"Oh I ain't there?" said Bumpus, who was, pinching his nose between his thumb and forefinger, "now, it strikes me there's a whole lot, when you come to think."
"However those men could sleep in here beats me?" ejaculated Step Hen, who was not looking very happy himself, as he sniffed around.
"Oh! mebbe you'll kinder get a little used to it after awhile," Bumpus assured him, in a tone meant to be comforting.
"I don't believe they did sleep in here at all," Thad remarked, after he had been spying around a little longer. "You can't see a sign of a bed, or a blanket, or even leaves in a corner to tell where anybody laid down."
"And outside of these few old oilskin rags that they use to wear in their business," added Giraffe, "and hung up on nails along this wall, there ain't anything to tell that they stayed here. Say, Thad, whatever do you think this shack could a been used for?"
"Where's your nose?" demanded Bumpus at that juncture.
"Yes," Thad went on to say, "that's about the only thing you need to tell you, Giraffe. Seems like they must store their catch here until they get enough on hand to pay to stop work, and pack and ship the same out. Let's look around. What d'ye call this but a kind of trap in the floor?"
"It sure is, Thad," admitted the tall scout, promptly.
"Looks like it had been used a heap, in the bargain," advanced Step Hen.
"Why, of course, because there must be some sort of well underneath the house, where they keep ice all the while, and drop the fish in as they net them. Perhaps one reason why they hate to leave here in a rush is that they've got illegal nets out in different places right now, which cost a heap of money, and they hate to let them go. Hand me that strip of iron, please, Davy. Looks to me as if they use this to pry up the trap. There, what did I tell you?"
As the scout-master said this he managed to skillfully raise the square that was cut in the floor of the cabin. Underneath the old building there must have been a natural well in among the rocks; for as Thad held the lantern over so that all of the boys could see, they discovered what looked like a cellar of solid stone, some fifteen feet deep, and with a ladder at one side that was doubtless used as a means of passing up and down.
"Well! I declare! look at the piles of fine fish, will you?" exclaimed Step Hen.
"All sorts too—trout, white fish, and even black bass, whoppers at that!" added Davy, staring at such a remarkable sight.
"They must take these in some way that's against the law!" Thad declared. "Their suspicious actions prove that, plain enough."
"That's the greatest lot of game fish I ever saw together!" Giraffe ventured, "and if such things keep going on, chances are even the Great Lakes'll be drained of decent sport before many years. It's a shame, that's what it is."
Bumpus was the only one who had made no remark; but all the same he seemed to be busy. They saw him dive into a pocket, and what should he fetch out brut a stout fish line wound around a bobbin, and with a hook attached. This he immediately began unrolling so that the end carrying hook and sinker fell down toward the bottom of the pit.
"Look at Bumpus, would you?" exclaimed Step Hen; "he's gone clean dippy, that's what? Thinks he's out on the lake, and these fish are swimming down there waitin' to bite at his bait! Poor old Bumpus, that knock on the head was too much for him!"
"Was, hey?" snapped the object of this commiseration, as he went on unreeling his line; "you just wait and see whether I've lost my mind, or if I ain't as bright as a button. See that buster of a trout alying there on top? Well, that beats the record so far; and if I can only tip my hook under his gill I'm meaning to yank him up here the quickest you ever saw. Guess the rules and regulations of our watch only said a fellow had to catch his fish with hook and line; it never told that they had to be alive, and swimming, not a word of it. You watch me win that championship right here!"
"There's a fish pile down in the cellar," spoke up the rival of Bumpus, indignantly, "and what d'ye think, Bumpus here means to fetch up a lot of 'em with his hook and line, and count the same against me. Hey! guess two can play at that sort of game, if there's going to be anything in it; so look out; because I'm after that same big trout myself."
Twice Bumpus managed to get his hook where it seemed to catch upon the monster trout's exposed gill, and with a cry of triumph he started to pull in; but on one occasion the slender hold his hook had taken broke away; and the second time it chanced that Giraffe had managed to fasten his barb somewhere about the dorsal fin of the fish, so that there was an immediate struggle for supremacy, with the usual result in such cases that the anticipated prize fell back, and was lost to both contestants.
