from one end to the other, a
tendency that had already been responsible for several casualties
amongst the crockery-ware.

"Now she feels it!" exclaimed Hepburn, as the _Olivette_ encountered
the "wash" of a tug, lifting her bows and plunging into the trough,
at the same time flinging a shower of spray far on either side.
"Almost like being at sea once more."

Mr. Armitage thought so too. He was once more in his element. The
narrow, tideless waters of the Thames, with their crowds of
pleasure-craft, manned for the most part by inexperienced amateurs,
were left astern. Ahead was a commercial waterway frequented by men
whose business was upon the sea, and who knew the "Rule of the Road"
by heart. The Scoutmaster could take the _Olivette_ through the maze
of shipping with confidence--confidence in himself and confidence in
those in command of the craft he met, since "they knew their job".
Failure to know it on the part of one would almost certainly result
in an accident, possibly disaster; but a cool head and a steady hand
at the wheel were sure and certain passports to safety.

The Sea Scouts were most enthusiastic over the change of plans. With
the budding instinct of seamanship they welcomed the idea of taking
the _Olivette_ out to sea. There lurked a spice of danger, a
possibility of being able to achieve something.

"Now," said Mr. Armitage, as the boat passed over the half-tide
barrage at Richmond, "we are not ditch-crawling: it's sea routine.
Stratton, you take the starboard watch, with Warkworth as deck hand.
Roche will be engineer of that watch. The others, under Hepburn, will
be in the port watch, with Woodleigh for deck duties. One is quite
enough for the engine-room, except when starting up. Starboard will
take on at the first Dog Watch. That will start the routine well."

As far as London Bridge progress was rapid, except when it became
necessary to avoid lumbering lighters "shooting the bridges" with the
now strong ebb-tide. Here the _Olivette_ brought up alongside a wharf
and refilled tanks, while the Scoutmaster hied him to Potter's to
purchase the necessary chart.

"Will Gravesend suit for to-night?" asked Mr. Armitage on his return.

"Anywhere," replied Mr. Murgatroyd. "If necessary, I'll sleep on
board. In fact, I'd rather like it."

It meant turning Stratton out of his bunk, but the owner didn't know
that. On the other hand, should it become necessary for the
_Olivette_ to weigh she could do so without having to wait for Mr.
Murgatroyd.

"I have a couple of rugs in my portmanteau," he continued. "It isn't
the first time I've slept 'rough'."

"But we don't sleep 'rough' on board, sir," expostulated Roche. "It's
as comfortable as anything, even in the lockers in the cockpit."

"Lamps all trimmed, I hope, Peter?" asked the Scoutmaster. "We don't
want to be under way after dark if it can be avoided, but we must be
prepared if the contingency arises."

Throughout the trip down the Lower Thames--or London River, as it is
termed in the sea-faring world--Mr. Armitage remained in the
wheel-house, ready to give directions to the helmsman should occasion
occur. But, following his usual plan, he allowed the lad at the wheel
to exercise his own discretion--a plan that worked admirably. It gave
the coxswain confidence, but at the same time he realized that if he
did get in a tight corner the Scoutmaster was there, ready to help
him out of the difficulty. "We'll carry our tide right to Gravesend,
I think," remarked Mr. Armitage, as he shut up the tide-table book.
"The flood makes at 6.30."

"Does it matter with a motor?" asked Roche.

"Yes, but not to the same extent as if we were dependent on
sail-power. We're doing nine knots now, with a three-knot ebb under
us. That means we are doing twelve knots past the land. With the tide
against us we would be doing only six. In that case----"

"There's a barge hailing us, sir," reported Warkworth, who was
"look-out" on duty. "Wants a tow, I think."

Mr. Armitage went on deck. Eighty or a hundred yards away was a large
sprit-rigged Thames barge, light in ballast. She was dropping down
with the tide. Her large expanse of tanned canvas was hardly drawing,
for the breeze, which had held strongly during the greater part of
the day, had "petered out ".

"Tug, ahoy!" hailed the skipper of the barge, a short, rotund man,
clad in a blue jersey, tanned trousers and sea-boots, and wearing a
billy-cock hat. "Can you give us a pluck as far as Gravesen'?"

Mr. Armitage glanced at Mr. Murgatroyd.

"Go on," said the latter. "It'll be a bit of fun. Let's see what the
_Olivette_ can do with a craft like that."

"It will mean increased fuel-consumption," cautioned the Scoutmaster,
"and perhaps finishing up against the tide in the dark. We're not off
Woolwich yet."

"It's my paraffin you're burning," remarked the owner with a chuckle.
"If I don't mind, you needn't. And a run in the dark won't hurt us.
It isn't a case of 'I'm afraid to go home in the dark', is it?"

By this time the _Olivette_, although her engine was stopped, had
overlapped the barge. The skipper of the latter, evidently fearing
that his request would be "turned down", brought his hands
trumpet-wise to his mouth and bellowed:

"I'll give you ten pun' for a tow."

"Take on the job, Armitage," said his employer.

The Scoutmaster raised one arm in a gesture of assent, and
immediately the crew of the barge--two men and a boy--prepared to run
out a warp.

"All out!" ordered Mr. Armitage, when the barge had gathered way in
the wake of the powerful little motor-craft.

"I don't know whether we are transgressing and breaking regulations
by towing for hire," observed the Scoutmaster.

"We were asked," replied: Mr. Murgatroyd. "The skipper is evidently
in a hurry, or else he wouldn't have offered ten pounds."

"You've earned something by keeping on," said Mr. Armitage.

"Not I," protested the owner. "I'm only a sort of passenger."

"As owner you are entitled to a part at least of the towage,"
persisted Mr. Armitage.

"I'm not taking it," declared Mr. Murgatroyd vehemently. "When I'm
hard up I'll use the _Olivette_ for profits--not before. The money's
yours, Armitage; yours and the lads'. It'll help towards buying a
vessel of your own."

Naturally the Sea Scouts were surprised and delighted when Mr.
Armitage told them of the owner's generosity.

"We've been wondering why the skipper of the barge was so anxious to
get a tow and pay for it. He might have had it for the asking,"
remarked Flemming.

"We're not assisting other criminals on their weary way, I hope,"
added Hepburn. It was soon evident that, although the barge was
"light", she was a heavy barge to tow, and it became a question
whether the _Olivette_ would save her tide down to Gravesend.

The barge brought up off her destination just in time. The young
flood was making over the malodorous mud-flats.

True to his compact, the skipper of the barge put off in his dinghy
and, coming alongside the _Olivette_, handed over ten very greasy
"Bradburys" with as much unconcern as if they had been pennies.

"You've done me a very good turn, guv'ner," he remarked. "Gives me a
chance to ship cargo early to-morrow morning, an' ketch the flood up
the river."

"Where can we bring up for the night?" asked Mr. Armitage.

"'Longside o' we," replied the skipper promptly. "No need to worrit
yourselves about no ridin' light, an' 'tis easy to get under way
come mornin'. You've tidy fenders, an' you won't come to no 'arm."

The offer was accepted. It cut both ways. It enabled the _Olivette's_
crew to dispense with the task of anchoring, while, with the Scouts
alongside, the skipper and the men of the barge could go ashore
without risk of finding their boat plundered by waterside thieves.

The barge skipper was well satisfied. At an outlay of ten pounds for
towage, he had made to the extent of fifty or sixty pounds in times
when freightage was higher than it had ever been before.



CHAPTER IX

Caught Out


It was with a certain amount of difficulty that the Scoutmaster made
the "watch below" turn in. The lads were reluctant to leave the deck.
It was a calm, peaceful evening, despite a falling glass, and the
prospect of the chief maritime highway of the world's commerce
fascinated them. A huge liner, one blaze of lights, was creeping up
to an anchorage off Tilbury; tramps, coasters, barges, and tugs were
constantly passing to and fro, their navigation-lights forming a
galaxy of red, green, and white.

"You fellows will be fat-headed when it's your turn for duty,"
remarked the Scoutmaster. "As a matter of fact, you may all turn in.
We won't require an anchor watch."

The Sea Scouts obeyed, but Mr. Armitage had no intention of following
their example He went to his cabin and carefully perused the chart,
at the same time noting the still-falling barometer.

"If the wind comes from the sou'-west or south'ard, we'll do all
right here," he soliloquized. "If it's east or north, then it's a
case of look out."

Mr. Murgatroyd, tired out with his long day, had gone to his bunk in
the after-cabin, but there were signs that he was far from
comfortable. Possibly he was hankering after a snug bed ashore and a
floor that didn't rock, although ever so gently.

About midnight the Scoutmaster went on deck. It was now nearly high
tide, and a distinct "popple" of tide was in evidence. Overhead the
starlit sky was beginning to become overcast--long, ragged clouds
throwing out tapering fingers that pointed to a blow from the
nor'ard.

Even as he studied the meteoric conditions, Mr. Armitage heard a
weird moan. It was the herald of a stiff breeze, possibly half a
gale.

Then with a terrific gust the storm burst. It was one of those
sudden, fierce tempests that are apt to occur during the summer
months--short in duration, but none the less dangerous.

In five minutes the sea was quite tumultuous, although the distance
from shore to shore was short of a mile. The _Olivette_ was soon
grinding and bumping against the barge in a manner that suggested
damage if she remained much longer.

The series of violent concussions brought the Sea Scouts from their
bunks. They were prepared to be rocked in the cradle of the deep, but
not to be jolted and rattled like peas in a pod. Mr. Murgatroyd alone
remained; he was in such a state of mind and body that he hardly
cared what happened if only he could set foot on dry land.

"We're dragging, sir," declared Stratton.

It was the unpleasant truth. Either the barge's single anchor had
tripped, or else the crew had neglected to pay out sufficient cable.
Slowly yet surely the barge, with the _Olivette_ bumping alongside,
was drifting down upon the wharves of Gravesend. To make matters
worse, the worthy skipper and crew of the barge had not yet returned
from the shore.

"We'll have to cut and run for it," declared Mr. Armitage. "Otherwise
we stand a good chance of being smashed between the barge and a stone
wall. She may ride to her anchor all right without us. Start the
engine, Roche, as sharp as you can. Stratton, trim and light the
navigation-lamps and set them in position. You others stand by to
cast off, but mind you aren't thrown into the ditch."

Fortunately the motor was still warm, and starting up was quickly
accomplished. It was, however, a difficult, not to say dangerous,
task to cast off from the barge, since it was the _Olivette's_ rope
that secured her.

"I'll do it, sir," volunteered the Patrol-leader. "If you went, and
anything happened so that you couldn't get back from the barge, where
would we be?"

Mr. Armitage saw the force of the argument.

"Right-o!" he assented. "Be very careful."

Stratton meant to be. He knew the risk of slipping and falling
between the two vessels. But he was a level-headed youngster, who
knew how to use his hands and his feet as well as the "grey matter
under his thatch ".

Watching his opportunity, he gained the deck of the barge, passed the
bight of a rope round a bollard, and threw the ends back on to the
_Olivette_.

"All fast!" shouted Hepburn.

With that assurance the Patrol-leader cast off the original rope. The
_Olivette_ was now held by a warp that could be slipped from her deck
and the stern-post as well.

Peter did not employ the same method with the after-warp. He merely
cast it off, and, before the two boats had a chance to drift apart,
he regained the _Olivette's_ deck.

"All gone aft, sir!" he reported.

"Then let go for'ard," ordered the Scoutmaster.

Roche, at the clutch lever of the engine, heard the command, and
wondered why the Scoutmaster did not give the order to go ahead or
astern. But Mr. Armitage realized the danger of starting under power
from the lee of the labouring barge. He was content to let the
_Olivette_ drop clear under the action of wind and tide.

"Easy ahead!" he ordered. "Stratton, pass the word for all hands to
go below. We want a clear deck for this job."

The Patrol-leader saw all the rest of the deck hands into the
cockpit, and then returned to the wheel-house. Mr. Armitage had
thrown open the plate-glass windows, and was preparing grimly to
enjoy himself.

"Get your oilskins," he ordered curtly. "We'll ship some seas, I'm
thinking, and I can't see when the spray obscures the glass."

The Scoutmaster was perturbed. Not that he minded for himself. He was
racking his brains as to the best course to pursue, whether to make
for the Essex side, which was a weather shore, or continue down the
river under the lee of the land. The first alternative involved
anchoring, and he did not like the thought of immature lads handling
a 60-pound anchor in the dark on the slippery deck. The second had an
objection on the score that he was unacquainted with the river and
that the traffic was heavy.

"I'll carry on down," he decided. "It's high water, and if I fringe
the mud-banks I'll be out of the worst of the traffic. If she
grounds, it's soft mud and a weather shore."

Having made this resolve, the Scoutmaster stuck to it. It was an
anxious ten minutes crossing the fairway. There was a nasty cross sea
running, in addition to the fact that several large vessels were in
the vicinity. There were sailing craft, too, plunging along under
reefed canvas, and at sea all vessels under power have to give way
for those under sail.

Showers of spray tumbled inboard, flying through the open windows of
the wheel-house and hissing on the hot cylinders. In addition to the
reek of warm oil the wheel-house and engine-room were filled with
steam. Bilge-water, thrown up by the fly-wheel as the _Olivette_
pitched, added to the discomforts of those below.

But Mr. Armitage was blind to his immediate surroundings. His whole
attention was centred upon the maze of lights. He had to determine
quickly and accurately which were leading lights and which belonged
to vessels under way. An error might result in a collision.

In spite of the discomforts the Sea Scouts were rather enjoying the
situation. Confident in the ability of their Scoutmaster, they hadn't
the slightest idea of the stress that Mr. Armitage was undergoing on
their behalf. The night, too, hid much of the peril that beset them.
Even the helmsman was ignorant of the fact that once the _Olivette_
literally scraped past a huge mooring-buoy, massive enough to crush
her well-built planks like an egg-shell.

At length the boat gained the comparatively quiet water of the Essex
shore. Here, gauging his distance, Mr. Armitage ported helm.

Then the _Olivette_ began to show her weak point. She was undoubtedly
"tender", rolling like a barrel. The Scoutmaster, standing with his
feet planted widely apart, gave a rapid glance behind him to reassure
himself that his youthful crew were all right. They were hanging on
to the first secure object that they found, wondering, doubtless,
what had suddenly possessed the _Olivette_ to behave thus; while
Roche, swallowing mouthfuls of salt-laden steam, was manfully
standing by the reversing-lever.

With her engine running at half speed the _Olivette_ held on,
staggering and lurching as the heavy wind struck her full on the
broadside, until, with a grunt of satisfaction, Mr. Armitage sighted
the Chapman, and, beyond, the lights of Southend.

He was approaching familiar waters now, although during the latter
stages of the war the pile-beacon of the Chapman had not displayed
its nocturnal warning. Beyond was the Nore, known to every officer
and man who had served in the patrols operating from Sheerness and
Harwich.

Grey dawn found the _Olivette_ abreast of the far-flung Southend
pier. It was now nearly low tide. The extensive flats of the Essex
shore, jutting a good two miles from the low-lying Shoeburyness, were
rapidly uncovering. The wind had backed four or six points and was
now nor'-east.

"No use running for the Medway," declared the Scoutmaster. "Nothing
like carrying on, so here goes."

Heedless of the fact that he had had an abnormally long trick at the
helm, Mr. Armitage had decided upon the best plan. To hold on,
keeping under the lee of the sands, meant the best chance of arriving
at Brightlingsea before the wind veered. To hesitate and run for some
unknown creek meant not only the risk of getting aground but possibly
being weatherbound for days.

"It'll be a race with the wind," thought the Scoutmaster:


    "'When the wind shifts against the sun,
      Trust it not, for back it 'll run'.


"Now, then, it's an even chance: Brightlingsea or a lee shore off the
Maplins. I wonder if I've done the right thing?"



CHAPTER X

Woodleigh the Pilot


With the backing of the wind the _Olivette_ now found herself in
comparatively calm water. No longer did she ship solid seas over her
bows. Spray, caught from the short, steep crests of the waves by the
howling wind, swept over her in a continuous shower.

Viewed in the pale dawn, the sea looked a mass of white foam, studded
here and there by bobbing black or red conical buoys, while farther
away to starboard could be discerned two heavily-pitching
lightships--the Nore and the Mouse.

"Take her for a few minutes, Alan," said Mr. Armitage. "Keep those
conical buoys on your port hand--a cable's distance off will do."

He went aft to find most of the crew feeling "merry and bright" in
the cockpit.

"Quite all right, sir," replied Flemming, in answer to his inquiry.
"Isn't it fine? Have a cup of tea, sir?"

The Scoutmaster accepted the beverage gratefully. He was feeling
pretty well done up by his long trick at the wheel. His hands,
exposed to the spindrift for five consecutive hours, were white and
clammy, while his eyes were salt-rimmed by the stinging spray.

"How's Mr. Murgatroyd?" he inquired.

Flemming grinned.

"Getting better, I think," he replied. "Judging by the way he drank
his tea, he's able to sit up and take nourishment."

The Scoutmaster, not without difficulty, owing to the motion of the
boat, gained the after-cabin. It was in a state of disorder. Both his
and the owner's belongings had been violently thrown on the floor,
which was ankle deep in water. The distressed occupant had omitted to
close the scuttle over Mr. Armitage's bunk, and that had caused a
steady inflow of spray.

Mr. Murgatroyd, lying on his cot, smiled wanly at the Scoutmaster.

