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The Motor Boat Club and The Wireless; Or, the Dot, Dash and Dare Cruise By H. Irving Hancock Characters: 22236

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


Then how fast Joe Dawson managed to talk up through the speaking tube! Tom Halstead, after first announcing the great news to the deck with a wild cheer, put Hank at the wheel and hurried below. Shortly, however, the young skipper was back on deck, bearing the wonderful news.

In smooth weather the Havana liner, ordinarily a fifteen-knot boat, would have reached them in two hours. Under the weather conditions of this wild night it was much later when the two craft were within hailing distance by signal lights. Hank was now in command of the deck, Skipper Tom and Powell Seaton being with Joe.

"Shall we try to send you a line for a tow?" came the demand from the liner.

"Yes," replied Halstead. Then, with a grimace he added:

"But the salvage charge for such a tow will call for more than we can raise, Joe, old fellow. I reckon the 'Restless' will have to be put up for sale to pay her own bills."

"Do you think I'd let you boys stand the towing charges?" demanded Powell Seaton, indignantly. "Whatever charges there are are mine to pay, and I'm at least good for the entire purchase price of a few boats like even this good little old salt water wizard!" 223

Tom soon afterwards made his way to the deck, but Mr. Seaton, weak and almost ill after the hours of anxiety, threw himself upon a cushioned seat near the wireless sending table.

As Tom stood on the bridge deck he studied the liner's lights as that larger craft man?uvred in to the leeward of the motor craft.

Once she had gained this position at a sufficient distance to make any collision on this wild sea unlikely, the liner steamed ahead.

"Stand ready to receive our line!" came to Joe in clicks through the watch-case receivers over either ear. He swiftly transmitted the order through the speaking tube to Halstead on the bridge.

Then the liner burned another light. Tom answered with one held in his own hand. It was the signal to look for the line, and the answer.

Through the darkness came a sudden, red flash from the after deck of the liner. The wind was so heavy that those on the bridge deck of the "Restless" could not be sure that they heard the report of the gun. But a missile whizzed over their heads, and to this blessed projectile trailed a thin line that fell across the top of the cabin deck.

Tom and Hank made a simultaneous bolt to get hold of that line. It was young Butts who 224 secured it. He passed it on to the young captain, and, together, they leaped to the bridge-deck with it. From there they crawled forward over the raised deck, slipping the line, at last, between the two raised ends of the towing bitt.

"Now, haul in with a will," glowed the young skipper, as they crept back to the bridge-deck. A great wave swept over them on their way back. Tom saw it coming, and braced himself. Hank was caught by the rush of waters; he would have been swept overboard, but Halstead grabbed at one of his ankles, holding on grimly.

At that moment the late prisoner, Jasper, saw what was happening. Projecting himself forward over the raised deck, he, too, caught hold of Hank Butts, while Powell Seaton held to Jasper.

It was a sort of human chain by which Hank was pulled to safety. Tom, throughout the excitement, held the "thin line" in one hand.

"Haul in this thin line, quickly," shouted the young commander, who could barely make himself heard above the tumult of the gale.

As the line was some four hundred feet long, it used up precious moments to haul it and coil up the slack. As the last of the "thin line" came into their hands there came with it the 225 first of a stouter hawser, the two lines being knotted securely together.

"Hold on to me, now! Form a chain again," ordered Skipper Tom. "I'll make the hawser fast forward."

All this while the Havana liner, some four hundred feet away, was going through a complicated bit of man?uvering under the hands of her officers. Alternately she moved at half-speed-ahead, at stop, or on the reverse, in order that, despite the high-rolling waves, she might not go too far ahead and snap the thin line. But now young Halstead soon had a stout hitch about the towing bitt at the bow. A few more turns, then he signaled to those behind holding him to help him back to the bridge deck. A dozen great waves had rolled over him on that smooth raised deck, but the members of the human chain hauled him back to safety.

