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   Chapter 4 CHAPTER V

The Motor Boat Club and The Wireless; Or, the Dot, Dash and Dare Cruise By H. Irving Hancock Characters: 28189

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


TOM MATCHES ONE TRICK WITH ANOTHER

At the outset Joe swam at the rear, frequently giving a light push to send the log riding ahead. Tom and Hank swam on either side, half-towing the timber that was to be their buoy when needed.

All three, reared at the edge of salt water, as they had been, were strong, splendid swimmers. This night, however, with the rough waves, the feat was especially dangerous.

"Swim the way a fellow does when he knows he's really got to," was the young skipper's terse advice as they started.

It became a contest of endurance. Tom and Joe, the two Maine boys, were doggedly determined to reach their boat or perish in the attempt. Hank Butts, the Long Island boy, though perhaps possessing less fine courage than either of his comrades, had a rough way of treating danger as a joke. This may have been a pretense, yet in times of peril it passed well enough for grit.

Any one of the three could have swum a mile readily on a lightly rolling sea, but to-night the feat was a vastly sterner one. Hank was the 62 first to give out, after going a little more than an eighth of the distance. He swam to the log, throwing his right arm over it and holding on while the two Maine boys pushed and towed it. Finally, when young Butts had broken away to swim, Joe closed in, holding to the log for a while. At last it came even doughty Tom Halstead's turn to seek this aid to buoyancy.

Nor had they covered half the distance, in all, when all three found themselves obliged to hold to the log, as it rolled and plunged, riding the waves. Worst of all, despite their exertions, all three now found their teeth chattering.

"Say, it begins to look like a crazy undertaking," declared Hank, with blunt candor. "Can we possibly make it?"

"We've got to," retorted Tom Halstead, his will power unshaken.

"I don't see the light over there any more," observed Hank, speaking the words in jerks of one syllable, so intense was the shaking of his jaws.

"Maybe the boat isn't over yonder any longer," admitted Captain Tom, "but we've got to chance it. And say, we'd better shove off and try to swim again, to warm ourselves up. We're in danger of shaking ourselves plum to pieces."

There was another great peril, on which none of them had calculated well enough before starting. 63 When they were clear of the log, swimming, it pitched so on the tops of the waves that it was likely, at any instant, to drive against the head of one of the swimmers and crack his skull.

"If we had known all this before we started––" began Hank, the next time the three swimmers were driven to cling, briefly, to their movable buoy.

"We'd have started just the same," retorted Tom, as stiffly as his chattering teeth would let him speak.

"Humph!" muttered Hank, unbelievingly. "It's a fool's dream, this kind of a swim."

"It's less work to go ahead than to turn back, now," broke in Joe, his teeth accompanying his words with the clatter of castanets.

"No; the wind and tide would be with us going back," objected Butts. "We could almost drift back."

"And die of chills on the way," contended Tom, doggedly. "No, sir! We've got to go ahead. I'm swimming to the tune of thoughts of the galley fire aboard the 'Restless'!"

"Br-r-r!" shook Hank, as the three cast loose from the log once more and struck out, panting, yet too cold to stay idle any longer.

It was tantalizing enough. The longer they swam, the more the boys began to believe that the island they sought was retreating from before 64 them. Hank was almost certain they were moving in a circle, but Halstead, with a keen sense of location, insisted that they were going straight, even if very slowly, to the nameless island.

"I see it," breathed the young skipper, exultantly, at last.

"What-the island?" bellowed Hank Butts.

"No; but I'd swear I saw the 'Restless' the last time we rode a high wave," Halstead shouted back.

Ten minutes afterwards all three of the Motor Boat Club boys caught occasional glimpses of something dark and vague that they believed to be the hull of their yacht. The belief gave them renewed courage. Even Hank no longer had any desire to turn back. His whole thought centered on the lively times that were likely to begin when they tried to regain control of their boat from whomever had stolen it.

Then, bit by bit the trio worked their log buoy into the cove. Once they were inside, the water was very much smoother. Resting a few moments for breath, they then made a last dash forward, to get alongside.

