Fenn Masterson's Discovery: or, The Darewell Chums on a Cruiseñêà÷àòü êíèãó áåñïëàòíî
“They’re mining,” thought Fenn. “It must be valuable stuff, too, or they wouldn’t take out such small quantities. And they must be working in secret, or they wouldn’t take all the precautions they do, to remain hidden. There’s something queer back of all this, and I’d like to see what it is.”
Fenn applied his eye closely to the crack in the door. He could see the men gathered about a cavity in the cavern wall, on which they were working, and, from the way in which they pointed at something the boy believed they must have come upon a rich deposit of whatever ore they were mining.
“I wish I was out of this place!” exclaimed Fenn to himself. “If I had the boys here to help me I’ll bet we could escape, and then there’d be a different story to tell.
“There must be an opening, somewhere,” he reasoned. “That air comes from under the door. It’s fresh, so there must be some communication directly with the outer air, from the big cave.”
He stretched out flat on his face, and put his eyes as close as he could to the bottom of the portal. He saw light beneath it, and, jumping up, exclaimed:
“That’s it! I see a way to get out. But I must wait until the men have gone!”
An idea had come to Fenn. The floor of the small cave he was in, was of earth. Between it and the bottom of the door, was quite a space. If he could enlarge this space, it might be possible for him to crawl under the door, and this he resolved to attempt, as soon as it would be safe.
He felt in his pocket to see if his knife was there, and his heart beat more rapidly as his fingers closed on the handle. It contained a large, strong blade, and he thought he could do his digging with it. But it would be necessary to wait until the men got out of the way, and, if they worked in two shifts, this would not occur.
Anxiously Fenn waited. Every minute seemed an hour as he sat there in the darkness, now and then kneeling down to peer under the door, to see if the men had gone. But, every time, he saw them at their queer operations, or taking something from the walls of the cave.
He fell into a doze, to be awakened by the entrance of some one into his apartment.
“Where’s the light?” asked a voice Fenn recognized as belonging to the man who had carried him in.
“It fell and broke,” he answered.
“Humph! Well, I’ll bring another. The boss didn’t give no orders to leave you in the dark. Here’s some grub. It’s supper time.”
“What day is it?” asked Fenn.
The boy did not answer. He knew, however, that he had been in the cave a much shorter time than he supposed. It was the evening of the same day he had started to follow the smugglers. Now he appeared to have lost track of them, but he was in the power of a gang as bad, if not worse.
The man brought another lantern, and also some water. The food was coarse, but Fenn ate it with a good deal of relish.
“Guess you’ll have to sleep on the table,” the man went on, as he threw some blankets down.
“There’s no bed in this hotel,” and he laughed.
But Fenn was too busy thinking of his plan to escape, to care about a bed. He hoped, now that it was night, the men would stop working. And, in this, he was not disappointed. Some one called a signal through the cavern, and the men, dropping their tools, and taking their torches with them, filed out of sight of the boy, watching from beneath the door.
He wanted to begin his digging at once, but concluded it would be safer to postpone it a while. He was sure it must have been several hours that he waited there in the silence. Then, taking an observation, and finding the outer cavern to be in blackness, he commenced to burrow under the door, like a dog after a hidden rabbit.
The big blade of his knife easily cut into the soft clay, and, working hard for some time, he had quite an opening beneath the portal. He tried to squeeze through, but found he was a bit too big for it.
“A little more and I can slip out,” he whispered to himself.
Faster and faster he plied the knife, loosening the earth, and throwing it back with his hands. Once more he tried and, though it was a tight squeeze, he managed to wiggle out.
“Now!” he mused. “If I don’t run into anybody I can get to the foot of the shaft, and go up that ladder. Guess I’ll take the light.”
He reached back under the door, and got hold of the lantern, which he had placed near the hole, slipping it under his coat so that the gleams would not betray him. Then, remembering, as best he could which way the man had carried him, he stole softly along, on the alert for any of the miners.
He had not gone more than a dozen feet, and had just turned a corner, which showed him a straight, long tunnel, that, he believed, led to the foot of the shaft, when, to his consternation, he heard a noise. At the same time a voice called:
“Hey! Where you goin’?”
Fenn resolved to chance all to boldness. Taking the lantern from under his coat, that he might see to run through the cave, he sprang forward, toward what he believed was the shaft down which he had come on the tree-trunk ladder.
“Stop! Stop!” called someone behind him, but Fenn kept on.
A TIMELY RESCUE
Fenn’s fear, and his fierce desire to escape from the cave, lent him speed. Forward he went, faster than he had ever run before. Suddenly there loomed up before him a dim, hazy light, but it was the illumination from the sun, and not from an artificial source.