"I'm a rotten sailor, Armitage," he remarked. "But I'll stick it.
Feeling better now; but what a night! Why did you leave Gravesend?"

Mr. Armitage explained.

"And all being well, another three hours will find us at
Brightlingsea," he added.

"Time for me to find my sea-legs," rejoined the undaunted owner.
"I'll be on deck as soon as possible."

The Scoutmaster agreed that it was the best course to pursue.
Remaining below in the stuffy cabin, where everything was vibrating
with the revolutions of the propeller-shaft, was not conducive to
comfort. He could not help admiring the pluck of a man well beyond
middle age, who had determined to overcome that dreaded enemy
sea-sickness. Mr. Armitage knew from experience what it meant. He,
too, had been through the mill.

Regaining the cockpit, the Scoutmaster was more and more aware of the
effect of the mental and physical strain he had undergone. For the
present practically all danger was past: it behoved him to conserve
his energies.

"Quite fit, Woodleigh?" he asked.

"Yes, sir."

"Had any sleep?"

"Yes, sir."

"Had breakfast?"

"Rather, sir," replied the Sea Scout, wondering why the Scoutmaster
should take such a personal interest in his welfare.

"Right-o!" continued Mr. Armitage. "Take an hour's trick at the
wheel. I'll give you the course. Hepburn will relieve you. Now, carry
on."

Having carefully pointed out the course, and knowing that Woodleigh
should have no difficulty in taking the _Olivette_ past the Mouse and
through the West Swin as far as the Maplin Beacon, Mr. Armitage
turned in on the leeward locker in the engine-room and was soon fast
asleep.

He had confidence in his boys. Much of their instruction at home
consisted of chartwork. He had always insisted that for coastal
navigation the ability to read and understand a chart was of
paramount importance; more so, in fact, than a knowledge of the
compass, except, of course, in foggy weather.


[Illustration: RAISING HIS VOICE HE SHOUTED, "LET GO!"]


Now he was putting his faith to the acid test. Woodleigh was in sole
control of the helm. If he failed to carry out his instructions or
misinterpreted the reading of the chart, then goodness only knows
what might happen.

Woodleigh was in his element. It seemed to him that he had reached
the zenith of his ambition to be in charge as navigator of a large
motor-boat in the North Sea. True, he was not out of sight of land,
and the North Sea as pictured by present conditions, with a maze of
sand-banks, buoys, and sea-marks, and a few lightships and
pile-beacons thrown in, hardly coincided with what he imagined it to
be.

The Scoutmaster was sleeping soundly; Peter Stratton was dosing
fitfully on one of the lockers in the cockpit; Roche, as engineer on
duty, was "standing by"; the other Sea Scouts were preparing
breakfast; and Mr. Murgatroyd, gamely determined to recover his
sea-legs, was hanging on to the coaming of the cockpit and watching
the low-lying coast-line.

Before long Woodleigh discovered that making a passage by the aid of
a chart was a comparatively simple matter.... It was merely a
question of going from one buoy to another and noting the name on
each one as he passed it. Even the Maplin, standing like one of
Wells's Martians on its spider-like legs, the lad greeted as an old
friend.

Up through the South-West Reach, across the shoals into the East
Swin, the _Olivette_ made her way.

"The Whitaker Beacon on the port hand," soliloquized the youthful
helmsman. "Good enough; that must be the Swin Spitway buoy I can see
ahead."

His surmise was correct. He starboarded helm on passing the latter
buoy and stood on through the Wallet. The breaking seas on the Buxey
and the tail of the Gunfleet looked formidable, and Woodleigh, for
the first time doubting the advisability of "carrying on" farther
than Mr. Armitage had stipulated, was on the point of getting one of
his companions to rouse the Scoutmaster.

"Must be all right," he decided, giving another glance at the chart.
It was about the twentieth time he had done so in the last two hours,
and the chart, saturated with spray, was to him no longer a mass of
complicated figures, but something more tangible. It was something on
which he depended in order to bring the _Olivette_ through the
intricate channels between the shoals.

The new course, approximately N.N.W., was now dead in the eye of the
wind, and Woodleigh began to experience some of the discomforts his
Scoutmaster had endured during the night. Now it was broad daylight,
and the white-crested masses of water bearing down upon the boat
looked very threatening.

Waves thudded against her bows, throwing cascades of foam not only
against, but completely over, the wheel-house. Now and again, as the
boat's stern was lifted clear of the water, the propeller would race
violently, causing the engineer many anxious moments, until, with a
peculiar sensation, the motor would slow down as the blades of the
screw met with increased resistance.

Mr. Armitage was still sleeping soundly. Even the racket in the
Wallet failed to rouse him; but Stratton, shaking off his lethargy,
climbed into the wheel-house and stood behind the helmsman.

"Where are we now, Woodleigh?" he asked.

"Nearly there--at Brightlingsea," replied the Sea Scout proudly;
"there are the beacons on Colne Point."

"Hadn't we better wake Mr. Armitage?" suggested the Patrol-leader.

"No, don't," said Woodleigh earnestly. "He's dead beat. There's no
difficulty in getting in, and it will be a surprise for him to find
out where we are. Think you'll be able to manage that anchor?"

Peter thought that, with assistance, he could.

"I'll wait till we're in," he decided. "Not much fun stocking an
anchor with the boat jumping about like this. I say, bit of crowd,
isn't it?"

He pointed ahead, where the estuary of the Colne was black with the
hulls of fishing-smacks that had run in on the approach of bad
weather.

"Wind's veering," added Woodleigh. "Look where it is now--almost dead
astern. Guess we've done it just in time."

Within the last ten minutes the wind had shifted from N.N.W. to S.E.,
and in consequence Mersea Flats, on the port hand to the entrance of
the river, were a lee shore. Above the noise of the engine the two
Scouts could hear the roar of the breakers upon the hard sand, for it
was now just on low water.

With a sense of elation that he had dared and won through, Woodleigh
gave the wheel half a turn. He was making for port, running the
gauntlet of the bar, and confidence in the boat and in himself was
half the battle.

"We're across the bar, Peter!" he exclaimed joyously, when the
_Olivette_ entered the sheltered waters of the Colne. "Now then, old
son; turn out your merry wreckers and get the anchor cleared away.
Warn Roche as you go; but don't disturb Mr. Armitage if you can help
it."

The clearing away of the heavy anchor, and the securing of the
forelock, was not accomplished in a moment, and, by the time all was
in readiness for letting go, Woodleigh had "opened out" the little
town of Brightlingsea, standing on the northern bank of the creek
that derives its name from the busy yachting and fishing centre.

"Stop!" ordered Woodleigh, addressing the now alert Roche; then,
raising his voice, he shouted: "Let go!"

The roar of the cable through the fair-leads announced that the
voyage of the _Olivette_, as far as the Milford Sea Scouts were
concerned, was an accomplished fact. It also had the effect of
rousing the Scoutmaster from his slumbers.

The crew, having been "given the tip", watched the expression on Mr.
Armitage's face with ill-concealed amusement.

"What have you anchored for?" he asked. "Where are we?"

"There, sir," replied Woodleigh triumphantly. "We're off
Brightlingsea."



CHAPTER XI

The "Rosalie"


For some moments Mr. Armitage hardly knew what to say. When his first
feelings of astonishment subsided, he felt inclined to reprimand
Woodleigh for disobeying orders. Had the lad made a blunder the
consequences might have been serious--but he hadn't.

"After all," thought the Scoutmaster, "he did very well. Sort of
Nelson touch about that lad. If he acted with deliberate judgment,
and not through a sheer slice of luck, he's cut out for navigating
duties. 'Tany rate, I've had a good sound sleep, but I wouldn't have
slumbered so quietly had I known."

He went on deck. The _Olivette_ was riding to a single anchor in a
land-locked estuary, within a cable's length of Brightlingsea Hard.
He could hardly realize the fact.

"We thought we'd wait till the ebb makes before we run out a kedge,
sir," reported the Patrol-leader; "then she'll ride to her main
anchor and cable."

"Quite right," agreed Mr. Armitage. "What's the time? Eight o'clock.
Any breakfast going?"

There was. From the galley came the first appetizing smell of
grilling bacon. Warkworth, who revelled in the work in the galley,
was preparing a substantial meal, supplemented by coffee.

On his way aft Mr. Armitage touched Woodleigh on the shoulder.

"I've taught you as much as I know myself at this game, Woodleigh,"
he declared. "You don't happen to be acquainted with this part, I
suppose?"

"No, sir," replied the youngster. "It's those imaginary cruises we
used to work out on the chart that helped me."

"You ought to have turned me out when you sighted the Maplin,"
continued the Scoutmaster.

"Yes," agreed Woodleigh; "but you were sleeping soundly, sir. I
didn't like to disturb you."

Sitting on one of the lockers of the well was Mr. Murgatroyd, looking
rather tired; but he had lost the greyish hue that accompanies the
horrible sensation of sea-sickness.

"We've arrived, Mr. Murgatroyd," remarked the Scoutmaster cheerfully.
"Sooner than we expected, you see."

"And a jolly little spot it is!" declared the owner. "Who's ready for
breakfast? I'm as hungry as a hunter."

It was a jovial party that gathered round the long, folding table. In
spite of the strenuous passage and the lack of an uninterrupted
night's rest, the Sea Scouts were in high spirits. They realized that
the _Olivette_ had fought a battle with the elements, and that she
had emerged triumphantly out of the ordeal.

"You'll be all right here with a crew who know this part of the
coast," observed Mr. Armitage.

"Rather!" agreed Mr. Murgatroyd. "I wish, though, that some of you
lads could remain, but I know that's out of the question. What are
your plans?"

"We'll pack up and leave you as soon as possible," replied the
Scoutmaster. "We'll catch the first train to Colchester, and then on
to Yarmouth, get aboard the _Rosalie_ fairly early, and then we'll
make up arrears of sleep."

"Why not remain here until to-morrow?" asked the owner of the
_Olivette_.

"We'd have our rest at the wrong end, so to speak, if we did,"
explained Mr. Armitage. "If we're at our port of departure, we can
get under way directly the weather moderates, which we couldn't do if
the _Rosalie_ were at Yarmouth and we at Brightlingsea."

Breakfast over, the Sea Scouts prepared to evacuate their temporary
floating home. They were sorry to leave the _Olivette_, but regrets
were tempered by the knowledge that a bigger undertaking was awaiting
them.

Before they went ashore the _Olivette_ was cleaned down and tidied
up, her decks scrubbed, ropes coiled neatly down, and a kedge run
out.

Mr. Murgatroyd shook hands with every member of the crew, thanking
them for the real good time.

"I'll try to follow your example," he said, "and make some sort of a
sailor-man. It's never too late to learn, as I expect I've said
before."

"Decent old chap," remarked Peter Stratton, when the Sea Scouts
embarked in a ferry-boat and were taken ashore. "Wonder if the owner
of the _Rosalie_ is anything like him?"

"We won't know until we hand the yacht over," replied the
Scoutmaster. "He's not coming with us. That reminds me, I must send a
wire to our friend the Oxford Scoutmaster."

"Mr. Jackson?" asked Roche.

"Yes," was the reply. "You fellows are doing so well, that I feel out
of it; so, needing someone to keep me company, I invited Mr. Jackson
for the voyage from Yarmouth to Poole. He and I will have a rare,
good, lazy time, sitting on deck and watching you do the
donkey-work."

"I can see you doing that, sir," rejoined Hepburn, laughing. "Wonder
what the _Rosalie_ is like?"

"Possess your soul in patience for another six hours, Alan, and your
curiosity will, I hope, be satisfied," replied Mr. Armitage.

"Now," he added briskly, as the boat ran alongside the Hard,
"Flemming and Woodleigh, you had better be baggage-guard until we can
find some sort of conveyance to get the gear to the station. I'll go
to the post office. Anyone else coming?"

Everyone wanted to send off letters to relatives.

"Hang on a minute, Peter," said Flemming. "I want to scribble a line.
You might post it for me."

"I know a better plan," replied the Patrol-leader. "I'll buy picture
post cards for Woodleigh and you, and you can post them on the way to
the railway station."

About three o'clock in the afternoon the Sea Scouts arrived at Great
Yarmouth. Mr. Armitage was now on familiar ground, and the _Rosalie_
was quickly located lying alongside a wharf above the swing-bridge.

At first sight she was not prepossessing.

She was a straight-stemmed craft with a short counter,
schooner-rigged, her masts being set in "tabernacles", or vertical
troughs of wood, to enable them to be lowered in the event of her
having to pass under an immovable bridge. She had been grievously
neglected. Her hull was painted "battleship grey", or rather the
paint had been "slapped on" over her original coat of white. Her teak
topsides and coamings were weather-worn and black with the combined
action of salt water, rain, and sun. Her masts were painted the same
hideous colour as the hull, and someone in a sudden fit of zeal had
commenced scraping one and left the wood partly bare. The decks were
black with dirt and coal-dust, and generally she bore an air of utter
disrespectability.

"The old boat's been in Government service," explained the man in
whose charge she had been left. "Nice li'l ole boat she be, but she's
a regular beast in a seaway. Rolls like a barrel, she do. Here's the
key, sir."

'Tween decks things were more hopeful. Although there was dirt and
dust everywhere, everything was fairly dry.

Right aft, and gained by a companion-ladder from a very small
cockpit, was the main cabin, fitted throughout in teak, and
possessing four sofa berths. In the centre was a large table, while
there was more than 6 feet 6 inches headroom under the deck-beams.
Through the for'ard bulkhead of the saloon were two doorways, one
leading to a small, compact, and well-fitted galley, the other to a
single-berthed sleeping-cabin.

For'ard of these a solid bulkhead ran athwartships, completely
cutting off the engine-room from the owner's quarters.

The engine-room was gained by means of an almost vertical ladder. In
it were two twin motors of 30 horse-power, controlled, when running,
from a "sunk" wheel-house. Opening out of the engine-room was a
spacious forepeak, with folding-cot accommodation for six persons.

"We've got our work cut out to get shipshape before night," declared
Mr. Armitage briskly. "All hands to it, and we'll soon break the back
of the job."

The Sea Scouts were told off to their respective tasks. Stratton and
Hepburn tackled the work of scrubbing decks, airing sails, and
overhauling the running-gear. Roche and Flemming took on the
motor-room, running the engines, testing the controls, and seeing
"how things worked", in addition to gauging the contents of the
petrol and oil tanks, and "checking" the engineers' stores.

Woodleigh and Warkworth cleaned out the forepeak and the galley,
while the Scoutmaster toiled like a Trojan in the main cabin.

By six o'clock in the evening the _Rosalie_ was transformed into a
clean and tidy craft, the Sea Scouts' gear was packed away below, and
the galley fires were burning brightly. Half an hour later all hands
sat down to a plentiful meal in the saloon Then, dead tired with
their exertions, they turned in and slept until nearly eight the next
morning.

"No chance of a start to-day," declared Mr. Armitage. "The glass has
risen far too quickly. It means a repetition of the blow, but
possibly from another quarter."

"Would it be too rough outside, sir?" asked Hepburn. "The caretaker
told me that the _Rosalie_ was out in all weathers during the war,
winter and summer."

"It may not be too rough for the yacht," replied Mr. Armitage, "but
it may be too rough for us. Remember it's the human element that
counts. We don't know the _Rosalie_. She, no doubt, has her
peculiarities, which her former crew understood. We don't. We have to
find them out. See what I mean?"

"I suppose, sir," said Flemming, "that in your opinion we aren't
equal to the task."

"Not at all," declared the Scoutmaster. "Otherwise I wouldn't have
undertaken the contract. You are healthy, well-developed lads, but
you aren't equal to full-grown experienced men. Therefore I have to
be careful not to run unnecessary risks. We'll set canvas and see
what the gear's like. That requires practice, I can assure you."

"In case we have to stow sails in a hurry," added Stratton.

"Precisely," agreed Mr. Armitage. "Nothing afloat looks so bad as a
raw crew struggling ineffectually at stowing canvas. You should know
exactly what's what, which rope is which, so that you could find them
in the dark."

The sails were in excellent condition and the running-gear good. For
an hour the Sea Scouts practised hoisting and stowing staysail,
foresail, and mainsail, until Mr. Armitage expressed himself
satisfied.

"Now," he continued, addressing Roche and Flemming, the two
engineers, "we'll run the engines. We can spare you, Woodleigh, if
necessary, but the _Rosalie's_ twin engines ought to be less trouble
than the _Olivette's_ single one, because the controls are worked
from the deck. Hallo! This for me?"

The last sentence was addressed to a telegraph-boy standing on the
quayside with an orange-coloured envelope in his hand.

"Mr. Armitage," replied the messenger.

The Scoutmaster read the telegram. "No reply, thanks," he said.

The wire was from Mr. Jackson to say that he was leaving Liverpool
Street at eight.

"He'll be here just after twelve," said the Scoutmaster. "It's now
twenty past eleven, so Warkworth and Hepburn can go to the station to
meet him and bring him along. By Jove! It's piping up. We'll be lucky
if we are able to start to-morrow."



CHAPTER XII

The Squall


"There are worse things than being weather-bound with a crew of Sea
Scouts," observed Mr. Jackson that same evening. "You've a lively lot
of lads, Armitage, and they keep you amused, I'm sure."

