Motor Boat Boys Among the Florida Keys Part 26

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How could it be otherwise, when they were living in the open air day and night, drinking in the pure ozone all the while; with contented minds, and plenty to appease the healthy demands of the inner man?

So one fine afternoon they headed up the wide bay leading to Pensacola, expecting to get more home letters here. George had a wrinkle between his eyes at times, but this was not on account of any anxiety in connection with a girl he had left behind him, as some of the others jokingly declared. The fact was, his new engine was giving him a little trouble.

"Tell you what, George," Herb had said, when they had to stop an hour for the other to do some work, in order to induce the motor to carry on its part; "your old _Wireless_ is just a hoodoo, and that's what ails you."

"Huh!" grunted George, in disgust, "I'm beginning to believe that way myself, to be honest now. I've done everything a fellow could do, even to installing a new and guaranteed motor; yet here the measly thing goes back on me, just like the old one used to. Huh! it's just sickening, that's what!"

"But you see, George," Josh remarked, with a wide grin, "the bally boat wouldn't feel right at all if it went too smooth. Ever since you first got her she's been accustomed to playing you tricks. Expect her to reform all at once, and be as meek as Moses? Well, I guess not. Give her time, George, plenty of time."

"Oh! she's got to see me through this cruise," declared the owner of the cranky speed boat; "because I haven't got the money to buy another right now. And no matter what the rest of you say, I've somehow always loved this boat."

"Of course," observed Herb; "they always say that the bad child is loved most by its parents, because they feel the greatest anxiety for that one. But give me the steady old _Comfort_, that never keeps me awake guessing what sort of trick it'll play next."

"Oh! that's all right," remarked George, indifferently; "everybody to their taste. But I'd die in that tub, watching all the rest run circles around me."

"Oh! hardly that," laughed Herb; "because, you see, once in a while there's a little ripple of excitement comes breezing along, when some fellow asks to be taken in tow!"

Of course, after that George had nothing further to say; for he could look back to several instances that were full of humiliation to his proud spirit, when necessity had forced him to accept of this friendly aid on the part of his chums.

But they reached Pensacola finally in good shape. George hoped that after all, as the others said, that one little trick on the part of his engine might have only been a slip that would never occur again; though his confidence was shaken, and he watched its working suspiciously after that.

Letters from home greeted them at Pensacola; but no new developments were contained in them, at least nothing positive. The strike had not been settled, and there was warm talk of the town putting men to work regardless of labor unions.

"And so little has been done," Jack remarked, after getting the consensus of opinions from all the letters that had been read, "that I can't see, for the life of me, how they're ever going to complete the building this season. I understand that it was proposed to use the biggest church in a pinch; but just as luck would have it, the heating plant in that has gone all to pieces, so that the scholars would be apt to freeze."

The boys looked at each other, and smiled. Perhaps they were, deep down in their hearts, secretly hoping that the workers up there would keep on quarreling, and the completion of the high school building be postponed until the next summer. For boys give little thought concerning lost opportunities in the way of learning. Besides, were they not getting the finest lessons possible in the line of self reliance; and was not this long cruise the best sort of education, when they had learned a thousand things that could never be forgotten?

When they left Pensacola the weather appeared favorable; but at this season of the year nothing can be taken for granted; so that the experienced cruiser is accustomed to keeping a strict watch for signs of storms.

They had need of caution about this time, since there arose a necessity for considerable outside work, always dangerous in small boats, because of shallow water near the sh.o.r.e, and an absence of suitable harbors in which to seek shelter, should a sudden gale arise.

If all went well, they antic.i.p.ated making it a one-night stop between Pensacola and Mobile; and Jack thought he had the place for this camp picked out on his coast chart, which he studied faithfully.

So, as this day moved along, they were putting the miles behind them at a steady rate. George had no new trouble with his engine, though it was noticed that he cut out some of his racing ahead of the others. Constant friction from water will wear away granite in time; and the numerous and long-continued troubles of George must be making an impression on his usually buoyant spirits.

"Alabama, here we rest!" sang out Jack, about five in the afternoon, as he pointed ahead to where a friendly island or key offered them the shelter they craved.

"Oh! I'm so glad!" Nick was heard to say, and they could easily guess why; for of course Nick must be ravenously hungry--he nearly always was.

Accordingly they headed in, meaning to pa.s.s behind the end of the key that jutted out like a human finger, offering an asylum to all small craft that could gain the sheltered water behind.

It was just while they were slowing up, since caution had to be exercised whenever they neared shoal waters, that Herb called out excitedly:

"Oh! Jack, look out yonder; what in the d.i.c.kens is that coming along, and sticking out of the water?"

Of course every eye was instantly turned in the direction Herb was pointing.

"It's a whale!" shouted Nick, almost falling overboard in his excitement, as he discovered some dreadful looking black object rushing through the water amid a sparkling ma.s.s of foam.