“It must be morning!” the boy thought. “I worked at that hole all night. But how is it that the sun shines down the shaft? I didn’t believe it could. There’s something strange here!”
All these thoughts flashed through his mind while he ran on, intent on distancing his pursuer, who was close behind him. Fenn could hear the man’s footsteps. Once more the fellow shouted:
“Hey! Stop! You don’t know where you’re goin’!”
“I don’t, eh?” thought Fenn. “Well, I guess I do. I’m going to get away from you, that’s where I’m going.”
The dim light became plainer now. Fenn could see that it came through an opening in the cave; an opening that was close to the ground. Clearly then, this could not be the shaft down which he had come. He was puzzled, but he kept on.
He threw away the lantern, for he did not need it any longer to see where to go. Several other voices joined in the shouts of alarm, and in urging Fenn to stop. He did not answer but kept on.
“If I can once get outside they’ll not dare to carry me back,” the lad reasoned. “It’s only a little farther now.”
He was panting from the run, for the exertion, following his illness, and the experience he had gone through, was too much for him. He felt that he could go no farther. Yet he knew if he halted now the men would get him, and he feared for the consequences that might follow his attempt to escape.
“Oh, if only some of the boys were here!” was his almost despairing thought. “If ever I needed help I do now!”
The light was so good now that Fenn could distinguish the sides of the cave. He saw that he was running along a straight tunnel, quite high and wide, but which narrowed, like a funnel, as it approached the opening toward which he was speeding.
“I wonder if there’s room for me to get out?” he thought. “And I wonder where I’ll be when I get out?”
“Hold on! Hold on!” yelled the man back of Fenn. “You’ll get hurt if you go any farther!”
“And I’ll get hurt if I go back,” whispered Fenn, pantingly.
“Stop! Stop!” cried another voice which the lad recognized as Dirkfell’s. “Come back! I’ll not harm you!”
“He’s too late with that promise,” Fenn thought.
A few seconds later he was at the opening of the cave. He fairly sprang through it, finding it large enough to give him passage standing upright. He leaped out, so glad was he to leave behind the terrors of the dark cave, and the mysterious men, who seemed so anxious to keep him a prisoner.
“Free!” Fenn almost shouted as he passed the edge of the opening. He was about to give an exultant cry, but it was choked on his lips.
For the opening was on the sheer edge of a cliff, without the semblance of a foothold beyond it, and below it there sparkled the blue waters of Lake Superior!
Fenn felt himself falling. He was launched through the air by his leap for liberty, and, a moment later, the lake had closed over his head!
Meanwhile Mr. Hayward, followed by his daughter, Frank, Bart and Ned was hurrying along, bent on discovering and rescuing Fenn. True, they did not know where he was, but Mr. Hayward had a clue he wished to follow. As he hastened along, he told the boys what it was.
“My daughter and I have been sort of living in the woods for the past week,” he said. “We have taken auto trips as far as the machine would go, and then have tramped the rest of the way. I want to see how my land is. It is some property I bought a good while ago, and which I never thought amounted to much. But I have a chance to sell it now, and I may dispose of it.
“I was looking along the lake shore, the other day, for some of my land extends out there, – and I saw a boat, containing some Chinese and a white man. It was being rowed up and down the shore, and I thought, at the time, the men acted rather suspiciously. They seemed to be waiting for something to happen. I was too busy to pay much attention to them, but I believe now that they were part of that smugglers’ band you speak of.”
“Why didn’t you tell the police, father?” asked Ruth. “To think of poor Fenn being captured by them.”
“We are not sure he is captured by them, Ruth,” said Mr. Hayward. “At any rate I’m going to the point on shore near where I saw the boat. It may be there is a tunnel running from that place on the hill, where Fenn disappeared, right down to the lake. In that case we may find some trace of him there. This region used to be worked by some ancient race, I understand, who dug deep into the earth after certain minerals and ores. There are several tunnels, shafts and queer passages through the hills and along shore, I have heard; shafts that used to give access to the mines. They have long been abandoned, but it is just possible that the smugglers may have discovered and utilized them.”
“Maybe they’re hiding in a cave, somewhere, now,” suggested Ned, “and perhaps they have Fenn a prisoner.”
“Oh dear! Isn’t it dreadful!” exclaimed Ruth, with a shudder. The other boys could not help wishing she was as anxious about them as she was over Fenn. It made up, in a great measure, for all he was likely to suffer, Bart thought. He looked closely at Ruth. She seemed strangely excited, as though she feared some nameless terror.
“This way!” called Mr. Hayward, leading the little party of rescuers through a short cut, and down a sloping bank to the shore of the lake. “Here we are. Now the boat, when I saw it, was right opposite that little point of land,” and he motioned to indicate where he meant.