"They're not so dusty," admitted Mr. Armitage modestly. He was
reluctant to "spout" over the merits of the lads he had himself
trained. "I've had inexperienced crews in the old R.N.V.R. days, and
managed to lick 'em into shape, and in their initial stages they
weren't equal to these lads, yet we had to go to sea with them and
stand a chance of knocking up against Fritz in addition."

"To say nothing of bumping on a mine," added the Oxford Scoutmaster.

Mr. Armitage nodded assent.

"And the danger still exists," he continued. "I haven't said anything
to my youngsters, because I didn't consider it advisable. But the
fact remains that there are stray floating mines that can hardly be
seen owing to their being smothered with barnacles and weeds. And
they'll be knocking around for years, I'm afraid."

"There wouldn't be much left of the _Rosalie_ if she struck one,"
commented Mr. Jackson.

"No, indeed," agreed his companion. "There would be one
consolation--we wouldn't know anything about it. However, the North
Sea is wide, so we can but trust in Providence."

"What do you make of the weather?" asked Mr. Jackson.

Mr. Armitage glanced aloft. In the twilight the dark clouds were not
scudding so rapidly as they had done earlier in the day.

"Change of wind, I fancy," he replied. "Glass is rising slowly. One
hardly knows what to make of the weather nowadays, and the forecasts
in the paper are generally hopelessly wrong. Well, shall we turn in?
If there's any chance of making a passage to-morrow, we'll start."

At 5 a.m. all hands turned out, bathed, and had breakfast. It was
still blowing fairly fresh, but the wind had veered through west and
was now practically nor'-west.

"Off-shore wind," observed the Scoutmaster. "We'll be all right as
far as Harwich, so get busy."

The Sea Scouts needed no second bidding. Roche and Flemming, donning
overalls, dived below to the engine-room. The others, assisted by Mr.
Jackson, set to work to lower the masts to allow the _Rosalie_ to
pass under the bridge.

Precisely at eight o'clock the Red Ensign was hoisted, the warps cast
off, and the yacht, under power, started on her long voyage.

By the time she had taken to traverse the long stretch of river that
enters the North Sea at Gorleston, Peter Stratton had made himself
acquainted with _Rosalie's_ steering capabilities, in spite of the
fact that navigation was rather complicated owing to the number of
fishing-boats under way in the narrow channel.

"Look out for the tide setting across the pierheads," cautioned the
Scoutmaster.

The North Sea was not looking at its best. Although the wind was off
shore, there was a nasty "lop" off the entrance to the harbour. Even
the lightship was pounding heavily, cascades of water pouring through
her hawse-pipes as she lifted to the waves; sailing-coasters were
rolling badly in spite of their reduced canvas; and tramps, with
trysails set to steady them, were lurching along, leaving a long,
almost horizontal trail of smoke far to leeward.

"Thick out there," observed Hepburn. "As bad as we had round the
Maplins. We're rolling a bit too."

There was no doubt about it, the _Rosalie_ could and did roll. With
the wind abeam her decks were soon wet. It was almost impossible for
the crew to move without holding on, and, except for the small
wheel-house, there was no protection on deck from the wind and spray.

"We'll see what a little canvas will do," said Mr. Armitage. "She's
stiff enough. Up with trysail and mainsail, lads."

Quickly the canvas bellied to the quartering wind, and, as the sheets
were hove taut, the _Rosalie_ no longer rolled like a barrel. The
disconcerting motion gave place to a rhythmic glide as she lifted
gracefully to the waves.

"A good ten or eleven knots," declared Mr. Armitage. "She's as stiff
as a house. We'll have the foresail set and stop the engines."

This was done. Although the speed fell off to a bare five knots, the
yacht was carrying her tide and simply waltzing past the shore.

"Give me sail for pleasure any old day," declared Mr. Jackson.
"Petrol's all very well if you're in a hurry, but when all's said and
done canvas wants a lot of beating."

The Sea Scouts revelled in the situation. With the breeze being true
and in their favour, they could lie on the deck and enjoy the view,
as the _Rosalie_ slipped past Lowestoft and made short work of it
towards Southwold. Close in under the land they were no longer
subjected to clouds of spray, and the tardy appearance of the sun
gave a finishing touch to their enjoyment.

There was no immediate hurry. They had plenty of time to cover the
fifty odd miles between Yarmouth and Harwich, where Mr. Armitage had
decided to put in for the night. A series of short passages was
preferable to making a direct run across to the Forelands with the
prospect of finding themselves off Dover in the dark, and the
Scoutmaster knew from experience the effect of carrying on and
depriving the crew of a much-needed rest. If occasion demanded, he
would be equal to it, but he preferred otherwise.

So the _Rosalie_ held on, passing close to Aldborough, and giving the
low-lying Orfordness a wide berth, and at 5 p.m., without having had
to touch a single sheet from the time canvas had been set, Hepburn
reported a lightship on the port bow.

"That's the Cork," said Stratton, consulting the chart. "We're
getting near Harwich. Any tea going, Woodleigh? Now's our chance
before we stow canvas."

Mr. Armitage, after glancing to windward, gave Hepburn directions as
to the course.

"We'll leave you to it, Alan," he said. "If you want anything, give a
hail. We'll keep your tea hot."

The rest of the crew went below, where a sumptuous meal was being
served in the main cabin, leaving Hepburn in the wheel-house.

Woodleigh had provided his companions (and incidentally himself) with
a generous and wholesome repast. He rather prided himself upon his
skill as a cook at sea, and he certainly did himself justice.

Hungry as hunters, the two Scoutmasters and five boys seated
themselves round the swing table, and Mr. Armitage began pouring out
tea, while Woodleigh served out a helping of cold veal and ham pie.

Suddenly, just as everyone was settling down to his tea, the
_Rosalie_, which had hitherto been heeling at an almost constant
angle, lurched violently to leeward. Stratton, Flemming, and
Warkworth, their chairs slipping from under them, rolled in a heap
upon the floor, while Mr. Jackson, in a vain endeavour to prevent
himself from being pitched across the cabin, subsided heavily upon
the table. It tilted under his weight, and the next moment everything
that had been placed upon it slithered on the struggling trio of
prostrate Sea Scouts.

There was no time to waste in contemplating the scene of chaos. The
yacht was well down on her beam ends. In a thrice Mr. Armitage dashed
up the companion-ladder and gained the deck.

A violent squall, its approach unnoticed by Hepburn in the sheltered
wheel-house, had swept down upon the _Rosalie_. The first intimation
the young helmsman had was finding the yacht heel until half a dozen
planks of her deck were awash. It was only by holding on to the
spokes of the wheel that he saved himself from being thrown heavily
against the plate-glass window.

"Luff!" shouted the Scoutmaster, as he hauled himself along by the
weather-rail towards the wheel-house.

Hepburn was already endeavouring to luff, but, although he put the
helm hard-a-port, the yacht showed no tendency to fly up into the
wind. Pinned down by the closely-set staysail, she simply lay over
and refused to recover.

Literally sliding to leeward until he stood knee-deep in water
against the lee rail, Mr. Armitage cast of the staysail sheet. The
heavy triangular canvas slatted in the wind, the sheet block flogging
to and fro in a manner that resisted all attempts on the part of the
Scoutmaster to secure it. The while the sail was making a noise like
the cracking of a gigantic whip.

Relieved of the tremendous pressure, the _Rosalie_ recovered from her
dangerous list, but it was not until Mr. Armitage, assisted by
Stratton and Roche, who had followed him on deck, had lowered and
stowed the staysail that the yacht came up head to wind.

"That was a nasty one!" exclaimed Mr. Armitage breathlessly. "Start
the motors, Roche--sharp as you can!"

Not a little scared, the rest of the crew lowered and secured the
mainsail, while the _Rosalie_, under bare poles, fell broadside on to
the waves, which in a very short time had assumed huge and
threatening proportions. It was an off-shore squall, and none the
less dangerous on that account, and until Roche and Flemming got the
motors going the _Rosalie_ had a particularly bad time.

It was raining heavily. Already the shore, although less than two
miles away, was blotted out. The wind shrieked through the rigging,
blinding showers of spray enveloped the wheel-house, and solid masses
of water pounded the heaving, slippery deck.

In ten minutes the squall was over. The sun shone brightly, and
although the waves ran high they were no longer dangerous, while dead
to windward lay the secure harbour of Harwich.

"Why didn't you luff when you saw it coming, Alan?" asked Mr.
Armitage.

"I did, sir, but she wouldn't answer," said Hepburn.

"I'm to blame," soliloquized the Scoutmaster. "That's a lesson never
to leave the deck with only a youngster in charge. I ought to have
known that the _Rosalie's_ canvas is only an auxiliary to her motors,
and not the motors to the canvas. She's not built as a sailing-craft,
and she won't go about under sail alone. So in future I'll bear that
in mind."

Twenty minutes later the _Rosalie_ moored alongside a barge in a
basin on the Felixstowe side of the harbour, and her crew had an
opportunity of investigating the damage.

The saloon presented a picture of utter chaos. The floor was
literally paved with fragments of crockery, cemented with jam,
marmalade, and greasy gravy. On this conglomeration of debris the
cushions on the windward bunk had been hurled, together with the
contents of a bookcase which had been wrenched from its fastenings by
the abnormal list.

In the galley things were almost as bad, but the fo'c'sle came off
lightly. That was mainly owing to the methodical stowing of gear by
the lads themselves, and the few kit-bags that had been dislodged
were quickly replaced.

It was rough luck to have to set to work to clear up after a long
day's run, but the Sea Scouts tackled the job manfully and
cheerfully, and in less than an hour and a half the _Rosalie_ 'tween
decks was reduced to a state of order.

"We were not the only craft in that squall, sir," reported Stratton.
"There's a tug coming in with two dismasted boats."

The two Scoutmasters and the rest of the Sea Scouts hurried on deck.
Passing the entrance to the basin was a fussy little steamer towing
two large "bawleys". One of the latter showed about ten feet of mast
ending in a jagged stump. The other's mast had been snapped off close
to the deck, and evidently her crew had been compelled to cut the
sails and wreckage clear. The first boat was more fortunate, for her
spars and canvas were lashed to her deck.

"Hard lines," commented Mr. Armitage; "but those fellows' plight
rather vindicates us. If two professionally-manned fishing-boats are
dismasted without warning, we were fortunate in merely being thrown
on our beam ends without losing any of our deck-gear. Now, lads, turn
in. Glass is rising slowly, and the sky's red. With luck, we'll be in
Dover to-morrow night."



CHAPTER XIII

A Find on the Gunfleet


The Scoutmaster's prognostics of a fine day were justified. Up at
dawn, the crew of the _Rosalie_ found the sky was cloudless; not a
ripple disturbed the harbour, while the smoke from a couple of
destroyers getting up steam rose almost vertically in the still air.

The only fly in the ointment was what would be termed in Admiralty
communiqués "low visibility". Without being actually foggy, the
weather was hazy, so that from the Felixstowe side, where the
_Rosalie_ lay, it was only just possible to discern the outlines of
the town and dockyard of Harwich.

"Morning mists," remarked optimist Roche. "It'll clear when the sun's
up properly."

"Let's hope so," added Mr. Armitage.

He had no great desire to grope his way across the Thames estuary in
thick weather, trusting to the aid of a compass to thread his course
between the numerous sand-banks. The _Rosalie's_ compass did not
possess a deviation-card, and one or two bearings that the
Scoutmaster had already taken showed an error of from half to one and
a half points.

"Starboard's duty watch," observed Mr. Armitage, when the yacht had
drawn clear of the basin. "Stratton, you take the helm. How's the
tide?"

"One hour's flood, sir," replied the Patrol-leader promptly.

"Right-o! that will give us a chance to cut across most of the
banks," continued the Scoutmaster. "Keep her sou' by east; I'm trying
to make the N.E. Gunfleet buoy."

Clear of Harwich harbour, the _Rosalie_ settled down on the given
compass-course. Even in the open sea the water was as smooth as
glass, but the mist showed no tendency to disperse. If anything, it
grew thicker, patches of vapour drifting slowly over the placid
surface, rendering the range of visibility a matter of anything from
a quarter to two miles.

With both engines going at easy speed--Mr. Armitage never believed in
giving the motors full throttle except in cases of necessity--the
yacht was doing a good eight and a half knots, leaving a clean wake
astern.

"Bit of a difference to the _Olivette_," remarked Peter Stratton to
Roche.

The latter, having finished with the engines for the time being, was
exchanging the fume-laden atmosphere of the motor-room for the pure,
early morning air of the North Sea.

"Aye," agreed Dick. "She'd be able to go up the Thames without
scooping half the water out of the river and chucking it over the
banks. And she's a clinking pair of motors--easy to start and very
little vibration. Pre-war engines," he added, with a supreme contempt
for anything built in these days of dear labour and inferior
material.

"Getting on all right?" inquired the Scoutmaster, as he entered the
wheel-house and glanced at the compass. "Steady, Peter, you're half a
point out."

"It's jolly awkward steering by compass," remarked Stratton, as he
swung the yacht back to the correct bearing.

"It is," agreed Mr. Armitage; "especially when you've no fixed object
to steer by except the lubber's line. But be careful. I don't want to
miss the North-East Gunfleet if I can help it."

By this time the low-lying Essex shore was lost in a haze. According
to the chart, the Naze was three miles away on the starboard quarter,
but as far as visibility went it might have been fifty. Not a buoy
nor another vessel was in sight. The limited horizon was unbroken.

"It's pretty thick ahead," said the Scoutmaster, rubbing the moisture
from the lenses of his binoculars. "Keep a good look-out, Woodleigh;
we ought to be somewhere near the buoy by this time."

"Something white ahead," reported Woodleigh, who, as look-out, was
perched "in the eyes" of the yacht.

"Broken water," declared the Scoutmaster, peering through the mist.
"It's a tide-rip over the edge of the Gunfleet. We've missed the
buoy, and if we carry on we'll pile ourselves up on the sand. Port
helm, Stratton; that's right; keep her at that."

Mr. Armitage consulted the chart.

"See anything of a red lighthouse on piles, Woodleigh?" he asked. "It
ought to be in that direction."

The Sea Scout looked in the direction indicated, but could
distinguish nothing in the shape of a building.

"There's sand showing on our starboard beam, sir," he reported, as
the mist temporarily dispersed. "I can hear a dog bark."

"So can I," agreed Mr. Armitage. "A dog on board a fishing-smack,
most likely. See anything of a boat?"

"No, sir," replied the look-out.

The Scoutmaster levelled his glasses upon what looked to the naked
eye like a short, weed-covered stump on the edge of the sands. The
binoculars revealed it to be a dog sitting on its haunches and
yelping and barking dolorously.

"How did it get there, I wonder?" asked Roche.

"Lighthouse-keeper's dog, perhaps," hazarded Stratton.

"Stand in a little closer," ordered the Scoutmaster. "Give a cast
with the lead, Woodleigh."

The sounding gave six fathoms.

"Good enough," declared Mr. Armitage, again referring to the chart.
"The Gunfleet is fairly steep-to on this side. Give her half-speed,
Peter."

By means of the throttle-levers in the wheel-house speed could be
varied without the necessity for Roche to be below. At a modest four
knots the _Rosalie_ groped her way towards the north-western edge of
the sand-bank known as the Gunfleet.

"There's the lighthouse," declared Mr. Armitage, indicating a
lobster-pot-like building perched upon several massive piles. A
partial lifting of the mist revealed its outlines a good two miles
away. "If your theory's right, Stratton, the dog stands a good chance
of being drowned before it can regain the lighthouse. The tide's
making pretty rapidly."

"We must rescue it, sir," declared Stratton.

"Certainly," agreed Mr. Armitage. "Carry on, Peter. I'll take the
wheel whilst you are gone."

There was no necessity for the Patrol-leader to turn out the port
watch. Already the "watch below" had heard the news and were on deck.

Quickly the dinghy was cleared away, the davits swung out, and the
boat prepared for lowering. Directly the _Rosalie_ lost way Stratton,
Warkworth, and Hepburn jumped into her. Peter steered and the others
rowed, pulling lustily at the tough ash oars until the dinghy almost
leapt through the water.

Upon drawing close to the sands, Stratton saw that there was a
considerable "tumble" over the edge. To attempt to land would be
highly dangerous, in spite of the fact that the sea was quite calm
elsewhere.

"Way 'nough!" order the coxswain.

The boat stopped fifty yards from the broken water. The dog had
ceased barking and yelping, and was now wagging a stumpy tail.

"You'll have to swim for it, old fellow," declared Peter. "Come on,
good dog."

But the good dog drew the line at plunging into the water. Several
times it attempted to do so, but the creamy, broken seas frightened
it.

"Poor little beast!" exclaimed Hepburn "it's got the wind up."

"It'll be drowned if it doesn't make a dash for it," declared
Warkworth. "The tide's risen a good distance over the flats since
we've been here."

"There's water all round the dog now," said Peter, standing up in the
stern sheets. "It's on a sort of little island separated from the
main sands. Come on, you! Good dog!"

"Nothin' doin'," reported Warkworth. "The little beast hasn't any
pluck."

"Perhaps it's been knocked out of him," said Peter quietly. "I'm
going to fetch him. Stand by to pick me up, but don't go any nearer."

Stripping off his clothes, the Patrol-leader took a clean header over
the stern, and struck out with slow, steady strokes towards the
sands. It was a comparatively easy matter to swim through the surf.
The difficulty, he knew, would be the return journey.

The dog, perceiving the approach of the swimmer, barked joyously, and
as Peter touched bottom and waded through the shallow water the
animal plucked up courage to meet him.

