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   Chapter 6 IN THE FOG

The Adventure Club Afloat By Ralph Henry Barbour Characters: 12194

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04


"We've been going two whole days now," declared Perry, "and we haven't even glimpsed an adventure." It was Tuesday morning and the two cruisers were lying side by side in New Bedford harbour. A light drizzle was falling and even under the awning of the bridge deck everything was coated with a film of moisture. The Adventurer and the Follow Me had done just short of a hundred miles yesterday, reaching the present port at nightfall. They had averaged fifteen miles an hour and neither engine had missed an explosion all day long. Joe had been rather stuck-up over the way his engine had performed and had been inclined to take a good share of the credit to himself. Perry, however, had declared that the only reason the thing had run was because Joe had left it alone.

"It's lucky for us you're afraid to touch it," said Perry. "If you weren't we'd have been wallowing around somewhere between here and Africa two days ago!"

It had been too late to go ashore for sight-seeing last evening, and they had put it off until morning. And now it was drizzling in a steady, whole-hearted way that promised to make sight-seeing a miserable business. Some of the crew of the Follow Me had come aboard to discuss plans and the question was whether to remain in harbour and await better weather or to set out again and run as far as Martha's Vineyard. Perry was all for action, and he had the support of numerous others, but Steve pointed out that running the cruiser in such weather in strange waters was not over pleasant. "It's all well enough for the rest of you, for all you have to do is lie around and read, but it's another thing to stand up there at the wheel and keep from running into the landscape!"

"Give her to me," advised Perry. "I'll get her to Edgartown or wherever you want to go, right-side-up with care."

"If you take the wheel," said Han, "I get out and walk every foot of the way."

"Better put your rubbers on," suggested Wink Wheeler.

"You fellows make me very tired," continued Perry severely. "You call yourselves the Adventure Club and start out to see some sport, and then the first time there's a heavy mist you want to stick around an old harbour for fear you'll get damp! We've been going two whole days now, and we haven't even glimpsed an adventure!"

"An adventure is one thing," said Ossie, "and getting drowned is something else again. Tell you what, Perry; if you are so keen for sport why don't you slip into the tender and run over to Vineyard Haven yourself? We'll follow along tomorrow, or maybe this afternoon."

"I want to see this town," said Joe. "There's lots to look at in here. Whaling ships and a museum and-and lots of romantic things."

"The whaling ships are all gone now," said Perry disdainfully. "They've chopped them all up and sold them by the cord for fire wood. I know, for we bought a lot of it once. It cost dad about ten dollars for express and didn't burn any different from any other wood. My grandmother-"

Steve groaned. "For the love of lemons, Perry, don't resurrect your grandmother. Let the poor old lady lie."

"She isn't dead," denied Perry indignantly. "She's ninety-one and a heap smarter than you are."

"Perry," charged Joe severely, "I distinctly remember you telling us that your grandmother died of sea-sickness."

"I didn't. I told you she ate lemons and-"

"Died of acid stomach? Oh, all right. I knew she was dead."

"Oh, dry up! She ate lemons to keep from being sea-sick, you idiot. And if you ate them you wouldn't have to lug around a lot of silly medicine that doesn't amount to a row of pins. And if-"

"All very interesting," interrupted Phil mildly, "but it isn't deciding whether we're to stay here or go on. Personally, I think that that should be up to the captain. If he isn't to decide whether the weather is right or wrong, who is?"

"That's so," agreed several. "Steve's the captain. What you say goes, Steve."

"Very well. Then we'll stay here until it stops misting, or, at any rate, until tomorrow. If it's still nasty then and you fellows want to go on, I'll go. Now let's go ashore and see what's doing."

"O Harry!" called Wink. "We're going to stay until tomorrow. Come ashore."

In spite of the drizzle they found a good deal to interest them in New Bedford, and Joe actually did find a whaler, although it was no longer in commission. At noon, Ossie, having made many purchases in the town, served a dinner that made the world look a lot brighter. Afterwards the crews of the two boats exchanged calls, read, dozed, played the graphophone and didn't much care whether it drizzled or not. Toward the end of the day the sun peered forth experimentally and there followed another expedition ashore. But the sun soon gave up its attempt to do any business that day and the drizzle set in harder than ever. In the evening the entire club attended a moving picture show and thus disposed of several hours that might otherwise have proved difficult to get through. A motor-boat, no matter how large or luxurious, is not the most interesting place to live on in wet weather.

The next morning the mist had ceased, but the sun was hidden behind dark clouds and the world was still rather dreary. But plenty of hot coffee, some of Ossie's baking powder biscuits and the almost invariable fried bacon cheered them remarkably, and at a little past eight the order was given to weigh anchor and the two cruisers, the Adventurer showing the way, set forth across Buzzard's Bay for Edgartown.

