Fenn Masterson's Discovery: or, The Darewell Chums on a Cruiseñêà÷àòü êíèãó áåñïëàòíî
“He was very angry, and tried to grab me. I drew back, and nearly toppled off the ledge into the lake. Then the man threatened me. He said if I ever told what I saw something dreadful would happen to me.
“I was much frightened, and hurried away. I was going to tell my father of what I had seen, but the memory of the man’s threat prevented me. The thing got on my mind so I was taken ill. Then came the automobile trip and the accident. But I could not forget the cave. It seemed like a bad dream, and it followed me. I did not know I had mentioned it in my delirium at your house, until you told me. Then I was frightened lest something happen to you, as well as to myself, and I begged you never to refer to it. But I could not forget it. All the while I kept wondering who those men were, and what they were taking out. I thought perhaps they might have found gold. Of course it was foolish, and, sometimes I think it was all only a bad dream. Only it is not a dream about poor daddy losing all his money.”
“And it isn’t any dream about that cave!” exclaimed Fenn, sitting up in bed. “It’s real. There are men in it taking out something I think is valuable. They are doing it secretly, too. I don’t know who it belongs to, but we’ll soon find that out. By some curious chance I have discovered the same cave you looked into. I’ll take you to it, and we’ll see what those men are digging out. I’m going to get right up and go back there. I’m all right! We must go before the men take all the stuff! Where are the boys? Tell them to come here and help me dress.”
“No, no!” exclaimed Ruth. “The doctor said you must be kept quiet!”
“I’m going to go back to that cave!” declared Fenn, and, getting out of bed, clad in a big bath robe, he began to hunt for his clothes, which, however were not in the room, having been taken to the laundry to be pressed.
“Mary! Mary!” called Ruth to the servant. “Telephone for the doctor. Tell him Fenn is delirious!”
A BAFFLING SEARCH
Fenn sat down rather suddenly on hearing Ruth make that announcement. He grew calm.
“All right,” he said, good-naturedly, “there’s no use alarming you. I’m not delirious. I never felt better in my life. That sleep I had was fine. My fever is all gone. But, go ahead, if you want to. Send for the doctor. I don’t mind. I know what he’ll say, and then I can go and hunt for that cave.”
“Oh, Fenn, are you sure you’re all right?” asked Ruth, much reassured by the cool manner in which the boy spoke.
“Sure. Here, feel of my pulse. It’s as slow as yours.”
Ruth did so, and, having had some experience in cases of illness, she realized that Fenn’s fever had gone down.
“You do seem better,” she acknowledged. “However, I think it would be a good thing for the doctor to see you. I don’t want you to run any chances.”
“All right,” agreed Fenn.
The physician came again and said that, much to his surprise, Fenn’s illness was not as alarming as had at first appeared.
“Can’t I go out?” asked the lad, not telling what for.
“Hum – ah – er – um – well, it’s a little risky, but then – well, I guess you can,” and, after much humming and hawing the medical man gave his consent and left, shaking his head over the perverseness of those who were always in a hurry.
“Now send up my clothes, please,” begged Fenn, when the doctor was safely away.
“We’ll solve the mystery of that cave in jig style.”
“Hadn’t we better wait for the other boys?” suggested Ruth. “Besides it’s nearly dinner time, and you ought to eat something.”
“Good idea,” declared Fenn, but, whether it was the one about eating, or waiting for the boys he did not say.
Frank, Bart and Ned were rather late getting back from the motor boat ride, but they had such a good time that no one blamed them. Mr. Hayward also returned, and it was quite a merry party that gathered about the table. That is all except Mr. Hayward. He seemed to be rather worried over something, and, at times, was rather distracted, his thoughts evidently being elsewhere.
“What’s worrying you, daddy?” asked Ruth, after a while.
“Nothing, my dear. Why?”
“You’re not eating at all.”
“I’m not very hungry. But come, we must go with Fenn and see if we can’t help him locate that cave. I don’t imagine we shall find anything of any account. Most likely the men were engaged in working an abandoned mine from which the prehistoric inhabitants took everything of value. Perhaps the men were those Chinese smugglers. I have telephoned word to the Government authorities about them, and some detectives may arrive any minute.”