"Why, it's only a big pup!" exclaimed the lad. "No wonder he funked
it. Now, come along, old boy."

The dog had no collar, so Peter gripped him by the scruff of the neck
and waded deeper and deeper on the return journey.

The dinghy looked quite a long way off, and the broken water far more
formidable than when viewed from seaward. The lad was conscious, too,
of a very considerable set of tide that tended to carry him in a
south-westerly direction.

Still holding the dog by the scruff, Peter took to swimming. It was a
tough struggle. Baffled by the breakers, and hampered by being able
to use one hand only for propulsion purposes, Stratton had quite
enough by the time he had successfully fought his way through the
broken water.

"Now, swim for it by yourself, pup," he exclaimed breathlessly.
"Follow me and you'll be all right."

He released his hold and took to an easy breast stroke. For a few
seconds the dog swam independently; then, possibly afraid that he was
being deserted by his rescuer, the pup begun clawing Peter's bare
back, and attempted to clamber upon his shoulders.

Turning, Peter placed one hand over the animal's muzzle and pushed
him away. The dog promptly swam round, and began swimming back
towards the sandbank.

"Come here," gurgled Stratton, who had just swallowed a mouthful of
salt water.

The dog obeyed. The Patrol-leader gripped him by the neck and again
struck out towards the boat. He no longer attempted to hold up the
pup's head. The animal was now swimming powerfully, and Peter derived
a certain amount of support from the sturdy four-legged swimmer.

Meanwhile Warkworth and Hepburn, disregarding the Patrol-leader's
instructions, backed the dinghy towards the swimmers, and it was with
feelings of relief that Stratton saw the rescued animal lifted into
the boat.

"Give way," he ordered, hanging on to the transom. "Tow me clear.
You're too near the surf."


[Illustration: IT WAS WITH FEELINGS OF RELIEF THAT STRATTON SAW THE
RESCUED ANIMAL LIFTED INTO THE BOAT]


It was not until the dinghy was in quite calm water that Peter got on
board. He was so exhausted that Hepburn had to help him over the
stern, while Warkworth crouched in the bows to prevent the dinghy
dipping under the combined weight of the two Sea Scouts. They knew
how to manage small boats, and the lessons learnt on the Solent
served them in good stead.

Five minutes later the dinghy was hoisted out, and the three Sea
Scouts with the trophy stood on _Rosalie's_ deck.

"What a miserable little beast," exclaimed Flemming, regarding the
soaking wet little pup.

"Look here, young fellah-me-lad!" said Peter, in mock reproof. "When
I ask your opinion of my pup, you can give it; not before."



CHAPTER XIV

Bruin


"We know where we are now, at any rate," commented Mr. Armitage.
"True we are on the wrong side of the Gunfleet, but the lighthouse
enables us to fix our position."

"How did we get so far out of our course?" inquired Mr. Jackson.

"My mistake, I suppose," replied the Scoutmaster. "I must have
underrated the strength of the young flood, and it set us too far to
the west'ard. I can see the N.E. Gunfleet now. Keep that buoy on your
starboard hand, Hepburn. Take a compass-bearing in case the mist
increases again."

Meanwhile Peter Stratton, having completed his toilet, was
meditatively contemplating the pup for which he had risked his life.
The little animal, having had a good feed of bread soaked in
condensed milk, was sitting up and looking, with his head turned
slightly on one side, at his rescuer.

"You are a funny pup," declared the Patrol-leader.

The pup admitted the impeachment by giving a series of short, sharp
barks and wagging his stumpy tail.

He was about two months old. His coat was black with the exception of
a tuft of white hair on his chin and a white patch on his chest. His
hair was fairly long and silky, his nose long and straight, his paws
broad. When he walked he moved with a bear-like gait.

"What sort of animal is he, sir?" asked Peter.

Mr. Armitage refused to accept responsibility.

"Ask Mr. Jackson," he suggested.

"Not much use asking me," said the Oxford Scoutmaster when appealed
to. "Mongrel, I should think, with a strain of sheep-dog about him.
Wonder how he got on the sands?"

"We'll try and find out," replied Mr. Armitage. "We'll semaphore the
Gunfleet Lighthouse and make inquiries. It will give our fellows a
chance to test their signalling knowledge."

"Bit out of our way, isn't it?" inquired Mr. Jackson, after
consulting the chart.

"Yes," admitted the Scoutmaster, "it is. But we'll have a better
opportunity of setting a course across the East Swin and over the
Sunk. There'll be plenty of water for us over the latter sand-bank.
Get the code-book, Peter, and stand by with the ensign and
code-pennant."

By this time the _Rosalie_ had rounded the buoy marking the seaward
extremity of the Gunfleet Sands, and was running down past the
south-eastern side towards the pile-lighthouse.

"Up with the ensign!" ordered the Scoutmaster.

It was not long before the Red Ensign, with the red and white
stripped code flag under it, was observed by the lighthouse, and an
answering pennant fluttered from the latter's flagstaff.

"Hoist VOX," continued Mr. Armitage. "That means," he added in
explanation, "I am going to semaphore to you'. Now, Woodleigh, stand
by with the hand-flags--they're ready."

"Found a dog on the sands; is it yours?" signalled Woodleigh.

"No," was the reply. "We saw it thrown overboard from a bawley two
hours ago. Couldn't get to it."

"Thank you," replied the Sea Scout signaller. "Do you know name or
number of bawley?"

"No," was the brief answer. "No name or number visible."

The _Rosalie_ hauled down her bunting, and, starboarding helm, shaped
a course for the still-distant Kentish shore.

Those of the crew not on duty were discussing the mystery of the pup,
and advancing wondrous theories as to how the little animal came to
be hove overboard.

Had it incurred the wrath of the short-tempered skipper of the
fishing-boat, or had the cook taken summary vengeance upon the little
animal? Or had it fallen overboard unobserved by any of the crew?

"We'll make further inquiries later," decided Mr. Armitage. "I don't
fancy, however, that he will be claimed, especially if someone threw
him overboard deliberately. I suppose you want him, Peter?"

"I'd like to have him, sir--awfully much," replied the Patrol-leader.
"But we all had a hand at rescuing him. Couldn't he belong to the
Troop?"

"Right-o! That's the sort!" exclaimed Woodleigh and Hepburn.

"If you are agreeable," assented the Scoutmaster, genuinely pleased
at Stratton's unselfishness, "we'll adopt him as a mascot. Carried
unanimously! The next item on the programme is what's his name to
be?"

Half a dozen names were suggested, discussed and rejected.

"He's like a young bear," remarked Peter. "Why not call him Bruin?"

"Very suitable, Peter," said the Scoutmaster approvingly. "We'll have
to train him not to gnaw ropes and tear canvas gear. He must live up
to his reputation as a Sea Scout's mascot."

"I'll make a collar for him," declared Hepburn. "I've a spare belt I
can cut down, and there are some strips of brass in the engine-room.
I'll cut his name and address on a piece and rivet it to his collar."

"Go slow, Alan," cautioned Mr. Armitage. "Bruin isn't anything like
full grown yet. If you make a collar to fit he'll outgrow it in a few
months."

"I wouldn't have a flat collar, if I were you," suggested Mr.
Jackson. "It will spoil the dog's fur. Why not a round one--round in
section, I mean--and a brass disk attached to it?"

The lads readily fell in with the idea, and Hepburn and Flemming went
below to put the work in hand, while Peter, recklessly breaking his
comb in two, proceeded to tease out Bruin's tangled and matted coat.

Meanwhile Mr. Armitage had returned to the wheel-house and was busy
with the chart and compass. Woodleigh at the wheel was steering
faultlessly. The _Rosalie_ was now half-way across Barrow Deep and
approaching the shoal water over the Sunk Sand. Already the Gunfleet
Lighthouse had faded in the mist. Not a buoy nor a vessel was
visible. The sands, hidden by the rising tide, gave no sign of their
presence. Optically the yacht was in the midst of a vast sea, but a
deviation from the correct course would speedily pile her upon one of
the submerged dangers that infest the Thames estuary.

"Lightship ahead, sir," reported Woodleigh.

"That's Black Deep," replied the Scoutmaster. "We're all right, so
far. Now port helm a point. That ought to take us through Fisherman's
Gat."

A few minutes later the hitherto tranquil surface of the water was
ruffled with cats' paws. A light breeze from the nor'west'ard was
springing up.

"All hands on deck!" shouted the Scoutmaster. "All hands make sail."

Pell-mell the Sea Scouts tumbled on deck. They, too, welcomed the
breeze. In a very short space of time canvas was hoisted and sheets
trimmed. The _Rosalie_, heeling to the quartering wind, increased her
speed a good two knots.

With the springing up of the breeze the mist disappeared. No longer
was the horizon unbroken. Away on the starboard hand a constant
stream of shipping was passing up and down the Edinburgh Channel.
Ahead lay the Tongue Lightship, making the junction of two of the
principal approaches to the Thames. Beyond, and presenting a low
indistinct line that could hardly be distinguished from a bank of
clouds, lay the shores of Kent, or, to be more precise, the Isle of
Thanet.

"Keep her on the lightship, Alan," cautioned Mr. Armitage, as he
noticed the boat's head swing a good three points off her course.

"I'm trying to, sir," replied Hepburn, who was now "taking his
trick", "but she will fly round. I've got the helm hard-a-starboard
now."

Before the Scoutmaster could get to the wheel-house Roche came on
deck.

"Starboard engine's konked," he reported. "I can't quite find out
what's wrong. Choked jet or something in the carburettor, sir, I
think."

"Throttle down your port engine and see if that makes her easier on
her helm," said Mr. Armitage.

Even running at slow speed on one engine failed to cure the tendency
of the _Rosalie_ to run up into the wind. With her helm hard over she
"gripped" badly. It was a case of either having to stop the port
engine or else stow canvas.

While the Scoutmaster was rapidly deliberating as to the best course
to pursue, a heavy and decidedly uncanny jar shook the vessel. The
revolutions of the port propeller sensibly decreased, and finally the
motor refused duty. Dependent solely upon her canvas, the _Rosalie_
slowed down to a bare two knots.

At the first sign of anything going wrong Roche dived below. Flemming
was already in the motor-room, engaged in the task of taking down the
carburettor, until the giving out of the port engine called for
immediate attention.

"What is it?" asked Roche. "Declutch, and start her up again."

The motor fired easily, but the moment Flemming engaged the clutch,
it stopped.

"Try again, and put her in the reverse," suggested Dick.

Flemming did so. The shaft made perhaps half a dozen revolutions, and
then the motor stopped with a disconcerting thud.

"Something round our propeller; that's what it is," declared Roche.
"I'll see Mr. Armitage."

The Scoutmaster went aft and leant over the taff-rail. Trailing
astern a few feet beneath the surface were the remains of a length of
tarred fishing-net. A few fathoms of it were wound round and round
the shaft as tight as a flexible wire rope.

"It's unfortunate, but it can't be helped," said Mr. Armitage. "We'll
have to carry on under sail until you can get the starboard engine
running, Dick. Found out what's wrong with it?"

"Flemming is taking the carburettor down, sir," replied Roche. "I'll
give him a hand. It will be a twenty minutes' job at the least."

During the time repairs were being effected, the _Rosalie_ made slow
progress. She was under-canvassed, and, owing to her light draught,
made leeway like a crab.

The while Roche and Flemming toiled in the hot engine-room, taking
down pipes, cleaning gauzes and clearing jets. They also removed the
sparking-plugs, washed them in petrol, and rubbed the points with
emery cloth.

Almost to a second on the expiration of the twenty minutes the
starboard motor was restarted, and upon the clutch being engaged in
the ahead position the _Rosalie_ increased her speed to six knots.

"That's better," ejaculated the Scoutmaster fervently. "We stand a
chance of getting into Dover before dark after all. We'll have to lie
aground to get that propeller cleared. That's six or seven hours'
delay."

"Rough luck, sir," commented Hepburn. "Wonder who our Jonah is?"

"Bruin, more than likely," replied Warkworth. "That's why he was
slung overboard."



CHAPTER XV

Bruin's Vindication


It was not until seven in the evening that the _Rosalie_ rounded the
North Foreland. The wind had dropped until it was a flat calm, the
tide was foul, and, consequently, progress under one engine was slow.
Yet it was not tedious. The white cliffs and the numerous buildings
ashore provided the Sea Scouts with a constantly changing variety of
scenery, while plentiful shipping added to the picturesqueness of the
outlook.

"Oughtn't we to see the coast of France, sir?" asked Woodleigh.

"Hardly," replied the Scoutmaster. "It's a good 35 miles away. Even
supposing Cape Gris Nez is 400 feet in height, in clear weather it
could be seen only from a distance of 27 miles."

"But I can see land in that direction," persisted the sceptical lad.
"A little to the right--south'ard, I mean, of that lightship."

"Yes," agreed Mr. Armitage, "you can see land; so can I. But if it
were high water you wouldn't. The land is the Goodwin Sands, so named
after Earl Goodwin, and forming part of his estates until the sea
swallowed it up."

"Quicksands, aren't they, sir?" asked Hepburn.

"Yes, when they are covered. At low tide they are hard--so hard that
people have landed and played cricket on them before now."

He paused, and kept his eyes fixed upon a projecting cliff now almost
abeam.

"Too jolly slow, I reckon," he remarked. "We've lost our tide. It's
running pretty hot."

"We certainly are not progressing very rapidly," agreed Mr. Jackson.

"Then we'll cut out Dover and put into Ramsgate instead," decided the
Scoutmaster.

The tide had been flowing for about an hour when the _Rosalie_ passed
between the two pierheads. Even then the masonry towered far above
her deck.

"There's a vacant berth, sir!" exclaimed Stratton, pointing to a
flight of steps on the inner side of the East Pier.

"Yes," replied Mr. Armitage, "but it won't do for us. I'll tell you
why later."

Throttling the only efficient motor to dead slow, the Scoutmaster
brought the yacht steadily and carefully until she was almost abeam
of a large steam trawler.

"Ahoy!" shouted Mr. Armitage. "Can we make fast alongside of you?"

"Ay, ay," was the reply. "Only we're off out at four to-morrow morn."

"Suit us admirably," said the Scoutmaster. "Stand by with a line fore
and aft."

Hepburn with a coiled rope ran for'ard, while Peter Stratton gathered
up a line right aft. They knew how to heave a line properly
--underhand, not overhand. In a very short space of time the
_Rosalie_ was moored alongside the drifter _Strathspey_, with fenders
out and springs made fast for additional security.

"Now, Peter," said Mr. Armitage briskly. "Do you know why we brought
up here instead of alongside the stone pier? Let me give you a tip.
By so doing, we spare ourselves the worry of having to tend the warps
all night. There's a rise and fall of 15 feet here, which is a lot
compared with the 6 or 7 at Milford. Those fellows on the drifter
will have to shorten their warps as the tide rises and pay out when
it falls. We, being alongside the drifter, simply rise and fall with
her."

"But she goes out of harbour at four in the morning," remarked
Hepburn.

"And we'll have to shift," added Mr. Armitage. "That's what I want to
do--to shift on a falling tide on the mud, then by six o'clock we'll
be able to clear our propeller. Now, who's for the shore?"

The Sea Scouts, after a "wash and brush up", landed via the deck of
the drifter. To get to the top of the jetty was a difficult matter,
involving first a jump of about four feet to the lowermost rung of a
vertical and slippery ladder.

Bruin made the ascent in a kit-bag, to which was made fast a rope
from the edge of the jetty. Considerably scared when released, the
pup quickly recovered, and was soon frisking about, barking in high
glee.

"Where's the pup to sleep to-night, Peter?" asked Roche, as the crew
returned to the _Rosalie_.

"We'll rig up a bed for him in the fo'c'sle," replied the
Patrol-leader. "A box with some paper in it will do."

"Hope he won't start tearing our gear in the middle of the night,"
remarked Flemming.

"Not he," replied Stratton, eager to champion his pet's good points.
"He hasn't attempted to chew anything since he's been on board,
except his food. I say, I'm sleepy."

"So am I," declared Roche. "It's the salt air, I suppose. And we've
got to turn out at half-past three to-morrow. Out of our snug bunks,
lads, into the cold grey dawn. Sounds cheerful, doesn't it?"

"Oh, it's nice to get up in the mornin'," chortled Woodleigh.

"But it's nicer to be in bed."

Ten minutes later silence reigned in the fo'c'sle. Six Sea Scouts and
one dog were fast asleep.

In the after-cabin the two Scoutmasters yarned until nearly eleven
o'clock, then, after taking a turn on deck to see that everything was
all right, they, too, sought well-earned repose.

Between two and three in the morning Mr. Armitage was awakened by
Bruin barking furiously. For some moments he listened, thinking that
perhaps a nocturnal prowler was trying to get on board.

Then the barking gave place to a series of whines.

"Shut up, and go to sleep," muttered the Scoutmaster drowsily. "Why
can't Stratton keep the animal quiet? Surely the fellows in the
fo'c'sle can't rest with that noise going on."

For about half a minute there was silence, then the pup began barking
again, his sharp voice trailing off into a melancholy howl.

"Dashed if I can stand that," soliloquized Mr. Armitage. "I'll see
what's wrong with the little animal. Perhaps he's pining for his
former master."

Slipping out of his bunk, the Scoutmaster gained the deck and went
for'ard. As he approached the partly-open forehatch he detected the
pungent smell of burning rags.

