Allen Chapman.

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





The boys were up early the next morning to catch the first glimpse of the canal, lock and falls. It was some time before they reached them, however, and, when they did arrive at the canal, they found several vessels ahead of them, and had to wait their turn for entering the lock.

They had a fine view of the surrounding country and the falls of St. Marys, spanned by a big railroad bridge. When they approached the lock, they saw that the canal was there divided by two walls of masonry making two locks and enclosing a space that was laid out like a little park, with grass plots and trees. Along the edges of the retaining walls, which were very wide, many persons were walking.

At last it was the turn of the Modoc to enter the lock. She steamed slowly ahead, and an empty grain barge was also sent in at the same time, the lock being large enough for two vessels.

When the craft were in, the immense gates were closed behind them. The Modoc and the grain barge were now shut up in something like a box of masonry, with water for a bottom, and the sky for a top. The boys watched the men open the water-gates that let in a flood of liquid that swept in from Lake Superior, through the long canal.

Slowly the two vessels began to rise. The water boiled and bubbled, churning into foam as it forced its way in. It seemed as though it was protesting at being made to hoist the ships, instead of being allowed to course on to the mighty ocean.

Up and up went the great craft, being lifted as easily by the powerful water, as though some giant hand had reached down from the sky and was elevating them. A few feet more and they would be able to steam out on the upper lever of the canal, and thence into Lake Superior.

Suddenly a rope, that held the grain barge from drifting too close to the forward gates, parted. The churning of the water sent the clumsy craft ahead, and, in a moment the bow was caught under one of the heavy beams of the gate. As the water was still lifting, the nose of the craft became depressed, while the stern rose. Then the barge swung over against the Modoc, and a projection on it caught against the latter craft.

The barge was now held down, bow and stern, while, from beneath, it was being lifted by an irresistible force of water. The barge careened to one side, and the Modoc began to heel over.

Shut off the water! cried Captain Wiggs, who saw the danger. Shut her off, quick, or well be stove in!

CHAPTER XIV
MYSTERIOUS STRANGERS

Under the forward gates, and through openings in them, the water was still bubbling and foaming, seeking to establish a level with that on the other side of the barrier. Lower and lower sank the bow of the barge, for it was held fast on the beam. The Modoc heeled over more and more.

Shut off the water! again cried the captain.

Then the attendants at the lock were made aware that something was wrong.

Orders were shouted; men ran to and fro. With immense levers they shut the flood gates, and, slowly and sullenly, as though cheated of its prey, the bubbling subsided.

We must pull the barge back! cried one of the lock men, running up along the cement wall.

No, dont do that, advised Captain Wiggs, as he stood on the bridge of his vessel, while the boys, who were much alarmed by the impending accident, had joined him, for they were permitted the run of the ship.

Why not? asked the man. Weve got to free her from that gate beam.

Yes, but if you pull her out from under the edge of that beam suddenly, shes sure to bound up, and then shell come slap-bang against the side of my craft. Besides, I think shes held so tight that you cant pull her back.

What shall we do? asked the man, recognizing that Captain Wiggs knew what he was about.

Let the water out from the rear gate, was his suggestion. That will lower my vessel and the barge gradually. Theyll assume their right positions, and no damage will be done. Then you can raise us again, and be sure no more ropes break. I dont want an accident like that again.

The captains advice was followed. When the water ceased coming in the forward gate, the men ran to the rear one and opened the valves there. Out rushed the imprisoned fluid, boiling and bubbling at a great rate. Slowly the two big vessels began to sink. The barge swung away from the Modoc and then, a little later, when the water had fallen sufficiently, the bow was released from the projecting beam. The two crafts were now in the same positions they had been in when they first entered the lock.

Men hastily fastened heavier ropes to the barge, and took several turns about strong bitts, so the ship could not again drift into danger. Then the flood was once more allowed to enter the lock.

Again the vessels rose, and this time, without mishap, they were floated to the higher level of the canal. The forward gates were opened and out toward Lake Superior steamed the Modoc, followed by the slower grain barge. The boys looked around them, being able to get a better view now, as they were some distance higher, being on a level with the top of the falls, off to their right. They saw a long string of vessels, some waiting to enter the locks to proceed east, while others were coming west.

That was a narrow escape, remarked Bart, when the ship was again proceeding along.

Yes, we seem to be sort of up against lots of hard luck this trip, remarked the captain. I think you boys must be responsible.

