Dick Hamilton's Steam Yacht/Chapter 22
THE WRONG CAPTIVE
While the police and soldiers of Santiago were hurrying about like mad, trying to find some trace of the kidnappers who had acted so boldly, there might have been seen, driving rapidly down a dark and unfrequented street toward the waterfront, a closed carriage. The man on the seat was urging his steeds to faster speed in response to calls from occupants of the coach, which, as the vehicle passed under a dim lamp, could be seen to contain two men and a boy.
"Well, we got away with him all right, Ike," spoke the taller of the two men, as he looked at the youth sitting between them.
"Yes, and he didn't make near as much fuss as I expected. From what happened when we tried it last time, I thought sure he'd put up a stiff fight. And where was his dog, I wonder, Sam?"
"That's right, I didn't see the brute anywhere on shore. But I'm glad of it. Once to feel his teeth is enough. Hurry up there, driver, whatever your name is, or they'll be after us. Old man Larabee will be glad enough to see us, and get started out to sea again, so keep moving."
"Si, senor," answered the driver, and he lashed the horses, though the animals seemed to be doing their best.
"It is sort of curious he didn't make more of a fuss," remarked Ike, glancing at the youth huddled up between him and his confederate.
"Maybe he's waiting until he gets a good chance to spring out," suggested Sam, taking a firmer grip on the kidnapped youth.
"He'd better not try it!" fairly growled Ike. "Look here, my wealthy friend," he went on, snarling the words into the ear of the frightened and shrinking youth, "don't try any of your funny tricks now, or my partner and I will be forced to take extreme measures, as they say in the books. We'll do it, too, no matter if your Uncle Ezra did warn us to be careful, and not harm you. You've given us trouble enough, and we won't stand for any more nonsense; will we, Sam?"
"That's right. But he won't have much more chance. We're almost at the pier, and we'll soon be aboard the yacht. Then——"
"Pardon, senors!" exclaimed the lad in the carriage, and then followed a question in rapid Spanish.
"Here, drop that kind of lingo," growled Ike. "We don't understand anything but plain United States talk."
"Pardon, senors," spoke the youth again, gently, but with an accent of fear in his tones, and this time he used fairly good English. "Pardon, but you are taking me to a yacht; yes?"
"Sure—to your Uncle Ezra," answered Sam.
"I have no Uncle Ezra."
"No Uncle Ezra! Come, that's a good one!" exclaimed Ike. "But I s'pose you're joking. That's why you talked Spanish to us. No Uncle Ezra, eh? Next you'll be telling us your father isn't a millionaire."
"He is not, senors," was the simple answer, and the youth could hardly restrain the sobs in his voice. "I am the son of a poor man, by name—er—Alantrez," and the youth appeared to hesitate. "Why are you taking me away?" he went on. "If it is for ransom, it will be useless, as we are poor—my father and I."
"Poor! Ha! Ha! That's pretty juicy!" chuckled Sam. "I wish I was as poor as you and your father are, kiddo!"
"Same here," added Ike.
"But you have no right to take me away like this," declared the youth, with more spirit. "It is infamous! It is wrong! And when the police hear of it you will suffer."
"We don't care a fig for the police of Cuba!" declared Ike. "We walked away, right under their very noses, with you, and all they did was to rush about, waving their swords and firing their revolvers in the air, like a lot of kids at a Fourth of July celebration. Police! Huh! We don't worry about them!"
"But what do you want with me?" persisted the lad.
"Haven't I told you that your Uncle Ezra Larabee wants to have a talk with you," said Sam. "He's afraid you're wasting your money, and he wants to sort of supervise it. He claims he has that right, being your mother's brother, as long as your father won't do it."
"You are pleased to speak in riddles, senor," remarked the youth with dignity. "I repeat that I have no Uncle Ezra Larabee. That is no Cuban name. Also, my mother, who is among the saints, she had no brother. Likewise I am not rich—I wish I was. I am only Pedro Alantrez, as I have said."
"Now, don't waste any more words talking like that," suggested Sam Newton. "Do you mean to say you're not Dick Hamilton, the millionaire?"