"Tell them to let up on that silly business, and let's get out of here, Thad," said Step Hen, when this thing had gone on for some time, with no result save a weariness to the two rivals.
"But seems to me," Dave put in just then, "that couple of them same trout and white fish would be mighty tasty dish for a bunch of scouts I know of who always carry their appetites with them."
When Giraffe heard him say that, he suddenly seemed to lose all his fierceness as a contestant for honors.
"Here, let's stop this business, Bumpus, because I ain't agoing to let you grab up any fish that easy like; and I reckon you feel the same way about me. Anyhow, I leave it to Thad here if it's a sportsmanlike way of scoring in our game? If he says no, why I'm willing to let you hook up some of the beauties for our dinner; or to make things more lively I agree to climb down that greasy old ladder and put 'em on the hook for you. How about it, Mr. Scout-master; is it fair?"
"Perhaps the letter of the law might favor such a course," he said, solemnly; "but we pretend to be sportsmen, all of us, and as such we go farther than that. And Bumpus, you know very well that nothing of this kind was thought of when you made your wager with Giraffe. As I was counted on to be the umpire I say now and here that the fish taken have to be alive at the time they are hooked, and swimming in the lake."
"Then that settles it, Thad," chuckled Bumpus, with a grin; "anyhow, I was only fooling, and wouldn't want to count honors won so cheap as this. But drop down there, Giraffe, since you were so kind as to promise, and hook me on that gay fellow I nearly had two different times. Let me feel how heavy he is? I'd go myself, but chances are I'd sure collapse down there, because already I'm feeling weak again, and that's the truth."
Giraffe evidently did not mean to go back on his word; and accordingly he carefully climbed over the edge of the opening, found a resting place for his feet on the top round of the ladder, and then began to slowly descend.
First of all he hooked on the big trout, and gaily Bumpus pulled the prize up, remarking at the time that it felt as though he were lifting a grindstone. When he lowered his line again Giraffe had a splendid fresh looking white fish ready, and this he sent up, after the trout.
"I just can't stand this any longer," the boy below called up; "and I'm acomin' right along with the next one, which ought to be a white fish, I reckon. Oh! my! hope I don't keel over before I get to the top. If I do, please, please don't run away and leave me to my fate, boys!"
Perhaps Giraffe was only joking, but it was noticed that when he hastily clambered out of the fish pit he made a streak for outdoors, still hanging on to his latest capture.
In fact, as they had had enough of that thing, all of them hastened to follow the example set by the tall and lanky scout. Outside they found Allan examining the prize with considerable interest, while Giraffe was fanning himself, and making all sorts of grimaces as he raised first one hand and then the other to his nose.
"I'll step in and take a look now, while we're here," mentioned Allan; "because I may never get another chance to see what a fish poacher's storage place is like."
"Queer where they've gone and hidden themselves," Step Hen remarked, as he looked all around as though half expecting to see a bearded face thrust out of the bushes, or above a pile of rocks near by.
"Well, just now they're in a sort of panic, and hardly know what to try next," Thad told them. "Of course they must see that we're only boys, after all; but from the fact that we wear uniforms they suppose we are connected in some way with the militia, and that perhaps a boatload of soldiers is even now on the way here, obeying some sort of wireless signal we've managed to transmit. They thought to seize Bumpus, and perhaps get us all, one by one; but when they found that he had rendered their boat helpless they just threw up the sponge and quit."
"Well, I kinder feel a mite sorry for the rascals," Step Hen observed; whereupon the usually gentle Bumpus, who could be depended on to forgive the first one of all, fired up, and burst out with:
"Then I ain't, not one whit; and I guess you wouldn't either, Step Hen Bingham, if you had a lump as big as a hickory nut on top of your head, that felt as sore as a boil, and knew one of that crowd did it to you. Ain't they breaking the law of the land; and every fish they take in their illegal nets or seines means one less for the fellow that fishes for sport, or the man that does business according to the rules and regulations. Sorry, well I guess not! And when we move away with their old boat we'll send somebody with brass buttons over to Sturgeon Island to take off the marooners."
"Whew! listen to the savage monster, would you?" purred Step Hen; but Bumpus had suffered too much to be in a forgiving humor, and he continued to shake his head ominously while he kept on breathing out threatenings, like Saul of old.