How? asked Fenn, for the captain looked serious.

Why, youre regular Jonahs. If there were any whales in these waters Id try the experiment of throwing one of you overboard, to see if I couldnt change my luck.

Id be willing to jump over and take a swim, volunteer Ned. It looks nice and cool in there, and its hot up here.

It was a warm July day, and the weather was humid and unpleasant.

Maybe when we get further out on Lake Superior, and come to some good place to tie up, Ill give you a chance to take a dip, responded the commander. Id like one myself.

Ned must take care not to go to sleep, or hell be carried under by a big fish, suggested Fenn, taking precautions to get beyond the reach of his chums arm.

The Modoc touched at a port of call that afternoon, and Captain Wiggs found awaiting him a message which changed matters so that he did not have to be in any hurry to conclude his voyage.

This will give us a chance to lay-to, and go ashore, he said to the boys. You might as well have a good time while you are on this cruise. No telling when youll get another.

It was a day after this, one of the hottest that the boys ever remembered, that the Modoc came to anchor off shore, near a little bay, on the edge of which, and about three miles away from where they laid-to, was a good-sized town.

Now for a swim! exclaimed Ned. Can we take the boat and go ashore, captain?

The desired permission being given, the four chums were soon rowing toward where they saw a sandy beach, that seemed to be put there on purpose for bathing. They hauled the boat up on shore and soon were disporting themselves in the water.

Oh, this is something like! exclaimed Fenn, as he proceeded to float with nothing but his face out of the water.

Yes, you look just like a baby crocodile, replied Frank.

I do, eh? asked Fenn, diving suddenly and coming up under Frank, whom he ducked unceremoniously.

Here! Quit-erurgle-gurgle! called the luckless one, as he sank out of sight.

Then the boys began to play tricks on each other, had impromptu races and diving contests, and enjoyed themselves to the limit in the cool water.

Lets dress and go on a little exploring trip, proposed Fenn, after they had spent an hour in the lake. Weve got time enough before we have to go aboard.

His suggestion was well received, and soon the four chums were strolling back from the lake, through the dense woods that bordered it. They had not gone far before Frank, who was in advance, suddenly halted. He motioned to the others to approach silently, and they joined him on tip-toe.

What is it? asked Ned.

Frank pointed through the bushes. Beyond the screen of the underbrush the boys could see a road. It did not seem to be much traveled, but what attracted their attention was a big automobile, drawn back, and almost hidden in the thicket.

The machines been abandoned, was Barts opinion. It is probably broken.

Hush! cautioned Frank, and not a moment too soon, for, at that instant two men stepped cautiously out of the bushes near the auto. One of them produced a telescope, and pointed it at the lake, which was just visible through the trees.

The boys looked at the man. He seemed a rough sort of fellow, with an unpleasant face. He was poorly dressed, and the lads noticed that, standing against a tree near him, was a rifle.

But it was a sight of the mans companion which caused the boys to stare again and wonder. For the second man was a Chinese, though he wore American clothes. Under his hat, however, could be seen the tell-tale queue.

The white man handed his Celestial companion the telescope, and murmured something to him, evidently in Chinese. The other replied and applied the glass to his eye. No sooner had he done so that he uttered an exclamation, and began jumping about.

The other man snatched the glass and took a look. Then they both talked very excitedly, pointing to the lake and then at the auto.

I wonder what they can be up to? whispered Fenn.

At that moment he stepped on a loose branch. It broke with a sharp report, and the Chinaman and the white man glanced to where the boys were hidden.

Come on! exclaimed Frank. They may come after us!

CHAPTER XV
A QUEER FIND

Off through the woods ran the Darewell chums, and it needed but a moments listening to tell them that the two mysterious men were after them.

Hurry! called Frank to Fenn, who, because of his natural inability, was not able to run as fast as could the others. Come on, or theyll catch you!

I dont see what weve done that we should run, panted the stout youth. These woods are free. Why havent we a right to walk in them?

This is out west and they do things differently from what they do where we come from, responded Bart, looking back. Evidently those men didnt want to be observed.

Are they coming? asked Ned.

No, replied Bart, pausing in his race, they seemed to have stopped in that little clearing we just passed through.

The Chinese is trying to induce the white man to come back, said Frank.

This was the case for, as the boys watched, they saw the pig-tailed Celestial grasp his companion by the arm, and, pointing toward the lake, fairly pull him back along the path they had come.

