Dick Hamilton's Steam Yacht/Chapter 31

CHAPTER XXXI


"MAN OVERBOARD!"—CONCLUSION


Of the eagerness with which he watched the chase, and noted the distance between the two vessels, Dick was hardly aware at the time. But he realized that he was under a great strain, and none more strongly than when he found he could scarcely open his cramped hands from holding the binoculars, through which he was looking at his yacht. He tried to make out figures aboard the steamer, but could not.

"Why do you think they turned about and ran?" asked Paul.

"They probably suspected something," replied Dick. "They saw us headed toward them, and got frightened."

"Do you think you can catch up to her?" asked Beeby. "She's going at a pretty good clip."

"The time was when I wanted my yacht to be swift," answered Dick, "but now I wouldn't care if she was a regular canal boat—until I boarded her. But this steamer's got some speed, too, and I am hoping that those on the Albatross won't know how to get the best out of her. In that case, we can overhaul her."

But it was not going to be an easy task, as was soon demonstrated. The Golconda closed up part of the gap between her bow and the stern of Dick's yacht, and that seemed all she was able to do. The stern chase was kept up, and was likely to prove a proverbially long one.

Then, whether Widdy succeeded in infusing some of his own eagerness into the firemen, or whether the Golconda took it into her own notion to do better, was not apparent, but, at any rate, she did several more knots an hour, and toward the close of that afternoon, Dick was made happy by seeing his stolen yacht nearer to him.

"We must get her before dark, or she'll slip away in the night," he said.

"Si, senor," replied the Spanish captain. "We will have her soon, now. They are losing speed."

And it did seem so. Little by little the Golconda crept up. Persons aboard the Albatross could be seen hurrying to and fro on deck, but Dick could not make out who they were.

"But we'll board her, and put them in irons, whether they're pirates, with the reputation of Captain Kidd, or not," declared the young millionaire, savagely.

Nearer and nearer raced the pursuing vessel. The two were now but half a mile apart, and every moment was lessening the distance. Dick was in a fever of impatience, fearing something would happen that would allow the thieves of his yacht to escape with her.

"We'll have her in half an hour more!" he cried. "Eh, captain?"

"Si, senor. Perhaps in less. I will see——"

He did not finish the sentence. Instead he half uttered a cry of astonishment, and pointed toward the Albatross. Dick looked, and saw a figure shoot over the rail of his yacht, and fall into the sea with a splash.

"'Man overboard! Man overboard!" he yelled, as if those aboard his own swift vessel could hear him.

"Why—why—they're not going to stop to pick him up!" cried Beeby, who was beside his wealthy chum. "They're going to let him drown!"

"He's struggling in the water!" announced Paul Drew.

"Shall I——" began the captain, looking at Dick. The young millionaire knew what was meant. In the name of humanity they miust stop and lower a boat to save the man in the sea, for the Albatross was keeping on, at unslackened speed. Dick hesitated. The Golconda was nearing the struggling figure. To stop meant that his yacht ahead would draw further away—she might so increase her distance that it would be impossible to catch up to her before dark—and then—Dick knew the chances were slim of ever seeing his craft again. Yet he hesitated only for a moment.

"Lay to, and lower a boat, captain," he said quietly. "We can't let the poor fellow drown." No one knew what it cost Dick to say those words.

The engine room telegraph clanged out an order to slow up. Almost at once the effect was apparent. The Albatross seemed to shoot ahead. A boat was quickly lowered from the Golconda, and the Spanish sailors soon had rescued the man in the water. A limp and wet figure he lay in the bottom of the small craft, as it was rowed back to the steamer's side. Dick was gazing at his fast-fleeing yacht, and he could scarcely keep down a lump in his throat. There was a mist before his eyes. He thought she was gone forever.

The rescued man was hauled up on deck.

"Get under way as quickly as you can, captain," ordered Dick, as the boat was hoisted to the davits. "We may catch them yet."

"Si, senor."

Dick strolled off the bridge to inquire how the half-drowned man was getting on, and also, to learn, if possible, the identity of the men who had stolen his yacht.

The rescued one was sitting up on deck, in a steamer chair, having recovered consciousness, due to the rough and ready treatment of the sailors. Dick saw an elderly man, with a little bunch of white whiskers on his chin. He rubbed his eyes and looked again.

Grit, at his master's heels, growled ominously. The hair on his back stood up, as it only did when he saw some one whom he hated, and who disliked him.

"Quiet, Grit!" said Dick, in a low voice.

At the sound of the lad's words the man, who was covered with a blanket, arose unsteadily to his feet. Dick could scarcely believe his eyes.

