Saturday, 11 October 2008
The Outboard Boys at Mystery Island
THE OUTBOARD BOYS AT MYSTERY ISLAND
Solving The Secret of Hidden Cove
BY ROGER GARIS
Author of "The Outboard Boys at Shadow Lake,"
"The Outdoor Boys at Pirate Beach," Etc.
A. L. BURT COMPANY
NEW YORK CHICAGO
THE OUTBOARD MOTOR BOAT SERIES
BY ROGER GARIS
THE OUTBOARD BOYS AT MYSTERY ISLAND
Or, Solving the Secret of Hidden Cove
THE OUTBOARD BOYS AT SHADOW LAKE
Or, Solving the Secret of the Strange Monster
THE OUTDOOR BOYS AT PIRATE BEACH
Or, Solving the Secret of the Houseboat
COPYRIGHT, 1933, BY
A. L. BURT COMPANY
The Outboard Boys at Mystery Island
PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
I Overboard 1
II Mystery Island 9
III Jake Lawson 17
IV The Winner 27
V The Stranger 34
VI Gone 44
VII "Pull Over!" 54
VIII All in a Day 62
IX Tempest 71
X Drifting 81
XI From the Forest 91
XII The Secret Cove 101
XIII A Fight on the Island 111
XIV A Mad Dog Scare 121
XV The Mysterious Woman I29
XVI A Strange Story I40
XVII An Interrupted Christening I50
XVIII A Clue 157
XIX Big Money 166
XX Booming Water 176
XXI More of the Mystery 181
XXII Jake Lawson Knocks Wood 189
XXIII A Straight Left Hook 196
XXIV Dangerous Threats 205
XXV The Deadly Rattler 214
XXVI The Waterspout 225
XXVII In Deadly Peril 232
XXVIII Rescued 238
THE OUTBOARD BOYS AT MYSTERY ISLAND
CHAPTER I Overboard
STRETCHING lazily as he lay on a mossy carpet at the edge of Lake Otter, Terry Blondel accidentally brought his toe into contact with the ribs of a boy lying near him.
"Hey!" exclaimed the nudged one. "What's the idea? Here I was just about to fall asleep—"
"Take it easy, Wawa!" advised Terry casually. "It isn't good to sleep in the daytime. Besides, I just thought of something."
Warren Finn, or Wawa to his friends—the nickname a relic of the days when he could not pronounce "Warren"—sat up and rubbed his ribs. He was a stocky lad in contrast to the tall slenderness of Terry. Both were fair-haired. Warren, however, was more deliberate in his actions while Terry's gestures were quick and rather nervous. The name Wawa fitted him admirably, especially when it was drawled.
"Just because you think of something is no reason to boot me in the ribs," Warren grumbled. "What is your great idea?"
"What are we going to do this summer?" Terry asked.
"That's no idea, that's a question. How do I know? I know what I'd like to do. What Martin suggested the other day. Get a boat and explore this lake. We've lived here for six years now—at least I have—and we still don't know much about Lake Otter. Say, do you know how big the lake is?
"It's about a hundred and eighty miles in circumference, five miles wide in some places, and it has some forty-one islands of various sizes," said Terry calmly.
"You talk like a guide book. Well, let's have your idea."
"So you remembered I had one, did you? Great! I'll tell you what it is. That we get a boat, and do exactly what Martin suggested."
Warren got to his feet and bowed sarcastically. The moss was slippery and he grabbed at a small sapling to prevent himself from falling into the lake, for the two boys were resting during the lazy hours, between the end of the school day and dinner time, in a small clearing which slanted sharply to the edge of the water. It was June, and the weather was clear and warm. Across the lake could be seen the soft outlines of the Mawchunk Mountains, which were just high enough to deserve the title.
"That," said Warren, "is one of the most brilliant ideas I've heard in a long time. I don't suppose you ever heard of copyright laws. Well, Martin gets all his ideas copyrighted. Then when someone else has one he sues them. In that way he makes millions."
"You'd make millions if you could sell that silly bow of yours," Terry snorted. "Boy, you almost took a header! But what's the matter with the idea? School will be out in three weeks, and we've got to do something. I spoke to dad about getting a job, but he said he'd rather have me plan my own vacation, for there are lots of fellows who really need jobs, now, and I might be taking work from them. So I thought of the boat idea."
"You mean Martin thought of it. Sure, I think it's swell, only where are we going to get the boat? They cost plenty. I've got some money saved up out of my allowance, but that wouldn't buy a rudder of a motor boat."
"Yes, I guess you're right," Terry sighed. "I wish—"
"Have one on me," said a voice behind them. "Three wishes and you get the brass ring."
It was Martin Hazzard, of whom they were talking. He was standing straddling his bicycle a short distance away.
"Where'd you fellows put your bikes?" he went on. Terry and Warren had ridden from school to this spot, which was a favorite rendezvous with them.
"Over by that tree," Terry replied. "What time is it?"
"Quarter after five."
"Then we don't have to ride back home just yet."
Martin, of medium height, with dark curly hair and deep-set smoldering eyes, was once voted—by the girls—to be the best-looking fellow in Stirling High School—to his intense disgust, though disgust is a mild term. Martin was wild. He wouldn't speak to a girl for three weeks, and anyone could be sure of a scrap by simply mentioning the name "Romeo" in his presence. Now he had gotten over this first anger, but "Romeo" still struck fire.
"We were just trying to figure out what we were going to do this summer," Terry said when Martin had placed his bicycle with theirs.
"Yeah, and Terry suggested we get a boat," said Warren, grinning. "You know, Martin, one of these ‘if we had any ham we could have some ham and eggs if we had the eggs.' "
Instead of replying, Martin pulled a newspaper from his pocket.
"I don't suppose," he drawled, "that you have seen today's issue of our up and coming daily, the Stirling Gazette?"
"Nope, I'm proud to say I haven't," Terry replied promptly.
"Well, listen and take heed, and curb your pride," said Martin. He flopped down beside Terry on the moss and began to read:
" 'It is with great regret that the parents of John J. Murphy announce his marriage to Miss—' no, that's not it. Let's see. Say, that's a funny one, they must have gotten that mixed. Boy, that's hot! They regret to announce a marriage. I bet somebody on the Gazette gets in trouble for that. Probably got a death notice and a marriage announcement balled up. Anyhow, that isn't what I wanted to tell you about. Here it is. Listen:
'Winston & Son, local hardware merchants and sporting goods house, today announced the opening of a prize essay contest for the pupils of Stirling High School. The essay is to be on Why I would rather have a motor boat than an automobile. All students of Stirling High are eligible. The essay must be between 3,000 and 5,000 words long, and must be submitted before the end of the school term. Decision as to the winner will be given the week following the closing of school. And the prize—' "
He stopped and looked quizzically at Terry and Warren.
"And the prize, ladies and gentlemen," he went on, "is a two-cylinder, outboard Thornstream motor."
Silence greeted the announcement. Martin folded the paper carefully and put it back in his pocket. Warren was the first to speak.
"Baby," he said eagerly, "wouldn't it be swell if one of us could cop that? Listen, Terry, I don't see why you can't come through. You get prizes in English. You had an article published in the Stirling High Chronicle, didn't you? Well, you just set to work and win that motor."
"Certainly," Martin agreed. "You get the motor, and Warren and I will guarantee to get the boat to put it in."
"Like the ham and eggs," Terry broke in. "If we had an outboard motor we could have a motor boat if we had the boat. Sure, go ahead and rave."
"But why is it so far-fetched?" Martin argued. "Gosh, once we have the motor the boat won't be so hard to get."
He picked up a pebble and sent it skimming into the lake, now golden with the rays of the low sun. He was thinking how splendid it would be to sit in a boat and go "scooting" out across that lovely water, toward an island somewhere in the distance, an island which they never had visited before, an island of mystery.
"Jiminy!" he exploded suddenly. "Let's get that motor!"
"And let's start for home before they have the cops out after us," Warren said. "It's nearly six. But it sure would be nice if you could win the Thornstream, Terry. They're peachy motors. Of course others may be more powerful, but the Thornstream is no slouch. It's got two cylinders. Listen, Terry—"
"Hey, hey!" Terry interrupted. "How about one of you fellows winning the motor? Why put it all up to me? I don't know anything about motors."
"But you don't have to!" Warren pointed out eagerly. "The contest is why you would rather have a motor boat than a car. That's easy. 'Cause you can't run an automobile on a lake. Tell 'em that, Terry."
The three boys were walking to the spot where their bicycles lay on the ground. The slanting sun cast long shadows; shadows of the tall trees that surrounded Lake Otter.
"We'll all enter the contest," Martin said. "It won't do any harm and maybe we can work a split ticket."
"What's that?" Warren asked.
"Well, when two candidates are running for public office and a third comes in he may split the ticket of one of the original ones, giving the other the victory. Or something like that."
"Yeah, or something," Terry said. "That won't do us any good." He took a short run and leaped into the saddle. A well-trodden path led from the clearing to the road which ran to the town of Stirling. Along this path the three boys pedaled.
They were nearing a point where the road cut almost to the lake's edge. Along here were a series of docks, used by the summer colony, to which, in season, canoes and rowboats were tied. Now there were but one or two craft moored.
Warren, as he was talking, was gazing out at the surface of the lake, and pedaling slowly. In the path of the sun he saw a canoe, about a quarter of a mile out from shore. Someone was standing up in it, paddling. It appeared to be a small boy.
As Warren watched, the boy dug his paddle in too deep, lost his balance, and plunged overboard.
CHAPTER II Mystery Island
A YELL from Warren directed the attention of the others to the boy struggling in the lake. He was splashing a great deal, his arms threshing the water, but he appeared to be staying above the surface.
Warren turned his wheel quickly to the right over the curb down toward the lake shore. The beach here was of hard sand. Without stopping to halt the bike, Warren vaulted from the saddle, the wheel skidding to the ground.
Close behind him were the other two. Terry shouted :
"He's not swimming—he's just splashing! He can't stay up long that way!"
The words were prophetic. As he spoke the boy sank, a disturbance in the water showing where he went down. The canoe, overturned, was floating out of the boy's reach.
Warren flopped to the sand and began yanking the laces out of his shoes. He had them off in a moment. Then his coat was flung from him. Before Terry or Martin could say or do anything he had taken a running dive into the lake.
"We ought to help him," Terry panted, tearing off his coat.
"No—no—" Martin exclaimed, "we'd only be in his way. Christmas! Look at him swim!"
Warren, for all his excitement, was keeping a steady pace through the water, which showed what a fine swimmer he really was. He was using the eight beat crawl, his legs threshing the water eight times for each full roll of his shoulders. Warren was a husky lad, and probably the best swimmer in Stirling High School. His ability stood him in good stead now. He forged ahead cleanly and with all the speed his strong arms could create, his head turning with each stroke, his back well arched, his leg motion coming from the hips.
He was fast overhauling the panic-stricken boy, who, by this time, had come to the surface again.
"Hope he doesn't grab Warren around the throat," Terry gasped.
"Don't worry—Warren could break his hold," Martin gritted out. His eyes were narrow slits as he watched his chum's progress toward the drowning lad.
"Can't he swim, though!" Martin said again.
"Here, what's up?" a man's voice demanded.
"Boy in trouble—Wawa Finn's after him," Terry answered shortly, not bothering to turn to see who had spoken.
"Who is it?" the man asked. At that moment Warren reached the boy who was going down a second time. Those on shore saw him take a position behind the lad and, seizing him under the shoulders, start swimming on his back. The boy's face was for a moment visible.
"It's Teddy!" the man shouted. "Teddy! Teddy!"
Martin swung around.
"Mr. Thompson!" he exclaimed. "I'm sorry I didn't know—is that your son out there?"
"Teddy, Teddy!" was all the man could say.
He took several quick steps toward the water as though to plunge in. Terry grabbed his arm.
"Don't do that, Mr. Thompson!" he said earnestly. "Look, Wawa's got him safe! He's bringing him to shore. Don't do anything foolish, Mr. Thompson."
Terry's quiet-spoken advice seemed to calm the man, who, at the sight of his son's face, had flamed into panic. Terry felt the arm he held tremble.
"Is he all right?" Mr. Thompson gasped. "Will he get to shore all right?"
"Sure he will!" Martin almost shouted. "Warren got a medal for passing his life-saving test.
Look, he's almost here now. Atta' boy, Wawa! Atta' boy!"
Warren was slowly approaching the shore. He held Teddy in such a way that his face was out of water, and at the same time so that he was unable to turn and grasp his rescuer.
Mr. Thompson could contain himself no longer. He waded out toward the two boys, and when Warren came a bit closer the man reached out and seized his son. Warren turned and swam the rest of the way using the crawl. He got to the shore before Mr. Thompson, who was holding the crying Teddy close.
"All right, all right," the man was murmuring soothingly. "I've got you, Teddy." He waded to the sand and laid the boy on it. Teddy was about eight or nine years old.
"He dared me, he dared me," the boy was blubbering.
"What—what?" Mr. Thompson looked at the three friends with quick suspicion. Warren was standing near him, panting hard, water dripping from his clothes.
"Jake—he dared me!" Teddy wailed. "I wouldn't have gone in the canoe, only he dared me to paddle standing up!"
"Jake who?" Mr. Thompson interrogated.
"Lawson—Jake Lawson! He said I was afraid to paddle standing up. So I did, and—"
"Lawson," Terry said, nodding his head. "Just the kind of a thing he'd do, the big piece of cheese! Where did he go, Teddy?"
"I—don't know! He ran away, I guess!"
"I guess he did," Martin said grimly. "Good thing for him, too."
Mr. Thompson, suddenly becoming aware of Warren, released his son and stood up. He placed a hand on Warren's shoulder.
"I'm not going to try to thank you," he said quietly. "What you've done for me isn't the kind of thing one man thanks another for." Warren felt his cheeks grow hot. "—one man thanks another for." So he was a man, at that.
"I just want to say," Mr. Thompson went on, "that no matter what I do for you, ever, the debt will still be mine." He paused and cleared his throat. It was very quiet now, the waves lapping softly against the shore, the glowing curtain of the setting sun muffling the world in silence.
The solitude was shattered by the voices of two girls who were running from the road toward the little group on the beach.
"Dad—what happened?" called one of the girls, whose hair was of a reddish-golden tinge, in contrast to her sister's blond locks. "We heard that—"
"I happened!" shouted Teddy. He had stopped crying now, and was evidently trying to recapture the center of attention. "I fell out of a canoe and Wawa Finn rescued me, that's what!"
Ruth Thompson, who had inquired the cause of the excitement, gazed at Warren in admiration. She did not bother to verify her small brother's statement, for the truth was obvious enough, with Warren and Teddy both dripping wet.
"Why, Warren!" Louise, the other sister, she of the blond hair, exclaimed. "Aren't you splendid! Ruth, isn't he splendid?"
"He certainly is," Ruth said in a low voice. She stared at Warren with shining eyes. Warren looked down at the ground.
"Aw, baloney," he muttered.
Mr. Thompson roared with laughter.
"Don't embarrass him, girls!" he said. "Say, let's all go up to the house quick, to tell Mrs. Thompson everything is all right, in case she has heard of it. And Warren, you'll have to change your things. In fact, you are all going to stay to dinner. I'll telephone your parents. I guess they won't object when they find out what happened. Hurry along, now. Teddy, you run."
They all hastened their pace and in a few moments reached the house. Teddy was upstairs with his mother, but when Mrs. Thompson heard the door open she rushed downstairs and flung her arms about Warren's neck.
"You dear boy," she exclaimed. "Teddy told me all about it. We can never, never thank you enough! I've already telephoned to your parents, and they said you could stay to dinner while your clothes get dry, and they'll telephone to Mrs. Blondel and Mrs. Hazzard, so you can all stay. Honestly, I think you're just wonderful, Warren Finn!"
Warren blushed and tried to say something, and Mr. Thompson put an arm around his shoulders.
"Now, mother, you take him upstairs and give him a robe of mine to put on and send his clothes down to Minnie. My gracious, you left your shoes on the beach. Never mind, I'll send someone for them."
Warren looked at him gratefully, for he had been spared a demonstration. Mrs. Thompson, a rather large, good-natured woman, would have gushed her thanks for some minutes had not her husband stemmed them. Warren followed Mrs. Thompson upstairs while Mr. Thompson, who had forgotten that he himself was wet and was dripping water all over the carpet, started to lead the way into the library.
"Lawrence!" Mrs. Thompson called down. "What are you thinking of? You come up here too, this minute! Getting my rugs all wet like that!"
The man laughed and obeyed.
"You four go into the library, then," he said, motioning. "On the table you'll see a new book I just received. It tells something of the history of Lake Otter—you might find it interesting. It was once a crater of a volcano, they say, thousands of years ago, and there's an island some place along the east shore-—"
He was on his way upstairs.
"What about it, Mr. Thompson?" Martin called.
"The author of the book says there's always been some mystery about it," the man shouted back. "Mystery Island, he calls it. You can read it for yourselves."
Martin and Terry looked at each other wonderingly, daringly.
CHAPTER III Jake Lawson
THE idea of the mysterious island struck them with recurring force as the two boys glanced at the red book on the library table. The book itself assumed a mystery to them, and both unconsciously hesitated to pick it up.
"That came by mail today," Ruth said. "I looked through it. Doesn't seem very interesting to me. Imagine old Lake Otter having a mysterious island! Surely we would have known about it before this. Old Jim—you know, the man who keeps the marine gasoline station where Sylvanius Bogg works—he claims he knows every island on the lake, and he'd have said something about it if there was a mystery."
"Yeah, I suppose so," said Terry slowly. "But I'd like to read the book, anyhow. After your father has finished with it, I wonder if I could borrow it?"
"Certainly you can," Louise said. "But it's full of maps, and very few pictures. I think it's a fake."
Martin picked up the book and opened it at random. Suddenly he became excited and exclaimed: "Listen, Terry! Listen to this! 'Lake Otter has been thought by scientists to have formed in the crater of a volcano, extinct for thousands of years. This theory appears to be somewhat borne out by certain types of rock formation found on the islands. In some parts these rocks have a strong magnetic power, and legend has it that they were credited by the early Indians with possessing magic ingredients. On one island in particular is this so. The Indians used to call this "Mysterious Island," because of the strange things which were supposed to occur there, and of the unusual behavior of thunderstorms when centering over the island. This latter phenomenon is no doubt due to the magnetic ore on the island.' "
He stopped reading and gazed out of the window. Darkness was settling and soon lights would have to be lit, but at the moment there was just enough radiance in the room from the disappearing sun to make print legible, and to cast an eerie glow within the library.
"Mysterious Island," Terry almost whispered.
"Oh, don't be so credulous," said Louise a bit petulantly, though she was feeling a bit impressed in spite of herself. "I'm going to turn on some light." She pushed a wall button and the room was flooded with whiteness. "There! That's better. If people were willing to turn light on all subjects like that they'd fast lose their mysteriousness."
"Why, Louise!" Ruth exclaimed in surprise. "I never heard you talk this way before. I honestly think you are a little frightened."
"Frightened!" Louise scoffed. "At what a silly book says! You can take that book home tonight, Terry—I'm sure dad won't mind. I'll tell him I said you could have it. You can bring it back when you're finished."
"That's fine," Terry said eagerly. "I'd certainly like to read about that island."
Mr. Thompson was coming into the room, and he heard the last remark of Terry's.
"So you found the place about Mysterious Island," he laughed. "I thought you'd pick that out. Take the book home tonight, if you want to, for I won't have time to read it for several days. It appears to be well written, if not authoritatively. I do know that Lake Otter is a mighty interesting place, that it is just beginning to receive the attention it deserves. At one time the woods hereabouts harbored a fierce tribe of Indians and before them—far back in the stone age—a tribe of people were supposed to—but you read the book," he finished. "Now I think dinner is about ready. Here come Warren and Teddy. Listen," he added quickly. "Please don't say anything about Jake Lawson in front of Mrs. Thompson. I don't want her to worry, and I know she would if she thought he has been around here."
"We won't," Martin promised. And in a louder tone, "Well, how's the hero? Say, that's a snappy outfit you've got," as Warren came into the room, grinning. "I'd like to have a talking picture of you in that."
It was an old suit of Mr. Thompson's, and of course was much too large for Warren, though he was big for his age. The pants were turned up as were the sleeves, and the coat pinned close, giving it a "triple breasted effect," as Terry described it.
Ruth and Louise went into peals of laughter as they saw the costume.
"You look perfectly precious!" Ruth squealed.
"No ice today, the baker left a cake!" Martin shouted.
"How mucha' one bag peanuts?" Terry demanded.
"Well, you try it on if you think you'll look any better," Warren retorted, "I think it's swell, myself."
"Now don't chide Warren, boys," said Mrs. Thompson, from the doorway. "And please come in to dinner. Teddy, did you wash your hands?"
"Did I wash my hands, ma!" Teddy shrieked. "I'll say I did! I washed 'em in the lake!"
The meal was a most pleasant one. Warren had to take lots of kidding about his costume, Ruth calling him "a vagabond lover," at which Warren made as if to toss a glass of water at her. Mrs. Thompson, as is the way with mothers the world over, was solicitous that the boys eat plenty. They needed no coaxing, especially Warren, who, being larger than his two friends, ate correspondingly more food. For dessert there was a huge chocolate cream cake.
After dinner they gathered in the library. When Mrs. Thompson went out to attend to some household duty, Mr. Thompson said seriously to Teddy:
"Son, let's have the story of how you happened to get in that canoe. I suppose you realize that if it hadn't been for Warren you might not be sitting here now. I'm not going to punish you, for he asked me not to. But tell me how you took the canoe in the first place. By the way, I telephoned to Jim at the boathouse to row out and return it to Steel's dock. It was Mr. Steel's canoe, wasn't it?"
"Yes, sir," Teddy said in a low voice. The excitement that had fired him during dinner was leaving him, and he was a little frightened. "It was Mr. Steel's. I'm—I'm sorry I took it."
"You should be," Mr. Thompson said dryly. "Let's have the story now."
"Well, I was sort of—fooling around after school," Teddy began, "you know, not doing anything much, kind of fooling around, not anything special—"
"Skip that part," Mr. Thompson ordered.
"Yes, sir. Well, I was fooling around, and I saw Jake Lawson coming along the road. He kind of called to me."
"What did he say?" Terry inquired curiously.
"He said, 'Hey, Teddy.' "
The boy stopped and fingered a book on the table.
"Go on, go on," his father said impatiently.
"Yes, sir. Then I said 'Hey, Jake.' Then he came over and asked me what I was doing. I told him I wasn't doin' nothing—I mean anything. Then he said let's get a canoe and go for a ride. I told him I wasn't allowed to go in a canoe because I can't swim very well."
He stopped again. Mr. Thompson checked an impatient exclamation. After a moment the boy continued:
"Jake laughed, and said he guessed I was a sissy. And I'm not a sissy, am I, dad?"
"No, of course not. But you must learn not to bother about what fellows like Jake Lawson say to you. It doesn't mean you're a sissy just because you won't go in a canoe when I told you not to. Anyhow, go on."
"Well, I told him I wasn't a sissy. Then he asked if I ever paddled a canoe standing up. I told him I hadn't, and he called me a sissy again. Then I guess I got mad."
"Don't blame you," Martin said in a low voice. "That fellow Jake needs a good licking."
"Anyway, he dared me to take Mr. Steel's canoe out and paddle standing up. First I wouldn't, and he began to laugh, and asked me if my mother knew I was out. That made me kind of mad, I guess."
"You said you were angry before," Mr. Thompson said. "Then I suppose you took the canoe?"
"Yes, sir. I took the canoe and a paddle and Jake stood on the dock and watched me. I stood up and paddled. Jake kept calling to me, and I paddled harder. Then he didn't call any more. I paddled for a while and then I turned to see if he was watching me. Then I fell overboard."
"So that was it," Terry exclaimed. "That big piece of cheese. He just did it to make trouble."
"I've a good notion to tell Lennahan," Mr. Thompson said, referring to the Chief of Police. "Lawson should be punished for that."
"I think he should be put in jail," Ruth exclaimed indignantly.
"So do I," Louise agreed. "The big—"
"Piece of cheese," Martin finished for her, grinning. "That's what he is, all right."
His story finished, Teddy sat back in his chair, hanging his head. Mr. Thompson said to him, not unkindly:
"All right, Teddy. As I told you, I'm not going to punish you. But you better get up to bed. Say good-night to the boys."
"Good-night, fellows," Teddy said in a muffled voice. "And, Wawa—thanks for—"
He could not continue, and Warren jumped up and pulled the boy toward him affectionately.
"Forget it, Teddy," he said heartily. "We all make mistakes. See you tomorrow."
The boy nodded and ran from the room.
"Poor kid," Terry said gently. "He feels pretty bad, I guess."
"Yes, he's a good boy," his father agreed. "I'm sure he'll never do anything like that again. But I'd certainly like to have that Lawson fellow punished. He's always making trouble around here, he and his friends Al Barton and that Jackson fellow. He never works, though he must be about twenty years old."
The library windows were open, and a soft breeze blew in. Terry arose and went to the table on which the book telling of Mysterious Island still rested. He picked it up and went back to his seat near the window.
"You know, Mr. Thompson, we're going to try to win that outboard motor Winston & Son are offering for an essay prize," he said. "If we do, we're going to put it in a boat and go exploring. And maybe we can explore the island this book tells about."
"That certainly will be fine," Mr. Thompson exclaimed. "I hope you win. An outboard motor, eh?"
"Yes, sir. And maybe we could camp on the island. Do you think there—well, do you suppose there could be—gold on the island?"
Mr. Thompson laughed. "I hardly think so," he said. "This isn't exactly a gold-bearing region. But you might find something of interest on the island. Did you ever notice how thunderstorms seem to hang around the island and actually spill lightning?"
"Yeah, I've noticed that," Warren burst out. "I thought it was because of the mountains on the other side."
"Perhaps it is. But it wouldn't be so pleasant to be caught in a storm on the island. I don't suppose it would be really dangerous, if you kept away from big trees, though."
"We'll choose a time when there aren't any storms," Martin remarked.
"But at all events, we're going to investigate Mysterious Island!" Terry said firmly. "Even if we have to row over."
"Oh, yeah?" a voice almost in his ear sneered. "You stay away from that island, mug!"
Terry almost leaped from his chair. The words had come from outside the open window. And it was the voice of Jake Lawson.
CHAPTER IV The Winner
FOR a moment all in the room were so astounded at the occurrence that they could not move from their seats. Warren was the first to go into action, and he ran for the door, followed by the others.
Aside from a street light a distance from the house, there was no other illumination, for the moon had not yet risen. Mr. Thompson and the rest scurried around to the side where the voice had come from, but saw no one.
"That certainly was Jake Lawson," Terry panted. "I'd know his voice anywhere. Golly, it sure made me jump."
They stayed there several minutes, investigating the yard and the hedges, but Jake was not to be found. Evidently he had been listening at the window, said his say and ran.
"Well, he's gone, anyhow," Mr. Thompson said, leading the way back into the house. Ruth and Louise, who had not gone out, waited for them at the door.
"Did you catch him?" Ruth called eagerly.
"No," Warren answered disgustedly. "He pulled his usual stunt—shooting off his mouth and then running away."
"I wonder what his idea was," Martin mused. "Telling us to stay away from the island! What interest has he in the island? How does he know anything about it? Why should he—"
"Take a deep breath and count ten," Terry advised. "The next time I see Jake I'm going to have a little talk with him."
"I'll bet you don't see him," Warren declared. "Well, fellows, I have to get on home. Thanks very much for everything, Mr. Thompson, and I'll return these clothes in the morning."
"Don't hurry about that," Mr. Thompson laughed. "I'll send yours over tomorrow."
Good-byes were said—Ruth and Louise prolonging them as long as possible—and the three boys got on their wheels and started home. They lived rather near each other, Terry's father owning a place on Lake Shore Drive and the other two boys living a short distance away, nearer town. The next day, at school, news of the essay contest took precedence over other topics. As Terry came into the lower hallway of the school building he was greeted by Lefty Chandler, pitcher on the ball team, with:
"Hey, Terry, 'ja see the notice in yesterday's Gazette? An outboard motor—two cylinders—a Thornstream! Boy, that ought to be swell!"
"You going to win it?" Terry asked seriously. Lefty, it was well known, was anything but an English scholar. He could scarcely write three sentences without threatening some rule of grammar.