"A whale!" echoed Jimmy, dancing up and down excitedly; "Och! if I only had a harpoon now, wouldn't it be just grand? A whale would knock the spots out of the biggest shark that iver grew, so it would."

Jack had s.n.a.t.c.hed up his marine gla.s.ses, and was leveling them at the monster, back of which trailed that line of foam and bubbles. The others, watching, saw him stare as though hardly able to believe his eyes, and then laugh outright.

"Oh! there goes Jimmy in the d.i.n.ky; and, would you believe it, he's got a gun!" exclaimed Nick. "Nothing is too big to scare that boy, I do believe. He'd just as soon tackle a whale as a sunfish. Call him back, Jack, or he'll be drowned!"

Jack laid down the gla.s.ses, which had occupied his attention so much that he had not observed the actions of his cruising mate.

"Here, you, Jimmy, come right back!" he called, though he could hardly talk because of the desire to laugh.

"But howld on, Jack, darlint, didn't ye be afther sayin' anything that swum was a fish; and if I get a whale ain't it fair play?" the other replied, pausing in his labor of using the short oars belonging to the _Tramp's_ tender.

"Sure, I did," answered Jack; "but that didn't mean you could go around banging away at one of your Uncle Sam's submarines, out for a trial spin from the Pensacola navy-yard. I guess you'd better come back now, before you get in trouble; don't you?"



Ambitious Jimmy evidently came to the conclusion that a Government submarine was rather larger game than he cared to tackle. Besides, from the riotous way in which his five chums were laughing, he must have become convinced that there would be sustained objections to allowing him to count his prize, even did he bag such prey.

At any rate, he ceased rowing, and backed water, returning to the _Tramp_, with one of his characteristic wide grins decorating his freckled face. So the others never knew whether the wild Irish lad might have been playing a joke upon them, or really thought it was a whale, which he might as well try to take in.

The submarine had by this time vanished from sight, evidently testing her ability to remain under the surface of the water for a length of time; as well as proceeding at a rapid clip when partly submerged. But the boys did not see anything of the strange craft again.

They made their camp that night, just as Jack had figured upon doing.

And on the following day, by cleverly getting an early start, they pa.s.sed around grim Fort Morgan, sailing up Mobile Bay, where gallant Farragut earned his lasting laurels many years ago.

But, besides securing their letters, if there were any, they did not mean to remain long here. One day sufficed to show them all they cared to see of the quaint little city that has had such a history.

Truth to tell, all the boys were anxious as to what news might await them when they reached New Orleans. That, of course, was to be the deciding point. If nothing new developed, it was of course their intention to hold to their original plan. This had been to ship the three motor boats up the Mississippi by some packet, themselves taking pa.s.sage on a train, headed for home.

As they had previously made a voyage down the Father of Waters; and heading up against the fierce current was never to be thought of on the part of such small craft, this was really the only thing they could do.

Apparently they had plenty of time to reach their destination on schedule, and yet none knew better than did Jack Stormways how exasperating delays often occur to hold motor boats up. There was George, for instance, with his unlucky speed boat, which might become disabled at a time when they would lose days towing him along; or it might be storms would follow each other so fast that a necessary outside pa.s.sage could not be attempted.

And so they decided, that first night out from Mobile, that if there was any loafing to be done, they had better defer it until within a single day's run of the Crescent City. When their minds were perfectly free, and they knew nothing was apt to interfere with their carefully laid plans, that would be the time to hang around, and rest up.

So day succeeded day, and they drew gradually closer to their destination. Jimmy began to look very doleful, or at least pretended to be in the "dumps," as Josh called it. The wager would come to an end when they made the city on the lower Mississippi, no matter what their future course was to be. And if he had not beaten that wonderful shark record by then, the game was up.

Nick puffed himself out, and a.s.sumed airs. He felt that he had really done himself proud in bringing such a remarkable fish to land, alone and unaided. He even made out solemnly worded vouchers, which every one of the others was compelled to sign; and which in so many sentences told the actual story of his feat.

"You see," Nick explained, "a lot of people up in our town would call it just a fish story, and let it go at that. And I want to prove it to my dad as well. He never dreams what a wonderful boy he's got. Guess they won't laugh so much after this, because I happen to have a little extra flesh on my bones. That don't mean I'm lacking in muscle, does it? I think not. Haven't we got a shining example of the same in our great and n.o.ble President today? Huh! a fellow can be stout, and yet some punkins, after all."

"And that little kodak picture I took will go a good way toward proving your story, Nick," remarked Josh. "When they see you standing so n.o.bly, with one foot on that _tre_menjous shark, it'd have to be a mighty suspicious feller that would doubt your word. And even Jimmy, here, your worsted compet.i.tor, has signed your affidavy."

"Sure if I'm worsted, I'm wool, and a yarrd wide!" grinned the said Jimmy.

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Motor Boat Boys Among the Florida Keys Part 26 summary

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