At that instant Bart saw something black bobbing about on the surface of the lake.
“What’s that?” he cried, pointing to it.
“A boat!” exclaimed Ruth. “There is the boat now, daddy!”
“It’s too small for a boat,” replied Mr. Hayward. “It’s a man! It’s some one in the lake!” he added excitedly. “And he’s about done for, too! I’ll swim out and get him!”
Before any of the boys could offer, or indeed make any move, to go to the rescue, Mr. Hayward had thrown off the heaviest of his clothing and plunged in. With powerful strokes he made for the black object, which, as the others could see, was a person making feeble efforts to swim ashore.
With anxious eyes the three chums and Ruth watched the rescue. They saw Mr. Hayward reach the bobbing head, saw him place an arm about the exhausted swimmer, and then strike out for shore.
A few minutes later the man was able to wade. In his arms he carried an almost inert bundle.
“I got him, boys!” he called.
“Who?” asked Ruth.
“Fenn Masterson! I was just in the nick of time. He was going down for the final plunge,” and with that he laid the nearly-unconscious form of Fenn down on the sandy shore.
RUTH TELLS HER SECRET
“Quick! We must hurry him to a doctor!” exclaimed Ruth, as she bent down over Fenn. “Will he die, daddy?”
“I think not. He’ll be all right in a little while. But we’ll take him to our house. Lucky the auto is not far away.”
“I’m – I’m all right,” gasped Fenn, faintly. “I was just tired out, that’s all. I didn’t swallow any water. There – there seemed to be some sort of a current setting against the shore, and – I couldn’t make any headway.”
He sat up, looking rather woe-begone, soaking wet as he was, and with some of the red clay still clinging to his clothes. Mr. Hayward was hastily donning his outer garments over his wet things.
“I’ll have the auto around in a jiffy!” he exclaimed. “Lucky it’s summer, and you’ll not take cold. Just rest yourself, Fenn, until I come back, and we’ll have you all right again.”
“But how in the world did you ever get into the lake?” asked Ruth, as her father hurried away.
“I jumped in.”
“Jumped in!” repeated Bart. “How was that?”
“Now we mustn’t ask him too many questions,” interrupted Ruth. “He’s not able to answer.”
“Oh yes I am,” replied the lad who had been through rather strenuous times in the last few hours. Thereupon he briefly related what had happened since his chums left him to go hunting, ending up with his unexpected plunge into the lake. In turn Bart told how they had searched for him, and how, having met Mr. Hayward and his daughter, the hunt was brought to such a timely ending.
“But what were those men taking out of the cave?” asked Frank, when Ruth had gone down the shore, along which a road ran, to see if her father was returning.
“That’s what we’ve got to discover,” answered Fenn. “I think there’s a valuable secret back of it. We’ll go – ”
But further conversation was interrupted by the arrival of the auto – the same big touring car that had so nearly come to grief in Darewell. The four boys got in, Fenn was wrapped in a lap robe, to prevent getting chilled on the quick ride that was to follow, and the car was sent whizzing along an unfrequented road to Mr. Hayward’s home, several miles away.
The three chums wanted to ask Fenn all sorts of questions about his experiences, but Ruth, who constituted herself a sort of emergency nurse, forbade them.
“You’ll have time enough after he has had a rest,” she said. “Besides, he’s just gotten over a fever, you say. Do you want him to get another? It looks as though he was.”
And that was just what happened. When the auto reached Mr. Hayward’s home Fenn was found to be in considerable distress. His cheeks were hot and flushed and he was put to bed at once, though he insisted, with his usual disregard of trifles that concerned himself, that he was “all right.”
A physician was summoned, and prescribed quiet, and some soothing medicine.
“He has had a severe shock,” he said, “and this, on top of his former attack of fever, from which he had barely recovered, has caused a slight relapse. It is nothing dangerous, and, with careful nursing he will be all right in a few days.”
“Then, I’m going to take care of him,” declared Ruth. “It will be a chance to pay back some of his, and his folks’ kindness to me and my father. Now mind, I don’t want you boys to speak to Fenn unless I give you permission,” and she laughed as she shook her finger at the chums to impress this on them.
Fenn, under the influence of the medicine, soon fell into a deep sleep, which, the pretty nurse said, was the best thing in the world for him.
“I guess we’d better go back to camp,” proposed Bart. “All we brought away from there are the guns, and some one might come along and steal the other stuff, which isn’t ours.”
“That’s so, those smugglers are still around I suppose,” added Ned. “We had better get back, I think.”
“You’ll do nothing of the sort,” declared Mr. Hayward good-naturedly. “You’re going to be my guests, or I’ll be very much offended. We’ve not got such a fine place as some, but you’re welcome to what there is. If things were different – but there, I want you to stay.”
