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   Chapter 1 A SPARK PUTS THREE BOYS AND A BOAT ON THE JUMP

The Motor Boat Club and The Wireless; Or, the Dot, Dash and Dare Cruise By H. Irving Hancock Characters: 14153

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


"Ho, ho, ho-hum!" grumbled Hank Butts, vainly trying to stifle a prodigious yawn. "This may be what Mr. Seaton calls a vacation on full pay, but I'd rather work."

"It is fearfully dull, loafing around, in this fashion, on a lonely island, yet in plain sight of the sea that we long to rove over," nodded Captain Tom Halstead of the motor yacht "Restless."

"Yet Hank just put us in mind of the fact that we're getting paid for our time," laughed Joe Dawson, the least restless of the trio of young Motor Boat Club boys.

"Oh it's all right on the pay end," agreed Hank, readily. "But just think of a young fellow, full of life and hope, with a dozen ambitions 8 and a hustling nature, taking up with a job of this kind!"

"What kind of job?" inquired Captain Tom.

"The job of being bored," answered Butts, solemnly. "I could have had that kind of job back on Long Island."

"Without the pay," amended Joe Dawson, with another quiet smile.

"But ten days of being bored does grow rather wearisome, even with the pay for a solace," agreed Tom Halstead.

Ting-ling-ling! The soft jangling of a bell from one of the rooms of the seashore bungalow, on the porch of which the boys sat, broke in on them.

"Hurrah, Joe! Hustle and get that message," begged Hank, almost sitting up straight in the porch chair, with a comical pretense of excitement. "It's sure to be from Mr. Seaton this time."

"Likely," grinned Joe, as he rose and crossed the porch in leisurely fashion. The jangling of the bell continued. The bell was a rather clumsy, yet sufficing device that young Dawson had attached to the wireless telegraph apparatus.

For, though this bungalow on a little island southwest of Beaufort, North Carolina, had an appearance of being wholly out of the world, 9 yet the absent owner, Mr. Powell Seaton, had contrived to put his place very much "in the world" by installing wireless telegraphy at the bungalow. On the premises was operated a complete electrical plant that furnished energy enough to send messages for hundreds of miles along the coast.

For Joe, the mechanical genius of the Motor Boat Club, had always had a passion for telegraphy. Of late he had gone in in earnest for the wireless kind, and had rapidly mastered its most essential details.

The bell told when electrical waves were rushing through the air at marvelous speed, though it did not distinguish between any general wave and the special call for this bungalow station, which was by the letters "CBA."

When Joe Dawson went into the room under the tall aerials that hung from the mast, he expected to listen only to some message not in the least intended for this station.

Seating himself by the relay, with its Morse register close at hand, Joe Dawson picked up and adjusted the head-band with its pair of watch-case receivers. He then hastily picked up a pencil, shoved a pad of paper close under his hand and listened.

All this he did with a dull, listless air. He had not the slightest forewarning of the great 10 jolt that was soon to come to himself and his comrades out of the atmosphere.

The call, whatever it was, had ended. Yet, after a pause of a few seconds, it began to sound again. Joe's listless air vanished as the new set of dots and dashes came in, clamoring in clicking haste against his ear drums.

"To Every Wireless Station-Urgent!" ran the first few words. Joe's nimble fingers pushed his pencil, recording letter after letter until these words were down. Then, dropping his pencil for the sending key, young Dawson transmitted a crashing electric impulse into the air, flashing through space over hundreds of miles the station signal, "CBA."

"Have you a fast, seaworthy boat within immediate call?" came back out of the invisible distance over the ocean.

"A twenty-six-mile sea-going motor boat right at the pier here," Joe flashed back, again adding his signature, "CBA."

"Good!" came back the answer. "Then listen hard-act quick-life at stake!"

Joe Dawson not only listened. His thoughts flew with the dots and dashes of the wireless message; his right hand rushed the pencil in recording all of that wonderful message as it came to him. It was tragedy that Dawson wrote down at the dictation of this impatient operator 11 far out on the Atlantic highways. Almost in the midst of it came a feverish break-in from land, and another hand was playing in the great game of life and death, fame and dishonor, riches and intrigue. All was being unfolded by means of the unseen, far-reaching wireless telegraph.