"Now let's head for our camp," Thad gave the order, when Allan had joined them, and declared he had seen all he wanted of the fish poachers' storehouse.
"I only hope they haven't stolen a march on us, and got away with our traps," Davy happened to remark, as they stepped out at a lively rate.
"What a job we'd have cookin' these fine fish, if we didn't have any frying-pan," was the first lament of Giraffe.
"And my blanket that I think so much of, I wouldn't like to lose that," Bumpus told them; but Thad gave it as his opinion that after the men had fled, upon hearing the voices of the boys near by, they must have fallen into such a panic that no doubt they were now in hiding away off at the other end of the island.
"Now don't forget to show us where you bid that crank belonging to the boat engine, Bumpus," Step, Hen cautioned, as they strode along,
"Good thing you spoke of it when you did, Step Hen," the fat scout declared, "because here's the old stump right now. Feel down, and see if it ain't there, somebody. Here, let me do it myself, because I know just where it lies."
In proof of his words Bumpus speedily drew out the crooked bit of steel in question.
"Here you are, Giraffe, like to like!" he sang out gaily, as he tossed his find toward the tall scout.
"I s'pose that's as much as calling me a crank," muttered Giraffe; "but then, we'd take anything from you, Bumpus, just now, we feel so good after your splendid work."
Of course upon receiving that fine compliment Bumpus became contrite at once.
"Excuse me for saying that, Giraffe," he called out; "because I reckon now you ain't one whit more a crank than some others in this crowd." And then noticing that Step Hen and Davy were looking daggers at him, he hurriedly added, "particularly a stout feller they call Bumpus for short instead of Cornelius Jasper Hawtree."
"My idea is about this," Thad went on to say; "as we are going to depend so much on using this boat to get away in, we'd better make our camp right alongside; and in that way they won't have much chance to steal the same from us."
"But ain't we going away soon?" asked Davy, looking around him again, as though he still expected to see a party of furious poachers rush towards them, reinforcements having meanwhile arrived on the island.
"Not till that sea goes down a whole lot more," replied the scout- master; "and if that doesn't happen until late this afternoon I'm afraid we'll have to spend one more night on Sturgeon Island," which information the others did not hear with any degree of enthusiasm for they were all heartily tired of the place.
TAKEN UNAWARES, AFTER ALL
As there was no longer any necessity for their depending upon the shelter of the projecting ledge, since the sun was shining cheerily, the scouts set about changing camp.
This did not take any great while, because they had no tents to bother with; and it was easy enough to gather up their blankets and the few things they had saved from the wreck of the Chippeway Belle.
As none of them ever saw the first sign of that ill-fated boat again, it was always taken for granted that when the wind shifted in the night, at the time Thad drew attention to the fact, the strain became so great that the anchor cable had to give way, allowing the still floating boat to be carried out into deep water before the end came.
They found the anchor where it had been placed, with the rope broken part way out, and this told the story as well as words could have.
And so camp was made close by the boat belonging to the fish poachers, which it must be their duty to guard, so that later on they could make use of the same in order to escape from the island.
The waves did not go down as rapidly as the boys would have liked, and when high noon came they were still rolling along in a way that was dangerous to any small craft, especially on such a great inland sea as Superior is, with harbors few and far between.
Thad admitted that the chances of their getting away that day did not look good to him. Giraffe was the only real cheerful fellow in the party, and as he superintended the cooking of the delicious white fish for lunch he was heard to express his opinion several times.
"Well, one thing good about it is that there's enough fish on the ice down in that well to last us till Christmas; and it's to be hoped that somebody with a boat comes along before then, to take us off; or we can get this chunky craft of the poachers to working some. But let me tell you, that same fish does smell grand to me. Needn't make a face, Bumpus, because you think you'll never eat fish again. It's either that or go hungry with this crowd."
"But the white fish, like all other delicate fish, is only at its best when eaten on the spot where it's caught," Thad told them; "putting it on ice for days hurts the flavor, and sometimes it's just as tasteless as so much sawdust."
"Then this one was fresh caught," Giraffe affirmed, as he looked hastily about, took up the last bit that was in the second pan, and asked: "anybody want this; if nobody else does, I'm Johnny on the spot."