In this smoother, more shallow water, the "Restless" rode securely at anchor. As they swam closer, the boys found that they could discover no human presence on the decks. Had the 65 boat-stealers gone ashore on the nameless island? If so, it would be a comparatively easy matter to get aboard and cut out of the cove with their own craft.

Close up alongside they went. Tom Halstead was the first to be able to reach up at the hull and draw himself up over the side. Then, with his pocket-knife, as he lay at the rail of the "Restless," the young skipper slashed the cord that still held him bound to the log. Reaching over, he passed the knife to Hank. In utter silence the Long Island boy cut the clubs free, and passed them up. Next Hank drew himself aboard, after passing the jackknife to Joe Dawson.

Just a little later all three of the Motor Boat Club boys found themselves standing on the deck, each grasping his own firewood weapon. They made no noise, for they knew not who, or how many others might be on board below. If they had a desperate gang of thieves to contend with, then their troubles had not yet even begun!

Joe and Hank stood where they were, shaking as though in the last ditch of ague, while Halstead went forward, with the soft tread of a cat, to peer down into the motor room, the hatchway of which stood open.

"Wonder if there's anyone down there, 66 asleep, or playing possum?" thought the young skipper as he peered into the blackness and listened. No sound of any kind came up to him. At last, a short step at a time, Halstead descended into the motor room, groping cautiously about. Finally, he became confident enough to feel in the galley match-box, extract a match and light it. The tiny flame showed him that the motor room was empty of human presence other than his own.

"No one down forward," he reported, in a shaking whisper, when he rejoined his chilled companions on deck.

"I believe there are plenty of folks in the cabin, though," reported Joe. "They've drawn the port-hole and transom curtains, but they've got a hidden light down there, and I can hear voices."

"Wait a moment, then," said Captain Tom, apprehensively. "I've an idea."

He crept back into the motor room, again striking a match. By the aid of this feeble light he found his way to the passageway that connected the motor room and the cabin under the bridge deck. After a brief inspection he hurried back to his comrades.

"The passage door is padlocked on the motor room side," he whispered. "Our pirates had no key to unlock that with. Now, can you walk 67 the deck as though your shoes were soled with loose cotton?"

"Yes," grumbled Hank, disjointedly, "but the snare-drum solo my teeth are doing may make noise enough to give me away."

"Cram your handkerchief between your teeth," retorted Captain Tom, practically. "Come along, fellows. But hold your clubs ready in case your feet betray you."

Stealing along, each holding to the edge of the deck house with one hand, the motor boat boys approached the after hatchway. This, evidently for purposes of ventilation, had been left partly open.

Nudging his comrades to pause, Joe, bending so low as to be almost flat on the deck, prowled further aft.

There, in the darkness, he used his eyes to find out what might be down in the cabin. Then he came back.

"Eight tough-looking men in the cabin," he whispered, in Tom Halstead's ear.

"Is Anson Dalton one of them?"

"Yep."

"Hurrah! Then we've bagged him, at last!"

"Have we, though?" muttered Joe Dawson, dubiously.

"Well, we're going to," declared Tom, radiantly. "My boy, we're going to cut out of 68 this cove with, the whole crew held in down there."

"Hope so," assented Joe, not very enthusiastically.

"Why, we've got to," argued Halstead. "If we don't, then that crew would have the upper hand, instead, and make penny jumping-jacks of us until they saw fit to let us go. But wait a moment. I must get back and have a look at them."

This time it was the young skipper who crawled aft. Joe and Hank followed part of the way, holding their sticks in readiness in case Dalton and his men discovered their presence.

"I reckon, Cap, you'll find you've got the right crowd for to-night's work," a rough voice was declaring, as Halstead came within ear range.

