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   Chapter 15 SURRENDER

The Adventure Club Afloat By Ralph Henry Barbour Characters: 16785

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04

"They're going to run her ashore!" shouted Steve.

He slid out the clutch, throttled down the engine and swung the boat's nose to starboard as the others piled back to the deck. The Adventurer swept around in a long circle while the Follow Me, churning the shoaling water into white froth, ran straight for the shore.

"Gosh, what a mess!" groaned Harry Corwin. "We'll never get her off there!"

Steve made no answer, nor did the others. They were all watching that wild rush of the black cruiser. On and on she went, rising and falling with the gentle swells, until it looked as though she must surely be churning the sand with her hurrying screw. Suddenly the cabin doors flew open and three men, one hatless and with a white towel bound around his head, leaped out and scampered along the roof to the bow. Wink raised his revolver, but Steve pulled his arm down.

"Don't!" he said. "Let them go if they will."

At that instant the Follow Me faltered, stopped, and went on again for another yard or so as a breaking wave rushed under her keel, and then rolled over to starboard and subsided so, her propeller still beating and her stern slowly working around. Into the two feet of water dropped the trio on the bow and, keeping the Follow Me between them and the enemy, scuttled to land, and then, once on the hard sand, ran as hard as their legs would take them up the beach to the north. Wink sent one shot hurtling after them, just, as he explained afterwards, to encourage them, and Steve, having cautiously edged the Adventurer as near shore as he dared, gave his orders hurriedly.

"Get the big cable from the rope locker, Han," he directed. "Joe, you and Harry jump into the tender and stand by here. When you get the cable pull in to the Follow Me and make it fast to the stern cleat. Tom, you'd better go along, too. Put your engine into reverse and try to back off. The tide's still running out and if we don't get her off now we'll have a hard time later. I'll pull on the stern and you jockey her with her own power. I think we can do it. Now then, Han, give me that. Here, take this end forward and make it fast around the cleat. Pass it outside that stanchion, you chump! Catch, Harry! All right! Get a move on, fellows!"

Off plugged the tender, Joe bending furiously at the short oars, the big cable paying out astern. A minute or two later they were tumbling aboard the Follow Me, Tom to dart below to the engine, Harry to make fast their end of the line and Joe to look after the tender. Then Harry waved a hand and shouted, and the Adventurer, which had been going slowly astern, taking up the slack of the cable, settled to her task. The big rope tightened, throwing a spray of water into the sunlight along its length, strained and creaked and the Follow Me's propeller, reversed, did its part. There was an anxious two minutes. Very grudgingly the black cruiser's stern came around. Steve drew the Adventurer's throttle down a couple of notches. The Follow Me gave up her notion of spending her declining years on the sands of Plum Island and slowly backed away. A shout of delight arose from a dozen throats as, with the water once more under her she bobbed sedately to an even keel and followed the tug of the big hawser.

A quarter of an hour later the two boats continued their way up the shore, the Follow Me poorer by one eighty-pound anchor and richer by one cedar dingey which the six boys aboard seriously suspected of having been stolen. They ate dinner at half-past two, anchored on Joppa Flats, the two crews once more assembled around and about the Adventurer's hospitable board, and as they ate, very hungrily and quite happily, they discussed the day's adventure.

The Follow Me showed numerous signs of Steve's and Wink's marksmanship, both outside and in, but there was no damage that nails and hammer, paint and putty wouldn't repair. The stolen boat's larder was sadly depleted and, as Tom said disgustedly, the cabin looked as though a dozen pigs had lived in it a week! But, all in all, the cruiser had come off well. As for the lost anchor, why, as Wink pointed out, the tender would more than buy them a new one. There was some discussion as to their right to dispose of that tender and in the end they agreed that the proper thing to do would be to leave it at Newburyport and mail an advertisement to the Plymouth papers. If the owner claimed the boat he would pay for the advertisement. If he didn't, they would recover it later on their way back down the coast. The Adventurer, too, showed numerous scars. One bullet had plugged straight in at one side of the smokestack and out the other, the glass in one window had been shattered to bits and in various other places damage had been wrought. But they had recovered the Follow Me, and that, viewing the affair in retrospect, had been something of an achievement. Everyone, even Tom by now, was more than satisfied at the outcome of their first real adventure. Dinner, delayed as it was and none too palatable by reason of having been prepared for a much earlier hour, was a merry meal.

After it was over they went on up to Newburyport, found a berth and set out to look for a yard where they could have the two cruisers patched. Repairs kept them there two days, and then, having acquired a new anchor for the Follow Me and left the extra dingey in safe storage, the Adventure Club set forth once more in the early hours of a drizzly morning.

