Allen Chapman.

Tom Fairfield in Camp: or, The Secret of the Old Mill





CHAPTER I
TOM GETS A LETTER

Say, Dick, just throw that forward switch in; will you?

Sure I will, Tom. Going any place in particular?

Oh, just for a run down the river, and on my way back I guess Ill stop and get the mail.

Can I go along?

Certainly. Did you see anything of Will to-day?

No, hes gone fishing, I guess, and Dick Jones, one of the best chums of Tom Fairfield, threw in the connecting switch of the latters motorboat, and the craft was ready to run.

Now I wonder if shell start easily, or if Ive got to break my back cranking her? murmured Tom.

Whats the matter? asked Dick. Hasnt she been behaving herself lately?

Oh, yes, but you never can tell. One day shell run like a sewing machine, and the next I cant seem to get her started. Shes like all the other motorboats, good at times, and off her feed occasionally. Thats why I called her the Tag. I never know whether Im it or whether she is. However, heres for a try.

Tom revolved the fly wheel vigorously, but there was only a sort of sigh from the engine, as if it did not like to be disturbed from the rest it had been taking.

One strike, murmured Tom whimsically as he looked at the engine to see if all attachments were in their proper place. Here goes for another spasm.

Once more he whirled the heavy wheel around. But, save for a more pronounced sigh, and a sort of groan, there was no result.

Let me try, suggested Dick.

Im afraid to. This engine is like a balky horse at times, and if anyone but the regular trainer monkeys with her she just sulks all day. Ill get her going yet.

Again came an attempt to make the motor do its work, and again there came a sigh, accompanied by a cough.

Three strikes, and Im out! exclaimed Tom, sinking back on the seat rather exhausted. But shes speaking better than at first. Didnt you think you heard her sort of talking back at me, Dick?

Yes, laughed his chum. But say, are you sure youve got any gasolene?

I put in five gallons last night, and didnt run two miles.

Are you sure its turned on?

Of course I am!

Have you adjusted the carburetor?

Foolish question number twenty-six! exclaimed Tom. Say, youre as bad as a chap at Elmwood Hall George Abbot. We call him Why, because hes always asking questions. Dont you get in that habit, Dick.

I wont, but I wanted to be sure youd done everything you ought to to make the boat go.

Dont worry. Nobody can do all he ought to do in running a motorboat. The best authority that ever was would get stuck once in a while, and then some greenhorn could come along, scatter a little talcum powder on the cylinder head, and off shed go. And the funny part of it is that no one would know why.

For a moment Tom sat looking at the refractory engine, as though trying to read its mind, and then, with a sigh himself, he once more cranked up.

This time there was hardly a murmur from the engine.

Hum! Gone to sleep again! commented Tom. I cant understand this.

Taking off his coat he made up his mind that he would go systematically over every part of the engine, from the batteries and magneto to the gasolene tank and vibrator coil. He started up in the bow, and, no sooner had he looked at the switch which Dick had adjusted, than he uttered an exclamation.

There it is! he cried.

What? asked his chum.

The trouble. Look, that one wire is loose, and even though the switch was connected I didnt get any spark. Its a wonder you didnt see it when you turned it on.

Say, Im not a motorboat expert, declared Dick. All I can do is to steer one.

I guess thats right, agreed Tom with a laugh. Its my fault for not looking there first. I must have jarred that wire loose when I came in last night. I hit the dock harder than I meant to. But Ill soon have it fixed.

With a screw driver he presently had the loose wire back in place on the switch connection. Then, with a single turn of the flywheel, the Tag was in operation, and Tom steered out into Pine river, on which was located the village of Briartown, where our hero lived.

Shes running fine now, commented Dick, who, at a nod from Tom, took the wheel.

Yes, as slick as youd want her. Shes making good time, too, and Tom glanced over toward shore, watching the trees seemingly slip past.

Hey, Tom, wait up, will you? This came as a hail from the shore, and, following it, Tom and Dick saw a lad running along the river bank, waving his hand at them. Wait! he cried.

Its Dent Wilcox, said Dick Jones.

Yes, and hes running thats the strange part of it, commented Tom. I wonder how he ever got out of his lazy streak long enough to get up that much speed.

It is a question, agreed Dick, for Dent Wilcox was known as the laziest lad in Briartown. Probably he wants a ride badly enough to chase after you, added Toms chum.

Once more came the hail:

Hey, Tom, give me a ride; will you?

What for? called back our hero.

Ive got to go down to Millford for a man. Ive got a job, answered Dent.

Then youd better walk, answered Tom. Its good exercise for you.