He was on the point of dashing below when he hesitated. It was not
for fear of what might happen to him that caused him to pause. It was
the thought that if he were overcome by the fumes the lads below
might be suffocated, and no one would be a bit the wiser until it was
too late.

"Jackson!" he shouted. "Turn out. There's fire aboard."

Mr. Jackson, awake in an instant, came on deck. He had drawn on his
sea-boots, and had thoughtfully brought Mr. Armitage's with him.

"Shove these on," he said. "It's no joke standing on burning embers
with bare feet."

The two Scoutmasters shouted down the hatchway, but there was no
reply. The skipper and two hands of the drifter lying alongside,
aroused by the commotion, came up and scrambled on the _Rosalie's_
deck.

"Hang on to the slack!" exclaimed Mr. Armitage, bending a line round
his waist and handing the coil to his companion.

Without hesitation he descended the fo'c'sle ladder. The air was
thick with smoke, but, by keeping his mouth tightly shut, the
Scoutmaster was able to make his way to the nearest bunk.

With a powerful heave he lifted the sleeper and brought him on deck.
It was Hepburn, torpid and on the verge of unconsciousness.

Four times Mr. Armitage fought his way below, each time returning
with one of his lads, until Mr. Jackson interposed.

"My turn," he said firmly. "You've had enough."

Flemming and Stratton were the last of the crew to be brought on
deck. The Oxford Scoutmaster made another descent, to return with
Bruin in his arms. Even as he did so the smouldering stuff, fanned by
the draught, burst into flames.

The source of the fire was in the engine-room, which communicated
with the fo'c'sle. Although the clear flame considerably reduced the
volume of smoke, the grave danger became apparent. Within a few feet
of the fire was the main fuel-tank, the petrol-tank being on the
other side of the motor-room.

"Close the engine-room skylight," exclaimed Mr. Armitage, again
girding on the life-line. "I'll get the pyrene going."

He went below. The heat was now oppressive, but the air considerably
purer. Fortunately he knew exactly where the fire-extinguishers were
stowed. Working rapidly, yet deliberately, he dashed a quantity of
pyrene on the seat of the conflagration, and with marvellous
swiftness the fire died down.

Battling his way through the now pungent fumes, for the pyrene had
destroyed the oxygen in the confined space, the Scoutmaster gained
the deck exhausted but triumphant.

"Batten everything down, Jackson," he said breathlessly. "We've done
the trick this time."

Meanwhile the six Sea Scouts, stretched out upon the dewy deck, were
recovering from the effects of their partial asphyxiation under the
somewhat rough but efficacious treatment by the crew of the drifter;
and by the time the hatchways and skylights were covered with wet
canvas to complete the stifling of the fire, Stratton and his
companions were able to walk unaided to the after-cabin.

In the pale dawn Mr. Jackson contemplated Bruin. The pup was drinking
water copiously. It seemed impossible that his small body could
accommodate such a quantity of fluid.

"Some one called Bruin a Jonah," he remarked. "I fancy the dog has
vindicated himself this time."



CHAPTER XVI

Down Channel


There was no sleep for either of the two Scoutmasters for the rest of
that night. The still drowsy lads had to be attended to. Stratton, in
particular, was in a bad way, while Roche complained of violent pains
in his head. The others, beyond being rather scared at the peril they
had undergone, were little the worse for their adventure.

"Wonder how it occurred?" inquired Mr. Jackson.

"I can't possibly imagine," replied Mr. Armitage. "I'm always very
particular about lights, and, I am glad to say, none of the boys
smoke, although I'm afraid I set them a bad example. The galley-stove
is quite away from the engine-room. It beats me, but, when we examine
the seat of the fire, perhaps we may find a solution to the mystery."

"We'm gettin' under way now, sir," shouted the skipper of the
drifter. "Shall us pass a line ashore for you?"

Mr. Armitage turned to his companion.

"Might as well carry out our original plan, I think, and put her on
the mud," he said. "The pair of us ought to be able to warp her out."

"Good enough," agreed the other.

The two Scoutmasters went on deck, swung out and lowered the dinghy,
and threw a coil of rope into the stern sheets. Then, rowing off to a
buoy near the centre of the harbour, they made fast the line from the
_Rosalie's_ bow.

"Cast off, please, and thank you," said Mr. Armitage to the crew of
the drifter.

It was tedious but fairly easy work to man the winch and haul the
yacht off to the buoy. The process was repeated until the _Rosalie_
touched the ground on a mud-bank that occupies a fair portion of the
eastern part of Ramsgate Harbour.

"This has been a night," declared Mr. Armitage wearily. "Now we can
stand easy till the tide leaves her. How about some tea?"

During the preliminary breakfast the Scoutmaster made inquiries of
the boys, but they could give no information as to what had occurred.
They were in complete ignorance of everything until they found
themselves coming-to on the deck.

"We're all right now, sir," declared Hepburn. "Ready to start work on
the propeller as soon as you like."

"You'll have to take things easily to-day, Alan," said Mr. Armitage.
"I don't propose getting under way until to-morrow. We all need a
rest."

While the tide was still ebbing, the fore-hatch was removed and the
foul air allowed to escape from the fo'c'sle and the motor-room. Then
the two Scoutmasters went below to investigate.

The fire had originated, they discovered, in a heap of cotton waste
over which the overalls of the two engineers had been thrown. Some of
the woodwork of the adjacent locker was charred and the paintwork
blistered, but otherwise the damage was negligible. But whether the
fire was caused by spontaneous combustion or from a spark from the
pipe of one of the crew of the drifter remained an unsolved mystery.

"It's fortunate we don't rely on petrol for the motors," observed Mr.
Armitage. "Otherwise it would have been all up with the _Rosalie_.
Paraffin's bad enough, but petrol--I saw a petrol-driven boat blow up
once. It was a sight that one doesn't wish to see again. Now, I think
the tide's ebbed sufficiently. We'll get to work."

A couple of large gratings were lowered over the stern. On these Mr.
Armitage dropped cautiously, until he found that they were amply
large enough to prevent his sinking into the mud.

"Now a mallet and chisel!" he called out. "The rope's wound round the
boss as tight as a wire hawser. There's no clearing it except by
cutting it through."

Ten minutes' steady work sufficed to free the propeller from the
tenacious embraces of the fishing-net and rope. Mr. Armitage
clambered on board.

"We'll leave those gratings till the tide rises," he said. "Otherwise
they'll be filthy. The mud is as dirty as I've seen it anywhere."

"It does whiff a bit, sir," remarked Woodleigh. "Suppose it's the
heat of the sun. Do we stay here, or shift back to our old berth?"

"Why not get on, Armitage?" suggested Mr. Jackson.

The Scoutmaster considered.

"There's Dover and Folkestone," he replied. "Neither of them is a
very desirable spot for a small yacht. The next port of any
consequence is Newhaven. That's a longish run."

He glanced aloft. The sky was clear. What wind there was wafted from
the east'ard. The day seemed too fine to waste lying in harbour. The
only question was whether the crew could "stick it".

"We're quite all right now, sir," declared the Patrol-leader reading
Mr. Armitage's unspoken question. "It will be a jolly sight better
out in the Channel than sticking in this mud-hole."

"Don't be disdainful, Peter," said the Scoutmaster. "There may be a
time when you'll be grateful for the shelter of a harbour like
Ramsgate."

He spoke feelingly, as one who knows the sea and its varying moods.
He recalled a mental picture of an M.-L.--staggering, rolling, and
lurching, with her decks swept and the windy blast howling through
her scanty rigging. And then the indescribable feeling of relief when
the staunch little craft won through and passed into the welcome
shelter of the pier-heads.

"We'll carry on," he decided. "As you say, it's a pity to waste this
fine weather."

It was a tedious business waiting for the _Rosalie_ to become
water-borne. Slowly the incoming tide invaded the malodorous
mud-flats until the wavelets slapped against the yacht's sides.
Gradually she recovered from her slight list, and presently she swung
to her hempen cable.

"Start her up, Dick," ordered the Scoutmaster. "Her props are clear
of the mud now."

Roche and Flemming hurried below, and in less than five minutes a
steady vibration and the regular cough of the two exhausts proclaimed
the fact that the _Rosalie_ was prepared to renew her acquaintance
with the open sea.

There was now plenty of water in the intricate Ramsgate Channel, and
the yacht made short work of the run to Dover.

"Take her inside the breakwater, Alan," said Mr. Armitage. "Here's
the chart. That will give you an idea of what to expect."

"Why inside, sir?" asked Hepburn.

"Merely to give you fellows a chance to see what the harbour's like.
Never throw away opportunities, Alan. In this case we go in by the
eastern entrance and out by the western, so there's no need to put
about and retrace our course."

All the crew were on deck as the _Rosalie_ approached the massive
granite wall backed by the lofty white cliffs of Dover. They had
heard a lot about the Dover Patrol during the war, and were anxious
to see the base of that efficient and hard-hitting force.

"What's that thing right ahead, sir?" asked Warkworth, as the yacht
glided between the extremities of the breakwater.

"Looks like a stranded whale."

"That's the wreck of the monitor _Glatton_," replied Mr. Armitage.
"She caught fire, and over a hundred lives were lost. There was
enough explosive material on board her to destroy the greater part of
the town."

"Why didn't it?" asked Woodleigh.

"The Handy Man saw to that," continued the Scoutmaster. "A destroyer
torpedoed the monitor and sent her to the bottom of Dover Harbour.
I'd like to take you over the old castle," he continued; "but it's
out of the question just at present. Another day, perhaps, when we
come here in our own craft."

Out once more into open glided the _Rosalie_, and soon she was
rolling and pitching in the strong tideway. It was not until she
gained the broad expanse off Romney Marsh, where the low flat shore
presented a poor contrast to the towering chalk cliffs, that smooth
water gave place to the "rip" off Dover.

"Take her, Woodleigh," said the Scoutmaster. "S.W. by W.3/4W. is the
course. You'll sight the lighthouse at the end of Dungeness very
soon."

It was a pleasant, uneventful run. The Sea Scouts found recuperative
rest after their adventure by basking on deck and taking notice of
the numerous vessels passing to and from the Downs. The English
Channel was here like a mill-pond. Not a ripple disturbed the
surface. Occasionally the yacht lifted to the far-flung wash of a
passing ship, but beyond that she was as steady as a liner.

"Something sticking out of the water right ahead, sir," reported the
helmsman.

Mr. Armitage hurried to the wheel-house. Visions of drifting mines
flashed across his mind. According to the papers, two of these
sinister objects had recently been washed ashore on the Sussex coast.

But the object Woodleigh indicated was miles ahead--a slim, tapering
column, rising apparently from a waste of water a point or so on the
yacht's starboard bow.

"That's Dungeness Lighthouse," said the Scoutmaster. "The spit of
shingle is still beneath the horizon."

"It looks different since I reported the matter," continued
Woodleigh; "shorter. Before, it was much higher, and there was a
curious-looking cloud over it."

Mr. Armitage had scarcely left the wheel-house when Woodleigh again
called out.

Returning, the Scoutmaster saw that not only was the lighthouse
distorted, but there was an inverted image above it. Practically the
whole stretch of Dungeness, with the adjacent coast-guard buildings,
appeared floating upside down in the air. Then after a brief instant
the vision appeared to quiver and disperse, until the actual
lighthouse tower resumed its normal appearance.

"Mirage!" exclaimed Mr. Armitage. "Not at all common; but I've seen
similar effects off the south coast. It usually foretells hard winds
from the east'ard."

"Then we did the right thing in getting under way to-day, sir?"

"Rather!" replied the Scoutmaster emphatically. "The open Channel's
no place to be caught out in. Once we round Selsea Bill we'll be
sheltered by the Wight, with plenty of convenient harbours under our
lee. Here harbours are few and far between. There's Newhaven,
Shoreham, and Littlehampton; all difficult to make in heavy weather.
Shoreham and Littlehampton, too, are useless at low water. That's why
I'm anxious to carry on."

Mr. Armitage glanced astern--to wind'ard. The sky was cloudless. The
almost flat calm still held.

"We may get another twenty-four hours of fine weather," he mused.
"Glass is falling slightly, and there's no question that the abnormal
refraction of the atmosphere means wind, and plenty of it."

Nearly an hour elapsed before Dungeness was abeam. The Sea Scouts
were greatly interested in the far-flung tongue of shingle,
especially when they were told that it was one of the few places on
the coast of the British Isles where the sea, instead of encroaching,
was receding, and that the land was gradually but surely gaining.

It was a long stretch across Rye Bay, the shore being uninteresting,
but when the cliffs of Fairlight came into view the monotony of the
shore changed to a picturesque aspect. Cliffs, backed by grassy
downs, were the predominant feature, whilst coast towns were
frequently passed--Hastings, St. Leonards, Bexhill, and then
Eastborne--sheltering under the frowning heights of Beachy Head.

"A breeze!" shouted the Patrol-leader, as the hitherto placid surface
of the water was ruffled by little cat's paws. "Right aft."

"Set sail," ordered the Scoutmaster; then, under his breath, he
added, "the breeze has come at the wrong end of the day's run; hope
it won't freshen too much."

By the time Beachy Head Lighthouse--built on a rocky ledge at the
base of the lofty cliff--was abeam, a fairly heavy ground swell was
beating against the serrated line of rocks.

The _Rosalie_ was now doing practically her maximum speed under both
motors and canvas, but with the wind right aft she rolled heavily.

"Is that Newhaven, sir?" asked Stratton, who was now at the helm,
pointing to a wide depression in the cliffs.

"You're not the first to make that mistake," remarked the
Scoutmaster. "That's Cuckmere Haven. Once, during the war, an M.-L.
barged into the haven under the impression she was making Newhaven.
It was a pitch-dark night, and before she found out her mistake she
was nearly aground. Her crew fired Very lights, to see what sort of
show they had got into, and the poor folk ashore thought that the
Huns had landed in force. No, Newhaven's a good four or five miles
farther along. You'll see it when it opens out beyond Seaford Head."

At that moment Mr. Jackson, who had been spinning yarns to the watch
below, came up.

"We're making a good passage, Armitage," he observed. "We ought to
make Newhaven by three o'clock."

"I hope to go farther than that," replied the Scoutmaster. "Shoreham,
or even Littlehampton. There's bad weather coming, I fancy."

"I don't blame you," said Mr. Jackson. "After all's said and done,
Newhaven's a rotten hole for a yacht. Too strong a tide and too great
a rise and fall to my liking, to say nothing of the coal dust. Tea's
going. I'll take charge of the deck, if you like, and you can get a
meal."

To this proposal Mr. Armitage gladly agreed, and the Sea Scouts
adjourned to the saloon, leaving the Oxford Scoutmaster at the wheel.

Judging by their appetites, the lads had quite shaken off the effects
of their partial suffocation. Sitting round the table they looked the
picture of health, with their bronzed faces and clear, mirth-loving
eyes.

"'And there arose a mighty famine in the land '," quoted Mr.
Armitage. "That's what'll happen to us by the way the bread and
butter is disappearing."

"We can replenish our grub-locker at the first port we make, sir,"
said Flemming.

"Unless it's after closing-time," added Hepburn.

"Fortunately the Early Closing Act does not apply to vessels leaving
and arriving at ports," corrected Mr. Armitage, "so tuck in with a
good grace. I remember on one occasion----"

What happened at that particular time never transpired, for a sudden,
disconcerting jar shook the yacht from stem to stern.

"By Jove, we're aground!" exclaimed the Scoutmaster, making a hurried
exit through the companion-way to the deck. "What is it, Jackson?" he
inquired anxiously.

"Marine road-hogging," was the reply. "Couldn't help it, Armitage. A
porpoise leapt right in front of our bows, and the _Rosalie_ gave it
a pretty tidy biff."

An examination showed that the hull had sustained no damage. The bow
planking was as tight as the proverbial bottle, and, fortunately, the
propeller-blades had not come in contact with the luckless porpoise.

"We're approaching Brighton," continued Mr. Jackson. "Although the
tide's foul there isn't much strength in it. Breeze is freshening,
but it's shifted a couple of points on the starboard quarter."

"Off the land," commented his fellow-Scoutmaster. "So much the better
for us. No risk of gybing."

Shoreham they passed. It was low tide, and the signals from the
Middle Pier proclaimed the fact that there was not enough water on
the bar. In the circumstances there was nothing for it but to carry
on for Littlehampton.

It was eight in the evening when the _Rosalie_ cautiously approached
the entrance to the latter harbour. Sails were stowed, and a leadsman
told off to take soundings.

Once it was touch-and-go whether the yacht would ground, for there
was less than a foot of water under her keel; and it was with
feelings of relief that Mr. Armitage gave orders for half-speed ahead
as the _Rosalie_ passed between the pier-heads.

"Not so dusty--Ramsgate to Littlehampton in a day!" he exclaimed, as
the yacht moored between two buoys on the west side of the narrow
harbour. He gave a glance at the now lowering sky. "Well, we're
here," he added. "Wonder when we'll be able to get out?"



CHAPTER XVII

On her Beam Ends


Peter Stratton had a weird dream. Perhaps it was the effects of the
lobster that a friendly fisherman had given to the _Rosalie's_ crew
to supplement their sadly depleted larder.