"Gosh, I don't know," Lefty said slowly. "I'd sure like to win the motor, 'cause I got a boat I could put it in."
"You have?" Terry said eagerly. "What kind?"
"Oh, she ain't so much—I mean it's not so much, just sort of a yawl, about eighteen feet long, but I think she'd go good with the style of motor Winston is offering. As I get it, the motor is a twin-cylinder eight horse-power job. Piston displacement is 14.9 cubic inches. On my boat she'd do about ten or eleven miles an hour!"
Terry looked at him in astonishment.
"Where did you learn so much about outboards?" he asked in surprise. "Did you ever have one?"
"No, but a fellow I knew did. Say, they're swell, too! You can go lots of places where an inboard motor boat would get stuck, like over sandbars and in coves. You see you can tilt the outboard motor up, so she clears obstacles. And you can take her out easy and carry her, if you want to."
"How much you think a motor like the one Winston is offering would cost?"
"Oh, around a hundred and a quarter."
"No kidding! Golly, that would be something to win, wouldn't it! Well, I'm going to take a crack at it."
"Aren't we all?" Lefty grinned, and went on to his class.
They were given details of the contest by their instructors. The essay would have to be written out of school hours, and submitted without the name of the contestant, who would be identified by a number. In that way all chance of favoritism would be done away with.
"Of course it's more or less an advertising scheme," Terry's instructor said, "but that won't make any difference to the one who wins it. There will be three judges—Principal Markham, Professor James of the English Department, and Lincoln Newell, editor of the Stirling Gazette. I might suggest that those who are going to try for the prize examine an outboard and—keep a dictionary handy. Bad spelling will count against you."
The next week the boys were busy learning things about motor boats, especially of the outboard type. They visited Winston's, where there were several on display, and examined them carefully so they might write about them intelligently. While the contest did not specify the outboard motor exclusively, Terry, Warren, and Martin were wise enough to realize they might have a better chance if they wrote about this kind.
All three turned in their papers at the same time.
"Well, how do you think you made out?" Martin asked Terry on the way home. "Figure you've got a chance?"
Terry shrugged his shoulders.
"Golly, I don't know," he answered. "I gave all the reasons I could think of why I'd rather have a motor boat than an automobile. That's what the contest specified."
"What!" Martin exclaimed. "Is that a fact? Oh, for the love of Pete!"
"What did you think it was?" Terry asked, staring at him.
"I thought it was why everyone should have both a motor boat and an automobile."
"And you wrote about that?"
"Sure I did."
Terry began to laugh. He leaned against the side of a building and spluttered weakly.
"Well, I can't help it!" Martin said defiantly. "Anyhow, you're the one we figured to win the prize. What difference does it make what I wrote?"
"But it's so funny," Terry gasped. "You want everyone to have a motor boat and an automobile —Oh, glory!"
"Why not? Then no matter where you are you've got something to travel in. I wish I had both. We could take trips back in the country, and on the lake, too."
"Sure, sure," Terry wheezed. "And if we had an airplane we could take trips in the air."
Martin had to take a great deal of kidding when the rest found out what he had done. He told them his reasons why he thought everyone should have both an auto and a motor boat, but although they might have been good ones, he couldn't get far before he was interrupted by a burst of laughter. So he said no more about it.
Finally the day came when the announcement was to be made of the winner in the Stirling Gazette. Boys hung around the newspaper office, to grab the first copies off the press. And when the paper came out the third page carried this announcement :
"Winner of the essay contest—Martin Hazzard, 721 Easterly Avenue. His essay follows."
It was printed in full. Below it, in huge block letters, it said:
"Winston & Son take pleasure in announcing that, beginning July 1, they will be the exclusive agents in this territory for the Malcolm V-Eight Car. The showrooms for this automobile will be attached to Winston & Son's present store."
Terry and Warren, looking over Martin's shoulder at the paper, let out triumphant yells.
"You did it, Mart!" Terry exclaimed. "Now maybe we won't investigate Mystery Island, Jake or no Jake!"
CHAPTER V The Stranger
ALONG a path leading toward a small house set back from the road walked the three boys. It was just after lunch time on a warm day late in June. Stirling High School had closed several days before, and Terry, Warren, and Martin, possessed of a sense of happy freedom, were talking in loud, carefree tones. "Think he'll sell it for that?" Terry inquired. "Sure! I bet he'd take less. You know he felt pretty bad when he didn't win the motor, having the boat to put it in and all."
"Yeah, but Lefty can't write an essay," Warren declared. "He's a swell guy, but he sure does murder English."
"Golly, I tell you I never expected to win it!" Martin burst out. "I'm no Oliver Wendell Holmes, that's a cinch."
"Don't be so modest," Terry snorted. "Your essay was darn good, even if it wasn't on the subject they announced first. And boy, were you lucky that Winston's decided to put in an auto showroom! Your essay fell right in with their plans."
"Aren't you right," Martin grinned. "The luck of the Hazzards. Well, we've got the motor, anyhow, and now to get the boat. There's Lefty's house. Go on up and ring the bell, Warren."
"We'll all go up. Think I'm going to take it on the chin if he says no? Come on, let's go!"
The three boys walked up the steps and Martin pushed the bell button. Mrs. Chandler, a buxom woman with a good-natured face, answered.
"Well if it isn't the winner of the essay contest!" she beamed. "Come in, boys, come in! You know—" and she lowered her voice. "I'm just as glad Percival—" her son, but let anyone call him that—"didn't win the motor. He was planning a month's trip on the lake, and I know something would have happened."
"Is Lefty in, Mrs. Chandler?" Terry asked.
"Yes, he is. He's out in the back digging in the garden. Shall I call him?"
"No, we'll go back, if you don't mind."
They found Lefty weeding a cucumber patch. He straightened as he saw them and grinned.
"Hello, gang! What's new?"
"Nothing much," Warren answered. "Listen, Lefty, we want to talk to you about your boat."
"O. K.," Lefty said. "You mean that wonderful ninety-foot steam yacht I got down in the boathouse?"
"That's the one. Want to sell it?"
"We-1-1-1-1, I haven't thought much about it," and Lefty stroked his chin. "I get your idea, though—you want to put the motor Martin won in it. Not a bad idea, either."
"Yeah, that's it. We thought you might like to get rid of the boat."
"You know, I might at that. How much you offering?"
"How much you want?" Warren countered shrewdly.
"Well, she's in pretty good shape—I just had her caulked up. I suppose I could get a fair price if I sold to Jim, down at the boathouse. The boat's eighteen feet long, you know, and got three pair of oars, and a locker under the rear seat, and lots of stuff like that."
"How old is it?" Martin asked quizzically.
"Well, now, I should say about three years old. Had the best of care, you know."
"Sure, sure, we know that. Well, how much?"
Lefty scratched his head. He looked at them for a moment, then said slowly:
"What would you say to nineteen dollars?"
The three boys looked at each other in amusement. Lefty had hit upon the exact sum their pooled resources amounted to.
"Nineteen dollars?" Martin repeated, as if debating within himself. "Nineteen dollars? Well, now, Lefty—"
"The boat's really worth that," Lefty said quickly. "You can go down to the boathouse and ask Jim and the others what they think of it."
Martin glanced toward Terry and Warren, and they nodded imperceptibly.
"O. K.," Martin said suddenly. "Nineteen dollars. And here's your money." He pulled it from his pocket and held it toward Lefty.
The ball pitcher stared at it in surprise.
"Ain't you goin' to count it?" he asked, not offering to take the money.
Martin laughed. "We don't need to," he said. "We had exactly nineteen dollars, Lefty. If you'd demanded more we would have been out of luck. Anyhow, here it is."
"Gosh," said Lefty, a bit dazed. He hadn't thought the transaction would be completed so quickly.
Martin pushed the money in his hand.
"Stick it in your pocket, Lefty, and come on down to the boathouse with us so we can have a look at the boat—if you can take off a while from working in the garden."
"Sure I can! Come on, let's go! Say, did you get the outboard yet?"
"No, but we will tomorrow. We saw Mr. Winston about it. It's going to be ready tomorrow. Think it'll fit on the boat all right?"
"Absolutely! It's just the type for my boat—I mean your boat. That's why I thought if I had luck, I could—"
"Yeah, it's too bad," Warren commiserated. "Well, we can't all be lucky," and he winked at Martin.
They walked toward the lake and along the shore toward the boathouse, a large building used to shelter various craft and supply gasoline and oil to the skippers. The manager of the place was Jim Demerest, who used to work in a shipbuilding plant, but was now forced to lighter labors through rheumatism. He had an assistant, Sylvanius Bogg, who supplied much amusement to customers by his alleged comical remarks on current events. Sylvanius fancied himself quite a comedian, and when his audience laughed he took it as a compliment, instead of realizing they were laughing at him, not with him. The humor he possessed was quite unconscious, and his conscious humor was terrible.
The four youths saw him in the doorway as they approached the boathouse. He was whittling a stick.
"Hello, Syl," Warren called. "What's that going to be?"
"Hello, Wawa. This here is going to be a square peg for the round hole the Democrats are getting themselves in," he remarked with a smirk.
"Don't you mean the Republicans?" Terry asked innocently. "I thought they were called the round-holers."
"Or was it the Socialists?" Martin mused aloud.
"Well, now—" Sylvanius began, and put the stick in his pocket. "Say, what you want, anyhow?" he demanded, truculently.
Lefty laughed. "We want to take a look at the steam yacht," he said.
"Steam yacht? Steam yacht? Why, you know we ain't got no steam yacht here. Why, we couldn't get a steam yacht in the place! Who told you we got a steam yacht here?"
"All right, all right," Warren said soothingly. "No steam yacht. Lefty must have been mistaken. Do you mind if we look at the Chandler craft?"
"Lefty's boat? Sure, you can look at her. Come on in."
They entered the building, and when their eyes became used to the dimness they saw the boat near the wall. They had seen it before, of course, but now it appeared different, and somehow more important, for it was theirs.
"She's all ready to slide in," Sylvanius remarked. "Jim got through chalkin' her last week. What you goin' to do, row her?"
"No, we're going to put an outboard motor in," Martin said.
"Oh, that's right—you won that essay contest, didn't you? I ain't read your essay yet, but I keep meanin' to. I suppose it's quite technical?" and he cocked his head.
"Yes, very," Martin answered. "I used a slide-rule to write it."
They did not hear Syl's reply, for they were examining the boat. It seemed in good shape, newly painted, well "chalked," as Sylvanius called it, and sturdy in its construction. Originally it had been built for fishing, and could stand a heavy sea, much heavier than would ever arise on Lake Otter. It appeared just suited for an outboard motor.
"Say, make believe we won't do some cruising in this," Terry said, his eyes shining. "Can we pull her out and have a look at her?"
An hour before Terry would have said "it" instead of "her." But the nautical atmosphere was seeping into him, and the transition from "landlubber" language to that used by boatmen was natural.
Lefty, Sylvanius, and the three friends dragged the boat across the floor toward the open part of the boathouse flooring, beneath which was the lake. This craft was the largest in the boathouse, the others being canoes and small rowboats. The craft could be launched simply by sliding them through the opening in the floor and pushing them out into the lake proper.
"You want to shove her in now?" Syl asked.
"No, we'll leave it here until we get the motor in her, hey fellows?" Martin said. "It's no cinch to pull that baby out of water, I bet." He hit the side of the boat with his hand. "Good and solid, isn't she, Lefty?"
"Sure," said the boy. "She was built to stand plenty of weather. See, here's the compartment in the rear where you can keep stuff in."
"You mean the stern," Warren broke in. "Now let's see how we can attach the motor."
He leaned over and examined the boards in the stern of the boat.
"That'll be easy," Lefty said. "It just fastens on by clamps. And then when you want to remove it, all you have to do is to unscrew a couple of wing nuts above the gear housing. In that way you can cart it from one stream to another, dragging your boat or, if it's too heavy, you can put the motor in another boat."
"How do you know all that stuff?" Warren demanded.
"Well, Wawa, I had a crazy idea I might get that outboard," Lefty said, grinning. "Not much of an idea, but—well, I thought the impossible might happen. Only it didn't."
"That was tough," Terry said sympathetically. "Especially when you had the boat and everything. Say, by the way, what are we going to call her?"
"Watermar," Martin said promptly. "And I'm glad you asked, because I've been thinking that out for three days."
"Watermar?" Warren asked wonderingly. "I get the water part of it all right, but what's the idea of the 'mar'? You're thinking of the mother of waters instead of the father, are you?"
"Now, listen," Martin said patiently. "Warren, your name starts with 'Wa,' doesn't it? And Terry's with 'Ter.' And mine with 'Mar.' So what could be simpler? 'Watermar.' Perfect, I calls it. Please pass me the cut-glass fly-swatter."
"Say, that's not so bad at that," Terry exclaimed. "Watermar. By golly, that is good! Martin, you must have had a brainstorm. Don't tell me you thought of that all by your little self."
"I sure did," Martin said proudly. "Without the use of a net."
"I think it was done by mirrors," Warren grinned. "Anyhow, the name is O. K. with me."
"Same here," said Terry. "As a matter of fact, I think it's the berries. We'll have to christen it formally, though. We can—"
He stopped and gazed at the boathouse entrance. The others, seeing his look of surprise, swung around. Staring at them was a strange figure. It was that of a tall, grizzled man, with uncombed hair and a brown beard that was fully four inches long. He wore an overcoat that hung almost to his ankles, and which, despite the summer weather, was buttoned close about his neck. The coat made him look longer and thinner than he really was. It was impossible to judge his years, for, while his form was stooped, his face was not wrinkled with the lines of old age.
"Say," he whined in a petulant voice, "can't I get some gasoline here? I been waiting more than twenty minutes."
CHAPTER VI Gone
THE man's sudden appearance in the doorway, framed against the bright background of lake and sky, was so unexpected that for several moments no one spoke.
"Well, well," the man went on angrily, "are you all deaf?"
"No, sir, no, sir," Sylvanius replied quickly. "I'll be right out. Where's your boat?"
"Where would it be but alongside the gas pump?" the stranger said, and stalked out.
"Pleasant customer," Martin said. "Say, who on earth is he?"
"Never saw him before," Syl replied. "I better get out and sell him some gas before he starts something. Golly, did you see that overcoat!"
"And in June, too," Warren said. "He sure is a queer geezer. Let's go out and see what sort of a bus he's got. Probably some junk, from the looks of him."
They followed Sylvanius Bogg to the dock where the gasoline pump stood. And then they saw a craft that made them start in surprise.
It was a long, slender boat of dark wood, like mahogany, and from the length of the hood in the bow it evidently had a very powerful motor. While it was not of the hydroplane type, yet the bottom was so curved as to give the minimum resistance when it slid through the water. Certainly it was one of the most beautiful, and, at the same time, the speediest-looking, craft that the boys had seen on the lake.
"My glory," Martin muttered. "Rest your eyes on that!"
There was no need for the advice. The boys were looking in wonderment at the nondescript figure in the expensive craft. The man did not seem as though he could afford to buy a rowboat, much less this slim ship that must have cost several thousand dollars.
"Hurry up with the gas," the man cried. "I've got a long trip ahead of me today."
"Ought to be able to cover plenty of water in that," Lefty said in a low voice. "Jiminy, I'd like to know who that geezer is."
"So would we all," Terry agreed.
Sylvanius was busy filling the tank with gasoline. From the amount it took the motor probably consumed fuel at a great rate. Finally the tank was full, the man paid Syl and pushed off from the dock.
He pressed a button and immediately the motor awoke. The next moment the boat shot ahead almost like a live thing.
"Baby!" Martin cried. "Look at her go!"
The man swung in a sharp circle out from the shore, leaving a foamy trough behind. As he increased his speed the boys saw a rowboat with a man fishing from it directly in his path.
"Hey!" Terry yelled, ineffectively. "Watch it!"
Of course the man in the speed craft could not hear him. But evidently he saw the boat ahead of him, for the wail of a siren rose above the noise of the powerful motor.
"Does he think the rowboat can get out of his way?" Terry demanded angrily. "Golly! Look at that—"
With a final scream from the siren the speed boat swung sharply to the right, away from the smaller craft. A succession of waves from the propeller slapped the rowboat broadside, causing it to rock precariously.
"Baby, that was close," Martin breathed. "That guy must think he owns the lake. Tell it to him, mister!"
This last was directed at the fisherman, who was standing up shouting sarcastic advice to the now distant stranger. While it was impossible that the other could hear, yet it did the fisherman good to blow off steam. Finally he sat down again and went on with his fishing.
The speed boat was around a jutting point now, and the sound of the motor was fading away. Warren turned to Syl.
"You have no idea who that fellow is?" he asked.
"No, sir, not me. Never saw him before. Maybe Jim knows about him."
"Jim doesn't know much," said a voice behind them, and Jim Demerest walked out of the boathouse to the dock. "I've seen him once or twice before, and I think he lives on that island off the east shore—you know, they call it Misty Island."
"Misty Island?" Martin echoed. "Misty? Say, you don't mean Mystery Island, do you?"
"Naw, I don't think it's Mystery," Jim replied. "I've always known it as Misty Island. Why?"
"We heard of it, too," Warren said slowly. "And we thought we might—"
"Say, Jim, can you put our outboard on Lefty's boat?" Martin asked loudly, casting a warning look at Warren. "We're getting it tomorrow, and we'd like to try it out as soon as possible."
"Sure, sure! Very simple. So it's going in your boat, Lefty?"
"They bought it from me," Lefty explained. "It's their boat now, Jim."
"Well, they got a good buy," the grizzled boatman said. "She's in good shape."
After arranging for the installation of the motor the boys left, still talking of the man in the speed boat and Mystery Island. They knew that the island itself was considered uninhabited, although some people said they saw strange things and heard strange noises at night, when passing close to the island. It was a desolate place, and no one had any reason for exploring it, so it was left to the animals—wild-cats, foxes and skunks, with an occasional bear and deer.
"If he really lives on the island he has some secret cove where he keeps that boat," said Martin. "I've been near that island—in fact all around it—and I never saw a place where such a craft could be docked. Certainly there isn't any regular docking place."
"Where do you suppose he got the money to buy the ship?" Warren mused aloud. "He looks as though he'd have a hard time scaring up enough to buy a toy boat."
"Say, you almost gave our plans away, Wawa," Martin broke in. He glanced at Lefty, then said impulsively:
"I tell you, Lefty, we were thinking of exploring that island. I know you won't say anything about it, so there's no harm in telling you, but if Jim Demerest found out it'd be all over Stirling."
"You going to explore 'Misty' Island?" Lefty said eagerly. "Say, that ought to be some trip! I always wondered why the people around here never went near the place. Except Jake Lawson. I saw him heading for it in a rowboat once."
"You did?" Martin exclaimed excitedly. "When was that, Lefty?"
"Oh, about two weeks ago. You remember the first thunderstorm we had this year? That afternoon. I thought to myself, gosh! I wouldn't like to be on that island tonight. You know how the lightning seems to pick out that spot in particular, and how the thunder rolls over it. Well, there was Jake deliberately rowing to the island."
"He was?" Terry said, his eyes alight. "Then what?"
"Well, that's all! It was about four o'clock in the afternoon. I was paddling home in Bill Thomas's canoe that he lent me for the day, and I was anxious to make the dock before the storm hit. Jake saw me, but he didn't say anything, just rowed harder than ever. Just as I got to Thomas's dock the storm busted, and believe me, it was a pip! You remember. I looked over toward the island—you can't see the island itself very well but I mean in the direction of the island—and I saw the black storm clouds hangin' over it and sort of millin' around. And I thought of Jake."
"You don't know how interesting that is," Warren said in a low voice. "I tell you, Lefty, that island has magnetic ore on it, and that's the reason the thunderstorms make such a fuss over it. I'll bet lightning strikes pretty near all over the island. It's funny Jake should pick a night like that to visit the place."
"Sure is," Lefty agreed. "I thought he was cuckoo. Say, I just happened to think, that after every thunderstorm I see a lot of dead fish floating around near that island. I bet it's the lightning that kills 'em, hey?"
"Guess so," Martin said. He wanted to change the subject, for although Lefty was a good sort and one who would not willingly betray a confidence, yet he might, inadvertently, let something slip out about their plans.
The next morning, early, the three boys went to Winston & Son's store. Mr. Winston met them at the door.
"Well, well," he beamed. Mr. Winston was a perfect picture of the old country storekeeper, pointed beard, bald head, tall, thin, and he moved in sections, like a ruler unfolding. "So here is the lucky one! Got her all ready for you, boys! Got her all ready for you!"
"Can we see it?" Martin asked. "Now, I mean?"
"Certain sure! Come right in. Harvey! Harvey! Where in thunder is that helper of mine? Harvey!"
"Yes, sir," said a little voice, and a face poked itself up from behind a counter. Harvey was a nephew of Mr. Winston's, and was in the store by sufferance. The owner of the store—the last of the "Sons—" took peculiar delight in styling Harvey his "helper," though he had quite a few other clerks, all efficient. Mr. Winston was enlarging the business, as proved by the recent announcement of adding an auto salesroom.
"Harvey, where did you put that Thornstream for Martin Hazzard—the essay prize?"
"It's in the back, uncle," said Harvey, an unhealthy looking youngster of perhaps eighteen. "I was just showing it to a customer."
"You were! Well, you didn't have to do that, you didn't have to do that at all. The motor belongs to Martin here."
"Yes, sir," said Harvey, mildly.
"You know, I liked that essay of yours, Martin," went on Mr. Winston, leaning against the counter. The boys were burning with impatience to see the motor, but they controlled themselves. "When the judges read it they liked it too, and asked me about it. They said it was a little off the title, but that it had lots of good, solid, technical information in it that showed you knew your subject." He drew out a plug of tobacco and bit off a piece. "Ug ak oys oo unt a-haid oo uddy," he said.
"Huh?" Martin asked, leaning forward.
Mr. Winston masticated a moment, shifted his cud, and then said:
"I say I like boys who aren't afraid to study. Then the essay fitted in fine with my plans for opening an auto salesroom next door. I'm going to have that essay printed on circulars, Martin, and distribute them by mail. And your name will be on them, too. 'By Martin Hazzard.' "
"That's the berries," Terry said enthusiastically. "You'll be famous, Martin."
"Maybe," Martin laughed. "Say, Mr. Winston, we'll have to ask you a lot of questions about this motor. We don't know much about it yet."
"Not hard to learn," the storekeeper said. "She's one fine motor, if I do say it myself. Twin cylinder, two and one-fourth inch bore, one and seven-eighth stroke, eight horsepower at 3,250 revolutions. She has a cord-starting arrangement, and works easy as pie. Fuel tank carries one and a half gallons. But wait 'til you see it. Whereabouts did you put it, Harvey?"
"Way in the back, by the door," Harvey said. "Come on, I'll show you."
He led the way to the rear of the store. They saw a large packing box and decided that it contained the motor. The top was removed.
Harvey bent over the box. Suddenly his face grew white. He uttered an exclamation.
"What's the matter?" Mr. Winston demanded.
"The motor—it's not—not here!" Harvey stuttered.
"Not here!" Mr. Winston bent over the box. It was empty. Slowly he straightened.
"Who was the customer you were showing it to?" he demanded.
"Jake Lawson," was the frightened answer.
CHAPTER VII "Pull Over!"
THE name was a bombshell. The three boys looked at each other in astonishment. Jake Lawson doing a trick like that! It was all very well for him to threaten and send silly warnings through open windows—they couldn't very well arrest him for that. But stealing was another matter.
"I told you," Mr. Winston began furiously, "not to let Lawson in the store!"
"He came in through the back," Harvey faltered.
"And left the same way. A customer, hey? So he's what you call a customer?"
"So the motor's gone," Martin said in a weak voice. He did not seem able to understand that it was really true, that someone had taken the motor and walked off with it.
"Gone," Terry echoed. "Say, do you mean to say he could come in here, grab a motor, and get away?"
"Oh, I guess he could carry it all right—it weighed only about sixty pounds," said Mr. Winston.
"Then let's do something about it!" Warren exclaimed. "Let's—"
"That's just what I'm going to do," said the storekeeper, and went toward the phone. "He'll see that he can't get away with a thing like that. Not with me! No, sir!"
The boys waited while he called the police station.
"Hello, Chief?" Mr. Winston said into the mouthpiece. "This here is Lafe Winston. Yep. Listen, Chief, you know that Jake Lawson? Well, he comes in here a while ago and walks off with a motor. What?"
He listened a moment.
"No, I said motor and I mean motor! Not a motorcycle! A motor for a boat! Yep. An outboard motor, the one Martin Hazzard won in the essay contest. Yep. Just took it along with him. No, I'm not foolin'—sure he could lift it. You could lift it yourself. What? Sure I want you to catch him—if you can. What? All right. Let me know. G'bye."
He turned to the boys. "Lennahan is on the job," he said with satisfaction. "Lawson needn't think I'm going to stand for that." The hearts of the three boys sank. They were counting on trying out the motor tomorrow, and now it would be impossible.
"Oh, well," Martin sighed. "It's too bad, all right."
Mr. Winston looked at them quizzically. "Say-y-y," he drawled, "don't you people go worrying about it. We'll catch him all right."
"I guess so," Terry said, and turned away dispiritedly. "Come on, fellows, we might as well go home."
"But ain't you goin' to take your prize, Martin?" asked Mr. Winston, a twinkle in his eye.
"But it was stolen!" Martin exclaimed.
"Oh, sure, one of the motors was stolen, but do you think that was the only one we had in the shop? Why, we sell them things! We got others, just like the one Jake took. In stock, too—came in yesterday, like yours. That's why I told you not to worry."
"Then we're going to get the motor after all?"
"Sure you are! Only I had that one uncrated, to show you. The others are in their crates yet. I'll send one anywhere you say."
"Boy, that's swell!" Warren burst out. "That's great, Mr. Winston! And Jake is fooled after all, because he took that motor to prevent us—"
He stopped suddenly, and bit his lip. Mr. Winston stared at him.
"You mean to say Jake took the motor not just to steal it, but for some other reason?" the storekeeper demanded.
"We don't exactly know," Martin said gently. "You see Jake doesn't like us. And we thought maybe he took it for spite."
"He'll wish he hadn't done it when we catch him," Mr. Winston mumbled. "Well now, boys, where shall I send the Thornstream?"
"To Demerest's boathouse," Martin replied. "And if it wouldn't be too much trouble, Mr. Winston, do you think it's too late today to—"
"To send it over? Not a bit of it. She'll be there inside of an hour, and that's a promise."
"Baby!" Martin exclaimed. "Then we can try it out tomorrow!"
Early the next day the three of them appeared at the boathouse. Jim Demerest and Sylvanius Bogg were busy putting the motor on the boat.
"Well, boys, see you're on the job early!" Jim exclaimed.
"And how!" Terry answered. "Say, let's have a look at it!"
The job was about completed, and Jim stood aside. The three boys bent down and ran their hands over the sleek motor.
"Boy, she's smooth!" Martin said excitedly. "Say, is this the handle you start it with?"
"Naw, that's the pump handle," Syl said mockingly.
"Oh, yeah?" Martin said quickly. "Well well well. Let it go, Syl, don't tax your brain. That well is a little too deep for you."
"Huh?" said the boy, staring at Martin stupidly. Jim Demerest laughed, and said: "Take it easy, boys. That handle, Martin, is what you steer it with. Like this, see?" He demonstrated. "And you can tilt it up when you want to clear an obstruction. Now just a few minutes more and I'll have the whole she-bang ready for you and you can try her out."
"How soon?" Warren demanded.
"Oh, 'bout fifteen minutes. I want to make sure I've reinforced the stern enough. The motor is nothing to put on—just these two thumb screws." They watched Jim and Syl complete the installation. When all was ready the boat was launched. It slid down into the water and floated there, and the boys felt as though they were masters of a seagoing yacht.
"There she is," Jim said. "All ready and waitin'."
"How much do we owe you?" Martin asked.
"Oh, couple of bucks. Never mind that now. Hop in, and I'll show you how to start her."
The boys piled in. By common consent Martin was accorded the place of honor in the stern, nearest the motor, for after all it was he who won it. Jim got in last, and bent over the outboard.
"Now look," he said. "When you've got everything set, you simply give this cord a pull. See here!"
He pointed to the different parts of the motor, explaining each one. Then he "switched on," and held the starting cord firmly.
