The Rover Boys on the Plains/Chapter 2
THE BIG LUMBER RAFT
"Py chiminy! dot raft vos coming dis vay so sure like nefer vos!" cried Hans Mueller, after an anxious moment had passed.
"We ought to warn 'em off with a shot-gun," growled Tom. "Even if they don't hit us, they haven't any right to make my hair stand up like quills on the fretful porcupine."
"Vot has der porkerpint to do mit your hair?" questioned Hans innocently.
"You'll soon find out if that lumber raft hits us, Hansy. Got your life insured?"
"Mine life insured?"
"That's it. If you haven't, better take out a policy for 'steen dollars and some cents, payable at nine cents a week in advance."
"Tom, this is no joking matter," broke in Dick. "Be quiet, till I use the megaphone."
"Dot's it!" cried Hans. "Use dot magnifyphone by all means."
There was a fair-sized megaphone on the houseboat, used to call to persons on shore, if necessary, and, bringing this out, the eldest Rover placed it to his mouth.
"On board the lumber raft!" he shouted at the top of his lungs. "Sheer off! Don't run us down!"
"We are not running you down/' was the surly answer from a man at the front of the raft.
"Yes, you are, and we want you to keep off."
"Go on in toward the west shore and you will be all right," said the man. He was a burly looking individual, with an unusually long nose.
By this time the lumber raft was sweeping closer. The raft and the houseboat were moving in the same direction, and this kept them for the time being apart.
"If you don't keep off, there will be trouble," cried Sam.
"Oh, you boys dry up!" was the reply from the man with the long nose, and now they recognized him as a fellow they had met in a hotel at their last stopping place. The man had had a row with a porter, and had made himself generally disagreeable.
The houseboat was under the immediate command of Captain Starr. The captain, a rather strange individual, was not feeling very well, and had gone off to take a nap. Now it was thought best by all to call him.
"The overgrown wood-choppers!" growled the captain as soon as he had come out on deck and taken in the situation. "Sheer off!" he yelled. "Do you hear?"
"Turn in toward shore," was the answering cry.
"We can't—it's too shallow."
"Is it really too shallow?" asked Dick.
"I think so. We are not in the channel as it is."
"I'm going to get a gun," came from Tom, and off he rushed to secure the firearm.
The raft had now swept so close that several on board could be seen plainly. They were a rough-looking sort, and the man with the long nose was the shrewdest of the lot.
"We'll have to turn in, or we'll be hit!" ejaculated Sam. "Those side logs are bound to strike the cabin!"
He pointed to some timbers that projected over the edge of the raft. They were only a few feet off and might crash into the cabin of the houseboat at any moment.
In anger at being forced to change his course, Captain Starr turned the houseboat toward the bank of the river. Then the big raft began to pass them, just as Tom reappeared, shotgun in hand.
"I ought to have you arrested for this!" stormed Captain Starr. His words were always louder than his actions.
"Bah!" answered the man with the long nose, in derision.
"Maybe you'd like to have a taste of this?" put in Tom, holding up the gun.
"Don't you dare to shoot!" yelled the man, and lost no time in sliding from his seat and out of sight. At that moment those on the houseboat felt a slight shock, and then the craft's headway was checked.
"What's up now?" cried Dick.
"We're aground, that's what's the matter," muttered Captain Starr. "Those rascals ought to suffer for this!"
In a moment more the big raft had passed the houseboat. The latter now began to swing around with the current.
"I hope we are not stuck in the mud for good," grumbled Fred Garrison.
"Look! look!" burst from Sam's lips. He was pointing to the raft.
"What's up now?" came from several of the others.
"Unless I am mistaken, Dan Baxter is on that raft."
"Baxter!" exclaimed Tom.
"He was sitting on that pile of boards in the rear. As soon as he saw me, he slid out of sight."
"Are you sure it was Baxter?" questioned Songbird Powell.
"If it wasn't him, it was his double."
"If it was Baxter, we ought to try to catch him," suggested Fred.
"I don't see how we are going to catch anybody just now," sighed Dick. "We are stuck hard and fast."
"Oh, Dick, are we really aground?" questioned Dora.
"We are that," said Captain Starr.
"Is there any danger?" asked Nellie Laning, who had joined the others, accompanied by her sister Grace.
"No immediate danger, miss. It depends on whether we can get off or not."
"We'll have to get off," said Tom decidedly.
"Rub a dub dub!
We're stuck in the mud
As hard as hard can be!
Shall we ever,
Or shall we never,
Set the houseboat free?"
came softly from Songbird Powell.
"Great Cæsar, that's a fine thing to make a rhyme about," returned Sam reproachfully.
"Let's make Songbird wade out in the mud and shove us off," suggested Tom, with a wink at his companions.
"Wade out in the mud?" cried the youth who was given to rhymes. "Not much!"
"Mud bath is the finest thing in the world, Songbird," went on Tom. "Bound to cure hay fever, warts, squint-eye and lots of things."
"Then you go take it yourself," murmured Songbird.
"We'll have to get out the rowboat and see if we can't pull her off," said Captain Starr.
"Yes, and the sooner the better," said Dick. "If we wait, we may get harder aground than ever."
It did not take long to let the rowboat over the side of the Dora, as the houseboat was named. Then Dick, Sam, Tom and Fred got in to do the rowing, while the others remained on the houseboat, to try what they could do toward poling off. A line was made fast between the rowboat and the Dora, and the boys began to pull away with might and main.
"Is she moving?" asked Dick, after several mmutes of hard pulling.
"Not yet," answered Captain Starr. "Keep at it, though."
"Let us shift some of the heavy things on board," suggested Songbird, and this was done. Then the boys rowed with all their might and those on the houseboat used their poles to the best advantage.
"Hurrah! she vos coming!" shouted Hans. "Dot's der time vot you did sometings, ain't it!"
"Keep at it, boys!" came from the captain. "We'll be all right in a few minutes more."
"Mind you, we don't want to tow the houseboat down to New Orleans," said Tom, who was perspiring freely in the warm sun.
"There she goes!" came a moment later. "We are all right now," and a little hurrah went up.
"I wish I had those lumbermen here—I'd give 'em a bit of my mind," said Sam, who felt tired out from the hard rowing. "It was all their fault."
"Of course, it was their fault," answered Dick. "More than likely, though, we'll never meet them again."
"What an awfully long nose one of them had."
"I don't believe that fellow was a lumberman. He wasn't dressed like the others and didn't act like them."
The rowboat was soon placed aboard of the houseboat once more, and the Dora continued on her course down the river. All told, a half hour had been lost, and the lumber raft was scarcely a speck in the distance.
"I'd like to know for certain if that was Dan Baxter on board," said Dick to Sam. "If it was, and he saw us, he'll do his best to make trouble again."
"Well, the best we can do, Dick, is to keep our eyes open."
"Do you think that lumber raft will tie up somewhere below here?" asked Tom.
"The raft is certain to tie up somewhere, Tom. But it may go a good many miles before that happens," answered the eldest Rover; and there the subject was for the time being dropped.