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   Chapter 3 CHAPTER IV

The Motor Boat Club and The Wireless; Or, the Dot, Dash and Dare Cruise By H. Irving Hancock Characters: 12287

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


TAKING A GREAT CHANCE

Joe, with a voiceless gulp, sprang forward once more, pausing at the string-piece only, and peering hard out into the black, wet night.

Hank Butts brought his club down over a snubbing post with such force as to shatter the weapon.

For a few moments Tom Halstead stood looking about him in an uncertain way, as though trying to arouse himself from a hideous nightmare.

"They've stolen our boat!" he gasped.

Whoever had done this deed might almost as well have taken the young captain's life. The "Restless" was a big part of that life.

"Oh, well," muttered Hank, thickly, "whoever took the yacht must leave it somewhere. You can't hide a craft of that size. We'll hear from the 'Restless' all right, in a day or two-or in a week, anyway."

"Whoever took the yacht away from here may know next to nothing about handling a boat," choked Tom, hoarsely. "We may find the dear old craft again-yes-but perhaps 51 wedged on the rocks somewhere,-a hopeless wreck. O-o-oh! It makes me feel ugly and heartsick, all in one!"

"The 'Restless' can't have broken loose during the storm, can it?" asked Hank Butts.

"No," retorted Tom and Joe in the same breath, and with the utmost positiveness.

"Well, what are we going to do?" asked Hank.

The answer to the question was hard to find. Lonely Island lay five miles off the shore. Wireless communication was out of the question. They were out of the track of passing vessels, nor was any stray, friendly craft at all likely to show up on this dark, forbidding night.

"Come on back, fellows," said Tom, chokingly. "There's nothing we can do here, and Mr. Seaton must know the whole situation."

The owner of the bungalow listened to them with a blank face when the Motor Boat Club boys again stood before him.

"I can't even guess what to make out of this," he confessed.

"It would help Dalton greatly if Mr. Clodis died to-night, wouldn't it, sir?" inquired the young skipper.

"It would help Dalton much, and be of still greater value to the wretches behind Dalton," replied Mr. Seaton, grinding his teeth. 52

"Then, sir, as the tug went back to mainland with two of the doctors, isn't it possible that some spy may have concluded that all the doctors had returned until summoned again?"

"That seems very likely," nodded the owner of the bungalow.

"Then perhaps Dalton-and those behind him-hope that Mr. Clodis will become much worse, and die before you can again summon help from the mainland."

"That looks more likely than any other explanation of these strange happenings," agreed Mr. Seaton, studying the floor, while the frown on his face deepened.

"And the scoundrels," quavered Tom, "may even come back during the night and try to make sure that Mr. Clodis dies without ever becoming conscious."

"I don't quite see why they need care so much," replied Mr. Seaton, slowly. "Dalton got all of Clodis's papers-the ones that I wanted preserved from the wretches back of Dalton."

"Are you sure they have all?" propounded Captain Halstead.

"Why, Clodis carried the papers in a money-belt, and, in undressing him, we found that belt gone." 53

"Have you looked through the baggage that we brought ashore with Mr. Clodis?"

"I haven't thought of it. Haven't had time," replied Mr. Seaton. "But I will now. Mr. Clodis's steamer trunk is in the room with him. We'll bring it out, and search."

Tom and Hank brought the trunk out.

"The lock hasn't been tampered with, you see, sir," suggested Halstead.

"Here are Clodis's keys," replied Powell Seaton, producing a ring. One of the keys he fitted to the trunk lock, next throwing up the lid. After rummaging for a few moments, Mr. Seaton brought up a sealed envelope from the bottom of the trunk.

"Dalton would have been glad to get this," he cried, with a near approach to delight.

"Lock it up tight in your innermost pockets then, sir," counseled Tom Halstead. "The contents of that envelope must be what Dalton has come back here for, or sent someone else for. And, until he gets it, he must plan to keep Lonely Island out of touch with the whole world. We'll hear from him again to-night, I'm thinking."

"Will we?" flared Mr. Seaton, stepping briskly across the room. Unlocking a cupboard door, he brought out a repeating shot-gun. From an ammunition box he helped himself to 54 several shells, fitting six of them into the magazine of the gun.

"Buckshot talks, sometimes," said the owner of the bungalow, more quietly. "I shall be awake to-night, and have this gun always with me."

"Have you any other weapons, sir?" asked Tom.

"Yes; a revolver-here it is."

Powell Seaton held out the weapon, but Halstead shook his head.

"Dr. Cosgrove is the one who'll want that, since he must stay by Mr. Clodis to-night. And, see here, Mr. Seaton, impress upon the doctor that he mustn't take a nap, even for a moment. As for you, you'll want to be watching the house in general."

"Why, where will you young men be?" inquired Mr. Seaton.

"We couldn't stay indoors, with our boat gone, sir," Tom answered. "The first thing we must do is to explore all around the island. Even if we don't get a sign of the 'Restless,' we may find out something else. We may be able to catch someone trying to land on this island later to-night."

"Yes; it will be best to have guards outside roaming about the island," admitted Powell Seaton, readily. Then, lowering his voice as he 55 signed to the Motor Boat Club boys to draw closer to him, Mr. Seaton added:

"Something, of some nature, will be attempted to-night. There is no other sound explanation of the crippling of the wireless and the stealing of the boat. So be vigilant, boys-as I shall also be while you're gone."

Hank helped himself to a fresh club-a stouter one than that which he had broken over the snubbing post at the dock. Then out into the black night fared the three Motor Boat Club boys.

