Fenn Masterson's Discovery: or, The Darewell Chums on a Cruiseñêà÷àòü êíèãó áåñïëàòíî
“It sounds like a hive of bees,” he said to himself. “I wonder if the captain can have any in there.”
Then the absurdity of such an idea was apparent to him, and he smiled at his notion. Still the buzzing continued, growing louder. Fenn was wide awake now.
“Maybe something is wrong with the ship,” he reasoned. “That sound might be water coming in through a leak. I think I’ll tell the captain.”
He got up, and, moving about his stateroom, in search of his trousers and slippers, he knocked a glass out of the rack.
“What’s that?” called Frank, who was a light sleeper.
“It’s me,” replied Fenn.
“What’s the matter? Sick?”
“No, but I heard a funny sound, and I want to find out what it is. Maybe the boat’s sprung another leak.”
“Oh, you’re dreaming,” commented Frank. “Go back to bed.”
“Well, you come in here and listen, if you think I’m dreaming,” retorted Fenn.
Frank jumped out of his berth and came into his chum’s room. The buzzing had increased in intensity, and Frank had no difficulty in hearing it.
“What did I tell you?” asked Fenn, in triumph.
“It is a queer sound,” admitted Frank. “What’s in that next room?”
“Nothing, that I know of. I passed it this morning, the door was open, and it was empty.”
“Then let’s have a look,” suggested Frank, stepping out into the passage.
“Maybe you’d better – maybe it’s a – ” stammered Fenn.
“Well, what?” demanded Frank. “Are you afraid?”
“Maybe it’s an infernal machine those smugglers put aboard,” went on Fenn. “It sounds just like one.”
“How do you know how an infernal machine sounds?” asked Frank.
“Well, I mean like I’ve read of their sounding.”
“Oh, that’s different. But this is no such thing. Besides, how could the smugglers get one aboard? They haven’t been near the ship.”
This was, of course, unanswerable, and Fenn followed Frank into the corridor, and to the door of the stateroom, whence sounded the peculiar buzzing noise. As they stood outside the portal it could be heard more plainly.
“Here goes!” whispered Frank, turning the knob.
Both he and Fenn started back in surprise, at the sight which greeted them. There, sitting in a steamer chair, in a big red bath robe, was the invalid, Mr. Ackerman. On the bunk in front of him was a small box, from which extended cords, terminating in shining metal tubes, which he held in his hand. The buzzing was coming from the small box.
“Oh, boys, I’m glad to see you!” exclaimed the man who thought he was sick.
“What’s the matter?” asked Frank, in some alarm.
“I’m taking a current of electricity, from my medical battery,” was the answer.
“Electricity?” repeated the two chums, in questioning accents.
“Yes, from the battery. You see I couldn’t sleep, and I often find a current of electricity is beneficial. I did not want to awaken Captain Wiggs with the buzz of my machine, for it makes quite a noise, so I brought it into this empty stateroom.
I hope I didn’t disturb you.”
Mr. Ackerman did not wait for the boys to answer. Instead he continued:
“But I’m glad you came in. I want to take a stronger current, and it goes better if I have some one to share it with me. If you will be so kind, you can each take one of the tubes in your hand, and I will take hold of your other hands. Thus we will form a circle, with me in the center. I think I shall be able to get a current then, that will cause me to go to sleep.”
The boys were a little apprehensive, for, though they had taken electric “shocks” at school, during the experiments, they did not care for the amusement. However, they did not like to refuse, so, rather gingerly, Fenn grasped one handle, and Frank the other. Mr. Ackerman then did something to the battery which made it buzz louder than ever.
“All ready,” he announced, as he grasped Fenn’s right hand in his left and Frank’s left in his right.
The instant that he did so it seemed as if the trio had been hit by something. They all doubled up, the arms of the boys and the invalid jerking like the legs of a frog.
“Ow!” cried Fenn.
“Let go!” called Frank.
But there was no need for any one to let go. With an exclamation of great astonishment, Mr. Ackerman jerked his hands from the involuntary grip of the boys’. That at once broke the circuit, and the current ceased to have any effect. The machine was still buzzing away, however.
“Oh, dear! Oh, dear!” murmured the invalid. “I meant to turn on the weak current, and I turned on the strong one! Did you get bad shocks, boys?”
“Did we!” exclaimed Fenn. “Say, it feels as if I had eaten some strong horse-radish by mistake.”
“It seems as if a mule kicked me,” remarked Frank, rubbing his arms.
“I’m very sorry,” apologized Mr. Ackerman. “I really did not intend that. I hope you believe I did not.” He seemed quite distressed over the happening.