They must be interested in some boat, suggested Fenn. Say, fellows, he added hastily. Ill bet I know what it is.

What? inquired Bart, as he stooped over to pick a lot of burdock burrs from his trousers.

These men have something to do with the two who chased us back at the elevator fire. Ill bet theyre part of the same gang, and theyre trying to work some trick on the Modoc! We ought to hurry back and tell Captain Wiggs!

Oh, youre way off! declared Frank. I dont believe these men even know those who chased us.

Then who are they? demanded Fenn.

I dont know, said Frank. Evidently they are interested in some boat they expect from across the lake. That is very evident from the way they acted; looking through the telescope, and all that. Perhaps they have mistaken our vessel for the one they are looking for.

No, remarked Bart. I noticed when the Chinese pointed the glass he aimed it in a different direction from that in which the Modoc lies.

Then what boat are they expecting? asked Ned.

Thats too big a question for me, replied Bart. It certainly is a queer thing to see a Chinese and a white man in such close company, off here in the woods.

And then the auto, put in Fenn. What do you suppose thats for?

Its part of the same game, was Franks opinion.

Well, I dont know that its up to us to discover it, went on Fenn. Its about time we got back to the ship, anyhow. Come on. Well keep on this way, and fetch around to the beach in a circle. Then well not run across those two queer men.

The boys advanced, laying their course as best they could. Now and then, through the trees, they could get a glimpse of the lake, and they knew they were going in the right direction.

They came to a little gully, in a dense part of the woods, and had to descend into it, to get across, as it extended for quite a distance in either direction. Frank led the way, half slipping, half sliding down the sides. As he reached the bottom he gave a startled cry that alarmed his companions.

Hurt yourself? asked Bart.

No, but look what Ive found!

A gold mine? inquired Ned, with a laugh.

Part of a clothing store, replied Frank. Look! and he pointed to where, behind a clump of trees, was a large pile of mens clothing, hats, shoes, coats, vests, trousers and shirts.

That solves the mystery! exclaimed Fenn.

How? asked Bart.

Why theres been a big robbery! The men have hidden their booty in the woods, until they have a chance to carry it away. Those two men we just saw are members of the gang. Theyre keeping a look-out until their boat comes and then theyll take the stuff away. Yes, thats it!

I believe Fenns right, declared Ned.

Do you? asked Frank quietly. Then how do you account for the fact that all the garments are old? Theres not a new one among em, not even the shoes. You can see for yourself.

The boys looked more closely at the garments, which were arranged in piles, with canvas coverings tossed to one side, as though they had been protected from the weather, and recently opened. They did not touch the things, but it did not need a close inspection to show that Frank was right. The garments were all old ones.

If there was a robbery it must have been of a second-hand store, went on Frank, and thats not likely. Besides, see here, and he pointed a little farther off, where a heap of Chinese clothing lay on the ground.

Well, if this doesnt beat the Dutch! exclaimed Bart. What do you make out of that?

It was a strange find. First to come across a Chinese and an American, in excited conversation in the depths of the woods, and then to discover a pile of clothes, such as are worn by white men, close to a heap, evidently discarded by a band of Celestials, was sufficient, as Bart said, to beat not only the Dutch, but the French, English, German, Spanish and a few other nations.

The boys went closer to the garments of the Celestials. These clothes, as did the others, exhibited unmistakable signs of wear. But they were not piled in orderly heaps; instead, being tossed carelessly together, as if they were no longer of any service.

Isnt this a regular Chinese puzzle? remarked Ned.

I believe they are Chinese smugglers! chorused Fenn and Bart.

Thats what, said Frank. Those two men we saw were evidently the look-outs, watching for the boat load to arrive. When the travelers from the Flowery Kingdom land, they are brought here, to this secluded place, and here they take off their blouses and wide pants, and put on old American clothes. Old ones, so they attract no attention. Ill wager thats the solution to this Chinese puzzle.

But where do the Chinamen come from? asked Ned. Were a good ways from China.

From Canada, answered Frank. I remember reading lately about a lot of Chinese who were taken into Canada from the Pacific coast. They were brought by rail to a place on Lake Superior about opposite here, and smuggled into this country in boats.

Thats right, agreed Bart. I read how one boat load, which the smugglers were bringing over, was caught in a storm, and all the Chinese drowned.

But why do they bring them over? asked Fenn, who was usually too full of fun, or too interested in some girl, to pay much attention to current events.

