Dick Hamilton's Steam Yacht/Chapter 24

CHAPTER XXIV


OFF FOR STONE ISLAND


Dick's chums, when they returned to the yacht, after waiting in vain for him at the plaza, where the band played, and where he had promised to meet them, were surprised to see him in earnest conversation with a Spanish gentleman on the deck of the Albatross.

"Well, we've been looking everywhere for you, Dick," said Paul Drew. "We were beginning to be afraid you had been kidnapped."

"The saints forbid!" cried the Cuban, fervently and earnestly.

"Come here and meet a friend of mine," invited Dick, and, when the lads crowded up, he presented them to Senor Alantrez—that is, all save Beeby, who, having accompanied Dick to the police station, was already acquainted with the father of the kidnapped lad.

"We are going to sea once more, fellows," announced the young millionaire. "We're going to chase after those kidnappers."

"But what about the search you came here to make?" suggested Paul Drew, in low tones. "Aren't you going to look for your mother's relatives?"

"Yes, but I've got the lawyer doing that. He can accomplish all that I can, and more too, only not so quickly. It will be two weeks before he has any definite news for me, and, in the meanwhile, I don't want to stay tied up to a dock. I want to be doing something."

"That's Dick Hamilton, all the way through," murmured Henry Darby.

"So I proposed to Senor Alantrez that we give chase to these villains, and we're going to," went on the young millionaire. "We'll start as soon as we have taken some coal aboard and some more provisions, and that can't be until to-morrow morning, I'm sorry to say. But we are a faster boat than is the Princess, and we may be able to overtake her, even if she has a start of us."

"Where will you look for her?" asked Frank Bender.

"Oh, along the route to New York. I think they'll head for there, or, maybe they'll come back, when they find out their mistake."

"The saints grant that they may," murmured the father. "Oh, if I can see my boy again, unharmed, I will be happy forever!"

"We'll get him," promised Dick, firmly. "We'll get him, or twist off the propeller!"

Dick hurried all he could the coaling of the yacht, but even his utmost efforts were of little avail. The laborers were not in the habit of exerting themselves, and they took the usual time. Captain Barton did manage to get the stores and provisions aboard sooner than he expected, but taking on coal was a slow and unpleasant task.

At length, however, it was finished, and Dick, having left word with the Santiago lawyer that he might be gone on the search for several days, prepared to sail. Captain Barton had taken counsel with some local pilots as to the best plan for their cruise, and had secured considerable information about a number of islands, and dangerous reefs in the neighborhood of the coast off Santiago.

Senor Alantrez readily obtained leave from the government office, where he was employed, to be away for as long as was necessary, and, on the second morning after the kidnapping, Dick, with his friends, and the father of the missing lad, stood on deck, and gave the order to cast off.

"And when we come back, I hope we'll have your son, and also those scoundrels who took him away," said our hero to the grief-stricken father.

As the yacht was slowly moving away from the dock, a boy was seen running down the pier, waving something over his head. It looked like a letter, and he was shouting at the top of his voice.

"There's some one for you, Mr. Dick," said Widdy, who was smoking his pipe near the after companionway.

"Wait, we must see what that is," called the youthful yacht owner. "Perhaps it's a note from the police about the kidnappers."

Captain Barton swung the indicator over to half-speed astern, and the craft's way was checked. The boy with the letter came on faster.

"Wonderful!" cried Beeby, as he saw the speed the lad was making. "I must get a snapshot of him. I have really lived to see some one in Cuba in a hurry! I must make a picture of it, or no one will believe me when I tell them."

He focused his camera on the lad, who, seeing the glistening glass point at him, ducked, and would have run back.

"Stop it!" commanded Dick, with a laugh. "Wait until he delivers that letter, Beeby, and then you can snap him going back. He's afraid to come on."

The cadet put his camera out of sight, and the boy advanced again.

"Is Senor Alantrez on board?" he asked in Spanish.

"Yes, yes, I am here! What is it? Is my boy found? Is it news from the scoundrels who carried him away?" and the father was trembling in his eagerness.

"It came to the office for you," explained the boy, "and they hurried me down here with it. It arrived through the mail, senor."

With a skilful flip of his fingers he sent the enyelope scaling on deck, like a miniature aeroplane. Dick tossed the lad some coins, and, picking them up, he ran back up the pier as if some one was after him.

"Quick, Beeby!" called Paul, "if you want a snapshot, now's your chance."

"Now he's in too much of a hurry," objected the cadet, as he snapped his camera at the fleeing lad. "Wonderful to relate, he's entirely too quick for me."

Senor Alantrez was reading his letter. As he finished it he uttered a cry, and extended the missive to Dick.

"It is news of my boy!" he exclaimed joyously. "The scoundrels have given him up. Oh, the saints be praised! Now, we can get him—if only he is unharmed. See—read, Senor Hamilton!"

The note was brief, and was written in English, which Senor Alantrez was familiar with. Dick perused it:

"Senor Alantrez," the letter began. "We regret having been the cause of annoying you, but it was not altogether our fault. We made a mistake. We did not mean to kidnap your son. We wish to restore him to you unharmed, but we do not care, for obvious reasons, to venture back to Santiago. Therefore, we have taken this plan: We will leave your son on a small island, called Stone Island, where you can call for him at your leisure. He will be provided with sufficient food and water to last two weeks, and, in addition, there is food to be had on the place. He will not suffer, as the weather is warm, and there are natural shelters on Stone Island. Regretting the trouble we have caused you, at the same time assuring you that it was unintentional, we beg to remain unknown to you, except as

"The Kidnappers."

"Well, what do you think of that?" cried Beeby, when Dick had read the letter aloud.

"Talk about nerve!" exclaimed Paul.

"What'll you do?" asked Tim Muldoon.

"Do, why the best thing is to go to Stone Island," decided Dick, promptly. "This letter may be a fake, but it sounds genuine. Anyhow, it won't be much out of our way to call there; will it, Captain Barton?"

"No," announced the commander, after consulting his charts, and some memoranda given him by a Santiago pilot. "Stone Island is a small one, rather isolated, to be sure, and not near any others. It is about a hundred miles south of the Laberinto de doce Leguas group of keys, which are themselves only a few miles from Key Grande and Key Caballones, two rather large islands. I think we can pick up Stone Island, all right."

"Then we'll do it!" cried Dick. "This letter came in the nick of time. We'll rescue your son, Senor Alantrez, and do it as soon as steam can take us there. I hope we find him all right, though he may be a bit lonesome from his Robinson Crusoe existence."

"Oh, my poor boy! But he is brave! Once he is out of the hands of those scoundrels, all will be well!"

"It's the only move they could make," said Dick, reflectively, "for they knew they would be arrested if they set foot on Cuban soil. Now, to the rescue! Let her go, Captain Barton!" and once more the yacht gathered headway, and was soon on her way to Stone Island.