They passed the Isles of Shoals before nine and in the middle of the forenoon Steve pointed through the haze to where an indistinct blot against the sky line proclaimed Boon Island. After that the cruisers kept well toward shore, for, although the drizzle had stopped, the navigators feared that a fog might take its place, and that one experience in Vineyard Sound had been sufficient to last them for the balance of the cruise. Off Cape Porpoise the boats found rough seas and the crew of the Follow Me were secretly delighted to observe that the smaller craft made much easier going. The Adventurer seemed to be having a thoroughly good time, for she kicked up her heels and waved her nose and fairly rolled in merriment as the seas came sliding under her quarter. The bridge deck was a damp place until both side curtains were lowered and laced to the rails and stanchions. Poor Joe stood it as long as he could, getting paler and paler and sitting, hands in pockets, gazing fixedly at the brass kickplate at the top of the forward companion way, about the only thing in his range of vision that was fairly steady, and at intervals lurching below with an assumption of carelessness that deceived nobody, to dose himself with his sea-sickness remedy. That remedy, however, failed him, and it was not very long before the Chief Engineer was conspicuous on the bridge by his absence, while those who listened could hear at intervals a low moaning sound proceeding from the after cabin. But Joe was not the only one aboard the Adventurer who suffered qualms of uneasiness, although he alone gave up the struggle. Both Perry and Han showed pale countenances and looked big-eyed and pathetic. Neither displayed the least interest in dinner, while Joe, when cruelly summoned by Ossie, only groaned lugubriously and turned his pallid face to the wall. At two o'clock the sun broke through and dyed the sea a wonderful green, and the Adventurer began to meet other boats. As she left Scarboro Beach on her port beam and began to nose in toward Peak's Island the sea calmed and by the time the cruiser was ready to drop her anchor in Portland harbour, Joe, albeit still rather greenish, had pulled himself back to deck to gaze approvingly at the shore.

A week went by during which the Adventure Club, one and all, had a glorious time without anything that in the least resembled adventure. They spent a whole day in Portland-spent, also, a deal of money there replenishing an utterly exhausted galley-and then, to use Perry's inelegant phrase, "bummed around" Casco Bay for three days more. Joe fell in love with more islands during that time than he had known existed. "I've always wanted to own an island," he would explain, "and that's the very island. Let's go ashore, Steve, and look around."

Steve humoured him several times, until the others complained that they were getting tired of stopping at every bunch of rock

s on the Maine Coast, and pointed out, besides, that, as Perry had owned to having but nine dollars in his pocket just a few days before, it wasn't at all likely that he would find an island within his means. After exhausting the interest of Casco Bay the two boats ran further up the shore and spent another forty-eight hours at Camden. Steve had friends there and the whole tribe of mariners were invited to dinners and luncheons and found that "home cooking" was all that it was popularly believed to be. Ossie had a most perfect time during those two days.

"Nothing to cook but breakfast," he said ecstatically, "and real food the other two meals! Gee, but it's fine to eat something some other poor duffer has cooked! Say, Joe, what is it that pigs have that kills them off in bunches: sort of a-an epidemic?"

"Hog cholera," hazarded Joe. "Aren't you feeling well, Ossie?"

"Well, I wish they'd all have it," said Ossie devoutly. "I'm so plumb sick of cooking bacon!"

The rest agreed, away from Ossie's hearing, that it was a very fortunate thing that the period of eating ashore had arrived when it did, for Ossie had been showing symptoms of mutiny of late and his cooking had noticeably fallen off. "He was due to strike in another few days," said Han. "Then someone else would have had to take the job, and we would all have starved to death."

"In the absence of the cook," observed Perry gravely, "the job falls to the crew."

"No, sir, to the second mate," corrected Han. "Isn't that so, Joe?"

"I'm not sure. The only thing I am sure of is that-um-it doesn't fall to the chief engineer."

"I should say not!" retorted Perry. "Think of eating food flavoured with engine oil!"

"Couldn't be any worse than pudding flavoured with onion extract," chuckled Joe, referring to a viand prepared by Ossie while at Newburyport. Ossie had meant to put in a spoonful of vanilla, but the two bottles looked so much alike-

The pudding was never eaten, unless the fish consumed it, and the mention of it still caused Ossie great pain and humiliation.

