Allen Chapman.

Fenn Masterson's Discovery: or, The Darewell Chums on a Cruise





Could I? asked Fenn eagerly.

Sure.

And and could you take any other boiler tube cleaners, or or any other help?

Well, I need a couple of lads to dust the coal, said the captain, so seriously that Fenn thought he meant it. You see if coal is dusty it doesnt burn well, he added. We have to dust off every lump before we can put it in the boiler. Now a couple of handy lads, who were quick and smart could

Maybe you could use three, suggested Fenn, with a smile.

Sure I could, spoke the captain. Thats it! he added quickly. You and your three chums! Why not? You four could come along, and, if necessary, you could all dust coal. We use a lot of it. Come on now, heres a proposal for you, and the captain smiled good naturedly. You four boys come along and make the trip to Duluth with me.

Would it would it cost much? asked Fenn, seeing a chance of carrying out the cruise he had planned.

Not a cent. I tell you Ill use you boys in more ways than one. Dusting the coal is only a small matter. There is the smoke stack to be scrubbed, the dishes to be hand painted and the windows to be taken out and put in again.

Do you mean it? asked Fenn. I mean, do you really want us on this trip, Captain Wiggs?

Of course I do. I sail in three days, to be gone a month or more. If you boys want to have a good vacation come along. Get the permission of your folks and let me know to-night.

I will! exclaimed Fenn, his brain whirling with the suddenness of it all. Ill tell the other boys right away, and, not even pausing to thank the captain for the lemonade, he hurried up the companion ladder, out on the deck of the Modoc and, jumping to the dock, ran up the street as fast as he could go.

CHAPTER VI
IN PERIL

Heres the stuff from the store, mom! exclaimed Fenn, as he rushed into the house.

Whats the matter? asked his mother anxiously. Has there been an accident, Fenn?

Got to find the boys! Captain Wiggs! Modoc! Going on a cruise! Tell you later! was what Fenn exclaimed in jerky sentences as he hurried down the side steps and out of the yard.

Oh, those boys! They get so excited you cant do anything with them! exclaimed Mrs. Masterson. I wonder what theyre up to now?

If she could have seen her son and his chums, whom he met on the street, soon after his hurried exit, she would have been more puzzled than ever.

Great news! Great! yelled Fenn, as he caught sight of Frank, Ned and Bart approaching him. Were going with Captain Wiggs to make a tour of the Great Lakes! Whoop! Hold me down, somebody!

He grabbed Ned and Bart, each by an arm, and began whirling them around in a good imitation of an Indian war dance.

Here! Let up! cried Frank. Whats it all about? Whos killed?

Nobody, you ninny! shouted Fenn. Were going on the Modoc!

Who says so?

When?

How many of us?

Where?

Are we all going?

All Fenn could do was to nod his head vigorously.

He was all out of breath. As soon as he could get enough wind to talk, he rapidly explained what Captain Wiggs had said.

Does he mean were to work our passage? asked Frank. I dont know as I care to shovel coal, if thats what he means.

I guess he was only joking about that part of it, answered Fenn. Im going, if I have to scrub the decks. It will be sport.

Thats right, chimed in Bart. I dont mind working my way for the sake of the trip. When can we go?

Lets go down to the wharf and have a talk with him, suggested Ned, and they all agreed this was a wise idea.

A little later they were in the large cabin of the Modoc, which, for a freight boat, was well fitted up.

Captain Wiggs repeated the invitation he had given to Fenn. The boys would be welcome to make the trip with him, he said, as long as their parents consented. They would need an outfit of clothing, with rough garments for stormy weather, which might be encountered.

And well do anything we can to help you run the boat, added Bart, who felt that some return ought to be given for the captains generosity.

Well, replied the commander, in drawling tones, I dont expect too much. But if you could manage to keep the door mats clean it would be a great help.

Door mats on a ship? questioned Ned.

Yes; of course, replied the captain, with an assumption of dignity. You see the salt spray gets all over the deck, and if its tramped into the cabins it makes the floors dirty. My steward is very particular about clean floors, and I thought that if you could help keep the mats clean, why it would make his work easier, and he wouldnt grumble so much. However, if its too much trouble, why of course

Oh, well do it, hastily agreed Fenn, fearing that the trip might be called off. He did not quite know how to take the captains remarks, for the commander had not the least suspicion of a smile on his face. After all, thought Fenn, it might be necessary to clean the door mats, and he resolved to do his share of it.

Well, now that thats settled, went on the commander, as if a load had been taken from his mind, well go into further details.

