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   Chapter 15 CHAPTER XIX

The Motor Boat Club and The Wireless; Or, the Dot, Dash and Dare Cruise By H. Irving Hancock Characters: 12778

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


HELPLESS IN THE NORTHEASTER!

"I've already thought of that," nodded Powell Seaton.

"And it doesn't worry you, sir-doesn't make you anxious?" questioned Captain Tom Halstead.

"No. Of course, Dalton might cable the full contents of the papers. If the paper could fall only into Governor Terrero's hands it would be well worth the cable tolls. But if such a cablegram were sent, openly, to Terrero, or one of his representatives, it would have to go, first of all, through the hands of the Government officials who have charge of the cable."

"But couldn't Terrero fix that?" asked Halstead.

"No; Rio is out of his state, and beyond the sphere of his strongest influence. Now, if I were to land in Rio Janeiro, I would be arrested on a warrant issued by Terrero's judges, up in the state of Vahia, and I would have to go to Vahia for trial. Undoubtedly Terrero's rascally officers would shoot me on the way, and report that I had tried to escape."

"Then what harm could it do to Terrero's 197 chances for Dalton to send him the cablegram direct?"

"Why, either the cable officials in Rio are very great rascals, or else they are honest officials. If they are rascals, they might hold the cablegram long enough to act for themselves on the information it contained. On the other hand, if they are honest officials, then they would undoubtedly notify the Government of such a stupendous piece of news. The Government would then very likely take charge of my diamond field itself, which would be wholly legal, for the Government already owns many, if not the greater number, of the producing diamond fields of that country. So, if the Government, acting on information from its cable officials, took possession of the news and of the diamond field, what good would the cablegram do Governor Terrero? No; you may be very sure that Dalton won't send the contents of the papers by cablegram. He undoubtedly has the strongest orders from Terrero against doing that."

"I feel better, then," Tom admitted. "For the moment it came over me, like a thunderbolt, that Dalton might nip all our work in the bud by sending a cablegram. Still, couldn't he send it by code?"

"No; for only the ordinary codes can go 198 through the Brazilian cable offices, and the Government officers have the keys to all the codes that are allowed. Rest easy, Halstead; Dalton won't attempt to use the cable."

"Then, if he doesn't get aboard the 'Glide,' we'll beat him out to Brazil-that's the surest thing in the world!" cried Tom, with as much enthusiasm as though the great fortune at stake were his own.

They were still following in the wake of the "Glide." Once in a while Dick Davis or Ab Perkins had the operator on the freighter flash back a wireless message of a friendly, personal nature. Joe answered all these.

For thirty-six hours this pleasant stern-chase lasted. By night the helmsman of the "Restless" kept the searchlight enough in use to make sure that the drab boat did not appear.

"Dalton and Lemly lost the 'Glide,' if they were looking for her, in the fog," chuckled Halstead, in huge satisfaction. "Any Rio-bound boat they can catch now is hopelessly to the rear of the 'Glide,' I reckon."

Joe, by wiring back, and asking other wireless vessels to relay, from time to time, had ascertained that there was no other steam vessel, bound for Rio, in close pursuit.

Mr. Seaton took his trick at the wheel occasionally. 199 So did Hepton. Joe gave most of his time to the wireless installation, though he maintained charge of the motors, Hank doing most of the work there. All had sleep enough during the cruise south. Joe used some of his spare time in carrying out his former plan of connecting the wireless table with the helmsman by means of a speaking tube.

They were well down the coast of Florida when even anxious Powell Seaton declared that there was no need of cruising longer in the wake of the "Glide." He felt certain that the freighter had entirely eluded the vigilance of those on board the drab boat.

By this time the supply of gasoline was nearly out. Tom had cautioned the charter-man that so long a run would use up about the last of their oil. There was, however, a small sail fitted to the signal mast. Now, when the crew of the "Restless" turned back, the sail was hoisted and power shut off.

"We've oil enough to run perhaps three-quarters of an hour, sir," the young skipper explained. "We'll have to use that up in making port when we get in sight."

Sailing aboard the "Restless" proved lazy work at the outset. With this small sail there was not wind enough to carry the boat at much more than two miles per hour on her northwest 200 course for the nearest Florida town where gasoline was likely to be had.

"We'll have a jolly long sail of it," laughed Skipper Tom, "unless the wind should freshen."

"Well, we don't care," smiled Mr. Seaton. "At least, you won't be overworked. And our minds are easier-mine especially."

"All of us have easier minds," Halstead retorted. "Don't you understand, sir, that the rest of us have taken this whole business to heart? We couldn't be more concerned than we are to see the affairs of our charter parties come through all right."

"Oh, I believe that," nodded Powell Seaton. "You boys have been the strongest sort of personal friends to me in my troubles. You couldn't possibly have made my affairs, and my dangers, more thoroughly your own troubles."

Two hours later a wireless message came back from the "Glide." It was from Dick Davis, and couched in vague terms, but meant to inform those aboard the "Restless" that the drab seventy-footer was still out of sight. An hour after that a second message reached the motor boat. Soon after the "Restless" found herself unable to answer, though still able to receive.

"Hank, are you feeling particularly strong to-day?" inquired Mr. Seaton. 201

"I'm always strong, sir," replied the young steward.

"Then why not rack your pantry stores in order to supply the biggest thing in a meal for all hands this evening? I feel more like eating than I have any day in a month."

"You'd have to go to a sure-enough number-one hotel to find a better meal than I'll put up for this evening," retorted Hank, grinning gleefully, as he started for the galley.

