Dick Hamilton's Steam Yacht/Chapter 25

CHAPTER XXV


DICK'S YACHT IS GONE


As may well be imagined, there was, at the start of this voyage, more excitement aboard the Albatross than at any time since the eventful cruise had been begun, save, perhaps, during the time when it was thought that Tim Muldoon was drowned. Dick was eager to make speed to the island where the kidnapped youth was said to be, and, after that, he had it in mind to chase after the kidnappers, if he could get a clew to their whereabouts. This, however, he feared would be difficult.

As for Captain Barton, and the others, they, too, were all as anxious as was the owner of the yacht to effect the rescue, and, as the craft sailed over the heaving ocean, the boys talked of little else as the hours passed, save what would happen when they found the marooned youth.

Senor Alantrez took up his position near the bows, peering eagerly forward, as if to get the first glimpse of the lonely island where his son was supposed to be. The yacht, though it was making good time, seemed to him barely to be crawling through the water.

But, after the first day of travel, matters settled down more into the usual routine, though the subdued air of excitement and expectancy was never absent.

"Well," remarked Innis Beeby one morning, as he got up from the breakfast table, "I think I'll, take a few snapshots."

"For the love of a celluloid film, Beeby!" exclaimed Dick, "is there anything on board that you haven't snapshotted? If there is, name it, and I'll make you a present of it as a souvenir."

"Well, I haven't been able to get a picture of Grit and Gritty together," answered the stout cadet. "They won't stand still long enough. Every time I think I have them posed, the pup makes a nip at Grit's ear, or tail, and then they mix it up in a make-believe fight, and it's all off."

"Why don't you take 'em as they're playing," suggested Paul. "Make a sort of moving picture."

"By Jove! I never thought of that," said Beeby. "I'll do it," and he hurried off to get his camera.

Dick was busy for the next few minutes, talking to Captain Barton, but his attention was suddenly taken by a series of howls and yells, mingled with barks and growls, coming from the main deck.

"By Jinks!" Dick exclaimed, as he ran up the companionway, "I guess Grit is after Hans again."

He was just in time to see his bulldog shaking something in his strong jaws, while Beeby, who had arisen from a sprawling position on the deck, was crying out:

"Here, Grit, old fellow, give it to me! That's a good dog! Don't smash it, now! Come on, old fellow. I didn't mean you any harm; honest, I didn't!"

Grit only growled the harder, and shook more vigorously the object he held.

"What's he got?" asked Dick.

"My camera," replied the fleshy lad. "I was taking a snapshot of him, sitting alone—the first chance I had at him—but when he heard the shutter click, I guess he must have imagined I was trying to poison him. He made a jump for me, and——"

"Did he bite you?" asked the young millionaire, anxiously.

"No, he only grabbed the camera away from me, and now he's trying to make splinters of it. Drop it, Grit, I say!"

But the bulldog, growling and snarling, never heeded.

"Here, Grit!" called Dick in a low voice. "Bring it here!" The dog obeyed instantly, and the camera, rather the worse for wear, as Paul said, was laid on the deck.

"Here it is—guess it isn't hurt much," observed Dick. "If it is, I'll get you a new one, Beeby, and you can sell that to Henry Darby, for old scrap iron and leather."

"Humph! It looks pretty well chewed," spoke Beeby, "but I guess it's all right. I hope he didn't shake it so hard that he fogged the film."

"Maybe he took some views on his own account," suggested Frank Bender.

"I'm going to develop the roll and find out," declared the fat youth, and he came back presently from the improvised dark room, to report that the only good picture on the strip of film was the one of Grit. It had been taken just before the dog sprang, and was a characteristic likeness.

Several days passed, with good weather to make the cruise more enjoyable. Senor Alantrez maintained his watch for the first glimpse of Stone Island, the others taking observations now and again through the powerful glasses.

It was toward the close of a warm, lazy afternoon, when Dick and his chums were sitting on deck, under an awning, sipping iced lemonade and eating some thin crackers which the steward served to them, that from the lookout in the crow's nest, at the forward mast, there came a cry:

"Land ho!"

"Where away?" demanded Captain Barton.

"Dead ahead!"

"Then, that must be what we are looking for," went on the commander. "I thought it was about time we picked it up."

Dick sent for the glasses, and, taking an observation through them, reported that he could see a low-lying island, which bore a resemblance to the description given them of the lonely land whither they were bound.

"And oh, if only my son proves to be there!" exclaimed the anxious father.

"Let's make a little more speed," suggested Dick, "and we can anchor, plenty of time before night."

The engine room telegraph gave the necessary order, and the yacht slipped through the water more quickly. The island loomed up larger, and, though Dick and his chums could see it plainly now, through the binoculars, there was no sign of life about it.

"Maybe it's only a blind trail they sent us on, after all," suggested Paul.

"I'll not believe that, until we've landed and made a search," cried Dick.

In another hour the Albatross had dropped anchor in a quiet little bay, where there was good holding ground, and sufficient depth of water. They could get a partial view of the island now. It was possibly five miles long, and about half as broad, with a very much broken and indented shore-line, as far as could be seen. There appeared to be a heavy growth of vegetation on the place, which was partly of coral formation, but from the bay, where the yacht was anchored, no very good view could be obtained. The centre of the land was high and rocky, showing evidences of volcanic formation.

"Well, we're here!" cried Dick, as the Albatross swung around with the current. "Now to go ashore and find your son, Senor Alantrez!"

"And may that be speedily!" exclaimed the father. "I can not thank you enough, Senor Hamilton, for bringing me here; I am ever your debtor!"