“That’s all right,” spoke Fenn, good-naturedly. “We know it was an accident.”
“Rather a fortunate accident, too,” went on the invalid. “My nerves are much calmer now. I really think I shall be able to go to sleep. I must have taken the right kind of a current without knowing it. I’ll do it the next time I find myself too wakeful.”
“Please excuse us from helping,” begged Frank, with a smile. “It’s a little too much.”
“Oh, no, I wouldn’t think of shocking you again,” said Mr. Ackerman as he began to take the battery apart for packing. “I shall take the current alone. But there, I must not talk or I shall be awake again. I must hurry and get to sleep.”
“Isn’t he the limit!” exclaimed Fenn, when he and Frank were back in the stateroom again. “He thinks that was fun for us.”
The electrical treatment appeared to improve the sick man, for, the next day he was much better, and even laughed and joked about the night’s experience.
The Modoc continued on her course, putting many knots behind her, and the boys were more and more delighted with their cruise, which every day revealed to them new beauties of scenery.
One afternoon, when they were within a day’s travel of Duluth, Captain Wiggs, who was sitting on deck with the four chums, arose suddenly and began to sniff the air.
“What’s the matter? Is the cook burning the steak?” asked Fenn.
“Something’s burning,” answered the commander, with a grave face.
A moment later a sailor, much excited, came rushing up on deck.
“Fire in the forward hold, sir!” he called.
A STRANGE VISION
Captain Wiggs was not built on speed lines. He was short and squatty, and inclined to be fat. But the way in which he hustled about as soon as he heard what the sailor said was sufficient to qualify him to enter a go-as-you-please race of almost any kind.
With a few jumps he was at the companionway leading below, and, as he went the boys could hear him call out:
“Ring the fire alarm! Every man to his station! Someone tell the pilot to slow down! Signal to the engineer to get the pumps in gear!”
Nor were the members of the crew slow to carry out the commander’s instructions. One man rang the automatic fire alarm, that sounded in every part of the vessel. Another hurried to the bridge, where he delivered the message about stopping the boat. The Modoc at once began to lose way and, a moment later, the vibration from the engine room told the boys that the pumps had been started.
“Let’s go below and see if we can help,” suggested Bart, and the four chums went down in a hurry. They found men dragging lines of hose forward where little curls of smoke began coming from an open hatchway.
“Drown her out, men!” cried the captain. “It’ll be all day with us if the flames get loose in that dry freight!”
Several of the men, dragging the snaky lines of hose, dropped down into the hold. They called for water, and the captain signalled for it to be turned on. The flat hose bulged out like a snake after a full meal, and a splashing sound from below told that the quenching fluid was getting in its work.
“Can we do anything?” asked Fenn, as he saw Captain Wiggs taking off his coat and donning oil skins.
“Not now, I guess. You might stand by for orders though. There’s no telling into what this will develope.”
It was getting quite smoky below, and the hold, down into which the commander had disappeared, was pouring out a volume of black vapor.
“Tell ’em to send another line of hose!” came a voice from below, and Fenn hurried to the engineer’s room with the order.
Several men sprang at once to obey. The hose was unreeled from a rack on the partition, and run out to the hold. Then the engineer started another pump, that had been held in reserve.
There were now three lines of hose pouring water on the flames, which the boys could not see. That the blaze was not succumbing so quickly as had been hoped for, was evident by the shouts and excitement that came from the depths of the ship.
“Tell ’em to give us more water!” yelled the captain to the boys waiting above.
Frank rushed with the order, glad to escape the smoke, which was momentarily growing thicker.
“Tell him he’s got all the water I can give him!” shouted the engineer, above the noise of the clanking machinery. “One of the pumps has gone out of commission!”
Frank shouted what the engineer had said to Captain Wiggs, below in the darkness.
“Then we’ve got to batten down the hatches and turn live steam into this hold!” was what the commander called back. “Tell him to get up a good head!”
Frank did so. When he returned Captain Wiggs was just making his way out of the hold. He was black, and smoke-begrimed, while he dripped water from every point of his yellow garments.
“Is there any danger?” asked Ned.
“There always is with a fire aboard a ship,” answered the commander. “But I think we’ll be able to hold her down if we get plenty of steam. Come on up, men,” he added, and the sailors scrambled up. They looked more like colored, than white men.
Captain Wiggs acted quickly. When the last man was up, the hatches, or coverings to the hold, were fastened down, and tarpaulins, wet with water, to make them air tight, were spread over the top. Then, from pipes which ran into the hold from below, and which were for use in emergency, jets of live steam were blown into the compartment.
This, the commander knew, would penetrate to every nook and corner, reaching where water could not, and would soon quench the flames.
