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Afloat; or, Adventures on Watery Trails

John C. Hutcheson

  Produced by Al Haines

  [Frontispiece: The track could plainly be seen but the trail endedabruptly.]



  _Adventures on Watery Trails_






  Copyright, 1917, by

  The New York Book Co.







  "Elmer said we'd take a vote on it!"

  "Yes, and tonight the next regular meeting of the Hickory Ridge BoyScout Troop is scheduled to take place, so we'll soon know where westand."

  "Thith hath been a pretty tame thummer for the cwowd, all told, don'tyou think, Lil Artha?"

  "It certainly has, as sure as your name's Ted Burgoyne. Our campingout was cut short, for with so many rainy days we just had to give itup."

  "Yeth, after three of the fellowth came down with bad cases of malarialfever. The mothquitoes were so plentiful."

  "That was some news to me to find out that a certain breed ofmosquitoes are the only ones that give you the malarial poison whenthey smack you."

  "Huh! I used to think all that talk was a silly yarn, too, Toby, butnow I put a heap of stock in the same," declared the unusually tall andthin boy, who seemed to answer to the queer name of "Lil Artha;" he hadevidently been dubbed so by his comrades as an undersized cub, and whenshooting up later on had been unable to shake off the absurd nickname.

  "But here we've still got a couple of weeks left of our vacation, youknow," remarked the chap called Toby, "and it'd be just a shame to letthe good old summer time dribble away without one more whack at thewoods, and the open air life we all love so well."

  "Toby, jutht hold your horthes!" exclaimed the one who lisped sodreadfully, and whose name was Theodore Burgoyne, though seldom calledanything but Ted; "you let Elmer decide for the crowd. I'm deadcertain he'll lay out a joyouth plan at the meeting tonight that'llcall for the unanimous approval of every member of the troop to befound in thith sleepy town these dog days."

  "Hear! hear! Ted has got it down pat, let me tell you!" cried TobyJones, who in the bosom of his family was occasionally reminded that hehad once upon a time been christened Tobias Ellsworth Jones.

  "Yes, you know our faithful and hard-working patrol leader to a dot,Ted," added the long-legged scout, with a wide grin on his thin andfreckled face. "Trust Elmer Chenowith to think up a programme thatwill meet with universal approval. But this is a pretty warmproposition for a late August day. Let's sit in the shade a while, andcool off, while we're waiting for Landy and Chatz to show up."

  Accordingly the trio of boys in faded khaki suits, that looked asthough they had seen considerable service, proceeded to perch upon thetop-most rail of a fence at a point where a splendid oak tree threw itswide-spreading branches over the road.

  They were just outside the town of Hickory Ridge, and if you want toknow where this usually wide-awake place was situated it might be wellto refer to earlier books in this Series in order to ascertain all theinteresting particulars.

  These three lads belonged to the local troop of scouts, just then in amost flourishing condition. Under the leadership of Elmer Chenowiththe Wolf Patrol of the troop had accomplished so many unusual thingsthat a fever had taken possession of the town boys to become enrolled.

  There was also the Beaver Patrol, with a full number, and the Eagle aswell as the Fox seemed destined to finish their quota of eight membersin the early Fall.

  The three boys whom we have met on the road chanced to be among theoriginal charter members of the troop. All of them belonged to theWolf Patrol; for it often happens that fellows wearing the same totemare brought closer together than others.

  Since it chances that the exciting incidents which we have started outto chronicle in the present story fell almost exclusively to theportion of the boys belonging to the original Wolf Patrol, it might bewell to give a brief description of who and what they were, beforegoing any further.

  Elmer Chenowith, being the patrol leader, comes first in line. He wasa manly lad, with many winning qualities that made him a prime favoriteamong his fellows. At one time his father had had charge of a vastfarm and cattle ranch up in the Canadian Northwest, and while there theboy had learned a thousand things calculated to be useful to him in hiscapacity of a scout.