"I put gas in her already," he said. "Now watch!"
He pulled the cord.
"That spins the mag," he shouted, "and you get your spark!"
Almost immediately the motor caught.
"Here's your carburetor control," Jim said, fingering the small lever. "That's to regulate speed. It also acts as a choke. In running you keep your spark in this position—" and he showed them by swinging the spark adjustment.
The boat was moving smoothly out into the lake. The boys had thought that the motor would make quite a racket, but to their surprise it was silent running.
"Under-water exhaust," Jim explained. "Here, Martin, you run her for a while. She steers easily, so there's no need to put your weight into it."
Martin took the handle gingerly.
"Let's see some speed," Terry called.
Martin moved the carburetor control so that it was wide open. The boat, though a fairly heavy craft, picked up speed and cut through the water rapidly.
"Boy! Ain't this something!" Terry yelled. "We could almost use an aquaplane, hey, fellows?"
Jim stayed out with them almost an hour, until the three boys considered they had enough experience to run the boat themselves. Then they landed Jim at the boathouse and went out again, taking turns at the motor.
It was lunch time when they decided to come ashore, for they had promised to take Ruth and Louise out in the afternoon.
Promptly at two o'clock they met the girls at the boathouse, and after taking on another tank load of fuel—gasoline mixed with light oil—they started out.
"O. K., Martin, step her up," Warren called.
"Oh, don't go too fast, please," Ruth said. "Aren't you afraid that motor will fall off the back?"
"Not a bit," Terry assured her. "She's on good and tight. Come on, Mart, let's go."
They headed for the middle of the lake. At this point the lake was about five or six miles across, and Martin had in mind a trip to the other side. They had reached a point about halfway over when they heard another boat coming up behind them.
There were two men in it. One of them yelled:
"Hey, hold up a second!"
Martin cut his motor. The other craft came alongside.
"Pull over there," one of the men ordered. "Say, buddy, you got a license for this ship?"
CHAPTER VIII All in a Day
TERRY was thinking: "A license? What's he talking about? Is he kidding?"
Martin, who was ruffled not at all by the question shot at them, turned to the men and demanded:
"Are you officers?"
"We are," said one of the men shortly. "Never knew there was lake police, did you? Well, there's been a lot of boats that have been getting away without licenses for a long time, and we've been detailed to check up. So if you people will just show us yours, you can be on your way."
"But we didn't know we had to have a license," Warren said dazedly. "For large motor boats, yes —but we've only got an outboard motor, and—"
"Don't make no difference," said the other man, a surly looking fellow. "This isn't a tidal lake, so you got to have a license."
Ruth murmured something about "all nonsense," but luckily they didn't hear her. The three boys didn't quite know what to say. Finally Terry blurted out:
"Well, we haven't got a license, and what are we supposed to do about it?"
"Oh, a fresh kid, hey?" the one who had spoken first exclaimed. "I tell you what you're supposed to do about it—you turn around and follow us in."
"But—" Warren began, when Louise silenced him with a motion of her hand. She leaned toward the other boat and smiled.
"You see," she said gently, "this is our first ride in the boat. We were just trying it out. And we didn't know a license was necessary. Can't we apply for one when we get back?"
"Sure, and you're going back now."
"Wait a minute, Chuck," the other man said. "No use being tough about it. You say you just got the boat?"
"Yes," said Louise eagerly. "Just today. Martin here—Mr. Hazzard—won the motor in an essay contest."
"Oh, so you're the fellow who wrote that! I read it in the Gazette. Say, it wasn't bad, you know? Remember reading the essay about boating and automobiling, Chuck? Sure you do. Well, now, that's different."
Even Chuck seemed about to relent. "You should know you need a license if you knew enough to write about boats," he grumbled.
His friend paid no attention to him. "Listen, what kind of a motor you got?" he asked interestedly.
"Thornstream," Martin replied. "Eight horsepower. We can make pretty near fourteen miles an hour."
"No! With that boat? Must be about eighteen feet, ain't she?"
"Well, what ya know! I was thinkin' of gettin' me an outboard. Me and the wife could take trips in it, I figured, because this isn't our boat, you know—it belongs to the town of Wiltshire." This was a borough ten miles from Stirling. "How much a motor like that cost?"
"Around $125," Martin said.
"Baby, I'd like to get me one of those," Chuck exclaimed, interested at last. "You buy 'em near here?"
"At Winston & Son's, in Stirling," Warren told him. "I think he's got another. The one we were supposed to get originally was stolen."
"Stolen! You don't tell me. How'd that happen?"
They explained the circumstances of the theft, leaving out their theory of why Jake took the motor. "And I bet if Mr. Winston could get it back he'd be grateful," Terry finished. "He might even let you have a motor at the wholesale price."
"We'll find it," Chuck said shortly. "I've heard of Jake Lawson. In fact he's one of the guys we're anxious to talk to. And the other—"
His partner nudged him in the ribs, and he stopped. But Terry had a sudden thought.
"Is the other a tall, skinny man with a beard who wears an overcoat and drives a speed boat?" he said.
"Yeah, that's the guy!" Chuck said in surprise. "How'd you know?"
"We saw him. He got some gas up at the boat-house and then started off like a house a-fire and almost ran down a rowboat."
"That's the one, all right," said Chuck. "He's got a lot of nerve, he has, to go right up and order gas like that."
"What's he done?" Ruth inquired. "Is he a criminal?"
"He—" began one of the officers when Chuck nudged him again. "We'd like to talk to him," the man finished.
By this time the boys were convinced that nothing more would be said about the license. Martin started the motor and called out:
"If we see him, we'll let you know. I suppose we can reach you at Wiltshire?"
"Yep—names are Chuck Bliss and Harry Moffatt. Just call police headquarters, Wiltshire. We're really in the employ of the state department, but we're detailed to this section. And don't forget to get that license as soon as you can."
"We won't," Terry promised. "So long!"
"So long, kids! Have a good time!"
"They weren't so bad," Warren said as they started off again.
"If it weren't for Louise they might have been," said Terry. "Lou, you sure stepped in just about on time. I think it was that smile of yours that got 'em."
"Oh, hush up," said Louise, blushing. "It wasn't at all. They were nice men when they were treated right. I saved Dad from getting a ticket once by —" She stopped in confusion.
"By smiling," Terry said. "Bribing the law, I call it. Fine stuff, Lou, fine stuff!"
"Don't be silly," Louise murmured. "I didn't say that, did I?"
Now they were close to one of the small islands with which Lake Otter was dotted. This one was called Tent Island, because a ridge ran the length of it, making it resemble a tent when seen from a distance.
"What say we land here for a while?" Terry suggested. "Whether you people know it or not, I've got a surprise."
He lifted the cover of the rear seat locker and brought forth a bag. "Sandwiches!" he announced proudly. "Anybody hungry?"
"And how!" Warren exclaimed. "Boy, you're a life-saver. Swing her up into the wind, Martin me lad, and we'll land!"
"Right, sir!" Martin sang out. "Are the hatches battened?"
"All the batches are hattened—I'm the greatest little hatten batcher on the coast!" Warren said.
The island beach was sloping although there were rocks sprinkled here and there along the shore line. Martin stood up in the boat, watching carefully for these half-hidden dangers, and running with the throttle retarded.
"There's a good spot," Louise said, pointing. "Let's land there, Mart. Oh look at the cute little evergreens!"
Just back of the shore a fringe of these trees grew, young evergreens, in contrast to the tall, majestic spires of their older brethren further inland.
"They remind you somehow of hair on a baby's head," Ruth said musingly. "I'd like to take some home with me."
"Forest despoiler," Terry laughed. "You'd probably have one growing in the parlor, and wake up some day to find it sticking through the roof."
Martin headed for the beach Louise had indicated and when he judged he was near enough he cut the ignition. The boat slid gently onto the shore, the prow making a deep ridge in the soft ground.
Warren, in the bow, leaped ashore first.
"Baby, this is great!" he exclaimed. "Am I glad we got the boat! There are lots more islands we can visit, too, when we get the time. Say, Terry, pass up those sandwiches and I'll take care of them for you."
"I bet you will," Terry answered. "You help Ruth and Louise ashore and I'll carry the food."
"We can't stay long," Ruth warned. "It must be nearly four o'clock now. And I think it's going to rain."
"Not today," said Martin. "Those are just wind clouds. Golly, it's nice here! And what a view you get of the mainland!"
The food was unwrapped and they settled down to an impromptu picnic. The sandwiches tasted extra fine here on the island, and when they were gone the boys were still hungry.
"We better start back," said Ruth. "Louise and I have to be home by six."
"The good old Watermar will get you there,"
Terry boasted. "Say, that reminds me, we haven't had the christening party yet."
"We'll have it before we leave for Mystery Island," Warren offered. "That'll give us a good send off. O. K., ladies and gentlemen, the yacht awaits."
They got aboard and, with Warren at the motor, headed for the mainland. They were going fairly slowly, talking about nothing in particular, when suddenly they heard the wail of a siren and saw coming toward them a long, slender craft of dark wood. The spray was flying from either side of the bow like two white manes.
"Hey, look what's coming!" Terry yelled.
The boat came closer and just as Warren was about to swing sharply to the right it took a sudden turn, and passed them going fully thirty-five miles an hour.
So close did it come that they had a good look at the occupants. The tall, thin man in the overcoat was at the wheel, and behind him stood another figure, one that was familiar to the three boys.
"Jake, or I'm a monkey," Martin said in a low voice. "Jake Lawson!"
"And they're heading for Mystery Island," added Warren.
"You can't tell that. They may be going some place else. But it certainly is funny. I—"
"Warren, can you put more speed on?" Ruth said quickly. "I'm sure it's going to rain!"
A low growl of thunder confirmed her statement.
CHAPTER IX Tempest
THEY were still several miles from the boathouse and Terry had a sudden conviction that they were not going to reach it before the storm broke. Summer tempests came up quickly on Lake Otter, seeming to slide down between the mountains and plunge toward the lake without warning.
Terry edged to the stern of the boat and said to Warren in a low voice, so as not to alarm the girls:
"Say, Wawa, I think we better head for the nearest land. We're not going to make the boathouse. How much gas we got left?"
"Not a great deal," Warren admitted. "Listen, you go up and talk to Ruth and Louise and tell Martin to come back here. I want to see what he thinks about it."
"O. K. But if I were you I'd get on land quick."
It so happened that the lake at this point was particularly wide, the shore line curving in. Terry realized that it would be better to return to the island they had just left rather than try for the mainland should the storm catch them.
"The crops need a little rain," Terry joked as he went forward to where the girls were sitting. "The corn ain't been doin' as she ought."
"Terry, I'm afraid we're going to be caught in the storm," Ruth said anxiously. "And you know how the wind blows across this lake."
She looked up at the black clouds piling down from the west. They hovered over the edge of the lake, as if they were holding their artillery in reserve for the proper moment. It was deathly still, with an unnatural calmness. Birds flew close to the surface of the water, uttering plaintive cries as they fled for the protection of the woods.
"Don't worry, nothing will happen," Terry assured Ruth. "This is a good sea-worthy boat—it was built for bad weather. The most we'd get would be a drenching."
"Yes, but—" Ruth began, when Louise put a hand on her sister's arm.
"Stop worrying, Ruth," she said gently. "I'm sure the boys know what they're doing."
There was silence as Martin, who had gone back to talk to Warren, returned. He was smiling, but Terry thought the smile was a bit forced.
"We're going back to the island for a while," he said. "All right, helmsman, swing her about!"
"Aye, aye, sir!" Warren responded, and the boat heeled sharply as it swung over. The lake was like oil, so smooth was it, and the path left by the boat could be seen many yards to the rear.
"But why are we going back to the island?" Ruth demanded. "We've got to be home by six!"
"Circumstances alter cases, as the man said when he pawned the brass watch," Terry grinned. "We'll just wait until the storm blows over, and then get right back."
"But have you got enough gasoline to get back?" Ruth asked.
This was the very question the boys were hoping would not be asked.
"Why—er—" Warren faltered. "Sure, I think we have. Anyhow, it's better to be on land when this storm comes—and it isn't far away—than to be out on the lake. I mean it will be more pleasant," he added quickly.
There was a faint breeze springing up now, a warm, humid stirring of the air, scarcely more than a suggestion of wind. It was just enough to ruffle the oily surface of the lake. The bulbous clouds seemed to be reaching toward the earth, and suddenly a jagged knife wound opened in the sky, a white, flaming scar in the black mass of the clouds.
Ruth screamed slightly. Almost immediately the thunder crashed down upon the mountains, rolling with that peculiar reverberation that sounds as though giants were playing skittles among the hills.
"That wasn't far away," Louise said as calmly as she could, though she was breathing fast. "Can you go any faster, Warren?"
"Got her open full now," he answered grimly. "We haven't got much farther to go."
The distance to the island did not appear great, but to their anxious eyes it was not decreasing appreciatively. The island seemed to be moving away from them at the same speed the boat was making. Anyone who has traveled on water, and who has hurried desperately toward land, knows this feeling.
The wind was growing stronger now, and carried with it a tinge of moisture, not rain, but rather dampness. The three boys knew exactly what this meant, for living so long on the lake they unconsciously became used to the peculiar weather of the region.
"About four more minutes," Terry whispered to Martin. The two girls were staring straight ahead, at the island.
"Yeah," Martin agreed, nodding. "I hope we make it."
"Me too," Terry said simply.
The half-muffled, rapid "chug-chug-chug" of the motor, a tiny sound jutting forth anemically in the threatening stillness, served to emphasize the smallness of their craft beneath the lowering black ceiling that was closing down upon them. The boys felt their ineffectualness as they wished something could be done to coax one mile an hour more from the Thornstream. But the throttle was open wide, and all they could do was to sit back and hope they reached the island before the tempest swept down upon them.
Warren, alive to the danger of having the girls become panic stricken, began to sing:
"Mary Ann McCarty went to digging after clams,
Mary Ann McCarty went to digging after clams.
Mary Ann McCarty went to digging after clams—
But she never got a gosh darn clam.
Oh she dug up all the mud there was in San Francisco bay,
She dug up all the mud there was in San Francisco bay.
She dug up all the mud there was in San Francisco bay—
But she never got a—"
The ripping, slashing voice of the storm silenced the rest of Mary Ann McCarty's digging operations. The volume of thunder was not the long, rolling echo heard when the bolt flashes some distance away, but was the sharp report which occurs when the giant spark comes too close for comfort.
"Heavens!" Ruth whispered, her face paling. "That was a bad one!"
"S'nothing," Terry said with an attempt at nonchalance. "Just a reminder to pay your income tax."
As yet it had not rained, but the wind was growing stronger. Martin, in the stern, saw a queer white line appear on the surface of the water a mile to westward.
"Hey, Terry," he called, and stopped.
Terry looked up, and saw what Martin had seen. Immediately he began to talk fast.
"When we get to the island we may find some way of sending a message back home," he said. "There may be a shack on it with a telephone, although I never heard of one. That's a funny thing about some of these islands—they're like desert islands. You know, like you might find in the ocean or some place. I bet if—"
"Warren!" Ruth screamed.
She had looked back and had seen the advancing white line. Now the whitecaps and foam could be plainly distinguished. It was being borne toward them on the wings of the storm.
"Terry, Terry, we'll be sunk!" Louise shrieked.
"Swing her around, Wawa!" Martin yelled. "Take that head on!"
As he spoke the rain descended with breathtaking fury. In a moment those in the boat were soaked through. There was no possibility of shelter, and the five simply had to brace themselves against the onslaught.
"Swing her around!" Martin called again.
"I am!" Warren yelled in response. "But she won't take it! The motor is missing—it hasn't got much power!"
Through the minds of all flashed the same thought—no fuel.
"Advance the spark all the way," Terry said, hoping there might be just enough gasoline left to face the boat, bow on, into the storm.
"It is advanced! I've got the lever—"
"Hang on!" Martin called suddenly. "Terry, grab Ruth!"
He himself slid forward and threw an arm about Louise. Warren could not leave his post at the motor. And at that instant the white wall hit the craft, hit it so hard that the boat tilted sharply beneath the impact, and water poured over the side.
"We're turning over!" Louise screamed.
"No, we're not!" Martin shouted. "She'll right herself again! Stay where you are—don't try to move around!"
His last words were drowned out by a roar of thunder. Ruth and Louise sat on forward seats, their heads bent against the gale. Martin and Terry were close to them, holding them tightly. The boat was rocking so there was real danger of anyone being tossed out who did not hold on, and the girls frequently had both hands over their ears. Their eyes were shut.
Warren was the only one who could tell that the motor was still running. The noise of it could not be heard above the sound of wind and rain and thunder, and while the boat was making some headway, it was very little.
The island toward which they had been aiming disappeared as though it had sunk in the lake. They could see no more than a few hundred feet ahead of them, the lashing rain hiding all objects beyond that distance.
"Wawa!" Martin shouted. "If the motor is still going, shut it off! It's not doing any good at all, and if there is a little fuel left we may need it!"
The words, addressed to Warren, appeared to have been understood by the engine, for without any movement on the part of the young engineer it stopped.
"Finished!" Warren yelled. "We've got to take it and like it, now!"
Although Martin had said that the motor was ineffective against the storm, they all discovered in a moment what the loss of its power meant. The boat heeled around dangerously, swaying from side to side. Waves, some of them four and five feet high, buffeted it mercilessly.
For a moment all wondered whether their craft would weather the storm. Even now there was an inch or so of water in the bottom. Although they did not know it, this served as ballast, and in a measure kept the boat steady.
"If we only had oars!" Terry exclaimed.
"They wouldn't do much good," Martin said. "We'll be all right! This is a strong boat, thank goodness!"
Ruth and Louise were trembing, whether from fright or cold the boys could not tell, for the wind had grown chill.
"Can we make—the island?" Ruth chattered.
"I can't even see where we are," Martin muttered. "We may be blown ashore. I sure hope so!"
The five of them were huddled together in the bow, which was the highest part out of water. But this combined weight, all in one place, served to throw the boat out of balance. An unusually large wave slapped the nose of the boat and washed over them.
"Terry, you and Wawa get back!" Martin yelled. "I'll stay up here with the girls! We've got to trim ship!"
CHAPTER X Drifting
THEY saw the wisdom of this at once, and carefully made their way toward the stern. There was an immediate improvement in the trim of the boat. Although it still rocked badly, the pitching motion was reduced, and it seemed to ride the waves better.
The craft was flying before the wind. It was impossible to estimate the speed at which they were going, but Martin thought they must have missed the island, else they would, even now, be piling up on the beach. He remembered the rocks through which he steered when they landed before, and wasn't sorry that the wind had blown them away from that jagged shore.
"This can't last much longer!" he shouted encouragingly. "She'll blow herself out soon! We'll just drift around until another boat sights us, borrow some gas and go home."
That was a simple solution, but Terry and Warren, as well as Martin, knew it was said to cheerup the frightened girls. It was not likely that another boat would be out on this part of the lake in a storm. Then, too, night would be coming on, and they had no lights. The situation was anything but bright.
"Our folks will be so worried," Louise said with a half-sob in her voice. "They'll think we drowned!"
"No, they won't," Terry contradicted. "They'll think we landed some place, that's all. Anyhow, we'll be able to reach them before it gets dark."
"Maybe," Warren muttered, but so low no one heard him.
In truth the storm did appear to be blowing itself out. The thunder still crashed overhead and the rain beat down upon them, but the wind had lessened and the waves were not quite so high.
Martin called attention to this.
"The visibility is getting better," he said. "It's a little lighter now. Of course we can't expect it to get very bright, because it must be nearly six o'clock. But I don't think it will last much longer."
"I'm so cold," Ruth shivered.
Warren removed his coat and threw it around her shoulders, and Terry did the same for Louise.
"They're soaking wet, but at least they're some covering," Terry said. "Does that make you any warmer, Louise?"
"Y-y-y-ess, a little," she said through trembling lips. "Where—where is the island, Terry?"
"Must be off there a ways," he answered vaguely. "Say, I think the storm's about over. It isn't raining nearly as hard as it was."
Then, as suddenly as the tempest had hit them, it departed. The rain stopped like a shower turned off, and the wind, after one final attack, as of a dog shaking an adversary, quieted. The waves still remained high, and the thunder rolled, but with the welcome, echoing rumble of a disappearing storm.
Louise and Ruth lifted their heads. Water was dripping from their hair, and their faces were grimy from contact with their hands. Terry looked at them and could not suppress a grin.
"You're a little—wet, aren't you?" he said.
This vaguely uttered sentence, and his half-hidden grin, proved a master stroke on his part, although it was unconsciously given. The girls stiffened. Ruth brushed the hair from her eyes and said sharply:
"Well, believe me, you three aren't any beauties!"
"Are you laughing at us?" Louise demanded.
Then they did laugh. It was impossible not to. The lifting of the tension resulted in a quick change of mood for all of them. Now they were safe, and with the fear of the boat being swamped removed, their spirits arose and new strength flowed into them.
"Gee, I'm sorry," Terry gasped. "I couldn't help it!"
"Well, you keep your laughs for yourself," Louise said pertly. "We're no funnier than you are, let me tell you!"
"I know you're not," Martin agreed, choking back a chuckle. "We're all fine sights, I bet. But never mind. We'll soon be home. Start her up, Wawa, and let's be going."
"Yeah, all right," Warren replied in a queer voice. "I will."
He made no attempt to start the motor, however, and Martin and Terry turned to stare at him.
"What are you waiting for?" Terry demanded.
Warren combed back his hair with his fingers. He glanced across the lake at the shore line far in the distance. The boat was still making progress, blown by the stiff breeze and forced onward by the waves.
"Well, to tell the truth," Warren drawled, "we don't seem to have any gas left."
"No gas!" Terry burst out. "My gosh!"
"Then the motor stopped itself!" Martin exclaimed. "I remember now, it did seem to go dead sudden like. Well, for Pete's sake! That's a swell kettle of fish."
"Then we can't go home?" Ruth said anxiously.
"Not this minute," Terry answered grimly. "Unless we swim, and I don't think any of us would care to try that. Hey, look, here comes the sun!"
Like a porthole opening in the side of a ship a break appeared in the black clouds on the western horizon. Through this rent shot a golden-red beam, a glowing finger pointed by the setting sun. It flashed on the water, widened, and over the whole landscape cast an effulgent light.
"Isn't that beautiful," Louise breathed. "It's almost worth going through a storm to see."
"It's like the reflection from a blacksmith's furnace," Ruth said. "Look, over there rain is still falling!" She pointed toward the east.
"But that isn't getting us any fuel," Martin interrupted. "And I don't see any boats around, do you? Say, where are we drifting, anyhow?"
"Not toward the mainland, that's a cinch," Warren declared. "The wind is in the other direction. Say, there's some island ahead. Maybe we can reach that. We seem to be moving that way."
The island was still some distance to eastward, and they could not make out which one it was, nor, indeed, were they certain they'd know even when they reached it. There were so many islands in the lake that without a map it would be practically impossible to remember them all.
"We must be plenty far from the boathouse by now," Terry mused. "Let's see. We've been drifting about due east, I'd say. That would bring us around Haverport, if we went far enough. I'm pretty sure we're still on our side of the lake—I mean I don't think we went all the way across, do you?"
"No, certainly we didn't," Martin assured him. "Why, there are the Mawchunk Mountains. Golly! I wish we had thought to bring a pair of oars."
"And some extra gas, and waterproof canvas, and a few other odds and ends," Warren remarked half humorously. "When we started out on this little trip we didn't think it was going to be a voyage, you know."
"Well, what are we going to do?" Ruth asked a bit querulously. "We can't stay here all night— we'll freeze."
"It is pretty cold," Martin agreed. "Stand up, girls, and move your arms around. That might make you a little warmer."
Ruth and Louise obeyed. They arose and started to flail their arms vigorously, puffing and blowing.
The boys held in as long as they could, then all three burst into laughter at the same time.
"That's—that's fine," Terry spluttered. "Are you getting warm?"
Ruth and Louise stopped as though turned to stone, and cast ominous glances at the chuckling boys.
"This is the second time," Ruth said coldly, "that you've laughed at us. Please don't let it happen again."
"Because if you do—" Louise began, and interrupted herself with, "it makes me burn up to have anyone laugh at me!"
"Does it?" Warren said. "That's swell! Then you really are warmer?"
Ruth and Louise looked at each other, and then both started to giggle.
"I really am warmer," Louise admitted. "How about you, Ruth?"
"Me too," her sister agreed. "Here, you boys take your coats. We don't need them now, and anyway they're all wet."
They threw the coats from their shoulders and resumed their seats. By this time they were considerably nearer the island, and they could distinguish the shore and the trees back of it.
"I wonder if anyone lives there," Martin said.
"And I wonder if we really will drift on the island," added Terry. "It seems to me the wind has shifted a little. Thank goodness it stays light late these days."
"You mean it stays early late," Warren said.
"Sure! Doesn't it stay early late this time of year?"
"And I suppose in winter it gets late early," Terry said sarcastically.
"Certainly! You get the idea, cold. Anyhow, if there are people on the island, we'll be able to let the folks know we're O. K., even if we can't get any gas. Say, Mart, you try the motor once, just for fun. There might be a tiny bit of gas left— enough to give us a boost toward the island, for that's our nearest land now."
Martin nodded and went toward the motor. Retarding the spark and seeing that everything else was in order, he spun the flywheel. The motor coughed, but did not start. He tried it again and again, and the fourth time he was rewarded by an undecided "chug-chug-uh-uh-chug," as though it were quite willing to continue but was simply too tired to go on.
"Try her again!" Warren suggested excitedly. "Maybe she'll catch this time! I thought there might be a spot of gas left!"
Martin pulled the cord again, and now the motor really awoke and sent the boat along at a fair rate of speed.
"Don't waste any of our momentum," Terry said. "Steer straight for the island!"
"That's what I'm doing," Martin replied. "Come on, motor, stick with it!"
"But let's go home now!" Louise cried. "As long as we have gas, why not turn around and go toward the mainland?"
"Because we haven't enough gas—it reads empty," Martin answered, looking at the gage.
"And if we can coax it along until—"
Even as he said the words the motor gave a hiccough and died again with a despairing wheeze.
"That's all," Martin said sadly. "It's eaten the last bit of fuel in the tank. Without food it won't run."
"But we're a lot nearer the island," Terry exclaimed, "and we're still drifting toward it! I bet in a few more minutes we'll be on the beach!"
The wind had almost died down now, but the waves were still running fairly high. Evening was coming on. Dull rumbles of thunder could yet be heard, but the clouds were dissipated and the sun, a burnished globe, was nearing the horizon. In half an hour more it would disappear from sight.
The five occupants of the boat were staring ahead at the island, which, ever so gradually, was getting closer. It had a rather peculiar formation, rather like an arm chair, with one end of it rearing high, then a level below this, and at the other end a long stretch of flat ground.
"Say, does that look at all familiar?" Terry said, slightly puzzled. "I'm sure I know that island—we're a little confused, on account of the storm, but that sure seems familiar. I saw it on a map, recently—"
"I know where you saw it," Martin said calmly.
"You saw it on a map, and you've seen it right here."
"What map was it?"
"It was in a book Mr. Thompson lent us."
"That, ladies and gentlemen," he said, "is Mystery Island."
CHAPTER XI From the Forest
IN A moment they realized he was right. Of course they should have recognized the island from a distance, for all had seen it before. But the events of the day were so exciting and unexpected that their usual judgment was warped, and since they did not know they were in the vicinity of Mystery—or Misty—Island, the sight of it surprised them.
"Are we going to land there?" Ruth asked in rather an awed voice.
"Guess so," Martin responded grimly. "Don't see why we shouldn't. After all, the only thing we really know about it is that it has deposits of metallic ore, and for that reason attracts thunderstorms. No wonder the lightning got bad all of a sudden, a while back. Did you notice how that first loud crack we heard was almost on top of us?"
"We certainly did," Ruth said, shuddering. "I know it struck near us."
"It probably hit on the island, as did other bolts," spoke Terry. "But the storm is far off now, and there's no danger, so I don't see why we shouldn't land."
"Do you think there's anyone on the island?" Louise asked.
"I'm not sure. Say, that reminds me—"
"You remind me of my mother, da-de-da-de-da-da-da," Warren sang loudly. He cast a warning glance at Martin. He knew what was coming next —that the stranger in the speed boat, the queer man who wore an overcoat in summer, was said to live on the island. But there was no reason for frightening the girls unnecessarily.