He then explained to the boys what they would need in the way of clothing and baggage, and he briefly described the trip. The duration of it was a little uncertain as he could not tell how long he would have to wait at Duluth, after unloading, before he could get a cargo to bring back.

I guess Ill get you home safe in time to begin the fall term of school, he said, and that ought to answer.

It will, declared Ned. Its mighty fine of you to ask us.

Oh, I guess youll be worth your salt, commented Captain Wiggs. Besides attending to the door mats, I may expect you to look after the scuttle-butt, now and again.

Fenn wanted to ask what the scuttle-butt was, but as the steward came in just then, to get some orders, the boys decided it was time to leave.

They promised to be on hand the day set for sailing, and then, with their minds full of the happy prospect ahead of them, they went ashore.

The parents of the lads offered no objection to their making the cruise in company with Captain Wiggs, who was well known in Darewell. In due time valises and trunks were packed and the four chums, the envy of their less-fortunate school companions, strolled down to the wharf and boarded the Modoc.

The steamer was a large one, and had good accommodations for passengers, though she seldom carried any. This time, besides the boys, there was only one man, who was making the trip for his health. He was Burton Ackerman, who lived in a small town not far from Darewell.

They found that their staterooms, which were of good size, adjoined one another. They put away their belongings, and then went up on deck. The Modoc had cast off, and was slowly gathering speed as it dropped down the river toward Lake Erie.

Dont forget the scenery, boys! called the captain, as he passed.

We wont, answered Ned, with a laugh.

The boys had often made the trip to Lake Erie, and there was little of novelty for them in this. But, when the steamer had gotten well out on the big body of water, they crowded to the rails, for they had never been out so far as this before.

Its almost as good as an ocean voyage, exclaimed Bart.

What are you thinking of, Stumpy? asked Frank, noticing that his short chum was rather quiet.

I know, declared Ned. Hes wondering if hell see Ruth.

Oh, you began the badgered one, when the attention of the boys was taken from tormenting their chum by several sharp blasts of the Modocs whistle. There was an answering screech and Frank suddenly exclaimed:

Look there, boys!

They all looked. On the port side, bearing right down on them, and coming at full speed, was an immense grain barge. It appeared to be unmanageable, for the whistle was frantically blowing, and a man in the pilot house was waving his hand.

Toot! Toot! Toot! Toot! screamed the whistle of the Modoc.

Shes going to ram us! cried Fenn. We cant get out of the way in time!

There was a confused jangling of bells from the Modocs engine room, followed by more whistles, and then the steamer began to swing around. But still the grain barge came straight on. A collision seemed inevitable.

CHAPTER VII
AN ELEVATOR BLAZE

From somewhere Captain Wiggs reached the deck on the jump. He tore past the boys on the run, and fairly burst into the door of the pilot house, where the first mate was in charge.

Wed better get ready to jump! cried Frank. It looks as if we were going to be cut in two.

Grab life preservers! shouted Ned. Here are some back here!

He turned to lead the way to where, under an awning, some of the cork jackets were hung in racks. Before he could reach them a peculiar shiver seemed to run over the Modoc.

Shes hit us! yelled Bart. Everybody jump!

The boys made a rush for the rail, intending to trust to their swimming abilities rather than to chance remaining on the steamer after the grain barge had hit her.

But their plans were suddenly frustrated for, as they reached the rail, something that towered away above their heads loomed up, and the grain vessel came sliding along side of the Modoc, just as if the two craft were about to tie up together for loading purposes.

The grain barge only bumped gently against the side of the steamer. The shrill whistles ceased. The jangling bells were silent. By the narrowest of margins a bad collision had been avoided.

Out of the pilot house came Captain Wiggs, running along the rail until he came opposite the pilot house of the grain barge. Then, standing on a signal flag locker the commander addressing the man in charge of the vessel which had given them all such a scare, exclaimed:

Say, what in the name of the Sacred Cow are you trying to do, anyhow? Dont you know how to steer, you inconsiderate slab-sided specimen of an isosceles triangle!

Sure I know how to steer, replied the man, who was as cool as the captain was excited. I was steering boats when you was a baby. But Id like to know how in the name of Billy Hochswatters mud-turtle any one can manage a boat when the steam steering gear breaks just as another vessel gets in front of me.

Oh, then thats different, replied Captain Wiggs, with an understanding of the difficulties of the situation.

Yes, I guess it is, retorted the other.

Why didnt you use the hand gear? asked the commander of the Modoc.

That got jammed just as they were swinging my boat around, and all I could do was to signal for a clear course.