"Now, don't you men misunderstand me," replied Anson Dalton in a smooth yet firm voice. "I'm not paying you for any piratical acts. I have to give a little heed to the laws of the land, even if you fellows don't. What I want is this: At about two in the morning, when, most likely, everyone will be asleep except the one who is nursing the fellow Clodis, it is my plan to run in at Lonely Island's dock. We'll get quietly up to the house, suddenly force the door, and rush in. But, mind you all, there's to be no 69 riot. Your numbers, and your rough appearance, will be enough to scare the folks of the bungalow. The two of you that I've already picked out will rush in with a stateroom door and one of the stateroom mattresses. With this for a stretcher, you two will get Clodis carefully and gently down to this boat. Then we'll sail away, and I'll tell you what to do next. But remember, no violent assault on anyone-no lawlessness, no hurting anyone badly. Trust to your numbers and suddenness. There's some baggage, too, in the bungalow, that I mean to bring away with me. I'll make off with it in the confusion."

"Oh, will you?" wondered Captain Tom Halstead, his jaw settling squarely.

Then, tiptoeing softly over to where Hank waited, the young skipper whispered something in that youth's ear. Hank fled quietly forward, but returned with a snap-padlock, the ring of which was open. With this in his hands Tom stole back aft, this time going close, indeed, to the hatchway.

"Hey! Someone on deck," roared an excited voice below.

There was an instant babel of voices, a rushing of feet and a general rumpus below. Two men in the van raced for the hatchway.

Slam! snap! click! Tom Halstead swung 70 the hatchway door shut, forced the stout hasp over the staple and fastened the padlock in place!

* * *

CHAPTER VI

CARRYING DANGEROUS LIVE "FREIGHT"

"Cooped!" chuckled Joe Dawson, jubilantly.

Yet his voice could not much more than be heard above the racket that sounded below. Anson Dalton and his seven rough men were raising a hubbub, indeed.

"Smash the door down!" roared Dalton.

"Maybe we kin do it, boss, but the hatch is a stout one, and we ain't jest 'zactly fixed for tools," replied another voice.

After a few moments the fruitless hammering with mere fists subsided. In that time Hank Butts had raced forward, and now was back again with a prize that he had caught up from a locker near the motors. This was nothing more nor less than the hitching weight that Hank had once made very nearly famous, as described in the preceding volume, "The motor boat club off long island."

"Let 'em get out if they can," advised Hank, grimly. "This for the feet, or the head, of the first roustabout that shows himself!" 71

Joe now raced forward to set the motors in motion. Though the young trio had temporary command of the deck, there was no telling how soon they would be overwhelmed. Every moment must be made to count.

Captain Tom, grasping his stick, stood by to help Hank in case the furious ones below succeeded in breaking out.

Hardly any time passed before the rhythmic chugging of the motors came to the young skipper's delighted ears. Then Joe waved his arms as a signal from the raised deck forward. Halstead swiftly joined his chum. Together they got the anchor up, stowing it well enough for the present.

"Now, you'd better get back to Hank, hadn't you?" quivered Joe. "I can handle speed and the wheel, too."

"Bless you, old Joe!" murmured Captain Tom, fervently, and raced aft. Dawson leaped to the wheel, at the same time setting one of the bridge controls so that the "Restless" began to move forward under slow speed. This move came just in time, for, even in the cove, the water had motion enough to threaten the yacht with grounding.

But now alert Joe Dawson swung the boat's head around, pointing her nose out of the cove.

"Get that hatch down in a hurry!" sounded 72 Anson Dalton's hoarse voice, imperiously. "If you don't, we'll all be tight in a worse trap than this."

Blows with fists and feet resounded once more. Then, after an instant's pause, came the slower, harder thump-thump which told that one of the strongest of those caught below was using his shoulder, instead. Soon two cracks seamed the surface of the hatch door.

"Good! Go at it hard!" encouraged the voice of Dalton. "Batter it down. It will be worth money-and freedom-to you and to us all!"

"Yes, just clear a passage, and see what happens!" roared back Tom Halstead, as soon as he could make his own voice heard distinctly.

"Don't mind the talk of those boys!" warned Dalton, angrily, as there came a pause in the shoulder assaults against the hatch.

With a grin Hank raised his iron hitching weight above his head, hurling it down to the deck with crashing force. Then, still grinning, he stooped to pick it up again.

