Dick Hamilton's Steam Yacht/Chapter 16

CHAPTER XVI


UNCLE EZRA AS A SAILOR


Two days after the Albatross left Savannah harbor, another small steam vessel made her way in. Had any one been interested in her identity he could have made out the name Princess on bow and stern, but to the casual observer this meant little or nothing, save that the craft was not a very spruce-looking member of the royal family.

There was an air of neglect about her. The paint was scraped off in many places, and was dingy in others. When she rolled a bit on the swells a glimpse could be had of many barnacles clinging to her copper plates. In fact, she was rather a forlorn Princess who came to anchor on the edge of the channel.

"Now, you boys get into a boat, go ashore and see if he's been here," said an old man, whose chin was adorned with a small bunch of white whiskers, that moved up and down when he talked. "Just make some inquiries, and find out if the yacht Albatross has been here, and when she left. And, mind you, don't you go to spending money, 'cause I won't give you any more."

"Maybe Sam or I had better go along/' suggested the shorter of two men, who stood leaning over the yacht's side. "We can make better inquiries than either Guy or Simon, Mr. Larabee."

"That may be, Sam Newton," admitted Dick's Uncle Ezra, whom, I suppose, the reader has already identified as the old man in question. "That may be, but I want you and Ike Murdock to stay on board, and have a talk with me. We've got to plan to catch my nephew, and he's ahead of us in a fast yacht."

"Then why did you want to stop here?" asked the man addressed as Ike Murdock.

"I wanted to make sure he'd been here. You never can tell what that boy will do. Since his father so foolishly let him have all the money he wants, he goes all about, looking for ways to spend it."

"And you're going to stop him," suggested Sam Newton.

"That's my intention. He'd have been stopped by this time if you men had managed to get hold of him, as I told you to, and paid you for. You bungled the whole business, and made me have to hire this steamship to take after him. Why didn't you get him into my hands secretly, as I thought you would?"

"Because he was too smart for us," admitted Ike, bitterly. "We had him fairly on board this yacht, and only for that old sailor, who happened to recognize one of our crew, your nephew would be where you want him, by this time."

"And that would be in a place where he can*t squander his fortune," went on Uncle Ezra, savagely. "If his father won't teach him habits of thrift and industry, and how to save his money, I will, for he is my only sister's child. I may be running a big risk in doing it this way, but it's worth it."

"It certainly is a risk—for you and for us—if we're caught," murmured Sam. "But I don't care, as long as I get well paid."

"Me either," added Ike.

"Well, are you and Guy ready to go ashore?" asked the old man, addressing Simon Scardale. "All I want to find out is if my nephew's yacht has been in this port, and when she left. I heard Dick say to his father that he was to stop here to take aboard some friend of his. Oh, the way my nephew wastes his money! He doesn't care how big a party he has aboard to feed. It's a shameful waste!"

"Yes, we're ready to go," said Simon. "But can't we signal for a motorboat to take us off, and ^ bring us back? It's quite a way to row ashore."

"No, you can't signal for no motorboat," snapped Mr. Larabee. "Motorboats cost money, and I've spent nearly a thousand dollars on this business already, and I suppose I'll have to spend more. You boys can row. It'll be good exercise for you. Boys should exercise."

"Then, can't you advance us a little more money?" asked Simon. "I need a new necktie."

"You don't need one aboard this ship, and when we get through, and I pay you the rest of your wages, after you've helped me to capture my nephew, you can buy as many neckties as you want. Now, hurry off, for I don't want to stay here any longer than I have to. It costs money every day I have this steamer."

Grumbling at the stinginess of their employer, Guy and Simon, with the help of one of the few sailors on the Princess, lowered a small boat, and pulled laboriously ashore. Meanwhile, Mr. Larabee went below with the two men, whom, had Dick seen, he would have at once recognized as those who acted so strangely toward him in New York.