In such lazy weather Tom Halstead felt that he could go below for a

nap, especially as Joe was around. Hepton was left at the wheel. Tom speedily closed his eyes in one of the soundest naps he had enjoyed in many a day. He was awakened by Hank, who came into the stateroom and shook him by the shoulder.

"Weather's all right, up to now," Butts informed the young captain. "Still, we don't like the looks of the sky, and the barometer is beginning to show signs of being eccentric. Won't you come up on deck for a minute, anyway?"

Tom was out of his berth in a twinkling. There was enough of the sea-captain in him for that. The instant he reached the deck his gaze swept around anxiously, inquiringly, at the sky.

"The clouds up on the northeast horizon don't 202 look exactly friendly, do they?" he inquired of Joe.

"Don't know," replied Dawson. "Haven't seen enough of them yet."

"I'm thinking you will, soon," replied Halstead. "How's the wind been?"

"From the east, sir," replied Hepton, who was at the wheel.

"It's working around to northeast, now," muttered Halstead. "And it was almost from the south when I turned in."

Tom stood by the barometer, watching it.

"Trouble coming," he said, briefly.

Within half an hour his prediction began to be verified. The darkish, "muddy" clouds first seen on the northeast horizon were looming up rapidly, the wind now driving steadily from that quarter. Even with all the smallness of her single sail the "Restless" was heeling over considerably to port.

"Lay along here, Hank, and help me to put a double reef in the sail," Tom ordered. "I don't want this little bit of canvas blown away from us."

As Tom called, he eased off the sheet, and Hepton lounged away from the wheel.

"Too bad," muttered Hank Butts. "We've been making a good four knots since the wind freshened." 203

"I'm out of a guess if there isn't a wind coming that'd take a sail out of its fastenings in ten seconds," rejoined Halstead, working industriously with the reeves.

A light squall struck them before the boys had finished their task.

"A September northeaster along this coast is no laughing matter, from all I've heard of it," Tom explained as the two boys took the last hitches. "Now, come on, Hank. We'll hoist her."

With long rhythmic pulls at the halyards Tom and Butts got the shortened sail up, making all secure.

"You'd better take the wheel, Joe," sang out the young skipper. "Hepton, stand by to give a hand if the helm moves hard."

"You seem rather excited over a pleasant breeze like this," observed Powell Seaton.

"Wait," said Tom, quietly. "I only hope I am taking too much precaution. I've never handled a boat along the Florida coast before, you know, sir, so it's best to err on the side of caution."

Hank was sent off on the jump, now, to make everything secure, while Skipper Tom took his place on the bridge deck at starboard to watch the weather.

"I guess there'll be time, now, Hank, to rig 204 life lines on the bridge deck," hinted Halstead, coolly. "Never mind about any aft. Whoever goes below can go through the motor room."

Catching a look full of meaning in the young commander's eye, Butts hustled about his new task.

"You seem to be making very serious preparations," suggested Powell Seaton, seriously.

"Nothing like being a fool on the wise side," answered Skipper Tom, calmly.

Within ten minutes more the wind had freshened a good deal, and the "Restless" was bending over considerably to port, running well, indeed, considering her very small spread of canvas.

Now, the sky became darker. The weather was like that on shore in autumn when the birds are seen scurrying to cover just before the storm breaks.

"I reckon there's going to be something close to trouble, after all," observed Powell Seaton, when it became necessary for him to hold his hat on.

Tom nodded in a taciturn way, merely saying:

"If you're going to stay on deck, Mr. Seaton, you'd better put on a cap, or a sou'wester."

Mr. Seaton started below, through the motor 205 room. While he was still there the gale struck, almost without further warning.

"Watch the wind and ease off a bit, Joe," bawled Skipper Halstead in his chum's ear.

Joe Dawson nodded slightly. The gale was now upon them with such fury that making one's self heard was something like work.

Despite the prompt easing by the helm, the "Restless" bowled over a good deal as the crest of the first in-rolling wave hit her.

Powell Seaton, a cap on his head, appeared at the motor room hatchway. Tom motioned him to remain where he was.

Clutching at the rail, Tom Halstead kept his face turned weatherward most of the time. He knew, now, that a fifty-five-foot boat like the "Restless," weather-staunch though she was, was going to have about all she could do in the sea that would be running in a few minutes more.

Nor did he make any mistake about that. A darkness that was almost inky settled down over them. Bending through the hatchway, the young sailing master yelled to Powell Seaton to switch on the running lights.

"For we'll need 'em mighty soon, if we don't now," Captain Tom added.

Hank reappeared with rain-coats, and with his own on. Hardly had those on deck so covered 206 themselves when, accompanied by a vivid flash of lightning and a crashing peal of thunder, the rain came down upon them. At first there were a few big drops. Then, the gale increasing, the rain came in drenching sheets. The decks began to run water, almost choking the scuppers.

The heeling of the "Restless" was no longer especially noticeable. She was rolling and pitching in every direction, accompanied by a straining and creaking of timbers.

Powell Seaton, standing below, clutching for support, and not much of a sailor at best, began to feel decidedly scared.

"Are we going to be able to weather this, Captain Halstead?" he yelled up, as the young skipper paused close by the hatchway.

Though the noise of the now furious gale prevented Tom from making out the words very clearly, he knew, by instinct, almost, what had been asked of him.

"Weather the gale, sir?" Tom bawled down, hoarsely. "Of course! We've got to!"

There was a new sound that made the young sailing master jump, then quiver. With a great tearing and rending the single canvas gave way before the roaring gale. In a trice the sail was blown to fluttering ribbons!

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