"Ah—er—is it you. Nephew Richard?" asked the rescued one, slowly.

"Uncle—Ezra—Larabee!" gasped the young millionaire. "Is it possibly you?"

"What's left of me—yes—Nephew Richard. Oh, I've had a fearful time—I almost drowned, and those terrible men took all my money. Oh, it was awful! Never—never again will I undertake such a task, no matter who I try to save!"

"Did those pirates capture you, too, as well as my yacht, Uncle Ezra?" asked Dick.

"No—I—I captured your yacht, Nephew Richard," gasped Mr. Larabee, slowly. "But it's a long story, and I 'm too weak to tell it now. I—I fell overboard, trying to look and see how near you were to us! Oh, I thought I'd drown, but you saved me! I—I—thank you!" The words seemed to come unwillingly.

"You—captured—my—yacht?" asked Dick, slowly, wondering if he had heard aright.

"That's what I did—but it was for your own good, Nephew Richard. I'm too weak to talk more now. Please get me some medicine. I know I'll catch rheumatism from getting wet, and then I'll have a doctor's bill to pay."

"Take him below—to my stateroom," ordered the young millionaire. "I'll see him later. Now to try and get my yacht. The idea of Uncle Ezra having taken her! I never dreamed of it! I can't understand it."

Dick hastened to the bridge again. It was getting dusk, and he feared the chase would be useless. He was met by Widdy.

"She's stopped! She's laid to, Mr. Dick!" cried the old salt.

"Who has?"

"Your yacht! She's waiting for us—she's coming to meet us! I guess they're giving up!"

Dick, scarcely able to believe his eyes, peered off in the direction of the Albatross. True enough, she was swinging about and approaching the Golconda. Dick could not understand what it meant.

He did a little later, though, when, having come within hailing distance, the Spanish steamer having been brought to a stop, Dick, looking across the intervening water, saw Captain Barton waving his hand to him.

"Captain Hamilton ahoy!" cried the old skipper. "Are you all right?"

"Yes! How about you? Is my yacht safe?" yelled back Dick.

"Aye, aye! My crew and I have been the prisoners of a gang of dastardly scoundrels, up to within a few minutes ago, when we broke out, and took command again. I've got the villains in irons in the brig, but your Uncle Ezra is missing. He fell overboard and was drowned, they tell me."

"No, we have him here," shouted Dick. "It's all right, but there's lots to be explained. I'm coming aboard."

Ten minutes later he was on the deck of his own yacht once more, shaking hands with Captain Barton, while Grit was frisking joyously about, even making friends with Hans, the cook.

"And they made you prisoners, did they?" asked Dick of the commander.

"Yes, and we've been locked up ever since they sneaked up on us at the island, and took the vessel."

"But dey didn't shut me oop," explained Hans, the cook, proudly. "Dey vanted some one to make noodle soup for dem, und dey left me loose. Den I bakes a pie, und I puts in it alretty a file und a saw, und vat should happen but dot Captain Barton he gets der pie und saws mit 'em his way out alretty yet. Yes—no?"

"That's how it happened," declared the commander, with a glance of approval at Hans Weyler. "But how did you ever get on our track, Dick? I was afraid you had died on that island."

"I'll tell you all about it," promised the young millionaire, "but first let me know whom you have locked up as prisoners? Are they a regular band of pirates?"

"They're the same fellows who, under the misdirected ideas of your Uncle Ezra, tried once before to kidnap you," said the captain. "Locked up in the brig are Sam Newton and Ike Murdock, and with them are two young acquaintances of yours—Guy Fletcher and Simon Scardale!"

"Well, wouldn't that jar you!" exclaimed Dick, weakly. "I never suspected they had my yacht. And Uncle Ezra, too! Well, it's been a series of wonders all the way along! But is the yacht damaged?"

"Not a bit, only those fellows didn't know how to sail her. Ike and Sam brought some of their crew aboard, and I've got them in irons, too, though they aren't really to blame, as they only did what they were hired to do. Now for explanations."

They were soon briefly told. Beginning from the time when he cast anchor in the little bay, off Stone Island, and Dick and his chums went ashore in the launch, Captain Barton told of the capture of his vessel. He and his crew suspected nothing when they saw the yacht's launch approaching, and it was not until Newton and Murdock, in company with a number of lusty and savage men, had gained the deck, and attacked Captain Barton and his crew, that any hint of foul play was suspected. Taken unawares, the commander of the Albatross and his men could do little. They were locked up below, and what happened after that they learned from time to time.

