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   Chapter 5 CHAPTER VIII

The Motor Boat Club and The Wireless; Or, the Dot, Dash and Dare Cruise By H. Irving Hancock Characters: 23774

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


THE RED MESSAGE

When the boys reached Beaufort and had tied up at a wharf, it was still too early to expect to find any shops open. They left Hank on watch, however, and went up into the town, Joe to look, presently, for a dealer in electrical supplies, while Captain Tom sought a ship's joiner to fit and hang a new hatch to replace that smashed in the affair of the night before. Both boys were presently successful, though it was noon before the joiner had his task finished.

While the last of the work on the new hatch was being done, Tom and Joe went once more uptown to get a message from Mr. Seaton's attorney regarding the date when the formal hearing of the men arrested the night before would take place in court. Hank Butts was left to watch over the boat and keep an eye over the joiner.

"Any strangers around here?" queried the young skipper, after the joiner, his work completed, had gone aboard.

"Only a young black boy," Hank replied. "He seemed curious to look over the boat, but 86 he didn't offer to go below, or touch anything, so I didn't chase him off."

"Cast off, Hank. Give us some power, Joe, and we'll get back to Lonely Island," declared the young captain, going to the wheel.

Hardly more than a minute later the "Restless" was gliding out of the harbor.

"Guess Hank's young negro visitor left a note," called up Joe, showing in the doorway of the motor room and holding forth a note. Hank took it, passing it to Halstead.

"Mind the wheel a minute, Hank, please," requested Tom, looking closely at the envelope.

It was addressed only to "Halstead," the writing being in red, and thick, as though laid on with the point of a stick. The message on the sheet inside was crisp and to the point. It ran:

If you think your doings have been forgotten, you'll soon know differently!

"Humph!" muttered Joe, following up, and taking the sheet as his chum held it out. "That must be from Anson Dalton."

"Or Captain Dave Lemly, of the 'Black Betty,'" returned Tom, without a trace of concern in his tone.

"It's a threat, all right," muttered Hank Butts, his hair bristling when the sheet came into his hands. "Confound 'em, I hope whoever 87 sent this tries to make good-when we're looking!"

Just then Captain Tom changed the course abruptly, the bows of the "Restless" sending up a shower of spray that sprinkled Hank from head to foot. As he turned to get out of the way the wind caught the sheet written in red from his hand, blowing it out across the water.

"Let it go," laughed Tom. "We know all the red message had to say."

"The negro that I allowed on deck came on purpose to drop the note where it would be found," muttered Hank.

"No matter," smiled Tom. "We're always glad to know that we're remembered by nice people."

"I'd like to have that black boy here for a minute or two," grunted Hank, clenching his fists.

"What for?" Tom Halstead queried. "He probably didn't have any guilty knowledge about the sender."

"That reminds me," broke in Joe. "Stand close by the motors a few minutes, will you, Hank?"

With that Dawson vanished aft. When he came back he announced:

"I've just flashed the wireless word back to Mr. Seaton's lawyer about the message we got, 88 advising the lawyer that it probably shows Dalton, or Lemly, or both, to be in Beaufort. And the lawyer was able to send me news, received just after we left."

"What?"

"The schooner, 'Black Betty,' has just been seized, thirty miles down the coast, by United States officers. She'll be held until the customs men have had a chance to look into the charges that the schooner has been used in the smuggling trade."

"Was Lemly caught with her?" asked Tom, eagerly.

"No such luck," retorted Joe.

"I'd feel better over hearing that Dave Lemly was the prisoner of the United States Government," remarked young Halstead. "If he keeps at liberty he is the one who is going to be able to make Anson Dalton dangerous to us."

"Then you're beginning to be afraid of that pair, are you?" asked Joe Dawson, looking up.

"No, I'm not," rejoined Tom Halstead, his jaws firmly set. "A man-or a boy, either for that matter-who can be made afraid of other people isn't fit to be trusted with the command of a boat on the high seas. But I'll say this much about my belief concerning Dalton: For some reason we've been in his way, and are 89 likely to be much more in his way before we're through with him. If Dalton got a chance, he wouldn't hesitate to wreck the 'Restless,' or to blow her up. For any work of that sort Dave Lemly is undoubtedly his man."

