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The Adventure Club Afloat By Ralph Henry Barbour Characters: 15016

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04

They stayed aboard all that day, for the fog held tight, and, if Steve's calculations were right, the Adventurer lay well down toward the entrance to the harbour and the nearest settlement was a good mile and three-quarters away. None of the seven felt sufficiently ambitious to put out for shore in that smother of mist. They managed to pass the time without much trouble, however. There was always the graphophone, although they were destined to become rather tired of the records, and Steve, Joe, Han and Neil played whist most of the afternoon. Phil curled up on a couch and read, and Ossie and Perry, after having a violent argument over the proper way to make an omelet decided to settle the question then and there. By the time the two omelets were prepared the whist players were ready to stop and the entire ship's company partook of the rival concoctions and decided the matter in favour of Ossie.

"Although," explained Joe, "I'm not saying that Perry's omelet is bad. If he had remembered to put a little salt in it-"

"I did!" declared Perry resentfully. "You don't know a decent omelet when you see it. Look how light mine was! Why, it was twice as high as Ossie's!"

"That's just it," said Steve gravely. "It was so light that it sort of faded away before you could taste it. An omelet, Perry, should be substantial and filling."

"That shows how much you know about it," jeered Perry. "There were just as many eggs in mine as there were in his. Only I made mine with water and beat the eggs separately-"

"Ah, there it is, you see," drawled Joe. "You beat the poor little eggs. I'm surprised at you, Perry. Any fellow who will beat an inoffensive egg-"

"Huh, I found one that wasn't inoffensive by a long shot! Someone will have to get some eggs tomorrow, for there are only eight left."

"What!" Han viewed Perry in disgust. "Mean to say you went and used them all up making those silly omelets?"

"I notice you ate the silly omelets," said Ossie. "One egg apiece is enough for breakfast, isn't it?"

"Not for me. The doctor ordered two every morning. If I don't have two eggs for breakfast I shall mutiny."

"If you do you'll be put in irons," said Joe. "Or swung from the yard-arm. Say, how long before we're going to have something to eat, Ossie? I'm hungry. That egg thing sort of whetted my appetite."

"Gosh, you fellows would keep me cooking all the time," grumbled the steward. "It's only five, and we don't have supper until six. So you can plaguey well starve for an hour."

"Then I shall go to sleep and-um-forget the pangs of hunger. Move your big feet out of the way, Phil."

"I like your cheek, you duffer! Go on back to your own bunk."

"Too faint for want of food," murmured Joe, stretching himself out in spite of Phil's protests. "Someone sing to me, please."

Supper went very well, in spite of the mid-afternoon luncheon, and after that the riding light was set for the night, the hatches drawn shut and all hands settled down to pass the evening in whatever way seemed best. But bedtime came early tonight and, by half-past nine, with the sound of a distant siren coming to them at intervals and the yacht's bells chiming the hours and half-hours, all lights were out below and the Adventurer was wrapped in fog and silence.

The fog still held in the morning, although at times it took on a yellowish tinge and made them hopeful that it would burn off. Steve said it was not quite so thick, but no one else was able to see much difference in it. Han managed to subsist on one egg, in spite of gloomy predictions, but after breakfast he and Perry decided to paddle ashore and find a place where they could purchase more. They tried to add to the party, but no one else wanted to go, and so they disappeared into the mist about nine o'clock, agreeing to be back at ten-thirty, at which time, unless the fog should have lifted, those aboard the boat were to sound the whistle.

They landed on a narrow beach after a short row, and, stumbling through a fringe of coarse sand, discovered a lane leading inland. They stopped and strove to remember the location of the boat, and then followed the lane. The fog was amber-hued now and the morning was fast losing its chill. Perry broke into song and Han into a tuneless whistle that seemed to give him a deal of satisfaction. They soon found a main-travelled road and, after fixing the turn-off in their minds, wheeled to the left.

"It would be a fine joke if we couldn't find the dingey again," chuckled Han.

"I think you've got a punk idea of humour," responded Perry. "Anyway, all we'd have to do is find the beach and keep along until we barked our skins on the boat. Bet you, though, this pesky fog will be gone in an hour."

