Tom Fairfield in Camp: or, The Secret of the Old Millñêà÷àòü êíèãó áåñïëàòíî
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 I’ll stop and get the mail.”
“Can I go along?”
“Certainly. Did you see anything of Will to-day?”
“No, he’s gone fishing, I guess,” and Dick Jones, one of the best chums of Tom Fairfield, threw in the connecting switch of the latter’s motorboat, and the craft was ready to run.
“Now I wonder if she’ll start easily, or if I’ve got to break my back cranking her?” murmured Tom.
“What’s the matter?” asked Dick. “Hasn’t she been behaving herself lately?”
“Oh, yes, but you never can tell. One day she’ll run like a sewing machine, and the next I can’t seem to get her started. She’s like all the other motorboats, good at times, and off her feed occasionally. That’s why I called her the Tag. I never know whether I’m ‘it’ or whether she is. However, here’s 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.
“I’m 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. I’ll 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 I’m out!” exclaimed Tom, sinking back on the seat rather exhausted. “But she’s speaking better than at first. Didn’t you think you heard her sort of talking back at me, Dick?”
“Yes,” laughed his chum. “But say, are you sure you’ve got any gasolene?”
“I put in five gallons last night, and didn’t run two miles.”
“Are you sure it’s turned on?”
“Of course I am!”
“Have you adjusted the carburetor?”
“Foolish question number twenty-six!” exclaimed Tom. “Say, you’re as bad as a chap at Elmwood Hall – George Abbot. We call him ‘Why,’ because he’s always asking questions. Don’t you get in that habit, Dick.”
“I won’t, but I wanted to be sure you’d done everything you ought to to make the boat go.”
“Don’t 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 she’d 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 can’t 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 didn’t get any spark. It’s a wonder you didn’t see it when you turned it on.”
“Say, I’m not a motorboat expert,” declared Dick. “All I can do is to steer one.”
“I guess that’s right,” agreed Tom with a laugh. “It’s 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 I’ll 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.
“She’s running fine now,” commented Dick, who, at a nod from Tom, took the wheel.
“Yes, as slick as you’d want her. She’s 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.
“It’s Dent Wilcox,” said Dick Jones.
“Yes, and he’s running – that’s 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 Tom’s chum.
Once more came the hail:
“Hey, Tom, give me a ride; will you?”
“What for?” called back our hero.
“I’ve got to go down to Millford for a man. I’ve got a job,” answered Dent.
“Then you’d better walk,” answered Tom. “It’s good exercise for you.”
“Aw, say, stop and take me aboard,” begged Dent.
“Not much!” shouted Tom. “I’m not going to take any chances on stopping this engine now, just when it’s 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, you’re mean!” charged the lazy lad as the craft got farther and farther from shore. “You wait; I’ll get square with you yet!”
“Think he will?” asked Dick, glancing anxiously at his chum.
“Of course not. In the first place he won’t dare, and in the second he’s not smart enough to think up something to do to me, and if he is, he’s too lazy to carry it out after he’s planned it. Dent can’t worry me.”
The two chums kept on down the river toward the main part of the town, for Tom’s 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 I’ve got now is running pretty low. This motor won’t 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 isn’t from Jack Fitch I’m a cowbird. I wonder what’s 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 it’s great news,” explained Tom. “It seems that there was some slip-up in the plans of Jack’s folks, and he didn’t 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 he’d like to go somewhere with me.”
“Why don’t you go traveling together?” asked Dick.
“We might, that’s a fact,” agreed Tom. “Hello, here’s another page to Jack’s letter. I didn’t 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.
“What’s the game?”
“We’ll go camping! We talked of it this spring, just after I got back from Australia, but we couldn’t 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 chum’s voice attracted Tom’s attention.
“Say, look here!” he exclaimed suddenly. “Wouldn’t you like to go camping with us, Dick?”
“Would I? Say, just give me the chance!”
“I will! Do you suppose your folks’ll let you?”
“I’m sure they would. When can we start?”
“Oh, soon I guess. I’m glad this letter came at the beginning of the summer, instead of at the end. I’m going home, tell dad and mother, and see what they say. Maybe dad can suggest a good place to go.”
Tom’s 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. “It’s no fun camping at the seashore. Mountains and a lake for mine! I thought maybe you might know of some good place.”
“Well, I’ve done some camping in my time,” admitted Mr. Fairfield, “and come to think of it, I don’t know any better place than up in the northern part of New York state. It’s wild enough there to suit anyone, and you can pick out one of several lakes. There’s 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. It’s a beautiful country, but wild.”
“Then I’m for Wilden!” cried Tom. “I’ll write to the fellows at once. I’m 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 I’m going camping there, mother.”
“Camping at Wilden! Oh, Brokaw, do you think that’s safe for Tom?” and the lady looked apprehensively at her husband.
“Safe? Why shouldn’t it be safe?” asked Tom quickly.
“Well – Oh, I don’t know but – Oh, well, I suppose it’s silly of me,” his mother went on, “but there’s 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. Let’s see, didn’t Mrs. Henderson say he stayed part of the time in the old mill?”
“Yes, he’s trying to solve the secret of it, Mrs. Henderson said, and that’s one reason why he acts so strange, as if he was crazy. Oh, Tom, I wish you’d 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 Tom’s mother. “He knows the story better than I do.”
“Let’s have it, dad,” begged our hero. “Say, this is great! A mystery and a wild man in camp! Maybe the boys won’t 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!”
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. “It’s 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 Fairfield’s 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 Tom’s 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 Tom’s chums saw a note in a paper telling of a vessel picking up wreckage from the Kangaroo, the ship on which Tom’s 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 Tom’s 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 Tom’s 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. “Let’s 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. It’s of good size, and there is fine fishing in it.”
“But about the mill, dad. What’s the secret of it, and what about the wild man?”
“I’m 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, I’m glad there aren’t any Indians up there now, if we’re 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 won’t cross him,” said Tom, with a laugh. “But all this sounds interesting, and I don’t believe we could camp in a better place.”
“You’ll be careful; won’t you, Tom?” asked his mother.
“Oh, sure,” he answered with a smile. “But after what I went through in the shipwreck I’m not afraid of a wild man. Why, I might even help him find the treasure.”
“I don’t really believe there is any,” said Mr. Fairfield. “I wouldn’t lose any sleep over it if I were you, Tom.”
“I won’t. We fellows will probably be so busy having a good time in camp that we won’t go near the old mill, except maybe to take some photos of it. Is that all there is to the story, dad?”
“That’s all I know,” replied Mr. Fairfield. “You might see your mother’s 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 weren’t going to such a place. Can’t you pick out just as good a spot somewhere else, to go camping?”ñêà÷àòü êíèãó áåñïëàòíî
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