He dreamt that he was lying on a slippery shelving rock, with his
feet dangling in the water. There was a lobster tugging at his
toes--a big fellow, tugging and biting hard. He wanted to shout for
assistance, but a man, who strongly resembled the thief who had
stolen the _Olivette's_ warp, was cold-bloodedly ramming a rope's end
into the Sea Scout's mouth. Peter couldn't prevent him. He had all
his work cut out to hang on to the slippery rock with both his hands.
Yet, in spite of his efforts, he was slowly yet surely sliding into
the water, where myriads of crustacean fishes were awaiting him.

With a thud he alighted, not in the sea, but on the shelving floor of
the fo'c'sle. He awoke with a yell, to find himself out of his bunk
and lying in the angle formed by the floor and the rise of the
opposite locker. Beating a tattoo with his bare foot upon Peter's
face was Roche, while Bruin, thinking it was a rare bit of fun, was
nibbling the Patrol-leader's toe.

For some minutes Stratton failed to grasp the situation. Then it
dawned upon him. It was daylight--eight o'clock in the morning. The
_Rosalie_ was heeling badly, lying right over on her starboard side.
The occupants of the three bunks on the port side had been
unceremoniously ejected--mattresses, blankets, pillows, and all.
Woodleigh, Warkworth, and Hepburn, occupying the starboard berth, had
merely slid against the skirting, and were slumbering unconcernedly.

It was raining heavily. Drops were pelting on deck, and a
considerable amount of rain was driving in through the partly-closed
fore-hatch.

"What's happened?" asked Roche, struggling into his clothes.

"Hanged if I know," replied the Patrol-leader, still rather hazy as
to which was a dream and which solid fact.

Just then Mr. Armitage, clad in oilskins, sou'wester, and sea-boots,
made his way into the fo'c'sle--a matter of considerable difficulty,
owing to the angle of the slippery ladder.

"Morning, lads!" he exclaimed. "I meant you to sleep as long as you
liked, but the _Rosalie_ won't let you, I see. Hallo! three still
slumbering sweetly."

"What's happened, sir?" asked Roche.

"Nothing very serious, I hope," replied the Scoutmaster. "We've been
driven on the edge of the mud by the strong east wind--it's blowing
half a gale--and the tide has fallen. Consequently we're high and
dry, and heeling rather badly."

Above the howling of the wind could be heard the loud roar of the
waves breaking over the east pier. During the night the wind had
shifted to the south-east, and the sea was surging violently in the
Channel.

Donning oilskins, Stratton accompanied Mr. Armitage on deck. The
aspect of things in general, and the _Rosalie_ in particular, was not
a cheerful one. Against the dark-grey sky showers of white foam
showed up distinctly as the waves lashed themselves against the
wooden piers. A cold rain added to the discomfort of the morning.

The _Rosalie_ was heeling at a sharp angle, with her rail on the
starboard side amidships within a few inches of the slimy mud. In the
fairway, only ten yards distant, the ebb tide, swollen by the rain,
was surging furiously.

Sheltering in the wheel-house, with his feet hard against the edge of
a locker, was Mr. Jackson, disconsolately surveying the inclined
plane represented by the listing yacht's wet deck.

"Think she'll lift to the flood tide, Armitage? Frankly, I don't
think she will."

"There's a chance she won't," agreed Mr. Armitage. "She's heeled more
since I left you. The difficulty is, that we can't run a warp ashore
till there's enough water to float the dinghy. By that time----"

He broke off abruptly.

"I'll manage it, sir," volunteered Peter. "I don't suppose the mud's
softer than it is at Keyhaven."

"Perhaps there'll be someone ashore who will make a line fast for
us," suggested Mr. Jackson.

But the river banks were deserted. Right at the pier-head, underneath
the flagstaff from which was displayed the storm-cone, were a couple
of oil-skinned figures, but their attention was centred upon
something in the offing--a fishing smack attempting to run for
shelter, but compelled to await sufficient depth of water on the bar.
The men were looking through telescopes. Every few minutes they were
hidden from sight by showers of spray, yet, oblivious to their
immediate surroundings, they kept their attention fixed upon the
craft attempting to make the harbour.

Under Mr. Armitage's direction everything that could be done to
assist the _Rosalie_ to rise on the flood tide was undertaken. The
scuttles were tightly closed, the dinghy swung out and lowered on to
the mud so that her weight would not tend to retard the vessel's
lift.

Stratton, with a light line made fast round his waist, lowered
himself over the side on to a grating that he had previously dropped
on the mud. Then, by the aid of a second grating, he moved a couple
of feet nearer dry, or, rather, hard ground, lifting the first
grating and placing it in front of him. It was a slow business, but
at last the surface became sufficiently stiff to walk upon without
the assistance of his improvised mud-pattens.

To the other end of the light line was bent the four-inch hawser.
This Peter hauled ashore and made fast to a massive warping-post,
repeating the process till a second rope was secured to the same
post.

While the Patrol-leader was making his way back to the yacht the
four-inch hawser was led to the for'ard winch, and the small rope
taken aft and a watch-tackle clapped on to it.

"That's all we can do for the present," declared Mr. Armitage. "It's
no use putting a strain on the ropes until the tide flows round her.
Pipe all hands to breakfast, Peter."

Breakfast was a matter of inconvenience, not to say difficulty. The
Primus stoves, not being gimballed, had to be propped up in a
horizontal base and wedged to prevent them sliding bodily to leeward.
The Sea Scouts ate their meal squatting tailor-fashion on the
piled-up cushions. The only member of the crew who didn't take kindly
to the novel situation was Bruin, whose attempts to walk the shelving
floor caused roars of laughter from the boys.

"Time for action, lads," exclaimed Mr. Armitage, glancing through one
of the cabin scuttles. Where the outlook formerly consisted of mud,
there was now water. The rising tide was lapping round the side of
the yacht.

Everyone on board realized the danger. Unless the _Rosalie_ became
waterborne before the rising tide flooded her cockpit and poured
below, she would be covered to a depth of five or six feet at high
water.

Scrambling on deck and holding on as they moved to their appointed
stations, the Sea Scouts prepared for the coming ordeal.

A heavy strain was taken on both ropes leading ashore to assist the
vessel to lift, while all hands not employed at the winch and the
watch-tackle hung over the port side, clinging to the shrouds so that
their weight would help in levering the yacht on an even keel.

It was a spiritless job hanging on and waiting for the tide to rise.
Buffeted by the wind and driving rain, the Sea Scouts stuck it
gamely, until the period of inaction was broken by at quite
unexpected turn of events.

The two men on the pier-head-who had been keeping their telescopes
fixed seaward were now in a state of activity, shouting and
gesticulating to an approaching vessel, which, however, was invisible
from the sloping deck of the _Rosalie_.

A few minutes later, pitching and rolling heavily, a large motor-boat
staggered in between the pier-heads, her deck glistening with water
that came inboard over her bows.

"She's the _Olivette_!" exclaimed Stratton.

"Looks uncommonly like her," agreed Mr. Armitage. "But she's one of a
class. May be one of the same type."

In the shelter of the harbour, although the "gush" was fairly heavy,
the heavy motor-boat ceased to pitch. Out of the cockpit climbed a
man wearing a mackintosh coat and a "deerstalker's cap", the latter
secured by a scarf tied under the chin.

"By Jove, you're right, Peter!" declared the Scoutmaster. "It is the
_Olivette_. That's Mr. Murgatroyd. Wonder what he's doing here?"

Evidently Mr. Murgatroyd was expecting to find his former crew at
Littlehampton, although he had never seen the _Rosalie_, and one of
the first craft that caught his eye was the listing yacht with the
Sea Scouts at "Action Stations".

"Give her a cheer, lads," called out Mr. Armitage.

The boys complied with the utmost enthusiasm, the owner of the
_Olivette_ waving another scarf in reply. Then, losing way under the
reverse action of her propeller, the new arrival made fast to a buoy
about fifty yards higher up stream than the still-stranded _Rosalie_.

"Seems rather a shame to be found in this position," declared
Hepburn. "Mr. Murgatroyd will think we're everything but a posh lot
of navigators."

"She must have had a dusting outside," said the Scoutmaster. "We'll
go alongside directly we're afloat. Now, lads, water's lapping over
the lee gunwale. Heave away on the capstan and haul away with the
luff-tackle."

For ten minutes it was touch and go whether the water would swamp the
yacht before she lifted. The level of the rising tide was within a
couple of inches of the cockpit coaming when the _Rosalie_ shook
herself clear of her muddy bed. With a weird gurgling noise as the
tremendous suctional powers of the ooze were overcome, the yacht
recovered herself, and in a few minutes was on an even keel.

"Thanks be!" ejaculated Mr. Armitage fervently as he wiped the
moisture from his face. "We'll shift our berth at high water. No more
of these tricks for us."



CHAPTER XVIII

Weatherbound


"Fall in, the ration party!" ordered Mr. Armitage briskly. "Because
we are weather-bound it's no reason why we should be hungry, Coming
ashore, Jackson?"

The dinghy was brought alongside, and the two Scoutmasters,
Woodleigh, Warkworth, and Hepburn pushed off. They ran alongside the
_Olivette_ on the way up to the town.

"I hoped to find you here, Armitage," said Mr. Murgatroyd. "In fact I
missed you by less than an hour at Ramsgate. Come aboard."

"We're replenishing a depleted grub locker," observed Mr. Armitage,
"so we won't stop. We'll call for you on the way back if you'll care
to have lunch on the _Rosalie_. You'll find your old crew. This is
Mr. Jackson. No, he's not _Rosalie's_ owner He's a friend assisting
us on our way. Right-o; we'll be alongside at eleven."

With the dinghy laden with fresh beef, potatoes, cabbages, bread, and
a variety of smaller commodities, the foraging-party rowed down the
river and called for their guest. The two paid hands who formed the
_Olivette's_ crew declined the invitation to visit the _Rosalie_, and
Mr. Armitage fancied that Mr. Murgatroyd looked relieved at their
decision.

"Now tell us of your adventures," suggested the Scoutmaster, when Mr.
Murgatroyd had inspected the internal arrangements of the yacht.

"There's not very much to tell," said the _Olivette's_ owner. "I soon
got fed up with the East Coast. Too many sand-banks to my liking. I
believe the _Olivette_ found a sand-bank at least three times on each
occasion she got under way. So I decided to keep her in the Solent.
It's merely a two hours' train journey from Waterloo to Southampton,
and you're in sheltered water right away."

"The difficulty was a crew. I thought of telegraphing to you at
Yarmouth, but I knew you would have your work cut out with the
_Rosalie_. The men I engaged at Brightlingsea--good fellows they
were, too--couldn't get away, as they had to go fishing later on in
the month, so I got hold of the two brigands you saw on board.
Goodness only knows where they hail from. They certainly aren't East
Coast men. However, I managed to get going, made Ramsgate, and found
that you had just left. Held on, looking into Folkestone, Newhaven,
and Shoreham on the chance of finding you, and finally came on here
in half a gale of wind. And," he added proudly, "I wasn't sea-sick. I
feel like an old salt, although I know I've a lot to learn yet. Must
get hold of some textbooks on navigation."

"Don't," interrupted Mr. Armitage earnestly. "If you do, you'll
probably chuck it up as a bad job. Three-quarters of the stuff in
books on coastal navigation isn't really necessary. It might be
useful, but it's not essential."

"Then what is?" asked Mr. Murgatroyd.

"Common sense, resourcefulness, and an ability to read a chart,"
replied the Scoutmaster. "These, in my opinion, are the essentials,
coupled with a nautical instinct. One must be born, not made, for the
sea, you know."

"My innate nautical instinct seems to be developing rather late in
life," declared Mr. Murgatroyd. "At any rate, I like it. Jolly sight
better than hogging it in a motor. When are you leaving here?"

"As soon as the weather moderates," was the reply. "Judging by the
present outlook, we might be weatherbound for a week."

"The _Olivette_ will sail in company with you, then," said her owner,
"unless my paid hands desert. I rather wish they would, because they
are the bosses and I'm a sort of human petty-cash till."

"If they do leave you in the lurch," said Mr. Armitage, "I think we
can manage to spare you three hands, enough to work the _Olivette_
round to the Solent. Lunch ready, Woodleigh?"

It was a bounteous repast in spite of the deficiency of plates and
dishes, for there had been heavy casualties in the pantry since the
_Rosalie_ left Yarmouth. Woodleigh, always a good cook, simply
excelled himself, and Mr. Murgatroyd, drawing a comparison between
the culinary arrangements on the _Rosalie_ and the _Olivette_, felt
decidedly envious.

At high water the harbour-master came alongside, and, having
collected dues, suggested that the _Rosalie_ should shift her berth.

"You'll be all right between those two buoys," he said. "You'll
probably ground at low water, but the mud's soft, so you won't heel
there."

For the next three days it blew hard. The Sea Scouts endured the
forced detention with fortitude, but whenever they landed and walked
to the pier-head the aspect of the English Channel rather made them
wonder whether it was going to be rough for weeks. As far as the eye
could see, there were tumultuous, white-crested waves.

On Saturday morning Stratton saw Mr. Murgatroyd making violent
gesticulations from the deck of the _Olivette_. Promptly the yacht's
dinghy put off to find out the reason of the unorthodox semaphoring
display. The owner of the _Olivette_ was excited and jubilant.

"They've deserted," he announced. "The scoundrels were paid on Friday
night, and this morning they were missing. A waterman probably landed
them."

"Perhaps they'll roll up again," suggested Mr. Armitage.

"Not they," declared Mr. Murgatroyd with conviction. "They've taken
their gear. No, I don't want them back. Armitage, I accept your
offer. Lend me Roche, Warkworth, and Hepburn, and I'll be eternally
indebted to you."

The three Sea Scouts mentioned by name readily fell in with the
arrangement, and their kit was transferred to the _Olivette_.

"I have a proposal to make," began Mr. Murgatroyd when, later on in
the day, he paid a visit to the _Rosalie_. "You may think it
downright cheek, Armitage, and you may turn it down if you want to."

"Fire away, then," prompted the Scoutmaster.

"Your head-quarters are on the Solent, aren't they?"

"Not quite. There's a creek where we keep our sailing-boat--Keyhaven
it's called--about a mile or so from Milford. That opens into the
Solent."

"Enough water for the _Olivette_?" continued Mr. Murgatroyd.

"Plenty inside, but she wouldn't be able to get out at low-water
springs," replied Mr. Armitage.

"Look here," said the _Olivette's_ owner, after making inquiries as
to which was the nearest railway station. "This is my scheme: Suppose
I keep the _Olivette_ at Keyhaven, will your Sea Scouts look after
her? Take me for trips when I can run down? If so, you can use her
whenever you want, whether I'm there or not. Virtually I remain the
owner, but in practice she's yours."

"Quite a good scheme, from our point of view," replied Mr. Armitage.
"In fact, it looks rather like sponging on you. We hardly----"

"Rot!" interrupted Mr. Murgatroyd. "It's a _quid pro quo_
arrangement. I save both money and worry by it. Say the word, and
she's ready for you when you've handed over the _Rosalie_."

"Well, boys," said the Scoutmaster, "shall we accept Mr. Murgatroyd's
offer, and signify our appreciation in the usual manner?"

The _Rosalie's_ cabin resounded to three lusty cheers. Mr.
Murgatroyd, beaming with delight, protested unavailingly against the
display of boyish exuberance.

"That's settled, then," he said. "In future the _Olivette_ is the
Milford Sea Scouts' craft."

Towards evening the rain ceased and the wind decreased considerably,
flying off the land. With a rising barometer in conjunction with a
rising thermometer, there were indications that the weather was
improving, and that the _Rosalie's_ enforced detention at
Littlehampton was merely a matter of a few more hours.

"Jolly good thing we are weatherbound," declared Flemming. "We've
struck good luck here. Fancy having the use of the _Olivette_. Sounds
too good to be true. Pinch me, Peter, to see if I'm awake. O--oh! Not
so hard, you silly owl!"



CHAPTER XIX

The Patrol-leader Scores


Sunday dawned fair and bright, with a steady off-shore wind. Three
days remained before the time stipulated for the handing over of the
_Rosalie_ at Poole expired, and, given reasonable weather, there was
no reason why the contract should not be carried out.

At nine o'clock the _Rosalie_, with the _Olivette_ following sedately
in her wake, passed between the pier-heads of Littlehampton Harbour,
bound west.

Standing seaward for a mile, in order to clear the shoal patches off
that part of the Sussex shore, both boats then ported helm and
steered for the as yet invisible Selsea Bill.

All hands, including Bruin, were basking on the deck of the
_Rosalie_; while, glancing astern, they could see the owner and two
of the crew of the _Olivette_ perched upon the latter craft's cabin
top.

At intervals the Sea Scouts on the two boats would exchange semaphore
messages. These were mostly of a frivolous nature, but they served to
keep the boys in practice. Mr. Armitage rather prided himself upon
the signalling capabilities of his troop. He had taught them to
receive messages before being able to send them, which is more than
half the battle in learning both Morse and semaphore. He knew from
experience that in the majority of cases a learner who is taught to
send before being able to receive rarely becomes a smart
signalman--and he acted accordingly.

"Keep a sharp look-out, lads," said the Scoutmaster, as the low-lying
Selsea Bill appeared in view. "See who'll be the first to spot the
Mixon--a tall pile with a barrel on top of it. It should be a point
on our starboard bow."

Actuated by the spirit of competition, the Sea Scouts clustered in
the wake of the wheel-house scanning the distant shore; but for a
considerable time their efforts to locate the important sea-mark were
without success.