That noisy thump on the deck timbers caused a brief ensuing silence down in the cabin. It was plain that Dalton and his fellows were wondering just how dangerous their reception would be in case they succeeded in breaking out. 73

The cabin was lighted, in day time, by side ports and a barred tran

som overhead. The ports were too small to permit of a man forcing his way through. Even though they broke the glass overhead, the prisoners in the cabin would still have iron bars to overcome. Tom Halstead, with his club, could hinder any work at that point.

In the meantime, the "Restless," once out of the cove, was bounding over the waves like a thing of life. Though the water had been hard to swim through, it did not present a rough sea for a fifty-five foot power boat.

In less than three minutes Engineer Joe Dawson was sounding his auto whistle like mad as he neared the dock at Lonely Island.

Just as the boat glided in, under decreased headway, to the dock the bungalow door was seen to open. Powell Seaton, shot-gun in hand, appeared on the porch. He watched, not knowing whether friend or foe commanded the "Restless." Mr. Seaton, himself, was made to stand out brightly in the middle of the searchlight ray that Joe turned upon him, yet he could not see who was behind that light.

Running the boat in, bow-on, Joe leaped ashore with the hawser. Making fast only at the bow, he next raced up the board walk, shouting the news to Mr. Seaton. The latter, with a 74 hail of delight, darted toward the dock, arriving barely behind Dawson.

Down in the cabin the din of the men trying to escape had redoubled. Powell Seaton tramped hurriedly aft, while Tom and Joe fell in behind him with heavy tread, to give the rascals below an idea that numerous reinforcements had arrived.

Bang! Pausing before the hatch Mr. Seaton raised the shot-gun to his shoulder, discharging a single shell. Hastily slipping one into the magazine of the weapon to replace the fired one, Seaton shouted sternly:

"Stop your nonsense down there! If you get out it will be only to run into the muzzles of fire-arms. You fellows are fairly caught!"

There was a startled silence, followed by indistinct mutterings. Not even Anson Dalton, it appeared, cared to brave what looked like too certain death.

Tom held a whispered consultation with his employer, then stepped over to young Butts.

"Hank, we're going to leave you on shore. Mr. Seaton will come along with the gun. Keep your eyes open-until you see us again! Don't be caught napping. Remember, you and Dr. Cosgrove have the whole protection of that helpless man, Clodis, in your hands."

Hank Butts made a wry face for a moment. 75 He would have much preferred to see the present adventure through. Yet, a second later, the Long Island boy bounded to the dock, then stood to cast off the bow-line.

After the line had come aboard, Joe Dawson again took his place at the wheel, turning on the speed gradually as the boat rounded out past the island, then turned in toward the mainland.

It was about five miles, in a direct westerly course, to the shore, but by an oblique, northwesterly course a fishing village some nine miles away could be reached.

"Steer for the fishing village," nodded Powell Seaton. Captain Tom hurried forward to give the order, adding: "Make it at full speed, Joe. If you have to go to the engine, call me forward to take the wheel."

Soon afterwards Tom slipped into the motor room, rubbed down and got on dry clothing. Joe, in turn, did likewise, afterward returning to the wheel.

Down in the cabin all had been quiet for some minutes after the discharge of the gun on deck. Yet Captain Tom, by peeping through the transom, discovered the heads of Dalton and some of his rough men close together in consultation.

"I'll annoy them a bit," chuckled the young skipper, moving swiftly forward. Dropping 76 down into the motor room he switched off all the cabin lights. An instant roar of anger came from below.

"Funny we didn't think of that before," grinned Dawson, as Halstead came up out of the motor room.

"It'll bother the rascals a bit," chuckled Captain Tom back over his shoulder.

With such a boat as the "Restless" ordinary distances are swiftly covered. It was barely twenty-five minutes after leaving the dock that Joe reached the entrance to the little harbor around which the houses of the fishing village clustered, nor had much speed been used.

Now the whistle sounded steadily, in short, sharp blasts. Moreover, Dawson managed to send the distress signal with the searchlight. By the time he slowed down speed, then reversed, to make the little wharf, a dozen men had hurried down to the shore.

"What's wrong?" hailed one of them.

"Get the sheriff, or a sheriff's officer!" shouted back Powell Seaton. "Be quick about it, one of you, please, and the rest of you stay here to help us."