"Well, I declare, I like that!" burst out Step Hen; "did you see him swing that pan around, and before a fellow could even open his mouth to say yes, he had that last big piece in his tin dish. Oh! well, since you've got to be filled up, or you get to growling, go ahead and bolt, it; only look out for bones. If one ever got fastened in that rubber neck of yours, Giraffe, nobody's fingers could ever reach it. And as hard luck would have it, I left my fish disgorger at home."
Giraffe never minded this sort of talk, for he was making away with the last of the fish with his usual speed.
"Bones never trouble him at all," remarked Bumpus, who was always telling about dreaming of choking to death on a fish-bone.
"That's where you're wrong," chuckled Step Hen; "they trouble him a whole lot, every time he sits down, I reckon, because Nature ain't been so kind to our long friend as to you, Bumpus."
Joking in this style they finished their meal, and the, afternoon stared them in the face. It promised to be a long stretch, if they had to stay there until another morning.
Bumpus and Giraffe presently got their lines out, and finding a place near by where it seemed safe to remain, they started to try and add to their score.
"Let's call it off, Bumpus," suggested Giraffe, who was getting weary. "What's the use of all this bother, when we've got a storehouse cram- full of fine fresh fish close at hand, so we sure don't need this sort of a job for the sake of filling our stomachs. Anyhow, you can keep it up if you feel like it; I'm dead sleepy after passing such a night; and we ought to get some rest."
"That's so," echoed Bumpus, just as if he had been on guard every minute of the previous night, "and as like as not we'll have to be keeping one eye open to-night again, who knows?"
"One?" cried Giraffe, looking sharply at him; and then shaking his head he went on to add: "but I said I wasn't agoing to poke fun at you this whole day, Bumpus, after what you done. Course you can't help it if you get sleepy, any more'n I can about being hungry all the time. So let's call it a draw, and quit kidding."
"What's that smoke over there mean?" asked Step Hen, a short time later; and even Giraffe, who was trying to get some sleep, sat up on hearing this.
"Hurrah! mebbe it's a rescue boat coming out after us!" cried Davy, standing on his hands, and kicking his heels in the air, just as the ordinary boy might clap his hands together.
"What do you say, Thad?" asked Giraffe, cautiously, having arisen to his feet, and stretched his long neck in the endeavor to see better than his chums.
"Well," remarked the scout-master, after he had made a mental calculation; "you notice, don't you, that it comes from toward the other end of the island."
"Yes, that's a fact, Thad," slowly admitted Davy, who had now returned to his normal condition, with his head higher than his heels; though some of the boys often declared that the reverse was true, and that he seemed more natural when hanging head downward from the limb of a tree, like a giant bat or a monkey.
"And there isn't enough of it to make me think a boat could be coming," Thad went on to say. "In fact, the chances are those men, as badly frightened as they are, have to eat, and I think they've lighted a fire to cook something."
"Oh! is that all?" grunted Giraffe, immediately dropping back upon his blanket; "please don't wake me up again for such a silly thing as that; though of course I can feel for 'em if they are really hungry."
Acting on the advice of Thad the other boys managed to get some sleep from time to time, though they were very careful not to let the camp go unguarded.
"We're going to be kept here on the island another night, seems like," he had told them, "and that means a constant watch. So far we've managed to hold our own, and we can't afford to get careless, and lose out."
"I should say not," Step Hen had echoed, as he cuddled down to carry out the suggestion of the scout-master.
Along about half an hour before evening set in an expedition was arranged to pay another friendly visit to the fish preserves of the poachers. They wanted to get enough supplies this time to cover several meals, so that they would be able to feel that they had food for the next day, should they be able to make the start in the morning.
Now Bumpus would much rather have remained behind; but it was a choice between two evils with him. His recollections of the harsh methods by means of which the poachers tried to get him to give up his secret were still fresh in his mind; so was his detestation of that fishy odor that clung to the shack. But Thad would not let him have any choice in the matter, telling him that he must accompany the expedition, and carry home his share of the spoils, though Giraffe had promised to again drop down into the pit, and send up all they wanted.
They met with no adventure on the way, nor were they interrupted in their task of securing a store of fish food for present necessities, and looking into the near future a bit.
Giraffe managed his end of the labor manfully. He suffered a great deal, he admitted; but then, somebody had to take on the hard jobs; and as no one else volunteered he just had to be the "goat."
