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   Chapter 13 CHAPTER XVI

The Motor Boat Club and The Wireless; Or, the Dot, Dash and Dare Cruise By H. Irving Hancock Characters: 9015

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


A GLEAM OF HOPE THROUGH THE SHROUD OF FOG

Resting one hand lightly on the top spokes of the wheel, young Halstead turned to his employer with a look of keenest sympathy.

"Is there any order you wish to give now, Mr. Seaton?"

"What order can I give," demanded the charter-man, with a piteous smile, "unless it be to say, 'find the drab boat'?"

Tom made a grimace.

"Of course I know how senseless that order would be," pursued Seaton, with a nervous twitching of his lips. In fact, at this moment it filled one with pity, just to witness the too-plain signs of his inward torment and misery.

There was a pause, broken, after a few moments, by the charter-man saying, as he made a palpable effort to pull himself together:

"Halstead, you've shown so much sense all along that I leave it to you to do whatever you deem best."

Skipper Tom's brow cleared at once. A look of purpose flashed into his eyes.

"Then we'll keep eastward out to sea, sir, or 172 a little bit to the northeast, until we get out in the usual path of the southbound steamers."

"And after that?" demanded Powell Seaton, eagerly.

"All we can do, sir, then, will be to wait until we get a wireless communication with other vessels."

"Go ahead, lad."

Tom moved the speed control slowly, until the "Restless" went loafing along at a speed of six miles an hour. Heading weatherward, he gave more heed to the wheel, for there were signs that the water was going to roughen somewhat.

"Hank!" called the young skipper, and Butts came to the bridge deck.

"Sound the fog-whistle every minute," directed Halstead.

"Too-whoo-oo-oo!" sounded the melancholy, penetrating note through the mist.

"Are you going to keep that up, Captain Halstead?" inquired Mr. Seaton, in instant apprehension.

"Got to, sir. It's the law of the ocean in a deep fog."

"But it signals our location to the enemy on the drab boat."

"If it keeps the seventy-footer within sound of our horn all the time," laughed Halstead, 173 "so much the better. Then the Drab will be within range of our marine glasses when the fog lifts."

"It shows those rascals the direction of our course, too," cried Seaton, in a still troubled voice.

"We've got to observe the law, sir, even if they do break it," Tom gently urged. "That other boat's people have been acting like pirates all along, but that would be no excuse for us. What if we cut into a lumber-laden schooner, and sank her at once?"

Mr. Seaton was obliged to nod his assent.

"It's a fearfully tough piece of luck for us, this fog," Tom continued, feelingly, "but we've got to make the most of it."

"And, if Anson Dalton gets aboard any Brazil-bound steamer while we're in this fog, the whole great game for myself and my friends is lost," faltered Seaton.

"If that steamer has a wireless installation," retorted the young motor boat skipper, "then we've every chance in the world to reach her before the Drab possibly can. Joe will hear her wireless two hours or more before the other fellows can hear or locate a fog-horn."

"It's-it's a dreadful uncertainty that this fog puts upon us," groaned the unhappy charter-man. "Dalton may take advantage of 174 this white shroud to run straight for the nearest post office and mail the papers that he stole."

Captain Tom's mildly warning look checked Mr. Seaton ere he had time to say more in the hearing of Hepton.

"If you'll come aft, sir, we'll talk this over," suggested Halstead, in a low voice.

"Gladly," murmured the charter-man.

"Now, then, sir," almost whispered the motor boat skipper, as he and his employer stood on the deck aft, "you've written out a duplicate of the papers that were stolen."

"I have the duplicate set in an inside pocket," responded Seaton, tapping his coat.

"Are you ready to chance the mailing of them?"

"It's-it's a fearful risk, a terrible one, even to think of sending such priceless papers by registered mail."

"At least, sir," urged Tom, "you would be sure the documents were properly started on their way."

"Yet with no surety that they wouldn't fall into wrong hands at the other end," shuddered Seaton.

"Then, since your life would undoubtedly be the forfeit if you attempted to take the papers yourself, will you trust me, or Joe, to board the first steamer we pick up by wireless?" 175

"Wh-what do you advise, Halstead?" queried Seaton, with the air and tone of a man tortured by uncertainty and hesitation.

