Motor Boat Boys on the St. Lawrence / Or, Solving the Mystery of the Thousand Islands
“Promise to read to me the log of your last trip, when you went down the big river.”
CHAPTER I – AFTER THE GAME
“That was a hard game for Macklin to lose, fellows!”
“I should say it was, Herb.”
“He nearly pitched his head off, too. Wow! how they did come in like cannon balls!”
“And talk about curves and drops, Little Clarence was roight there wid the goods,” said a stout boy; whose freckled face, carroty hair and blue eyes, as well as the touch of brogue to his voice, told of Irish blood.
“But Jack met his hot pace, and went him one better. Clarence may be a cracker jack in the box, but he can’t just come up to good old reliable Jack Storm ways, of the high school baseball club.”
“Oh, shucks! enough of that taffy, fellows,” laughed the object of this praise, as he swung the bat he was carrying; “why, you know right well I was up against the fence when they made that ninth inning rally. They had found me with the goods on. And you know who won that game for us – our never failing, heavy pinch-hitter, Buster Longfellow. When his bat got up against the horsehide I knew it was all over but the shouting for Clarence.”
“Wasn’t he mad, though? Hurrah for Buster! He’s not built for a runner, they say, but he’s got the batting eye. That hit was a peach!”
“Thanks, George. I believe I did help Brodie dash home with the winning tally. It’s awful nice of you fellows to appreciate talent!”
The boy called Buster made a mock bow as well as he was able. He was fat and chunky, so that his baseball suit seemed moulded to his figure. While his name was understood to be Nick Longfellow, he seldom heard it save at home or in school. To his fellows he was known by such significant names as “Buster,” “Pudding,” and “Hippopotamus.”
There were just five in the bunch, dusty, tired fellows, all on the way home from a most exciting game with a rival team, and the most bitter rivals for supremacy in the little river town along the upper Mississippi.
Besides Buster and Jack, there were the Irish lad, Jimmie Brannagan, who lived with the Stormways, being something of a ward of Jack’s father; Herb Dickson, and George Rollins, all of them members of the high school team.
These five boys, with the addition of another who was not present just then, composed the membership of a motor boat club, and between them owned three very clever craft. George’s was a narrow speedboat, called the Wireless, the powerful engine of which had a faculty for getting out of order just when most wanted. The one of which Jack was skipper was named the Tramp, and while not so fast as its dangerous competitor, could still make great time. Herb possessed a commodious launch, which he had very wisely christened the Comfort, for she was as staunch and reliable as a houseboat.
During the preceding autumn, taking advantage of the school being closed until New Year’s because of an epidemic in the town, these boys had made a long trip down the Mississippi river to New Orleans, being given permission by their parents or guardians.
To make the run more interesting Jack’s father had contributed a silver cup as a trophy; and the annals of that adventurous race have already been given in the first volume of this series. The boys for some time had been laying their heads together and planning another outing for the coming vacation; but for various good and sufficient reasons they were keeping their intended cruising ground a dead secret from everybody.
“Where’s Josh Purdue?” asked Herb, as the party swung into the main street of the town. “We want him along when we talk over that letter Jack had from Clayton, where our boats are going. What did you do about hiding their destination, Jack?”
“Yes,” said George, quickly. “You know we agreed that those chaps were nosing all about, trying to get a clew. Clarence has ordered a rattling motor boat from some eastern maker, and if he could only learn where we’re going to hang out this summer, wouldn’t he just try to make it warm for us, though? Ten to one you hadn’t left the station five minutes after fastening on the tags before he was reading the same.”
“I expected that, fellows,” laughed Jack, “and did the best I could to fool him. The boats are only sent to the address in Milwaukee. From there they will be rebilled to Clayton and shipped on a steamer through the lakes.”
“But he might even have the nerve to write to that agent and make some excuse for asking where they were sent. How about that, Jack?” asked Herb.
“I even thought of that,” replied the other. “You see, when you’re dealing with wide-awake, unscrupulous fellows like Clarence Macklin, and his toady, Joe Brinker, it pays to insure against trouble. And I’ve done it as well as I knew how.”
“Tell us about it, please,” asked Buster, anxiously.
“Well,” replied the one addressed, “I wrote the agent in Milwaukee, stating the circumstances. He turned out to be a jolly good chap; for he answered me and promised that if Clarence or Joe make inquiries he’ll put them on the wrong track.”