Why, theres a United States law against letting any more Chinese come in, explained Frank. The only way they can get in is to smuggle here. Its easy to get them into Canada, and then, if they can make a trip across the lake, and land in some secluded spot, theyre all right, if theyre not discovered, and that is no easy matter, as the Chinese all look so much alike.

Then that white man we saw must have been one of the agents engaged in smuggling, said Bart. Ive read they have a regularly organized company, and get good money from the Chinese whom they smuggle over. The pig-tailed chap with him, was evidently a helper or interpreter, who was on hand because the boat was expected.

Thats why they were looking across the lake with a telescope then, ventured Fenn. Say, its as clear as daylight now. I wonder if we couldnt stay and see em land?

Not much! exclaimed Frank. The chances are the plans are all off, for the time being. That white man will suspect we were spying on him, and when they ran back that time, I guess it was to signal to the boat not to land. We must have given them quite a scare.

But what was the auto for? asked Ned, who liked to go into details, and who always wanted to know the why and wherefore of things.

I guess it was to take the Chinese to some place where they could stay until it was safe to venture out, said Frank. Sometimes they have to jump around pretty lively, I imagine, especially if the government detectives get after them.

Perhaps wed better go and tell Captain Wiggs what we have discovered, suggested Fenn. He may want to notify the authorities.

Good idea, commented Bart. Come on.

As the boys started to leave the little gully where the clothing was hidden, they heard a noise behind them. Turning quickly they saw the white man and Chinese, as they broke through the underbrush.

Theyre after us! exclaimed Fenn in a hoarse whisper.

CHAPTER XVI
FIRE ON BOARD

But this time it proved to be the other way about. The two mysterious men, at the sight of the boys, dived back into the woods again, and showed no desire to come to closer acquaintance with them. Instead of taking after the four chums, the men acted as though they feared pursuit.

Theyre running away from us! exclaimed Frank. I guess we havent anything to fear from them.

Suddenly, through the forest, there sounded a shrill steam whistle.

Whats that? asked Ned.

Captain Wiggs, signalling to us, replied Frank. I guess weve stayed in the woods too long. Come on.

Maybe its the smugglers boat, suggested Fenn.

I guess not, Frank remarked. Theyve been signalled to keep off. That was the Modocs whistle. I recognized it.

Franks words proved correct, for, when the boys reached the shore, they again heard the signal, and saw steam coming from the whistle pipe of the vessel on which they were cruising.

Look there! exclaimed Frank, pointing off to the left. The boys glanced in the direction, and saw a boat. From the funnels black smoke was pouring, as if every effort was being made to get up steam. Thats the smugglers craft, very likely, the lad went on. Shes making fast time away from here.

Captain Wiggs listened gravely to what the boys had to tell him. He agreed with Frank, that the smugglers of Chinese had tried to make a landing, but, evidently, had been frightened off.

What will they do now? asked Ned.

Change the landing place to some other locality, replied the captain. Up or down the coast. Up, I should say, seeing the way that steamers headed, and he pointed to the craft, with the black smoke hanging like a cloud over it. The vessel was almost out of sight.

What will they do with the clothes? asked Bart.

Oh, theyll take em along. Probably thats what the two men came to get, when they saw you and ran away. Its a well organized business, this Chinese smuggling, and there is a lot of money in it for the agents. They are probably saying all kinds of mean things about you, for breaking up their plans.

Then I hope they dont catch us alone off in the woods, sometime, remarked Fenn. That Chinese didnt look like a very pleasant fellow to meet after dark; especially if he had a grudge against you.

I think youve seen the last of em, declared Captain Wiggs. If I thought it worth while Id notify the government authorities, but, by the time I could get a message to em, the smugglers will be miles away. Theres no telling where theyll land next time. The steamer will hang around the coast, until it gets a signal all is clear. Then the pig-tails will be dumped into a boat, rowed ashore, and the vessel will scoot off for another load in Canada.

The anchor was broken out, hoisted, and soon, under a good head of steam, the Modoc was proceeding over Lake Superior at a fast rate, for, though he carried no perishable freight, and had no special date of arriving at Duluth, Captain Wiggs believed in doing what he had to do as quickly as possible.

That night Fenn, who was not sleeping as soundly as he should, in consequence of having eaten too much supper, was awakened by hearing a peculiar buzzing noise. At first he could not locate it, and then, after sitting up in his bunk, he decided it came from the stateroom adjoining his, and which had no occupant this voyage.





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