As Joe listened, wrote, and occasionally broke in to send a few words, the dew of cold perspiration stood out on his brow. His fingers trembled. With a great effort of the will this motor boat boy steadied his nerves and muscles in order to see through to the end this mysterious thing coming out of space.

While this was going on, Joe Dawson did not call out to either of his comrades. With an instinct that worked as fast as the wireless messages themselves, young Dawson chose to put off calling the other motor boat boys until he had the whole startling tale to tell them-until he had in complete form the coming orders that would send all three of them and the "Restless" on a tireless sea-chase.

While this flood of dots and dashes is coming in from seaward, and from landward, it is well that the reader be put in possession of some information that will make clearer to him the nature of the dramatic events that followed this sudden in-pouring of wireless messages to the 12 little "CBA" bungalow station on this island off the North Carolina coast.

Readers of the preceding volume of this series, "The Motor Boat Club Off Long Island," will at once recall that story, throbbing with the interest of human life-will remember how faithfully and wisely Tom Halstead, Joe Dawson and Hank Butts, all members of the Motor Boat Club, served that leader in Wall Street finance, Francis Delavan, and the latter's nervous, wavering friend, Eben Moddridge. To such former readers the tale is familiar of how the Motor Boat Club boys aided materially in frustrating a great conspiracy in finance, aimed against their employer. Saved from ruin by the grit, keenness and loyalty of these three members of the Motor Boat Club, Messrs. Delavan and Moddridge had handsomely rewarded the boys for their signal services.

As Hank Butts preferred, for family reasons, to spend his summers, and much of his other time, on Long Island, he had been presented with a thirty-foot launch, a shore lot at East Hampton, and a "shack" and pier. Tom Halstead and Joe Dawson, fast friends and both from the same little Kennebec River village, preferring always the broad ocean, had been made the owners of the "Soudan," a fine, sea-going, fifty-five foot motor cruising yacht built 13 for deep sea work. Though the "Soudan" had a very comfortable beam of fifteen feet, she was nevertheless equipped with twin gasoline motors that could send her over the waters at some twenty-five or twenty-six miles an hour.

With the g

ift of the boat to Tom and Joe came also a present of money enough to make the two new young owners able to put her in commission and keep her going for awhile.

It was not intended by Messrs. Delavan and Moddridge that Tom Halstead and Joe Dawson should be able to keep their new prize and property running for their own pleasure. On the contrary the givers of this splendid present believed that the two boys would ply under charter for wealthy pleasure seekers, thus making a splendid living. In summer there were the northern waters; in winter the southern waters. Thus it was believed that Captain Tom Halstead and Engineer Joe Dawson would be in a position to earn a handsome income from their boat the year around. At any time, should they so choose, they could sell the boat.

Sell her? It would almost have broken honest, impulsive, loyal Tom Halstead's heart to sell this precious boat! Joe Dawson, quiet though he was, would have flown into a rage at any suggestion of his parting with his interest in the handsome, capable little craft! 14

The owners had re-christened the boat the "Restless." Within ten days after the boys had left the employ of Mr. Delavan, Captain Tom had encountered Mr. Powell Seaton in New York. A few hours after that meeting the boys had had their boat chartered for at least the month of September. Then, after receiving their orders, they proceeded south to their present location on Lonely Island, five miles off the mainland. They were accompanied by Hank Butts, who had left his small boat in other hands and accepted temporary employment on the "Restless."

The island possessed an area of about half a square mile. The bungalow itself, a shed that was used as an electric power station, and a third building that contained a telescope and some other astronomical apparatus were the sole interesting features of this island.

After the chartering, and the payment of half the hire-money in advance for the month, not one of these Motor Boat Club boys had laid eyes on Mr. Powell Seaton. After cruising down from New York, and taking possession of the bungalow, as ordered, they had remained there ten whole days, idle and wondering. Idle, that is, except for running the electric power plant as much as was needed, making their own beds and doing their own cooking. 15

For what purpose had Powell Seaton wanted them and the "Restless"? Now, as Dawson's active fingers pushed the pencil through the mazes of recorded messages, that active-minded young man began to get a glimpse.

