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   Chapter 18 THE SQUALL

The Adventure Club Afloat By Ralph Henry Barbour Characters: 16726

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04


Although the Adventure Club remained in port for another day, neither Perry, Wink nor Ossie went ashore again, and all the efforts of the rest of the party failed to coax them off the boats. They were, they declared, fed up with Bar Harbor. And they hinted that so far as they were concerned the voyage might continue at any moment without protest. Han brought back a newspaper that afternoon containing a vivid and highly sensational account of the attempted robbery of the Alfred Henry Drummond "cottage." The three read it with much interest, and especially that portion of it which stated that "the local police force is investigating and has every expectation of making arrests within twenty-four hours, since it is not believed the burglars have succeeded in leaving the island and all avenues of escape are being closely guarded."

It might have been observed by the others, but wasn't, that Perry and Ossie, on the Adventurer, and Wink, on the Follow Me, exhibited a strange fondness for the seclusion of the cabins from that time until the next day at eight, when the cruisers up-anchored and passed out of the harbour. And as the broad Atlantic rolled under the keels three hearty sighs emerged from as many throats.

The two boats passed Petit Manan Island toward ten that forenoon, a tiny rocky islet holding aloft a tall shaft against the blue of the Summer sky. "A hundred and fourteen feet," said Joe informatively, "and the highest lighthouse on the coast except one."

"Gee, think of living there in Winter!" said Perry awedly.

"Guess Petit Manan isn't as bad as some of the islands along here, at that," said Joe. "Some of them are a lot further from the mainland. Remember Matinicus?"

"Think of folks living on them," murmured Han. "They must be merry places in Winter with a blizzard blowing around! Lonely, wow!"

"Remember the white yacht we passed the other day near Burnt Coal?" asked Phil, looking up from the book he was reading. "The Sunbeam was the name of her. Well, a chap was telling me yesterday about her. It seems she's a sort of Mission boat, the Sea Coast Mission, I think it's called. The folks that live on these off-shore islands along here were in pretty bad shape a few years ago, bad shape in every way. There were no schools, or mighty few, and no churches, and the folks were just naturally pegging out from sheer loneliness and-and lack of ambition, just drifting right back into a kind of semi-civilized state, as folks do on islands in the Pacific that you read about. Well, someone realised it and got busy, and this Mission was started. There was a chap named MacDonald, Alexander MacDonald-"

"Sounds almost Scotch," observed Joe dryly.

"Never mind what he was. He's American now, if he was ever anything else," replied Phil warmly. "He was teaching school on one of the islands near Mount Desert in the Summers and going to college the rest of the time. There wasn't any church on this island and so he used to conduct services in the place they used for a school. Somehow, that put it into his head-or maybe his heart-to be a preacher. He preached around in all sorts of out-of-the-way places, and then this Mission started up and the folks behind it just naturally got hold of him and put him in charge. A New York woman had the Sunbeam built for him three or four years ago and now he lives right on it, he and a couple of men for crew, and she keeps pegging around the islands, up and down the coast, Summer and Winter. You fellows know what Doctor Grenfell does up around Labrador and beyond? Well, this Mr. MacDonald does the same stunt along this coast, and, by jiminy, fellows, it's some stunt! Think of plunging around these waters in Winter, eh? Breaking his own way through the ice often enough-the boat was built for it they say-and plugging through some of the nor'easters! Say, I take my hat off to that fellow!"

"Some job," agreed Steve thoughtfully. "Man's work, fellows."

"What does he do for 'em?" asked Ossie.

"Teaches them, son. Teaches them how to live clean, how to look after the kids, how to keep healthy. And prays with them, too, I guess. And brings them books and founds schools. Don't you guess that when this Sunbeam comes in sight of some of those little, forsaken islands the folks on shore sort of perk up? Guess the Reverend Mr. MacDonald is pretty always certain of a welcome, fellows!"

"Rather!" said Joe. "That's what I call-um-being useful in the world. Bet you he's a fine sort. Bound to be, eh?"

"I'd like to make a trip with him," said Perry. "Gee, but it would be some sport, wouldn't it? Talk about finding adventures! Bet you he has 'em by the hundreds."

"I dare say," said Phil, "that he'd be glad to dispense with a good many of them. Hope I haven't bored you, fellows," he added, returning to his book.

"You haven't, old scout," answered Han. "Any time you learn anything as interesting as that, you spring it. Blamed if it doesn't sort of make a fellow want to be of more use in the world. Guess I'll polish some brass!"