"I advise, sir, your ma

king a very definite move of one kind or another, without the loss of another hour," rejoined young Halstead, almost sharply. "Simply drifting in a fog won't settle anything."

"Oh, I know that only too well," replied Powell Seaton, desperately.

"Let us," proposed Skipper Tom, "take a northerly course. We'll try to pick up a Rio-bound steamship. Failing in that, let us put in for land, you to send the papers off by registered mail-or I'll take train for New York and go by the first boat."

"I-I'll do it," agreed Powell Seaton, falteringly. "Halstead, my boy, I've pondered and worried over this until my brain almost refuses to act. I'm glad to have your clearer brain to steady me-to guide me."

"Are your papers sealed?" asked Captain Tom, after a little further thought.

"No; but I can soon attend to that."

"I'd go below and do it, then, sir."

"Thank you; I will."

Powell Seaton, as he started down the after companionway, trembled so that compassionate Halstead aided him. Then, returning, the Motor 176 Boat Club boy stepped steadily forward to the bridge deck.

Studying the time, Tom determined to keep to the present course for fifteen minutes more, and at the same speed, then to head about due north. This, he figured, would keep him about in the path of southmoving coast steamships.

Hank, who was still at the wheel, took the orders. Joe, after a glance at the bridge deck chronometer, dropped below on his way to his sending table. The crash of his call soon sounded at the spark-gap and quivered on its lightning way up the aerials.

"Nothing happening in my line," announced Dawson, soberly, when, some minutes later, he returned to deck.

Captain Tom stood by, almost idly attending to the fog-horn, though Butts would have been able to do that as well as steer.

"Did you get anything at all?" Halstead inquired.

"Nothing; not a click by way of answer," Joe Dawson responded. "I had half a hope that I might be able to pick up a ship that could relay back to another, and so on to New York. If that had happened, I was going to ask the companies direct, in New York, when their next boats would leave port. I'll do that, if I get a 177 chance. I'm bound to know when to look for the next Rio boat."

"If this fog seems likely to last," resumed Halstead, "I've been thinking about increasing to ten miles and keeping right on toward New York."

"Bully!" enthused Dawson. "Fine!"

"Yes; so I thought at first, but I have changed my mind. If we get wholly out of these waters we might put a messenger aboard a steamship bound for Rio Janeiro, and then Dalton, by hanging about in these waters, might find a chance to board. If he suspected our messenger-and it may be you or I-it might be the same old Clodis incident all over again."

Joe's face lengthened.

"It's growing wearing, to hang about here all the time," he complained. "I'm near to having operator's cramp, as it is."

"Don't you dare!" Skipper Tom warned him.

"Well, then, I won't," agreed Dawson.

For four hours more the "Restless" continued nearly due north, at the same original speed of six miles an hour. Halstead began to think of putting back, slowly retracing his course. Joe went down for his regular hourly "sit" at the sending table.

"Hurrah!" yelled Dawson, emerging from the motor room several minutes later. 178

He was waving a paper and appeared highly excited.

"Picked up anything?" called Tom Halstead, eagerly.

"Yes, sirree!" uttered Joe, delightedly, thrusting a paper into his chum's hand. "The Jepson freight liner, 'Glide,' is making an extra trip out of schedule. Here's her position, course and gait. We ought to be up to her within two and a half hours."

Tom himself took the news to Powell Seaton. That gentleman, on hearing the word, leaped from the lower berth in the port stateroom.

"Glorious!" he cried, his eyes gleaming feverishly as he hustled into an overcoat.

Then he whispered, in a lower voice:

"Tom Halstead, you're-you're-It!"

"Eh?" demanded the young motor boat skipper.

"You'll take the papers on to Rio!"

A gleam lit up Halstead's eyes. Yet, in another instant he felt a sense of downright regret. He was not afraid of any dangers that the trip might involve, but he hated the thought of being weeks away from this staunch, trim little craft of which he was captain and half-owner.

"All right, sir," he replied, though without enthusiasm. "I'll undertake it-I'll go to Rio for you."

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