The launch was hoisted aboard by the kidnappers, and the anchor gotten up. Then out from a small bay, where she had been hidden, came the steamer Princess, containing, among others, Uncle Ezra, Guy and Simon. With a couple of men left aboard her to steer, the others of the rascally crew, whom Mr. Larabee had hired, took up their quarters on Dick's yacht, which was soon towing the Princess.

It seems that after Newton and Murdock had made the blunder, and captured the Cuban youth instead of Dick, they evolved a plan to redeem their mistake. They learned, by skilfully questioning the youth, that Alantrez was not his real name, and, forcing him to tell his true one, and knowing something of the quest of the young millionaire, they figured out that the Cuban was the relative whom Dick was seeking.

They planned to leave young Valdez on Stone Island, with enough food for a long stay, and then the kidnappers sailed away, touching at a small seaport to send the letter which the Cuban lad's father received.

Newton and Murdock, who were shrewd scoundrels, figured that when the parent of the kidnapped boy learned that he was gone, he would reveal his true name, and that Dick would thus discover his relative. The kidnappers also thought that nothing would be more natural than that the young millionaire would offer the use of his yacht to aid his mother's relative recover his son.

Things turned out just as the scoundrels desired, though not exactly in the order on which they counted, for Dick did not discover his relatives' identity until on the island.

But he did sail for the lonely place, as we have seen, and Uncle Ezra, and the men whom he had hired, were on the watch. The crabbed old man thought that if he could capture Dick's yacht, it would so discourage his nephew that he would give up the cruising notion, and so save his money.

Watching their opportunity, Newton, Murdock and the others stole out from their hiding-place,, when Dick and his companions were ashore, seeking for the Cuban, and captured the Albatross, as I have said. They had no intention of leaving the young millionaire and his friends to starve, for Mr. Larabee insisted that they must return, and take off his nephew after a few days. They knew there was food enough on the island to last them all for some time.

But dissensions arose among the scoundrels, when they had put out to sea, and quarrels delayed the return of the yacht to the island. In the meanwhile, the Princess had been sold, and the entire party went aboard the Albatross, the captain and crew of which, with the exception of the cook, were kept close prisoners.

Finally, Mr. Larabee, anxious about his nephew, prevailed upon Newton and the others to return to Stone Island, but Dick and his chums had set off on their raft. Not finding the young millionaire, and fearing that the entire party had perished, Mr. Larabee was a very much frightened man. He did not know what to do, fearing to return home, and face Mr. Hamilton, yet dreading to leave the vicinity of the island, where he had left his relative after confiscating his yacht.

So the crabbed old man, and his companions cruised about, hoping to hear some news from the marooned party, yet being afraid to venture into port to make inquiries, for they reasoned that search would be made for them, because of the kidnapping. Thus they sailed aimlessly about until the Golconda sighted them, and, suspecting from the manner in which she headed directly for them, that she was looking for them, Murdock and his cronies turned and fled, Mr. Larabee urging them to speed away from what he feared would prove to be the grip of the law.

The rest is known; how Mr. Larabee, leaning too far over the rail, to watch the chase, fell overboard and was rescued by the vessel Dick had hired. Captain Barton told how he and his crew, about this time, broke from their prison, having sawed their way out by tools furnished by Hans, the cook. They had a hard, desperate, but short struggle to subdue Murdock and his men, but succeeded the more easily as the firemen and engineers were becoming dissatisfied with Mr. Larabee's treatment of them.

In his turn, Dick told all that had happened to him since sailing away from the island on the raft.

"And now I'm here, and I'm going to stay on my own yacht," declared the young millionaire. "I guess the boys will be glad to come aboard, too."

The two cadets, Henry, Frank and Tim Muldoon were soon in their former staterooms, while Guy, Simon, the two kidnappers, and the men in their employ were told that they would be sent aboard the Golconda, to be returned to Santiago.

"The authorities there can do as they please wath them," said Dick. "Senor Valdez and his son can make a charge of kidnapping, if they choose. I'm not going to bother with them, or take them as prisoners to New York, I don't want to see them again. Let 'em go, as far as I'm concerned. They didn't kidnap me."

Guy and Simon pleaded to be taken back home, but Dick was firm. He said he would run no further chances with them, and so, closely guarded, the two unscrupulous youth, together with their older companions, were transferred to the Spanish steamer.

"What are you going to do with your Uncle Ezra?" asked Captain Barton.

"Take him back home," answered Dick. "I guess he's had his lesson," and very glad Mr. Larabee was to be taken aboard the Albatross.