Well, I gave it to you, but I almost had to rip my engines off the bed plates to do it, retorted Captain Wiggs. I reversed at full speed, and swung that wheel around until it looked like a spinning top. Only for that wed be on the bottom of the lake by now.

Thats right, agreed the other pilot. You had your nerve with you. Well, as long as theres no damage done I spose you can go ahead. Ill have to lay-to for repairs.

Um, was all Captain Wiggs replied, for he had not quite gotten over his scare, used as he was to narrow escapes from danger. Slowly the Modoc was backed away from the side of the grain barge, and, when at the proper distance, she was sent ahead again, the other craft coming to anchor.

I hope I dont meet him again this voyage, murmured Captain Wiggs, as he walked up to where the four chums stood. Hes the most unlucky fellow I know. Something is always happening to his boats.

Who is he? asked Ned.

Captain Streitwetter. Hes a German from Germanville. Did you hear him mention Billy Hochswatters mud-turtle?

Yes, said Bart. What did he mean?

That is a story, replied Captain Wiggs gravely, which can only be told after the dinner dishes are washed. Youd better look after them, and with that he walked away.

There he goes again! exclaimed Frank. You never know what he is going to say. I believe hes stringing us.

I almost know it, retorted Fenn. Its only a way he has, but the trouble is we dont know whether or not he wants us to do the things he says. I wonder if we had better do anything about the dishes?

Of course not, said Frank. The cook sees to that.

But maybe the cook is sick, insisted Fenn. Captain Wiggs might want us to help.

If I thought so Id offer at once, put in Ned. I used to do it at home, once in a while, to help out.

Ill go ask him, volunteered Fenn, and he started to find Captain Wiggs, when he was halted by seeing the commander step from behind a pile of boxes. The captain was laughing heartily.

Thats the time I had you guessing; didnt I? he demanded. Wash the dishes. Ha! Ha! Ho! Ho! Thats pretty good!

The boys, looking a bit sheepish, soon joined in the merriment at their expense, and the little pleasantry served to banish the nervous feeling that remained after the narrow escape from the collision.

Billy Hochswatters mud-turtle! repeated the captain. Thats what Captain Streitwetter always says when hes excited. I dont believe there ever was such a person as Billy Hochswatter.

I either, added Fenn.

I must go down to the engine room to see if we suffered any damage, the commander of the Modoc went on. You boys amuse yourselves as well as you can until dinner time. You dont have to peel the potatoes, he added with a wink.

Well have to get even with him, somehow, suggested Ned, when the captain was out of hearing.

How? asked Bart.

I havent thought it out yet, but we must play some kind of a trick on him. Hell think the Darewell chums are slow if we believe all he tells us, and dont come back at him. Try and think up something.

Good idea, commented Fenn. Well have the laugh on him, next time.

The day passed quickly, for there were many novel sights for the boys to see. Captain Wiggs was kept so busy, for there were some repairs needed to one of the engines, because of the sudden reversing, that the boys did not see him again that day. He did not appear at dinner or supper, and the steward said the commander was taking his meals in the engine room.

The Modoc was going along at less than her usual speed, but was making fairly good time.

Well, I spose we might as well turn in, boys, suggested Fenn, about nine oclock. I believe that is the proper term aboard a ship.

Yes, messmates, spoke Ned, assuming a theatrical attitude, we will now seek our downy hammocks, and court tired natures sweet restorer, balmy sleep, to arise in the gladsome morning, and you must wake and call me early; call me early, mother dear, for Im to be Queen of the May, mother; Im to be Queen of the May!

Well call you loony, instead of early, if you get off any more of that nonsense, murmured Frank.

Thats what, agreed Fenn. Youre not studying English Lit. and French history now, Ned.

Very well, most noble gentlemen, went on Ned. I shall obey you, right gladly, I ween! and he made a dive for his stateroom before Bart, who made a sudden grab could lay hands on him.

The others soon turned in, and, in spite of their new and strange surroundings and beds, were soon sound asleep.

It must have been about midnight that Fenn was awakened by hearing a great tramping on deck. It was followed by confused shouts, and then came the jangling of the engine room bells. The Modoc seemed to increase her speed.

I wonder if theres another collision coming? he said as he sat up. He heard Bart moving in the next room, and presently Franks voice was heard calling:

Say, fellows, somethings wrong.

The noise on deck increased, and it sounded as though several men were running to and fro, dragging ropes about.

Im going up! decided Fenn, jumping out of his berth and hastily pulling on his clothes. From the open doors of his chums rooms he could see that they, too, were attiring themselves with little regard for how they looked.