“Now, all we can do is to wait,” said the captain, as he sat down, for he was almost exhausted.
That was the hardest part of all. When one can be busy at something, getting out of danger, or fighting a fire that can be seen, the nervous fear is swallowed up in action. But to sit and wait – wait for the unseen steam to do its work, – that was very trying.
Still there was no help for it. Captain Wiggs looked to the other part of the cargo, seeing that there was no danger of that taking fire. The forward hold was separated from the others by thick bulkheads, and there was little chance of the fire breaking through. The hull of the Modoc was of steel, and, provided the fire did not get hot enough to warp any of the plates, there was small danger to the ship itself.
“We’ll have to head for shore, in case it becomes necessary to break out the cargo,” decided the captain, as he went on deck. “Come on, boys. We can do nothing now, and we want to get some of this smoke out of our lungs.”
The course of the ship was changed. Captain Wiggs got out his charts and looked them over.
“Where will we land?” asked Fenn.
“Not much of anywhere,” was the reply. “There is no good harbor this side of Duluth, but I’ve got to do the best I can. There is a little bay, about opposite here. There’s no settlement near it, but I understand there’s a good shore, and I’m going to make for it, in case this fire gets beyond my control.”
Urged on by all the steam the engines could take, though much was needed for the fire, the vessel plowed ahead.
“Land ho!” called the lookout, and the captain, taking an observation, announced they were close to the bay of which he had spoken. When it was reached it was found to be a secluded harbor, with nothing in sight on the shores of it save a few old huts, that appeared to be deserted.
“Not a very lively place,” commented the captain. “Still, it will do all right if we have to land the cargo.”
The anchor was dropped and then all there was to do was to wait for the fire to be extinguished.
The boys remained on deck, looking at the scenery about them. Back of the bay, rising almost from the edge of the water, were a series of steep cliffs, of bare rock for the most part, but studded, here and there, with clumps of bushes and small trees, that somehow, found a lodgement for their roots on little ledges.
“It’s a lonesome sort of place,” remarked Fenn. “Not a soul within sight.”
Hardly had he spoken than there was seen on the face of the cliff, as if by a trick, the figure of a man. He seemed to come out, as does a magic-lantern picture on a sheet, so quickly did he appear where, before, there had been nothing but bare brown rock.
“Look!” exclaimed Fenn, pointing.
“A Chinaman!” exclaimed Bart. “One of the smugglers!”
The boys jumped to their feet, and approached closer to the ship’s rail, to get a better view.
As they did so the Chinese vanished as though the cliff wall had opened and swallowed him up.
AN EXPLORING PARTY
“Well, what do you think of that?” asked Fenn, in surprised accents. “Did he fall down?”
“Doesn’t look so,” answered Frank. “I wonder if we really saw him, or whether it was a sort of day dream?”
“Oh, we saw him all right enough,” said Bart. “He looked to me just like the Chinaman we saw in the woods that day.”
“Just what I was going to remark,” put in Ned. “I wonder if there are any more men up on that cliff?”
“What’s the matter, boys?” asked Captain Wiggs, approaching at this juncture. They told him what they had seen.
“I don’t see anything very surprising in that,” replied the commander. “Probably he has a laundry up there, and he was out looking for customers.” And the commander winked at the other chums, who joined in a laugh at Fenn.
“That’s all right,” announced the discomfited one. “But I’ll wager there’s something queer back of all this. Do you know anything about this locality, captain?”
“Not a thing, and I wish I knew less. I’d never be here if it wasn’t for the fire. And I must take a look now, and see how our steam bath is affecting it. I guess – ”
“Look there!” suddenly cried Fenn, pointing to the cliff, at the base of which the lake waves were breaking.
They all looked. There, on the face of the wall of rock, apparently supported by nothing, stood four men, two of whom were Chinese, dressed in the characteristic costume of that nation. The others were white men. They were close together, near a little clump of bushes, that sprang slantingly out from the surface of the cliff.
“More of ’em, eh?” murmured the captain. “I wonder if they’ll answer a hail?”
He put his hands, trumpet fashion, to his mouth, and was about to call out, when a surprising thing happened.
As the boys watched the men seemed to grow suddenly smaller. They fairly went down out of sight, vanishing as completely as though they had sank into the cliff.
“Well, I never saw such a queer thing!” exclaimed Ned. “They acted just like a Jack in the Box, when some one shuts the lid.”
“That expresses it exactly,” admitted the captain. “It is a queer thing. I think it will bear looking into. I wonder if they haven’t something to do with the Chinese smugglers.”
“That’s what we thought.”
“I believe I’ll go ashore and have a look,” decided the commander of the Modoc. “The government detectives ought to be told of what’s going on out here in this lonely place.”