"And what are your plans, Captain Hamilton?" inquired Captain Barton, as the two vessels parted company the next day, the Golconda sailing back to Santiago, and the other yacht making toward New York.

"Oh, I'm going to give the boys a good time," announced the young milHonaire. "We haven't had much fun, as yet. Too much going on. Now for a quiet cruise, life on some unknown island, if we like, and back home in time for the winter term at the Kentfield Academy. We're out for fun, now."

"But—but, my dear nephew," ventured Uncle Ezra, "it will cost a lot of money to keep this yacht going. I know, for I have spent considerable of late."

"I don't mind," answered Dick. "I'm going to give my friends a good time. I may not have another chance to travel."

But Dick did, as will be related in the next volume of this series, which will be entitled "Dick Hamilton's Football Team; or, a Young Millionaire on the Gridiron," and in which book we will renew our acquaintance with the wealthy lad, and his friends and enemies.

Dick's first act, after straightening out the tangle in which he found himself, was to send a wireless to his father, telling of his safety, and giving, in brief, an account of what had happened. Then the yacht headed for New York, which was reached without incident, save that off Cape Hatteras they went through a severe storm, carrying away one of the auxiliary masts, and part of the wireless apparatus. Then, after a visit to Hamilton Corners, with his friends, Dick arranged to take his party for a trip along the New England coast, where later they had a fine time, camping on a small island.

Mr. Larabee was a very much subdued man when he got back home. He even tried to pet Grit, but the bulldog would have nothing to do with him, for which Dick was thankful.

Mr. Hamilton was very indignant at his brother-in-law, and was half-minded to take some action against him.

"Whatever possessed you to do such a thing, Ezra?" asked the millionaire. "Why, as I understand it, you tried twice to have my son kidnapped, and nearly succeeded the third time."

"Don't—don't use that word 'kidnapped,' Mortimer," pleaded the old man. "It wasn't really kidnapping. I only wanted to get Dick away a certain time for his own good, until he was over this yachting notion. It was to keep him from wasting his money, since you wouldn't prevent him."

"Of course not; it was his own money," answered Mr. Hamilton. "But do you know you laid yourself liable to a severe penalty of the law, Ezra? You might be given a long sentence, or a heavy fine, for what you did."

"Don't say that, Mortimer," begged Mr. Larabee. "I meant it for the best. I had Dick's interests at heart. Land knows, I lost enough money as it was, and I was in hopes that you would reimburse me. Hiring steamers is very costly."

"You'll not get a cent from me!" declared Mr. Hamilton, decidedly, "and you can consider yourself lucky if Senor Valdez doesn't prosecute you."

"Oh, dear! I never thought of all that!" exclaimed the old man. "I did it all for Dick's good. I would have treated him well if I had only succeeded in getting him away."

"Well, I'm glad you didn't," said Mr. Hamilton, more softly. After all, he could partly forgive Mr. Larabee, who might honestly have been actuated by what he thought was a right idea.

Mr. Larabee did not stay long in Hamilton Corners. He and Grit did not get on at all well together, and the old man had to be constantly on the lookout for the bulldog, who took delight in hiding in dark places, and unexpectedly making a dash for the old man's legs, growling fiercely. Perhaps the animal would not have bitten him, but Mr. Larabee said it made him nervous. So, after begging Dick's forgiveness, which the young millionaire freely offered, the crabbed old man went back to Dankville, sadder, and, perhaps, wiser, in a way.

Dick, on thinking the whole affair over, came to the conclusion that, after all, he had rather enjoyed it than otherwise, and so had his chums, though they had been in danger at times.

Henry Darby found his old iron business more prosperous than ever. Frank Bender said he felt so fine from the cruise that he could do a number of new "stunts," and was sure of getting a place in a circus. As for Tim Muldoon, he declared he was going to sell an account of the yachting trip to some New York newspaper, and get a lot of money for it.

Paul Drew and Innis Beeby returned to their homes after the New England cruise, both declaring they had never before so enjoyed a vacation, and, as for the fat cadet, he had enough pictures to stock a photo-supply shop.

Dick kept his yacht in commission until nearly time for the military academy to open, and, in company with Captain Barton and Widdy, and with some of his friends for guests, enjoyed several short cruises.

Murdock, Newton, Guy and Simon dropped out of sight for a time, after being taken to Santiago, where, following a short imprisonment, they were released.

And so ends the story of Dick Hamilton's yachting trip, but it was not the last of the stirring times he had, in which his millions played a part, for he and Grit were destined for other adventures.


THE END.