Frank, the Young Naturalist Part 9

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"Now, tell us what you intend to do," exclaimed Harry, whose patience was well-nigh exhausted.

"We are making some sham provisions," said Frank.

"Oh, yes, I thought so," said Thomas; "but we haven't got pails and baskets enough."

"Oh, that's nothing," said Frank. "We'll fill half a dozen of these old bags with shavings, and, as soon as it grows dark, we'll pull the Alert alongside the wharf, and tumble these sham provisions into her; then we will cover them up with that piece of sail, as if we wanted to keep them dry. We'll be sure to fool the men-o'-war."

"I don't exactly see it," said Thomas.

"Why," said Harry, "as soon as we are out of sight, their spies, who are, of course, watching every movement, will go and tell Charley Sheldon that we have got the things stowed away in the Alert."

"That's very well, as far as you go," said Ben; "but suppose they should mistrust that something is in the wind, and should go to work and examine the provisions?"

"What if they do?" said Frank. "It will be too dark for them to make much of an examination; and, if they put their hands into the boat, they will feel the baskets and pails there, and will go away satisfied."

The boys now saw through the trick, and there was no longer any feeling of doubt in their minds. They were now as certain of success as they had before been of being captured.

In a few moments the "sham provisions," as Frank had called them, were all completed, and, placing them where they could be easily taken out, they locked the door, to prevent surprise, and started for the house.

As they were about to enter the gate, George suddenly exclaimed,

"See there!"

The boys looked in the direction George indicated, and saw the blockading squadron, with the exception of two boats, anch.o.r.ed in the creek, just opposite the long dock. The North Star, a fine, swift-sailing little schooner, was anch.o.r.ed near the middle of the stream, and a boy sat in the stern sheets, reading a book. The Sampson, a very large sloop-rigged boat, was standing up the creek, under full sail. These were the "police boats," and they were taking their stations.

"I wonder where the Sampson is going," said Harry.

"She's going to take her station in Duck's Creek," said Ben.

Upon hearing this, Harry's expectations fell again.

"It's no use," he exclaimed. "Charley Sheldon knows too much for us."

"Not a bit," said Frank. "This arrangement is only for to-night. When we get up in the morning, we shall find the boats all out in the river."

This immediately rea.s.sured Harry; and, after watching the Sampson until she disappeared in Duck's Creek, he led the way to the house.

After supper, as soon as it began to grow dark, they proceeded to put their plans into execution; but, before they started, Frank said,

"Now, boys, we must watch and see how the trick takes, for I know that there are spies now around that boat-house. As soon as we get the sham provisions into the boat, one or two of us had better slip down into the willows behind the wharf, and see what course things are going to take."

"Well," said Harry, "suppose you and Bill act as spies."

"Agreed. Come on, but don't act as if you suspected anything."

And he led the way toward the boat-house.

Two of the boys busied themselves in bringing out the sham provisions, and the others brought the Alert alongside, and fastened her to the dock, in front of the boat-house. Frank and Harry then got down into the boat, and the other boys pa.s.sed the provisions down to them, and they placed them in such a manner as to take up as much s.p.a.ce as possible. They were soon all stowed away, and covered over with a large sail, as if to keep off the dew.

Ben and George then got into a small skiff that lay at the dock, and towed the Alert out into the middle of the creek, and anch.o.r.ed her.

As soon as this was done they returned, and the smugglers began to amuse themselves by pus.h.i.+ng each other about the wharf. They all appeared to enter heartily into the sport, and kept nearing the willows which extended along the bank of the creek, close to the wharf, and Frank and William, watching their opportunity, concealed themselves, and the others ran toward the house. They had hardly disappeared, when the smugglers saw several boys steal cautiously around the corner of the boat-house, where they had been concealed, and one of them crept up the bank, to a.s.sure himself that the coast was clear, while the others remained in the shadow of the house. The former, who proved to be Charles Sheldon, the commander of the coast-guards, as soon as he had satisfied himself that the smugglers had gone into the house, called out, in a low whisper, to the others, who were the captains of the divisions of the squadron,

"All right, boys; go ahead, but be careful not to make any noise. I didn't see Frank Nelson's dog go into the yard," he continued; "he must be around here somewhere. We must not let him hear us."

Brave _was_, as Charles had said, "around there somewhere." He was lying by his master's side, among the willows, no doubt wondering at the strange things that were going on, and, well-trained as he was, it was with great difficulty that Frank could keep him quiet.

The coast-guards crossed the wharf with noiseless steps, and, unfastening the skiff which the smugglers had just used, they climbed down into it, and pushed off toward the Alert. A few strokes brought them alongside of her, and, thrusting their arms under the sail, they began the examination which the smugglers had so much dreaded.

"What do you find?" inquired Charles, who still kept watch at the top of the bank.

"Here are a lot of baskets and pails," said one

"And here's the large basket that George and Harry brought," said another.

"What are these round things in this bag, I wonder?" said the one who had first spoken.

"Oh, those are the lemons I brought," said Charles.

"Gracious! how hard they are!" continued the boy, trying to dig his fingers into them.

At this, Frank and William, who, of course, had heard every word of the conversation, and had sat fairly trembling with excitement, fearful that their trick would be discovered, could scarcely refrain from laughing outright. Had it been daylight, the ruse of the smugglers would certainly have been detected, but, as it was, the coast-guards never mistrusted that any thing was wrong. The night was rather dark, and the sham provisions were so neatly tied up, and so carefully stowed away, that the deception was complete.

"I guess they are all here," said one of the boys, at length.

"Well, come ash.o.r.e, then," said Charles, "and let's be off."

The boys pulled back to the wharf, and Charles continued,

"I didn't think that the Alert would hold all of the refreshments, did you?"

"No," answered one of the boys, whom the smugglers recognized as James Porter; "I guess it was a tight squeeze; I could hardly get my hand in between the baskets."

"What do you suppose the smugglers intend to do?" inquired another.

"I don't know," answered Charles, "unless they propose to get up in the morning before we do, and slip over to the island before we know it. I wonder how they felt when they saw us taking our positions."

"But what do you suppose made them put the provisions in the Alert?"

"Oh, I think I can see through that easily enough," said James. "Frank knows that we expected that he was going to carry them over to the island, and he calculates to get us to chase him and give the Alert a chance to land the provisions. He is a cunning fellow, but this time we are too sharp for him."

"I wonder why Frank don't send some one out to act as a spy," said Charles.

"I guess he's afraid that he would be taken prisoner."

We may as well state here (and we should have done so before) that it had been agreed that if one side could catch any of the other acting as spies, they were at liberty to hold them as prisoners until the race was over, and that the prisoner should, if required, give his captors all the information possible relative to the movements and plans of his party, and they could also require him to lend a.s.sistance in carrying out their own. The prisoner, of course, was allowed the privilege of escaping, if he could.

This _was_ the reason why the smugglers had not sent out any spies; and, if the coast-guards had been aware that Frank and William were hidden away in the willows, they could easily have captured them, and, according to the agreement, obliged them to divulge all their plans.

"Well," said Charles, "we don't want any prisoners now, for we know all their plans; but I wanted to catch Frank this morning, for I was afraid he would beat us. If he should find out that this trick was discovered, he would plan another in five minutes. I guess we had better remain where we are to-night," he continued, "and, at half-past two o'clock, we will pull out into the river, and blockade the creek. All we have to do is to take care of the Alert, and let the other boats do as they please. But we had better be off, or the smugglers may slip out and make some of us prisoners."

Frank, the Young Naturalist Part 9

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Frank, the Young Naturalist Part 9 summary

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