  He had long ago received official authority from Boy Scout Headquartersto act as a deputy or assistant scout master, whenever the regularoverseer, young Mr. Roderic Garrabrant, could not be present. Elmerfilled the position in such a clever fashion that no one everquestioned his ability to play the part of guide.

  Then there was Mark Anthony Cummings, who was looked upon as Elmer'schum. He was the grandson of a famous artist, and there were those whoprophesied that some day Mark would follow in the footsteps of hisillustrious ancestor; for he would draw off-hand charcoal sketches ofhis chums, mostly in a humorous vein, that excited roars of laughter.Mark was also something of a musician, and had in the beginning beenelected to fill the position of bugler to the troop.

  Ted Burgoyne was afflicted with a dreadful lisp, on account of ahare-lip, so that as the boys used to say if offered a fortune he couldget no closer to the real thing when dared than to say "thoft thoap."But then Ted was a marvel in his way, for he had more knowledge ofmedicine than all the other boys of the troop combined; and on thisaccount they often called him "Doctor Ted," or "Old Sawbones."

  In cases of snake-bite, fainting, cramps, near-drowning, cuts from thecamp axe or hatchet, gun-shot wounds, broken bones, or, in fact,anything likely to happen to campers, Ted was what Lil Artha alwayscalled "Johnny-on-the-spot," though Toby could never pin him down tosaying "which spot."

  Toby Jones was really the "funny" boy of the patrol. His grandfatherbeing one of those Zouave veterans, who had accompanied ColonelEllsworth to Washington when the war between the States broke out, andsaw the latter shot in Alexandria, Virginia, while taking down aConfederate flag, nothing would do but that the boy must bear thatvenerated name and so he was christened Tobias Ellsworth Jones.

  Toby was ambitious. His leaning lay in the line of aeronautics, and hewas always trying to invent some sort of aeroplane that would discountall the efforts of such men as the Wright brothers. The dreadful fateof Darius Green and his famous flying machine had no terrors for Toby,though his chums were always warning him to beware.

  He had, on several occasions in the past, attempted to show off withone of these ambitious contraptions. Those who have read some of thepreceding volumes of this Series know what ludicrous results came aboutbecause of this over-vaulting ambition on the part of Toby. But he wasnot one whit discouraged, and often declared that unless his life werecut short he meant to see that the name of the Joneses went "ringingdown the ages" as one of the most illustrious since the days of PaulJones, the American who fought sea battles in the Revolutionary War.

  Lil Artha, in reality Arthur Stansbury, was reckoned a good scout, anda loyal companion who could both play a joke and take one when it wasaimed at
him; he was rather fond of photography, and addicted somewhatto harmless slang.

  The sixth member of the original Wolf Patrol was a Southern boy,Charlie Maxfield by name, though known simply as "Chatz." He possessedall the traits to be found in boys who have been born and raised southof Mason and Dixon's line, was inclined to be touchy whenever hethought anyone doubted his honor, talked with a quaint little twangthat was really delightfully musical, and taken in all had grown to bea prime favorite with his fellows.

  Chatz had one silly weakness which, though he tried hard to overcomeit, would occasionally crop up. He was dreadfully superstitious, andbelieved in ghosts, which failing he laid to his having associated withpiccaninnies when a youngster, and in some way imbibing their belief inthe supernatural.

  Yes, Chatz at one time had even carried a rabbit's foot for luck, andto ward off evil spirits. The animal was said to have been killed in agraveyard in the full moon and it was a sure-enough _left_ hind foot,too, which he believed to be a very important distinction, since noother would answer. Of late, however, Chatz said less about thesethings than when he first came to Hickory Ridge; and Elmer believed hewas by degrees out-growing the foolish, superstitious beliefs of hischildhood.

  Two later additions to the Wolf Patrol were Henry Condit, known simplyas "Hen," and Landy Smith, otherwise Philander. The latter was a fat,good-natured chap, always perspiring, and who had a queer habit ofplacing his forefinger alongside his nose when puzzled or reflecting.

  As occasional mention may be made in these pages to other members ofthe Troop, it might be well to simply give a list of their names and"let it go at that," as Lil Artha would say.