He seemed affected by something, and his manner was so queer that the boys could not help noticing it. Ruth, too, appeared embarrassed, and, at first, Bart and his chums thought it might be that she was not prepared for company, since, as her mother was dead, she had the whole care of the house, though there was a servant to help her. But her invitation, which she added to that of her father’s, assured the boys that they would be very welcome.
“You can’t rough it so much as you could out in the woods,” said Ruth, “but I think you’ll like it here. We have a motor boat, and you may wish to run it on the lake.”
“A motor boat!” exclaimed Bart. “That settles it! We stay!”
“But what about our camp stuff?” asked Frank.
“I’ll send a man to gather it up and ship it back to Duluth,” said Mr. Hayward. “There’s no need of you going back there at all. I’ll be glad to have you stay. We’re a little upset on account of – ”
He stopped suddenly, and glanced at his daughter, who did not appear to be listening to what he was saying. But she heard, nevertheless, as was shown by her next remark.
“Oh, dad means some of the servants have gone,” quickly explained Ruth. “You see we had too many,” she went on. “I decided we could get along with one, for I want to help do the work. I must learn to be a housekeeper, you know,” and she blushed a little. “We’re not upset a bit, daddy. You see, I’ll manage.”
It seemed as though something sad was worrying Mr. Hayward, but, he soon recovered his usual spirits, and got the boys to give him directions for shipping back their camp stuff.
“Now, I’ll look after it,” he said, as he prepared to leave the house, having changed his wet garments for dry ones. “I have some other matters to attend to, and I may not be back until late. I guess you can get along here. You can pretend you’re camping out, and, if you get tired of that, Ruth will show you where the motor boat is. Only, don’t upset,” and, with that caution, he left them.
The three chums decided they would try the boat at once, and, Ruth, having ascertained that they knew how to run one, showed them where the launch was kept in a neat boat-house on the shore of Lake Superior.
“Don’t be gone too long,” she said. “You can’t tell what will happen to Fenn.”
“I guess he couldn’t be in better hands,” said Frank, with a bow.
“Oh, thank you!” exclaimed Ruth, with a pretty blush.
“That’ll do you,” observed Bart, nudging Frank with his elbow. “I’ll tell Fenn when he gets well.”
Ruth returned to her patient, after urging the three chums to be back in time for dinner. She found Fenn awake, and with unnaturally bright eyes.
“You must go to sleep,” she told him.
“I can’t sleep.”
“I’m thinking of something.”
“What about?” she asked with a little laugh. “About all the wonderful adventures you had?”
“Partly, and about that cave. It’s the same one.”
“The same one? What do you mean?”
“The same one you talked about when you were at our house. The mysterious cave, where the men were at work. I see it all now. It’s the same cave! There is some secret about it! Tell me what it is. Don’t you remember what you said? You wanted to find the cave, but couldn’t. I have found it!”
“Oh!” exclaimed Ruth. She drew back as if frightened. “Oh!” she cried again. “Can it be possible. It seems like a dream! Can it be my cave?”
“Tell me about it,” suggested Fenn, for even his illness could not deter him from trying to solve the mystery.
“I am going to tell you a secret,” answered Ruth. “It is something I have told no one. You know my father is – or, rather he was – quite wealthy. He owned considerable property, and was counted a millionaire. But lately, through some misfortune, he has lost nearly all his wealth. I suspect, though I do not know for sure, that some wicked men have cheated him out of it. But he does not know that I am aware of his loss. He has kept it a secret and he tries to keep up when he is with me, but I can see the strain he is under. He does not want me to suffer, dear daddy! But I don’t mind. I don’t care for money as long as I have him.
“He thinks he can get his wealth back again, and so he has been making all sorts of sacrifices in order that I may continue to live here, in the same style we used to. But I found out about it. I discharged all the servants but one, to save money, and I am economizing in other ways.”
“But about the cave,” insisted Fenn.
“It sounds almost like a dream,” went on Ruth. “One day, when I was walking through the woods around here, just before daddy and I took that automobile trip East, I was on a ledge of the cliff, about opposite where you were in the lake to-day. That particular ledge is not there now, as a landslide carried it away, but it was quite large, and easy to get to, when I was on it. I was after some peculiar flowers that grew there.
“As I was gathering them I saw an opening in the cliff, and I could look right into a large cave. I was so surprised I did not know what to do, and, much more so, when I saw several men at work. They seemed to be taking stuff out – valuable stuff, for they were very careful with it. I must have made some noise, for one of the men came to where I was looking in.ñêà÷àòü êíèãó áåñïëàòíî
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