Ruth's next remark showed Warren that his precaution was useless. "Didn't we see Jake Lawson and a funny looking man coming this way just before the storm broke?" the girl asked. "I'm sure I did!"
"Well, maybe Jake did pass us," Terry said vaguely. "By golly, we're almost there! Come on, wind, a little push, will you?"
The beach—a sandy one, looking almost as though it were artificially constructed—was scarcely more than a few hundred feet away. The unique contour of the island could be plainly seen now, and its resemblance to an arm chair was quite striking.
"We're going to land whether we like it or not," Terry remarked. "It must be getting pretty late. We can build a fire and—"
"Without matches?" Martin broke in. "No, not without matches, though I bet I could if I had to. But I have matches, and in a waterproof case." He took the package from his pocket. "It was just an idea I had."
"A very good one, my boy," Warren commended. "We can have a fire then, and we can get dried out. And if we could catch a fish, somehow, we could have a meal."
"But what about getting home?" Ruth insisted. "Well, we'll have to arrange some sort of a signal. Wait—let's see. How far is it to the mainland? Can't be more than a couple of miles. After we get on shore, suppose I try to swim it? I know I could —it's just a question of how long it would take me. I used to be able to do a mile in less than—"
"That's foolish," Martin said decidedly. "And, anyhow, it won't be necessary. The island can't be as deserted as all that—surely there's some sort of habitation. Don't forget that this isn't a tiny island like Tent Island. This one is pretty big. Don't worry, we'll make out all right"
Dusk was almost upon them as the prow of the boat slid gently upon the sloping beach. There would be, at the most, a quarter hour more of daylight.
"And Columbus leaped upon the shore and took possession of the island in the name of—whatever he did take possession in the name of," Warren exclaimed, leaping into the shallow water and pulling the boat further up on the sand. Since he was wet already, he saw no reason to fear damp feet "Come on, you people, let's get a fire going."
They stood near the water's edge and gazed about them. The woods were unusually thick, so much so that they could see nothing past the first line of trees. For several hundred feet the sandy portion of the beach continued, then became rocky. They were fortunate in having drifted upon this stretch, otherwise the boat might have been damaged.
Again upon solid land after their perilous adventures, all felt relieved, and even Ruth and Louise ceased wondering about how they were going to get home. The boys collected some wood, which, buried partly by brush and leaves, had remained quite dry, and soon had a fire going. It was grateful to the five young adventurers, for they were chilly, and all clustered close around the blaze. Their faces were cheerful, in contrast to the expressions of anxiety they wore a short time before.
"This is swell," Martin remarked. "Now if we only had something to eat, it would be just like having a picnic."
"We might try to catch a fish," Terry said doubtfully.
"What with, your hands? Don't be silly," exclaimed Martin.
"Well, it might not be so impossible at that." Terry wandered down to the water and gazed searchingly along the shore. "Sometimes fish come in pretty close, you know."
The others were paying little attention to him, being occupied in getting warm and dry. Terry walked along the beach toward that section which bordered upon the rocks.
Suddenly they heard him yell.
"Hey!" he called. "Come here, you guys! What do you mean, we won't have any fish? Here's plenty of them, and freshly killed!"
Leaving the fire, they all hurried to where Terry was standing. When they reached him they saw the cause of his excitement.
Floating on the surface of the lake, near the shore, were fully a hundred dead fish—bass, sun-fish, pickerel, and even a few lake trout.
"Well, what do you know about that!" Warren gasped. "They are freshly killed, too! I wonder what killed them!"
"I know!" Louise said unexpectedly. "It was a lightning bolt."
"A lightning bolt. Don't you remember, in the book dad had, it told about how lightning strikes all over this island? Well, isn't it natural that a bolt would strike near the shore, and kill a lot of fish?"
"It might happen," Martin said slowly. "In fact I think someone mentioned that before. But there's something funny about it. A lightning bolt, hey?"
"It's an explanation, anyhow," Terry agreed. "I don't see why it couldn't happen. Anyhow, what do we care what killed them? Here they are, and I'm going to get one."
Before the others could say a word he waded out and grabbed a large bass, which he presented proudly to the others.
"See! I told you they were fresh! See how limp he is. And the scales are on firmly. You can tell by the feel of it that it's just been killed. Maybe it was a lightning bolt. Now we eat!"
He ran to the fire, followed by the rest, and with his knife soon had the fish cleaned. It was placed over the fire embers on crossed green sticks, and soon the appetizing tang of broiling fish assailed their nostrils.
"Boy, does that smell good!" Martin cried. "Isn't it about done now?"
"Pretty nearly," Warren answered. He was playing the part of chef. "Set the table—put out the company silver, too. This is an occasion." They sat down near the fire and Warren cut pieces of the fish and passed them around on strips of bark for plates. They had neither salt, pepper nor butter, but all declared it was the best fish they had ever eaten.
"Now!" Terry exclaimed, wiping his mouth with his handkerchief. "If you've all finished dinner, I'd like to discuss something."
"What?" Warren asked, looking up.
"Getting home," Terry said simply. "In case you don't know it, night isn't far off."
It was quite true. Sitting so close to the fire they had not noticed the waning evening. The western sky had changed from light purple and pink to dark blue, and over the tops of the trees could be seen the rising moon. It was full, so even when day deserted this part of the world there would still be light enough to distinguish objects.
With the word "home," the girls found themselves becoming a bit fearful of what their parents would think. Martin, seeing from their faces that something of this sort was passing through their minds, said in a matter of fact voice:
"Now listen just for a second, Louise and Ruth. I know you're afraid that your folks will think something happened to you. Well, we're all in the same boat—or out of the same boat, to be exact. We've got to accept the situation and do the best we can. It'll do no good to worry. I'm sure we'll find a way to get home soon. So make up your minds you aren't going to sit down and brood over it."
He spoke a bit sharply, for a reason, and immediately he saw the effect of his words. Ruth lifted up her chin and declared:
"You're right, Mart! We won't be cry-babies. Now let's hear whatever plan you three have for getting off this island."
"That's the stuff," Terry approved. "Here's my idea. One of us stay here with the girls, near the fire. The other two start exploring, one going one way and the other the opposite way, along the shore. In half an hour, as nearly as we can judge, we'll meet back here. Then if we don't find anything we can start back through the woods."
"You mean you think you can find a house of some sort?" Louise asked.
"Well, I don't know. Maybe. Perhaps someone is living on the island. What do you think of the plan?"
"I think it's a good one," Martin declared. "Let's start now. Who'll stay here?"
"We don't need anyone," Ruth objected. "We aren't afraid—you all can go, if you want to."
"No, I don't think that would be so good," Warren said. "Let's draw sticks. Here, wait a minute." He bent down and picked up a stick that had not burned. Turning his back he broke it in three pieces and held them in his hand. "The one who gets the shortest, stays," he said simply.
Terry drew first, then Martin, leaving Warren one. Then they compared the sticks.
"You've got it, Mart," said Terry. "You stay. Come on, Wawa, let's get started. Any choice as to which way?"
"Nope. I'll go left—it doesn't make any difference. And in half an hour we meet here."
"Check! Let's go."
The two boys started off in opposite directions. Louise called "good luck," and her voice was strong and encouraging. Martin threw a few more sticks on the fire.
Along the shore the two boys walked, Martin and the two girls watching first one and then the other. Terry was lost to sight first, when he went around a promontory, a rocky point jutting out into the lake. Then Warren disappeared.
"I hope they find something," Ruth said in a low voice.
"Sure they will. Anyone want more fish? There's some left," said Martin. "Might as well finish it up."
"No, thanks," Louise answered. "Don't you think you better pull the boat up a little more, Mart? Isn't it likely to drift away?"
"No, it's up far enough. Say, that's some moon, isn't it?"
They looked at the silver orb floating above the trees. But a small speck of daylight remained, just a dim glow in the west. In a few minutes the moon would have the sky to herself.
"It's a swell night," Martin continued. "Terry, Wawa, and I are going to camp on this island soon. I hope we have good weather. We're going back in those woods, and—"
He turned his head as he spoke, gazing toward the trees. As he did so the rest of the sentence died in his throat. For out from the forest stepped a strange figure that stood clearly revealed in the moonlight.
CHAPTER XII The Secret Cove
TERRY, having reached the end of the sandy stretch of beach, saw before him a jagged mound of rocks that separated this portion of the shore from what lay beyond. They concealed effectively the further shore line, and Terry began to climb the uneven surface of the promontory.
"Certainly is funny to have this mass of rocks right next to the smooth beach," he mused. "I wonder if these are the rocks that contain the magnetic ore?"
He examined them as well as he could in the dimness, and noticed that they had a peculiar, shining appearance, even beneath the moonlight He tried to break off a part but did not succeed. "Well, we'll find out about them when we come here later," he thought. "The stone may be worth something. I wish 1 knew something about geology."
Realizing suddenly that his objective was not the study of rocks but the discovery of a way to communicate with the mainland, he scrambled to the top of the ridge and looked over.
At first he thought that he was looking at a river which ran from the interior of the island into the lake. Then he realized that it was not a river, but merely a very narrow cove, cut far into the land. It was as though the cove were a finger and the lake the palm of a hand.
"Boy, what a swell place to hide a boat," was Terry's reaction. "If it's true that funny guy in the overcoat keeps his speed boat on this island, he couldn't have a better place for it."
The end of the cove was partly obscured by brush and trees which seemed to bend toward each other giving the effect of a low-hanging canopy. It was toward this that Terry made his way.
It reminded him of pictures portraying the days before civilization. The moon shone white and cold upon the strange cove and upon the green nook in the distance. Terry felt that there would be nothing surprising in seeing a great ape lumber out of the forest, raise his head to the moon and bellow forth a challenge to the rest of the animal kingdom.
"It certainly is weird here," he thought, and despite himself shuddered a little. "But nothing is going to stop me from having a look at that end of the cove."
Resolutely he plodded forward. He tried to pierce the darkness of that natural tent, but it was a blot of blackness into which he could not peer. The moonlight ended at the entrance, a silver path on the water swallowed up by a yawning cave.
Terry's feet were trudging over a rocky shelf that bordered the cove from the lake to the dark, leafy cavern at the end. This ledge was raised from the water several yards, and the waves slapped against it with a peculiar gurgling sound. Other than this it was deathly still in the secret cove. Even the wind, it seemed, did not enter here, and the trees were motionless, like specters beneath the moon.
Terry whistled a few bars of a song, but stopped almost immediately. The cheerful notes accentuated the weirdness of the place.
Now he had reached the point at which the moonlight stopped, cut off by the thick foliage of the trees and vines. He hesitated a moment before continuing.
"Wish I had a flashlight," he muttered, and was surprised to find that he started at the sound of his own voice.
Taking a deep breath, he walked on. His eyes were becoming accustomed to the darkness, and a little beyond he saw what he thought was a boat on the surface of the water. His heart leaped. Perhaps it was a rowboat, and had oars. In that case he could row to the mainland and get help—or they could all go over in the smaller boat, coming back tomorrow for their craft.
Carefully he made his way along the rocks toward the dim object. Yes, it was a boat—a row-boat, too. It was anchored to the land by a rope tied around a large stone which rested on the rocky ledge.
Looking about him to see if the owner were near, Terry lowered himself into the craft. He searched for oars, but found none. Then he went to the stern, and what he saw caused him to catch his breath.
There was an outboard motor attached to the boat.
"By golly," he whispered, "if it's only got gas in it! I don't care who owns it—this is an emergency. I'm going to try to start it."
The cord was in place and Terry set the spark, saw that the gas was on and made ready to give the cord a yank. All this he did by sense of touch, for he did not want to light a match.
So great was his excitement that his mind did not register one important thing—that this motor and the one on the Watermar were exactly the same.
Terry pulled the cord sharply and waited for the welcome sound of the awakening motor, but it did not catch. He opened the gas valve until it overflowed, so he was certain the tank contained fuel. Then he tried again. This time the motor started.
The noise in that eerie spot seemed terrific. Terry thought it could be heard for miles.
"Hot snakes," he whispered, "if anyone is around, this'll bring 'em running! I better get out of here as fast as I can!"
He pulled hard on the rope which was fastened to the rock, loosed it and pushed off from the ledge against which the boat was pressing. Then he steered for the patch of moonlight on the water just beyond the darkened cove.
He feared, for several minutes, that the motor would stop, for it coughed uncertainly a few times and Terry could feel the momentary cessation of power. He held his breath, not daring to touch the control, but the motor continued its "chug-chug-chug," bearing him further out of this strange place.
He was skirting the rocky ledge over which he had come, for he knew the quickest way back to Martin and the two girls would be to follow the shore line. He couldn't have been more than twenty feet from the edge of the cove when he had a sensation of someone watching him, that unexplainable feeling which comes when hostile eyes are fixed upon a person.
By this time he was out into the moonlight, and he glanced quickly toward shore. He saw no one, but to his ears came the crackle of brush, as though someone were hurrying along the beach just out of sight. He thought at first that it might be Warren, who had retraced his steps and had come out at the end of the cove.
"Hey, Wawal" Terry called. "That you?"
There was no answer. Terry felt the little hairs rise on the back of his neck. Surely someone, or something, was trailing him along the shore. When he came to the mouth of the cove he would have to swing out into the lake, skirting the point he had lately climbed over.
"If it's a man, and he's got a gun, he could pot me nicely from there," Terry said to himself, and shuddered at the thought. "I'd better make a wide swing. But that won't do much good—it's almost bright as day, with this moon. By golly! I've got to see what this is all about. Maybe it's only an animal that's following me out of curiosity. I'm going to take a chance and go closer to the shore."
The cove was very narrow, and Terry swung in toward the left bank. He scanned the trees which grew back of the ledge, and once or twice thought he saw a figure moving, but he could not be sure.
And still that breaking of underbrush continued, as though some man or animal were pacing him on his journey to the mouth of the cove.
It happened just as Terry came to a point which jutted out further than the rest of the bank. He swerved sharply, and as he did so that which was following him came out in the open.
It was Jake Lawson!
The figure was unmistakable, and the next moment all Terry's doubts were dissipated by a shout from the man on the bank:
"Hey, Blondel, bring back that boat! You're stealing it, and I'll have you arrested! Come in here, quick!"
After the first shock, Terry's mind worked like lightning. Jake Lawson! It was his boat! And it had an outboard motor—by jinks, the motor was just like the one on the Watermar! It must have been the one Jake had taken from Winston's store! "So it's your boat, is it," Terry answered slowly, retarding the motor and barely moving the craft. "Yes, it's mine, and if I catch you you'll wish you'd left it alone."
"Oh, yeah?" Terry said casually. Jake was taller than he and a bit heavier, but Terry had no fear of him. He had seen Jake in a fight once before, and he quit after one solid punch caught him on the chin.
"I don't think," Terry continued, "I'll come ashore. Not because I'm afraid of you, Jake. I saw you in a scrap once. To me you're just a bowl of lilies. But I've got business to attend to. So I think I'll decline the invitation."
He advanced the throttle and swung out toward the center of the stream.
"You little—" began Jake, and bending he picked up a stone and let it fly at Terry. His aim was poor and the missile went far to the right.
"Rotten," Terry laughed. "And I'm not stealing the boat, either—I'm just bringing the motor back to Mr. Winston. I'll leave your boat at the boat-house, and you can have it whenever you come and get it."
Although he could see nothing but the gesticulating figure on the bank, Terry could imagine the look of rage on Jake's face. Terry was glad, now, that he had no light, for it would have enabled Jake to follow him that much better. As it was, he could trace the noise of the motor. Terry wanted to get out into the lake and go along the shore until he picked up the others, so they could get back home. But how could he do this without having trouble with Jake, who would certainly follow him?
He watched Jake hurrying along the rock, and suddenly Terry's problem was solved for him. Jake gave a yell and slipped, falling face downward and saving himself by grasping bushes on the bank just in time to prevent a spill into the water. Terry expected him to get up again and continue the chase, but to his surprise Jake remained where he had fallen.
"It may be a fake," Terry thought. "I'll go a little closer and find out."
Jake was lying with his head down, almost hanging in the water. In the moonlight Terry could see the limpness of the body.
"That's no fake," he decided. "He must have hit his head. I'd better land and see if he's badly hurt."
Not for a moment did the boy think of leaving his enemy there on the rocks, injured. Jake would never have helped him, Terry knew, but this did not enter his calculations. Here was someone who needed aid, and if it were possible he would offer that assistance.
Steering shoreward, Terry slowed down and approached the place where Jake lay. So close to the water was the inert form that one arm dangled in.
"It's a wonder he didn't go in head first," Terry mused as he cut the motor and drifted to the rock ledge. "He must have saved himself with the last remnant of consciousness."
Bringing the boat close to the ledge, Terry hastily scrambled to shore and made the craft fast by a rope to a stunted tree. Jake was lying face downward, his limbs spread grotesquely. Terry approached and bent over him.
In the bright moonlight he saw a tiny thread of dark liquid seeping down the rock where Jake's head rested.
"He's hurt all rightl" Terry said aloud and he carefully turned the limp figure over, exposing the face. On the forehead was a nasty cut from which blood was running.
"Got to do something about this!" Terry decided. Taking a fairly clean handkerchief from his pocket, he moistened it and wiped the blood from the face. Then he knotted the linen firmly about Jake's head to stop the bleeding, if possible.
"Now," murmured Terry as he straightened up. He was about to pull Jake along the flat rock to a more comfortable position when, suddenly, he heard a shout.
"Terry! Wawa! Come here, quick!" the voice called. "Terry!"
It was Martin, and from the tone of his shouts he was in trouble.
CHAPTER XIII A Fight on the Island
TERRY’S heart thumped when he heard the call, for he was still a considerable distance away from Martin and the girls. A moment later the words were repeated, this time more insistently. "Terry! Warren! Come here, quick!" Giving a hasty glance at Jake, and observing there was nothing that could be done for him at present, Terry started to run along the ledge to the point beyond which was the sandy beach where he had left Martin, Ruth, and Louise. He had gone no more than one hundred yards when he halted suddenly and, turning, ran back again.
"Be foolish to waste all that time climbing over the rocks," he was thinking. "I might slip and fall like Jake did. The boat is my meat."
He literally threw himself into the craft and, attaching the cord to the slit in the starting apparatus, gave it a yank. The motor "chugged" once but did not catch.
"Golly, lady luck has got to stick by me now!" he panted, and tried again. This time the rapidly spinning magneto gave a hot spark to the charge of gas, fired it, the motor caught, Terry pulled the mooring rope loose and started around the point toward Martin.
He listened anxiously but could hear no more cries. There was one time when he thought he heard a girl scream, but it was not repeated and he concluded that his ears had played him false. He was listening so intently that it was easy to imagine voices when none called.
In a moment, now, he would be around the point and in sight of the beach. He felt for the throttle and saw that it was at full advance, as was the spark.
Now he was approaching the point. He skirted the shore line as closely as he dared, so as to waste no time in a wide swing.
Then he was around the point and heading for the beach.
The first thing he saw was a group of figures that looked as though they were doing a strange dance in the moonlight. They seemed to be twisting and turning, the mass as a whole shifting from one part of the beach to the other, all the time continuing the convolutions.
"Holy mackerel," Terry gasped. "It's a fight!"
He saw one figure detach itself from the group, stoop down to pick up something, a stick or a stone, he knew not which, and return to the conflict. Then he saw something else—two figures a short distance away, huddled together.
"Ruth! Louise!" Terry yelled. "I'm on my way!"
It sounded like the first line of a song, but Terry was not thinking of such trivialities. All he wanted to do was to reach the struggling figures in time to avert what might easily be a tragedy.
As he came closer he saw that two of the fighters were Warren and Martin, and that they were trying to break the grasp of a man who held them firmly in his powerful hands.
"My glory, it's the guy in the long overcoat!" Terry breathed. "He must be crazy!"
"Terry! Terry!" one of the girls screamed, and they both ran toward the water's edge. "Hurry up, Terry! There's a maniac trying to kill Martin and Warren!"
The journey to the beach seemed interminable. He could no nothing to increase the speed of the boat. All he could do was sit there and feel his heart pounding with excitement.
"Stick with him, you guys!" he yelled. "I'll be there in a minute!"
Straight for the beach he steered the boat, nor did he decrease speed as he neared the shore. The one thing paramount in his mind was to reach Martin and Warren before the crazy man could hurt them.
The boat was making almost fifteen miles an hour when it beached and slid up out of water. With the propeller still churning and stirring up the sand, Terry leaped out and ran toward the twisting figures.
Ruth and Louise, so frightened that they were hardly able to stand, followed, stumbling up the beach.
"Let him have it!" Terry called, as he approached the struggling group.
As if the words had released a spring, the figure in the overcoat was literally catapulted from the other two. He stood apart for a moment, and Terry, as he ran closer, could see his face working in rage.
Martin and Warren were panting, gasping for breath, their knees weak.
"This isn't the last time!" the man howled. "This isn't the last time!"
"Get out of here!" Terry shouted, advancing on him. "Beat it, or I'll hang one on your jaw!"
So excited was he that he talked in the not very elegant but vigorous slang of fights he had read about. The reversion was unconscious, but it served its purpose, for the rough words reached the man as nothing else could. He backed away, putting his hands in front of him.
"Leave me alone!" he whined. "I didn't do nothing to you!"
"No, nothing but try to kill us!" Warren panted. "Go on, now, or we'll run you out!"
The man, tall, gaunt and mysterious in the moonlight, gave ground as the three came toward him. Of a sudden he broke and ran, and just before he reached the trees he turned.
"This isn't the last of it!" he shouted. "You came on this island without permission, and you'll be sorry for it! Don't you dare to come here again!
I've got a machine that'll blow you—"
He stopped, gave a last yell, and disappeared in the woods.
"My gosh," Warren said in a dazed tone. "What do you know about that?"
Ruth and Louise were coming toward them, calling:
"Are you hurt? Did he hurt you?"
"Naw," answered Martin inelegantly. "He tried to choke us, but he couldn't get a grip. But he almost had me. I started to yell for Terry and Warren. Luckily Warren was close and came back on the run. But if it hadn't been for Terry we might both have been hurt."
"What happened?" Terry demanded. "I was just finishing fixing a bandage on Jake Lawson's head when—"
"Jake Lawson!" Warren and Martin exclaimed in chorus. "Where is he?"
"Around the point with a cut on his head. He'll be all right He slipped. But I'll tell you about that later. How did this crazy man get hold of you?"
"Say, where did you get the boat?" Warren countered. "Golly, what a day this has been!"
"I'll say!" Terry agreed heartily.
"Have you got any gasoline in the boat?" Louise asked anxiously.
"Yep, I think the tank's full."
"Then we can go home! Come on, let's get away from this awful place! Oh, I'll be so glad to see our front porch."
"Yes, we better get started," Martin agreed, looking around carefully. "We can tell our stories on the way. Now how about the boat? Shall we take the one you found, Terry, and leave ours here?"
"No," said Terry slowly. "We'll take our motor off, carry it with us, and use the one on the boat I found in the cove."
"And then send it back, or something? Because we don't want it said we took the motor and——"
"It won't be stealing," Terry said drily. "The motor belongs to Mr. Winston. It's the one he had originally for Martin's prize."
"It is!" Martin ejaculated. "How can you tell?"
"Of course I can't say positively, but we'll know soon. You see it's a Thornstream, the same kind that we have, and this evidently is Jake's boat, and—"
"Hey, wait a second," Warren exclaimed. "You're going too fast. Let's get the motor changed and we can hear all about it later."
While the girls watched the fringe of woods to give warning of the unexpected return of the man in the overcoat, Terry, Warren, and Martin labored to take the Thornstream from Jake's boat and put it on theirs. It was a fairly simple matter, and the change was completed in ten minutes.
"Now we're all set," Terry said. They pulled Jake's boat high on the beach so it would not drift away, and all got in the Watermar, the impotent motor of which was stowed forward.
"You don't think Jake Lawson will—die, do you?" Ruth asked hesitatingly.
"I should say not," Terry responded. "He only got a crack on the head when he fell. He'll be all right—and, besides, his friend will probably find him."
"You mean the man whom we just drove off?" Louise inquired.
"That's the bozo. I don't know what the hookup between him and Jake is, but I'll bet it has something to do with earning money in a way that isn't within the law. Because look, how does Jake make a living? Nobody knows. And he always seems to have money. So I figured out—"
"Warren, suppose you run her on the way back," Martin interrupted. "Now let's see. The fire is out. We've got both motors. We didn't leave anything on the island. O. K., Warren, let 'er ride!"
It was a vastly different group that started for the mainland than had approached the island several hours ago. They were tired, but happy now that they were on their way home.
"I wonder what time it is?" Louise mused.
"Must be around ten o'clock—maybe a little later," Martin answered. He actually thought that it was nearer eleven, but he saw no reason to tell the girls this for fear they would start worrying again. "Listen, Terry, let's have the story of how you found the boat."
"All right," and Terry began the recital. The setting was perfect for his story, and his listeners were thrilled by his description of the mysterious cove.
"That's a place we'll have to investigate," Warren declared. "Boy, I would have been plenty scared if I got caught in that place, believe me!"
"I wasn't singing about it," Terry remarked, laughing. "I did try to whistle, but it sounded so funny I stopped quick. Let's hear what happened to you while Warren and I were gone, Mart."
"That's easy," Martin said promptly. "The girls and I watched you and Warren out of sight, and I was just putting some wood on the fire when I saw that queer bozo staring at us."
"Wasn't he frightful looking!" Ruth said, and shivered. "He just stood there looking at us, without saying a word."
"At that time," Martin corrected. "I yelled at him—I forget what I said—and—"
"You said, 'Hey, you with the overcoat,'" Louise laughed.
"Yeah. Well, maybe I did. Anyhow, he started to walk toward us, and all of a sudden he began to wave his hands and shout something about getting off his island or he'd blow us off, and crazy stuff like that. We couldn't do anything, so we just waited."
"Then he rushed forward and grabbed Martin," Ruth went on. "Oh, it was horrible! Louise and I were so frightened—"
"He was pretty strong," Martin broke in. "That was when I yelled for help. He tried to choke me. His arms were thin, but they felt like steel."
"And then what?" Terry demanded.
"Well, we struggled for a minute, maybe, and Louise and Ruth were trying to hit him with rocks or sticks, but they were afraid of hitting me. Then I yelled some more and Warren came running. He jumped in and the crazy guy had both of us. It seemed we fought with him for hours, but it couldn't have been more than several minutes. We couldn't break loose, he had us in such a tight grip. We just kept on fighting until you came, Terry. I guess that's about all there is to it."
"And it was enough," Ruth sighed. "Won't I be glad to be home again!"
"Won't we all," Martin agreed. "But to tell the truth, this has whetted my curiosity more than ever. If there's one thing we've got to do, fellows, it's to find out the mystery of this island!"
CHAPTER XIV A Mad Dog Scare
As TERRY had predicted, the motor they found on Jake's boat was the one stolen from Winston's store. Mr. Winston was delighted to have it back, for it meant a bit more than $100 to him.
"I'd like to reward you some way," he told the boys. "You deserve it."
"We do not!" Martin protested. "Why, the motor was the means of getting us home! Actually we should pay you for the use of it."
"Nothing of the kind," Mr. Winston insisted. "You got the motor back for me and you should have something for it I tell you what. I just got in a line of carrying cases for these motors. I want you to let me give you one of those."
"A carrying case?" Terry repeated. "What's that?"
"Why, a case to carry your motor in when you take it off the boat! Look, I'll show you one. And you'd be doing me a favor if you'd take one. It'll help advertise the motor. Another thing, I want to take a picture of you three with your boat to use in my window. Will you let me?"
"Absolutely!" Martin promised. They all liked Mr. Winston, as did everyone in Stirling, for he was so good-hearted that he'd do anything for a friend.
He showed them the case, and it was so useful that he had no hard task in convincing the boys they should take it. He showed them how it fitted around the motor and permitted the outboard engine to be carried a distance without being a clumsy burden.
They decided to go down to the boathouse at once and try the case. When they arrived there they found Sylvanius Bogg sitting on the dock dangling a fish line in the water.
"What do you expect to catch there, Syl?" Terry demanded.
"Whales," Sylvanius responded, with a heavy attempt at sarcasm. "They say they be in season."
