Dick Hamilton's Steam Yacht/Chapter 21

CHAPTER XXI


THE KIDNAPPERS


Dick and his chums spent the better part of a week making the voyage around to the chief city near the southeastern end of Cuba. The weather was fine, and there were many novel sights to attract their attention. They passed several other vessels, and with some Dick and Paul exchanged wireless greetings. Dick sent several messages home, as did also his chums, and there were some aerograms in reply. Mr. Hamilton communicated with his son, and commended his plan of making a further effort to locate Mrs. Hamilton's relatives.

"But if you don't find them in Santiago, what will you do?" asked Beeby, when the boys and their host had talked over their plans.

"Go off on a little trip, come back, and try the next likely place," answered the young millionaire, grimly. "I'm going to find them."

As the Albatross swung into Santiago Bay, past the lighthouse at the entrance of the harbor, those on board of the trim yacht would have been interested if they had known how closely they were observed from the deck of another vessel, hidden from view around the point. And the name painted on the bows of the hidden craft was Princess, though stress of weather had almost obliterated it.

Narrowly did an old man on the deck of the Princess watch Dick's yacht glide up the harbor. He was a man with a little bunch of white whiskers on his chin, and they moved up and down when he talked.

"Well," he remarked slowly, as he laid aside a glass through which he had been peering, "them fellers in Havana told us true. My nephew did sail for Santiago, and here he is."

"And I said we'd beat him here," remarked a man standing on deck.

"So you did, Sam Newton, so you did," assented Ezra Larabee, "an', because we got here first, I'll pay you the ten dollars extra, as I promised."

"When?" demanded Ike Murdock.

"Jest as soon as——"

"As soon as the kidnappin' is done?" asked Simon Scardale.

"Hush! Don't use that word!" exclaimed Mr. Larabee. "Ain't I told you this ain't a regular kidnappin'; not in the eyes of the law. It's for my nephew's good."

"Well, we'll soon have him, if things go right," muttered Ike. "Now, what's the program, Mr. Larabee? Shall we follow that yacht up the bay or stay back? We've laid here long enough."

"I should say we had," admitted the crabbed old man, with a look of anguish, as his hand felt of a wallet in his coat. "And expenses going on something frightful all the while. Never mind, I'll take it out of my Nephew Richard's money, that's what I'll do. I hoped we could catch him in Havana. Why didn't you?" and the old man looked reproachfully at those whom he had hired to do the risky work.

"Didn't have no chance," murmured Guy Fletcher. "But we'll get him now."

"I hope so, and end this terrible expense I'm under," went on Mr. Larabee. "Better start the ship, Ike. No use burning coal, and standing still."

With ill-concealed contempt for their employer, the two men went to give the necessary orders, and soon the Princess was following Dick's yacht up the harbor. There were so many vessels moving to and fro that there was little danger of detection.

All unconscious of the nearness of his uncle, and the unscrupulous men and youths whom Mr. Larabee had engaged, Dick and his chums went ashore as soon as the Albatross was docked.

"Well, it certainly feels good to be on dry land again," remarked Beeby, as he got his camera ready for some snapshots. "I hope I get some good pictures."

"And I hope I find those people I'm searching for," said Dick. "Say, if you fellows will amuse yourselves a bit, I'll look up this other lawyer," he went on. "I guess it will take him about a week to get started, and the sooner I begin the quicker I'll be through."

"I guess we'll have some cocoanut milk for a change," suggested Paul Drew, when Dick had ridden away in a dilapidated carriage, toward the lawyer's office, and the cadet led the others into a place where a specialty was made of cocoanut milk, drawn directly from the fruit, the top of which the clerk sliced off with a big knife, not unlike a machete in shape.

"Fine!" gurgled Henry Darby, as the delicious beverage trickled down his throat.

"Dandy!" was the opinion of the others.

They strolled about the city, and after an hour of sightseeing, Beeby proposed that they go down to the dock, where Dick had agreed to meet them on his return from the lawyer's office. As the lads approached the pier, Henry, who was in the lead, called out:

"Why, there's Dick now, waiting for us."

The others looked, and saw a lad of exactly Dick's build and height gazing at them. And, what is more, his features bore a strong resemblance to those of the young millionaire. But a glance at his clothes showed that they were not such as were worn by our hero.

"That isn't Dick," said Beeby.

"That's so, but it looked an awful sight like him," agreed the young iron merchant, with a laugh. "I beg your pardon," he added, for the youth had seen the attention paid to him.

"Granted, senor," was the reply, and the boys started, for his voice had tones in it resembling Dick's. A nearer view made his features seem even more like those of the young millionaire, but he was darker in complexion. Still, had he worn better clothes, and had he and Dick stood side by side, more than a casual glance would have been needed to distinguish the difference between them, for Dick was almost as dark as a Spaniard or Cuban.

"Dick's double," as the chums dubbed him, moved away, and, soon afterward, our hero appeared. He was amused at the account of some one who looked like him, and said he hoped the unknowm would not run up any accounts in the name of Hamilton.

"Well, how did you make out with the lawyer?" asked Paul.

"About the same as with Don Ferdinand Hondora. He says it will take two weeks to make inquiries, and when I tried to cut him dowm to one he nearly fainted on my hands. But, come on, let's go aboard, and report to Captain Barton."

Dick and his friends spent that evening wandering about the city. They had engaged some carriages to drive them to various points of interest, but, at the last moment, Dick changed the program, and proposed a visit to the opera house, where a musical comedy was being presented. The boys thoroughly enjoyed the play, and, as they came out with the crowd of pleasure-seekers, they were aware that something unusual was taking place in the street.

There were a number of police officers and soldiers hurrying to and fro, and many commands in excited Spanish were being given, while, in the distance, shots were heard.

"What's it all about? Is there a fire?" asked Henry.

"Maybe it's an extra edition out," suggested Tim Muldoon, hopefully.

"No, somebody walked along in a hurry, and the people can't get over it," declared Beeby.

"What's the matter?" asked Dick of one of the drivers of the carriages he had hired for himself and his chums.

"Kidnapping!" exclaimed the man, who spoke fairly good English.

"Kidnapping!" repeated Dick. "Who was taken?"

"i don't know. Some young fellow, I heard the police say. It seems that some men off a yacht came ashore, and followed him. He ran, and tried to get away, but they took after him, and, just as he got in front of this theatre, they grabbed him, put him in a carriage and drove off. The police rushed up, but——"

"They were too slow," finished Paul, with a laugh.

"But why did they kidnap him?" persisted Dick.

"I do not know. For ransom, perhaps. It is sometimes done. He was a young fellow, and, maybe wealthy, though his dress did not show it. But will the senors be pleased to ride farther with me?"

"Guess we might as well," assented Dick. "A kidnapping, eh? I'd like to hear more about it, and know who the fellow was."

"It will be in the gazette to-morrow—or the next day," said the driver, calmly.

"Yes—always manana," murmured Dick.

"If it was in New York, there'd be an extra out about it by this time," declared Tim, in disgust. "This is a great country—not!"

And Dick and his chums drove back to the yacht, little dreaming what an effect on all of them the kidnapping was to have, and that very soon.