"Certainly not, senor," declared the youth, with dignity. Just then the carriage approached one of the few street lights. The two men peered forward, and looked full in the face of their captive.
"Well, that's pretty good!" announced Sam. "Take a close look at him, Ike. Isn't he Dick Hamilton?"
"He sure is," was the firm response of Ike Murdock. "I've seen him too often lately, and at close quarters, to be mistaken. But here we are on the pier. I hope Guy and Simon are waiting with the boat, and we'll soon be away from this half-civilized country."
The carriage came to a stop, after rumbling over the plank flooring of the pier, and the two men alighted, fairly dragging their captive after them. The lad hung back, and a cry of protest and fear came to his lips. Then, seeming to feel that he was called upon to be brave, he drew himself up proudly, and said:
"You need not drag me, senors. I will go with you, but you will regret your action. You are under a great mistake."
"Stow your talk," commanded Ike, roughly. "If we're making a mistake we're getting paid for it, and you needn't be so high and mighty with us. 'Senors' be hanged! Talk English!"
The lad did not answer, but followed his captors, who had him by an arm on either side. Sam flung the driver of the coach some money, and the vehicle rumbled off in the darkness.
"Now, if Guy and Simon are waiting, we'll be all right," murmured Sam. As they approached the stringpiece he gave a cautious whistle, which was answered from a small boat lying out a little distance from the wharf. The craft was rowed in, and a few seconds later the two men with their prisoner were aboard, while Guy Fletcher and Simon Scardale handled the oars, and sent the boat out toward the yacht Princess.
"Did you get him?" asked Simon, when they were well out from the shore.
"Sure," answered Sam, "though he says he isn't Dick Hamilton."
"You know me, don't you, Dick?" asked Simon, with a sneering laugh.
The captive returned no answer.
As the rowboat approached the yacht, a figure could be seen leaning over the rail—the figure of an old man.
"Did you get him?" he called in a cautious whisper, as the craft came alongside the accommodation ladder.
"Sure thing," answered Ike.
The five were on deck shortly, and Mr. Larabee, approaching the youth who had been kidnapped, said:
"I'm sorry, Nephew Richard, that I had to act this way, but it's for your own good, as you will come to acknowledge in time. It is done to prevent you from making a beggar of yourself. Now, if you will come below, I'll explain my plans to you. My, but I'm glad this chase is over! I had a hard time to get you—me and er—me and these friends of mine. But now I have you, and we'll go back home. Yachting is terribly expensive—terribly!"
With a sigh, the old man led the way to the cabin. The others, including the captive, followed. The latter maintained a grim silence.
In the well-lighted apartment Uncle Ezra turned to behold his nephew. He looked once, and started. Twice, and he threw up his hands in amazement. Then he cried:
"Land o' Goshen! You've got the wrong boy! What does this mean? This isn't my nephew, Richard Hamilton! You've made a terrible mistake! Oh, dear! Oh, dear! Now, I'll be sued for damages!"
"A mistake?" echoed Ike Murdock.
"A mistake?" faltered Sam Newton.
"Mistake?" chorused Guy and Simon.
They all took a good look at the youth whom they had kidnapped. There was no doubt of it. Though he bore a strong resemblance to Dick Hamilton, the lad was unmistakably a Cuban or a Spaniard. He drew himself up proudly and fairly glared at them.
"What did I tell you, senors?" he asked, softly.
"Fooled!" gasped Ike, and, as he spoke, the yacht began to gather headway, for the engineer had orders to get in motion as soon as the party came from offshore.
"We are moving! You are taking me away! where you are. Maybe we did make a mistake," He sprang toward the companionway.
"Easy now," cautioned Sam, roughly. "Stay where you are. "Maybe we did make a mistake," he went on, turning to Mr. Larabee, "but it may be all right, after all. We'll keep this young fellow aboard. I think Ike and I can fix up a scheme that will change matters a bit," and with that he thrust the young Spaniard into a small room off the cabin, and locked the door. Meanwhile the yacht was increasing her speed, and moving out of the harbor.