They passed many of those islands during the next few days, lonely, rock-girt spots scantily clad with wild grass and wind-worried fir trees. Sometimes there was a lighthouse, and nearly always the rocks were piled with lobster-traps, for lobstering is the chief industry of the inhabitants. They touched at one small islet one afternoon and went ashore. There were but three houses there, old, weather-faded shacks strewn around with broken lobster-pots and nets and discarded tin cans and rubbish. The folks they met, and they met them all, from babes in arms to a ninety-eight-year-old great-grandmother, looked sad and listless and run-to-seed. Even the children seemed too old for their years. It was all rather depressing, in spite of the evident kindliness of the people, and the boys were glad to get away again. They bought some lobsters and nearly a gallon of blueberries before they went. Ossie declared afterwards that those lobsters looked to him a sight happier than the folks they had seen ashore!

They went eastward leisurely, making many stops, and had fine weather until they sighted Grand Manan. Then a storm drove them to shelter one afternoon and they lay in a tiny harbour for two days while the wind lashed the ports and the rain drove down furiously. Nothing of great interest happened, although the time went fast and pleasantly. To be sure, there were minor incidents that Phil entered in the log-book he was keeping: as when Han fell overboard one morning in a heavy sea when the Adventurer was reeling off her twelve miles and was pretty well filled with brine and very near exhaustion when he reached the life-buoy they threw him. And once Ossie pretty nearly cut a finger off while opening a lobster. And then there was the time-it was during those two weather-bound days and everyone's temper was getting a bit short-when Perry cast aspersions on Ossie's biscuits at supper. Perry said they were so hard he guessed they were Ossie-fied, and the others laughed and Ossie got angry and they nearly came to blows: would have, perhaps, had not Steve promised to throw them both overboard if they did!

They spent two days at Grand Manan, and Perry, who had never before been further from Philadelphia than the Adirondacks, was vastly thrilled when he discovered that Grand Manan was a part of New Brunswick. "This," he declaimed grandly as he stamped down on a clam-shell, "is the first time I've ever set foot on a foreign shore!"

The end of the first week in August found them harboured at Eastport. They stayed there four days, not so much because the place abounded in interest as because the Adventurer, who had behaved splendidly for several hundred miles, suddenly refused to go another fathom. Steve said he guessed the engine needed a good overhauling, and Perry chortled and offered his services to Joe to help take it apart. But Joe, in spite of his invaluable and ever-present hand-book, acknowledged his limitations, and the job went to a professional and the Adventurer spent most of three days tied up to a smelly little dock while the engine specialist took the motor down before be discovered that a fragment of waste and other foreign matter had lodged in the gasoline supply pipe. Fortunately, his charge was moderate. Had it been otherwise they m

ight have had to stay in Eastport until financial succour reached them, for the exchequer was almost depleted.

They found a letter from Neil among the mail that was awaiting them at Eastport. Neil was evidently down on his luck and begged for news of the club. He got it in the shape of an eight-page epistle from Phil.

Perry made a close study of the sardine industry and laid gorgeous plans for conducting a similar venture on the banks of the Delaware when he returned home. "You see," he explained, "a sardine is just whatever you like to call it in this country. I used to think that a sardine had to come from Sardinia."

"From where?" asked Ossie, the recipient of Perry's confidences.

"Sardinia."

"Where's that?"

"I dunno. Spain, I think. Or maybe Italy. Somewhere over there." He waved a hand carelessly in the general direction of Grand Manan. "Anyway, there's nothing to it. A man told me this morning that the sardines they use here are baby herring or menhaden or-or something else. I guess most any fish is a sardine here if it's young enough. Unless it's a whale. Now why couldn't you use minnows? There are heaps of minnows in the Delaware River. Or young shad. A shad's awfully decent eating when he's grown up, and so it stands to reason that he'd make a perfectly elegant sardine."

"Nothing but bones," objected Ossie.

"A young shad, say a week-old one, wouldn't have any bones, you chump. At least, they'd be nice and soft. It's a dandy business, Ossie. All you have to have is some fish and a lot of oil and some tin cans."

"Sounds easy the way you tell it. I suppose you pour the oil in the tin can and drown the fish in the oil and clamp the lid on, eh?"

"N-no, there's a little more to it than that. There's something about boiling them. They have big kettles. Want to go over this afternoon and see them do it? There's a fine, healthy smell around there!"

"Thanks, but I got a whiff of it a while ago. Unless you want me to sour on sardines, Perry, you won't take me to the place they build them."

The engine was reassembled in the course of time and, with fresh supplies, the Adventurer turned homeward, the Follow Me close astern. They started after an early dinner, having decided to make Northeast Harbor that evening and proceed to Camden the next day. They had seen enough of the eastern end of the coast, they thought, while from Camden westward there were numerous places that had looked enticing. So "No Stop" was the order, and the Adventurer, turning back into home waters off Lubec, churned her way through the Bay of Fundy at a good pace. The morning had dawned hazy, but the sun had shone brightly for awhile in mid-afternoon. Later the sunlight disappeared again and the northern sky piled itself with clouds. South West Head was abeam then and Steve half-heartedly offered to run to shelter. But the others pooh-poohed the suggestion.