“Those men were not smugglers,” declared Fenn. “They were taking something valuable from that mine, and they were so secretive about it that I’m sure they had no right to the stuff.”
“Well, we’ll soon see,” declared Mr. Hayward.
“Where are we going to begin?” asked Bart.
“Let’s go up to that hole, where we found Fenn’s hat, and work down,” suggested Ned.
“That’s no good,” declared the lad who had made the queer passage. “That chute only comes out on the ledge, where the main shaft begins. If we could get to the ledge we’d be all right.”
“I think we can get there without crawling or sliding down that dark, roped passage,” said Mr. Hayward. “But I was going to suggest that we take the motor boat and cruise along near where we picked Fenn up. If we found the opening in the cliff, from where he jumped, it would be easier. It is rather difficult to get to the ledge.”
“I think that’s the best idea,” remarked Frank.
“May I go with you, daddy?” asked Ruth, a bright flush of excitement coming into her cheeks.
“Maybe I can find the – ” She stopped suddenly.
“I’m afraid not. There might be danger,” said her father, not noticing her last remark.
“I’m not afraid.”
“I wouldn’t,” said Fenn quickly. “Those men that I saw, didn’t have any weapons, but they might be ugly customers, just the same.”
“I think you had better remain at home, my dear,” decided the girl’s father, and, somewhat against her will, she consented, after a whispered conference with Fenn.
The others were soon in the motor launch, and were cruising along the lake shore, as near as possible to where Fenn had leaped into the water. Narrowly they scanned the face of the cliff, for a sight of the opening from which Fenn had jumped. They went up and down for half a mile, in either direction, but there was no sign of it.
“Are you sure you jumped out of a hole, Stumpy?” asked Bart.
“Sure. I remember catching just a glimpse of that point of land before I went under water.”
“Then the opening into the cave ought to be somewhere near here,” remarked Mr. Hayward, bringing the boat to a stop.
Once more they scanned the cliff, going as close to shore as they could. There appeared to be no break in the surface of the palisade.
“I guess we’ll have to try the ledge,” announced Mr. Hayward. “We can go down that tree-trunk ladder, but it’s more risky than this way.”
He was about to head the craft for a landing place, in order to begin the tramp through the woods, to a point whence the ledge could be reached, when the attention of all in the motorboat was attracted by something happening on shore. From the bushes dashed a Chinaman, his pig-tail streaming in the wind. Behind him came a man, with a revolver in his hand.
“Stop! You almond-eyed scare-crow!” he exclaimed. “I’m not going to hurt you!”
But the Chinaman only ran the faster. Suddenly the man raised his revolver and fired in the air. The Celestial stopped as though he had been shot.
“I thought that would fetch you!” shouted the man, and, a moment later, he had the handcuffs on the representative of the Flowery Kingdom.
“That’s one of the smugglers!” cried Fenn. “The police must be after them!”
“What’s the trouble?” asked Mr. Hayward, of the white man, as the boat neared shore.
“Chinese smugglers,” was the short answer. “We got the whole crowd a while ago, just as they were landing a boat load in a secluded cove. But are you Mr. Hayward?”
“I was told to look out for you. I understand you gave the information that led to the capture.”
“I did, but these boys here told me of it. They’re to get whatever reward is coming.”
“Oh, there’s a reward all right. This fellow got away when we were bagging the rest. I had a hard chase after him, and I wanted to catch him, as he’s one of the ring-leaders. But what are you doing here; on the lookout for some more of the Chinks?”
“No, we’re searching for a queer cave where Fenn, one of these boys here, was kept a prisoner. There have been some strange goings on in these parts, and I’d like to get at the bottom of them. I thought maybe the smugglers had a hand in it.”
At the mention of the cave, concerning which Mr. Hayward gave the government officer a few details, as Fenn had related them to him, the Chinese captive seemed suddenly interested. When Mr. Hayward told how they had so far, conducted a baffling search, for the entrance, the Celestial exclaimed:
“Me show you.”