“Bully for him!” ejaculated Nick. “We’ll vote him thanks at our next meeting, fellows, that’s what, and call on him in a body as we go through to the steamer when on our way.”
“I wish the time was two weeks later,” remarked Herb. “I don’t see just how I’m going to stand it until after the exams are over.”
“Oh, well, the days manage to pass along; and this glorious victory ought to make you feel that life is worth living,” remarked Jack, with mock seriousness.
“As for me,” remarked Buster, taking in a long breath, as if in anticipation. “I just dream of the bliss of cruising aboard a steady, roomy boat like the Comfort. You can talk all you want, George, about the delights of flying through the water at the rate of twenty-five miles an hour; but me to the cozy home-like cruiser every time. Once is out for me, you remember.”
“Do we, boys?” jeered George, looking at the rest. “Well, will I ever forget how Buster used to sit there in the stern of my flier, looking like a stuffed pillow, with a cork life preserver belted around him all the time, and trying to keep his balance. And the less said about his cooking the better. It haunts me still.”
“Oh! but I’ve improved in that respect, George, very much,” the fat boy hastened to exclaim. “Don’t you worry about it, Herb. I’m taking lessons from our colored cook right now, and expect to branch out as a real prize box. You know when I once set my mind to a thing I generally get there, even if it does take time. Great bodies move slowly, they say. Didn’t I learn to swim after all my disappointments; tell me that, George Rollins?”
“Sure you did, thanks to Jack here,” replied the other. “But all through that trip you gave me the nightmare because you had lost some silly – ”
“Hold on! you solemnly promised you’d never say another word about that business and I’m going to keep you to it, George,” cried Buster. “We did have a glorious time of it, you know. And I can do a little once in a while to help the crowd forget their troubles, can’t I?”
“Why, to be sure you can, Buster, and I’m the last one to deny it,” declared George. “I don’t mean half I say. You know my weakness is a quick tongue. And after the grand way you belted that ball today, I’d be willing to forgive almost anything you’d ever done. Shake on that, old partner of my joys and woes.”
“The boats got off all right, that’s a comfort,” observed Herb.
“How do ye know?” demanded Jimmie.
“I saw them on the cars, and moving out of town, just in that ninth inning, when things looked so black for us,” was the reply. “You know my position out in right gives me a chance to look across the big field to the railroad. And as I was getting my breath, after chasing that tricky ball Carson Beggs whacked out, with two on bases, I had a glimpse of a freight passing, and counted all three boats on gondolas, fastened up in their waterproof covers. It just seemed to give me heart to go in and root harder than ever. It was a lucky omen, too, fellows.”
“Well,” Jack said, “of course they’ll be waiting for us at Clayton when we get there. And although we talked of taking the steamer ourselves, I think, on the whole, it would be wise to go by train. In that way we’ll save a couple of days. Besides, some time we mean to cruise all through the great lakes, and we’d better keep the trip until we can do it in our own motor boats.”
“That sounds good to me!” cried Nick.
“And I’m sure it hits my case to a dot, because it means less time to wait,” and Herb nodded his head in a way that plainly told how his mind was made up.
“That settles the lake trip, then,” laughed George, “because I never did care much about going that way. Jimmie, how do you stand on it?”
“Wid both feet,” replied the party addressed, emphatically. “The sooner we kin arroive at the Thousand Islands, the better I’ll be plazed.”
“Oh! well, let’s forget we ever mentioned going the other way,” said Jack. “But that won’t prevent our passing through Milwaukee, stopping to shake hands with that obliging agent, and finding if the boats got off all right.”
“You can learn that by writing in a few days, Jack,” observed Herb, sagaciously. “I only hope Clarence doesn’t have a friend in Milwaukee who would spy around and discover the truth, that’s all.”
“If he writes the agent you can make up your mind he hasn’t,” said Nick, as the party came to a pause on a corner, where, as a rule, they were accustomed to separating, each one heading for his own home.
“Wait a little, boys. I think I see Josh coming away back there,” remarked Jack, when one of the others made some remark about “seeing you later, fellows!”
“Looks like he was in a big hurry, too?” suggested Nick.
“Well, he is half running, to be sure,” admitted George.
“And there he goes waving his hand to us,” mentioned Herb. “I guess Josh wants us to wait up for him here. Perhaps he’s got something to tell us.”