"Hope the beacon hasn't been washed away," said Mr. Armitage. "Unless
we sight it we'll have a difficulty to find our way through the Looe
Stream. It's narrow, with submerged rocks on both sides, and
generally a nasty tide-rip to complicate matters."

"Fortunately we are not entirely dependent upon sails, nor have we to
beat through," remarked Mr. Jackson.

"That's true," agreed Mr. Armitage, "but, in a way, I'm sorry. The
introduction of marine motors has practically killed seamanship in
yachts. Nowadays when a fellow encounters a foul tide, what does he
do? In nine cases out of ten he starts the engine. Come along, lads,
haven't you spotted the beacon yet?"

"What's that over there, sir?" asked Flemming, pointing to an
indistinct object a good two points off the port bow.

"Why, that's what we're looking for--the Mixon," declared the
Scoutmaster. "We're off our course. I expected to find it off our
starboard bow. Starboard a bit, Peter. That's it. Keep her at that."

The alteration of helm was promptly noticed by the crew of the
_Olivette_. The motor-boat had been maintaining her station
splendidly, the _Rosalie_ having to reduce speed slightly to enable
the slower craft to do so.

Passing a hundred yards to the south'ard of the beacon, both boats
entered the Looe Stream, a short but somewhat intricate cut for craft
making a passage from Spithead to the east'ard. In the actual stream
there was very little sea running, although the tide set strongly,
but on its western edge there was a regular, clearly-defined wall of
tempestuous overfalls.

"We'll get it in a minute or so," declared Mr. Armitage. "Close the
fore-hatch and the engine-room skylights, Peter. There's nothing not
lashed down on deck, I hope?"

The _Rosalie_ plunged bodily into the turmoil. White-crested waves
poured over her bows and surged aft in milky foam, while spray dashed
in showers high over the wheel-house. The belt of disturbed water was
but a hundred yards or so in width. Beyond, the waves were regular.

Flemming was steering. The rest of the crew, including the two
Scoutmasters, looked aft to see how the _Olivette_ was faring.
Greatly to their surprise they noticed that she was slowing down and
displaying a tendency to fall off into the trough of the sea.

"Hope her motor hasn't given out," exclaimed Mr. Armitage.

"I don't think so, sir," replied Stratton. "There's smoke coming from
her exhaust, and the circulating-pump is still working. But, look!
What is Hepburn doing?"

Apparently Warkworth was in the wheel-house. Roche had left the
engine-room, and with Mr. Murgatroyd was standing by the low
stanchion rail on the port side. Alan Hepburn, with one foot on the
broad rubbing-strake, and hanging on with one hand to a stanchion,
was evidently contemplating a plunge overboard. Already all three
were wet through, owing to the spray and the waves that tumbled
inboard as the _Olivette_ rolled in the trough.

Suddenly Hepburn leapt. The watchers on the _Rosalie_ saw that he
took a coil of rope with him. He struck the water feet foremost,
reappearing almost before the splash of the impact had subsided.
Then, raising one arm as a signal, he was hauled back by Mr.
Murgatroyd and Roche.

"What did he do that for?" asked the perplexed Stratton.

The answer, silent but expressive, came from Alan himself, for as he
gained the heaving deck he held up a dank, dishevelled object for the
crew of the _Rosalie_ to read, mark, and learn. It was Bruin.

The pup had been left lying asleep in the yacht's cabin. Unobserved,
Bruin had made his way on deck and had coiled himself up under the
dinghy that, swung inboard, was resting on chocks.

A heavy roll as the _Rosalie_ took it green on the tail of the Looe
Stream sent Bruin into the briny, unnoticed by anyone on board.

It was Warkworth at the helm of the _Olivette_ who spotted the pup as
it struck out in an unavailing attempt to overhaul the yacht.

Shouting to Roche to stop the engines, and hurriedly informing
Hepburn of what had occurred, Warkworth steered as long as the boat
carried way, while Alan, awaiting his opportunity, plunged overboard
to the rescue.

As soon as the _Rosalie_ and the _Olivette_ entered relatively smooth
water, Hepburn, without waiting to shed his saturated garments, stood
on top of the wheel-house and held up a pair of hand-flags at the
"preparatory".

"Acknowledge," said Mr. Armitage. "It's going to be something
caustic, Peter."

It was. The semaphore message was as follows:--

"If Stratton can't look after Bruin better than that he'd better
invest in a golliwog."

"Nasty one that, sir," remarked Peter, with a laugh.

The Sea Scouts were now approaching familiar water. Slightly on the
port bow could be discerned the lofty downs of the Isle of Wight,
while right ahead the three chequered circular forts of Spithead
reared themselves out of the sea like inverted buckets.

"We'll carry our tide right through to Keyhaven," observed Mr.
Armitage. "It may mean a slight delay before we can get in. To-morrow
will be an easy run to Poole."

Not since leaving the Downs did the _Rosalie_ pass so many craft as
she did in Spithead and the Solent. In addition to war-ships, tramps,
and coasters, there were yachts by the score, from single-handed
sloops to large schooners, and motor-launches dashing about in all
directions, a fair percentage steered by men whose knowledge of the
Rule of the Road was, to say the least, elementary.

Cowes, with its crowded Roads, was passed and left astern, and
presently a tall, chimney-like shaft became visible right ahead.

"There's Hurst!" exclaimed Stratton. "I can see the lighthouse. No
need to write home to-night."

Approaching the narrow entrance to Keyhaven with caution, the
_Rosalie_ crossed the bar with less than nine inches of water under
keel. The _Olivette_, drawing a foot and a half less, had no
difficulty in following, and by four o'clock in the afternoon both
craft were moored in the sheltered creek, and the Sea Scouts were
within a mile or so of their homes.

"We'll have tea and then general leave for all hands," said Mr.
Armitage. "You fellows can sleep ashore if you want to, provided you
are on board by nine to-morrow."

He glanced in the direction of the _Olivette_, which was swinging to
the young flood at a distance of fifty yards from the _Rosalie_.

"By Jove!" he exclaimed, and pointed. Stratton, following the
direction of the Scoutmaster's outstretched hand, also uttered an
ejaculation, for swimming strongly for the _Rosalie_ was Bruin. The
_Olivette's_ crew, down below smartening themselves up, were ignorant
that the pup had leaped overboard. Bruin, seized by a sudden
inspiration after the manner of members of the canine world, had
quietly taken to the water in order to rejoin the yacht.

"We'll pull their legs, sir," declared Peter, as he hauled the mascot
on deck. "I'll take him below out of the way and then signal to ask
them where he is. That'll put the wind up them."

"A better way, I think, will be to invite them all on board to tea,"
suggested the Scoutmaster. "We'll have to bring them off in the
dinghy. Then there'll be some commotion when they can't find Bruin.
Hail them, Peter."

At the Patrol-leader's stentorian "Ahoy!" Hepburn's tousled head
appeared above the coaming. Alan was evidently in the midst of his
toilet.

"Tea's nearly ready," shouted Stratton. "Mr. Armitage wants you all
to come on board. We'll send the dinghy."

Within a few minutes Stratton was alongside the _Olivette_. Her crew
boarded the waiting boat, Mr. Murgatroyd beaming with satisfaction at
the picturesque surroundings of the sheltered creek that was to be
the _Olivette's_ home port.

"Where's Bruin?" inquired Stratton. "You aren't going to leave our
mascot all alone, are you, Alan?"

"'Course not," replied Hepburn, although, if the truth be told, Bruin
had been overlooked in the bustle of 'snugging down and squaring up'.
"Here, Bruin--come along, good dog!"

No Bruin appeared. Hepburn whistled, but without the desired result.

"He's asleep in the after-cabin, I expect," he suggested.

"You're a fine fellow to have charge of a dog," said Peter
scornfully. "He ought to appear at once at your whistle."

"Then whistle him for yourself," retorted Alan.

"Not I," rejoined the Patrol-leader. "He's in your care, my festive,
until you return him to the _Rosalie_."

Hepburn whistled yet again. Roche and Warkworth added their quota of
noise, but "nothin' doin'".

"He's probably gnawing my boots in the after-cabin," suggested Mr.
Murgatroyd; "or, if he has cannibalistic tendencies, perhaps he's
going for my dog-skin gloves. Hop aboard, Hepburn, and see what
mischief he is doing."

Alan clambered over the side and went below. Chuckling to himself,
Stratton heard his fellow Sea Scout coaxing and whistling the
invisible mascot. Then Roche joined in the search, until in
desperation the twain began to empty the lockers of their varied
contents, and search numerous out-of-the-way places that were to be
found on even a boat of the _Olivette's_ small displacement.

"Buck up, you fellows!" shouted Peter, as the two Sea Scouts paused
through sheer inability to find an unexplored hiding-place. "What are
you doing? Giving Bruin a bath?"

Looking very red in the face, Hepburn came out of the fo'c'sle and
announced that he couldn't find the pup anywhere.

"Perhaps he's jumped overboard again," suggested Warkworth. "Suicidal
tendencies, I imagine. It's the third time--once off the bawley, then
overboard from the _Rosalie_, and now----"

"Shut up!" ejaculated Alan, who, in common with the other Sea Scouts,
was genuinely fond of the animal.

"When and where did you last see him?" inquired the Patrol-leader.

Neither Hepburn, Roche, nor Warkworth could say definitely. Mr.
Murgatroyd, when appealed to, replied that he had a hazy idea that
he'd noticed Bruin on deck while they were mooring.

"It's no use stopping here and hanging on to the slack," declared
Stratton severely. "If the dog's lost, arguing about it won't find
him. We'll get back to the _Rosalie_."

Alan Hepburn looked at the Patrol-leader in astonishment. He could
not understand why Peter had taken the news so cold-bloodedly, not
even attempting to join in the search.

Rather dejectedly the three Sea Scouts forming the temporary crew of
the _Olivette_ boarded the _Rosalie_.

"Tea's ready," announced Mr. Armitage briskly. "All hands below."

The two Scoutmasters, Mr. Murgatroyd, and the Sea Scouts, with the
exception of Peter, seated themselves at the table. The Patrol-leader
waited until Mr. Armitage had passed the tea-cups round, and then
gravely set a dish with a metal cover in front of Hepburn.

"Make yourself useful, Alan," he said. "Serve that out."

Obediently the unsuspecting lad removed the cover. On the dish was a
golliwog made of rope-yarn and canvas, with a red bunting tongue and
buttons for its eyes.

"What's the joke?" asked the now astonished Alan.

"You sent me a signal, I think," replied Peter calmly. "It concerned
Bruin and a golliwog. Bruin has chosen us, so the golliwog goes to
you. Here, Bruin, good lad."

The pup appeared from the recesses of a locker. Everyone roared at
Alan's expression of amazement, while Hepburn, only too glad to find
that Bruin was no longer missing, joined in the laughter.

"You're one up this time, Peter," he said. "Never mind; it was jolly
well worth it."



CHAPTER XX

Salvage


Punctual to a minute, the "liberty men" reassembled on the
tumble-down wharf at Keyhaven on the following morning, to embark
upon the last stage of their voyage. They felt like weather-beaten
salts, and doubtless had regaled their parents and friends with
stories of their adventures.

Already arrangements had been made for Mr. Murgatroyd's comfort
during the absence of the future crew of the _Olivette_. Two Sea
Scouts, who had been prevented from joining the rest of the troop,
volunteered to remain on board Mr. Murgatroyd's craft, using the
cutter as a makeshift for a dinghy. They were on duty when the
_Rosalie_, under power, glided past the _Olivette_ on her way to
Poole, and cheers were exchanged between the crews of the two boats.

"Not much chance of using canvas today," observed Mr. Armitage, as
the _Rosalie_ entered the strong tidal race between Hurst Castle and
the Isle of Wight. "It blew fairly stiff last night, but now it looks
like falling away to a flat calm."

"Hullo! what's that?" asked Mr. Jackson, as a booming sound trailing
away to a mournful wail was heard in the distance.

"Fog siren," replied the Scoutmaster. "From the Needles Lighthouse.
We ought to see the Needles distinctly from here, but we can't. That
means local fog."

Mr. Jackson followed the direction of his companion's outstretched
hand. He could see the uncovered shoal known as the Shingles, over
which a ground swell was breaking heavily. Farther away, and more on
the port quarter, he could discern the cliffs of Totland Bay. There
the view of the Isle of Wight ended. Alum Bay and the detached chalk
masses known as the Needles were blotted out in a thick but invisible
mist that blended with the grey sky.

"It's stopped, sir," exclaimed Hepburn.

"What's stopped?" inquired Mr. Armitage.

"The fog-horn, sir," replied Alan, who, like the rest of the Sea
Scouts, knew the character of the Needles "fog reed-horn" well, since
Milford is within six miles of the lighthouse. "It's a blast of five
seconds every fifteen seconds. I haven't heard it for more than a
couple of minutes."

"The fog's lifted out there, perhaps," suggested Roche.

"It certainly doesn't look like it," observed Mr. Armitage. "Most
likely we have struck a zone of silence. You remember how we saw an
inverted phantom image of Dungeness Lighthouse? That was caused by
irregular layers of air. Sound is similarly affected. The volume of
noise leaps, as it were, and although we might not hear it fairly
close to, vessels much farther away might hear it distinctly. There
it is again, Alan. We have passed through the zone of silence."

Attention was then turned in a new direction. The _Rosalie_, having
"made her numbers" to Hurst Signalling Station, was passing within a
quarter of a mile of Milford. The Sea Scouts could discern their hut,
perched half-way up the low, gravelly cliff, and, what was more,
every lad was able to distinguish, by the aid of the glasses, the
features of some relative, for parents and other kith and kin had
gone down to the beach to watch the _Rosalie_ pass.

"Give Christchurch Head a wide berth, Peter," cautioned the
Scoutmaster. "Although there's plenty of water for us over the ledge,
there'll be a nasty sea after the recent gale. Can you see the Ledge
buoy?"

"Yes, sir," replied Stratton, after a brief survey. "A point on our
port bow."

"Then starboard a point. Note the compass bearing in case it comes on
thick. I rather fancy it will before long."

Before the _Rosalie_ was abreast of the buoy the Scoutmaster's
forecast proved to be correct. Insidiously the white, dank mist swept
down, until the bold outlines of Christchurch Head were blotted out.
Then the fog thickened until the range of visibility was limited to
about twenty yards.

"We're all right so far," said Mr. Armitage cheerfully. "Out of the
way of Channel traffic, and, even if the fog doesn't lift, we'll pick
up the entrance to Poole Harbour by taking soundings. Plenty of time
for that, however. Keep her on West by 1/2 South for the present,
Peter. Warkworth and Woodleigh, get your oilskins on and go for'ard.
Keep a sharp look-out, especially for lobster lines. There are a lot
off this ledge."

"What would happen if we struck one?" asked Flemming.

"It might get round our props and stop both motors," replied the
Scoutmaster. "But I'm looking at it from a fisherman's point of view.
Lobster pots cost money, and take a lot of labour to bring out and
place in position, and no one but an incompetent navigator or a
malicious individual would deliberately cut away the lobster-pot
lines. I think we'll slow down to five knots, Roche. It will give us
a better chance if there are any fishing-boats in the bay."

Mr. Armitage glanced at his watch. Working by "dead reckoning", he
knew that even with the west-going tide an hour would elapse before
the _Rosalie_ approached the dangerous Hook Sands off the entrance to
Poole Harbour.

"Weird sort of business, eh, Peter?" remarked Roche, joining his chum
in the wheel-house.

Stratton nodded, and peered into the compass-bowl. The windows of the
wheel-house were wide open, and the dank mist settled on the glass of
the binnacle so that the helmsman had to be constantly wiping it to
be able to observe the compass-card.

"All in a day's work, I suppose," he replied. "This is the thickest
fog we've struck. I don't think I'd care about it if I were on my own
bat," he confided; "but Mr. Armitage knows this part, so that's all
right."

Mr. Armitage, although he did not overhear the remark, was less
sanguine. Part of his time in the R.N.V.R. had been spent at Poole in
the M.-L. flotilla, and he had seen the bar under almost every
possible condition, from the flat calm of a perfect August day to the
shrieking, howling, south-easterly gale of mid-December. He had a
wholesome respect for Poole Bar, and, with fog limiting the range of
vision to a few yards, he realized that an error of judgment might
result in the _Rosalie_ ending her career either upon the dangerous
Hook Sands or on the surf-swept shoals of Studland Bay.

Half an hour after the _Rosalie_ passed Christchurch Head a breeze
sprang up from the south-east--a breeze that speedily developed into
a hard blow.

"That's better," exclaimed Mr. Armitage. "This ought to disperse the
fog."

Another twenty minutes passed, but the fog showed no signs of
lifting. Rolling banks of vapour eddied athwart the yacht's course,
producing a strange optical effect, as if the _Rosalie_ were drifting
bodily to wind'ard. Occasionally, during a lull in the wind, the
thunder of distant surf could be heard.

"We ought to be picking up Anvil Point fog signal," Mr. Armitage
remarked. "Stand by with the lead-line, Hepburn."

"I hear a syren, sir," declared Woodleigh.

"That's not Anvil Point, then," rejoined the Scoutmaster. "Anyone
else hear it?"

Almost immediately came the strident blasts of a steam-whistle--a
long blast followed by a short one; a pause, and then long, short,
long, short.

Every one of the _Rosalie's_ crew knew what that meant. It was the
Morse N.C., signifying: "In distress; require immediate assistance".

