Dick Hamilton's Steam Yacht/Chapter 5

CHAPTER V


DICK IS SHADOWED


Bearing a letter to his father's attorneys in New York, Messrs. Blake & Carrington, Dick started for the metropolis the second day after his uncle's visit.

"Now use your own judgment about getting your yacht," said the millionaire to his son, "but, of course, be guided by the lawyers. Buying a steam craft is rather a large operation, especially if you don't know much about it."

Highly elated at the prospect of the good times before him, Dick sat in the parlor car, of the fast express, as he was whirled toward the big city, and made plan after plan.

"I'll get a lot of the fellows, some from the academy and some from town, and we'll have a glorious time yachting," he told himself. "We'll go up the New England coast, and down to Florida and maybe even to Bermuda and to Cuba, and—by Jove I've a good notion to try to double Cape Horn! That would be something to talk about when I got back."

It did not seem to occur to Dick that he was laying out sufficient travel for several vacations, all in one. But it's lots of fun to make plans, especially when you have the money to carry them out—and sometimes even when you haven't.

Dick reached Manhattan after a day and night of travel, registered at a hotel that his father frequently stopped at when in New York, and was shown to a suite of rooms that suited his ideas of luxury. They were not too elaborate, consisting of a bedroom, sitting-room and bath, but they were tastefully furnished. After a dinner, at which he ordered as the chief dish lobster, principally because he seldom could get it fresh at home, he went to a theatre.

"I'll see the lawyers the first thing in the morning," thought Dick, "and then the sooner I can buy that yacht the better. I'm anxious to get out to sea."

Mr. Blake, the senior partner of the firm, received the young millionaire cordially next morning.

"Your father wrote to me some time ago," he said, "stating that you might come on to select a steam craft, and so I have been on the lookout for one for you. I have several in view, and if you wish we'll go and take a look at them."

"Nothing would suit me better," announced Dick, eagerly.

Piloted by the attorney, Dick was taken to the anchorage of the New York Yacht Club.

There were several trim craft there, which could be purchased, and Dick was shown over them by the persons in charge. One was a rakish-looking, clipper-built boat, constructed more for speed than for comfort. It was a beautiful craft, but Dick decided he did not care for swift sailing, and would rather have more room.

Another yacht, the Isabelle seemed to him, at first, to be just right. She had new engines and boilers, and was magnificently fitted up. But the price was very high, and, while Dick could have afforded it, Mr. Blake pointed out that the yacht would require a crew of about twenty-five men, and Dick did not think he cared to preside, as captain pro tem, over such a force.

"I want something smaller, I think," he said.

"That's my own opinion," remarked Mr. Blake.

They had exhausted the possibilities at the Yacht Club anchorage, so the lawyer proposed a trip to St. George, Staten Island, off which several yachts, that their owners wished to dispose of, were anchored. There Dick found three which would have suited him, but Mr. Blake advised him not to commit himself, but to look further before deciding.

"We'll go over to Brooklyn," proposed the lawyer. "We may as well put in the entire day, for buying a steam yacht is not to be disposed of too lightly."

As they were taken out in a small motorboat, past several yachts at anchor, they passed one, over the rail of which an old, grizzled man was leaning, calmly smoking a short, black pipe. He was a veritable picture of an "old sea dog," and Dick's eyes danced with pleasure at the sight of him. A moment later his gaze wandered to the yacht herself. He could not repress a murmur of admiration.

"What's the matter?" asked Mr. Blake.

"That yacht," replied the young millionaire. "That's exactly my idea of what I want. I wonder if we can buy her?"

"I don't know, but it's easy to find out."

The lawyer directed the engineer of the motor-boat to put them alongside. As Dick approached nearer his admiration grew, until he had made up his mind that if the interior suited him as well as did the outside that boat would be his.

He saw the name on her stern as they approached—Albatross—and even that pleased him. The yacht was a trim craft, narrow enough in beam to indicate speed, with a high bow to take a heavy sea well, and long enough to afford plenty of room, while her breadth was not such as to make her too much of a roller, or wallower, in the trough of the sea.