Captain Wiggs would have carried his plan out, but for the fact that an inspection of the hold showed the fire in the cargo to be smothered. The steam had done the work effectively and there was no more danger. Instead of having to remain in the secluded bay for some time, ready at any moment, when danger threatened, to break out the cargo, the commander found himself able to proceed to Duluth.
This he decided on doing at once, as the exact extent of the fire-damage could not be ascertained until he reached a port where he could unload.
Accordingly all plans of making any examination of the strange actions of the queer men were abandoned and, steam having been gotten up in the main boilers, the engines were started and the Modoc was once more under way.
As they left the little bay the boys kept close watch of the cliff, but there were no signs of life upon the brown wall of rock. If the men were somewhere within a cave on its surface, they did not show themselves.
“I wonder if we’ll ever solve that mystery?” inquired Bart, of no one in particular, as the four chums paced the deck.
“I’m going to,” announced Fenn, decidedly.
“Yes, you’re going to do a lot,” returned Ned, with a laugh. “You were going to collect minerals, but I haven’t seen you stowing any away lately, for your collection.”
“That’s so, I forgot all about ’em,” admitted Fenn. “I’ve got lots of time, though. You can’t get any minerals out here,” and he motioned to the expanse of water that surrounded them. “But I’m going to look into this Chinese business, though.”
“How?” asked Frank. “We’re going farther and farther away every minute.”
“That’s all right. We can come back,” announced Fenn.
“I thought you were going to Bayville to see Mr. Hayward, and – er – Miss Ruth,” went on Bart. “Especially Ruth.”
“Well, I may yet,” replied Fenn. “Bayville isn’t so far from here. In fact it’s within a short distance of where we anchored in that bay.”
“How do you know?”
“I asked the captain,” replied Fenn. “I was thinking of taking a boat and rowing there, if we’d stayed long enough.”
“But how do you figure on getting there now?” asked Ned.
“I’m coming back, after we get to Duluth,” was the answer. “Captain Wiggs has got to remain there for some time, and I don’t see what there is to keep us. It’s a city, and we’ve had enough of city life for a while. I was going to propose that, after we’d been there a couple of days, we go off on a little side trip, coming back in time to go home on the Modoc.”
“Good idea!” exclaimed Bart. “We could go on a little camping expedition.”
“That was my idea,” added Fenn. “We’ve got enough money with us to hire a tent and a small outfit, all we’ll need for a week or so. We’ve been camping in the woods before, and we know how to take care of ourselves. This cruising business is fine, but it’s too lazy a life to suit me.”
“No, I s’pose we haven’t had any excitement since we started,” commented Frank sarcastically. “There was the elevator fire, those men chasing us; Ned nearly being pulled overboard with a fish; getting caught in the lock; the steamer on fire and the queer men on the cliff. Oh, yes, we’ve lived a very quiet and sedate life since we left home, Oh, yes, exceedingly quiet.”
“Well, I mean – Oh, you know what I mean,” said Fenn. “We need more action – the kind we’ll get if we go off on a trip by ourselves.”
“That’s right,” agreed Ned. “I’m with you, Stumpy. The sooner the quicker.”
“When do we get to Duluth?” asked Bart.
“Very soon now,” answered Captain Wiggs, who, coming up behind the boys, overheard the question. “I suppose you are all ready to enter port?” and he looked quizzically at the boys.
“Ready. How do you mean?” asked Fenn.
“Why you can pass the quarantine regulations, I suppose? Let me look at your tongues!”
The boys were so surprised that, hardly knowing what they were doing, they stuck them out for the captain’s inspection.
“Bad, very bad,” he murmured. “I’ll have to attend to this at once.” And he laughed heartily.
“Sold again!” exclaimed Frank, as he drew in his tongue. “I thought we were going to get even with him.”
“So we are,” declared Bart. “If not now, on the trip home. We owe him another one now.”
They were soon busy getting things in shape to go ashore and, when the Modoc tied up at a big wharf, they were all ready to go to the hotel the captain had recommended, there to stay a couple of days, until they could start on their little exploring expedition.
The captain had offered no objection to this, and had told them the best route to take.
“But you must be back in time to sail with me on the homeward trip,” cautioned the captain, mentioning the date and time he expected to start. “I’ll not wait for you, remember. The Modoc suffered very little damage from the fire. Less than I feared and there will be no delay.”
“We’ll be here on time,” Fenn assured him.
The boys spent two busy days preparing for their side trip, and, bright and early one morning, they took a train that was to convey them to a little settlement, whence they were to start for a jaunt through the woods, carrying their simple camping outfit with them.
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