"Is that so?" said Terry politely. "Instead of oysters R in season it's whales B in season, but how can you spell season with a B?"
"Hey?" Syl said, looking at him blankly.
"Never mind," Martin said kindly. "Terry was kidding you."
"He was not—I was kidding him!" the boy said indignantly. "Huh! Kidding me, was he? Not much! Anybody that can kid me—"
"All right, all right," Warren soothed. "Let it go."
Jim Demerest came out of the boathouse at that moment and waved to the boys genially.
"If it ain't the argonauts," he said. "How you feeling after your adventure? Did Mr. Thompson get sore because Ruth and Louise stayed out?"
"Certainly not," Terry answered. "It wasn't their fault, or ours, either. A storm came up."
"They have a habit of doing that on this lake," Jim said drily. "Now one thing I'd advise you boys to do. Or two things. Get your license, and get some lights for your craft."
"Gee whilikins, that's right," Warren exclaimed, turning to the others. "We were warned about that by—what were their names?"
"Chuck Bliss and Harry Moffatt," Martin answered.
"Yeah! Well, they told us to get a license. Where do you get it, Jim?"
"You have to go to Wiltshire. You can go over in your boat, and if anyone stops you tell them you're on your way to get a license. I think they're going to start a drive on this lake to round up unlicensed boats."
"They've already started it," Warren exclaimed. "We got caught, but we talked our way out of it."
"You mean Louise and Ruth talked us out," Terry said.
"That's right, they did. Well, what say we go over to Wiltshire this P. M. and get the license? How much does it cost, Jim?"
"Not expensive. Couple of bucks, maybe."
"That's all right—we can scare up that much, I guess. Say, look at this case Mr. Winston gave us. Pretty tricky, hey?"
Directly after lunch the three boys got in the Watermar—they were keeping it at Demerest's boathouse—and after filling the tank and taking an extra gallon with them in a can they started for Wiltshire, a town about ten miles away on the same shore.
"If we'd had extra gas with us before we wouldn't have been stuck on that island," Martin commented, as they swung out into the lake.
"No, and look at the fun we would have missed," Terry chuckled.
Martin had to admit this was so. "Well, when are we going back and really explore that island?" he asked.
"The first part of next week would be a good time," Terry suggested. "We could take plenty of food and gas, and a shelter to sleep under. We could stay as long as we wanted to."
"Or until we get driven off," said Martin.
"Who's going to drive us off? That island doesn't belong to any one particular person. It's state property, and we have as much right there as anybody. Nobody's going to drive me off."
"And how about the thunderstorms?" Martin went on.
'Well, how about them? I'd like to see one come up while we're on the island. It would be fun."
"Oh, lots of fun," Warren said sarcastically. "Especially with lightning bolts shooting around like Roman candles."
"Well, we can build a lightning rod!"
"A lightning rod!" Martin and Warren repeated in chorus.
"Sure! Easy. Stick a pole in the ground and run a wire, or a chain, up it. Or we could use a tree, for that matter. Then in that immediate vicinity the electricity would be dissipated gradually and it would be safe. Of course we'd have to bury one end of the chain in the ground, maybe pretty deep."
"Good thing to know," Martin commented. "Now about the other things. How about a tent, for sleeping out?"
"We can get a cheap one at Winston's, I suppose," Warren said.
"No need to," Martin interrupted. "We have one at our house. Dad used to camp out with friends of his, and he'll let us take the tent. It's just the right size—has a take-apart tent pole and everything, so it'll fit in the boat nicely."
"That's swell!" Terry enthused. "And we can sleep on rubber blankets. The food problem will be easy."
As they chugged along toward Wiltshire, they completed their plans for the voyage of exploration. It was agreed that they would count on being gone a week, but if necessary they would arrange to stay two weeks.
"We want to know all there is to learn about Mystery Island. Maybe we can write a book on it!" Martin exclaimed.
"You write it, you're the literary member of the crowd," Terry remarked. "But it would be fun to try. We might discover some valuable ore, and become rich. Then we could buy a big boat and—"
"Stop day-dreaming," Martin said. "It sounds to me as though you better write the book. Well, here we are."
Wiltshire was ahead of them. It was an enterprising little town, not so large as Stirling but it had an energetic Chamber of Commerce, and was becoming well known throughout the state. One of its recent accomplishments was the construction of a municipal dock, and it was to this that the boys tied the boat.
One of the first persons they saw on the dock was Chuck Bliss, the marine inspector, one of the two men who had stopped them that memorable day.
"Hello, boys!" he called cheerfully. "Come for your license?"
"We sure did," Martin answered. "Where do you get it?"
"I'll show you. Come along," and he led them to a small building at the end of the pier.
It did not take long for this business to be transacted, and Chuck asked them if they wouldn't like to walk into town and look about.
"We've got some place here," he said proudly. "Wait 'til I show you the new post-office."
On the way the boys told him of their adventures after they had seen him and his partner. He raised his eyebrows and seemed unusually interested. Especially did he ask about the man with the overcoat, and insisted that they tell him every smallest detail.
"You know," he said finally, "that fellow is—"
He was interrupted by a cry that froze them in their tracks. A man was running down the street, waving his arms and yelling:
"Mad dog! Mad dog! Look out for the mad dog!"
CHAPTER XV The Mysterious Woman
HEADS were thrust out of doors and windows and persons on the street started running aimlessly about, seeking shelter from the animal which they could not see but which they feared more for this reason.
"Good gosh," Chuck muttered. "What a swell way to start a panic! Look at those people run! And where's the dog?"
He directed the last question at the man who now was close to them, still repeating his loud-voiced "mad dog! mad dog!"
He paid no attention to Chuck, but continued on his way.
"He's crazy," Chuck said disgustedly. "I don't see any dog—"
"I do!" Terry exclaimed. "There he is!"
The four were standing almost in front of the post-office on the main street. There were several autos in sight, and one horse-drawn delivery truck. Persons on the street were milling about, small boys, a few girls, men and women and one elderly lady carrying a parasol, which she was endeavoring to put down and at the same time trying to run.
Up the center of the street came a dog. It was not a large animal and was of the Airedale breed. The dog was not rushing frantically along, but rather was ambling up the street, shaking his head and growling softly.
"I guess he's mad all right!" Chuck shouted. "Stand back, boys!"
From the inside coat pocket he drew a pistol, which, as an officer, he was obliged to carry. Terry, Warren, and Martin watched him, fascinated. He leveled the gun at the animal, who at that moment chose to swerve from the middle of the street to the sidewalk, directly toward the old lady with the parasol.
"Wait—don't shoot!" Martin yelled. "You'll hit her!"
"I know," Chuck responded. "I wasn't going to. Gosh, I hope the dog doesn't bite her!"
The lady stood still, transfixed by horror. The dog sidled close to her, growling the while. He went close to her and seemed to be trying to rub his head against her long, black skirt.
The three boys and Chuck started to run toward the lady, Chuck with his gun still in his hand.
Martin was ahead, and as he ran he pulled off his coat.
"What you going to do?" Terry panted.
"Stop that dog from biting the woman," Martin said grimly. "In the first place I don't think he's mad. He doesn't act like a mad dog to me."
He was alone in his conviction, however, for by this time the street was a pandemonium. People were yelling and screaming, and no one but the three boys and Chuck was making any effort toward rescuing the lady, whose face was as white as a sheet. Martin could see her hands trembling, and her lips moving noiselessly. Mad dog or not, it was important that she be relieved of her fright at once.
"He won't hurt you, lady!" Martin shouted. "Just keep quiet!"
She could, in fact, do nothing else, so frightened was she. The dog was continuing his strange behavior of rubbing his head against her skirt, and he was not growling now, but wagging his tail.
It was Martin's intention to throw the coat over the dog's head and then choke him. But when he saw how docile the animal now seemed he changed his plans.
Motioning for the others to stay back, Martin advanced cautiously, holding his coat before him.
"Here, boy," he called softly. "Good old boy! Come here, boy!"
The dog left off his rubbing and looked at Martin. Flakes of foam fell from his mouth to the sidewalk.
"He's mad, all right," Chuck gasped. He was afraid to talk loudly for fear of inciting the animal to leap at Martin. "Watch yourself, youngster! Get him away from the lady and I'll put a bullet in him!"
Martin shook his head, but did not answer. Instead he continued calling:
"Here, old fellow—nice old doggie! Here, boy! Come on, boy!"
The dog barked once, and leaped. Martin, never losing his nerve for a moment, held his coat wide between his outstretched hands, and when the animal reached him he enfolded him in the cloth.
The dog started to growl, the sound being muffled by the coat. People watching the dramatic incident began to yell. Women screamed. Chuck shouted something unintelligible, and ran toward Martin.
"Let him loose!" he burst out. "Let him loose, and I'll finish him!"
But Martin had no intention of doing this. If the dog were really mad, and he released him, Chuck might miss and the enraged animal might start biting people right and left. Besides that, the dog in his arms was struggling not like a mad creature but rather like a dog who wants to play. It was not so long ago that Martin had a dog like this, an Airedale, and he knew the breed quite thoroughly. He was not at all satisfied that this dog had rabies.
Martin was sitting on the sidewalk, the dog, enveloped in the coat, clasped in his arms.
"He'll bite you!" Terry shouted, and threw himself down beside Martin. "Let me grab him!"
"No, keep your hands off!" Martin answered. "And try to stop all those people from yelling, will you? I think I can get him quiet."
Warren immediately saw the wisdom of this, and begged the persons in the vicinity either to keep quiet or get out, quick. So earnest was his appeal that they stopped their cries and watched in almost complete silence the struggle between the boy and the dog.
It was a tense moment. Neither Warren nor Terry could assist Martin, and Chuck could not fire, although he did not cease asking Martin to let the animal go so he could get a shot in.
Sitting on the sidewalk, Martin was now holding the dog close to him, the animal's head and shoulders wrapped in the coat. At the same time Martin was saying in a soothing voice:
"Take it easy now, old boy, just take it easy— no one's going to hurt you—just take it easy, pal— nice dog—good old fellow—"
Gradually the living bundle in his arms stopped squirming. There was one final, intense struggle and the dog quieted so suddenly as to make people watching think he had died. Slowly, carefully, Martin unwrapped the coat. There was an unconscious gasp from those about when the dog's head appeared. He was not dead, but very much alive. Martin kept his hands about the dog's throat without exerting pressure.
And the animal raised up and licked Martin's chin.
"Good old boy!" the boy almost shouted. "See, I told you he wasn't mad!"
Indeed, it was easy for even the most suspicious to see that the dog was perfectly normal. Martin pulled the coat completely off him and he stood there, wagging his tail. The foam was gone from his mouth.
"He's no more mad than I am!" Martin said again.
Chuck put away his gun. "Then what—" he began, when the lady whom Martin had assisted, and whom he had almost forgotten, came to him.
"The dog isn't mad?" she asked tremulously.
"Not a bit, ma'am," said Martin, getting to his feet and dusting himself off. "Look, he just wants to play!" He held out his hand, and the dog licked it. "See!" he said triumphantly. "We're friends!"
"I want to tell you, my boy," the lady continued, leaning on her parasol which she had finally succeeded in lowering, "that you did one of the bravest things I've ever seen anyone do. Without knowing whether or not the dog was mad, you came to my rescue, and risked being bitten. And I suppose you know what it means to be bitten by a dog that has rabies."
"Yes, ma'am," Martin said bashfully. "But they have a preventive, you know; the Pasteur treatment, and if I were bitten I'd take that, and I wouldn't get rabies anyhow! At least—"
"Oh, my boy, don't talk like that! It would be a terrible thing if you got bitten. It was one of the bravest things—"
"It sure was," said a big man, pushing himself out from the crowd that had gathered about the boys and the dog. "I went through the war, and I've seen many brave things, but never anything to beat that. Son, I'm going to recommend you for a Carnegie medal. You sure deserve it."
"Aw, that's silly," Martin muttered, and looked away. "I didn't do so much. I couldn't stay and see that old lady get bitten. I mean—" He broke off, blushing, for he was afraid he had been insulting.
"I'm proud to be called an old lady," she said promptly. "And I'm proud to live in a country that has such young men as you are. If you don't mind, will you—and your friends—please walk with me to the Douglass Hotel, where I am staying? I would like to know you better."
"Sure, we'll come," Martin said. "But—if you don't mind my saying it—I hope you don't give me anything—I mean I couldn't take anything for—"
The elderly lady laughed brightly.
"I wasn't even thinking of it," she said. "One doesn't offer money for those things. Can you come now? And if you could kindly take my arm —I feel a bit weak—"
Martin leaped to her side.
"Allow me, madam," he said gallantly.
Terry and Warren gazed at him, astounded. Martin, the prosaic Martin, who scoffed at "romantic" things, who laughed at all such "boloney," saying "allow me, madam," and taking a lady's arm!
"My glory," Terry breathed. "Get a load of that!"
"I am," Warren said. "Hold me up, will you?"
"Here, we want your name!" said the big man who had remarked about the Carnegie medal. "I'm the editor of the Wiltshire Herald, and this is a great story! Here, you fellows, tell me about him, will you?" he appealed to Terry and Warren. "I can't miss this!"
Terry was giving him the details and Martin was escorting his friend toward the hotel, followed by the dog who was by now the most docile animal in the world. A boy of eight or nine came running toward them.
"Tim-mee, Tim-mee!" he called. "Timmy, where are you?"
"Is this your Timmy?" Martin asked, stopping a moment and indicating the dog. The people on the "side lines" were still shy of coming near the Airedale, and followed well to the rear, so that there was a small procession in the street
"There's my Timmy!" the boy shrieked. "Where have you been, Timmy?"
"He's been scaring this town to death," Chuck said severely. "Look here, sonny, what you been feeding that dog?"
At the sharp note in the man's voice the boy began to blubber.
"I—I haven't been feedin' him anythin',” he stammered, "only I was blowin' soap-bubbles, and Timmy started to eat the soap, and then he ran away—I guess he didn't like it—"
"Soap!" Chuck exploded.
"Soap!" The word traveled like wildfire. People looked at each other and said "Soap!" and went into hysterics.
"Well, bless my soul!" exclaimed the editor of the Wiltshire Herald. "Soap! What a story, what a story!"
He seemed oblivious of the fact that nearly everyone in the small town knew the story already. It was his duty to write it, and he was going to.
"Here, sonny, you take Timmy home now and thank your lucky stars you got him to take home," Chuck said, patting his pocket where he carried the gun. "It was pretty close for a while."
"Yes, sir," the boy said bashfully. "Come on, Timmy."
Timmy came. The dog and the little chap went up the street together, followed by several hundred pairs of eyes, most of them filled with tears of laughter. The mention of the word "soap" was enough to start a new batch of guffaws.
"But, all the same," spoke Terry, eager to vindicate his chum, "when Martin grabbed that dog he didn't know the foam was only soap bubbles."
"No," agreed Warren, "he didn't."
"I'm with you there," added Chuck. "It was well done all right."
Terry, Warren and Chuck walked behind Martin and his charge. Martin was talking to her in a low voice, and they could not catch all he said. But a few words she said to him they did hear, and they were: "I think you boys can help me, if you will." Terry and Warren wondered who the mysterious woman might be and in what way they and Martin could help her.
CHAPTER XVI A Strange Story
HALFWAY to the hotel, Chuck Bliss, pleading duty, said good-bye and the three boys went on with the elderly lady. She told them her name was Mrs. Laurence Liverright, and added:
"The rest you will learn later. I am in great trouble, and I have come here from San Francisco to—find a way out of my trouble. Boy—" this to Martin—"when I saw you go after that dog today, oblivious of consequences, I felt that you would be the one to help me find—"
She stopped, and pointed with her parasol.
"There's the hotel," she said simply.
Terry and Warren, some paces to the rear, looked at each other wonderingly, Terry saying in a subdued voice:
"She's a queer customer, isn't she?"
However queer they may have thought her, the clerk at the hotel desk and other employees showed her the greatest deference as she entered.
"Boy, she sure does get attention," Warren muttered. "Must be old Hetty Green herself."
Proudly Mrs. Liverright entered the elevator, followed by the three boys. The operator bowed to her formally and the car shot up. This hotel was another feature upon which Wiltshire prided itself. The structure was modern in every respect, the management even providing guests with copies of the Wiltshire Herald each morning with "compliments of the Douglass Hotel" stamped on the front page.
"Here is my room," Mrs. Liverright said, inserting a key in the door. "Please enter."
Really it was a suite, sitting room, bath and bedroom. There were flowers on the table, and the place had an atmosphere of home about it.
"Will you have some lemonade?" Mrs. Liverright asked politely. "I'll ring for some. I'm sure we all deserve some after our hectic time."
The boys were rather bashful, but she put them quickly at their ease, and soon a brimming pitcher of cold lemonade was on the table, together with crackers. When the glasses were filled Mrs. Liverright, seated in a comfortable chair, smiled around at her audience.
"I suppose you think I'm a bit—unusual, don't you?" she asked calmly.
This thought was so firmly in the boys' minds that they started guiltily.
"Don't be embarrassed," Mrs. Liverright said kindly. "I don't blame you a bit—it's a perfectly natural assumption. I never met you until an hour ago, and here I am asking you to help me."
"Well, you see, ma'am," Terry said awkwardly, "it does seem funny to us, because after all we're not—well, we're still sort of young, and we thought that if you have any need for assistance you'd ask someone older."
"If you were any older," the lady went on, "you couldn't help me."
The boys looked at her questioningly.
"I think the best way would be to tell you the story from the beginning," she went on. "At least as much of it as I am at liberty to tell.
"My home, as I said, is in San Francisco. When I was young I lived there with my father and mother. Finally, as all girls do, I fell in love and married. That was forty years ago. We had one son—but he died, in the war." She stopped a moment, then went on in a lower tone:
"My husband's brother Thomas came to live with us. He was a little—well, not quite right in his head. Not really crazy, you know, but not able to take care of himself. I was so sorry for him— I always called him brother, for he seemed to want me to.
"So we took care of him. My husband was fairly well off, and it was no great hardship to have his brother with us. My husband was vice-president of one of our large banks, and as such had a responsible position.
"One day last winter he brought home a large amount of negotiable bonds which he was going to turn over to another banker the first thing in the morning. He put them in a little safe we have at home.
"In the morning they were gone, and so was brother Thomas. We have no idea how he got the safe open. But my husband was naturally held responsible, for they all said he shouldn't have brought the bonds home—perhaps they are right. At all events he was in disgrace, for it was a great loss to the bank. They did not arrest Laurence, but he left the bank. Since then he has been sick—the disgrace was too much for him, and he is in a convalescent home.
"Upon me rests the burden of finding my husband's brother and recovering the bonds. We heard he was seen in these parts. I have notified the police and state authorities, but I could not sit by and do nothing, so I determined to come here myself.
"I am convinced that he will be found not by detectives but by someone who knows this locality and whose presence would not make him suspicious. For as soon as he thinks the police are after him he'll start out again and we may never find him.
"So that is why I asked you to help me. I don't want to ask you to give up your ordinary pursuits and do nothing but search for him, but I thought that when you are traveling around these parts—as I have no doubt that you do—you'll keep an eye out for him. It means a great deal to us if we can recover those bonds—"
She sighed and glanced out of the window.
Terry, Warren and Martin sat quiet, too amazed to speak. It was truly a strange story, not one the boys would expect to hear in a room at the Hotel Douglass on a sunny afternoon, and from the lips of a lady almost old enough to be grandmother to all three of her visitors.
"That certainly is a queer story," Warren said at last.
"You believe me, don't you?" Mrs. Liverright asked anxiously, her wistful, faded blue eyes looking into theirs.
"Sure we believe you!" Terry burst out "Only it takes a little while to get used to hearing a funny tale like that. Not funny, I mean queer."
"I know," Mrs. Liverright smiled. "Take your time. And if you like I can give you addresses so that you may write to San Francisco and verify all I have said."
"Oh, we won't want to do that—we believe you all right," Terry answered quickly. "There wouldn't be any sense in making up a story like that"
"Of course not. Now I'll tell you how brother looks, so you'll know him if you see him. He's quite tall, with sparse gray hair, deep blue eyes, a beard, and the one peculiarity that marks him is the fact that he wears an overcoat even in the warmest weather."
"Holy smoke!" Martin exploded, and smiled an apology, "that's the man we saw on the island!"
"Sure as shootin'!" Terry agreed. "Mrs. Liverright, I think we know where your husband's brother is!"
"Do you, boys?" she said eagerly. "Oh, if I can only find him!"
"We'll find him for you," Terry promised. "He's on an island we know about. We'll have to go about it carefully, because he doesn't like us."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, you see we sort of got marooned on that island—we were blown on it in a storm. And we had a fight with your brother, as you call him. He attacked us. I think a fellow by the name of Jake Lawson is in league with him—at least that's what we did think, until you told us your brother was— not right in his head. Now I think Lawson is using your brother for what he can get out of him. He probably knows about the bonds and is trying to get them. How much are they worth?"
"More than $50,000," she said solemnly.
"Holy mackerel!" Warren gasped and then regretted his impulsiveness. "That much?"
"And more. So you see how important it is that we get them back. They are negotiable, too, and while a thief would have a difficult time in disposing of them, yet it could be done."
"Boy, suppose Jake has got them already!" Martin exclaimed.
"We'll have to take that chance," Terry said, shrugging his shoulders. "The best thing for us to do is to start for the island right away. Can't we get away before Monday?"
"Well, today is Thursday, and it'll take a couple of days to get ready," Warren said. "We might start Sunday."
"Monday will do, I'm sure," Mrs. Liverright said. "A few days can't make any great difference. I don't think brother will leave the island unless he knows the police are looking for him. He may have some brain complex and think people are after him all the time. So you have to be very careful."
"That's why he attacked us," mused Warren.
"He thought we were following him for the bonds."
"We'll have to think of some way to gain his confidence," Terry said. "And if Jake hasn't gotten the bonds already, Mrs. Liverright, we'll get them back for you."
"I knew you'd try," she said excitedly. "I knew, as soon as I saw this young man go after the dog!" and she smiled at Martin.
They told her their names, and where they were from. A meeting was arranged between them Saturday, so they could obtain more information about her husband's brother.
"We'll come to this hotel Saturday afternoon at two-thirty," Martin said. "Will you be in then?"
"I certainly shall. And I want to give you a check—wait a moment, please don't think it's as a reward or as wages—for your expenses. You'll need certain things, I suppose, if you are going to camp out, won't you? A tent, blankets, food—"
"We've got a tent," Warren said, "and we were going to explore the island anyhow, Mrs. Liverright, so you see we won't need any money."
"But, boys, I'd feel so much better if I thought I was actually participating in the hunt for brother," she begged. "Won't you take, say, a hundred dollars? That isn't much, and it will make me feel so much better."
"Well, if you want us to," Terry said slowly. "Though we wouldn't do a thing like this for money."
"I know you wouldn't, boys. I can't tell you how grateful I am—" Tears came to her eyes and she could not go on.
Impulsively Martin reached over and patted her hand.
"Don't worry, ma'am," he said gently. "Everything will turn out all right. You'll see. Just trust us."
They left her sitting in the room, a hopeful look on her face.
"Good-bye, Terry, Warren and Martin!" she called. "Don't forget Saturday!"
"We won't!" they promised, and shut the door behind them.
"Well, of all the funny things to happen," Terry began, as they left the hotel. "Say, if we told the fellows at school this they'd think we were crazy ourselves."
"It certainly is the dizziest thing I ever heard of," Warren agreed. "Martin scares a mad dog off and—"
"He wasn't mad," Martin corrected. "He ate soap."
"Yeah, but you didn't know it at the time. It was a nervy thing to do, all right. And I don't mean maybe."
"Aw, boloney," Martin scoffed. "Forget it. By golly! We've got some time ahead of us, haven't we? Now there's a real reason for exploring Mystery Island. I wonder how much of this we better tell—"
"Our folks?" Terry finished. "Well, I don't know. I don't think my dad would mind, but I'd hate to worry mother. I tell you. Let's just tell our fathers, and ask them to keep it quiet. Hey?"
"Sure, that's the best way. I'll tell mine tonight."
"Me too. Say, what's that kid yelling about?"
A newsboy was calling at the top of his lungs:
"Extra! Extra! Read about the rescue of a woman on the main street! Right in front of the post-office! Dog threatens woman! Re-e-e-ad about it!"
"My glory," Martin groaned. "Listen to that!"
"In the papers again," Terry grinned. "And on the front page this time! Boy, if we find those bonds, we'll all be famous!"
CHAPTER XVII An Interrupted Christening
WHEN they reached home late that day, the news of Martin's exploit had preceded them. They stopped at Martin's house first, the other two boys on either side of him, like a guard of honor, though they did not realize that they gave this impression.
Arthur Hazzard, Martin's father, was sitting on the front porch reading the Stirling Gazette, which had picked up the story telephoned from the Herald.
He looked over the paper at his son and the "honor guard."
"Behold the conquering hero comes!" he exclaimed, and although the words were said jokingly there was a glint of pride in his eye. "Mother, come out here and welcome your son!"
Mrs. Hazzard, at these words, came rushing out.
"Martin, darling!" she exclaimed, and kissed him soundly. "Weren't you terribly frightened?"
"Aw, mom, cut it out," he said, blushing. "Wait 'til after, please!"
"Go on, we don't mind a bit, Mrs. Hazzard,"
Terry said, grinning. "I wonder if Ruth and Louise are home? I'm sure they'd like to—"
"If you get them—" began Martin furiously, but Terry already was gone. "Hey, mom, let's go in," Martin said hurriedly. "I got to wash up. Is supper nearly ready? I'm awfully hungry. Have you got—"
"Here's Ruth and Louise coming," Warren said mischievously. "I guess Terry met them on their way here."
Martin's face was so red by now that it put the tan he had acquired to shame.
"Wait 'til I get that Terry," he grunted. "If I don't—"
"Martin, you're wonderful!" Ruth exclaimed, running toward him. "I read all about it in the paper. And whether you like it or not I'm going to—"
She did it, so there was no need of completing the sentence, and Louise followed her sister's example.
"For Pete's sake, for Pete's sake," was all Martin could say. He could not turn Ruth and Louise away as he had tried to turn his sister. "Say, have a heart, will you? I didn't do anything. The dog wasn't mad. It had just eaten soap. And besides—"
"And besides you didn't know that when you grabbed him," Terry said loudly. "You can say what you like, Martin my boy, it was one of the nerviest things I've ever seen or heard of."
"It was," Mr. Hazzard said seriously. He looked at his son, and saw how ill at ease he seemed beneath all this flattery. "Say, Martin, would you mind going upstairs and getting my glasses? I think they're on my bureau, or around my room somewhere."
"I sure will!" he almost shouted. "Excuse me!" and he bolted for the door.
"Poor kid, we embarrassed him," Ruth said smiling. "Just to show how really fussed he was, he didn't even notice you had your glasses on all the time, Mr. Hazzard."
"I know it," Mr. Hazzard laughed. "But I thought if he stayed here any longer he'd explode, his face was getting so red. When he comes back he'll cool off a bit. And take it easy. You especially, Terry."
From an upstairs window came a voice:
"I can't find them, dad, but I'm going to keep looking!" and a window slammed shut.
"Without waiting for us to answer him," the man laughed. "I'm afraid that means he's not coming down again—at least not until you all go."
"Then we might as well be on our way," Terry remarked. "Come on, Ruth and Louise, we'll walk you back home."
Friday, the next day, it rained, and the christening was called off by mutual consent. But Saturday dawned fine and clear, not too warm, just the kind of a summer day the state was noted for. It made one feel good just to be alive.
The boys made arrangements by telephone when to meet at the boathouse, and then called Louise and Ruth, who promised to be on hand. Warren arrived first, and carefully tied a bit of blue ribbon he had brought from home around the steering handle of the outboard motor.
When Martin saw it he hooted.
"Oh, isn't that darling!" he said in an affected voice. "Warren, did your mother let you take that off your hair?"
"Never mind," Warren growled. He knew Martin was determined to get even for the day they kidded him about his rescue.
"Look, Terry, see what dear Wawa brought!" Martin continued, still in that high-pitched voice.
"I think it's too sweet," said Terry, and dropped a courtesy.
"O. K., you bunch of tramps," Warren growled, and tore the ribbon off. "If you don't like it "
"But I like it, and you put it back on, Warren Finn," exclaimed Ruth, who, with her sister, appeared at that moment. "If we're going to christen this boat we're going to do it right."