"What can make them so desperate against Mr. Seaton?" queried Joe.

"We can't even guess, for we don't yet know the story that's behind all this mystery and the list of desperate deeds."

"I wonder if Mr. Seaton will ever tell us?" pondered Joe.

"Not unless he thinks we really need to know."

"But he has already hinted that it's all in a big fight for a fortune," urged Hank.

"Yes, and we can guess that the fight centers in South America, since that is where Clodis was bound for when this business started," replied Skipper Tom.

"I wonder if there's any chance that our cruise will reach to South America?" broke in Hank Butts, eagerly.

"Hardly likely," replied Tom, with a shake of the head. "If there had been even a chance of that, Mr. Seaton would have arranged for an option extending beyond the end of this month."

"Just my luck," grumbled Hank, seating 90 himself on the edge of the deck-house. "Nothing big ever happens to me."

"Say, you're hard to please," laughed Joe, turning and going down into the motor room.

They were not long in making Lonely Island, where the "Restless" was tied up and the hatchways locked securely. The boys were not required to remain at the boat, one of the guards being stationed, night or day, at the wharf.

Powell Seaton was much interested in the account Tom gave him of the red message, though he did not say much.

There was no change or improvement in the condition of Mr. Clodis, who still lay in a darkened room, like one dead.

That afternoon Joe, with some help from his comrades, repaired the bungalow's wireless plant and got in touch with the shore once more.

Through the night four men were kept on guard, one on the porch, another at the wharf, and two others patrolling the island. No attempt of any sort on the part of Dalton or the latter's confederates was discovered.

The next morning brought still no change in the condition of Clodis. He was alive, breathing feebly, and Dr. Cosgrove was attempting to ward off an attack of brain fever.

Through the forenoon Joe was kept rather 91 busy sending messages ashore to the authorities, for Powell Seaton, though not leaving the island, was waging a determined campaign to get hold of Dalton.

"I don't need Dalton, particularly," confessed Mr. Seaton, as he sat with the three motor boat boys at the noon meal. "But it would be worth a very great deal of money to get back the papers that Dalton must have stolen after assaulting my sick friend, yonder, on board the 'Constant.'"

"Do you-do you know-what was in the stolen papers?" asked Captain Tom Halstead, hesitatingly.

"Very well, indeed," rejoined their employer, with emphasis. "But the real trouble is that I don't want to have that knowledge pass to the gang that are behind Anson Dalton."

"Yet Dalton must have had time to join his principals, or confederates, by this time, and turn the papers over to them," hazarded Halstead.

"That's hardly likely," murmured Powell Seaton, "since the gang of rascals behind Anson Dalton must be, at this moment, somewhere in the interior of Brazil."

"Oh!" said Tom, reflectively.

"You're curious, I see, to know what all this great mystery means," smiled Mr. Seaton. 92

"I-I don't want to let myself be curious about what is none of my business," declared Tom Halstead, bluntly.

"I'm going to tell you the story now, just the same," replied Powell Seaton, in a still lower voice.

* * *

CHAPTER IX

MR. SEATON UNBURDENS HIMSELF

"Really, I see no reason why I shouldn't tell you," went on the charter-man of the "Restless." "When I first engaged you youngsters and your boat for this month I had little more in mind than using your boat for pleasure cruising about here. Yet the fact that you had a wireless equipment aboard the 'Restless' did influence me not a little, for I had at least a suspicion that big affairs might come to pass, and that telegraphing from ship to ship might be wonderfully convenient.

"At the same time, I was careful to look up the references that you gave me, Captain Halstead. Those references were so wholly satisfactory that I know I can trust you to serve me as bravely and loyally as you have, in the past, been called upon to serve others. And now, just for the reason that you may be called upon to take some big fighting chances for me, I'm going 93 to tell you what lies back of the curtain of mystery that you've been staring at."