"Oh! as if we don't know the real reason," Step Hen declared, indignantly. "If you wasn't so crazy after eating all the time, I guess now you'd be the last one to go down there of your own free will. But that ain't saying we ain't glad of it. 'Taint often we get a chance to harness that appetite of yours to something that pays. Go on down a few more times, Giraffe; we might toddle along under another fish apiece."
"Not much I will," grunted the other; "six trips is the limit for anybody with a weak stomach."
"Weak stomach-what, you?" cried Step Hen, scornfully throwing up his hands.
The tall scout however did not want to be drawn into an argument just then, since that would only delay their departure from the cabin and all that it spoke of in such a distinct way. He darted in again, however, for a last visit, and vanished down the pit; to appear a minute later holding the largest fish they had as yet run across.
"There, what d'ye think of that for a jim dandy, fellows?" he cried. "And Bumpus, take a good look at him, because I'm bound to hook the mate to this next time we get out our lines. I'm not only a weather prophet, but there are times when I feel it in my bones that something is going to happen."
He tripped just then, and took a header, whereupon Bumpus, with pretended sympathy, hurried to his side, and offered to help him get up, saying;
"Oh! Giraffe, that was the time your bones told you the truth, didn't they; and I reckon your knee joints are skinned some after that tumble, too?"
Giraffe may have been suffering all sorts of agonies at the time, but of course he was not going to let the others see him wince; so he smiled sweetly as he once more gained his feet, and took up the big fish, saying at the same time:
"Don't mention it; I'm all right, Bumpus."
But they could see him limp more or less as they headed for the camp by the captured motorboat of the fish poachers.
Of course, when they went off like this they made sure to carry the crank belonging to the engine along with them, so that even if the enemy did enter the camp during their absence they could not run away with the craft, which on account of the make of motor was practically helpless as soon as the crank was gone.
"Here we are, right-side up with care; plenty of grub, and no damage done except that we've decreased the stock of fish supplies the poachers have laid by," Step Hen was heard to declare; and though Giraffe gave him a pained look, and unconsciously rubbed his injured knee, he did not make any remark to the contrary.
And when it came time to get supper ready he was apparently just as able to move around as ever, barring a slight limp.
Of course they kept close watch all the while, not wishing to be taken by surprise, should the enemy muster up enough courage to attempt some desperate trick, possibly looking to making the scouts prisoners, so that they could once more secure the valuable crank, and go away on board their boat.
Thad himself had managed to secure some rest during the day, because he knew that another hard night awaited him.
As on the previous occasion he told the others they could sit up if they chose, and keep both he and Allan company; and just as had happened before all of them tried hard to accommodate; but before one hour passed poor Bumpus had fallen by the wayside; and then soon afterward Davy, Giraffe and Step Hen all found themselves unable to hold out.
Since they had really undergone considerable in the way of privation and excitement of late, Thad did not have the heart to blame them. He believed that with the one faithful chum alongside, he could take as good care of the camp as though the whole six were on duty.
The time dragged along until it must have been close on midnight; and so far nothing out of the way had happened, though the sentries did not relax their vigilance on that account, for they were too good woodsmen to think of that.
As the boat had been secured with all the available ropes, and a part of the engine dismantled in the bargain, neither of the scouts dreamed that the enemy would aim to strike a blow at them in that quarter. They could not carry the boat off; and even granting that this were possible, it would be useless, since they had no means for running the same.
Still another hour had crept along, and Thad was just beginning to congratulate himself on the way the night was passing, when without the least, warning there came a sudden flash of light down in the rocky berth where the boat lay; immediately succeeded by a deafening crash. Up into the air arose burning fragments of the poacher's boat; and this was the startling spectacle that greeted the astonished eyes of the Silver Fox scouts who had been sweetly sleeping, as they sat up and stared around them.
GOOD-EYE TO STURGEON ISLAND—CONCLUSION
All sorts of loud cries and exclamations arose, as the startled boys began to dodge the falling pieces of the blown-up boat.
Thad, although almost stunned by the sudden catastrophe that had come upon them, in spite of their vigilance, kept a bright lookout, for fear lest the next thing they knew the poachers would come dashing among them, hoping to take advantage of the confusion to disarm them.