"Sounds like something big, Joe," smiled Captain Tom, his eyes twinkling under the visor of his uniform cap as he thrust his head in through the doorway.

"It is," muttered Joe, in a low but tense voice. "Just wait. I've got one to send."

His fingers moved busily at the key for a little while. Then, snatching up the sheets of paper on which he had written, Joe Dawson leaped to his feet in such haste that he sent the chair spinning across the room.

Such impulsiveness in Dawson was so utterly unusual that Captain Tom Halstead gasped.

"Come on!" called Joe, darting to the door. "Down to the boat!"

"Where––?" began Tom Halstead, but he got only as far as that word, for Joe shot back:

"To sea!"

"How––" again essayed Halstead.

"At full speed-the fastest we can travel!" called back Joe, who was leaping down the porch steps.

"Any time to lock up?" demanded Tom, half-laughingly. 16

"Yes-but hustle! I'll get the motor started and be waiting."

Hank Butts was leaning indolently against one of the porch posts.

"Look at old Joe sailing before a fair wind," he laughed, admiringly.

"Turn to, Hank! Help lock the windows and the doors-full speed ahead!" directed Captain Tom, with vigor. "Joe Dawson never goes off at racing speed like that unless he has his orders and knows what he's doing."

"I thought you were the captain," grinned Hank, as he sprang to obey.

"So I am," Halstead shot at the other boy. "But, just as it happens, Joe has the sailing orders-and he can be trusted with 'em. Now-everything is tight and the keys in my pocket. For the dock, on the run!"

Chug-chug! Joe had surely been moving, for, by the time the other boys reached the dock, Dawson had the hatchway of the motor room open and the twin motors had begun to move. The young engineer, an oil-can in hand, was watching the revolutions of the two handsome machines.

"Stand by the stern-line to throw off, Hank," called Captain Tom, as he raced out onto the dock and made a plunge for the bow hawser. With this in hand he sprang aboard. 17

"How soon, Joe?" called the young skipper, throwing the canvas cover from the wheel down onto the bridge deck.

"As soon as you like," was Joe's answer, as he threw more speed into the twin motors.

Hank had the stern hawser in his hands by this time. Halstead threw the wheel over slightly, warping the boat's graceful bow away from the dock under just a touch of speed ahead.

"Come aboard, Hank!" called the young skipper. As soon as Butts had obeyed with a flying leap, Tom rang for half speed ahead, moving smoothly out of the little sand-bound harbor.

"Coil the hawsers, Hank," directed the young skipper. "Put the wheel cover away. Then relieve Joe. I want to hear from him."

These three separate orders Hank had executed within less than two minutes, and jumped down into the motor room. Joe came on deck, holding the sheets of paper in his hand.

"Now, let's understand what the business is, anyway," suggested Tom Halstead. "Who signaled us? Mr. Seaton?"

"Yes, but he wasn't the first one," Dawson answered. "The first hail came from out of the sea, from the Black B liner, 'Constant,' addressed to any wireless station and tagged 'urgent.' Here it is." 18

One hand on the wheel, the young skipper received the sheet held out to him. It read:

Can you send fast boat instantly to take off badly injured passenger for medical treatment? Passenger A. B. Clodis, believed to be wealthy man from New York, discovered unconscious, perhaps dying, from fall. Fractured skull. Believe passenger or family to be able to pay handsomely for services.

(Signed) Hampton, captain.

"Here's another sheet giving the ship's position at that moment," Joe continued; "also her course and speed."

"And you answered?" demanded Halstead.

"Just as I started to, the wireless at Beaufort broke in. It seems that Mr. Seaton is at Beaufort, and that he heard, at once, of the trouble. Here is Mr. Seaton's order."

Joe Dawson held out another sheet, on which he had transcribed this wireless message:

Halstead, Lonely Island: Clodis is my man on important matter. Get him off ship, and with all speed. Take him to Lonely Island, where I will arrive with surgeons and nurses. Get all his baggage and papers off with him, and take greatest care of same. Whole thing plotted by enemies. If they succeed it spells ruin for me and more than one tragedy. I depend on you boys; don't fail me! Act at full speed.

(Signed) Powell Seaton.

P. XXX S.

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