The road left the shore presently and the travellers found that the fog was thinner and sometimes lifted entirely over small spaces, and it wasn't long before they stopped to take off their jackets and swing them across their arms. Possibly they passed houses, but they saw none, and the only incident occurred when the sound of wheels came to them from the highway ahead and, presently, a queer, old-fashioned two-wheeled chaise drawn by a piebald, drooping-eared horse passed slowly from the mist ahead to the mist behind. The boys gazed at it in wonderment, too interested in the equipage itself to heed the occupants. When it was out of sight again Han ejaculated: "Well, I'll be switched, Perry! I didn't suppose there was one of those things left in the world!"

"Neither did I. And there won't be pretty quick, I guess, for it looked and sounded as if it would fall to pieces before it got to-to wherever it's going. Bet you anything that was the deacon's one-horse chaise in the poem!"

"Have you heard of the wonderful one-hoss shay

That was built in such a logical way

It ran a hundred years to a day?"

quoted Han. "Wouldn't that look funny alongside a Rolls-Royce, Perry?"

"It would look funny alongside a flivver," answered the other. "Say, how far do we have to walk? Seems to me we've done about five miles already."

"Rot! We haven't walked more than a mile. Not being able to see things makes it seem farther, I guess." The encouraging sound of a cow mooing reached them the next minute. "That must be the one we heard yesterday," said Han. "I suppose there's just one on the island and it's set to go off at the same time every day."

"If there's a cow over there," said Perry, staring into the fog, "maybe there's a farmhouse. Let's have a look."

"All right, but we're just as likely to walk into a swamp as find a house."

But a very few steps off the highway put them on a narrow lane and presently the big bulk of a barn loomed ahead. The house was soon located and ten minutes later, having purchased two quarts of milk and four dozen eggs, they retraced their steps. The fog had now apparently changed its mind about lifting, for the yellow tinge had gone and the world was once more grey and chill. They donned their coats again and, carrying their precious burdens, trudged on. Occasionally a puff of air came off the sound and the fog blew in trailing wreaths before them. When they had walked what they considered to be the proper distance they began to watch for that lane. And after they had watched for it for a full quarter of an hour and had walked a deal farther than they should have they reached the entirely justifiable conclusion that they were lost!

Perry set down the battered milk can

on which they had paid a deposit of twenty-five cents, took a long breath and, viewing the encompassing fog, exclaimed melodramatically: "Lost on Martha's Vineyard, or The Mystery of the Four Dozen Eggs!"

"Well, we won't starve for awhile," laughed Han. "Say, where is that lane we came up, anyway? Think we've passed it?"

"About ten miles back," sighed Perry. "Come on and let's try dead reckoning. The beach is over there somewhere and if we can find it-"

"Great! But when we have found it, which way shall we go?"

Perry pushed his hat back and thoughtfully scratched his head. "Give it up!" he said at last. "You might go one way and I another. Anyway, let's find the old beach."

They scrambled across a wall into a bush-grown tract, Han discovering in the process that he had chosen a place prettily bedecked with poison-ivy. "That does for me," said Han gloomily. "I'll have a fine time of it now for a couple of weeks. I can't even look at that stuff without getting poisoned!"

"Maybe it didn't see you," said Perry cheerfully. "In this fog-"

"Don't be a silly goat," interrupted the other fretfully. "I tell you I'll be all broken out tomorrow! And it's perfectly beastly, too. You have blisters all over you and they itch so you can hardly stand it."

"Too bad," said Perry, trying to sound sympathetic but failing because he caught his foot in a bramble at the moment and almost pitched on his face.

"Well," continued Han, more cheerfully, "there's one good thing. Salt water is fine to bathe in when you have ivy poisoning, and there'll be plenty of that around."

"Sure; and it won't cost you a cent, either." They reached the beach then and gazed hopelessly about them as they crossed the softer sand. "If only they'd blow their old whistle we'd know where we are."

"If I had some alcohol I might backen it," observed Han.

"Alcohol? Backen what?"

"The ivy poison."

"Oh! Well, there's plenty of alcohol on board. Wonder what time it is," Perry drew out his watch and whistled surprisedly. "Only a quarter to ten, Han! We couldn't have walked very far, after all. And they won't signal us until ten-thirty. Here, I'm going this way."

"It's the alkali that counteracts the poison," explained Han. "They say that if you can bathe the places in alcohol soon after you come in-in contact with the ivy-"

"For the love of Pete!" exclaimed Perry. "Forget about it, Han! You'll worry yourself to death over that poison-ivy. Maybe it didn't bite you, after all."

