Dick Hamilton's Steam Yacht/Chapter 28
BUILDING A RAFT
Senor Raphael Valdez was not long in proving the identity of himself and his son. Several years back he had fallen in love with a Miss Rose Martin, who was Dick's mother's cousin. He had married her, taken her to Cuba, where he had large possessions, and, after many years of happiness she had died, leaving him an only son. When the war with Spain broke out, all of the wealth of Senor Valdez was swept away, and he became poor.
Unwilling to let his friends know of his plight—for his was a proud Spanish nature—he changed his name, and he and his son set out to mend their broken fortunes. But it was hard work, and for years he struggled along, concealing his whereabouts to such advantage that none of Mr. Hamilton's inquiries located him.
Finally Senor Valdez, under the name of Alantrez, secured a place with the government, in Santiago, his former home, but he and his son had so changed in appearance that none of their former friends knew them, and they had no near relatives.
All this the elder Cuban related to the young millionaire, as they sat on the sands at the foot of the signal mast.
"And that accounts for the likeness of you and my son," finished Senor Valdez. "He has some of the Martin blood in his veins, I am glad to say, and I am proud that your mother, Senor Hamilton, was related to the Martin family."
"So am I," added Dick, "and I'm happy that I have found you. I have been able to fulfil the mission my mother left unfinished, and also clear up dad's property affairs. I hope you will not be too proud, senor, to accept help from me," he continued wistfully, for Dick liked nothing better than to help other people. Besides, there is a tenth share of the property in New York coming to you."
"You have already placed me so much in your debt that I am overwhelmed," said the Cuban, warmly.
"Then you might as well let me make a complete job of it," spoke Dick, quickly, with a laugh. "But, suppose we start back. The others may be getting anxious."
Seiior Valdez returned to his pocket certain papers, by which he had proved his identity, and arose.
"Come on, Cousin Miguel," Dick said to the Cuban lad. "I'm going to call you cousin, from now on, if you don't object."
"I am honored," answered Miguel, with a stately bow.
Exploring part of the beach, near the signal mast, Dick and his two companions found a number of soft clams, of which they gathered a quantity, carrying them in a bag which the kidnappers had left with Miguel.
"We'll have them steamed on a fire in a pile of seaweed," suggested the young millionaire. "It'll be a shore dinner, though the usual fixings will be missing."
They found the whole party assembled on the beach, near the campfire, waiting for them, Paul and Beeby having returned empty handed. There was rather a glum look on their faces.
"What's the matter?" asked Dick. "You look as if you'd lost your last friend."
"We didn't find any grub," explained Beeby.
"But we did, and I found something else," went on the lad of millions. "Here are slathers of soft clams. We can't starve while they hold out."
"We saw some like those, but I didn't think they were any good," remarked Beeby. "We were looking for something worth while."
"You'll find these worth while when you're hungry," went on Dick. "Come on, now, fellows, get a good fire going, gather some seaweed and we'll have a feast. But, first, I've got some news for you," and he proceeded to relate his unexpected, but perfectly simple, finding of the relatives he had come so far to seek.
"It's just like when once I found a whole lot of scrap iron I wasn't expecting," declared Henry Darby, and then he wondered why Dick and the others laughed, hastening to explain, as soon as he saw the joke, that he had no intention of comparing the young millionaire's relatives to iron junk.
While the boys were discussing the strange outcome of the affair, Widdy was busy with the steaming of the clams. In a short time an appetizing aroma filled the air, which caused the boys to inquire anxiously when the "shore-dinner," as they dubbed it, would be ready.
They ate in rather primitive fashion, with fingers doing duty for knives and forks, but they all said they had never tasted any better clams, though there was no drawn-butter to dip them into.
"Now," suggested Dick, as they finished, and wished for more, "we will take an account of stock, and see what's next to be done."
"The bower or bungalow, or whatever you're going to call it, isn't quite finished," said Tim Muldoon.
"It won't take long," was Widdy's opinion; so they all set to work on that, and soon had a fairly good shelter constructed; one that would keep out the cold, and damp night winds.
THEY ATE IN RATHER PRIMITIVE FASHION, WITH FINGERS DOING DUTY FOR KNIVES AND FORKS.—Page 228.
Dick Hamilton's Steam Yacht.
"Next is the food supply," went on Dick, and when they looked over what the kidnappers had left with Miguel Valdez there were anxious looks on every face, for the quantity was barely sufficient to last them a week.
"There's only one thing to do," declared Dick, grimly, "we will have to go on short rations until we are rescued, or until we can get away from this place."