"Nonsense!" cried Dick, who did not relish praise. "Any one would have done as much as I have. Get the launch ready, Mr. Midwell, if you please, and we'll go ashore."

"Who are going?" asked Paul.

"Well, I thought we fellows would all go," said Dick, "and Senor Alantrez, of course. Then I'll take Widdy to help with the boat, and that will be enough. Unless you want to come, Captain Barton."

"It's not necessary, unless you think you'll need help. I don't like the looks of the weather, and I should prefer to stay by the ship, when I'm on an unknown island coast."

"Oh, I don't fear anything from those kidnappers," said Dick. "They've probably gone long ago, leaving the young man here alone. We'll very likely find him on the other side of the island. Perhaps it will be as well for you to stay on board, however, captain. Come on, fellows."

"Yes, don't lose any time," advised the commander. "I'd like to get plenty of sea room, if it comes on to blow, as seems likely now."

The gasolene launch was quickly awaiting the young millionaire, and his guests, at the foot of the accommodation ladder, and soon, with Widdy at the steering wheel, Dick and the other five young men were on their way ashore. They found an easy, sandy beach on which to land, and, taking Ithe kedge anchor of the launch well up on shore, to prevent the tide from floating off the craft, they all started inland to look for the kidnapped youth. Grit and the puppy raced on ahead, gamboling over the sands, and glad enough to be on shore again.

"Which way shall we go?" asked Dick.

"To the right," decided Paul.

"Looks like a better place off to the left," came from Beeby.

"If I might advise," remarked Widdy, "I'd make for the high ground. Then you can get a view over the island, an' see if there is a signal shown anywhere, or some sort of a place where he might live."

"Good idea!" cried Dick; "we'll do it! Come on, fellows! Come on, Senor Alantrez!"

Forward they went, climbing the rough, high land in the centre of the island. It was no easy task to mount to the summit, and, when they were near it, Dick, who was in the lead, called:

"Quiet, everybody! I hear some one coming!"

There was a sound of crackling underbrush, and of tree branches pushed to one side.

"Maybe it's an animal," suggested Paul. "I brought one of your rifles, Dick."

"Good! Have it in readiness, though it walks more like a person than an animal."

The sounds suddenly ceased.

"Maybe it's some of the kidnappers," came from Beeby. "If I get a chance I'll snapshot 'em, and we can use the pictures for evidence. I——"

Beeby didn't have a chance to finish. A moment later there was a sudden cry of joy, and a figure burst through the fringe of underbrush. Right toward Senor Alantrez it sprang, and Paul, who had half-raised the rifle, lowered it, for he saw that the figure was that of a youth.

"Padre! Padre!" shouted the lad, and then in rapid Spanish he greeted his father.

"My son! My son!" cried Senor Alantrez, in delight. "I have really found you! The dear saints be praised! Heaven has been good to me!" and father and son were clasped in each other's arms, while Dick and his chums felt the moisture come into their eyes, and they found something exceedingly interesting to look at in the other direction. The two Cubans embraced warmly, held each other off at arms' length, as if to make sure there was no mistake, and then clasped each other close again, all the while murmuring endearing terms in their own tongue.

"But I forget myself!" exclaimed the elder Cuban at length. "Pedro, here is our benefactor—yours and mine—but for him, you would never have been found. Kiss his hand!"

"No, you don't!" cried Dick, who was not used to such things. "I don't want to be thanked. I've been thanked enough. If I hadn't come here for you some one else would. But I'm glad you're all right, Pedro Alantrez. Did those scoundrels treat you badly?"

"No, it was all a curious mistake, and, as soon as they discovered it, they set me ashore here, and said my father would be told where to come for me. I have been waiting two days. I have not suffered, save from loneliness. I erected a signal on the other side of the island, and I was crossing to put one up over here, when, as I was walking along, I heard voices. I grew afraid. I hid, but when I peered out, and saw you, I knew it was all right. Oh, padre, how happy I am!"

"Well, we're glad, too," spoke Dick, "but as it's growing late, and as Captain Barton says a storm is coming up, suppose we return to the yacht. I fancy you have had enough of this place, Pedro?"

"Too much, Senor Hamilton. I shall be glad to leave it."

They turned to make their way down the slope. It was getting late, though there was still plenty of light. They had been out of sight of the yacht and launch for some time, as the bay where they had landed was on a curve, and trees hid it from view.

As they came down to the beach, where they should have had a glimpse of the launch, Dick rubbed his eyes, took a second look, and cried out:

"Fellows, we're not sailors. The launch has been carried away by the tide!"

"Carried away by the tide?" repeated Widdy, wonderingly, as he stumped forward. "It couldn't be! She was well fastened, and the kedge anchor was out of reach of high water."

"But she's gone!" declared Dick.

"Maybe we're at the wrong place," suggested Paul.

"This is where we landed," insisted Henry.

"It sure is," agreed Beeby. "I remember it, for I took a picture of the launch as it was drawn up on the beach, and I stood near this big shell," and lie pointed to one of peculiar formation.

"Then Captain Barton must have come ashore and got the boat," said Frank Bender.

Dick glanced across the bay. There was a wide expanse of water, but nothing was visible on it. A cry of fear and wonder came to his lips.

"Fellows!" he exclaimed, "my yacht is also gone!"

"Gone?" echoed the others. Silently Dick pointed to the place where the Albatross had been anchored. There was no mistaking it, for the craft had been just opposite where the launch landed. But the yacht was not there, and a rapid survey of the shore in both directions did not disclose either her or the launch.

"Fellows, we're marooned on this island!" spoke Dick, solemnly.