It was a sixteen-mile run to the channel between Nonamesset Island and the mainland, and Steve followed the steamboat course closely. The chart showed many rocks and ledges in the first six miles, but neither of the cruisers drew enough to make it necessary for their skippers to worry. There was rough water, however, and Joe was seen to look anxiously toward the after cabin. A flukey breeze came out of the southeast and made sweaters comfortable. The shore of Naushon Island was grey and indistinct when the Adventurer straightened out for the run across the bay. Beh

ind her the Follow Me plunged gallantly, doing her fourteen miles without a murmur. As they neared Penzance the sea moderated and they swung into the channel on an almost even keel. Good harbours beckoned, and the plan of lying by until after dinner was discussed and finally abandoned. Edgartown was only another hour's sail and it would be better to keep on and lie in there for dinner. But when the Adventurer had passed into Vineyard Sound Steve began to wish he had waited. A bank of grey mist hid the island toward which they were headed and he feared they would find themselves in it before they could reach the nearest harbour, which was Vineyard Haven. But since the Adventurer had already left Wood's Holl two miles behind and Vineyard Haven Harbour was only some four miles further it seemed silly to turn back. There was always the chance that the fog would blow off, besides. Nevertheless Steve frowned dubiously through the moist pane ahead and, without saying anything of his fears to the rest, drew the throttle a few notches down and kept the Adventurer close to her course. Behind, the Follow Me speeded up as well and the two boats hurried for where, out of sight in the grey void ahead, West Chop pointed a blunt nose to sea.

But it was a losing race, for ten minutes later Steve saw that the fog bank was rolling down upon them and from somewhere to the eastward came the dismal hoot of a steamer feeling her way along. Joe, too, saw what they were in for and turned anxiously to Steve. "That's fog, isn't it?" he asked.

Steve nodded. "Get the fog-horn ready, will you? We don't want anyone bumping into us. I'm going to slow down to six miles. There's too much water here to drop anchor in." He eyed the advancing fog distastefully and then shrugged his shoulders. "You've got to learn some time, I suppose, Joe, and here's where I learn to make harbour by the compass. Now we're in it!"

At that instant the grey mist enveloped them silently, chillingly. Joe drew a long wail from the fog-horn and in response a similar but higher-keyed wail came through the fog from the Follow Me. And at the same moment the other members of the ship's company stuck inquiring heads through the companion ways.

"Hello," exclaimed Perry. "Fog! Gee, that's exciting! Say, you can't see a thing, can you? Look, fellows, the boat hasn't any bow!"

"Nor any stern," added Han. "You can almost taste the stuff. Say, Steve, isn't it hard to steer in a fog?"

"Not a bit," answered Steve cheerfully. "Steering's perfectly easy. The only trouble is to steer right."

"To-o-ot!" said the fog-horn and was answered from astern. Then somewhere to the south-eastward a siren sent a wailing cry, subdued by distance. The fog settled on everything and shone on the boys' sweaters in little beads of moisture. The Adventurer seemed to be standing still, for, with nothing to judge by, progress was made known only by the slow lazy throb of the engine. Even the water alongside was scarcely discernible. Joe pulled the lever of the fog-horn again, and this time, beside the response from the Follow Me, an answering bellow came across the water.

"A steamer," muttered Steve, peering uselessly into the grey void. "She's a good ways off, though. Give her another pull, Joe."

Again the Adventurer proclaimed her position but there was no answer from the steamer. "She doesn't seem very talkative," said Phil. "How fast are we going, Steve?"

"Six."

"And how far is Edgartown?"

"About twelve, but we're not going there. I'm trying to make Vineyard Haven. It's only about two miles." He glanced puzzledly at the compass and moved the wheel a fraction. "There's a jetty comes out there and I guess we'd better give it a good wide berth." Collars were pulled up to keep the moisture from creeping down necks, and Perry begged to be allowed to manipulate the fog-horn. He went at it whole-souledly and Steve had to curb his enthusiasm. "Once a minute will do, Perry," he said. "You sound like a locomotive scaring a cow off the track."

"How do you know there isn't a cow ahead?" demanded Perry. "Or a whale? Gee, wouldn't it be a surprise if we bust right into a whale? Who would get the worst of it, Steve?"

"I guess we would. Shut up a minute, fellows, please!"

Silence held the bridge deck, silence save for the subdued purr of the engine under their feet and the drip, drip of the drops from the awning edge. Steve peered anxiously ahead, his senses alert. At last:

"Hear anything?" he asked.

They all said no.

"I guess I was mistaken then," Steve explained, "but I could have sworn I heard surf." He leaned over the chart. "This doesn't show anything, though, nearer than the land. Toot your horn, Perry."

Perry obeyed. At long intervals the unseen, distant steamer bellowed her warning and more frequently the Follow Me groaned dismally on a hand horn. It was ten minutes later, perhaps, when Steve suddenly swung around and looked back past the bow of the dingey on the after cabin roof.

"That's funny!" he exclaimed. "The Follow Me sounded away over there!" He looked anxiously at the compass, hesitated and shook his head. "If I didn't know this thing was all right, fellows, I'd say it was crazy. Or if there was a strong current here-" His voice dwindled away to a murmur as he studied the chart again. Just then the Follow Me's fog-horn sounded and it was undeniably further away and well over to port. "Either he's off his course or I am," muttered Steve. "And I simply don't see how I can be. Give them a long one, Perry!"

Perry sent a frantic wail across the water and they listened intently. But no reply came from the Follow Me. Instead, from somewhere off their port bow travelled the steamer's bellow. That, too, seemed considerably further away. Then the distant siren sounded, and after that there was silence again. But the silence lasted only a moment, for before anyone could hazard a conjecture as to the Follow Me's erratic behaviour, Phil's voice arose warningly.

"Listen, Steve!" he cried. "Isn't that surf I hear?"

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