Aw, say, stop and take me aboard, begged Dent.

Not much! shouted Tom. Im not going to take any chances on stopping this engine now, just when its going good. You walk! and as Dick steered the boat out from shore Tom opened wider his gasolene throttle to increase the speed of the boat, which he had checked when Dent hailed him.

Aw, say, youre mean! charged the lazy lad as the craft got farther and farther from shore. You wait; Ill get square with you yet!

Think he will? asked Dick, glancing anxiously at his chum.

Of course not. In the first place he wont dare, and in the second hes not smart enough to think up something to do to me, and if he is, hes too lazy to carry it out after hes planned it. Dent cant worry me.

The two chums kept on down the river toward the main part of the town, for Toms home was on the outskirts.

I want to get a new set of batteries, explained the owner of the Tag. I always carry two sets so I can run on one even if some of them give out, and one set Ive got now is running pretty low. This motor wont start on the magneto, for some reason, so I have to start on the batteries and then switch over.

They soon reached the town, and Tom tied his craft at a public dock. Having purchased the batteries, and some other things he needed, he went to the post office.

There were several letters in the Fairfield box, and as Tom looked them over he found one for himself.

Hum, I ought to know that writing, he murmured. If that isnt from Jack Fitch Im a cowbird. I wonder whats up? I thought he was in Europe, with his folks, this vacation.

Tom quickly opened the missive. As he glanced through it he gave utterance to an exclamation of delight.

What is it? asked Dick, who stood near his chum.

Why its great news, explained Tom. It seems that there was some slip-up in the plans of Jacks folks, and he didnt go to Europe after all. And now here it is, just at the beginning of the summer vacation, and he writes to know what my plans are. He says hed like to go somewhere with me.

Why dont you go traveling together? asked Dick.

We might, thats a fact, agreed Tom. Hello, heres another page to Jacks letter. I didnt see it at first. Well, what do you know about that? he cried.

More news? asked Dick.

I should say so! Bert Wilson he was my other chum with Jack, you know, at Elmwood Hall Bert will come with Jack and me if we go somewhere, so Jack says. By Jove! I have it! cried Tom, with sparkling eyes.

Whats the game?

Well go camping! We talked of it this spring, just after I got back from Australia, but we couldnt seem to make our plans fit in. Now this will be just the cheese. Jack, Bert and I will go off camping together in the deepest woods we can find. It will be great sport.

It sure will, said Dick enviously.

Something in the tone of his chums voice attracted Toms attention.

Say, look here! he exclaimed suddenly. Wouldnt you like to go camping with us, Dick?

Would I? Say, just give me the chance!

I will! Do you suppose your folksll let you?

Im sure they would. When can we start?

Oh, soon I guess. Im glad this letter came at the beginning of the summer, instead of at the end. Im going home, tell dad and mother, and see what they say. Maybe dad can suggest a good place to go.

Toms motorboat, though making good time on the home trip, did not go half fast enough to suit him, as he was anxious to get back and tell the news. But finally he did reach his house, and, while Dick hurried off to see what arrangements he could make with his family, Tom sought his parents.

Go camping; eh? mused Mr. Fairfield when Tom broached the subject to him. Why of course. That will be a good way to spend the summer. Where will you go, the seashore or the mountains?

Mountains, of course! exclaimed Tom. Its no fun camping at the seashore. Mountains and a lake for mine! I thought maybe you might know of some good place.

Well, Ive done some camping in my time, admitted Mr. Fairfield, and come to think of it, I dont know any better place than up in the northern part of New York state. Its wild enough there to suit anyone, and you can pick out one of several lakes. Theres one spot, near a little village called Wilden, that would suit me.

Then it will suit us, declared Tom. Tell me all about it. Were you ever camping there?

No, but I used to live near there when I was a boy. So did your mother. Its a beautiful country, but wild.

Then Im for Wilden! cried Tom. Ill write to the fellows at once. Im going to take Dick Jones along with us. Hurray for Wilden!

Mrs. Fairfield came into the room at that minute, and at the sound of the name she started.

Wilden! she repeated. What about Wilden, Tom?

Nothing, only Im going camping there, mother.

Camping at Wilden! Oh, Brokaw, do you think thats safe for Tom? and the lady looked apprehensively at her husband.

Safe? Why shouldnt it be safe? asked Tom quickly.

Well Oh, I dont know but Oh, well, I suppose its silly of me, his mother went on, but theres a sort of wild man a half insane character who roams through the woods up there, and you might meet him.

How did you hear that? asked Tom.