  The Beaver Patrol being full consisted of eight boys. Matty Egglestonwas the leader, and after him came "Red" Huggins, Ty Collins, JasperMerriweather, Tom Cropsey, Larry Billings, Phil Dale and "DoubtingGeorge" Robbins, a cousin to Landy.

  There were also four members to the Eagle Patrol, with others about tocome in. Jack Armitage filled the position of leader, and after himcame Nat Scott, Ben Slimmons and Jim Oskamp.

  Apparently, the three fellows perched on the Virginia rail fence hadagreed to wait for others who were to join them in starting for thefavorite "swimmin' hole," for their conversation betrayed this fact.

  Lil Artha began to grow a little impatient. He wiped his perspiringface and in so many words gave his two chums to understand that if thelaggards did not put in an appearance inside of ten minutes he meant tostart without them.

  "A fine lot of scouts Chatz and Landy are showing themselves to be, notkeeping their word," the tall boy grumbled; "there, didn't you hear theclock strike ten? They were to be here not later than a quarter to thehour."

  "Oh! well, you know Chatz isn't in a hurry," chuckled Toby. "Fellowsraised down in Dixie are used to taking their time. It's the warmclimate that does it, he told me. But speaking of angels and you heartheir wings, they say; for unless my eyes deceive me there comes Chatzright now."

  "Yeth, and thauntering along like he might be away ahead of the timethet for meeting here. Chatz ith what I call a cool cuthtomer."

  When the fourth lad joined the bunch, there was a lot of good-naturedbadinage indulged in all around, after the manner of boys in general.

  "Do you intend waiting any longer fo' Landy?" asked the newcomer.

  At that remark the other laughed uproariously.

  "It makes me think of the full 'bus," said Lil Artha; "when it stops totake on another passenger they all look cross; and he squeezes into aseat wondering why people will act so piggish; but let it stop againfor another fare and he grumbles louder than anybody else."

  "Yeth, we've waited fifteen minutes for you, Chatz," said Ted, "andit'd be only fair to give poor, fat Landy ten minutes more."

  Chatz immediately took out his little nickel watch and held it in hishand, just as though he might have been the judge at a sprinting match.

  Before five minutes had crept past, however, there was a cry raised.

  "Here comes poor old Landy," said Toby, "mounted on his wheezy bicycle,and pegging for all he's worth. Look at him puffing away, will you?He just knows he's been keeping us waiting here ever so long, andthat's making him put on so much steam. Wow! he nearly took a headerthat time into the ditch. What a splash there would have been, mycountrymen, if he played leap-frog into that mud-puddle!"

  The boys sat there on the rail fence and began to greet the comingbicycle rider with loud shouts.

  "Hit her up, Landy!"

  "One good turn deserves another, you know."

  "A little more power to your left foot, or you'll be in that ditch yet,Landy!"

  "Oh! Landy, does your mother know you're risking your precious oldneck on that beaut of a wheel?"

  The fat scout did not cease his exertions until he had reached theplace where his four chums sat on the fence. Then they saw that whilehis round face was red, and the perspiration stood out in beads on hisforehead, there was a drawn, almost a scared look on his countenance.

  "Hey! what ails the fellow?" burst out Lil Artha, as though discoveringthat Landy was trembling more with some mysterious emotion than fatigue.

  "Yeth, hurry up and tell uth what's happened!" cried Ted Burgoyne,jumping off his perch, and hastening to the side of the panting boy.

  Landy seemed to swallow something that may have been threatening tochoke him. Then making a great effort, he managed to say a few words.

  "Terrible thing's happened, fellows! Knocks the reputation of the WolfPatrol all to smithereens!"

  Of course, this excited those four scouts as nothing else could havedone.

  "Has anything happened to Elmer?" almost shouted Toby.

  "No, it's Hen Condit!" answered Landy; "he's gone and stole a lot ofmoney from his guardian, and lit out, that's what! And him belongingto the Wolf Patrol, too!"