Dick Hamilton's Steam Yacht/Chapter 27

CHAPTER XXVII


DICK FINDS HIS RELATIVES


It can not be said that the supper was a very elaborate one. They ate canned corned beef and crackers, and drank coffee from clam shells and empty tin cans, but Dick said it tasted as good, if not better, than the most complete meal Hans, the cook, had ever served to them on the yacht.

"It sure does," agreed Beeby, with a sigh of satisfaction. "I'll have a little more of that fricasseed corned-beef on toast, with a bit of mushroom sauce on the side, if you don't mind, old man," and he passed his clam shell to Dick.

"You'll have nothing of the kind," announced the young millionaire, peering into the frying pan, in which the beef had been warmed, "for the simple reason, Beeby, that it's all gone."

"Ah, a very good and sufficient reason," admitted the stout cadet. "Then I'll fill up on water. There's plenty of that."

They sat about the campfire after the meal, discussing over and over again the strange disappearance of the launch and yacht, but being unable to come to any conclusion regarding the matter. Dick's theory, that some criminals (who were either concealed on the island, or who had been on their craft, hidden in some bay) had sneaked out to the yacht when the young millionaire and his chums were prospecting inland, was generally accepted.

"But what can we do about it?" asked Henry Darby, who was intensely practical.

"We'll think of that in the morning," decided Dick, who was both worried and tired. He knew their situation was desperate, for the food supply was very limited, and he dared not think what would happen when it was all gone. And, in a measure, he felt a sense of responsibility for the welfare of the whole party. "Let's get under shelter now," went on the young yacht owner. "It's getting damp and chilly from the dew. In the morning we'll make a better shelter, see what there is on this island to eat, and put up some signals. It will probably be only a short time before we can be taken off by some ship." But, though he spoke thus hopefully, Dick was far from feeling the confidence with which he wished to inspire his companions.

The night under the flimsy shelter would have been uncomfortable to a degree had not the faithful Widdy replenished the fire at frequent intervals. Indeed, he scarcely seemed to sleep, but was up and about all night, piling on wood, and making a roaring blaze the genial heat of which penetrated to the bower where Dick and the others were stretched out on the ground, endeavoring to get a little rest.

Widdy constituted himself cook, and the first sight that greeted the eyes of Dick when he crawled put the next morning, rather sore and stiff, from his uncomfortable bed, was the old seaman, stumping around on the sand, making coffee over the campfire.

"My, but that smells good!" cried the young tnillionaire.

"Just tell the steward to serve mine in my stateroom this morning, will you, old chap?" drawled Beeby. "I think I'll lie abed a bit longer."

"Yes, you will!" cried Paul Drew, and, with a shove of his foot, he sent the fat lad rolling out of the bower, and over the sloping sand toward the waves.

"'Up, up, Lucy, the sun is up, and we must be up, too,' as it used to say in the school books," cried Dick, gaily. "We've got lots to do to-day, fellows, and we'd better get at it. So, after some coffee and rolls—we'll omit the omelet this morning, because—ahem!—because the hens seem to be off on their vacation—but after some coffee and hard-tack we'll get busy. We must set up some signals of distress, erect a better shelter, see what food we have on hand, look to see what there is to be gotten here, and take another look at the place from where the launch disappeared. Maybe we can discover some clews. Come on, tumble out, everybody."

"Me for a dip in the briny!" cried Paul, and, stripping to his undergarments, he ran down the beach, and was soon splashing about. The others followed his example, with the exception of Widdy and Senor Alantrez, and when the lads came back, glowing from their bath, they found a table set on the sands—a primitive table, with tin cans for cups, and shells for plates. But no coffee ever tasted better, as they sat around in negligee costumes and drank it, for the weather was warm enough to permit of light attire.

"Now, fellows, here's the program, as I see it," said Dick, when the meal was finished. "Senor Alantrez, his son and I will go over to the other side of the island and erect some sort of a distress signal. We will also take a look around while there. Widdy, you and Henry Darby and Tim Muldoon can get busy and make a better shelter. You have pocket-knives, and can cut branches when you can't break 'em. Paul, you and Beeby take a stroll around, and see if there is anything to eat on this place. Take the rifle, which you were lucky enough to bring with you, Paul, and if you can pot a brace of quail or a roast turkey, so much the better."

"And I'll take some pictures," added Beeby.

"Yes, it will keep you out of mischief," declared Dick, smiling. "Now we all have something to do."

"Aye, aye, Captain Hamilton!" exclaimed Paul, with a left-handed salute. "Your orders shall be obeyed."

"I wish I had some sort of a hatchet with which to cut a tree to stick down near the beach for a signal pole," went on Dick.

"The kidnappers left me one, but it's not very sharp," said Pedro Alantrez, as he brought it forth.

"It'll have to do," observed the young millionaire. "Now, come on. We'll be back to dinner, fellows, so be sure to have a good one ready," he added, as he and the two Spaniards started across the island.

