ON THE WAY

“We’re a pretty pair of fools!” cried Bill.

“I agree with you.” Osceola, usually stoical under trying conditions,
was visibly upset. “While we’re scrapping and swapping stories, that
girl of mine is being kidnapped by those ruffians!”

“But they haven’t got into the house yet,” Bill reminded him.

“But what can those two do against so many! After what Sanders said to
you, we should have been prepared for this. For the love of Mike, Bill,
hold that light steady! I can’t find the brick that manipulates the
panel to the woodshed tunnel.—There—that’s better!”

A section of the cellar wall opened and the light from the torch shone
on a flight of stone steps leading into the earth.

“Wait a jiffy, till I pick up my rifle—” The young Seminole disappeared,
then returned with the gun in his hands. “Lucky I decided to tackle you
with my fists rather than shoot in the dark! Got everything you need?”

“Yep.”

“Then turn the light on the wall to your left—third brick from the
bottom—there!”

He pulled it out, fumbled in the aperture for a moment and the cellar
door slid shut.

“Gosh, it’s dark—” Bill went down the steps and along the tunnel,
sending the light beam before him. “How did you manage to navigate
without a flash?”

“My race, as you know, see better in the dark than you pale-faces. But
it wasn’t easy, just the same. Some of the roof is down farther ahead,
and I barked my shin on one of the stone blocks. Rotten air in here too.
Mr. Evans said that Turner was quite a guy at smuggling in his day. He
told me that the house is a regular warren of secret passages. What time
is it, anyway?”

“Just eleven-forty-five. Parker ought to be over the house in fifteen
minutes. That is, if he comes.”

“He will—” declared the Seminole. “He said he would.”

“If he wakes up in time, you mean. After those two long hops, he’ll be a
dead ’un.”

“Oh, not so bad. I flew the plane most of the way up here,” confessed
Osceola. “So Parker caught plenty of sleep on the trip.”

“Good boy! Your instructor is proud of you. Look out—here are those
blocks you tripped over before.”

They scrambled over the debris and a few moments later came to another
flight of stone steps. Osceola manipulated the sliding door at the top
very much in the same manner as he had closed the one to the cellar.
Bill switched off his light and they entered a small, one-roomed
building. Here the Indian led him past a broken doorway and through a
dense thicket of evergreen and brambles. When they reached the more open
woods, Osceola paused.

“I ambled over these woods the day we corralled our friend the Baron,”
he remarked. “And I took a look at the outside of Turner’s then. Keep
the moon on your right and you’re bound to hit the harbor. It’s between
two and a half and three miles over there.”

“And where do you think you’re going?” asked Bill in surprise.

“Over to the cove and out to Pig Island!”

“But you’ve no boat.”

“I’ll swim out.”

“Why, you’re crazy, Osceola! I know you’re a marvel in the water, but
there isn’t a swimmer living who could breast that current. Believe me,
I tried it, and I know.”

“Well, I can make a try at it, too, can’t I?”

“What’s the use? Hike along with me and we’ll be over there with the
_Loening_ in half the time you could swim that distance in easy water.
Anyway, there’s your rifle—you’d have to leave that behind. Don’t be a
sap, old fella. You can’t fight ten or a dozen of the Sanders tribe with
your fists!”

Osceola, who had led his class at Carlisle, and would captain the
football team in the fall, was a young man whose brain worked fast.
Moreover, he was never afraid to admit he might be wrong and to profit
by another’s advice.

“Okay,” he said, after a moment’s hesitation. “I guess I let myself get
carried away a bit. I’ll go with you. Let’s be on our way.”

“Good egg. I know you’re worried half sick about Deborah, and I don’t
blame you. You lead on, old scout. We’ll make it, yet!”

Osceola started off at a sharp dog trot that he could keep up for hours
if need be. Bill ran lightly behind him, glad to be in the open air and
away from that uncanny house at last.

A ten-mile breeze blowing in from the sea rustled the treetops and
shadows cast by a full moon danced over the undergrowth. Clouds were
banking to the eastward, the salt tang of the ocean was in the air. Bill
sensed rain or a storm and was glad that the cloud formation, creeping
upward, would shortly blot out the silvery light. Should they be forced
to land on Pig Island in moonlight nearly as bright as day, the odds
would be all with their enemies.

Osceola, with that natural bump of direction which is inherent in all
races of American Indians, struck an overgrown deer track and followed
it. Bill, running on his second wind, saw the young Chief slacken his
pace for an instant, then dart ahead at a stiffer gait.

“Here he comes!” the Indian called over his shoulder. “If we hustle,
we’ll reach the shore soon after he lands.”

