Dick Hamilton's Steam Yacht/Chapter 26



For a few moments after Dick had spoken his companions hardly realized the import of what he said. It came rather as a shock to them, following the disappearance of the launch and yacht.

Senor Alantrez and his son looked at each other, not quite understanding, for, though they spoke English fairly well, the talk of the young millionaire and his chums had been so rapid and excited that the two foreigners had not gathered the full meaning of what was said.

"Is it that the steamer has gone, but will return presently?" asked the elder Cuban of Dick.

"It's gone—that's sure," was the reply, "but whether it will come back or not——" the lad shrugged his shoulders, a Spanish trick he had acquired lately.

"What does it all mean?" asked Beeby. "Is the yacht really gone, Dick?"

"Do you see it anywhere?" inquired the young millionaire in his turn, and he swept his hand toward the ocean. "If you do, you have better eyes than I. And the launch seems to have disappeared also."

"But I can't understand it," put in Paul.

"I guess it's as Frank said," remarked HenryDarby. "The captain saw a storm coming up, and came to get the launch. Then he put out to sea."

"He wouldn't do it, and leave us marooned on this island, with nothing to eat," declared Dick, positively. "No, fellows, there's something queer and mysterious about this. Either the yacht and launch suddenly sank, which is out of the question, or they were taken away. Pedro Alantrez," he went on, turning quickly to the young Cuban, "did those kidnappers, who landed you here, go away?"

"As far as I know, they did, Senor Hamilton," was the answer. "They anchored about where you say your yacht was, and brought me ashore in a small boat, with some food. Then they rowed back, got up steam, and sailed away, leaving me all alone."

"Did you think those men might have stolen your yacht, Dick?" asked Beeby.

"I was beginning to think so—in fact, I was sure of it, but if they went away I don't see how they could. They would hardly stay around, after sending word to Senor Alantrez that his son was here, knowing, as they must have, that he would come to get him. It wouldn't be safe for them. No, they probably have gone, but there may be Cuban pirates, or some other criminals, on this island, who sneaked around when we were inland, and took the launch and yacht."

"But they'd have to overpower Captain Barton and the crew to do such a thing," objected Frank Bender.

"Well, that's possible," argued Dick, "especially if they sneaked up on the Albatross in the launch. Captain Barton and the others, seeing the yacht's launch approach, wouldn't suspect anything until it was too late. I'm afraid something serious may have happened to them. Did you notice any signs of pirates, or other desperate characters, on the island since you have been here?" asked Dick, of the young Cuban.

"No, senor, but then I did not explore this place much. I was too full of grief. I merely erected a signal on the other side of the island, and was coming to do the same here, when I met you."

There was silence for a few minutes, while the grim, dismal fact that they were marooned on a lonely and seldom-visited island, sank deeper into the minds of the young millionaire and his chums. They gazed helplessly across the stretch of ocean, which was fast becoming covered with a haze, added to which the falling darkness made it impossible to make out objects more than a short distance away.

"Well, what's to be done?" asked Beeby at length, and he emitted a sigh. "If we've got to stay here all night, we'd better do something."

"We'll probably have to stay here for several nights and days," declared Dick. "Fellows, we're lip against it. I think the first thing to be done is to go to some high point—the highest on the island—and see if we can get a glimpse of the yacht. It can't have gotten out of sight so quickly."

"Maybe not, but by the time we get to the high point, it'll be so dark we can't see anything," put in Widdy, who had said little since the astonishing discovery was made. "If I might say something, Mr. Dick, I'd say the best thing to do would be to find a shelter for the night, as it's cold an' damp when the sun goes down."

"It's about down now," replied the young millionaire. "But, you're right, Widdy, we do need shelter."

"And something to eat," added Beeby. "What about that, Dick? I'm hungry!"

"Don't think of it," advised Paul.

"I can't help it, when I remember all the good things on board the yacht," went on the fat cadet. "The chicken, the roast beef, the soups, the pies and cakes that Hans used to make—the omelets, and——"

"Cut it out!" yelled Frank. "Do you want us all to die of indigestion?"

"Not much danger," put in Dick, with a grim laugh. "But let's take a vote on what to do. Where shall we spend the night?"

"At a moving picture show, or a comic opera," said Tim Muldoon, with a laugh.

"That's right, jolly us up a bit," cried Dick. "We need it. But it's going to be serious enough later on."

"Pardon, senors," spoke the young Cuban, "but of the food which the kidnappers left me there is still a considerable quantity left, and the few days I was alone here I made a sort of shelter on the other side of the island. If we hasten we can get to it before dark, and spend the night there. It is better than on this side of the island."

"Fine!" cried Dick. "Why didn't you say something about that before, Pedro?"

"I did not like to interrupt the senors," was the lad's gentle answer. "But the food is not very choice, and there is not much of it."

"It'll have to do," declared the wealthy lad.

"Come on, fellows, for a walk over the hill to the other shore. We'll make-believe we're on a practice march, Paul and Beeby."

"Sure," agreed the fat cadet, "only let it be more practice than march, if you please, for my feet are sore."

They started off, retracing their course in the same direction as when they had looked for the kidnapped lad. Dick led the way, with Grit coursing along at his heels, while Widdy carried Gritty, the puppy, whose short legs got tangled up in the underbrush.

They reached the other shore just as dusk fell, and there saw a mass of leaves and branches which the Spanish lad had piled into a rude sort of shelter. He showed them where he had stored the canned stuff which his captors had left for him.

"Why, that isn't so bad," announced Dick, as he saw the food supply.

"Is there any fresh water?" asked Tim Muldoon. "I'm as dry as a fish!"

"There is a good spring near here," announced Pedro.

"Then we'll build a fire and camp out!" declared Paul. "Being marooned isn't so bad, after all; eh Dick?"

"Maybe not," agreed the young millionaire, as he helped the others gather fuel for the fire.

Soon a cheerful blaze was roaring on the beach, fed by pieces of driftwood which Widdy brought from various points. The leaping flames illuminated the place, and cast dancing, fantastic shadows of the little party upon the sands.

"Frank, you get some water," ordered Dick, "and then see what you can find to boil it in. Pedro says they left him some cofifee."

"Yes, and a few cooking utensils," added the Cuban. "I think there is also a coffee pot."

"Good!" cried Dick. "Beeby, drop your camera and get busy. What do you think I'm paying you for—to pose as a living picture?"

"I was going to take a snapshot of the fire," pleaded the fat lad.

"Make a snapshot of yourself bringing up more wood," ordered Dick, with a laugh. "We'll need it before morning. Tim, you and Paul and Henry get busy on enlarging the shelter. There is quite an addition to your family, Pedro, since last night."

"Yes, but there will be room for all," said the elder Cuban, cheerfully. Nothing mattered to him, now that his son was found.

And so the marooned party, gathered about the fire, took a happier view of their situation as they bustled about, trying to get something to eat, while Widdy piled the wood on the blaze, and the two dogs played about in the sand, as if the whole affair was arranged for their especial benefit.