As his voice died out Powell Seaton arose, locked the door and glanced out through the windows. Then he returned to the table, motioning to the boys to incline their heads close to his.

"Probably," began their host, "you've regarded me as a wealthy man, and, until the last two or three days, as one of leisure. I am reasonably well-to-do in this world's goods, but most of my life, since I was twenty, has been passed in storm and stress.

"It is not necessary to tell you all about the life that I have led. It will be enough to tell you that, three years ago, not satisfied that my fortune was large enough, I went to Brazil in order to learn what chance there might be of picking up money fast in that country.

"In Brazil there are many ways of making a fortune, though perhaps not as many as right here at home. However, there are fewer fortune-seekers there. In coffee, rubber and in many other staples fortunes may be made in Brazil, but the biggest, wildest, most desperate and scrambling gamble of all is found in the diamond-digging fields.

"Most of the diamond fields have, perhaps, been discovered, and their working has become 94 systematized to a regular, dividend-paying basis. There are still, however, some fields not yet located. It was a small field, but one which I believe may be worth millions, that I located somewhat more than a year ago. See here!"

From an inner pocket Powell Seaton drew forth an ordinary wallet. Opening it, he dropped out on the table six diamonds. Though none was of great size, all of the stones were of such purity and such flashing brilliancy that the motor boat boys gazed at them in fascination.

"They must be worth a fortune," declared Hank Butts, in an awed, subdued tone.

"Not exactly," smiled Mr. Seaton. "These stones have been appraised, I believe, at about twelve thousand dollars."

After passing the gems from hand to hand, the owner of the bungalow replaced them in the wallet, returning the latter to the same pocket before he resumed:

"This new diamond field, a patent to which has not yet been filed with the Brazilian Government, is in the state of Vahia. There is no harm in telling anyone that, as Vahia is a state of great area. It is in a section little likely to be suspected as a diamond field, and the chance that someone else will accidentally discover and locate it is not large." 95

"Yet you know the exact location-can go right to it?" breathed Tom Halstead, his eyes turned squarely on Mr. Seaton's.

"Yes, but I don't dare go to it," came the smiling answer.

"Oh! May I ask why not, sir?"

"The Government of Brazil is, in the main, an honest one," replied Powell Seaton. "The President of that country is an exactly just and honorable man. Yet not quite as much can be said for the governments of som

e of the states of that country. The governor of Vahia, Terrero, by name, is probably one of the worst little despots in South America.

"Now, as it happened, before I came to know anything about this new diamond field I had the bad fortune to make an enemy of Governor Terrero. Some American friends were being shamefully treated by this rascally governor, and I felt called upon to become mixed up in the affair. I even went so far that I incurred the deadly hatred of Terrero. It was right after this that I came upon my diamond field. But Terrero's enmity was pressing upon me, and I had to flee from Brazil."

"Why?" asked Tom, wonderingly.

"Do you know how things are done in South America?" demanded Powell Seaton, impressively. "If a man like Terrero hates you, he 96 has only to inspire someone to prefer a serious charge against you. The charge may be wholly false, of course, but officers and soldiers are sent, in the dead of the night, to arrest you. These wretches, when they serve wicked enough officials, shoot you down in cold blood. Then they lay beside your body a revolver in which are two or three discharged cartridges. They report, officially, that you resisted arrest and did your best to kill the members of the arresting party. This infamous lie all becomes a matter of official record. Then what can the United States Government do about it? And the governor, or other rascally official, has triumphed over you, and the matter is closed. Though an honest man, Halstead, you are officially a desperate character who had to be killed by the law's servants. It was such a fate that Terrero was preparing for me, but I escaped his wicked designs."

"That must be a nice country!" murmured Hank Butts.

"Yet you say the President of Brazil is an honorable man?" asked Halstead. "Can't he remove such a governor?"

"The President would, in a moment, if he could be supplied with proofs," rejoined Powell Seaton, with emphasis. "Governor Terrero is a wily, smooth scoundrel who is well served by 97 men of his own choice stamp. Terrero is wealthy, and backed by many other wealthy men who have been growing rich in the diamond fields. In fact, though they are wonderfully smooth about it, the Terrero gang are terrors to all honest diamond men in that one part of Brazil."