"Signal to our friends that they can apply full speed ahead, Joe, if they want to," directed the young motor boat captain, briefly, as he reached the comparative safety of the bridge deck once more.

Over the noise of the gale the answering blast from the liner's whistle came to them as a far-away sound. But now the big boat ahead started on at a ten-knot speed.

"Gracious, but this seems good, once more!" 226 glowed Tom Halstead, taking over the wheel as the towing hawser tautened and the "Restless" began to move forward under a headway that could be controlled and directed.

"We couldn't have stood this racket much longer, without a tow," chattered Joe. "I've had moments at the wheel, to-night, when, on account of our helplessness, I've felt sure we were going to 'turn turtle.'"

"What ails your jaws, old fellow?" demanded Tom, looking curiously at his chum. "Say, you're shaking to pieces, and I don't wonder. Get below and get dry and warm. Get below all of you, except one to stand by me. Who can best remain on deck for a few minutes more?"

"I can," proposed Jasper, starting forward with an odd mixture of sullenness and eagerness in his tone.

"I'll trust you-now," nodded Captain Halstead, after eyeing the man keenly. "The rest of you get below. We want a few dry folks aboard."

On board there was clothing in abundance, enough to enable everyone to make at least a few changes. Now that the "Restless" could be held to a course, Hank Butts cautiously made a small fire in the galley stove, and then stood by to watch the fire. After a while he had 227 coffee going-this with a "cold bite" of food.

Hepton came up, bye-and-bye, to take the wheel. As he was wholly capable, Tom surrendered the helm to him, then dropped down below for some of that coffee.

"We've found out to-night what a wireless is good for," declared Joe. "But for it, we wouldn't have kept the 'Restless' afloat and right side up through the night."

"Until we got this tow I didn't expect ever to see port again," Tom Halstead admitted, quietly. "Do you know, the worst thing folks will have against row-boats in the future will be the fact that row-boats are too small to carry a wireless installation!"

"You feel wholly safe, now, do you, captain?" demanded Powell Seaton. "It rather seems to me that the gale has been getting heavier."

"It has," Halstead admitted. "If we were adrift, now, we probably couldn't keep right-side up for ten minutes. But give the 'Restless' real headway, and she'll weather any gale that a liner or a warship will."

"If the towing hawser should part!" shuddered Mr. Seaton.

"We'd hope to get another line across, and made fast, before we 'turned turtle,'" replied Skipper Tom. 228

No one could venture from below on the bridge deck without being quickly drenched. For that reason the wheel-reliefs were short. Hank, by staying right by his galley fire, was able to keep heat at which anyone coming down from the bridge deck could dry himself.

By daylight the gale and sea were lighter. For one thing, the Havana liner had carried her tow so far north that they were out of the worst of it. Half an hour after daylight the wireless operator aboard the larger craft telegraphed Joe:

"We've taken you in four miles off the town of Mocalee. You can get gasoline there. Do you want to cast off our line now?"

"Yes," flashed back Joe, after consulting Captain Halstead. "And our greatest, heartiest thanks for your fine work for us."

There was further interchange of courtesies, then the line was cast off as soon as Joe and Hank had started the twin motors going on the little that was left of the gasoline. There was no way, or need, to settle the liner's towing charges now. These could be collected later, for the "Restless" was a boat registered by the United States authorities. She could be found and libeled anywhere if her young owners failed to settle.

"Hooray! But doesn't it feel great to be 229 moving under one's own power again!" chortled Captain Tom, as he felt the vibration of the propellers and swung the steering wheel.

Though the coast had been visible from daylight, the town of Mocalee was not in sight until the boat neared the mouth of a river. Up this stream, half a mile, nestled a quaint little Florida town, where, as one of the natives afterwards expressed it to Joe, "we live on fish in summer and sick Yankees in winter."

"We'd better get on shore, all hands, and stretch our legs," proposed Powell Seaton, after Skipper Tom had made the "Restless" fast at the one sizable dock of the town. "I see a hotel over yonder. I invite you all to be my guests at breakfast-on a floor that won't rock!"