Two slender masts, for auxiliary sails, and for signal flags, with the conductors of a wireless apparatus strung between them, rose fore and aft of a buff-colored funnel, rakishly set. In short, the yacht was a beauty.

"On board the Albatross!" called Mr. Blake, when they were within hailing distance.

"Aye, aye, sir," answered the old sea dog, pulling at his cap.

"I understand that yacht is for sale," went on the lawyer, for, on consulting a list he had, he saw that she was among those he had put down to examine.

"She might be, if any one had the money," replied the old sailor, stuffing his thumb into the bowl of his pipe, to tamp down the tobacco.

"Well, I have the money," spoke Dick, quickly.

"Then come aboard, if you please, sir," was the more genial reply, and the old man walked forward to where an accommodation ladder was suspended, and lowered it.

The young millionaire observed that the old sailor walked with a limp, and he at once made up his mind that he had a wooden leg. This diagnosis was confirmed when Dick and Mr. Blake stepped on deck a few seconds later.

"Well, here's the Albatross, and she's for sale, more's the pity," went on the old man, respectfully. "Many's the voyage I've sailed in her when Mr. Richardson was alive. But he's dead, and the pretty craft's on the market. I'm stayin' here to look after her, and d'ye know," and his voice sank to a whisper, "I've had half a notion, more'n once, to hist the anchor, make sail, an' start for Davy Jones' locker, me an' her together. For I've been on her for so long that she's like a wife to me."

"Then she is an old boat?" asked Mr. Blake, apprehensively.

"Old enough to know how to weather many a storm that some of the new-fangled craft wouldn't dare venture out in. The only thing I have agin' her is that she's a steamer instead of a sailer, but with her engines stopped she can pick up a bone in her teeth when all her canvas is spread," added the old man, proudly. "She has new engines and boilers, and she's lit to make a trip around the world starting to-morrow; and I wish she was!"

"Maybe she will!" cried Dick, enthusiastically. "I think I'll take her, Mr. Blake. The Albatross is just what I want."

"Wait until you go below," suggested the lawyer with a smile. "Will you show us down, Mr.—er—Mr.—?" he paused significantly.

"Widkin is my name—Ebenezer Widkin," answered the old sailor, with a touch of his cap. "An' you can take your choice by callin' me Ebby or Widdy. Most of 'em calls me Widdy," he added with a grin, "in consequence of me never havin' married."

"Well, then, Widdy, take us below," suggested Mr. Blake, and soon he and Dick were exploring the interior of the craft. If the exterior, with its snow-white decks and mahogany rails, its ample companionways and other details had captivated Dick, the cabins, engine room, dining saloon and galley completed the conquest.

"I'll take her!" he said enthusiastically to Mr. Blake. "She's just big enough, and not too big. The engines are new, and she's fitted up just as I want." Dick stood in the owner's cabin, the most elaborate one on the yacht.

"Well, it's up to you, as the boys say," remarked the lawyer. "Of course, there are many details to be looked after, but if you are satisfied, we won't seek further. I'll see the owner's representatives, and negotiate with them."

"Is there—if I might be so bold as to ask, sir," began Widdy, as he shall be called, "is there a chance of the yacht being put into commission, sir?"

"Every chance!" cried Dick, with sparkling eyes. "Every chance, Widdy."

"An' would you—that is, do you think you could find room for such a worn-out old sea dog as me on board? I'm a A1 sailor, sir, even if I have a wooden leg, an' I can do my share with the best of 'em, if I do say it myself."

"I think I'd be very glad to have you as a member of the crew," answered Dick, for he had taken a liking to the old man.

"Thank you, sir, for sayin' that. Many's the day I've sat here, smokin' my pipe lonesome-like, wishin' some millionaire would come along and buy her. Why, would you believe it," and his voice sank to a whisper, "I've even been thinkin' of turnin' pirate myself, an' pickin' up a crew of my old mates to navigate her, I've been that desperate for action, sir."