"So, then," hinted Captain Tom, "you know where to find one of the rich diamond mines of the world, but you don't dare go to it?"

"I'd dare," retorted Mr. Seaton, his eyes flashing. "But what would be the use of daring? I am almost certain to be killed if I ever show my face in Vahia while Terrero is alive. So, then, this is what I have done: Since my return to this country I have been arranging, ever so quietly, with moneyed men who have faith in me and in my honesty. After much dickering we have arranged a syndicate that is backed by millions of dollars, if need be. And we may need to spend a good deal of money before we get through. We may even have to try to turn Terrero's most trusted lieutenants against him. We won't, if we can help it, but we may have to. The stake is a big one!

"Through turning this business over to the syndicate I am bound to lose the greater portion of the fortune that might have been mine from this great enterprise. Yet, even as it is, 98 I stand to reap rich returns if ever the syndicate can locate and secure the patent to the diamond fields that I discovered.

"At this moment three members of our syndicate are in Rio Janeiro. They are big, solid American men of moneyed affairs. As far as they permit to be known, they are in Brazil only as a matter of vacation and pleasure. In truth, they are awaiting the arrival of Albert Clodis on the 'Constant.' When he had arrived, with the papers from me showing where and how to locate the diamond field, they were to have moved quickly, spending plenty of money, and filing a patent to the fields. Under the law the Brazilian Government would be entitled to a large share of the find in precious stones, but even at that our share would have been enormous. Once the patent to the diamond field was filed, the President and the whole National Government of that country could be depended upon to protect the owner's rights, even against the greed and treachery of Terrero. So all that appeared to be left to do was to get to my friends of the syndicate the two sets of papers that would enable them to locate the unknown diamond field. Neither set of papers is worth anything by itself, but with the two sets the field can be promptly located.

"My first thought was to send the two sets 99 of papers by two different men. Yet, strange as it may appear to you boys, I could not decide upon two men whom I felt I could fully trust under all circumstances. You have no idea how I have been watched, the last year, by agents of Terrero. Dalton, though an American, is one of the worst of these secret agents of the governor of Vahia. I knew how thoroughly I was being watched, and I, in turn, have had others watching Anson Dalton as effectively as it could be done in a free country like the United States.

"Well, to make this long story short, when I had all else in readiness I decided upon Bert Clodis as the one man I could fully trust to deliver the two sets of papers to the members of the syndicate at Rio Janeiro. I believed, too, at the time, though I could not be sure, that my relations with Bert Clodis were unknown to Anson Dalton.

"Yet, not for a moment did I trust too thoroughly to that belief. I had Dalton watched. If he engaged passage aboard the 'Constant,' my suspicions would be at once aroused. We now know that he secured passage, by mail, under the name of Arthur Hilton. Beyond the slightest doubt Dalton, that infernal spy, had succeeded in discovering that I was sending Clodis with the papers. Yet Dalton, or Hilton, as he chose to call himself, did not go aboard 100 the 'Constant' openly at New York. I can only guess that he boarded from the tug that took off the pilot when the liner had reached open sea.

"I had impressed upon Bert Clodis the importance of keeping the two sets of papers apart, and had advised him that it might not be safe to deposit either in the purser's safe, from which they might be taken through the means of a deep-sea burglary.

"So the probability is that Bert Clodis had one set of papers concealed on his person. The other set of papers-the one I now have safe-he seems to have put away in his trunk, believing that no one seeking to rob him would think him simple enough to leave valuable papers in a trunk that could be rather easily entered in the hold of a liner.

"As I have already told you, I had the ship watched at New York, and received a message, after her sailing, which told me that no one answering Dalton's description had boarded the 'Constant' at her pier.

"As the liner entered this latitude Bert Clodis was to send off a wireless message which, though apparently rather blind, would be enough to advise me that no one answering to Dalton's description had appeared among the passengers or crew of the 'Constant.' This 101 news I awaited at the wireless station at Beaufort, and you can imagine my anxiety."