Terry and Martin stood and jeered as Warren retied the ribbon.
"All right, but you, Martin, have got to decide who christens the Watermar!' Warren said. "And believe me, I wouldn't take that job for anything! The girls are awfully jealous. If you pick the wrong one—look out I"
"Think you're fresh, don't you, Warren Finn," Louise said smartly. "Well, there'll be no deciding that way at all. Ruth and I agreed to toss a coin."
"That's a swell idea," Martin said enthusiastically. "Heads you christen the boat, and tails Ruth does."
He produced a coin and spun it, then bent down.
"Tails!" he announced. "Ruth christens the Watermar."
"Where's the bottle of water?" the girl asked.
"Bottle—say, who's got a bottle?" Terry demanded.
"Gosh, I bet we forgot to bring one," Martin said sadly. "We'll have to go to the village to get one."
"Can I help you out?" said a voice, and Jim Demerest strolled toward them. "Anything I can do?"
"We're looking for a bottle to christen the boat," Terry explained.
"A bottle, hey? Well, I ought to have one somewhere around. Now let's see, I believe there's one—”
He entered the boathouse and started searching. A few minutes later he came out with a rueful face.
"I can only find one," he said. "An’ I don't know whether you want to use that or not."
"Why?" Martin demanded.
" 'Cause it's a hot-water bottle. I bought it up to the drug store yesterday and meant to bring it home to my wife. She's got the rheumatism, or something. So you can't break it."
"We won't break it," Terry promised. "A water bottle, hot or not, is very appropriate. How do you like that word, fellows? One of my latest. Let's borrow the bottle, will you Jim?"
"Sure certain!" He handed it to Ruth. "Here you are, miss. How do you aim to go about this christenin'?"
"I'll pour the water on, and say 'I hereby christen thee Watermar,"' Ruth said. "Is that all right?"
"Fine," they all agreed, and Ruth filled the bottle. Standing on the dock she was about to utter the words when Sylvanius Bogg sauntered from the boathouse.
"Phone call for Martin Hazzard," he said loudly and importantly. "It's away from Wiltshire, too."
CHAPTER XVIII A Clue
TO CONTINUE the christening while Martin was at the telephone would have been as difficult as demonstrating the binomial theorem while a circus parade goes by under the window. The little group on the dock simply waited in silence for his return, scarcely changing their attitudes during the four or five minutes he was in the boathouse.
When he came out Terry and Warren could see immediately that something serious had occurred. Martin's smile was too broad, too patently artificial.
"Well, have you christened her yet?" he asked in as casual a tone as he could assume.
"No, we were waiting for you," Ruth said. "Did you—did you get your phone call all right?" She could not ask deliberately who had called him, so she took this roundabout method of expressing her curiosity.
"Yeah, I got it all right," Martin said carelessly. "It was from Wiltshire; a friend I know there."
"We take it for granted that you know your friends," Louise laughed. "And we also knew the call was from Wiltshire—Syl told that. But what we're interested in is—"
"You want to know all about it, don't you?" Martin grinned. "Well, Lou, I'm sorry but I can't let you in on it just now. Later you'll know the whole story. Now let's get this christening finished, because we have to get going pretty soon."
"Where to?" Ruth demanded.
"Wiltshire." And Martin smiled maddeningly.
"Very well—here," and Ruth poured the water from the rubber bag over the bow of the boat. "I christen you Watermar, and may you have a long life and a merry one."
"Yay!" the boys cheered, and Terry added, "And may you never fail us in the pinches."
"Now may we be excused?" Louise said primly. "We have an important phone call to make."
"Oh, now look here," Martin protested, "don't get sore at me, will you? Honestly, I'd tell you if I could, but it's not my secret. If it was you know I'd let you both in on it."
"That's all right—I was only fooling," Louise said, smiling at him. "We won't pry. Come on, Ruth, we'll get back, and leave the boys to their secrets. But don't forget to tell us what it's all about as soon as you can."
"You bet we'll tell you," Terry promised fervently.
Ruth and Louise waved good-bye to them and strolled up the street toward their home. Terry and Warren gathered around Martin, but seeing Sylvanius Bogg with his ears cocked in their direction Martin said:
"Say, Syl, do you think you can paint the name on the boat for us by noon today? We'd like to go out in it right after lunch."
"Sure certain," the youth said. "You spell it out on a piece of paper and leave it to me."
"O. K.," Martin said, and taking a pencil and paper from his pocket he copied, in capital letters, "Watermar."
"Sort of a silly name," the dock boy commented when he was handed the paper. "What's it mean, anyhow?"
"First part of our three first names," Terry answered briefly. "You fix it up for us, and we'll be back about one o'clock."
They walked away from him, and as soon as they were out of earshot Terry demanded eagerly:
"What's the dope, Mart? Was the call from Mrs. Liverright?"
"It sure was," Martin replied. "She was all excited. She received a note."
"What kind of a note?"
"A warning letter. At least that's what she said it was. She wants us to come over as soon as we can and look at it."
"But what did the note say?" Terry asked.
"From what I could gather over the telephone —she didn't quote the exact wording—it warned her not to have anything to do with the island, and to leave Wiltshire immediately."
"And how was the note signed?"
"Didn't have any signature, she said. At the end was written 'You know who.' Gee, she certainly was scared!"
"Jake Lawson, for any money," Warren said disgustedly. "He's a great cheesy piece of work, that guy is! Now he writes warning notes to old ladies. He'll be trying to scare children next."
"You think Jake wrote it?" Martin inquired.
"Sure. Who else? He probably heard from one of his gang—Southworthy Jackson or Al Barton or some of the others—that Mrs. Liverright was in Wiltshire. So he hopes to scare her off. Well, that settles one thing, to my mind."
"That Jake hasn't gotten the bonds yet."
"How do you figure that out?"
"Simple enough. If he had the bonds, why would he want Mrs. Liverright to go away? He could go to another part of the country and dispose of the bonds—Mrs. Liverright said they were negotiable. No sir, he hasn't gotten them yet. Maybe the crazy fellow is holding out on him."
"Maybe Mrs. Liverright's brother-in-law hasn't got the bonds at all," Terry suggested. "Did you ever stop to think that the theft of the bonds, and her brother—or, rather, her husband's brother— leaving at the same time, might be a coincidence?"
"Yeah, but it's not likely. Things don't happen that way. We'll go over to Wiltshire this afternoon and have a talk with Mrs. Liverright. Then we'll hurry back here and get set for the trip. What about the tent, Martin? Did you ask your father about it?"
"I did, and he said it would be O. K. for us to take it. And I've got it all ready, too. What we need now are food supplies and sleeping blankets or cots or whatever it is we'll use."
"I should think we could get folding cots," Terry suggested. "Mrs. Liverright wants to give us some money, you know, and she'll feel badly if we don't take it. So we might as well drop in at Winston's now and see what he's got in the way of campers' supplies."
They discovered that Winston & Son's had everything they required except food.
"Tell you what I'll do, boys," Lafe Winston said. "How long you calculate you'll be gone?"
"We want to figure on two weeks," said Martin.
"All right. You leave it to me. You want to start Monday early, hey? All right. I'll have everything ready for you—eats and everything. Then I'll give you the whole bill. I'll keep down expenses, so you don't need to worry."
"Swell!" Warren exclaimed. "Then all we'll have to do will be to stop here and pick the things up?"
"That's all, boys. It's a right smart time since I've been campin', but I haven't forgotten how. And if I can't go myself the next best thing is to outfit others. So you leave everything to me."
"That's fine," was the general opinion. As they left the store Warren asked:
"How did Mrs. Liverright know how to reach you at the dock, Martin?"
"That was a bit mysterious," agreed Terry.
"Simple," explained Martin. "She called up my house—I'd left her my phone number—and the folks at home told her I was at the dock and gave her Demerest's number. That's all."
"Simple enough," Warren admitted.
On their way home to lunch the boys talked of what a fine man Mr. Winston was. This opinion was general throughout Stirling—if Lafe Winston wanted to run for Mayor, there would be few who would not cast their votes in his favor. But he was content to remain a country storekeeper—said his philosophy of life required him to stay out of politics.
Shortly before one o'clock the three gathered again at Demerest's boathouse and saw that Syl had completed the job of painting the name on the craft. Lefty Chandler, from whom they purchased the boat, was there too.
"Hello, fellers," said Lefty. "Since I seen you last—I mean saw—you been having quite a time, ain't you? Say, Mart, that was a nervy thing to do, to tackle that mad dog."
"It wasn't mad, Lefty," Martin said. "He'd eaten soap."
"Yeah, I read about that. But if you thought he was mad, it took just as much nerve as if he was really mad, didn't it? Sure. Say, where you fellers bound for now?"
"We got an errand to do in Wiltshire," Terry said vaguely. "But later I wish you'd come out for a ride with us, Lefty. You haven't tried the boat with the motor on it, have you?"
"No, but I'd like to. Any time at all. I'm think-in' of playin' a little semi-pro ball this summer—with Stirling. They need a pitcher. I asked the coach at the high school and he said it wouldn't interfere with my playin' there next year."
"That's good. Well, we got to be on our way. How much is that, Syl?"
"Oh, that's all right—a little present," Sylvanius said airily. "Keep the change and buy a race horse."
"Well, that's very nice of you," Martin said appreciatively. "Thanks."
"O. K. Well, good luck—and don't take any wooden money."
The laugh which greeted this well-worn sally fully compensated Syl for his trouble in painting the name on the boat, and he waved genially as the craft chugged away from the dock.
"He's a pretty good skate," Terry said, "when you treat him right."
They talked of their coming adventure as they chugged toward Wiltshire. When they arrived they looked about for Chuck or his partner, but saw neither one, so they went directly to the Douglass Hotel.
They asked the clerk to ring Mrs. Liverright's room. He glanced at them suspiciously and demanded :
"Which of you is Martin Hazzard?"
"I am," Martin said.
"Then here's a note for you."
Martin took it from the clerk and opened it. Looking over his shoulder Terry and Warren read:
"Wait here until I return. I have seen someone who looks like Thomas."
It was signed simply "Mrs. L."
CHAPTER XIX Big Money
SOMETHING tells me," said Warren, when they had moved away from the desk, "that Mrs. Liver-right is going to get into trouble if she follows people around like that. My gosh, she must be over sixty years old, at least! Whyn't she let us trace her husband's brother for her?"
"Well, I suppose she feels sort of responsible to her husband," Terry said slowly. "She doesn't want to let any opportunity slip to find her husband's brother. I guess she figures if she could talk to him she could persuade him to give her back the bonds, provided he has them."
They were standing in the lobby, talking in low tones. Martin motioned toward some chairs.
"Reckon we might as well sit down here and wait for her," he said.
They obeyed the suggestion and sat watching the few people now staying at the hotel come and go. Finally Terry said:
"You know, I think Mrs. Liverright is sort of queer too. To go running off like that—following a man she thinks is her brother-in-law."
Martin looked at him. "Wouldn't you, in the same situation?" he said softly.
Terry shrugged his shoulders. "Maybe I would," he admitted. "But I wish she'd hurry back. I'm tired hanging around here."
For almost an hour the boys waited in the lobby, and then all three leaped to their feet as they saw Mrs. Liverright enter. She seemed tired, and there was a hopeless look on her face.
"I lost him," she said simply. "I'm sure it was Thomas. Come up to my room, boys, and I'll tell you about it."
Wearily she preceded them to the elevator. When she was seated in her room she sighed deeply.
"I was just coming into the hotel," she said, "when I saw a tall man wearing an overcoat dodge around a corner of a building, toward the lake. I didn't waste any time, but followed him. You know I can still go at a right smart clip when I want to," and she smiled rather sadly. "I caught sight of him again as he was walking toward a dock, to which was tied a dark colored boat, a speed craft, I think. Then he stopped to say something to another man, and they both leaped into the boat."
"What sort of a looking man was the other?" Warren asked eagerly.
"Rather a rough type, I should say. And he had a bandage around his head."
"Jake Lawson!" exclaimed Martin and Terry almost in the same breath.
"Do you know him?" Mrs. Liverright asked.
"We know him all right," Warren said grimly. "And I think you were correct, Mrs. Liverright, it was your husband's brother you saw."
"And I lost him!" she exclaimed despondently. "Oh, if I had only seen him sooner!"
"Don't worry, we know where to find him," Terry said kindly. "Then what happened?"
"Then they started the boat and darted away," Mrs. Liverright finished. "It went awfully fast— all I could see was spray."
"Yes, it's a fast boat," Terry remarked, his mind busy with another problem. "It cost quite a bit of money, too. Did your brother, as you call him, have any other money besides the bonds, Mrs. Liverright?"
"Not very much," she said doubtfully. "We never allowed him to have much money, but he certainly must have gotten hold of some to come all the way out here—the railroad fare is very expensive."
"We'll let you know as soon as we find anything," Terry promised. "And don't worry!"
Mrs. Liverright smiled her thanks.
"And now," she said, "I want you to take this." She handed Martin, who was nearest her, an envelope. "Don't say anything," she exclaimed, "just take it. Put it in your pocket. And then I want you to look at this." She opened a desk drawer and took out a piece of paper. This also she handed to Martin.
"Is this the note you got?" he asked, and Mrs. Liverright nodded.
The others crowded close to Martin to see what was in the note of warning. It was printed and said:
"Don't try to find your brother. He is safe and in good hands. He does not want to see you. If you or your friends—" these two words were underscored—"try to find him you will get into trouble, and lots of it. Stay away from Mystery Island. You know who."
"Do you really know who wrote this?" Warren inquired, glancing up.
"I haven't the faintest idea! But he can't scare me, whoever he is," she added determinedly. "The idea, thinking I'd run because of a silly note!"
"That's the spirit," Martin said admiringly. "Say, may we keep this note in case we need it? Or do you want to show it to the police?"
"Not the police," Mrs. Liverright said. "I've been trying to keep them out of it. As I told you before, I communicated with the police in this state and they promised to go about the matter carefully. But you never know who will find out these things—"
"The officers they have on the job here are very good," Martin said quickly. "We met two of them, and they wouldn't tell us anything about your brother—of course we didn't know who he was then, but we had seen him. Anyhow, we'll keep the note if you don't mind."
"Certainly—I want you to. I don't think you can prove anything by it, though, because it's printed."
"We'll see. Now you just take it easy, Mrs. Liverright, and leave everything to us. What can be done, we'll do!"
"One last word, boys," remarked the elderly lady, rather pathetically. "I spoke of my brother-in-law as being somewhat crazy, or at least out of his head. He hasn't always been that way. It was only a short time before the bonds disappeared that my husband and I noticed that Thomas was acting queer."
"Maybe he got sunstruck or hurt, or something like that," suggested Warren.
"Head injuries often make people act funny," added Terry.
"We don't know how to account for it, but I know you boys will do all you can to help."
Mrs. Liverright smiled gratefully, and her eyes followed them out the door. When they emerged from the hotel Terry took a deep breath.
"Boy, there's drama for you!" he said earnestly. "If you read about that you wouldn't believe it. Here's an old woman, and she must be pushing seventy, coming all the way across the continent to find a goofy brother-in-law who took some bonds from her husband's bank. And the husband in a hospital! Baby, that's courage."
"I felt the same way," Martin declared. "If we can help her in anyway, let's do it, even if it means taking risks. Say, did you fellows tell your fathers about—the bonds?"
"Sure," Terry answered, and Warren said the same. "He wanted to know all about it, and I told him as much as I could. Of course I didn't make it seem any more dangerous than I could help—" he laughed. "That would be what they call in law prejudicing your own cause."
"Oh, yeah?" Terry scoffed. "Reading books again, hey? Anyhow, we're all set. Say, open up that envelope she gave you. There's probably a check in it we'll have to get cashed."
"I almost forgot about it," Martin said. He ripped open one corner and peered in.
"No check," he said, "two bills. By golly—" as he took them out—"they're two $100 bills! I never saw a bill that big before, did you?"
"I should say not," Terry exclaimed, looking at them curiously. "And it'll be hard to cash these, I'm thinking. People will wonder where we got two $100 bills."
"They sure will," agreed Warren. "It's big money, fellows! Big money! What'll we do with 'em?"
"I think," said Martin, "we better give them to Mr. Winston and tell him part of the story. He'll believe us all right, and he won't say anything to anyone else."
"My boy, you're a genius," Warren said enthusiastically. "Come on, let's get back to Stirling. We can stop in Winston's tonight."
It was nearly five o'clock when they pulled up to the dock, the outboard motor having run smoothly and fast. They left the boat in Syl's care, telling him to see that it was in good shape for a long trip Monday, and to have ready several extra gallons of gas.
"Have you got a five-gallon tin?" Terry asked.
"Yeah, I guess there's one around," Syl replied.
"Well, have it filled with gas. We don't want to run out of fuel again."
"Thought this here boat ran on water," Syl snickered.
"It does, but this is a dry country. So long," and the three boys walked away quickly.
To say Mr. Winston was surprised when he saw the bills would be to put it mildly. He craned his neck forward and his eyes stuck out.
"Well, I'll be blowed!" he ejaculated. "I hain't never before seen one of these things. Where'd you get 'em, boys?"
They told him as much of the story as was necessary, and he listened in breathless silence.
"Well, of all things," he gasped when they finished. "Those things happening right near here, right near Stirling? Well, I never! Nobody can tell me we don't have excitement around here. And romance, yes, sir, by gosh! Romance!" He slapped his thigh comically, his eyes squinting in what he fondly believed indicated a "romantic nature."
"Then you'll take these to pay for our camping supplies?" Terry inquired. "I suppose they're enough—"
"Enough? Say, what you think I'm running, a millionaire's shop? They are far more than enough. I'll keep 'em for you, though. Unless you want to put 'em in a bank," and his eyes twinkled, for he knew they didn't want to tell their story to a bank cashier.
"You keep 'em," Martin said quickly. "And don't forget, what we told you is a secret."
"Dead quiet," Mr. Winston promised, his finger on his lips. "No one will get a word from me. And you boys will be around early Monday for your stuff."
"Yep—about eight o'clock."
"Good—well, so long until then."
It is unnecessary to say that the three boys were a bit excited as they piled into bed that night. The next day they spent in discussing their plans, and all were awake before seven o'clock Monday. It was a perfect day, the sky a deep blue and the sun making the countryside sparkle.
As agreed upon, they all met at Winston's. He was not open when they arrived, but came shortly after with his clerk, Harvey Winston.
"Well, boys," the proprietor exclaimed cheerfully, "all set!"
"We sure are!" Martin almost shouted. "Got our stuff?"
"Right inside. Say, you know I wouldn't be a bit surprised if it rained tonight. Sky is too clear —not a cloud in it."
They looked at him in consternation, then saw he was laughing at them.
"Come on," Terry exclaimed, "load up, gang, and we're off!"
CHAPTER XX Booming Water
MARTIN was steering. Terry and Warren were seated forward, and behind them were the camping supplies calculated to permit them to spend two weeks on Mystery Island. There was a tent with a center pole in sections, so it could easily be transported; three folding cots; blankets, raincoats, and other necessities of camp life; and then there was food, which Mr. Winston himself had ordered, and in the bottom of the boat a pair of oars.
"Here," Martin said, "Wawa, you take this. It's a map of the lake."
"Where'd you get that?" Warren demanded.
"We had it home a long time, but I forgot about it. Shows all the islands on the lake—at least nearly all."
Warren and Terry were studying the map, Warren tracing their course with his forefinger.
There was silence for a few moments as they gazed at the map carefully. Finally Terry exclaimed "Gee, this is funny—it looks here as if there were two islands just alike—and very close to each other. See, here's the name—Misty Island. But which is which?"
"Wait a minute," Terry remarked. "I bet the division is where the cove cuts in. There must be sort of a stream at the end of the cove, separating two parts of the island."
"The place where you found Jake's boat?"
"That's it. Say, if it's true that there is a stream right through the island we could come in at the other end, and have sort of a waterway through to the cove. And I have a hunch that around that cove somewhere is Jake's camp. And dollars to doughnuts Liverright stays there with him."
"But the stream, if there is one, may be too shallow for us to run the boat through," Warren objected.
"No, it won't. We've got oars, haven't we? All we have to do is hoist the motor up, and row or pole our way along."
"Sure, I forgot that. Boy, these outboard motors are pretty good things, aren't they? Well then, suppose we go to the other side of the island than the one we landed on before."
"Which side was that?" Martin asked drily.
"Why—the north side, wasn't it—or the east—”
"Or the west or the south. One of those four, anyhow."
"Can't we circle the island until we find out? I'd recognize that stretch of sandy beach."
"The only trouble with that plan," Warren said slowly, "is that Liverright might see us looking, take fright, and hide."
"Gee, I guess you're right," Terry admitted. "Then where will we land?"
"We'll have to decide that when we get there. We're still some distance away, you know. We've got a nice ride ahead of us."
The motor was running smoothly. Stored under the seats were tins holding gasoline, ten gallons in all, for the capacity of the tank was only one gallon. Another container held oil, so unless they had to do an unusual amount of running they had enough fuel for their purpose. In an emergency they could return to the mainland for gas or oil, but this they wished to avoid.
A stiff breeze sprang up, and the Watermar ploughed through the choppy lake with a dependability and determination that made the three boys proud to be in her. There was a peculiar zest to this adventure, and starting off like this, in a brisk breeze that slapped waves against the sides of the boat, added to the thrill.
"Baby, it sure is great out here," Terry said, taking a deep breath. "Look how the sun throws those mountains in relief."
"How's she running, Mart?" Warren inquired. "Want me to relieve you?"
"No, thanks. I'll stay with her for a while. Say, don't let that map blow overboard."
"We won't. I'll put it in my pocket," and Warren folded the paper. "What time is it now, do you suppose?"
"I don't suppose, I know," Terry answered. With an exaggerated gesture he took out a "turnip" of a watch and looked at it "Ten-thirty," he declared.
Warren held out his hand. "Let's see it," he said. "Where'd you get that?"
"Oh, I had it."
Warren was examining it closely. He turned it over.
"By jinks," he said suddenly, "this is O. K.! It's got a compass on the back! I suppose you didn't know that, Terry?"
"No, as a matter of fact I didn't," he admitted. "When I was leaving this morning dad gave it to me—said it wasn't much good, and we might need it. I didn't know it had a compass."
"That's probably what he meant we'd need," Martin said casually. "What is our course now, Wawa?"
"Er—east by east south-east."
"Stop it, stop it! Don't get so complicated."
"Well, east then."
"O. K. Now if we run into fog we won't be so badly lost. I heard of a boat that went out from Stirling last year, aiming for Eastport Landing. Fog came up and they got lost. They were out all that day, all night, and weren't found until the next day."
"I wouldn't mind, if—" Warren began, when the words were frozen on his lips. The others stared, unable to believe their eyes.
For near the island, that was just a dot on the horizon, there arose a column of water. Just how far it rose they could not tell, for they were too far away. But they could see it leap upward from the lake like a live thing.
While they watched in awe it sank again and disappeared. Many seconds later there came to their ears a dull booming noise, like a single boom of thunder in the distance.
"Booming water!" murmured Warren. "Booming water! What does it mean, fellows?"
In silence they gazed toward the strange sight.
CHAPTER XXI More of the Mystery
WELL , for Pete's sake," gasped Terry, when he could speak. "Did you see that?"
"My gosh, could we miss it?" Warren demanded. "Do you suppose—”
"It wasn't a waterspout, anyhow," Martin interrupted. He was standing up in his excitement, almost letting go of the steering handle. "But I'd like to know how that happened. I wonder if it could have been an earthquake?"
"Earthquake?" Terry repeated. "How would that make water shoot up in the air? Say, I think we ought to wait a while before going on to the island. I'd hate to have one of those things open up when we were over it."
Martin reduced their speed to half. "I tell you how it could be an earthquake," he said. "If the earth cracked open there, and closed again suddenly, wouldn't that sort of squoosh the water up?"
"And did you hear the sound it made?" Terry burst out. "Like a cannon!"
"More like thunder," Martin declared. "But an earthquake would make noise, wouldn't it?"
"Don't know—never heard one. We don't have 'em around here, I'm certain of that."
Terry was gazing intently toward the island.
"Expect another?" Warren asked.
"No, but we may get a big wave from the one we saw," Terry answered briefly. "If it comes, we want to take it head on."
"Well by jinks, that's my theory!" Martin exclaimed. "You mean a tidal wave, Terry? That would mean it was an earthquake!"
"No, not especially a tidal wave. There can't be any real tidal waves in a lake. No tide, you know. But I should think a disturbance like that would be felt several miles away. And we haven't seen any big wave yet."
"We probably won't," Warren stated. "These choppy waves would kill it—sort of split it in pieces. We won't get any real big wave."
He was correct in his assumption. They watched eagerly for danger from this source, but as the minutes passed and nothing occurred they relaxed. They were nearing the island now.
Another boat went by about a mile off their port side, but they could not see who was in it. It was not a speed boat, but a heavy, inboard motor boat.
"I'm hungry," Terry announced suddenly.
"What? It's not eleven o'clock yet. Let's wait until we get to the island and we can have a hot meal," objected Warren.
"Steak and potatoes, that's what! And I'll cook 'em," Warren declared.
"Is that so? How do you know you can?"
"Don't worry about that. I've cooked before. One time I—"
"Hey! By jinks, I've got it!" Martin leaped to his feet so suddenly that the boat rocked. His hand left the rubber-covered steering rod and they went off their course, but he brought them back on again quickly.
"What have you got—the jitters?" Warren demanded.
"No sir, I know what made the water shoot up, and what made that noise."
"Well, let's have it," Terry said with an assumption of weariness. "It's probably wrong, but let's hear it"
"I'll take a bet it isn't wrong. Listen. You fellows know what calcium carbide is?"
"In a general way," Terry said dubiously.
"Well, I'll tell you. It's used for lighting in places where they haven't electricity or gas. When water comes in contact with calcium carbide a gas is formed, and this gas, under proper valve control, can be lit. But if a lot of water suddenly gets on a lot of carbide, and there's no outlet for the gas, there's an explosion. And that, gentlemen and scholars, is what happened."
He looked at the others triumphantly. Warren reflectively scratched his head.
"Elucidate, Mr. Bones," he said. "I don't get it."
"You don't? It's perfectly simple. Our friend Jake brought a drum of carbide from the mainland to use as illumination. Maybe he's got an apparatus fixed up so he can light a tent or a shack. Well, somehow this drum fell in the water before he could get it on shore. Water got in the drum through a small hole and the explosion resulted. Ergo, consequently, therefore or what have you."
"You mean the carbide exploded?" Warren demanded.
"Sure it did. From the spurt of water it must have been a pretty big drum. I wonder if anyone was hurt?"
Martin evidently was quite proud of this theory of his. He kept nodding his head as though new ideas coming to him verified and strengthened his conception of the incident.
They chugged along for a bit more than half an hour before they came close to the island. As they approached all kept a good lookout to see if they were on the side where the cove was.
"I don't see any beach yet, do you ?" Terry asked.
"No, I don't," Warren responded. "Hey, Mart, get in as close as you can to shore and we'll see where we are."
They were quite close now, and even beneath the bright sunlight the place had a dismal appearance. The woods which grew close to the shore line were so thick as to be almost impenetrable. They were on the lee side, and it was very quiet and calm, the island protecting this portion of the lake from the prevailing wind. The mainland was merely a line on the horizon. On the other side the mountains were gray and forbidding.
"Golly, this place sure seems like a million miles from nowhere," Terry said in a low voice. "It's a swell place for a hide-out"
"No wonder they call it Mystery Island," Warren said. "Even if I didn't know anything about it I'd say there was something queer. And it isn't because of what happened the other night, either."
"I feel the same way," Martin declared. He cut down their speed, so that they were slowly skirting the shore. "I wonder where that explosion took place?"
"Must have been around here somewhere. We came straight for it. Sure it was, because look—see the dead fish floating!"
Warren pointed, and the others saw a number of lake fish on the surface of the water.
"They were killed by concussion," Terry remarked. "Shall we grab a few, and cook them for lunch?"
"I'd just as soon not," Warren said uneasily. "I don't like the idea. I'd rather fish with a line. We've got tackle with us."
"Sure, leave 'em alone," Martin agreed. "We've got plenty of food. Say, how about that place to land?"