The white lad could hear nothing but the soft thud of his own footsteps
and the gentle swish of the night wind in the treetops. Then, dimly at
first, came the almost imperceptible drone of an engine far away. Within
a very few minutes, the hum grew to a roar and the dark shape and
tail-light of an airplane passed above their heads, flying low in the
same direction they were traveling.

Osceola slowed down to a brisk walk. The ground sloped upward and rocky
outcroppings made running impossible. Then he stopped altogether and
waited for his companion.

“There we are!” He pointed forward and down.

Bill, who was not sorry for the breather, saw that they stood on the
crest of the rise. Straight ahead the ground slanted sharply downward.
Through breaks in the foliage, a wide stretch of moonlit water could be
seen. Floating gently on the rippling cove near the shore lay the
seaplane.


“You’re a wonder, Osceola! How were you able to draw a bead on Parker
like that? I was sure we were in for at least a mile’s tramp along the
shore before we’d get within hailing distance.”

“Nothing mysterious about it. That’s a cove off the main harbor you’re
looking at. Parker told me of his rendezvous with you. I knew about this
cove, and made it a bit more definite, that’s all. I’ll give him the
signal and we’ll go on down.”

Two sharp barks of a fox came from Osceola’s throat. Immediately the
idling hum of the airplane motor increased to a roar, awakening forest
echoes and the amphibian commenced to move through the water toward the
shore. Without a word the two friends scrambled down the rocky incline
to meet it.

“Is that you, chief?” called Ezra Parker’s voice as they neared the
water.

“Sure is. And I’ve got Bill Bolton with me.”

“Good enough,” answered the aviator, as they came onto the narrow beach.
“How be yer, Bill?”

“Rearin’ to go, Ezra—and I reckon that’s what we’ve got to do, pronto!”

“Anything up?”

“Plenty. Sanders has got Charlie, and the gang’s over at Pig Island
right now, trying to capture Deborah and old Jim.”

“Gosh all hemlock!” exploded Ezra. “Things are popping, that’s certain.”

“And that’s not the half of it,” cut in Osceola. “If Bill doesn’t hike
down to Stamford, Connecticut, and prove to members of the Sanders
outfit down there that he is out of this thing for keeps—those devils
threaten to put Charlie out of the way, and Deborah too, if they can get
her!”

“Well, that sure is the limit!” Ezra’s tone was filled with concern.
“Jump aboard, boys, while I run her out in the harbor. There’s no
telling who may be sneakin’ ’round in these woods. No sense takin’ any
more chances than we have to.”

The Chief swung himself on to the amphibian’s deck which ran from
amidships forward to her nose below the two cockpits and inverted motor.
Bill meanwhile quickly doffed his clothes, which together with Sanders’
automatic he flung to the Seminole. He waded into the water, pushed the
plane out until she floated clear, and walked out until he could grasp a
wing tip. After much heaving and hauling, for the water was up to his
armpits, he managed to swing the plane around until her nose was pointed
toward the mouth of the cove.

“Thanks, Bill,” said Ezra, and Osceola gave his pal a hand aboard. “This
place is too narrow for manœuvering. I was wonderin’ how I could get her
out of here.”

“Gimme a towel!” Bill’s teeth were chattering. “There’s one in the
locker in your cockpit, Ezra. Lucky you didn’t try swimming over to the
island tonight, Osceola. If anything is colder than this Maine ocean
when the sun’s off it, I’ve yet to find it.”

With Osceola he piled into the rear cockpit. Then while, Parker taxied
the plane out to mid-harbor, Bill got into his clothes. Parker snapped
off the ignition and twisted around in his seat.

“Now let’s have the lowdown on this, Bill.”

Bill climbed down to the deck and gave him a short outline of the events
of the day and evening. “Kind of between the devil and the deep sea,
aren’t we?” he finished grimly. “Time’s more than money now. So hop in
aft with the chief, and let me in the fore cockpit. I’m going to fly the
bus. There ought to be a couple of repeating rifles and ammunition in
the locker aft. Pass one of them out to me, will you, Osceola? Ezra can
use the other. You two, stick on head-phones. While I’m driving, see if
you can’t come to some decision about this Stamford business.”

As Parker climbed out of the fore cockpit and went aft, Bill hopped into
the vacated pilot’s seat. A rifle and ammunition were passed to him. He
made sure that the magazine was full, then pulled forth a helmet and
goggles from a small locker. These he put on, cast a hurried glance aft
and satisfying himself that his companions were ready for the take-off,
he switched on the ignition.