"That was why, then," broke in Joe, suddenly, "when I received that message about the injury to Mr. Clodis, you were able to break in so quickly?"

"Yes," nodded Mr. Seaton. "I was waiting, and was on tenterhooks. I would have joined you, and would have gone out in haste to receive Bert Clodis myself, but I realized that, if I delayed you, the big liner would get past us, and Bert Clodis must most likely die on the way to Brazil."

"Why weren't you out here, sir, at this bungalow, where you could have received the message as well, and then have gone out with us on the 'Restless'?" inquired Tom Halstead, with deepest interest in this strange narration.

"I was at Beaufort," responded Mr. Seaton, "because I felt it very necessary to be where I could use a private wire to New York that I had reserved. I was, at that time, waiting for word from New York of any possible discovery that could be made concerning the movements of the infamous Dalton, whom I did not then know, or believe, to be on board the 'Constant.'"

There was silence for a few moments, but Powell Seaton at last went on, thoughtfully:

"We now know that Bert Clodis did not deposit 102 any papers with the purser of the ship. One set of the papers, therefore, must have been tucked away in his clothing. Dalton, after assaulting Bert Clodis, or having it done, must have rifled his pockets and found one set. He even had time to look through them and discover that that set was incomplete. Then, on seeing Clodis's trunk go aboard the 'Restless' with the injured man, Dalton guessed that the remaining papers might be in the trunk. That was why Dalton decided to leave the 'Constant.' But your flat refusal to let him go down into the cabin, where the baggage had been taken, foiled the fellow at that point. Then, fearing that he would run into me, and that I might even resort to violence, Dalton hailed that schooner, the 'Black Betty,' and made his momentary escape."

"No doubt," interposed Halstead, "Dalton has had plenty of chance to put his set of the stolen papers in safe hiding. But isn't it barely likely that he had already engaged Captain Dave Lemly to be hanging about in these waters with that little black schooner?"

"Wholly likely," nodded Mr. Seaton, thoughtfully. "However, boys, I have trusted you with as much as my very life is worth in telling you all this. I would rather lose my life than see my friends, as well as myself, beaten in this 103 great diamond game. As the matter now stands, Dalton has won the first step, but he hasn't enough knowledge to enable his employer, Terrero, to locate my precious find. I can duplicate the missing papers, and the other set, which I have here secure, I must also send to Rio Janeiro by some other most trusted messenger, should Clodis, poor fellow, die, or prove unfit to make another attempt."

"And do you think, sir, that there's only one honest man on earth?" asked Tom Halstead, in considerable surprise.

"There are several men that I believe to be honest," returned the owner of the bungalow, "yet only one that I know to be honest, and who possesses at the same time the judgment to undertake a mission like the one I have been telling you about."

"Then it won't really do Dalton any good to start for Brazil unless he can get hold of the contents of the other set of papers?" Halstead asked, after a pause of a few moments.

"Not until the fellow can get his clutches on the papers that I have secretly locked in that closet over there," confirmed Mr. Seaton. "And I have told none but you trustworthy youngsters that the other set is hidden in such an easy place to get at."

Then, as though struck by a thought, Powell 104 Seaton crossed the room, drawing his key-ring from a pocket. He fitted the right key to the door, and swung the latter open. An instant more, and there came from Mr. Seaton's lips a cry much like the frightened howl of a wild beast.

"The second set of papers is gone-stolen from here!"

There was an almost simultaneous gasp of consternation from the three Motor Boat Club boys as they rushed forward. But they had no need to search. Seaton had done that thoroughly, and now he turned to eye them. As he stared-or glared-a new thought came into Seaton's mind, reflecting itself in his eyes. The boys could see him fighting against his own new suspicion.

"Halstead," cried Powell Seaton, clutching at the side of the doorway, "I told you all about this hiding place. I trusted you!"

It was Tom Halstead's turn to go deathly white and stagger.

"Do you mean, sir, that YOU SUSPECT ME?" demanded the young skipper, in a voice choked with horror.

* * *

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