“What does he mean?” asked Mr. Hayward.
“Blessed if I know,” answered the officer. “What’s that, John?”
“Me show hole in glound. Me know. Clum that way,” and he pointed a short distance up the lake.
“Do you suppose he knows where the entrance is?” asked Mr. Hayward.
“Shouldn’t wonder,” replied the detective. “Those Chinks know more than they’ll tell. Probably he knows the game is up, and he may think, if he plays into our hands, he’ll get off easier.”
“That’s lite!” exclaimed the Chinese with a grin. “Me turn state’s evidence. Me know. Me show you.”
“I guess he’s an old hand at the game,” commented the officer. “Probably it wouldn’t be a bad plan to follow his advice. Wait, I’ll summon a couple of my men, and we’ll go along. No telling what we’ll run up against.”
He blew a shrill signal on a whistle he carried and soon two men emerged from the woods on the run. They did not appear surprised to see their chief with the prisoner, and at a word from him they got into the motor boat, the handcuffed Celestial meekly following.
“Now, John, which way,” asked the detective, who introduced himself as Mr. Harkness.
“Up by bluushes,” replied the Chinese, pointing to a clump which grew on the cliff. “Hole behind bluushes, so no can see. Smart trick. Me know.”
“I believe he does,” commented Mr. Harkness. “I’ll unhandcuff him, and he can show us,” and he removed the irons from the almond-eyed chap.
The motor boat was put over to where the Chinaman indicated. It came to a stop at the foot of a sheer cliff, right under the clump of bushes, which grew about thirty feet up from the surface of the water.
“How in the world are we going to get up there without a ladder?” asked Fenn. “We should have brought one along.”
“Here ladder!” suddenly exclaimed the Celestial, who, at a question from one of the officers gave his name as Lem Sing. “Me get ladder.”
Lem Sing took hold of a stone that jutted out from the face of the cliff. He pulled on it, and it came out in his hand. To it was attached a strong cord, extending up somewhere inside the cliff, Lem Sing gave a vigorous yank, and something surprising happened.
The clump of bushes vanished, and, in their place, was a round hole.
“That’s where I jumped from!” exclaimed Fenn.
But this was not all. Down the cliff, out of the hole in the face of it, came tumbling a strong rope ladder, being fastened somewhere inside the hole.
“That how up get!” exclaimed Lem Sing, with a grin. “Now can up-go!”
“Sure we can ‘up-go’!” exclaimed Mr. Harkness. “Come on, boys,” and he began to ascend the ladder, which swayed rather dangerously.
THE DISCOVERY – CONCLUSION
The others followed, one at a time, leaving one of the detectives in charge of Lem Sing.
“Now, Fenn, lead the way,” called Mr. Hayward.
“I guess they’ve all gone,” said Fenn. “There don’t seem to be any of the miners here, now.”
Hardly had he spoken when, turning a corner in the shaft, the party came upon a curious scene. In a big chamber, the same one which Fenn had viewed from the crack in the door of his small prison, there were half a score of men, working by the light of torches, digging stuff from the walls of the cave, and carrying it out in small boxes.
“Here they are!” shouted Fenn. “This is the place, and they’re at work!”
“To the shaft!” shouted some one. “They’re after us!”
There was a hurrying and scurrying to escape, and, before the detectives or Mr. Hayward could make any move to capture the men, they had all disappeared.
“Come on!” cried Mr. Harkness. “Show us the way to the shaft where the ladder is, Fenn! Maybe we can nab some of ’em.”
“It isn’t worth while,” declared Mr. Hayward. “These men were evidently afraid of being caught, but, from what I can see, they were not doing anything unlawful.”
“No,” admitted Mr. Harkness. “We caught the last of them when we got Lem Sing. But what were these men digging?”
“I’ll take a look,” answered Robert Hayward.
Suddenly he gave a cry, as he took some of the soft earth in his fingers.
“Say, this is almost as good as a silver mine!” exclaimed Mr. Hayward. “This stuff is in great demand! It’s used by chemists, and they can’t get enough of it.”
“Lucky for the man who owns this land,” commented Mr. Harkness. “But I don’t see that it concerns us. Guess I’d better be going.”