They went into the water every morning before breakfast, lived almost every minute in the open air-for even at night the wide-open ports and doors made the cabins like sleeping porches-ate heartily, got enough exercise to keep them lean and hungry and became tanned with sun and wind to the colour of light mahogany. Khaki trousers, sleeveless shirts and rubber-soled canvas shoes made up their ordinary attire, although for shore visits they "dolled up" remarkably. Those early morning baths were fine appetisers, as will be understood by the reader who has had experience of the water along the Maine coast, and the number of eggs and slices of crisp bacon that came off the alcohol stove would sound like a fairy tale if told. At Camden the two cruisers lay side by side, with just enough room between to allow them to swing, and by keeping the tenders alongside the gangways it was only a momentary task to ferry from one boat to the other. In consequence the two crews mingled a good deal and it was no unusual thing for one breakfast table to be thronged while the other was half empty of a morning. When the boys got tired of swimming they simply climbed over the rail of the nearer craft and, after partly drying themselves, went down to breakfast. As getting dry was a somewhat perfunctory proceeding, the linoleum in the forward cabin was covered with pools of salt water by the time the last platter of bacon and eggs was empty.

Many friends were made and the boys spent more time on shore than aboard. There was tennis to be played, for one thing, and Phil, Steve and Joe were all dabsters at that game. And then there was a big, freckle-faced youth named Globbins who spent most of his waking hours in the driver's seat of a high-powered roadster automobile and who ran the fellows many miles over the roads and was never, seemingly, more contented than when every available inch of the car was occupied. Its normal capacity was three, but by careful packing it was possible to get seven in, on or about it. In return, Globbins was entertained aboard the Adventurer and given a thirty-mile cruise one evening, but it was easy to see that he wasn't really enjoying himself and that his hands fairly ached for the feel of that corrugated wheel of the roadster. They had such a jolly time at Camden that they promised faithfully to stop there again on the return voyage, and really meant to keep the promise when they chugged out of the harbour one crisp morning and turned the cruisers' bows eastward for the run across Penobscot Bay.

They lazed that day, for, as Steve said, it was too fine to hurry. Dinner was eaten with the two boats side by side, with only fenders between, in a fairy pool. They found the place quite by accident when exploring the shore of an island whose name they are to this day ignorant of. There was an entrance to the tiny bay through which a schooner might barely have scraped her way. Beyond the mouth lay a wonder land. The pool was as round as a dish and its water the bluest they had ever seen. Straight across from the entrance a cliff of granite towered for a hundred feet or more, its tree-clad summit almost leaning over the boats at anchor. Its face was clothed with vines and dwarf evergreens and birches. On the other encircling shores of the pool tumbled boulders hung over the blue depths and were reflected so clearly that, looking down, one received the same impression of air and space as when lying on one's back staring into the sky. There never were such reflections, they declared. No one came to disturb them, and only the songs and chirpings of birds and the sleepy sigh of the faint breeze in the boughs broke the silence. Green and blue was that fairyland, warm with the sun and redolent of the sea and the sappy fragrance of sun-bathed foliage.

They ate dinner on the decks, the two boats snuggled so close that it was the easiest thing in the world to pass dishes from one to another. After dinner they lolled in the sunlight and gazed up at the sheer granite bluff or the smiling and cloudless sky and talked lazily or slumbered a little. And finally Wink Wheeler thought of fishing and in a few minutes a half-dozen lines were overboard, and, while the catches were not big, they were fairly frequent, and the question of what they were to have for supper was solved there and then. It was Harry Corwin's idea to stay in the pool overnight and everyone instantly applauded it. Later, a party went ashore and explored, but there were no paths to be found and Nature was jealous of her secrets and they came back without more knowledge of this unknown island than they had had before. They named it Mystery Island and called the little harbour Titania's Mirror, a suggestion from Bert Alley which elicited jibes and a final agreement.

"It's not 'mushy' a bit," said Steve, in Bert's defence. "It's a fine name for the prettiest bit of water any of us ever saw, and you know it. The only trouble with you is that you're afraid someone will laugh at you for being poetical or imaginative. If Bert had suggested calling it Put-In Bay or Simpkins' Cove or something like that you'd have said 'Fine!' and secretly thought him a perfect ass!"

Twilight came early and the still, limpid water of the pool took on all sorts of strange and wonderful hues, like the iridescent surface of a pearl-shell. It grew very still and a little bit eery as the shadows crept over the scene, and it was a relief when Cas Temple and Bert Alley brought forth their mandolins. I am sorry to say that Titania's Mirror was a bit too thickly inhabited by mosquitoes for comfort, and there were restless turnings and muttered expostulations to be heard for some time after lights were out.

The morning broke radiantly and at half-past six Titania's Mirror was turned into a highly satisfactory bathtub. Brown arms clove the shadowed surface and dripping heads rose and fell as fully half the number set out on a spirited race to the entrance. When almost there they emerged into a flood of pale sunlight, and looking down through the pellucid water they could see the sloping sides of the basin converging like the sides of a bowl. Tragedy was surely the last thing to be thought of amidst such idyllic surroundings, and yet it was hovering very close.

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