When the wealthy youth and his companions reached the high ground in the middle of the place, they looked long and earnestly across the waste of waters, but there was no sign of the yacht, nor any other vessel. Dick could not help sighing, as he started to ascend the slope.

"I regret, senor, that you have suffered so much on my account," spoke Pedro, softly. "Your fine yacht is gone."

"But I'll get it back!" declared Dick, with anger in his eyes. "It wasn't your fault at all—I'm only too glad that we came here for you."

They made a careful examination of the beach upon which the launch had been hauled when the party went ashore, but no clews could be had. The tide had washed away most of the footprints, and those that were left were so intermingled that it could not be told whether they had been made by Dick and his chums, or by strangers who landed, took away the launch and thus reached the yacht.

"Well, we'll put up a signal, and leave a note in some stones at the foot of the pole, telling any rescue party that may land, to come to the other side of the island," proposed Dick. "And there's another thing—what shall I make the signal of?"

"We'll have to use some of our clothing," suggested Senor Alantrez. "I can spare my vest."

"I guess we all can," said Dick. "We don't need 'em in this climate, and three vests, fluttering from a flagstaff, will attract attention almost anywhere."

They cut down a tall, slender tree, tied their vests to it, one below the other, and then, digging a hole in the sand with the hatchet, well above high-water mark, they set up the pole. The signal showed conspicuously.

"Now, that's done, we'll take a walk along the beach before we go back," proposed Dick. "Maybe we can find some clams or some crabs to eat. Well, this is certainly a change from what I was doing yesterday. By the way, Pedro, how did you come to be kidnapped, anyhow. I meant to have you tell us, but so many other things happened that I overlooked it. Did you get any clew to who the men were?"

"I was just going to speak about it myself," said the young Cuban. "I meant to last night, for I think you are much concerned in it."

"I am concerned in it?"

"Yes."

"How is that?" asked Dick, wonderingly.

"Because I was kidnapped by a man named Ezra Larabee, and the men he hired to take me away thought they were taking a certain Dick Hamilton."

"My Uncle Ezra here? He wanted to kidnap me? They took you for me?" gasped Dick, wondering whether he had heard aright.

"Yes. You and I strongly resemble each other," went on the Spanish youth.

"I know that," assented Dick, "but—my uncle here—trying to kidnap me? It seems incredible. What vessel did he have?"

"The Princess."

"Ha! Then it was the same one on which they tried to decoy me while in New York. I begin to see through some things," cried Dick. "Those men—the two who attacked me—they were kidnappers instead of thieves, as I thought. But I never suspected Uncle Ezra, though he did bitterly oppose me in this yachting business. But what can be his object? Is he crazy?"

"He is possessed with an idea that you must be prevented from wasting your money," answered Pedro. "I gathered that much while a captive on the Princess. He wants to kidnap you for your own good, he says."

"Then he must have gone insane. To think of taking you for me!"

"Yes, your uncle was very much put out over the mistake the men and boys made," said Pedro.

"Boys—were there boys aboard the Princess?" asked Dick.

"Guy Fletcher and Simon Scardale," answered the Spaniard.

"Guy and Simon? Worse and more of it!" cried Dick. "But how did my uncle happen to get in with them—how did he get away down to Cuba?"

"It seems that he followed you from New York," went on Pedro, who had overheard considerable during his captivity. "He knew you were coming to Cuba to look up some distant relatives."

"That's right, so I did, but I don't seem to be able to locate them," said the young millionaire. "I am looking for some relatives of my dear mother—their names are Miguel and Raphael Valdez, but they seem to have disappeared."

"Miguel and Raphael Valdez?" gasped Senor Alantrez, springing to his feet. "Are you searching for them, Senor Hamilton?"

"I am, but I've about given up. They are not to be found, and I'm sorry, for mother wished to have them aided if they were in want. Besides their signatures are needed to important papers. However, if I can't locate them——"

"They are to be found!" cried the elderly Cuban.

"Where?" asked Dick, eagerly.

"Here," replied Senor Alantrez, with a dramatic gesture. "Allow me to make known to you the identity of myself and my son. I am Senor Raphael Valdez, and he is Miguel, and we are relatives of your mother, if you are the son of Mortimer Hamilton."

"I certainly am," responded the youth, in puzzled tones, "but I thought your name was Alantrez."

"I changed my name when I lost my money, as I was too proud to let my friends know of my misfortune," went on Senor Valdez, as we must now call him, "but we really are the last of the Valdez family, as I shall soon convince you. We are your mother's relatives, though I never suspected it, for the name Hamilton is not uncommon. Please to be seated, senor, and I will relate our story to you," and the Cuban politely waved Dick to a seat on the sand.

"And to think that I have been chumming with you all this while, and never knew you were my, relatives!" cried the young millionaire. "This beats a story in a book. Go ahead, senor, tell me all you can, and then we'll hurry back to camp with the good news."