“Why, man, this is my land!” suddenly exclaimed Mr. Hayward. “I own a big tract in here, but I believed it was worthless, and I was about to sell it very cheap. Now – well, say, you couldn’t buy it! My fortune is made again!”
“Boys,” he went on, a little more soberly, “you don’t know it, but I’ve been in quite a hole lately. The house where I live was about to be sold for a mortgage. But my daughter never knew. She – ”
“Yes, she did,” interrupted Fenn. “She knew all about it, and she was trying to help you!”
“She did? You don’t mean it!”
Then Fenn explained; telling of Ruth’s strange remarks while in a delirium at his house, her unexpected discovery of the cave, the man’s threat, her long silence under fear of it, and her desire to aid her father to recover his wealth.
“Well, this gets me!” exclaimed Mr. Hayward. “Ruth is a girl that’s hard to beat.”
They went to the foot of the shaft, where Fenn had come down, but there were no men to be seen.
“Let them go,” suggested Mr. Hayward. “I’ve got all I want, and I must hurry and tell my daughter the news, bless her heart!”
“It was all Fenn’s good luck,” declared Ruth, when the story had been told. “You ought to reward him, daddy.”
“Reward him! Well, I guess I will. And the other boys, too. Nothing is too good for them.”
The Chinese smugglers were punished for their attempt to break the United States immigration laws, and the Celestials they tried to land were sent back to Canada.
Lem Sing had planned the trick so that by pulling on the rope the bushes dropped back out of sight, and the ladder came down. The miners used this device to send away the valuable clay, and it was by this queer hole that the men on the cliff so mysteriously appeared and disappeared when the boys were watching them from the deck of the Modoc.
The two Chinamen and the white man, whom Fenn had followed, were the advance party, looking to see if the coast was clear for a landing which had once been unintentionally frustrated by the boys, and, the visit of the one Chinese to the camp was only to discover if the lads were detectives, which Lem at first feared. While Fenn was following the men, one had slipped behind him and gone to the camp, to see if it was deserted. It was this fellow who had dropped the button which gave Frank, Ned and Bart their clue.
“But what I can’t understand,” said Fenn, “is why that man Dirkfell should chase us the night of the fire, and pursue us in the steam yacht. Do you know him, Mr. Hayward?”
“Dirkfell!” exclaimed the gentleman. “I should say I did, to my sorrow. It was through business dealings with him that I lost all my wealth. He held the mortgage on this house, and was about to buy that land, under which the cave is located. He has long borne a grudge against me – a grudge for which there is no excuse, for I never injured him. When he heard of my loss in the elevator fire I presume he could not help saying how glad he was. Then, probably, when he saw you looking at him so sharply, Fenn, he imagined you must be some agent of mine. He was evidently in fear of being found out in his secret mining operations under my land, and that was why he made such an effort to catch you, even following the Modoc. I understand now, why he was so anxious to get possession of this land that I considered worthless. But I beat him at his own game, thanks to you and your chums.”
“And your daughter did her part,” said Fenn, “for she saw the cave first.”
“Of course she did, God bless her.”
“I don’t understand how the Chinese smugglers and the miners both used the cave and the secret entrances,” said Frank.
“I didn’t until I had a talk with the detectives,” said Mr. Hayward. “The Chinese used the cave a long time before Dirkfell was aware of what valuable stuff was in it. He and his gang worked in harmony with the Celestials.”
“Are they going to try to catch him?” asked Fenn.
“No, it’s not worth while, since they have broken up the smuggling gang. I guess Dirkfell will not show himself in these parts soon again.”
Nor did he, or any of his gang. The boys spent a week with Mr. Hayward. Then they started back to Duluth, to join Captain Wiggs.
They found the Modoc ready to sail, and they were warmly welcomed by the commander.
“Well, we’ve certainly had some strenuous happenings this trip,” observed Frank. “I don’t think we’ll have such lively times again.” But he was mistaken, they did have plenty of adventures, and what some of them were I shall relate in another book, to be called “Bart Keene’s Hunting Days.”
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