He indicated a small clearing on the shore, where the trees were farther back than in other places. There was no sandy beach, but neither were there any large rocks sticking out of the water, as was most often the case.
"Let's try it," Terry suggested. "Only we better go slow."
Martin retarded the spark, throttled the motor as much as he could, and steered directly for shore. He kept a firm hand on the steering rod, so that if he did see rocks he could tilt up the motor and avoid damaging it. But in a few moments they were safely on shore, and the prow of the boat grated against the pebbly and sandy shore.
"We're here!" Terry exclaimed. "All out, gang]"
The three boys felt a thrill of excitement as they leaped to the shore and pulled the boat farther out of water. Martin had, of course, stopped the motor. He examined the gasoline gage and found there was still some fuel left in the tank.
They stood on the shore and looked about them. The woods here were in the shape of a horseshoe, and they did not seem quite so thick as at other places. Except for the chirping of birds it was very still.
"What a place for a movie," Terry said, waving his hand. "Here is where the villain and the hero have a fight with cutlasses."
"And Ruth and Louise looking on, I suppose," Martin scoffed. "Boy, you should be in the movies yourself!"
"Yeah? All right, all right. I won't say a word. Let it go. Now let's get the stuff out of the boat."
"Then we're going to make a camp around here?" Warren inquired.
"Why not? It's as safe as any place. And if Jake or his friends try to rush us, we can at least see them coming."
"You sure expect trouble," Martin muttered.
"Yes, I do. And I'm not going to be caught unprepared," said Terry determinedly.
"What do you mean?" asked Warren.
"Never mind. I'll tell you later," Terry replied. "Only if—what was that?" he asked with a start as a sudden noise broke the stillness.
"Only a bluejay, a little noisier than usual," chuckled Martin. "Did you think it was another explosion?"
"No, but I sure would like to know what caused that explosion," Terry retorted.
"I guess we all would," said Warren. "It's more of the mystery here."
CHAPTER XXII Jake Lawson Knocks Wood
NOW it was about noon and after taking the dunnage out of the boat the three Outboard Motor Boys set about getting a meal. Terry gathered some dry wood and built a fire, Warren unpacked the cooking utensils, the knives, forks and tin plates, while Martin busied himself in preparing the food. There was steak, potatoes, bread, lettuce and tomatoes. When Terry had the fire going briskly between three stones set upright in the form of a temporary fireplace, Martin placed over the hot embers a gridiron containing a large steak.
"We'll have this broiled," he said. "No fried stuff for us!"
"Yea, bo!" Warren approved. "My favorite dish! What kind of potatoes?"
"Baked, of course, in the hot embers, with plenty of butter, salt and pepper."
"Yez are makin' me mouth run streams!" murmured Terry in broad imitation. "Ef yez are as good as yez t'ink ye are, ye're hired!"
The very sight of food served to raise the boys' spirits, which for some strange reason were a bit depressed when they landed on the island. Perhaps it was because of the sinister appearance of the place, or because they remembered the occasion of their other landing, when they were blown on the island in the storm. At all events they felt better now, and were shouting and whistling as they prepared the meal.
"How about a swim before lunch?" Warren suggested.
"You go ahead if you want to, I'm too busy," Martin answered.
He watched the meat carefully, turning it at the right time so it would cook evenly. When he judged it finished he removed it from the fire and placed it on a large tin platter.
"Who'll carve?" he demanded.
"I, said the sparrow," Terry volunteered. "I will carve, with my little hatchet."
"Not much you won't—not with a hatchet. Get that big knife out of the bundle."
"Yes, sir, immediately, sir."
The steak was done to exactly the proper turn. It might have been a lucky accident that perhaps would not occur again in many cookings, but Martin, true to the tradition of cooks, took all credit unto himself.
"There you are," he said carelessly. "I guess you'll find that's not so bad, for a beginner."
"Not bad? Boy, that's perfect Let's eat!" cried Warren.
The potatoes were ready now, and they were dragged out of the fire, hot and crisp. The butter, which had been well packed in an earthen jar, was not soft, and when they took what they wished it was repacked and placed in a damp hole at the water's edge. Tomatoes and lettuce completed the repast with plenty of bread.
The three sat cross-legged on the ground and began the banquet, for as far as gastronomic perfection was concerned it was little less. The first mouthful of steak told Martin he had concocted a masterpiece.
"Oh, mama mia," Terry sighed. "This is what I call the life."
"And how!" Warren added. "I could do with plenty of this. Let's found a colony—a broiled steak and baked potato colony."
"You'd have lots of recruits," Martin said. "We'd be eaten out in no time. But dig in, there's plenty for us. And after we take a swim."
"Oh, no, after we get the tent up," Terry declared. "We've got to have some place to sleep, you know. We can't eat all the time."
They lingered over the meal, and it was well after two o'clock when they finished. The dishes were cleaned, and the fire carefully extinguished. It would be pretty bad if a forest blaze started on this island, for the trees were so thick there would be little chance of stopping it.
Then they chose a place to pitch the tent, just behind the line of trees, to be out of sight of anyone going by in a boat. They cleared the ground and in an hour had the tent up. They placed the cots in position, put the blankets on, and were ready for the night.
"Are we going to use the boat again today?" Martin asked.
"I don't see why," Terry responded.
"Then let's take the motor off and put it in the case and bring it into the tent. Then we can pull the boat up higher."
"Good idea," Warren approved. "And if it rains the motor won't get wet."
"That wouldn't hurt it," Martin said. "What makes you think it will rain?"
"I don't, but you never know. Say, I wonder if we will get a storm while we're on the island?"
"If we stay two weeks we probably will."
All were thinking the same thing—that storms had the reputation of being pretty bad on Mystery Island, or Misty Island. None of them was really afraid of a storm, but it cannot be denied they were a bit apprehensive.
"Do you think," Terry remarked casually, "we ought to fix up a lightning rod, so in case it does rain—"
"Naw, let's wait," Warren protested. "Besides, what would we make it with?"
"That's a thought," Terry said.
"In the back of the boat under the seat is a length of chain," Martin declared. "I put it there two days ago. But I didn't bring anything to act as a base."
"Yeah. It would be best to bury a piece of metal in the ground, attach the chain to that, then fasten the rest on a high pole."
"Well, we don't have to do that now. Anyhow, I bet this business of lightning is exaggerated. Do you see anything around here that looks like iron ore, or whatever it is that's supposed to be dangerous?"
Terry walked over to a large rock a short distance from the tent. Then he returned and with the hammer end of a hatchet broke off a piece.
"This looks like plain, ordinary rock to me," he stated, holding it out. "It hasn't any of the color of iron about it."
"That's right, it hasn't," Martin agreed, taking it in his hand. "Maybe the metallic rock is in another part of the island."
"Let's hope so," Terry murmured. "I'm not crazy to have a lightning bolt playing tag with me."
The afternoon sun was blazing in the sky, and Warren suggested that it was an ideal time for a swim.
"We can start our real work tomorrow," he added. "I mean searching for Liverright, and finding out whether a stream really does cut this island in half. Just now I think we ought to do a little swimming."
They stayed in the water about an hour, then dressed and began to think about supper. They decided to collect rocks and build a more permanent stone fireplace near the tent, so there would be no danger of sparks flying in a wind. This and other things about the camp occupied their attention until nearly seven o'clock, when it began to get dark.
"We didn't do much exploring today," Terry remarked. "I'd like to investigate that alleged stream through the island."
"Tomorrow, my boy," Martin said lazily. "Warren, you be a good boy and get a bit of wood so we can have a hot supper, which I guarantee to cook to your entire satisfaction."
"O. K., maestro," Warren said. "I shall repair to the dense forest."
He left the camp and went into the woods, picking up the driest sticks he could find. In ten minutes or so he had a fair sized armful and was about to turn back when he realized that he wasn't at all sure which way was back.
"My gosh, I haven't gone far," he said, puzzled. "Let's see. I walked away from the setting sun, I think. So this should be the right path back."
With the wood in his arms he walked slowly toward the west. He looked carefully but did not see any familiar landmarks. The truth of the matter was that he was deep in his own thoughts while he was gathering the fuel and took no note of where he was going.
"I suppose I could yell, and Terry or Martin would hear me," he mused. "But I hate to do that. It seems so silly."
He went on a bit further, and then stopped suddenly, for a figure stepped from behind a tree and confronted him.
"Well, Finn, so you decided to pay us a visit, hey? That's fine! I’ve been wanting to get you guys alone for a long time, and I guess this is my chance."
It was Jake Lawson. He took a step nearer Warren and knocked the bundle of wood from his hands.
CHAPTER XXIII A Straight Left Hook
WARREN FINN was not naturally a pugnacious type. If, without loss of self-respect, he could avoid a scrap, he would do so, and during his school years he had few of those schoolboy battles which middle-aged men love to discourse upon as a way of proving their youthful bravery. Warren did not need to prove to himself that he was brave. He never actually considered the question of how he would act in situations of peril, taking for granted that he would do the best he could and later have no regrets.
When Jake knocked the wood from his arms Warren did not immediately spring at his adversary and strive to beat him to the ground, the way traditional heroes are supposed to act. Instead he stepped back a bit as Jake came toward him and exclaimed:
"Wait a second, Jake. What's the idea?"
"The idea is," Jake snarled, "that I'm going to go to work on you!"
Warren's eyes narrowed. Jake was taller and heavier than he, but this, to Warren, was no reason for running away.
"I suppose you mean by that," Warren said slowly, "that you're going to try to beat me up?"
"Not try, kid, I am."
"It seems a shame," Warren sighed, "to waste a fine evening like this—" He was standing listlessly, his whole attitude one of unpreparedness. Jake was thrown entirely off his guard. He stepped in quickly, confident that he could take Warren by surprise, and get in the first solid blow which, if it landed, would have certainly knocked Warren unconscious. Jake led with his right, a foolish thing to do in any case, but disastrous in this instance.
As Jake swung a "haymaker," Warren came to life as though stung by an electric current. Instead of a listless youth standing with his unclenched hands carelessly at his sides, he became the personification of action.
He did not duck, but, instead, stepped in toward Jake, his left hand forward as a guard. It was on his left arm that fell the blow intended for Warren's chin.
At the same moment Warren sent a short right hook into Jake's stomach, believing, correctly, that this would effectively stop him. Jake let out an “oof” and staggered back. Warren followed up his advantage, hooked a left to Jake's chin, and the fellow went down like a log.
Warren stood over him, panting, not from exertion but from excitement. His blood was up, and if Jake had gotten to his feet at that moment it is certain that he would have gone down again, and this time to stay down. But Warren's blow had been a stiff one, and Jake's head was spinning. He was in no condition to continue the activities.
"That's for getting Teddy Thompson to go out in the canoe and fall overboard," Warren gritted out. "And if you stand up, I'll give you something else to remember me by."
Jake shook his head as though to clear it, but made no attempt to arise. He hoisted himself on one elbow.
"Holy mackerel," he muttered, "what did you hit me with?"
"My fist," Warren informed him. "And I've got plenty more where that came from."
"Get away from me," Jake moaned. "Leave me alone."
Seeing that Jake was incapacitated, Warren cooled somewhat. "You ought to be ashamed of yourself," he said, "trying to cause us trouble after Terry practically saved your life. He pulled you back when you slipped on the rock and cut your head. If it hadn't been for him you'd have slid into the water and been drowned."
"Yeah, I slipped because I was chasing him when he stole my boat," Jake snarled. He was sitting up now. "A lot I have to thank him for."
"Well, suit yourself," and Warren shrugged his shoulders. "But let me tell you one thing—and this goes for any of your gang you've got on this island with you: if you guys try to pull any rough stuff on us, you'll be mighty sorry."
"Hooey." Jake sneered. "Go along, little boy, and roll your marbles." His head was feeling better now, and he was recovering his bravado. But he did not venture to get to his feet, remaining sitting on the ground.
Warren laughed shortly. "Coming from you," he said scornfully, "that sounds like the noise a balloon makes when you let the air out."
He bent down and calmly gathered up his armload of wood. When it was all collected he faced Jake.
"I suppose," he said carefully, "that it wouldn't be past you to heave a rock at me when my back is turned. But boy, you better aim straight, for if you miss I'll get you if I have to chase you all over the island."
As self-possessed as if he were taking an afternoon stroll, Warren turned and walked off through the dusk.
Jake never moved. He sat there, staring at the upright figure until it was lost to his sight. The last remark of Warren's had taken all the conceit out of him, and, as Warren had said, he was like a deflated balloon.
Warren soon discovered he was on the right path for the camp, and in a few minutes he saw the outline of the tent through the dim woods. Terry and Martin were seated in front.
"Where have you been; picking strawberries?" Terry called.
"We were just about to send out a searching party," Martin said. "We thought you had gotten lost"
Warren did not answer immediately. He walked to the newly constructed fireplace and near it dumped his load of wood. Then, casually, he said:
"I got into a little argument with Jake Lawson."
"Lawson!" Terry echoed, and jumped to his feet. "Is he around here?"
"About as near as he can get without being inside that tent," Warren replied. "As far as I know, he may still be sitting on the ground about a quarter of a mile in that direction," and he pointed.
"Sitting on the ground?" Terry repeated, puzzled.
"What's he doing sitting on the ground?"
"Waiting until his jaw gets better."
"You mean you had a fight?" cried Martin excitedly.
"Sort of. He swung with his right—very silly. I guarded and let him have a couple. Not much to it—he shouldn't have led with his right. There's many a boxer selling pencils because he insisted on leading with the right."
"Well, what did Jake say? How did it happen? Stop being so mysterious and tell us the whole story, will you?"
Warren obeyed. When he finished Martin said: "Didn't see anything of Mrs. Liverright's brother-in-law?"
"Nothing. He may have been near by, but he didn't show himself. Well, there's only one thing for us to do. Jake isn't going to forgive that punch in the jaw. It's a cinch he knows we're camping here. We'll have to establish a guard to keep watch during the nights."
At the mention of the word "guard" the three boys felt tingles go through them. This was real stuff. No play acting this time. Jake really meant mischief, and it was up to them to protect themselves.
"How are we going to do that—draw lots, like we did before?" Terry inquired. "I guess that would be the fairest way, wouldn't it?"
"Sure. Suppose we split the night into, say, four parts. Each part to consist of two hours. That'll give us eight hours all told, and we ought to get enough sleep in that time. Like this—suppose we figure on turning in at ten o'clock, and you, Terry, take the first watch from ten to twelve. Then you wake me up and I take the next, from twelve to two. Then I wake Martin up and he takes from two to four and so on. By six o'clock it's daylight. That'll give each one—let's see—at least six hours' sleep. And the one who goes on at ten can sleep two hours before that, and the one on last can sleep two hours in the morning, so we'll manage to get in eight actual hours. How does that sound?"
"Sounds O. K.," Martin approved. The truth was that they would have gladly sacrificed sleep for the thrill of remaining on guard. If it became necessary to continue the guard over a period of a week or longer they might get tired of it, but while it was new they were excited at the prospect.
Martin set about getting supper now, and they talked in low tones of the events of the day. The fire was lit and it threw strange shadows on the thick wall of trees which surrounded them. The one cheery note was the crackling of the burning wood and the sizzling of bacon in the pan, for this is what the menu held tonight.
As before, they drew sticks to decide who should take the various hours of the night. Martin had from ten to twelve, Terry from twelve to two, and Warren from two to four, and so on in rotation. The watch which Terry brought proved invaluable, and it was arranged that it would change hands with the guard.
"If anything happens, I'll yell at you fellows," Martin said.
"No, I wouldn't yell—awaken us quietly if you can," Warren objected. "Then if they try any funny work instead of surprising us we can surprise them. It may be that Jake has some of his bunch with him—Southworthy Jackson and Al Barton. In that case he might try to tip over the tent and destroy our food store, so as to force us to leave. That's what we've got to watch out for."
"Yeah, you're right. I don't think he'd have the nerve to do us actual harm, but you never know." "No, you can't tell with fellows like that. He's a mean guy, and he's likely to do almost anything." After they had cleaned the supper dishes they took their flashlights and went to take a last look at the boat. It was pulled well out of the water and moored and the motor and oars, as well as the rest of the cargo, were in the tent, so there seemed little likelihood of it being stolen.
"But not to take any chances," Terry said, "suppose we tie an extra rope to the bow and lead the end to the tent, so if anybody takes it we'll know it?"
"They could cut the rope easily enough," Martin objected. "No, I guess we'll have to take a chance. The only thing Jake could do would be to set it adrift. But it's well hidden here, and he may not see it"
They returned to camp and sat around the fire. By Terry's watch it was nine-thirty. Lanterns were lit inside the tent, but mosquitoes and bugs started to congregate, so the lights were put out.
Terry yawned, and declared:
"I'm going to hit the hay. Coming, Wawa?"
"Yeah. We better get some sleep. Don't forget to call Terry, Mart. Good luck, kiddo."
The two went inside the tent, and Martin sat down to begin his two-hour guard duty.
He made himself comfortable with his back against a tree where he could look into the dark shadows and where the glare of the fire would not dazzle his eyes.
"I wonder," he murmured, "if anything will happen?" His ears were strained for the slightest sound.
CHAPTER XXIV Dangerous Threats
NOISES which Martin did not hear before now came to his ears with startling distinctness. There were queer squeals and yowls, far off and faint, but to Martin magnified until he thought them almost upon him. He knew there were animals on this island, as there were all over this part of the state—so-called wildcats, bear, skunks, deer, etc. They would not attack a man, he knew, unless crazy with hunger, and perhaps not even then. But as the sounds of the forest came to him he arose and threw a few pieces of wood on the fire.
Then he searched around until he found the ax, and sat down with the comforting feeling of the handle in his fingers.
He had Terry's watch in his pocket, and he could hear the sound of its ticks, which to him were like ticks of a grandfather's clock. Then he heard a "har-rumph!" and leaped to his feet, the ax clenched tightly.
It was only Terry in the tent clearing his throat.
Martin reseated himself, his back to a tree just to the left of the tent entrance. For what he thought was half an hour he sat quietly, watching the fire and telling himself that a new noise he just heard was simply two tree branches scraping together. Then he looked at the watch and by the light of the fire saw it was exactly ten minutes after ten.
"Golly, that's funny," he murmured. "Is that as long as I've been here? Why, the old watch must have stopped!"
But this theory was entirely untenable for the ticking of the timepiece was plainly to be heard. Martin put the watch back in his pocket and resumed his vigil.
At eleven o'clock he got to his feet and added more wood to the embers, then reseated himself. It was quite pleasant here when you got used to it, he thought, and the woods appeared more friendly now. That impression of enemies lurking behind every tree was gone.
When next Martin looked at the watch it was eleven-thirty and he yawned and stretched. With his arms over his head he became conscious of someone watching him, and his heart leaped violently.
Was that the figure of a man, just over there by that big pine tree?
Slowly Martin lowered his arms and grasped the ax handle. Then he remained quiet. He wasn't sure, yet, that it was a man, for the figure remained motionless. Martin wanted desperately to yell: "Hey, who are you? What do you want?" But he refrained and sat waiting, his heart going like a trip-hammer.
Then the figure moved, and Martin was certain it was a man, and not an animal. The man came closer.
Now Martin got to his feet, very slowly, facing the intruder. As yet he could not see who the man was, so he took several steps nearer. He felt as he did this that it was a foolish move, for it took him from the partial protection of the tent and the tree against which he had been leaning and brought him more in the open, subject to attack from all sides. But it would not do to retreat now, so he kept going.
The fire flared up suddenly as it ate into a new stick and Martin saw that the figure wore a long overcoat—that it was the man whom they had seen in the speed boat—undoubtedly Mrs. Liverright's brother, as she called him.
"Hey, Mr. Liverright," Martin said softly. "Come here, I want to talk to you. I won't hurt you—"
He remembered, then, that he was carrying the ax, and dropped it to the ground.
"I just want to ask you a few questions," he continued in a low voice. He could not tell whether Liverright heard him, for the man did not move.
"Wouldn't you like to see your sister-in-law again?" Martin asked.
This seemed to touch a responsive chord, for the man started. "Sister?" he whispered. "Where is sister?"
"She's at Wiltshire. She is anxious to see you."
Martin began to talk more loudly, hoping to awaken Terry and Warren. But he realized that if he deliberately called them, Liverright would certainly run away and he might remain hidden until the boys left the island.
"I'm not really lonesome," he said in that queer voice that was like a man talking in his sleep. "I have friends."
"We're your friends," Martin asserted. "The others aren't."
"Jake isn't my friend? Oh, yes he is—he showed me where to hide—"
He stopped and looked around him, as though he feared being overheard. Martin could scarcely conceal his excitement. He felt that at any moment Liverright would give away the hiding place of the bonds.
"Have you hidden something?" Martin asked with an assumption of carelessness. "Is it in a safe place?"
"Oh, it's in a safe place all right," Liverright chuckled. "Even Jake don't know exactly where it is. He thinks he does, but I want to fool him, for a while, before I tell him. He thinks they're where he told me to put them, but they're not—they're not—" and he chuckled again, an eerie laugh that made shivers go up and down Martin's back.
"I'm glad to hear that," said the boy, swallowing hard and striving to keep a grip upon himself, for this strange situation was beginning to get on his nerves. "But don't you think we could keep them better for you? We could bring them back to your sister, and—"
"Bring what back?" the man asked sharply, and Martin saw, by the firelight, the vague expression leave his face and be replaced by a look of cupidity. "What do you want to bring back?"
Martin realized that he was in a ticklish spot. Unless immediately he thought of something reassuring to say Liverright would become antagonistic and all the ground he had gained would be lost.
"Why, whatever it is you have hidden," Martin said innocently. "I don't know what it is—I only want to help you. And it must be tiresome to have to keep watch all the time, afraid someone will steal them from you."
The man's face softened. He nodded his head slowly and said:
"It is tiresome, boy—very tiresome. And I'm tired too. I don't sleep well. I have funny dreams. That's why I walk around most of the night. That's why I came to visit you. I wanted to see who you were. Somehow I remember you—I saw you some place before. Let me see—where was that—"
At all costs Martin did not want hirn to recall the fight on the beach, for this would brand them for him as enemies.
"We only came this morning," Martin said quickly. "We're camping out."
"Camping out, eh?" he said brightly. "That must be fun. Say, I know a fine place to camp out. Where we camp. Jake and Al Barton and myself. We've got a great place—in a sort of a cove. On the other side of the island. Maybe you'll visit us, eh?"
"Maybe," Martin agreed. "I'd like to find a hiding place myself for something, and maybe you could help me."
"I can! I can! I know the best hiding place in the world—where no one would ever find it! But I guess I'd better go now—they'll be after me—"
He turned away uncertainly. Martin made a last attempt at securing information.
"I'd like to ride in your speed boat some time," he remarked.
The man spun around. "That's where I saw you!" he exclaimed. "I went to get some gasoline —it was a foolish thing to do—you were on the dock—you and two others—I shouldn't have stopped there—I might be caught—"
He put his hand to his mouth in fright. His last words were in a loud voice, and Martin was sure they would awake Terry and Warren.
In this he was right. Terry stuck his head out of the tent and called:
"Hey, what's going on there?"
Liverright stood frozen in his tracks. Martin could see that fear almost paralyzed the man.
"All right, Terry, all right," Martin said quickly, hoping to soothe Liverright "It's just a friend of ours—"
Terry emerged, followed by Warren. Both had on shorts and pajama waists. They could see that Martin was talking to someone, but he was between Liverright and the fire, so they could not see who it was.
"Stay there, you fellows," Martin called again. "It's all right—this is a friend of ours, and we're his friends—"
"It's Liverright," Terry said in a low voice, sensing the true situation. "Martin doesn't want to scare him off. We better hang back."
All this time Liverright remained perfectly still. By the fire's ruddy glow Martin could see a series of emotions cross his countenance. Surprise was succeeded by fright, then anger appeared, and finally cunning.
"You'll never get me!" Liverright cried, and began to back into the woods. "You want to hurt me!"
"We don't want to hurt you!" Martin exclaimed strongly. "We have a message from your sister— she wants to see you!"
"That's all right—I know someone who sent a message to her, too! I saw him write it—we want her to leave us alone! We want everyone to leave us alone—we got plans—big plans!"
He was almost out of sight now, and Martin made no move to follow him. The voice was coming from the darkness of the forest.
"And don't try to find us, or we'll blow you all up!" Liverright vindictively went on, his voice fading as he sank further into the woods. "We've got stuff that will blow the whole island up, if we want to! So you let us alone!"
"Liverright! Mr. Liverright!" Martin shouted. "Wait a minute!"
He listened, but heard no answer. The man was gone.
"My glory," Terry gasped, "what a thing to wake up to!"
"What in thunder happened?" Warren demanded.
"Blow the island up," Martin said slowly. "Then it wasn't carbide that we saw explode— fellows, this thing is beginning to get serious!"
CHAPTER XXV The Deadly Rattler
PORTENTOUS silence, for a moment, followed the departure of Liverright. Then, as the echoes of his footfalls died away in the darkness of the forest, Warren whispered:
"What shall we do?"
"What we have been doing," sharply answered Terry. "Stand guard!"
The remainder of the night was uneventful though the boys found it difficult, when their turns came, to get much sleep. They realized, more than ever, now, the necessity for keeping a strict watch at all times. Liverright was not responsible for his actions. If it was true that he did possess some dangerous explosives—and how could they doubt it in view of what they had seen when approaching the island?—then they must guard themselves well.
As Martin and Terry were lying on their cots, with Warren on guard in the darkness outside, Martin whispered:
"No, I've been lying here, thinking. What time is it?"
"Don't know." Then a little later Terry murmured: "It must be near dawn. I hear the birds beginning to chirp. What do you think of that fellow Liverright? Do you think we'll ever be able to find him again?"
"Sure we will. I figure that tomorrow—I mean today—two of us ought to try to find that cove. The only thing is that we'll be running right into Jake's hands. If he has any friends with him—by jinks, Liverright did say something about Al Barton. I bet he's in with Jake on this thing. Hum, that makes it a little more complicated."
"You mean we'll have to go to the cove sometime when Jake and the others are away?"
"That's it. And I think we better go on foot. Look—suppose you and I strike across the island and try to find that stream. Then we can follow up the stream to the cove. And if we see Jake or the other two around we can get away without them knowing we were there."
"But what good will that do?"
"Don't you see—later we can go around in the boat, ride right up the stream, and settle this business once and for all. I don't think, if it comes to a scrap, that Liverright will mix in it. That leaves the three of us to handle Jake and Barton. We can do that all right."
"Why don't you think Liverright will mix in?"
"Because he's changed his opinion about us— and anyhow, I think the only reason that he attacked us before was that he had some sort of a fit. We can talk him out of it all right—I'm convinced of that."
"Well, I don't know. You can never tell what a mentally unbalanced person will do. Our real purpose here is to recover the bonds and get him back to his folks. The best way to do that is to find him some day when he's alone, and try to convince him we don't wish him any harm."
"Sure it is! But he said he had a camp in the cove, and that's where we're sure to find him. I say let's investigate. If we find him there alone we can go up and talk to him. If Jake and Al are there, we'll sneak away and come back again. We can pull the boat up somewhere on the bank of the stream and go the rest of the way on foot."
"All right. Ah-h-h-h, boy! I'm sleepy. We better get some shut-eye."
They succeeded finally in getting to sleep, and when dawn came the guard was relaxed and all three slept for several hours. They awoke refreshed at about nine o'clock.
They ate a good breakfast and felt in fine spirits as they sat about the fire to discuss the plans for locating Liverright and securing the bonds.
"Terry and I were talking this thing over," Martin said, "and we thought it would be a good plan if two of us started to explore the island in the direction of the cove. If we can find Liverright alone, so much the better. If we can't we'll come back and try again."
"Sure—that sounds O. K.," Warren said. "You want me to stay in camp?"
"If it's all right with you. Or we can draw straws."
"I don't mind staying. When do you want to start?"
"Good enough! How long do you figure you'll be gone?"
"Well, we can take some stuff to eat—in case we don't get back for lunch. We can always get drinking water." There were springs on the island, but the lake water was pure and no harm would come to them from drinking it. "It can't be more than five or six miles across the island," Martin went on. "We'll have to go slowly, because the woods are thick and also we don't want to be seen."
"All right. You start any time you please. I'll stay around here. I can collect firewood and do odd jobs while you're gone."