"If we can't intercept him any sooner, we'll have to go all the way to Cuba, I guess," admitted Mr. Larabee, after a long talk with the two unscrupulous men he had hired. "But it's going to cost me a power of money."

"What of it? You'll get it all back, won't you?" asked Ike.

"Indeed, I will, and with interest, too. But I hate to put out so much at once. This is more than I've spent in a whole year at Dankville, and we've only been on this trip a few days. Oh, why didn't you hold on to him, when you had him that night in the rainstorm at Hamilton Corners?"

"We had a very good reason," said Sam. "His dog had too good a hold on us. I can feel his teeth yet, and my leg is still sore. If I'd got hydrophobia I'd had to sue you for damages, Mr. Larabee," and Sam winked at Ike.

"No, you wouldn't!" exclaimed the crabbed old man. "You signed a paper to do this work at your own risk, and I'll hold you to it. You can't sue me, no matter what happens."

"Oh, well, let's not quarrel," suggested Ike. Now, when the boys come back we'll know what to do. While we're waiting, I guess I'll eat."

"Seems to me you're always eating," grumbled Uncle Ezra.

"The salt air gives me a good appetite," said Ike.

"Me, too," added his crony.

"It takes a powerful lot of money to run a steamship," complained the old man. "If I'd a known how terrible much it took I don't believe I'd ever gone into this thing, though I do want to prevent my nephew from wasting his fortune, and this was the only way I saw, for it was useless to appeal to him or his father."

"Still, kidnapping is a dangerous business," suggested Ike.

"Don't say that word!" cried Mr. Larabee, quickly, looking around apprehensively. "Ain't I told you this isn't a regular kidnapping? I'm only doing it for his good. It ain't kidnapping in the real sense of the word."

"Have your own way about it," conceded the ill-favored man. "I'm going to eat."

Guy and Simon came back in about two hours, to report that Dick's yacht had been in Savannah, and had left.

"Then we must get right after him!" cried Uncle Ezra. "I only hope we can overtake him before he gets to Cuba. It will be terribly expensive to go there. Now, get up steam, or make anchor, or whatever the proper term is, and sail fast. He may give us the slip."

There was soon activity aboard the Princess, and a little later the dingy vessel, with her dingy crew, and the oddly-mated occupants of the cabin, were sailing over the course taken by the young millionaire and his chums. Ezra Larabee had undertaken a desperate and peculiar plan to "save" his nephew.

It was not long before the pursuing yacht ran into the same storm felt by those aboard the Albatross, and, being a smaller and less staunch craft, the one hired by the old man pitched and tossed rather dangerously.

Mr. Larabee had taken to his berth as soon as the ship left the harbor, for he was but an indifferent sailor, and the least motion made him ill.

When the storm came his malady increased, and he thought surely his last hour had come.

"Oh, why did I ever try this plan?" he wailed.

"Why did I come to sea? I might have known better. I wish I was back at Dankville. thy didn't want me to come, and I wish Fd heeded her words of warning. Oh, I'm sure I'm going to die. Get a doctor, can't you?"

"There's no doctor aboard," said Ike. "But you'll be all right as soon as it stops blowing. I'll have the cook make some strong coffee for you."

"Maybe that will make me feel better," gasped Mr. Larabee. "Oh, why didn't you get my nephew hid away when you had him in Hamilton Corners that night?" and he turned his face to the wall and groaned.

"Haven't I told you it was because his dog attacked us?" asked Ike, indignantly. "We couldn't fight that dog."

"Why didn't you shoot it? I hate the brute!"

"So do I," murmured Sam, rubbing his leg reflectively. "I'll shoot it the next time I get a chance."

"Do, and I'll give you a dollar extra," spoke Uncle Ezra. "Oh, how miserable I am! Is that coffee never coming?"

"Be here directly," said Ike, grinning cheerfully at his crony, for they were used to rough weather.

And the Princess staggered on through the storm, trying to catch up to the Albatross, while in his berth, a most forlorn figure, Mr. Larabee tossed and moaned in anguish.