"I'll stay aboard, then, to look after the boat," volunteered Hepton. "And you can rely on me to keep a mighty sharp eye on that man, Jasper," he added, in Halstead's ear.

It was after seven o'clock in the morning when the shore party from the "Restless," after strolling about a little, turned toward the hotel.

As they passed through a corridor on the way to the office Tom Halstead glanced at a red leather bag that was being brought downstairs by a negro bell-boy.

"Do you see the bag that servant has?" 230 asked Tom, in a whisper, as he clutched Powell Seaton's arm. "Scar on the side, and all, I'd know that bag anywhere. It's the one Anson Dalton brought over the side when he boarded the 'Restless' from the 'Constant'!"

* * *

CHAPTER XXII

TOM HALSTEAD SPRINGS THE CLIMAX

"Can that fellow be here?" demanded Powell Seaton, his lips twitching.

"He must be-or else he has sent someone else with his baggage," Tom Halstead answered, in an undertone.

None of the party had paused, but had passed on into the office.

"We've got to know," whispered Powell Seaton, tremulously.

"Then you go ahead, sir, and register us for breakfast, and I'll attend to finding out about this new puzzle."

While Mr. Seaton went toward the desk, Tom signed to Hank Butts to follow him aside.

"About all you can do, Hank, is to get outside, not far from the door, and see whether Dalton goes out," Halstead declared, after having briefly explained the situation. "If Dalton leaves the hotel, give us word at once." 231

"Here, you take charge of this bag of mine, then," begged Hank, turning so that the clerk at the desk could not see.

Butts had come ashore in a long rain-coat drawn on over his other clothing. Now, he quickly opened a small satchel that he had also brought with him.

"That old hitching weight of yours!" cried Tom, in a gasping undertone, as he saw Hank slip that heavy iron object from the bag to a hiding place under his coat. "How on

earth do you happen to have that thing with you?"

"It must have been a private tip from the skies," grinned Hank, "but I saw the thing lying in the motor room and I picked it up and slipped it into this satchel. Take the bag from me and I'll get out on the porch."

All this took place so quietly that the clerk at the desk noticed nothing. Halstead now carried the empty bag as he sauntered back to the party. But he found chance to whisper to Joe:

"Anson Dalton must be in this hotel. Hank is slipping out to watch the front of the house. Hadn't you better get around to the rear? If it happens that the fellow is about to leave here, it might be worth our while to know where he goes."

Nodding, Joe quietly slipped away. The negro with the red bag had now entered the 232 office. The bag, however, he took over to the coat-room and left it there.

"Breakfast will be ready at any time after eight o'clock, gentlemen," announced the clerk.

Powell Seaton lighted a cigar, remaining standing by the desk. Tom stood close by. The door of the office opened. Anson Dalton, puffing at a cigarette, his gaze resting on the floor, entered. He was some ten feet into the room before he looked up, to encounter the steady gaze of Captain Halstead and the charter-man.

Starting ever so little, paling just a bit, Dalton returned that steady regard for a few seconds, then looked away with affected carelessness.

"Going to leave us to-day, Mr. Dalton?" inquired the clerk.

"I don't know," replied the scoundrel, almost sulkily. Then, lighting a fresh cigarette, he strolled over by one of the windows. Presently, without looking backward at the captain and charter-man of the "Restless," the fellow opened a door and stepped out onto the porch. There he promptly recognized Hank Butts, who stared back at him with interest.

"I wonder if Lemly is with this fellow?" whispered Halstead to his employer.

"I'm going beyond that, and wondering what 233 the whole fact of Dalton's presence here can possibly mean," replied Powell Seaton.

The office door from the corridor opened again. Through the doorway and across the office floor stepped, with half-mincing gait, a young, fair-haired man who, very plainly, had devoted much attention to his attire.