But nothing of the sort occurred, and presently the six boys huddled there in a heap, trying to figure out what had happened, and why the three men had resorted to such desperate tactics rather than allow the seeming soldiers to sail away in the morning, and perhaps carry the news to some place where the authorities would be sure to fit out an expedition at once, looking to their capture.
After a great deal of talk, and many odd ideas being advanced, which it would not profit us to mention here, they settled on what seemed to be the most plausible theory. This was that the three poachers, believing they could not make use of their boat so long as the boys in uniform held the key, in the shape of that crank, had decided to blow it up. Their reason for this may have been that they would in this way compel the others to remain marooned there on the island; and perhaps it was expected that another boat, with a fresh lot of poachers, would be along after a certain time.
This was the nearest they could ever come to it, for they did not have a chance to make the personal acquaintance of the three hide-out men, and therefore could not get information at first quarters.
When the morning came the scouts were not so merry as they had felt on the previous evening when all things looked rather rosy. Still, it is difficult to keep some fellows moping all the time; and even Giraffe tried hard to look at the bright side; thought he often complained that he had consider difficulty in making up his mind which side that was.
As long as the food supply held out, Giraffe was not going to give up to despair; even if fish as a steady diet might pall on the ordinary appetite, Giraffe thought he could stand the bill of fare for a week or two, if they had to stick it out that long.
Thad kept them on the watch for some sort of vessel, steamer, sailing craft, whaleboat barge or anything that would afford an asylum, if only they could by the greatest of good luck attract the attention of those on board.
As the morning got pretty well along the boys were beginning to feel downcast once more, when all at once Step Hen, who had been using the glasses at the time, let out a joyous whoop.
"Would you believe it, fellows," he cried, "while we've been nearly breaking our necks looking to the east and south for a sail, why, here's a little buzzing motorboat acoming along an the same tack we carried; and ten chances to one now, it's carrying our two good Silver Fox pards, Smithy and Bob White!"
All of them had to take a look through the glasses, and the consensus of opinion seemed to trend that way; though at first some of the more dubious were inclined to fear that it might only be another poaching boat, that was coming straight to the island to land a catch of illegally taken fish.
"Get busy right away, and let them know where we are!" exclaimed Bumpus, all of a tremble with anxiety. "Goodness gracious! just think how we'd feel if they went speeding past old Sturgeon Island, never heating us yell; because the breeze was wrong. Bang away with the gun, Thad, and make 'em look! Do something that'll stir things up! Wish I could let out a whoop that'd carry ten miles, you'd hear me spreading myself some, I tell you."
But all Bumpus's fears were useless, for those aboard the little motorboat that had really come all the way from the Soo, starting earlier than Thad and his five companions, heard the combined shouts, and signaled that they would head in without delay.
"Say, couldn't you hold up a little while, and let me go back after a few more of those fine fish?" pleaded Giraffe, when the rescuing craft was drawing close; and when the scout-master shook his head in the negative the tall member went on: "you never know how much grub you need when on one of these here lake trips, with the chances in favor of something happening to knock the engine out. Besides, remember there will be two more mouths to feed, Thad; and sure I could snatch up some of them fish in a jiffy. Say yes, won't you?"
"No need of it, Giraffe," the other assured the lean scout; "it's true that we'll have a couple more with us, but don't forget that they are expected to have a pretty good supply of food aboard as it is. Then who wants to live on fish diet."
"And we'll get to a place right soon," added Bumpus, "where we can lay in all the stores we want."
"Yes," Step Hen thought fit to remark, "and then too, if we loaded down so with too much fish, what's ever going to become of that game you and Bumpus are working? We expect to have the table supplied right along now with the product of your combined skills as anglers."
"Oh!" chuckled Giraffe, "after all that honey, I give up, and agree to let things run as they are. But I want to warn the said Bumpus here and now that I'm camping on his trail; and from this time out the fight is agoing to be just fierce!"
"Bah! who's afraid?" sang out the fat scout, with a shrug of his shoulders.
"Everybody get their things together so we can climb aboard as soon as our comrades come close enough to shore. We may have to wade a little, for the landing places are few and far between, and we don't want to take any chances."