Joe sent the bow hawser flying ashore, Tom doing the same with the stern line. Willing hands caught both ropes, making them fast around snubbing posts. As two men started 77 away on the run, the rest of the bystanders came crowding aboard, filled with curiosity.

"What happens to be wrong on board?" demanded one bronzed fisherman.

"We've a cabin full of pirates, or rascals about as bad," returned Mr. Seaton, grimly.

"Men of this coast?" asked another speaker.

"Yes, evidently," nodded Mr. Seaton, whom the new-comers had recognized as the owner of Lonely Island.

"Then they must be the crew of the 'Black Betty,'" commented the first speaker.

"Is that a black, fifty-foot schooner, low in the water, narrow and carrying tall masts with a heavy spread of canvas?" interposed Tom Halstead.

"Yes," nodded the fisherman. "That's the 'Black Betty.' She claims to be a fishing boat, but we're ready to bet she's a smuggler. She carries nine men, including Captain Dave Lemly."

"I reckon we've got most of the 'Black Betty' outfit below, then," declared Captain Halstead. "Or else-gracious!"

For, at that moment, the cracked hatch gave in with a smash. Powell Seaton had neglected to remain on guard closely. There was a surge of the prisoners below.

"Halstead, you'll hear from me again-and 78 so will your crew!" shouted Anson Dalton out of the press of struggling men that formed on the after deck. "I won't let you forget me, Halstead!"

There was a splash past the rail. Dalton had gone overboard, followed by two of his companions.

* * *

CHAPTER VII

POWELL SEATON'S BAD CASE OF "FORGET"

"Don't let any more get away!" called Powell Seaton, excitedly.

Tom Halstead promptly leaped at one of the rough fugitives just as the latter was trying to reach the wharf. Another one Joe Dawson grabbed. Several of the fishermen sprang to help. For a minute or two there was a good deal of confusion. When matters quieted down, it was found that Halstead and Dawson, with the fishermen helping, had secured five of the rough lot.

Powell Seaton, by threatening with his shot-gun, had induced a sixth to swim ashore. But Anson Dalton and another man, believed to be Captain Dave Lemly of the "Black Betty," had escaped, swimming under water in the darkness. They must have come to the surface at some point not far away, yet, in the black darkness 79 of the night, they managed to escape safely for the time being, at any rate.

The six men thus arrested were forced inside a ring of the fishermen, whose numbers had been greatly increased by new arrivals. Powell Seaton, his shot-gun on his shoulder, now patrolled close to the human ring. Three or four men hurried with Tom and Joe on a quest for Anson Dalton and the latter's companion in flight.

In less than a quarter of an hour one of the messengers who had first hurried away returned with a deputy sheriff, who brought several pairs of handcuffs. A justice of the peace was aroused at his home, and held the prisoners over for trial, after Powell Seaton had preferred against them a charge of stealing the yacht that was under his charter.

The search for Dalton and his companion was given up, for it became plain that both had succeeded in their effort to get away.

"It's altogether too bad," sighed Mr. Seaton, on coming out of the justice's house. "However, we can be thankful for what success we have had. We have the boat back and have balked Dalton's rascals in what they were planning for to-night."

"Are you going back to Lonely Island now, sir?" asked Captain Tom. 80

"We must, very soon," replied Mr. Seaton. "Yet, Halstead, I've been thinking that I cannot afford to take any further chances, with Anson Dalton still at large. These fishermen are a rough but honest lot of splendid fellows in their way. I'm going to see if I can't hire a special guard of eight men for Lonely Island for the present. I'll engage the deputy sheriff to vouch for the men I engage. So go down to the boat and be ready for me as soon as I arrive."

Joe was aboard, waiting, when the young skipper returned. Several of the men of the village were still about the dock.

"We're to be ready to cast off as soon as Mr. Seaton gets here, Joe," Captain Tom Halstead announced. "Better look to your motors. If you want any help, call on me."

It did not take Mr. Seaton very long to recruit the guard of eight men that he wanted. Carrying rifles or shot-guns, borrowed in some instances, the men tramped along after their new employer. They came aboard, two or three of them going below, the others preferring to remain on deck.