Up on deck they hurried. As they emerged from the companionway their eyes were met with a bright glare.

A fire! exclaimed Ned. The boats afire!

Dont say that! Dont say that, young man, I beg of you! besought a man, attired in his trousers and night shirt, as he approached Ned, who recognized him as Mr. Ackerman, the sick passenger.

What is it? inquired Fenn, who was right behind Ned.

He said the ship was on fire, repeated Mr. Ackerman. I cant stand it. I have heart disease. Excitement is bad for me. Do, please, one of you, go and find out how fast it is burning, and come back and tell me.

He sat down at the head of the companionway, as coolly as though he had asked to be informed which way the wind was blowing. Evidently he knew how to take care of himself, so as not to aggravate his malady.

The ship isnt on fire! exclaimed Bart, crowding past Ned and Fenn.

But something evidently is burning, insisted Mr. Ackerman. I can smell smoke, and see the reflection of the blaze.

This was not strange, considering that the Modoc was in the midst of a cloud of vapor, and that bright tongues of fire could be seen close to her bow.

Its a big grain elevator on shore thats burning! exclaimed Frank. See! There it is!

As he spoke the smoke which enveloped the steamer was blown aside. The boys could then note that, during the night the vessel had approached close to shore. They were near a good-sized city, and, among the wharfs was a big building, built to hold grain in readiness to load on the lake steamers.

From the top of this flames were shooting high into the air, and the Modoc was approaching it at full speed.

CHAPTER VIII
FENN HEARS SOMETHING

Whats the matter? Cant Captain Wiggs stop the ship? cried Fenn, for it certainly looked as if the Modoc was going to run, full tilt, into the flames, which were right at the waters edge, as the elevator was on the end of the wharf.

Clang!

The half speed bell sounded from the engine room. The steamer began to slacken speed.

Clang! Clang!

Two gongs. Stop the engines. The Modoc was going ahead under her own momentum only. Then another signal.

Under the stern of the steamer the water boiled and bubbled as the great screw was reversed, to check the vessels way. The jingling bell, following the signal to reverse, indicated to the engineer to back his machinery at full speed, and the big craft fairly quivered, so great was the strain of stopping her up short.

But they were master-hands aboard the Modoc and she swung broadside to a wharf as gently as a boy brings his toy boat to a stop. From the deck men leaped to the string piece, with great ropes in their hands, which they made fast to butts and piling. The steamer was tied up, so close to the burning elevator that the boys could feel the heat of it.

What are you going to do, captain? asked Mr. Ackerman, who seemed to have recovered from his nervousness, when he found the Modoc was in no danger.

Im going to help douse that fire! cried the commander. Lively with that hose, men! Lively now! Snatch her quick and Ill give you all the water you can handle!

Several brawny deck-hands began pulling a line of hose over the side. Other men were lowering a big boat, into which the men with the hose jumped. The hose was unreeled after them as they pulled out on the lake, in front of the burning elevator.

Im afraid its a goner, remarked Captain Wiggs, as a gust of wind sent the leaping flames licking along the surface of the water.

How did it happen?

Whose place is it?

What are you going to do?

Those were some of the questions which the boys asked Captain Wiggs. He answered them all, comprehensively.

Its an elevator in which the owners of the Modoc are interested, he said. I was to call there to-morrow for a load of grain. I was heading for the wharf, intending to tie up until morning, when I saw flames shooting out of the top of the shaft. Ive got a powerful pump aboard, and I knew they didnt have any fire boat in town, so I speeded the Modoc as close as I could. I dont believe I can do much, but Im going to try. Im afraid the fire has too much start.

Can we go ashore and watch it? asked Ned.

I guess so. Dont go too near, and be careful you dont fall off the pier. Its deep water all around.

Captain Wiggs hurried down to the engine room, for the men with the hose in the boat were now as close as they dared to go to the fire, and could use water.

Come on, fellows! cried Ned. We dont often get a chance to see a big fire like this.

They leaped to the wharf, since no gang plank had been run out, and were soon hurrying along the pier to shore. The elevator was several slips or piers distant, and the boys would have to go ashore to reach it. As they ran on they could hear the big pump of the Modoc beginning to force water from the lake through the hose, the nozzle of which the men in the row boat directed at the fire.

In the street along the water front the four chums found a great crowd. Every one was hurrying to the blaze. Men were shouting, boys were yelling, and even women and girls had hurriedly dressed to come out to the conflagration.

The whole block back of the elevatorll go, if they dont stop it pretty soon! yelled a man as he passed on the run.





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