"Well, if everything goes right, you'll soon have plenty of action," promised the young millionaire. "I intend to take a long voyage, and nothing would suit me better than to go in the Albatross."

"And you couldn't find a better craft to sail in, if you was to search the world over!" cried Widdy. "There! I've said it, and dash my lee scuppers! I'll stand by it in fair weather or foul! I've got a prospect of action at last, an' I'm a bit excited-like, but you must excuse me."

Then, with a sudden motion, he took his short, black clay pipe from his mouth, dashed it to the deck, where it broke into a score of pieces. Then, drawing a new clay from his pocket, and breaking off the stem short, he proceeded to fill it with tobacco, and light it. Next he stumped off after a deck swab, with which he proceeded to clean up the fragments of pipe and ashes.

"I'm a bit excited at times," he went on more calmly, "but I don't mean nothin' by it. I'll smoke a new pipe to the new owner," he added. "How soon can we sail?" he whispered hoarsely, with his hand to his mouth, as though much depended on the secrecy of the answer.

"It will be hard to say, at present," answered Mr. Blake for Dick, "but, if all goes well, probably within a couple of weeks."

"Then, splice my mizzen-shrouds but you'll find me ready an' waitin'!" cried Widdy. "Ready an' waitin'!"

"Very well," said Dick, with a jolly laugh.

"And I hope we'll have many voyages together."

"By Neptune's whiskers, sir, so do I!" retorted Widdy, and he blew out a great cloud of smoke.

Mr. Blake and his youthful client returned to shore in the motor craft, and the lawyer promised to at once start negotiations looking to the purchase of the yacht. As a measure of precaution, however, he insisted that a competent expert be hired to examine the hull, engines and boilers, and, though this meant a little delay, Dick felt obliged to consent to it.

There was nothing more to be done that day, and, after having sent a telegram to his father, describing the Albatross in brief, and stating that he had made up his mind to purchase her, Dick went back to his hotel.

As he was turning down a quiet street leading to it, he became aware that two men were regarding him rather closely. They were coming from the opposite direction, and as they passed him they gave Dick sharp glances.

"Humph! They'll know me again, at any rate," thought the lad. Then he dismissed the incident from his mind. He was used to a certain sort of publicity and attention, for, on a previous visit to New York, his trip had been made much of by the sensational papers, and he had been credited with doing many eccentric things of which he never even dreamed. His picture had been frequently published, and he was more or less stared at. He thought this was but a reflection of that episode.

Being fond of theatres, Dick decided to go to another play that evening. He called up Mr. Blake, asking him to accompany him, but the lawyer had another engagement, so Dick started off alone.

He thoroughly enjoyed the performance, and as he came out to get into a taxicab, to return to his hotel, he noticed that two men, who were standing near the vehicle which he had summoned, were looking at him rather more closely than at other persons in the street.

Dick glanced at them. As he did so one of the men made a remark to the other, and both turned quickly to one side, but not before the youth had had a chance to look at their faces.

"Why, they're the same fellows I met this afternoon, near the hotel," he said to himself. "They must think I'm quite a curiosity."

He entered the taxicab, and was rapidly whirled toward his stopping place. His mind was filled with thoughts of his steam yacht, and with chance adventures that might happen on the cruise. Possibly, if he had seen the actions of the two men, immediately after his departure, he would have not felt so easy.

For the twain, no sooner had Dick entered his vehicle, summoned another.

"Follow that car," directed the taller of the pair. "Don't let it get away from you, and there's a fiver in it."

"You're rather free with the old man's money, ain't you, Sam?" asked the short man, with a laugh.

"Might as well be. He's so close-fisted that it'll do him good to be bled a bit. But hit it up, sport," this to the chauffeur of the taxicab they were in. "I don't want to lose our young friend."

"All right," was the answer, and after Dick's vehicle sped the other, containing the two men who were shadowing him.