They put up some food and, saying "so long" to Warren, they cut straight back through the woods. The watch with the compass on the back they took with them.
For several miles they tramped through the forest, over rocks and through brush. The going was not easy.
"Don't see any sign of that stream yet," Terry remarked as they rested a moment. "That must have been a pretty old map we looked at."
"It was. Come on, we can't afford to waste too much time."
They trudged forward, and Martin, who was leading, exclaimed:
"Say, that looks like water ahead, doesn't it?"
Through the trees they could see something that sparkled, and listening carefully they made out the chuckling sound water makes as it flows over rocks. They hurried forward.
"By golly, here it is," Terry cried. "Only it doesn't cut right through the island. Seems to me it describes a half circle—starts at the cove, winds around here, and comes out at another point, about halfway between our camp and the cove."
They stood on the banks of the stream and saw that it was easily deep and wide enough to accommodate their boat.
"Shall we follow this up?" Martin said.
"Sure, why not? I figure the cove ought to be about due north from where we are. If we're right about this stream, it should come out at a point east of here. Let's see if it does."
Excited at their find, they walked rapidly along the banks of the stream which was the result of a strong lake current, and after traveling about two miles decided to rest and have something to eat. They had brought with them some bread and cheese and two apples.
"What we want to do," said Martin, munching away, "is to make sure where this other outlet is. Then we can circle the island in our boat until we come to it, steer up the stream until we get near the cove, and be in a good position to examine Jake's camp."
"You don't think he'd find the boat and steal it?"
"No, because we'll take the motor out and hide it in the woods. That's one of the advantages of an outboard—you can carry the power plant along with you and safeguard your boat."
They finished their light repast and continued their explorations. It was two o'clock by the watch when they reached the stream's outlet. To their surprise this was as well guarded by nature as the other end of the stream. Thick brush grew around the point where the stream joined the lake, and it would take keen eyes to find the spot unaided by previous information.
"Talk about a secret passage," Terry remarked, "this has got 'em all beat. Look, a boat could sneak in here and a minute later be out of sight."
"That ought to suit Jake and his friends," Martin commented.
"Now, the thing is, can we spot this if we come around this way in the Watermar? Let's see. Those three evergreens growing close together—they'll serve as one landmark."
"Yes, and see that gray rock on the right? The one sticking out? That'll be another."
"Well, I guess we can—"
Terry was standing on a rock a short distance from the stream. Suddenly he slipped and fell on his hands and knees, amid rock and brush.
Martin saw he was unhurt and was about to laugh at his friend's clumsiness, when almost below Terry came a noise like steam escaping through an open vent. It was a sound that froze the blood in his veins. Martin heard it and his face went white as a sheet.
"Terry," he said hoarsely, "don't move—a rattler!"
Terry couldn't move. Panic, a fear that would seize the bravest man, held him motionless. Once more came that deadly "r-r-r-r-r-r," seemingly closer.
With frantic eyes Martin searched the ground. Then he saw the snake. It was between him and Terry, not three feet from the boy on his hands and knees.
"Stay quiet," Martin said again, his voice coming through blanched lips.
Desperately he looked about for a stick. The snake was a big one. If he struck at Terry there would be little chance to save his life, for there was no anti-venom on the island. By the time they got Terry to the mainland it would undoubtedly be too late. The rattler in this section of the country was one of the most poisonous snakes in North America.
Martin could see the full length of the snake. It had not fully reared, but its head rising from the coils was toward Terry. The tail of the rattler was within a few feet of where Martin stood.
Again he gazed about him, but there was no stick of sufficient size. If he threw a rock, and missed, the snake would surely strike.
Terry was scarcely breathing. He could not see the snake. For all he knew the reptile was actually under him. He dared not turn his head to find out.
"Just a second, Terry—" Martin gritted out.
"R-r-r-r-r!" went that warning sound. And now the snake moved forward, slowly, as if to investigate the strange object that was in his path.
It was a time for quick and decisive action. Martin's mind formed a desperate plan. It was fraught with danger for himself, but it was the only thing to do if he was to save Terry's life.
Two long strides brought him close to the reptile. Then he bent over swiftly, held his arm well out from his body, and, seizing firm hold of the snake's tail, he yanked him viciously back.
The serpent's head struck Martin's leg in passing. Martin could feel the blow. But so sudden was the snap he gave the rattler that there was no time to imbed the fangs. The next moment the big snake was several yards in the rear, his warning signal going full blast, but now the sound was that of frustrated viciousness.
Martin's sudden action aroused Terry. He leaped to his feet.
"Are you all right, kid, are you all right?" he kept asking. "Did he get you? Are you all right?"
"Sure," Martin said weakly. "His head hit me, that's all. Listen to himl"
"Let's get out of here," Terry exclaimed. "There may be more."
"Yeah, sure," Martin agreed. His voice was low. Terry, conscious of the situation, seized Martin's arm.
"Beat it," he said sharply. "Snap out of it."
Strength flowed back into Martin. For a moment the nearness of death to his chum unnerved him. He was not thinking at all how close he himself had been to being bitten, but only of Terry's narrow escape.
"All right," Martin breathed. He strode quickly toward the water's edge. Here it was open, and they could see on all sides of them. The snake was still uttering surprised complaints back in the brush.
"Boy, that was a brave thing to do," Terry said. He made no attempt to thank Martin. They knew each other too well for that. "I don't think I would have had the nerve," he confessed. "Baby, it sure was close!"
"Yes, you would," Martin said briefly. "It was the only thing to do."
"Yeah, but—" Terry shook his head. "To grab a rattler by the tail! Golly! Suppose he slipped out of your hand and turned?"
Martin shrugged his shoulders. He was feeling better now.
"I got a tight hold," he said. "I could feel the rattles in my hand. They felt like a lot of buttons on a string. I could feel them move. Ugh!" He shuddered, then laughed. "Listen to him speaking his piece!"
"Well, let's not interrupt him," Terry declared. "Come on, we'll walk along the water's edge for a ways."
They spoke little as they trudged through the soft soil. Each was thinking the same thing—how terrible it would have been were the other bitten. The danger brought them very close together, but like all American youths they did not display their emotions. There was a more definite communication between them, that of spirit.
"We better get back to camp," Terry said finally. "Warren will want to know what we found."
"Yeah," Martin agreed.
They quickened their pace. Martin, who was in the lead, tripped. He looked down, and uttered an exclamation of surprise.
Along the ground, almost buried in pine needles, ran several strands of wire.
CHAPTER XXVI The Waterspout
IMMEDIATELY there flashed through Martin's mind the explosion they had seen when approaching the island.
"Terry," he said breathlessly, "look—an electric wire! Running out into the lake! Remember the explosion? This ought to explain it, hey? I bet—"
Terry was fingering the wire.
"It might be for a telephone or telegraph," he said softly. "So Jake could communicate with the mainland. But that doesn't seem so probable. You think it has something to do with what we saw, is that it, Mart?"
"I sure do. And I'm going to find out."
Martin sat down on a stone and began to remove his shoes and stockings. To Terry's look of surprise he declared:
"I'm going to wade out and see if I can find the end of the wire. If it's what I think it is, it doesn't go out very far."
"Listen," Terry began. "Take it easy, Mart. You don't know what you're running into. We can't afford to take any chances on getting hurt, you know."
"Don't worry," Martin said briefly, and stepped out into the lake.
He picked up the wire and followed it along. Terry watched him from the shore. When Martin had gone about twenty-five feet the water began to get deep, until it was up to his thighs.
"I might as well get good and wet," he called back. "I'm not going to stop now."
He walked boldly forward, and soon the water was up to his waist and then to his chest.
"Jiminy," he exclaimed. "This goes further than I thought it would!"
"Let it go and we'll come back in the boat," Terry cried. "What's—"
A shout behind him swung him around. It was more of a screech than a shout, and Terry caught his breath sharply. Then a man burst out of the woods and began running toward him. It was Liverright.
"Look out, look out!" he yelled. "Jake—he's going to throw the switch—look out!"
"Throw what switch?" Terry demanded. Then, as a terrible suspicion came to him, he shouted:
"Mart, swim back, quick! Mart! Hey, Mart—"
The rest of the sentence was lost in a tumult of sound. Almost under Martin arose a waterspout. It shot in the air amid a fearful roar. Then it fell back upon the broiling waves beneath. The sudden stillness had the effect of a thunderclap.
Terry, his eyes starting from his head, scanned the surface of the lake. Martin was nowhere to be seen.
"Mart, Mart!" he called frantically, and began to run to the water's edge.
Without stopping to remove even his coat, he plunged in. As he did so he saw a head rise above the still tumultuous water.
"Mart, Mart!" he yelled, and swam desperately toward his friend. He reached him just as the boy was sinking again.
The limpness of the body he held was frightening. He could not tell whether Martin was alive or dead. Keeping the head well out of water, he swam back to the beach, and pulled Martin to dry ground. The boy's face was deathly white.
"Mart, old boy!" Terry whispered agonizedly.
"Stick with it, kid—don't go out on me—"
Whether or not Martin heard the words Terry never knew. But at that moment Martin opened his eyes and shook his head weakly from side to side.
"My gosh," he muttered. "What hit me?"
The blood surged into Terry's face, and he almost sobbed in his relief. He placed a trembling hand on Martin's shoulder.
"Oh, boy," he gasped. "You sure had me scared!"
"He's all right?" asked a voice, and Terry jerked up his head to see Liverright standing over him. He had not known the man was there, so intent was he on Martin's condition.
"Say," Terry exclaimed in surprise. "I want to—"
But Liverright was gone. His long legs carried him back into the woods, his coat flapping grotesquely.
"Let me up," Martin muttered. "We've got to stop him—"
"We don't have to do anything," said Terry soothingly. "You lie back and keep quiet for a while. Then we'll see what we can do about getting you to camp."
Fifteen minutes later Martin recovered enough strength to get on his feet. He was not really injured, but the shock of the explosion had knocked him unconscious for several minutes.
As they started slowly for camp, Terry half supporting Martin, the latter laughed shakily.
"Well, I was right—the wire did lead to dynamite, or some other explosive," he declared. "But I didn't think Jake would set it off just then."
"But what was the idea?" Terry said, puzzled. "Why plant dynamite in the lake? I can't see—"
"Do you remember the dead fish we saw floating around?" Martin asked quietly.
"That's the answer. That's how Jake makes a living—dynamiting fish. It's against the law. That's why the speed boat is here, and that's why he stole the outboard motor to equip another boat —so he could get his fish to the mainland and store them in an icehouse somewhere, until he had a chance to sell them. Oh, it's a great racket—and plenty of money in it. Only it's the most unsportsmanlike thing a person could do, to my mind."
"My glory," Terry gasped. "What the mischief do you know about that! So that's the dope on the explosions, hey? And I suppose the reason Jake came here when there were storms coming up is so he could set off an unusually big charge, and it wouldn't be noticed from the mainland because of the rain and the thunder!"
"That's the way I figure it," Martin said grimly. He was regaining his strength rapidly now, and could walk without assistance. "So you see what kind of a bunch Liverright is in with. We've got to get him out of Jake's hands somehow, while he still has those bonds intact."
They reached camp late that afternoon, for they had to go slowly. When Warren heard the news he jumped to his feet.
"I'll bet Jake set that charge off hoping to kill you, Mart," he exclaimed, his eyes blazing. "I'm for finding that fellow right now, and—"
"Take it easy," Terry counseled. "I don't believe that Jake would actually try to hurt Martin. I don't think he knew Mart was near the dynamite."
"He must have!" Terry insisted. "He must have been able to see the lake from where the switch is located!"
"Not necessarily," Martin argued. "We didn't see any switch. No, I don't think Jake would have nerve enough to try to kill me. He may have wanted to frighten me so we'd leave the island, and didn't realize how near the dynamite I was."
"Well—" Warren said stubbornly, then stopped. He shook his head and went into the tent to open a can of soup, for Martin, due to his weakened condition, was getting chilled.
The boys stayed in camp for four days, while Martin regained his full strength and recovered from the shock. They decided that nothing could be done while one of them was on the sick list.
During this time they fished, Terry and Warren went swimming, and they made plans for finding Liverright and recovering the bonds.
One night when sitting in front of the tent— they had not relaxed the guard, but split it up into two details, the one on duty permitting himself to fall into a light slumber—Terry was startled by something hitting him. He leaped to his feet, but saw no one; near him was a stone with a note tied to it.
He switched on his flashlight and read:
"Sorry the boy got hurt. It wasn't my fault. It was Jake's. He's a bad man. He wants something I have, but I won't give it to him. I'm afraid of him. Will you help me? Come to the cove. I want to go back home."
It was signed "Thomas Liverright."
CHAPTER XXVII In Deadly Peril
THE morning they were to start for the cove, which they now called Hidden Cove because its location was so well concealed by nature, dawned red and warm. The sun was a burnished ball.
"Be a fine day," Martin exclaimed.
"Red sun at morning, sailors take warning," Terry remarked.
"That's one of those sayings that are true maybe once in five times, and people forget how often they are wrong," Martin returned. "I'll bet it'll be a swell day."
As they prepared the boat for its journey they talked of the note thrown into their camp. It was not printed, but in handwriting that indicated the writer was an educated man.
"If we ever had a chance to get those bonds and bring Liverright back with us, this is it," Terry asserted. "He's about fed up with Jake, I guess. Even if he is a little crazy, he knows Jake only wants one thing—those bonds."
"And we've got to get to Liverright before Jake finds them," Martin said grimly.
They hurried with their preparations and were soon ready to start. They took with them some food, a rope, and the ax, leaving the rest of their things in the tent.
"If Jake wants to steal the stuff, let him," Warren said. "We'll get it back later. The most important thing now is to find Liverright and the bonds. We can't afford to worry about the tent. How do you feel, Mart old kid?"
"Great," Martin answered, stretching. "Never felt better!"
They pushed off, and with Warren at the steering handle they started for the point where the stream cut through the island. They were surprised how long it took them to reach it, for it was nearly noon when they saw the group of evergreens and the rock that marked the entrance.
"It seemed shorter when we came across the island," Martin commented. "I suppose this way, I mean by water, is more roundabout."
When they entered the mouth of the stream Martin glanced at the sky. It was overcast, with a peculiar saffron tint. The air seemed close.
"Something tells me," he said in a low voice, "that we're going to have a storm."
"Rats," Terry burst out. Their nerves were a little on edge, not from fear, but from excitement. "It won't rain."
As though in prophetic answer, a single thunderclap crashed out.
"Thought so," Martin said briefly. They continued up the stream, talking little, intent only on reaching the cove. But the storm was no respecter of intentions. A few minutes later it burst in all its fury.
Before the rain came the thunderbolts. Lightning crashed seemingly on all sides of the boat. The three in the craft could scarcely hear each other's voices, even when they shouted.
Warren sought to land the boat, but there were rocks on either side and it would mean destruction if the craft were forced upon them. Fortunately the force of the wind was broken by the trees which bordered the stream. But the current itself was getting stronger, and Warren was forced to exert considerable pressure on the steering handle to prevent the boat from being crushed against the rocks.
He saw suddenly a small open space on the left bank and made for this. Terry and Martin were sitting in the bow, ready to leap ashore and fasten the boat by a rope to a tree.
"As soon as she touches, jump!" Warren yelled at the top of his voice. Terry, with the rope in his hand, nodded.
The prow of the boat grated against the river bottom. Terry sprang out, Martin following. With desperate energy they pulled the boat up as far as it would go and tied the rope firmly about a tree.
A flash of lightning almost blinded them, and the thunder roared in their ears.
"This is a bad place!" Warren exclaimed as he scrambled ashore. "There must be lots of iron ore around here!"
It seemed to the three boys that the storm had centered right over them and that they were the target for the terrifying lightning bolts. One discharge was so close that they felt the tingle of the electricity and saw a tree, several hundred feet away, felled to the ground.
"We'll be lucky if we get out of this!" Martin shouted.
Then they saw something that caused them to gasp in surprise. A boat was roaring down the stream—the speed boat, and in it were Jake and his friend Al Barton!
"Hey!" Martin shouted. "Lawson! Where's Liverright?"
As the boat passed close to them they saw Jake and Al turn terror-stricken faces toward them.
"Liverright!" Martin yelled again. "Where is he?"
Jake waved a hand.
"The cove—dynamite!" he screeched. "It'll blow up—lightning!"
"Where's Liverright?" Terry demanded.
"Back—at the cove—" And the boat sped past them, skirting the rocks, and was out of sight.
"We've got to—" Terry began, when a terrific thunderclap silenced him. But the others knew what he meant, and wasting no words they ran stumblingly through the rain in the direction of the cove.
Liverright was there. Jake and Al had abandoned him to his fate. If lightning struck the store of dynamite he would be destroyed. It was a desperate chance, but the boys took it. They rushed on, and finally broke into the clearing beyond which was the cove.
The tent that Jake and the others had lived in was torn and lay on the ground. Near it was a box, painted red. Standing beside it, as though turned to stone, was Liverright. He was hatless, and his long coat was flapping in the wind.
"Liverright!" Martin shouted. "Come here— quick!"
He did not seem to understand. In his hand he held an ax, and he looked at it dazedly.
Terry was the first to reach him. "Liverright!" he exclaimed. "You've got to get out of here! There's dynamite in that box—"
The man was crazed with fright. He raised the ax. Terry knew there was only one thing to do, and he did it. Stepping in quickly, he swung a hard right. It caught Liverright on the jaw and he went down, his head striking a small stone. The ax fell from his hand and landed near the red box.
Swiftly Terry bent and, aided by Martin and Warren, picked up the unconscious man. He was not heavy, but with the wind and rain beating on them they had a hard struggle to retrace their steps and plod back to their boat, away from that ominous red box.
A thin trickle of blood ran down Liverright's neck from his head. The three did not talk. This was a nightmare. Even thought seemed to stop. They struggled along almost automatically.
Finally they reached the boat. They bundled Liverright in it and Terry loosed the rope that held the craft to the tree.
"Get in," he gasped. "I'll shove off!"
Martin and Warren obeyed. Warren went back to the outboard motor and started it. Terry gave a strong push and leaped in beside his chums.
Then they were in the middle of the stream, the faithful motor propelling them away from the cove and that dangerous charge of dynamite in the red box. But none too soon.
CHAPTER XXVIII Rescued
THEY crouched low, shielding themselves against the onslaught of the rain. Liverright was in the bottom of the boat. Martin removed his coat and placed it beneath the man's head.
Every minute brought them nearer the mouth of the stream. The lightning was crashing into the ground and they could see trees falling on all sides.
"Boy, what a storm, what a storm!" Terry muttered, scarcely realizing what he was saying.
It seemed that they would never reach the open lake. They realized that they had to get as far away as possible from the dynamite, for should a bolt strike the box the resulting explosion would be terrific. The ax they had brought with them caught Martin's eye, and he tossed it overboard. This would be a target for the lightning as was the motor itself, but they had no way of protecting that. Then Martin recalled seeing the ax that Liverright had held fall near the red box. This might attract the lightning and then—
"There's the entrance," Terry yelled. "Steer to the right, Wawa! Get out of this stream, and beach the boat!"
Warren nodded silently. As they came into the lake a fierce gust of wind caught them. There was no need for Warren to beach the boat. It was blown upon the shore. They sprang out and lifted Liverright from the craft. Then they pulled the Watermar up as far as they could and began their journey along the beach, carrying the unconscious man.
Of a sudden an ear-splitting roar rent the air. The ground trembled beneath their feet. They stumbled and dropped Liverright, then the three threw themselves face downward.
Bits of wood and stone fell about them. They clung to the ground with their hands, each wondering vaguely why he was still alive. For several moments they lay there. And as though the explosion had flung a challenge to the storm itself, there were two more crashes, very close to them, as the lightning darted from the clouds.
Warren turned his head and gazed at the spot where they had left the boat. It was still intact.
"Jingo," he murmured. "By jingo—"
"What's this—what's this?" a sharp voice demanded. "What's happened here? What's all this—"
Liverright was sitting up. In his eyes was the unmistakable look of sanity. He put his hand to his head and looked at it in surprise.
"Blood," he said. "I've been cut. Say, what—"
He stopped, and as the others watched him, his hand went to the inside pocket of his overcoat. He drew out a package of papers.
"Thank goodness," he sighed. "I was afraid I had lost them. I've got to get them to the bank for my brother Laurence. My, isn't it raining!"
He gazed at the three boys in puzzled wonder and they, no less wonderingly, stared at him. It was a strange ending to their exciting adventures to see this pitiful figure sitting on the ground in the rain. The lightning was less severe now, and the thunder a low, distant rumble. The storm had passed.
Thomas Liverright placed a trembling hand on his forehead. Suddenly he began to realize that all this was very queer.
“Who—who are you?" he muttered. "Something happened—I've had a bad dream—I can remember taking some bonds—they belonged to my brother—" He stopped, and shook his head. "It's so vague," he murmured. "I know I wanted to put the bonds in the bank for him. I was afraid they would be stolen if they were left in the house overnight. Then there was a long journey—how did I get here? Why am I out in the rain?"
''Never mind, Mr. Liverright," Martin said gently. "Everything is going to be all right. You'll soon be at home with your brother and sister—I mean Mrs. Liverright."
"Home! Laurence, and sister! I must have been away for a long time—if I could only get things straight—"
With soft words they soothed him, and convinced him that it would do no good to try to figure it out now.
"When we get under some shelter, and you have some good hot coffee," Terry said, "we'll tell you all about it. Come, now—you'll be safe with us. We'll go in our boat. Can you walk?"
The man struggled to his feet, and stood unaided.
"I think I can walk all right," he said uncertainly. "But if one of you young men would give me an arm—"
Martin went to him and assisted him to the boat. He sat down on a stern seat and gazed about him as though he had never seen this place before —as, indeed, he had not, if one considers his mental condition.
The rain had practically ceased as Martin started the motor and the three boys, with their strange passenger, chugged back to camp. Liverright appeared to recover rapidly. Little by little events came back to him, and the boys could see the expression on his face change—it became more alive, more intelligent. Even his voice seemed different.
They helped him piece together the story of his wanderings, for there was much he did not remember—and, the boys thought likely, that he would never remember. This was just as well, for had he realized the part he had played during the past few months the shock might have affected him greatly.
Back at camp, the boys started packing their supplies. It was quite late in the day, however, and they determined to wait until morning before starting home. There was no more danger that Jake would do them harm. He was, they knew, as far from the island as he could get.
Terry gave Mr. Liverright his cot, and he, placing a rubber slicker on the ground, curled up in some blankets. They were all dead tired, and slept like logs until morning.
It was just after seven when they started for home. Warren wanted to go past the cove to see how much damage the dynamite had done, but this was vetoed. Martin and Terry knew it was necessary to bring Liverright and his sister-in-law together as soon as possible.
They landed at Demerest's boathouse, and the first thing they did was to telephone Mrs. Liverright that Thomas was safe. Her delight knew no bounds. She asked them to wait right there for her, and she drove over in a powerful touring car.
The reunion was touching. Tears were in Mr. Liverright's eyes, and his sister-in-law cried unashamedly. Then the three boys came in for their share of the emotional scene. When things had quieted down a bit, Mrs. Liverright said:
"I think, brother, you must have had some sort of a stroke on your way to the bank. You know it has happened before—when you have been under a strain, and you were working pretty hard, if you remember."
"Then he must have just wandered around, carrying the securities with him. We'll never know how he fell in with Jake, I guess," Martin said. "He must have told Jake about the bonds, and since then Lawson has practically held him captive."
"But it's all right now, thanks to you," Mr. Liverright said warmly. "We owe you three young men a debt we can never repay. But if ever you need a friend—you may always count on me and mine!"
As soon as they could get away, Terry, Warren and Martin hurried to their homes and told their parents about their adventures. Then, after lunch, they met and started for the Thompson residence. Terry and Warren were anxious to see Louise and Ruth, and Martin, scoff as he would, felt a pleasurable anticipation. On the way over they talked of Jake and Al Barton.
"If Lake Otter wasn't so big," Terry said, "I'll bet the Fish Commissioner would have Lawson and Al Barton in jail now. Dynamiting fish! What a racket that was! But there are so many places they could hide—and they have that speed boat, too. That's one thing they got out of Liverright."
"And I have a hunch," Warren exclaimed, "that we're not finished with Jake and his pals. I'll bet—”
They were in sight of the Thompson house now, and two figures fairly flew down the steps. They were Louise and Ruth, and behind them followed Mr. Thompson, more sedately, however.
"Welcome home, adventurers," he boomed. "Come in, and tell us all about it."
"That's a pretty big order," Warren laughed. "But look, Ruth, I brought something for you." And reaching in his pocket he held an object toward her.
The girl gave one look and screamed.
"It's a toad—Warren Finn, don't you let it come near me!"
"You're wrong," Warren said calmly. "It's a leaping amphibious Ranidae specimen. And a very special kind, too."
"I don't care—put him back in your pocket," Ruth insisted. "Thanks just the same, Wawa, but I decline the present."
"All right," Warren sighed. "If you don't want —excuse me—I—er—ker-chool"
"He got that cold catching the frog," Terry taunted.
"You're pretty lucky," observed Louise, "that a cold is all you caught. When I think of all that dynamite—"
"Has Mrs. Liverright gone back home?" Mr. Thompson asked.
"I imagine she'll start today, with her brother-in-law," Martin replied. "She gave us $200, you know, to outfit our camp—and we still have quite a lot of that left. She wouldn't hear of taking any back."
"Well, it wasn't much, considering that you got the bonds all back for her husband," Mr. Thompson commented.
"We didn't get them all," Terry corrected. "One was missing—I think it was for $3,000.
That's how Jake got the speed boat. And besides that he must have made quite a pile of money dynamiting fish."
"Horrible," Louise exclaimed, shuddering. "I hope he gets what he deserves for that!"
"He's got too good a head start," Martin asserted.
"By the way," Mr. Thompson broke in, "the State Geological Society, of which I'm a member, wants to get you boys to write an account of what you found on Misty Island, and about the thunderstorms. Can you?"
"Well, I don't see why we can't," murmured Martin, trying to appear casual but finding it hard. "We'll get together and write a thesis."
"You mean you will!" corrected Terry.
"Sure!" agreed Warren.
"We'll begin it tonight!" said Martin, eagerly. "But I want suggestions from you fellows," he stipulated, looking at his chums.
"Nothing doing!" declared Warren.
"I believe the society will pay for the article," said Mr. Thompson, puffing away at his pipe.
"Oh, in that case—" began Warren.
"We're in on it, of course," added Terry.
"I hope they catch that Jake Lawson," said Ruth, after a pause.
"The Commissioner is after him," her father said. "He must have killed many thousand fish in the last two summers. He'd store his illegal catch in an icehouse at Temple, on the other side of the lake, and he and Barton would sell them, as they could, to dealers at the other end, far enough away so no one would be suspicious."
"Who wants some lemonade?" asked Louise, suddenly.
"The ayes have it!" responded Terry.
"Then come in the house and talk of something else than Mystery Island for a while," urged Ruth. "It gives me the shivers."
"A great place for adventures, though," murmured Martin. "And connecting with Lake Otter, farther north, they say is another body of water— Shadow Lake, it's called. I heard a story today about a strange beast that's been seen up there and maybe—"
"Oh, don't talk about it!" interrupted Ruth. "Come in and help make the lemonade."
What Martin meant by his remark must be left for the future to solve. Certain it is that the three chums were eager for more adventures. Some of them will be related in the next volume of this series to be called: "The Outboard Boys at Shadow Lake; or, Solving the Secret of the Strange Monster."
"Well," remarked Warren as the glasses were passed around, "what do you say, fellows?" "Here's to the ladies!" offered Terry. "And the Watermar!" added Warren. "Long may she float!" proposed Martin. With a laugh they all drank the toast.
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- All Verrill Works (mostly books for now)
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- As an armed forces brat, we lived in Rockcliff (Ottawa), Namao (Edmonton), Southport (Portage La Prairie), Manitoba, and Dad retired to St. Margaret's Bay, NS.
Working with the Federal Govenment for 25 years, Canadian Hydrographic Service, mostly. Now married to Gail Kelly, with two grown children, Luke and Denyse. Retired to my woodlot at Stillwater Lake, NS, on the rainy days I study the life and work of A. Hyatt Verrill 1871-1954.