Dick Hamilton's Steam Yacht/Chapter 18

CHAPTER XVIII


THE PRINCESS PASSES


His excitement increasing at every step, Dick hurried to where Widdy had said the mysterious sounds came from. As the young millionaire and the captain entered the compartment they heard distinct groans, and a weak voice cried:

"Help me out! Help me out!"

"It's him!" cried Dick. "Get a lantern and help him out!"

"Help who out?" demanded Captain Barton.

"Tim Muldoon!" shouted Dick. "He's in there—in the shaft tunnel—hurt, most likely—that's where he's been all this while! Hurry and get him out! Show a light!"

Widdy, whose courage had returned with the presence of Dick and the captain, passed forward a lantern he had. Dick crawled into a dark passage, which was partly occupied by the long propeller shaft of the yacht. A moment later he uttered a cry.

"Tim! Tim! We're going to get you out! We thought you were drowned! Come and help me, captain! Tim's hurt!"

"Oh, I'm so glad you came," spoke the newsboy, faintly. "I—I thought no one would ever come. I—I crawled in here——" and then his voice went off into a weak whisper.

"He's fainted!" cried the young millionaire.

They soon had Tim out of his uncomfortable prison, and in his berth, where he quickly revived under the care of Captain Barton, who was a sort of doctor and surgeon combined, as indeed every seaman of ability is usually.

Tim's eyes slowly opened, and the color came back into his pale cheeks. They had taken off his heavy oilskins, which he wore when found in the after compartment. He looked around on the kind faces of Dick and his chums, who were crowded about the stateroom door.

"I'm still here—am I?" asked Tim, faintly.

"Yes, and we're glad to see you," spoke Dick. "We thought sure you had gone to pay Davy Jones a visit, as Widdy would say. But whatever in the world possessed you to do it, Tim? Were you in there all the while?"

"I guess so," answered the newsboy, while a spasm of pain shot over his face, as a lurch of the ship wrenched him in his berth. "Something's the matter with my ankle," he went on.

"Bad sprain," said Captain Barton, briefly. "That, and the knock you got on the head, made you insensible. You had a bad time of it. There's a lump on your head as big as a coil of rope."

"How did you come to go in there?" inquired Dick.

"Just to see what was there," replied Tim, with a faint smile. "I heard the engineer talking about the shaft tunnel, and the thrust block, and the propeller, and I wanted to see what they looked like. So I crawled in——"

"You couldn't see the propeller from inside the yacht," broke in Paul. "The screw is outside."

"I know that, now," went on Tim. "But I wanted to see what was in there. There wasn't anything else to do, and as the storm kept us all below decks, I thought I'd do a little exploring. I put on my oilskins, to keep my clothes clean, and crawled in the back part of the yacht. I found the shaft, and saw it going around, and then I must have slipped on some oil, or something, and fallen. Anyhow, it all got black, and I didn't know anything for a long time. Then I woke up, and felt a terrible pain in my leg and head. I tried to move, and crawl out, but I couldn't. I called, but no one answered."

"The noise of the storm was too loud," suggested Henry.

"Maybe," assented Tim. "Then I must have fainted again, and, when I got conscious once more, I yelled louder. Then I heard some one running away——"

"That was me," confessed Widdy. "I thought you was a mermaid."

"I wish I had been one," replied Tim, with a rueful smile. "Then I'd have known better than to crawl in where I did. But I kept on calling, though I was getting weaker, and then——"

"Then we came," finished Dick. "Now, don't think any more about it. We'll doctor you and feed you up, and—well, don't go in there again."

"Don't worry—I won't," promised Tim, and then he took some quieting medicine which the captain mixed for him.

They left him to sleep off the effects of his ordeal, and the boys gathered in the main cabin, for a sort of impromptu thanksgiving meeting. The atmosphere of gloom had been dispelled, and they were all happy again, for the thought of one of the members of the yachting party being drowned would have spoiled the whole outing.

Tim was much better the next day, and the storm had blown itself out, so that he could limp up on deck. There the bracing air brought back the color to his cheeks, and he was soon himself again. The swelling in his ankle went down, and he was able to get about nicely on a crutch made by Widdy.

"We've got two cripples aboard now," said the old salt, with a grin. "Between us both, we'll make an able seaman, though."