"Of course it did!" replied the other resentfully. "It always does. If I had some alcohol, though-"

"Well, come on and get some. We've got to find the boat first, haven't we?"

"Yes, but I don't think it's that way."

"Then you try the other way, and if you find it, sing out so I'll hear you."

"All right." They separated, each following the edge of the water, and presently Perry's voice rang out. "Here she is, Han!" he called. A faint hail answered him and Perry stowed the milk-can in the bow of the little boat and seated himself to wait. A few minutes later, as Han still tarried, he shouted again. This time there was no reply however, and Perry muttered impatiently and found a more comfortable position. When some five minutes more had passed he got to his feet and yelled at the top of his lungs. "Get a move on, Han! The milk's getting sour and I'm getting cold!" he shouted. An answering cry came from closer by, but what it was that Han said Perry couldn't make out. He turned his coat collar up, plunged hands in pockets and viewed the grey mist scowlingly. Then he began to listen for footsteps crunching the sand. But no sound save the lapping of water on the beach and the creaking of a boom on an unseen boat reached him.

"It would serve him right to leave him here," he muttered resentfully. "Anyway, I'm not going to yell at him any more. I suppose he's so taken up with his poison-ivy business that he can't think of anything else. Wonder if I got into that stuff, too!" The idea was distinctly unwelcome. He thought he recalled brushing through leaves as he crossed the wall. He had never had any experience with poison-ivy and didn't know whether or not he was susceptible, but it seemed to him that there was a distinct itching sensation on his back. He squirmed uncomfortably. Then a prickly feeling on his left wrist set him to rubbing it. He examined the skin and, sure enough, it was quite red! He had it, too! You had blisters all over you, Han had said. Perry looked for blisters but found none. Still, he reflected miserably, it was probably too early for them yet. He suddenly found himself rubbing his right wrist too. And that, also, was distinctly inflamed looking, although not so red as the other. Gee, he'd ought to do something! Alcohol! That was it! He ought to bathe the places in alcohol! He jumped out of the dingey, pushed it down the beach into the water and sprawled across the bow. Then he shoved further off with an oar and sudsided onto a seat.

"Back in ten minutes for you, Han!" he shouted. "You wait here! I'll bring some alcohol!"

When a dozen choppy strokes had taken him out of sight of the shore his panic subsided a little and two thoughts came to him. The first was that he was treating Han rather scurvilly and the second was that he hadn't more than the haziest notion where the Adventurer lay! But, having embarked, he kept on. Probably ten or fifteen minutes wouldn't make much difference in Han's case, while, as for finding the cruiser, he would shout after he had rowed a little further and doubtless someone aboard would hear him.

So he went on into the mist, occasionally stopping to scratch a wrist or wiggle about on the seat in the endeavour to abate the prickling sensation in back or shoulders. It seemed to him now that he was infected from head to toes. Presently, having rowed some distance, he began to hail. "Adventurer ahoy!" he shouted, "O Steve! O Joe!"

He stopped rowing, rubbed a wrist, peered into the fog and waited. But no answering hail reached him. He lifted his voice again. "Ahoy! Adventurer ahoy! Are you all dead? Where are you?"

This time there was an answer, faint but unmistakable, and, somewhat to Perry's surprise, it came from almost behind him. "Shout again!" he called. "Where are you?"

"He-e-ere! Hurry up!" At least, that was what the answer sounded like. Perry grumblingly turned the boat around and rowed in the direction of the voice. "I suppose," he thought, "I rowed in a circle. I always did row harder with my right. But I don't see what they want me to hurry for. And they might blow their whistle if they had any sense."

"Shout again!" he yelled presently.

"Hello-o-o!" came a hail from somewhere back of the boat, and: "Come ahead!" called a voice from the fog in front. Perry exploded.

"Shut up, one of you!" he called exasperatedly. "I can't row two ways at once! Where's the boat?" But his remarks evidently didn't carry, for all he got was another hail from behind. "All right," he muttered. "Why didn't you say so before?" He swung the dingey around a second time and rowed on a new course. "Wonder who the other chap was," he thought. "I dare say, though, there are boats all around here if a fellow could see them." A minute later he called again: "Come on, you idiots! Where are you?"

"Don't bust yourself," said a voice from almost over his shoulder. "And watch where you're going if you don't want to stave that boat in."

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