It was a call--to which no true seaman would hesitate to respond--to
hasten, regardless of risk, to the assistance of the distressed
vessel.

"About a couple of miles to the south'ard, I imagine," said Mr.
Armitage. "Starboard four, Peter."

"What's happened, I wonder?" inquired Roche.

"Some sort of disaster, I'm afraid," replied the Scoutmaster. "A
small tramp in distress."

"Why small, sir?" asked Woodleigh.

"Because she used her syren to signal in Morse instead of using the
wireless S.O.S. All large ships, and many small ones, have wireless
installation. It's compulsory for large ships. Hence it is safe to
assume that the appeal emanated from a small steam vessel; a sailing
ship would use a fog-horn worked by air, or perhaps a Klaxon horn.
There it is again. Nearer now. Reply, Hepburn, FGI--I will assist
you."

Roche went below, in readiness to work the clutches should the deck
controls fail. Mr. Armitage stood just outside the wheel-house, in
order to give directions to Stratton at the helm, while the rest of
the crew stood by with heaving-lines and fenders, in case they had to
run alongside the distressed vessel.

They could now hear the hiss of escaping steam and distinguish the
strident tones of someone giving orders.

"'Stern both engines!" ordered Mr. Armitage. "Hard-a-port!"

The _Rosalie_ swung round just in time to avoid collision with a
towering wall of iron, looming suddenly on them out of the fog.

A rift in the mist revealed the presence of a tramp well down by the
head, and with such a great amount of damage to her bows that it
appeared impossible for her to keep afloat.

"Ahoy!" hailed the same loud-voiced man. "Can you take us in tow?"

A series of hurried questions resulted in the information that the
tramp was the S.S. _Pen-y-coote_, bound from Christiana for Bristol
with timber. In the fog she had collided with, or rather--as her "Old
Man" was careful to state--had been run into by, an unknown vessel
somewhere between St. Catherine's and the Shingles.

"Cut clean through my bows for'ard of the hold bulkhead," declared
the skipper. "Carried both anchors away, and then as we went astern
we fouled something and fractured our main shaft. The other vessel? I
don't know what happened to her. She was ten times my size, and
cracked on at the rate of knots. Stop? Not she. A dirty Hun most
likely; sort of thing they would do if they got a chance. You haven't
much horse-power, Cap'n. I thought you were a tug."

"We'll have a shot at it anyway," declared Mr. Armitage. "We'll take
you into Poole. Pay out a hawser; we'd better tow you stern
foremost."

Manoeuvring to leeward of the helpless tramp, the _Rosalie_
approached sufficiently near for a heavy line to be thrown from the
_Pen-y-coote's_ stern.


[Illustration: "STAND CLEAR OF THE HAWSERS AS SHE TAKES UP THE
STRAIN"]


The hawser was then brought on board and bent to a wire span between
the two after bollards.

It was a tough proposition for the 35-ton motor yacht to tow the
disabled 650-ton tramp, but the crew of the _Rosalie_ were on their
mettle. If they failed, then the result would be much the same as if
they had not put in an appearance--the tramp, unable to anchor, would
be driven ashore either against the cliffs of the Isle of Purbeck or
upon the treacherous sands in the vicinity of the mouth of Poole
Harbour.

"How much water are you drawing?" hailed the Scoutmaster.

"'Bout thirteen for'ard, and eleven aft," was the reply.

"Good enough," declared Mr. Armitage. He knew that eleven feet
represented the minimum depth on the bar at low-water springs. It was
now close on the neaps, which meant possibly another two feet over
the deepest part of the entrance, and the young flood would soon be
making.

"Stand clear of the hawser as she takes up the strain," continued the
Scoutmaster, addressing Woodleigh and Warkworth. "We don't want
broken limbs on this packet. Now, Peter, easy ahead both engines."

By dint of careful manoeuvring the towing-rope tautened without
anything carrying away, and presently the _Rosalie's_ motors were
running all out. The _Pent-y-coote_ gathered way, and was presently
moving at a modest three knots in the wake of her small helper.

The fog was still as thick as ever it had been, while the deviation
of course and manoeuvres that had taken place had resulted in Mr.
Armitage losing his bearings. Whether he was off Poole Harbour, or
farther to the west'ard, he had only the haziest notion. He decided
to steer north magnetic, and by the aid of soundings arrive
sufficiently close to shallow water to enable him to recognize the
coast-line.

For the best part of an hour they held on, hearing nothing, seeing
nothing, until the dull rumble of the breakers dead to leeward became
audible.

The Scoutmaster was far from easy in his mind. Hampered by a heavy
and unwieldy tow, and with the wind right aft, he realized that
unless he hit the entrance he would be embayed and possibly driven
ashore. If only the fog would lift! The sea, too, was getting
considerably confused, a sure indication that the bottom was
shoaling.

The roar of the surf prompted the Scoutmaster to alter his plans. He
decided to turn and make for the open. Even if the _Rosalie_ and her
tow could only hold their own until the fog lifted, the result would
be justified. Other help might then be forthcoming. The question was,
had the yacht sufficient fuel in the tanks for a prolonged struggle
against the wind?

"Hard-a-starboard!"

The _Rosalie_ turned, slowly and jerkily. The Scoutmaster feared for
the towing bollards, for the hawser was sagging and snubbing as the
tramp began to face the open sea.

"Buoy right ahead, sir!" shouted Hepburn.

Less than fifteen yards off, was a barrel-buoy, painted red and
white, and surmounted by a battered top-mark.

Mr. Armitage felt like shouting with sheer delight. He could scarcely
believe his eyes. Surely there was a special working of Providence.
Unknown to anyone on board either the yacht or her tow, the _Rosalie_
had groped her way over the bar without so much as catching a glimpse
of the bar buoy, and the alteration of helm had brought her close to
the second of the line of buoys marking the port-hand side of the
Swash Channel leading to Poole Harbour.

Nowhere else on the South Coast is the port-hand side of a channel
marked in this fashion. The red-and-white barrel-buoy Mr. Armitage
recognized instantly. He felt like a lost man who has been suddenly
placed upon his own doorstep.

"Hard-a-port!" he ordered, somewhat to Stratton's amazement at the
quick change of course. "Nor' by west. Keep her at that."

It was now a case of making her way up from one buoy to another. For
intervals of a couple of minutes or so there would be a blank expanse
of sea and fog, then slightly on the port bow would appear another of
those blessed red-and-white barrels, each one as it was passed
representing a certain distance made good in the direction of a
sheltered anchorage.

On either hand the surf was roaring, but the _Rosalie_ and the tramp
were in comparatively deep and smooth water, with a young flood tide
to aid them.

"Land on the port bow!"

There was a long, low stretch of sand dunes covered with coarse
grass.

"Land on the starboard bow!"

Again there was no mistake. Through the now lifting fog could be
discerned a large white building, with a small pier a little beyond.

"Thank God!" ejaculated Mr. Armitage fervently, wiping the moisture
from his brow. "We're in."



CHAPTER XXI

"Pipe Down"


"Smart bit of work that of yours, Armitage," exclaimed Mr. Jackson in
a congratulatory tone.

"A fluke--an absolute fluke," confided the Scoutmaster. "I didn't
realize what I'd undertaken. We might have piled ourselves on out
there. From a human point of view it was a slice of sheer good luck
that we hit one of the fairway buoys, otherwise----"

He shrugged his shoulders expressively.

"However," he continued briskly, "we're in. That's the main point.
Fog's lifting, but I don't like the idea of towing the tramp right up
to Poole quay. Too many fishing-boats about."

"You can't leave her at anchor," remarked Mr. Jackson.

"No, but I can beach her on the mud," replied Mr. Armitage. "Tide's
rising. We can send a tug to finish the job. Stand by to cast off,"
he ordered, raising his voice.

With the now strong flood tide the _Rosalie_ towed the tramp through
Brownsea Roads into the sheltered Wych Channel. Here the hawser was
let go, and the _Pent-y-coote_ took the soft mud, while the yacht,
relieved of her heavy burden, turned, and, passing through the Little
Channel, was soon berthed safely alongside Poole quay.

"A successful ending to an exciting voyage, Armitage," observed Mr.
Jackson. "I've enjoyed it immensely. Now comes the parting of the
ways. I'll catch a train back this evening. Don't forget; if at any
future time you and your lads want to renew your acquaintance with
Old Father Thames let me know. We might be able to arrange a joint
camping-trip, my troop and yours. There are vast possibilities of
that nature in scouting, and it seems a pity that we cannot take
advantage of mutual hospitality."

The Oxford Scoutmaster packed his kit-bag, and Mr. Armitage and
Hepburn saw him to the railway station, while the rest of the crew
set to work to "clear up", so that the owner of the _Rosalie_ might
be able to form a good impression of his purchase.

On the way back from the station Mr. Armitage sent a telegram to Mr.
Trelawney, advising him of the _Rosalie's_ safe arrival, but upon
returning on board, the Scoutmaster found a tall, fair-haired man on
deck conversing with the Sea Scouts.

It was the owner. Mr. Trelawney had received warning from Hurst
Signal Station that the _Rosalie_ had passed, bound west, and had
concluded that she would soon be arriving at her home port. Anxious
on account of the fog, he had spent four hours on the quay, and had
only just gone into the High Street to have tea when the yacht
arrived.

"I hear you've been doing what are called in the Scout movement 'Good
Turns'," observed Mr. Trelawney, when the two men had introduced
themselves. "I believe it's an understood thing that Scouts refuse to
accept rewards for doing good turns."

Mr. Armitage assented, wondering what the _Rosalie's_ owner was
driving at. He knew that it was rather a knotty point, for, according
to some authorities in the Scout movement, the lads are forbidden to
accept rewards for services rendered. On the other hand, in the Sea
Scout Manual the possibilities of salvage and deriving monetary
benefit for it are dealt with. So, if the authorities differ, thought
Mr. Armitage, what was one to do? Up to the present the idea of
claiming salvage for assistance given to the disabled tramp had never
entered his mind.

"That's all right, then," exclaimed Mr. Trelawney cheerfully. "It
leaves me with a free hand. Of course, it's my yacht that performed
the salvage operation, and, since you don't accept rewards, I
benefit. Now, let's see the inventory. I'll check the thing at once,
if you don't mind, and then you'll be able to get away."

It took an hour to examine the _Rosalie's_ gear and compare it with
the items on the inventory. This done, Mr. Trelawney paid the
Scoutmaster the sum agreed upon for bringing the yacht round, thanked
him for what he had done, and gently intimated that the business was
at an end, and that there was a fast train at 7.15.

"What a strange sort of fellow," remarked Hepburn, as the Sea Scouts,
with their belongings on a couple of hired trucks, made their way to
the railway station. "Different from Mr. Murgatroyd."

"Sort of pushed us out of it," added Flemming.
"Now-you've-finished-I've-no-further-use-for-you kind of thing."

"He certainly was brusque," said Roche. "I suppose it's
business-like. He settled our account, so that's one thing. Wonder
what he was driving at about the salvage stunt, sir?"

Mr. Armitage declined to commit himself.

"At any rate," he remarked, "we've had a top-hole time, and, I hope,
gained experience. More than that, we've shown that we can be useful.
We haven't attempted the impossible; we've merely tackled a couple of
straightforward jobs and carried them out. I'm proud of you."


On the following morning the Sea Scouts reassembled at their hut.
Their task was not yet completed. They had to make the _Olivette_
secure in her new berth, and this they meant to do before Mr.
Murgatroyd left for town.

It was a beautiful day. Not a cloud obscured the sky. A light breeze
from the sou'-west tempered the heat, while a steadily-rising glass
betokened a spell of fine weather.

Upon arriving at Keyhaven they found their heavy boat awaiting them.
Mr. Murgatroyd was on board the _Olivette_, which was anchored half a
mile down the creek.

"I've telephoned through to Lymington to see if there are any
moorings for sale. I find there is a good pair at a reasonable price,
so if you've no objection we'll take the _Olivette_ round and pick
them up."

"Delighted," agreed Mr. Murgatroyd, and almost at once he and the
Scoutmaster entered into an argument as to who should pay for the
anchor and chains.

"You've lent us the _Olivette_," protested Mr. Armitage, "and it's
only right that we should buy the moorings."

"Not at all," demurred Mr. Murgatroyd. "I believe in doing things
properly. What's the use of my handing over the _Olivette_ to you
unless I provide moorings for her? They cost money, I believe."

"And we've made more than enough to pay for them," said the
Scoutmaster. "The troop was saving up to buy a small yacht. The
necessity no longer arises, thanks to you, and----"

"Then say no more about it," interrupted Mr. Murgatroyd, with more
decision than he had yet exhibited before the Sea Scouts. "I pay--you
understand?"

The run round to Lymington was quickly accomplished. The heavy
moorings were placed in the boat and towed back. Before the end of
the day they were successfully laid, and the _Olivette_, securely
tethered by the massive galvanized iron bridle, could now be got
under way without the laborious preliminaries of heaving up both
anchor and kedge.

"Now," said Mr. Murgatroyd, "I'm off back to town to-morrow morning.
I don't know when I shall be able to run down here again. While you
were away I had a letter from which I glean that I may have to go
abroad for the rest of the summer--perhaps till the end of the year."

The Sea Scouts heard the announcement in silence. They were genuinely
fond of the somewhat boyish and erratic Mr. Murgatroyd. From a
personal point of view they wondered how his sudden change of plans
would affect them. Would Mr. Murgatroyd sell the _Olivette_, since he
was unable to use her?

But Murgatroyd did not give them much time to ponder over the
disconcerting possibility.

"I therefore propose to make the Milford Sea Scouts a present of the
_Olivette_," he added.

For a few moments the lads could scarcely realize their good fortune.
Then they burst into a spontaneous round of cheering.

"Of course," continued Mr. Murgatroyd, "she'll cost something to keep
up. That will be your affair, but I don't think it will be a
difficult task for budding seamen such as you. There's one thing I
might add. I happen to be a member of the firm of Murgatroyd &
Murchesen, petroleum merchants. Incidentally it is a development of
the Rumanian oil-fields that necessitates my hurried departure. But
what is more to the point, I can guarantee the delivery of fifty
gallons of fuel a month as a slight contribution to the upkeep of the
_Olivette_. Directly I return to London I will have the ship's papers
made over to you, lads, and I hope you'll have a thundering good
time."

And that is how the _Olivette_ became the property of the Milford Sea
Scouts. What they did with her and how they did it is another story.

It was a month of surprises. Hepburn remarked that it never rains but
it pours. Roche added that he'd heard that all good things come or go
in threes.

One was the gift of the _Olivette_.

The second was a "twelve-foot" carvel-built dinghy, second-hand, but
in splendid condition. It arrived at the nearest station on a railway
truck, without any clue to the sender, except that it came from
Oxford. The next day came a note from Mr. Jackson, asking the Sea
Scouts to accept the boat as a little memento of a pleasant voyage.

The third was even a greater surprise. It was a cheque for a hundred
pounds, bearing the signature "A. Trelawney". With it was a covering
letter.


  "DEAR MR. ARMITAGE, (it said),

  "I was under the mistaken impression that your lads were trying to
'pull my leg' over the salvage of the S.S. _Pent-y-coote_. Inquiries
proved that their account was not only strictly true, but modest in
its details. I have been in communication with the owners of the
salved vessel, and find that they are a small firm recently formed.
They suggested a sum of two hundred pounds for services rendered by
the _Rosalie_, and to save expense of litigation I accepted their
offer. Since you stated that Scouts are not allowed to receive
rewards for 'good turns', I trust that I have got over the technical
difficulty by asking your Sea Scout Troop to accept the enclosed
cheque for their Troop Funds. There are more ways than one of killing
a cat.

             "Yours faithfully,

                 "ANDREW TRELAWNEY."

And so we leave the crew of the _Olivette_ in full possession of the
staunch little craft--equipped and provided with funds sufficient for
her maintenance. Worthy Sons of the Sea they are, and we wish them
good luck and _bon voyage_.



  [Transcriber's Notes:

    This book contains a number of misprints.
    The following misprints have been corrected:

      [the hitherto hilarous] ->
         [the hitherto hilarious]

      [and its up to us] ->
         [and it's up to us]

      [it will be a suprise] ->
         [it will be a surprise]

      [the numerous sank-banks] ->
         [the numerous sand-banks]

    Percy Westerman writes about a steamship, called [Pent-y-coote]
    or [Pen-y-coote]. Both spellings have been used. The former
    three times, the latter two times. The former spelling is also
    used once in the sequel to this book, called "Sea Scouts Abroad".
    Although making this [Pent-y-coote] the most likely spelling,
    this misprint has not been corrected.

    Two illustrations have a difference in subtitle between the
    list of illustrations and underneath the actual illustration.
    The subtitles are:

      [THE SKIFF TAKES THE ROPE ASHORE] (image list) and
        [THE SKIFF TAKES A ROPE ASHORE] below the actual illustration

      [STAND CLEAR OF THE HAWSER AS] in the image list, and
        [STAND CLEAR OF THE HAWSERS AS] below the actual illustration

    In chapter XII the _Rosalie_ is [passing close to Aldborough].
    This must be another place, because they just passed Lowestoft
    and are heading south. But Aldborough lies to the north and also
    about 10 kilometers inland. Probably the similar sounding
    [Aldeburgh] was meant (but is not corrected in this book).

    A few cases of punctuation errors were corrected, but are
    not mentioned here.
  ]





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