Meanwhile the yacht was slipping through the water at a good rate of speed, lessening the knots between her and the island of Cuba. The boys found so much that was new and interesting to occupy them, that time passed all too quickly.

"Do you think you'll spend much time in Cuba?" asked Innis Beeby of Dick one afternoon, as they sat on deck.

"Well, I want to make a good attempt to find mother's relatives, and it may not be an easy task. Why do you ask?"

"Well, I've got a new camera, and I want to get some good views—that's all."

"Oh, I fancy you'll have all the chance you want. But if you've got a camera, why didn't you say so before? You can take some pictures here on board. I meant to bring one, but I forgot it. Bring out yours and snap some of us."

Which the fat cadet did, posing Dick and his chums in all sorts of attitudes, more or less nautical. The crew, too, came in for their share of pictures, and they were snapped collectively and individually, doing all sorts of things, from clambering up the shrouds to swabbing down the decks. Then Captain Barton had to pose as he was taking a noon observation, while Dick was taken in so many different styles that finally he rebelled, when he was requested by Beeby to don a ragged suit, and stand in the bows, with his hand shading his eyes, to represent a shipwrecked mariner looking anxiously for a sail.

But it was jolly fun, making snapshots, and even Grit and Gritty had to pose, while Hans, the cook was so delighted with the result of his snapshot, that he would have stood on his head for Beeby. For the cadet developed and finished the pictures on board, improvising a dark room from a closet.

Down the coast went the yacht, past St. Augustine, Jupiter Inlet and other places on the Florida coast, and it seemed as if the cruise would be run off without serious incident, for they were nearing Cuba. But, one day, when in sight of the Bemini Keys, a group of little islands about sixty miles off Miami, Jim Carter, the chief engineer, hurried on deck to report to Dick and Captain Barton a break in the machinery.

"Is it serious?" asked the young millionaire, fearing for his fine yacht.

"No, only it will mean a delay of a day or so. My men can repair it."

"And will we have to lie-to all that while?" Dick wanted to know.

"We can use the sails, though we'll not make much speed," put in the commander.

"Oh, well, time is no object," remarked Dick, with an air of relief, and then, to the no small delight of the boys, the steamer became a sailing yacht, and they learned many new points in seamanship.

But, as the captain had said, they did not make very good time, for the sail area was small for a boat the size of the Albatross, and at times they barely had steerageway, for the winds were light and baffling.

It was on the second day of the machinery being out of commission (for the engineers had not been able to repair it as speedily as they had hoped to) that, as Dick and his chums were reclining in deck chairs, the lookout exclaimed:

"Sail ho!"

"Where away?" demanded Dick, with a seaman's instinct.

"Astern, sir, and she's overhauling us fast. She's a small steamer."

They all looked to where a volume of black smoke indicated the presence of another vessel. The smoke became more pronounced, and, in a little while, the hull of a steamer was visible. The boys watched her through glasses. She seemed to be sailing the same course as was the Albatross, and was likely to pass close by. But, as she neared the sailing yacht, the steamer suddenly changed her course, and sheered off. She was, however, close enough to enable the boys to read her name without the aid of the glass.

Princess!" exclaimed Paul Drew. "Why, Dick, isn't that the vessel on which they attacked you?"

Dick did not answer for a minute. He had snatched up the binoculars and was pointing them at the passing vessel.

"It might be the same one," he murmured, "yet the name is common enough. I guess——" He stopped suddenly. The glasses came down from his eyes, and he stared at the Princess. Then he cried out:

"By Jinks, fellows! It doesn't seem possible!" "What's the matter?" asked Beeby. "See your best girl aboard her, Dicky, my lad?"

"No," answered the young millionaire, "but if I didn't know that he was afraid of the water, I'd say that my Uncle Ezra was aboard that vessel," and once more Dick took a long observation through the glasses.

"Your Uncle Ezra?" repeated Paul.

"Yes," went on Dick. "See that man standing near the rail? The man with the little bunch of white whiskers on his chin?"

"I see him," assented Paul, who had taken the binoculars from his chum.

"Well, he's the very image of my respected relative, only, of course, it can't be him."

At that moment the man at the rail seemed aware that he was under observation. He quickly disappeared from view, and the Princess passed on.

"I wonder if that could have been Uncle Ezra?" murmured Dick. "But, of course, it couldn't be. What would he be doing away off here?"

If Dick had only known!