"Where is Mr. Dalton?" demanded this immaculate youth, in a soft, rather effeminate voice that made Halstead regard him with a look of disfavor.

"You'll find him out on the porch, I think, Mr. Dawley," answered the clerk.

"Oh, thank you, I'm sure," replied the soft-voiced one. As though he were walking on eggs young Mr. Dawley turned, going toward the porch door.

"Oh, good morning, Dalton, dear fellow," cried the fair-haired dandy, in the same soft voice, as he came upon Seaton's enemy, who was walking up and down the porch utterly ignoring Hank Butts.

"Good morning, Dawley," replied Dalton, looking more than a little bored by the interruption.

"Now, who and what, in the game, is Dalton's Elizabeth-boy friend?" wondered Hank, eying the latest arrival.

"Have a cigarette, Dawley?" asked Dalton, 234 in a voice almost of irritation, as he held out his case.

"Charming of you, indeed," declared Dawley, helping himself to a cigarette and lighting it.

"Look out the tobacco doesn't make you sick, babe," muttered Hank Butts under his breath.

"Now, my dear Dalton, about the business we were discussing here last evening––" began the soft-voiced one, but the other broke in on him with:

"If you don't mind, Dawley, I want to think a bit now."

"Oh, that will be quite all right, I am sure," agreed the soft-voiced one. "Then I'll just stroll down the street a bit and be back in time to breakfast with you."

Dalton nodded and the fair-haired fashion plate stepped down into the path and strolled away.

"All of which tells us," reflected Hank, "that our friend Dalton has been here at least since yesterday, and that he and the Elizabeth-boy dude are not very well acquainted."

Butts looked up, almost with a start, to find Dalton close at hand, scowling into the boy's face.

"I suppose you're out here to watch me," growled Dalton, glaring.

"If I am, you wouldn't expect me to grow 235 confidential about it, would you?" asked Hank, grinning into the other's face.

"Oh, I don't want any of your impudence," snapped the rascal.

"I wouldn't give you any, or anything else belonging to me," clicked Hank Butts, decisively.

"If you're standing out here to watch me," continued Dalton, "I am willing to tell you that I am not leaving the hotel for the present."

"That, or any other information you are willing to offer me, will be treated in the utmost confidence, I assure you," promised Hank.

"Don't be too frolicsome with me!" warned Dalton, wrathily.

"I?" echoed Hank, looking astonished. "Why, I didn't say anything until you spoke to me."

With a snort Anson Dalton strolled away to a chair, seating himself and blowing out great clouds of smoke.

"He isn't exactly glad to see us here-I can guess that much," thought Hank. "But I wish I could guess how Anson Dalton comes to be here. I didn't see anything of his drab boat in the river."

In the meantime Tom Halstead and Powell Seaton, after dropping into chairs in the office, were talking most earnestly in undertones. 236 From where they sat they could see Dalton's red bag resting on a shelf in the coat-room.

"I'd give the world to know whether the rascal has the stolen papers still in that bag!" cried Seaton, anxiously.

"Would he be likely to leave the bag around the hotel carelessly, if it contained anything so important?" asked Tom.

"He might have been willing to do so before he knew we were about here," replied the charter-man.

"But even when he knows we're here the fellow doesn't seem anxious about the matter."

"Because the clerk is behind the desk, where he can see everything," hinted Mr. Seaton.

"Yet, for all Dalton knows, the clerk might leave the room for a minute and give us our chance."

"I've an idea," muttered Mr. Seaton, rising so quickly that Tom stood up with him. "You keep the best eye possible over the rascal. Don't go in to breakfast unless he goes. Never mind whether I come to breakfast or not."

"All right, sir," nodded Halstead.

As Powell Seaton crossed the porch without even looking in Dalton's direction, the young motor boat captain also stepped outside, going over to Hank. 237

"Watch that fellow, Hank," whispered Tom. "Don't let him get away from you."

"Not if I have to steal his cigarettes," promised Butts, with vim.