"Shall we keep together, or spread?" asked Joe Dawson.

"Together," nodded Tom Halstead. "If there are prowlers about, we can't tell how soon three of us may be even too few. Remember,

we have only firewood to fight with, and we don't know what kind of men we may run up against."

So Tom led his friends down to a point but little south of the dock. From here, following the shore, they started to prowl slowly around Lonely Island, all the while keeping a sharp watch to seaward.

"If the boat is in any waters near at hand we ought to get some sign of her whereabouts by keeping a sharp enough watch," Tom advised his comrades. "They can't sail or handle the 56 boat without the occasional use of a light in the motor room. The gleam of a lantern across the water may be enough to give us an idea where she is."

Peering off into the blackness of the night, this seemed like rather a forlorn hope.

"If whoever has stolen the boat intends to land later to-night," hinted Joe, "it's much more likely that the thieves are, at this moment, a good, biggish distance away, so as not to give us any clew to their intentions."

In the course of twenty minutes the Motor Boat Club boys had made their way around to the southern end of the island.

Somewhat more than a mile to the southward lay a small, unnamed island. It was uninhabited, and too sandy to be of value to planters. Yet it had one good cove of rather deep water.

Tom halted, staring long and hard in the direction where he knew this little spot on the ocean to stand. It was too black a night for any glimpse of the island to be had against the sky.

"That would be a good enough place for our pirates to have taken the 'Restless,'" he muttered, to his comrades.

"If we only had a boat, we could know, bye-and-bye," muttered Hank, discontentedly. 57

"We have been known to swim further than that," said Joe, quietly.

"But never in such a sea as is running to-night," sighed Tom Halstead. "Even as the water is, I'd like to chance it, but I'm afraid it would be useless. And it would leave Mr. Seaton and the doctor alone against any surprise."

"I'd swim that far, or drown, even in this sea," muttered Dawson, vengefully, "if I had any idea that our boat lay over that way."

For two or three minutes the boys stood there, talking. Not once did Tom Halstead turn his eyes away from the direction of the island to the southward.

"Look there!" the young skipper finally uttered, clutching at Joe's elbow. "Did you see that?"

"Yes," voiced Joe, in instant excitement.

"That" was a tiny glow of light, made small by the distance.

"It's a lantern, being carried by someone," continued Captain Tom, after a breathless pause. "There-it vanishes! Oh, I say-gracious!"

Joe, too, gave a gasp.

As for Hank Butts, that youth commenced to breathe so hard that there was almost a rattle to his respiration. 58

Immediately following the disappearance of the distant light, four smaller, dimmer lights appeared, in a row.

"That's the same light, showing through the four starboard ports of the motor room," trembled Joe Dawson. "Starboard, because the lantern was carried forward, before it disappeared briefly in the hatchway of the motor room."

"That's our boat-there isn't a single doubt of it," cried Tom Halstead, enthusiastically. "And now-oh, fellows! We've simply got to swim over there, rough sea or smooth sea. We've got to get our own boat back unless the heavens fall on us on the way over!"

"Humph! What are we going to do," demanded Hank Butts, "if we find a gang aboard that we can't whip or bluff?"

"That," spoke Captain Tom, softly, "will have to be decided after we get there. But swim over there we must, since there isn't anything on this island that even looks like a boat. See here, Joe, you and Hank trot up to the bungalow and tell Mr. Seaton what we've seen. The 'Restless' is at anchor in the cove yonder. There are plenty of logs up at the bungalow. Come back with one big enough to buoy us up in the water, yet not so big but what we can steer it while swimming. And bring with it a few lengths of that quarter-inch cord from the 59 dynamo room. Don't be too long, will you, fellows?"

After Joe and Hank had departed, Tom Halstead watched the light shining behind the four distant ports until it disappeared. Then he looked at the waves long and wonderingly.

"It's a big chance to take. I don't know whether we can ever get out there in a sea like this," he muttered. "Yet, what wouldn't I do to get control of our own boat again? Our own boat-the good old 'Restless'! Joe isn't saying much of anything; he never does, but I know how he feels over the stealing of the boat and the chance that bunglers may leave her on the rocks somewhere along this coast!"

A few minutes passed. Then the young skipper heard hurrying footsteps. Joe and Hank hove into sight out of the deep gloom, bearing an eight-foot log on their shoulders.

"Good enough," nodded Halstead, eyeing the log approvingly. "Now, wade into the water with it, and let's see whether it will buoy us all up at need."

All three waded out with the log, until they were in nearly up to their shoulders.

"Now, hang to it, and see if it will hold us up," commanded Captain Tom Halstead.

The log bore them up, but the crest of a big wave, rolling in, hurled them back upon the 60 beach. Tom dragged the log up onto dry ground.

"Now, first of all, let's lash our clubs to the log," suggested the young skipper. This was soon accomplished. Then each of the Motor Boat Club boys made a medium length of the cord fast around his chest, under the arm-pits.

"The next trick," proposed Halstead, "is to make the other end fast to the log, allowing just length enough so that you can swim well clear of the log itself, and yet be able to haul yourselves back to the log in case you find your strength giving out."

This took some calculation, but at last the three motor boat boys decided that eight feet of line was the proper length. This decided, and accomplished, they carried the log down into the water, and pushed resolutely off into the blackness.

Even Tom Halstead, who allowed himself few doubts, little believed that they could accomplish this long, dangerous swimming cruise over a rough sea.

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