"And when will that be?" asked Beeby, nervously.
"How about it, Widdy?" inquired Dick of the old sailor; "are any vessels likely to pass this way?"
"Not many," was the response. "We're out of the track of most vessels, though, of course, there's always the chance of a tramp steamer seein' our signals. As the flagpoles are on both sides of the island, they can hardly miss 'em."
"Well, we won't sit down and wait for some one to come along," decided Dick, after a moment's thought. "If we want to get away from this place we've got to help ourselves."
"And how's that?" inquired Paul. "Are we going to build a boat, like Robinson Crusoe did, out of a hollow tree?"
"Not much," declared Dick. "We haven't any tools to make a boat, but we can build a raft, and float away on that, and perhaps get in the track of some steamer; eh, Widdy?"
"I think so, Mr. Dick. We'll try, anyhow."
"But how can we build a raft?" asked Beeby. "Do you expect us to cut down trees with our pocket-knives? It can't be done, Dick. We're in a bad way, and our only hope is a steamer sighting us."
"You get out!" cried Dick, vigorously. "We may starve before a steamer comes. We've got to get afloat before all our grub is gone, and that means we'll have to build a raft at once. I saw a lot of dead trees in the woods. They're light, and will float well. Then we can cut down some others with the hatchet."
"And tie 'em together with a fishline, I s'pose?" added Beeby, gloomily.
"Not at all, but if you've got a fishline I can see what you're going to be up against," spoke the young millionaire, quickly. "Go off and try to catch some fish, Beeby. We can fasten our raft together with wild vines. I tripped over enough in the forest to make a dozen rafts, and they're almost as strong as wire cable. Now, get busy, fellows, and we'll soon be afloat again."
Dick's enthusiasm and energy were contagious. In a short time they were all busy dragging small dead trees from the woods to the beach. The logs were laid criss-cross, and under Widdy's direction, were tied together with strong, trailing vines, of which there were many available.
To make the raft more secure, they cut down, with the hatchet, a number of saplings, which were bound in and out among the larger logs, giving them the necessary stiffness. At the close of the first day they had a large raft, capable of holding them all, and it was nearly ready to be floated.
"But it must have more wood in," decided Dick, as they sat about the campfire that night, eating a scanty ration which was served out. "We may encounter a storm, and the more wood we have in our craft the higher it will ride. Then we must build a sort of platform on which to store our food and water, and we'll also rig some lifelines, of the vines, to keep us from pitching overboard."
"Right you are, my hearty! All regular and shipshape!" exclaimed Widdy. "We'll get away from this place, and catch those kidnappers yet, split my lee scuppers if we don't!"
"And get my yacht back, too, I hope," added the young captain. "I'd like to know who has her."
If Dick had been able to peer into the comfortable cabin of his yacht at that moqient he would have been very much surprised at the sight which would have met his eyes.
They renewed work on the raft next morning, after a more comfortable night spent in the bower than was their first. Other logs and saplings were added to the rude craft, and a platform was constructed out of driftwood, and pieces of the boxes in which the kidnappers had left food for the young Cuban.
"There, that will keep our stuff dry for a while, anyhow," remarked Dick. "Now about taking some fresh water along; what would you advise, Widdy?"
"Water's going to be our worst trouble," declared the old sailor. "But we've got quite a few tins that's had food in 'em. We can fill those, and by only taking a small sip when we're dry it may last us until we are picked up. If it doesn't——" He did not finish, but the boys knew what he meant—they would suffer terribly.
For two days more they worked on the raft, for they knew their very lives would depend on its stability, and Dick would take no chances. They even made a sort of awning on it—a shelter from the sun—using old bags. Then a good-sized cask was luckily cast ashore by the tide, one morning, and that served admirably to hold a good supply of water.
All this while a sharp lookout had been kept for passing vessels, but, though once or twice smoke from steamers, hull down on the horizon, had been seen, none approached the island, and the tattered signals fluttered desolately in the wind. But Dick and his marooned chums were too busy to give up hope.
"If we only had more food I wouldn't worry so much," said the young millionaire, the night before they were to start off on the raft. "Our supply is getting lower, and, though we can take along a lot of clams, and maybe catch some fish, it's going to be mighty small eating for a while, fellows."
"I had pretty good luck catching fish to-day," announced Beeby. "Maybe we can get a lot and smoke 'em!"
"The very thing!" cried Dick. "We'll wait another day, and take along a supply of smoked fish."
They crawled into the bower that night, and stretched out on beds of dry seaweed, wondering and fearing what the morrow would bring forth.