Dick Hamilton's Steam Yacht/Chapter 30

CHAPTER XXX


THE PURSUIT


No bad effects followed our friends' exposure on the raft, and starved bodies were soon well nourished by the good food supplied aboard the Trascaron, whose captain could not do enough for the young millionaire's party.

Dick asked eagerly for news of his missing yacht, but could obtain none, and was forced to content himself until they arrived at Santiago. There his first act was to send a cablegram to his father, telling something of Uncle Ezra's daring acts, how they were marooned on the island, and of his intention to search for the Albatross.

Incidentally, Dick asked for some money, since most of his was aboard the stolen yacht, and Mr. Hamilton promptly cabled a large sum, sufficient to hire a steamer for a month. Dick, after fitting himself and friends out with new clothing, next visited the lawyer, whom he had engaged to search for the Valdez family, informing the attorney that no further steps were necessary. The Cuban father and son were installed in comfortable rooms in the hotel where Dick and his companions were quartered, and Senor Valdez was told that Mrs. Hamilton, his wife's cousin, had made ample provision for him, so that he could set up in business again.

Senor Valdez and his son also signed certain papers in reference to the property in New York, clearing the title, and making it unnecessary for them to leave Cuba. They would receive their tenth share of the value of the land, which, with what provision Mrs. Hamilton had made for them in her will, placed them beyond the reach of want.

"And, now that's done, I'm going to get busy on my own account, and find my yacht," remarked Dick one evening to his chums, as they sat in the parlor from which their sleeping-rooms opened.

"Yes, it's time you did something for yourself; you've had us on your hands long enough," remarked Paul.

"Well, we had lots of fun, even if we were marooned, and nearly shipwrecked," declared the young millionaire.

Negotiations for the hire of a small, but swift, steamer were completed the next day, and Dick and his friends went aboard. Of course, Grit went also. Inquiries had failed to throw any light as to who might have stolen Dick's yacht and launch from Stone Island, nor was any trace found of the steamer Princess, containing Uncle Ezra and the men and two youths whom he had hired to kidnap Dick.

"Then, if you can't get any trace, how are you going to know in which direction to search?" asked Beeby. "You can't cover all the waters around Cuba."

"I don't intend to," replied Dick. "In the first place, Captain Barton, and the others of the crew are—or were—aboard my yacht when it was captured. They are either aboard her now or they have been put ashore somewhere by the thieves. In the latter case, we will hear something from them sooner or later, for they'll communicate with us, and we'll get a clue to work on. If they are still held as prisoners, I'll have to adopt a different course."

"And what'll it be?" asked Paul Drew.

"Why, I think our best plan is to sail back to Stone Island."

"Stone Island?" cried Henry Darby.

"Do you mean to camp out there again?" asked Frank.

"No, we had enough of that," answered the wealthy lad. "But I have an idea that the men who stole my yacht have a sort of headquarters on that island. We didn't have time to look for it, but it must be there. What would be more natural than that they will either hang around in that vicinity, or even visit the island."

"Hardly that, if they think we are there still," objected Beeby.

"That's just it. They may think we have been taken off by some steamer, and that the coast is clear, so that they can come back. If they do we have them, and so I think our best plan is to set sail for the island where we were marooned."

"I guess you're right, Dick," admitted Paul.

The next day the Golconda, which was the steamer Dick had hired, slipped away from her dock, and headed for Stone Island. Aboard her, though the boys did not live as finely as they had in the yacht of the young millionaire, they had a good time, and most of their hours were spent on deck, as they cruised on, looking for a sight of the Albatross.

Dick declared that he was getting cross-eyed from so constantly looking through the binoculars, but he would not give up. Many ships were passed, but they proved to be other than the Albatross. Nor was the Princess sighted.

"I guess Uncle Ezra and his crowd had enough, and went back to New York," ventured Dick. "My uncle is probably in Dankville now, figuring up how much money he lost. Oh, won't I have the laugh on him when I jolly him for kidnapping the wrong person!"

"I'd do more than jolly him," said Beeby, vindictively. "He ought to be arrested."

"Oh, Uncle Ezra is a peculiar man," said Dick. "He can make himself believe that he acted just right. He's afraid I'll die a pauper in the poorhouse, I guess."

Forward sailed the Golconda, even to Stone Island, but there was no sight of the missing yacht. They anchored in the bay where Dick's fine craft had previously come to rest, just before the theft, and, cautioning captain and crew to be on their guard, Dick and his chums, well armed, went ashore with Widdy, who was now one of their party.

But there was no trace of any visitors since they had left to make the voyage on the raft, and they found their camp desolate, and undisturbed.

"Well, I guess I was wrong, thinking they'd come back here," said Dick, rather disappointed, when, after a day spent on the island, they prepared to go back on board the steamer. "But we'll search farther."

They did, and the voyage was kept up for a week, sailing here and there, but always in the vicinity of the island. Once they returned to Santiago to inquire if any news had been heard of either ship, but none had. Then they began their search of the waste of waters again, stopping at or near several small islands or keys, and inquiring of many vessels which they spoke as they manœuvred about.

"My yacht seems to have disappeared from this vicinity," admitted Dick, ruefully, when the second week was half gone. "I guess I'll have to give up."

"Don't you do it, matey!" exclaimed old Widdy, smashing his pipe down on deck, a favorite diversion of his whenever he was excited. "Keep after 'em! You'll find 'em yet, split my lee scuppers if you won't!"

And so the young millionaire resolved not to give up just yet.

It was on the last day of the second week, when, as they were cruising about almost within sight of Stone Island, that they saw the smoke of a steamer, which seemed bearing down in the direction of the place where the kidnapped youth had been left.

"Here comes a ship," spoke Beeby, who was using the glasses.

"Let me see?" requested Dick, and he took a long view. "I don't believe it's my yacht," he said, "yet it's coming in this direction, and very few ships have trade or business in this locality. Captain, I think we'll steam forward and meet her."

The young millionaire's word was law aboard the ship he had hired, and, accordingly, the Golconda was put about, and headed toward the unknown vessel.

This soon gave them a better view, and the boys crowded around their host, anxious for the first word that would proclaim if it was the yacht they sought, or some other craft.

"Dick's eyes were glued to the binoculars, as he stood on the bridge, peering eagerly forward.

"Is it her?" asked Beeby.

"I can't quite make out. She looks something like the Albatross, yet the funnel is a different color."

"Maybe they painted it again, to deceive people," suggested Henry Darby. "Why—look—she's turning around!"

They all stared in wonder, for the vessel, for some reason, was swinging about in a big circle, retracing her course.

"Can we go a little faster?" asked Dick of the captain.

"Si, senor," was the reply, and the engine room telegraph clanged out an order. The Golconda leaped ahead.

As the boat, to which the gaze of all was directed, swung around, so that her stern was toward the vessel containing Dick and his chums, the young millionaire uttered a startled cry. Passing the glasses to Paul Drew, and bidding him look, Dick exclaimed:

"It's her! It's my yacht! It's the Albatross!"

"It sure is," agreed Paul, a moment later. "I can read her name under the stern."

"After her!" fairly yelled Dick. "After her, captain! Use every ounce of steam you can, for we must catch her!"

"I'll go down in the engine room and talk Dutch to the firemen," volunteered Widdy, who had the privilege of the bridge. He hastened away, while Dick took another view of his yacht, that was steaming away from him so rapidly. But the Golconda was increasing her speed also, and the "bone in her teeth" grew larger in size, while the screw threshed the water at the stern more violently. The pursuit was on.