Then Skipper Tom vanished, though not for long. He merely went to find Joe Dawson, at the opposite side of the building. The two chums returned together.

"Now," said Tom, in a chuckling whisper, "if Anse Dalton wants to get away from us, he'll have to run in four different directions at the same time."

"But did you see the nice plush boy that's with Dalton?" asked Hank, dryly. Butts, more than any of the others of the party, had taken a great dislike to the soft-voiced one.

Dalton turned, once in a while, to scowl in the direction of the three motor boat boys. That, however, was all the attention he gave them. A little later Dawley returned and seated himself beside his friend.

"Breakfast is ready, gentlemen," called the clerk, opening the door.

Not one of the Motor Boat Club boys stirred until after Dalton rose and stepped inside. Then they followed, close in the rear.

Dalton and his companion stepped into the dining room, installing themselves at a table not far from the door. Tom led the way for 238 his party at the second table beyond. Two waiters appeared, one attending to each of the tables.

Dawley was evidently in bubbling spirits. He insisted on talking much, in his soft voice, to Anson Dalton, who was plainly annoyed. Tom Halstead glanced over at his enemy with an amused smile.

Yet no word passed between the tables. Food and coffee were brought, after some minutes, and at both tables the meal was disposed of slowly, excellent appetites being the rule.

Powell Seaton, in the meantime, had hastened to the telegraph office. From there he wired, "rush," to the chief of police at Beaufort, advising the latter that Anson Dalton was in Mocalee, and asking whether Dalton was wanted by the United States or state authorities on any charges growing out of the seizure of the schooner "Black Betty."

This dispatch sent off, Mr. Seaton, though remaining at the telegraph office, sent a messenger in haste for James Hunter, who represented Mocalee as chief of police and the entire police force.

"Jim Hunter," as he was locally called, a raw-boned, taciturn man, came speedily to the telegraph office. He was in his shirt-sleeves, chewing a straw, but he wore his police badge 239 on his coat, while a short "billy" appeared in a hip pocket. Jim Hunter listened quietly while the operator, at Seaton's request, displayed the original of the telegram that had been sent to Beaufort.

Telegraph companies give quick service on telegrams relating to police business. So it was not long ere the operator's receiving instrument began to click with the local call.

The first dispatch that the operator passed out through the grated window was addressed to Powell Seaton, and signed by the chief at Beaufort. It read:

Thank you for information. Have wired chief of police, Mocalee.

The second telegram, following almost instantly, was addressed to the chief of police of Mocalee. It ran:

Arrest Anson Dalton, wanted by U. S. authorities on charge of smuggling. Powell Seaton will point him out to you. Notify me when arrested. Be careful to get all Dalton baggage. Hold for orders.

"That's all I wanter know," said Hunter, laconically, biting off the end of his straw and spitting it out. "Lead me to your friend Dalton, Mr. Seaton."

"I ought to warn you that he's a desperate 240 fellow," murmured Mr. Seaton, as the pair left the telegraph office together.

"I've seen that kind before," nodded Mr. Hunter, curtly.

"Pardon me, but I notice you carry a club. Dalton will undoubtedly have a revolver, and he's likely to be ugly enough to attempt to use it," explained Mr. Seaton, apprehensively. "May I ask if you have a pistol, too?"

"I always carry all the tools I need," answered Jim Hunter. "I don't gen'rally 'low any man to pull a gun on me, though. Sometimes I'm quicker'n I gen'rally look."

There was an air of quiet, forceful reserve about this Florida policeman that made Powell Seaton feel more confident that the business in hand would not be defeated for lack of preparation. They made their way quickly to the hotel.

Anson Dalton and his soft-voiced companion were still at table, though evidently near the end of their meal.

Hank Butts, at a signal from his captain, had left the table. Hank had donned his rain-coat again, and was now waiting in the corridor leading to the stairs, in case Dalton should pass that way.

A moment later Joe left the table, stepping through the office and out onto the porch.

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