I had a letter from a lady with whom I used to go to school in Wilden years ago, explained Mrs. Fairfield. She wrote me the other day, and mentioned it. I told you at the time, Brokaw.

Yes, I remember now. Old Jason Wallace. Lets see, didnt Mrs. Henderson say he stayed part of the time in the old mill?

Yes, hes trying to solve the secret of it, Mrs. Henderson said, and thats one reason why he acts so strange, as if he was crazy. Oh, Tom, I wish youd go camping some other place! finished his mother.

What, mother! Pass up a place like that, with all those attractions a wild man a mysterious old mill? I guess not! What is the secret of the old mill, anyhow?

Ask your father, advised Toms mother. He knows the story better than I do.

Lets have it, dad, begged our hero. Say, this is great! A mystery and a wild man in camp! Maybe the boys wont like that! I must write and tell em to hurry up and come on. Oh, I can see some great times ahead of me this summer, all right!

CHAPTER II
THE STORY OF THE MILL

Let me see if I can remember the story of the old mill, mused Mr. Fairfield, as Tom stood expectantly waiting. Its quite some years since I heard it, and he gazed reminiscently at the ceiling.

This is better luck than I expected, murmured Tom, and, while he is thus waiting to hear the story of the secret of the old mill, I will take the opportunity to tell you something more about him and his friends, and the two previous books in this series.

My first volume was entitled, Tom Fairfields Schooldays, and in that I related how our hero came to go to Elmwood Hall. It was because his parents had to go to Australia to claim some property left by a relative of Toms father.

As Tom could not go to the land of the kangaroo with his folks they decided to send him to a boarding school, called Elmwood Hall.

Tom at once entered into the activities of the school. He made a friend and an enemy the same day, the friend being Jack Fitch, with whom Tom roomed, and whom I have already mentioned, in this story. Of course Tom had other friends at the school, one being Bert Wilson.

Sam Heller, and his crony Nick Johnson, made it unpleasant for Tom, but our hero managed to hold up his end. It was harder work, however, in regard to Professor Skeel, who was a most unpleasant instructor. He was unfair to the boys, and Tom proposed a novel plan to get even.

He suggested that they all go on a strike against Mr. Skeel, refusing to recite to him unless he changed his manners. The unpopular professor did not change, and Tom headed the revolt against him. This took Doctor Pliny Meredith, the head master of the school, and all the faculty by surprise. They did not know what to do until Mr. Skeel proposed that the whole Freshman class, of which Tom was a member, be kept prisoners in their dormitory, and fed on bread and water until they capitulated.

Among the pupils at Elmwood Hall was Bruce Bennington, a Senior, and Tom was of great service to him in securing a forged note that Mr. Skeel held over the head of Bennington, threatening to expose the student and ruin his career. Tom put an end to the illegal acts of the professor, who unexpectedly withdrew from the school.

Tom and his mates, after that, greatly enjoyed their life at Elmwood Hall, and matters were more to their liking, but Tom was not at an end of having adventures.

As I have said, Mr. and Mrs. Fairfield had gone to Australia to look after some property. When Spring came they started for home, coming in a sailing vessel for the sake of the long sea voyage.

Unexpectedly, one night, one of Toms chums saw a note in a paper telling of a vessel picking up wreckage from the Kangaroo, the ship on which Toms parents had sailed. This at once plunged Tom into the depths of despair, but he did not give up hope. He at once decided to go to Australia himself, and if necessary charter a small steamer and cruise about in the location where the wreckage was picked up, hoping his parents might still be afloat on some sort of life raft, or in an open boat.

In the second volume of this series, entitled Tom Fairfield at Sea, I related the details of his most exciting trip. For Toms vessel, the Silver Star, on which he was proceeding to Sydney, was wrecked in a storm, and Tom was tossed overboard. He managed to grab a life belt, and floated until, in the early dawn, he saw two sailors from the ship clinging to a derelict which the Silver Star had hit, and which had wrecked her.

Tom got aboard, and a little later a partly smashed lifeboat was sighted. It was brought to the derelict by one of the sailors, and found to contain Professor Skeel, who, it seems, had, by accident, taken passage for Honolulu on the same ship as that on which our hero started out. Naturally there was a mutual surprise.

Tom, the two sailors and Mr. Skeel were on the derelict for some time, and then having patched up the lifeboat they set out in that. But it was some time before they were picked up, and they had nearly starved. There was also a little boy saved from the wreck Jackie Case and Tom took charge of him.