"Cast off, Captain, as soon as you can," directed Powell Seaton.

Two or three of the new guards sprang forward to help in this work. Halstead rang for 81 half speed, then threw the wheel over, making a quick start. Once under way, he called for full speed, and the "Restless" went bounding over the waves, which were running much lower than a couple of hours earlier.

During the first half of the run Captain Halstead remained at the wheel. Then Joe came up from below, relieving him. Tom strolled back to take a seat on the deck-house beside Mr. Seaton.

"I'm on tenterhooks to get back," confessed the charter-man.

"Anxious about your friend, Clodis, of course," nodded Tom, understandingly.

"Partly that, yes. But there's another matter that's bothering me fearfully, too. You remember the packet of papers I took from Clodis's trunk?" asked Mr. Seaton, lowering his voice.

"Yes," murmured Tom. "But you have those in an inner pocket."

"I wish I had!" uttered Powell Seaton. "Halstead, the truth is, after you young men went out, this evening, to patrol about the island, I became a little uneasy about that packet, and took it out and hid it-under some boxes of ammunition in the cupboard where I keep my gun. Then I locked the closet door. When Dawson called me from the porch, in such haste, and I 82 was needed on board with my gun, I clean forgot the packet for the instant."

"Oh, it will be safe, anyway," Tom assured his employer. "Even if Dalton had been able to get a boat at once, in this neighborhood, there's no other craft in these waters capable of reaching Lonely Island earlier than we shall do it."

"I do hope that packet is safe," muttered Mr. Seaton, in a voice tense with anxiety. "Halstead, you've no notion of the fearful blow it would be to friends and to myself to have it disappear."

Hearing a slight noise on the opposite side of the deck-house top, Seaton and Tom Halstead turned together. They were just in time to see one of the new guards leaning toward them, one hand out as though to steady himself.

"It's rough footing on deck to-night," said the guard, with a pleasant laugh, then passed on aft.

Tom took the helm again as the "Restless," after picking up the landing place with the searchlight, moved into the harbor and went to her berth.

Powell Seaton led all of his guards but one up to the bungalow. The eighth man, armed with a rifle, was left aboard the "Restless," with the searchlight turned on, ready for use at 83 any moment. Tom and Joe went up to the bungalow with their employer.

"Wait out on the porch for just a little while," called Mr. Seaton, in a low voice. "And be careful to make no noise that will disturb the sick man."

Five minutes later Mr. Seaton returned to the porch.

"I've been looking for that packet," he whispered to the young skipper. "It's safe, so I've left it in the same place."

Then, after a moment, the owner of the bungalow added:

"Captain, you can have your friend, Butts, now, as we can do without him in the house. I think you three had better turn in on the boat and get some sleep. Then, soon after daylight, I can have the guard at the wharf rouse you, for I want you to go over to Beaufort and get supplies for repairing the wireless outfit at the earliest hour. Things are likely to happen soon that will make it dangerous for me to be without wireless communication with land and sea."

Twenty minutes later the three Motor Boat Club boys were stretched out in their berths in the motor room. It was considerably later, though, ere sleep came to them. When slumber did reach their eyes they slept soundly until called by the guard. 84

Hank prepared a breakfast in record time. After eating this, and after Hank had been sent up to the house to learn whether there were any further orders, the Motor Boat Club boys were ready to cast off.

Once they were under way, Hank, not being needed, went aft to stretch himself on one of the cabin cushions. Joe, having his motors running smoothly, followed Hank into the cabin. Dawson, however, did not seek further sleep. He wanted to make a more thorough test than he had done a few hours before, in order to make sure that the vandals locked in there the night before had not thought to destroy his beloved wireless instruments or connections.

"The whole wireless plant is in shape for instant use," he reported, coming back at last to the bridge deck.

"That's mighty good news," declared Tom Halstead. "With the man we are working for now we're likely to need the wireless at any minute in the twenty-four hours."

"Say," ejaculated Joe, after a few moments of silent thought, "there's something hugely mysterious and uncanny back of all these doings of less than twenty-four hours. I wonder what that big mystery really is?"

* * *

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