"If we duck every time there's a cloud," said Joe, "we'll never get back to Camden. There isn't any wind and the barometer says fair."

The barometer was rather a joke aboard the Adventurer. It hung just inside the forward companion way and was undoubtedly a most excellent instrument. But not a soul aboard could read it properly. When it dropped, the skies cleared and the wind blew. When it rose, it invariably rained or got foggy. Steve had long since given it up in despair, but Joe still maintained a belief in his powers of prognosticating weather by the barometer, a belief that no one else on the boat shared.

"If the pesky thing says that," remarked Han, "it'll snow before night! Still, I don't see why we need to run into harbour yet. There's no sign of fog, and if it's only rain that's coming, why, we've been wet before. I say let her flicker, Steve."

"I guess so. We're not out far and if it does get very wet we can soon get under cover somewhere. Find me the next chart, Joe, will you?"

They could see the Seal Islands, or they thought they could, off to port at a little past three. The Follow Me was hiking along about a quarter of a mile astern, making better going than the Adventurer, just as she always did in a heavy sea. And today the sea was piling up a good deal. Joe looked anxious at times, but he had passed his novitiate and now it took a good deal of tossing to send him below. What happened at about half-past three occurred so suddenly that no one aboard the Adventurer was prepared for it.

It grew dark almost between one plunge of the cruiser's bow and another, and before Steve could punch out his warning on the whistle, preparatory to heading to starboard, a gust of wind tore down on them from the north like a blast from the pole and set canvas rattling and flags snapping. Steve headed toward Englishman's Bay, nine miles due west, and the Follow Me altered her course accordingly. But that storm had no intention of awaiting anyone's pleasure. The first gust was quickly followed by a second and the sky darkened rapidly. The spray began to come over the rail, and Han and Perry tugged down a flapping curtain and lashed it to the stanchions. The next time Steve looked for the Follow Me she was no longer in sight, for the darkness had closed in between the two craft.

"This is a mess," shouted Steve, peering through the spray-wet glass ahead. "I wish we were about seven or eight miles further along, fellows."

"Well, we will be presently," replied Phil cheerfully. "I dare say this blow won't last long. It's only a squall, probably."

"It's a good one, then," muttered Steve. "If you don't believe it take hold of this wheel. Feel her kick? Keep a lookout for that island in there, Joe."

Things went from bad to worse and ten minutes after the first warning the Adventurer was tossing about like a cork, her propeller as often out of water as in, and making hard work of it.

They had to hold tight to whatever was nearest to keep from being pitched across the bridge deck. The seas began to pile in over the roof of the after cabin and the deck was soon awash. Steve held to the wheel like grim death, with Joe at his side when needed, and they plunged on. But it didn't take Steve long to realise that to attempt to make the haven under such conditions would be folly. There were islands and reefs ahead and the gloom made it impossible to see for any distance.

"The only thing we can do, fellows," he said presently, shouting to make himself heard above the wind, "is to run for it straight down the shore. If we can get in past Wass Island we can anchor, I guess, but if we try to make Englishman's Bay we'll pile up somewhere as sure as shooting! I wish I was certain the Follow Me was all right."

"If we are, she's sure to be," said Joe. "She's a nifty little chip in tough weather. Here comes some rain, Steve!"

Joe's description was weak, however. It was more than "some" rain; it was a deluge! It swept past the edges of the curtains and splashed on the deck in dipperfulls. And it hid everything beyond the torn and tattered Union Jack at the bow. Looking through the dripping windows was like looking through the glass side of an aquarium, for beyond it was a solid sheet of water. Steve gazed anxiously from chart to compass under the electric lights and eased off to port.

"There's too much land around here," he shouted to Joe, "to leave me happy. And, what's more, I'm none too certain just where we are at this blessed minute. So it's the wide ocean for yours truly. We'll just have to run for it and trust to luck!"

"Right-o," called Joe sturdily. "Let her flicker, old man! There's one thing plumb certain, and that is if we come across an island we're-um-likely to run clean over it!"

But Joe was wrong.

The words were scarcely off his lips when a cry of mingled astonishment and alarm sprang from Steve as he threw his weight on the wheel. At the same moment there was a shock that sent all hands reeling, the Adventurer quivered from stern to stern, and then, after a moment no longer than a heart-beat, lurched forward again. Directly over the bow, glimpsed vaguely through the rain and gloom, rose a towering cliff. Steve's frantic efforts were in vain, for although he tore at the clutch and the propeller thrashed the water astern, the Adventurer was already in the smother of the surf and an instant later she struck.

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