"Then I hope some kind friend will have the goodness to carry me on his back; because I sure hate to get my footsies soaked again," remarked Bumpus, unabashed.
It turned out, however, that there was no need of this. The two boys in the motorboat knew how to manage, and brought the little vessel in close enough so that even clumsy Bumpus was able to clamber aboard, after handing up his possessions. And Thad smiled when he saw that the other included among these the rusty crank belonging to the destroyed boat which the poachers had used in their illegal business, evidently romantic Bumpus meant to keep that as a reminder of his little adventure on Sturgeon Island.
Smithy and Bob White were two of the Silver Fox Patrol whom many readers will remember figuring largely in previous books of this series of Boy Scout tales.
They were instantly almost consumed with eagerness to know what had happened to maroon their chums on the island; but until they had passed some distance out Thad would not attempt to relate the stirring circumstances.
"Looky, there they are, ashaking their fists after us; and I reckon they're letting out a few remarks that might burn our ears if we heard the same, which the breeze keeps us from doing," and Giraffe, as he spoke, pointed to where the trio of lawless poachers stood on a rock near the other end of the island.
That was the last they were fated to see of the men. Later on they happened to enter a Canadian port in search of supplies, and of course Thad made it an object to narrate their adventure to some person in authority. The boys heard afterwards that an expedition was at once started out by the Canadian people, looking to the capture of the poacher crowd, and the breaking up of their illegal business; but apparently the other boat must have arrived before them; for while they found the ice pit, just as the boys had described to them, the fish were all gone, nor did a search of the entire island reveal any sign of human occupation.
Of course it did not matter at all to Thad And his chums whether the three men were ever apprehended, as they did not expect to cruise in this region again and consequently there was no chance of their ever meeting any of them afterwards.
They would never be apt to forget the strange things that had come to them however, while marooned on Sturgeon Island; and often when they pored over the Government charts that Thad kept, they could see again in memory many of those adventures looming up along the mental horizon the wreck of the boat; the lively time they had getting ashore; the discovery of the fish packing cabin; the mysterious disappearance of Bumpus; how he was found again under such remarkable conditions; the blowing up of the poachers' boat; and last but not least the opportune arrival of their mates with the other craft.
No doubt many a time the very odor of fish would carry the thoughts of those boys away back to this period in their adventurous careers. Not that it marked the culmination of the good times fortune had in store for them; because before many months passed a splendid chance was going to come along that would give the members of the Silver Fox Patrol an opportunity to enjoy another outing, this time while the North, where their home town lay, was swathed in snow and ice. The title of this next book will be "The Boy Scouts Down in Dixie; or, The Strange Secrets of Alligator Swamp." And the reader of this volume may rest assured that the adventure's befalling Thad and his jolly mates, Allan, Giraffe, Bumpus, Davy, Smithy, Step Hen and the Southern boy, Bob White, will afford them as rich a treat in the new story as anything that has preceded it.
As to that wager between Giraffe and Bumpus, it kept dragging along during the balance of the cruise, sometimes one, and then the other being ahead. But luck finally favored Giraffe, as on the very last day, with the score a tie, he happened to be trailing a stout line out, when his hook became fast to the tail of a big fish that came near pulling him overboard before he succeeded in landing the same, after the engine was hurriedly stopped.
After that Bumpus threw up his hands, and said he would wait on the crowd when they had their dinner upon arriving home; which he certainly did, and with such success that the boys voted he continue to accept "tips" in that vocation whenever they were in camp, Bumpus vigorously dissenting, of course.
Thad learned later an that the poor old Chippeway Belle was fully insured, and no word of complaint ever reached them after they had furnished the owner with all the evidence he needed in order to collect the amount; so there may have been a little truth in what several of the scouts hinted among themselves, that the sinking of the powerboat cleared the air, and allowed the gentleman to replace her with a newer model. "Blessings often come, in disguise," Bumpus says, as he looks up at that rusty crank, tied with a red bow of ribbon, and hanging from the wall of his den at home; and then feeling of his head to ascertain whether that lump has fully subsided, he is apt to go on to remark that sometimes they even drop down from trees, and give a fellow the queerest kind of a thump; for if he had not conceived that little plan of hiding a part of the machinery belonging to the poachers' boat, things might have turned out vastly different from what they did.