“Now then, engineer,” Tom cried flinging himself full length in the bottom of the boat, “let out a link! We’re going home!”
Doright’s application to the oars quickly brought the party to a point where they could distinguish the riding lights of the vessels at anchor in the river. As they were passing the mouth of a little bayou, Frank declared he saw people in a boat near the entrance. In explanation Doright told him that many people were out for fish at that hour, seeming to think the fish fed at certain hours, hence were more easily captured.
In a short time Doright’s muscles had forced the ungainly looking craft to a point where it was necessary to use care in navigating the stretch of water if collision with shipping was to be avoided. His skill born of long practice was very evident. Arrived at the shipyard Jack tossed the black a dollar saying that they were grateful for the help he had rendered them.
Unchallenged the boys approached the Fortuna. They expected at least a hail from the watchman of the yard. None came.
“Ah,” observed Jack stooping over a prostrate figure near the foot of the ladder leading to the deck of the Fortuna, “he sleeps.”
“What’s the trouble with the watchman, if it is he?” asked Tom.
“It is the watchman,” Jack answered with a tenseness of expression, “and he’s struck with bottle paralysis. I wonder if the Fortuna is all right, or has that Wyckoff had the run of things a while.”
“Let’s get aboard quickly,” suggested Frank, “and look about.”
“Up we go,” cried Tom. “Easy, lads, the ladder’s shaky.”
Jack in the lead stepped inside the pilot house and down the companion-way. As he reached the cabin below, his chums heard him stumble. Quickly they reached for the light switch.
“Who left that bundle there?” asked Jack. “What’s in it?”
“I didn’t,” declared Tom; “open it up and see what’s inside.”
Jack tore off the wrapper. Aghast he stared at his friends.
RESCUE AND CAPTURE
As Arnold rushed back into the burning cabin the gallery roof fell, effectually blocking the doorway, thus preventing escape again.
“Harry,” cried the frightened boy. “Harry, where are you?”
Through the pall of smoke and amid the hiss and crackle of flames came the reassuring call that put new life into the lad.
“Here I am over here in the corner. Come here a minute.”
“But, Harry,” urged Arnold, “come on out of here. We’ll be burned as sure as fate. What makes you stay here, anyway?”
“I’m going now,” declared the boy. “I forgot something that was left here and came back to get it. That’s all.”
Both boys now moved toward the one window of which the cabin boasted. The roof at the opposite end and directly over the bed where the fire had started was now weakening and threatened to fall.