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The Boy Scouts on Picket Duty   By:

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by Scout Master Robert Shaler


CHAPTERS I. The Mysterious Steamer II. A Contraband Cargo III. On a Lone Scout IV. The Hut on the Beach V. Kidnapped by Smugglers VI. The Flight of the "Arrow" VII. A Gathering of the Clan VIII. The Blazing Beacon IX. Deeds in the Darkness X. The End of the Raid XI. Aboard the "Arrow" XII. A Surprising Adventure



In the wake of an easterly squall the sloop Arrow , Lemuel Vinton master and owner, was making her way along the low coast, southward, from Snipe Point, one of the islands in Florida Bay about twelve miles northeast of Key West.

With every sail closehauled and drawing until the bolt ropes creaked under the strain, the Arrow laid a fairly straight course toward Key West. She bore a startling message, the nature of which her captain had considered of sufficient importance for him to prolong a cruise he had undertaken and to hasten back to the port whence he had sailed, twenty four hours previously, to inform the authorities.

The sloop had not sped far from the Point, and the receding shore line had scarcely grown dimly blue on the horizon under a peculiar yellow gray sunrise, when Captain Vinton's crew began to make their appearance on deck. The crew consisted of five Boy Scouts, an older companion who was in charge of them, and a Seminole Indian guide, called Dave, who had been hired to conduct the boys on a brief exploration of the Everglades. Four of the boys belonged to a troop of scouts who had their summer headquarters at Pioneer Camp, far away among the New England hills. They had, however, formed a resolution to spend the present summer not at Pioneer Camp, where most of their younger comrades would be, but in seeing some new sections of their native land. To this end, three of them Hugh Hardin, his chum Billy Worth, and Chester Brownell had gladly accepted an invitation from the fourth, Alec Sands, to spend a month at Palmdune, the Florida residence of Alec's father, who had sent them on this cruise. With them Mr. Sands had sent his secretary, a young man named Roy Norton, who had left them temporarily at Key West while he attended to business in Havana. When he had returned from Havana, he had found a new member of the party Mark Anderson, the son of the captain of Red Key Life Saving Station.

The Arrow had been anchored off Snipe Point during the previous night, where Captain Vinton had gained the information which made him decide to return to Key West. This knowledge, which he had already imparted to the boys, was to the effect that throughout the night before, while he and Dave alternately watched, he had seen a gray steamer or perhaps a gunboat cruising among the islands off the Point, occasionally coming close enough to the beach to be made out distinctly, but showing no lights and making no signals.

Immediately his suspicions had been aroused by this mysterious action. His impression was that the vessel belonged to a country which was then hostile to the United States. In that case she was either grappling for the cable between Key West and the mainland terminus at Punta Rossa, which lay close inshore at Snipe Point, or was trying to make connection with some other vessel carrying supplies or ammunition from some West Indian port, perhaps intending to run the blockade.

Why she should attempt to tamper with the cable, he could not understand, knowing the superior efficiency of the wireless system; but he thought she might be one of the elusive filibustering vessels reported to have been seen in the Gulf of Mexico several days before this.

Stories about these mysterious vessels had caused official orders to be sent to Tampa and to Galveston, Texas, concerning the departure of several transports with American troops. And Captain Vinton himself had almost encountered a notorious filibuster named Juan Bego, one night during the earlier part of this pleasure cruise; that is, he had sighted a vessel which he felt sure was the Esperanza of Captain Bego, in waters which were supposed to be debarred to the enemy... Continue reading book >>

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