Eventually Tom got to Australia, and then set out in a small steamer he hired to search for his parents. It was a long trip, but he heard that some survivors of a wreck were on an island in the Friendly group, though which island it was could not be learned. Tom searched on several and at last, and just in time, he discovered his father and mother, and some others who had gotten away in a small boat from the sinking Kangaroo.

That Tom was overjoyed need not be said, and he and his parents lost no time in starting back for their home in this country. All the details of the wreck, and how Tom brought his quest to a successful close, will be found in the second volume. I might add here that later nearly all those on board the Silver Star were saved, including the father of Jackie Case.

Tom went back to Elmwood Hall, and finished the spring term, graduating and becoming a Sophomore. He had come home, ready for the long summer vacation, when he received the letter from Jack Fitch, mentioned in the first chapter of this book.

I might state that Toms father was quite well off, and that our hero had sufficient spending money for his needs. He had, as I have mentioned, a good motorboat.

Well, dad, remarked Tom, when he thought his parent had sufficiently collected his thoughts. Lets have the story of the secret of the old mill.

As nearly as I can recollect it, began Mr. Fairfield, this mill is located about eight miles from the town of Wilden, where, as I told you, I spent some years when a lad. No one seems to know when the mill was built, but it is quite old, and must have been put up by the early settlers. It is of stone, and used to grind grain by water power.

The mill is on the bank of a small river that flows into Lake Woonset, and it was this lake I was thinking of when I suggested that you go camping near it. Its of good size, and there is fine fishing in it.

But about the mill, dad. Whats the secret of it, and what about the wild man?

Im coming to that. As I said, the mill was probably built by the early settlers, and, ever since I can remember, there has been a rumor that there is treasure concealed in or about the old place.

Treasure, dad? What kind?

Well, there were all sorts of rumors. Some said pirates had come that far inland, and had buried their ill-gotten gains there, and another story was that during the Indian wars the settlers, of the then small village of Wilden, fled one day, after warning had been given them of a raid by the redmen. Before fleeing, however, it was said that they had hidden all their money, gold and silver ornaments, and so on, in the old mill. I think that story is more likely to be true than the other. At any rate it is history that the Indians once descended on Wilden, and killed nearly all the inhabitants.

Well, Im glad there arent any Indians up there now, if were going camping, remarked Tom, though one or two might be nice for variety. But go on dad.

So it may be true that there is some treasure in or about the old mill, went on Mr. Fairfield. I know we boys used to hunt for it, but I never found any, though one of my chums, Tommy Gardner, did find a dime once, and right away there was a wild story that he had come upon the buried treasure. But it happened that the dime was one of recent date, so that story soon fell through.

Still, ever since I can recollect, there has been more or less of a search made from time to time for gold and silver in the mill. In fact while it was pretty much of a ruin as long as I can remember, it must be much worse now, as the treasure hunters literally pulled it apart.

What about the wild man, dad?

Well, that has to do with the old mill also. This old Jason Wallace, of whom your mother spoke, is a descendant of some of the early settlers of Wilden. Naturally he heard the story of the treasure supposed to be in the mill, and he was one of the most persistent searchers after it. I never knew him very well, but it seems that constant searching, and never finding anything, has turned his mind.

He is practically crazy now, and fairly lives in the old mill. He has fitted up some sort of a room there and goes about through the woods at times, looking in all sorts of places for the treasure, thinking I suppose that, after all, it may not be in the mill, but somewhere around it.

Is he a dangerous character, dad?

Well, I suppose he might be in a way, if you crossed him, or if he thought you were trying to do him out of the treasure.

Then we wont cross him, said Tom, with a laugh. But all this sounds interesting, and I dont believe we could camp in a better place.

Youll be careful; wont you, Tom? asked his mother.

Oh, sure, he answered with a smile. But after what I went through in the shipwreck Im not afraid of a wild man. Why, I might even help him find the treasure.

I dont really believe there is any, said Mr. Fairfield. I wouldnt lose any sleep over it if I were you, Tom.

I wont. We fellows will probably be so busy having a good time in camp that we wont go near the old mill, except maybe to take some photos of it. Is that all there is to the story, dad?

Thats all I know, replied Mr. Fairfield. You might see your mothers friend, Mrs. Henderson, when you get to Wilden, and she may be able to give you some additional particulars.

She wrote me, said Mrs. Fairfield, that the way old Jason Wallace takes on is terrible at times. He rushes around through the woods, yelling at the top of his voice, and whenever he meets people he imagines they are after the treasure in the mill. I do wish, Tom, that you werent going to such a place. Cant you pick out just as good a spot somewhere else, to go camping?





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