Dick Hamilton's Steam Yacht/Chapter 9

CHAPTER IX


OUT TO SEA


The unequal fight continued, the unknown men seeking to overpower Dick, while he, on his part, made a desperate attempt to break the hold of the scoundrels who held him. He was engaged in a losing game until the arrival of his dog, when the tide of battle suddenly turned in his favor.

Grit seized a man's leg in his jaws, and bit savagely. There was a howl of pain, and the intelligent animal, well knowing that Dick had two foes to deal with, did not hold his grip. Instead, after making his teeth felt, he let go, and made a dive for the legs of the other fellow.

"Shoot the brute, Sam!" yelled the second man as he felt himself attacked by Grit. "Blow his head off! He's biting me!"

"He's bit me, too!" exclaimed the other, faintly, and he loosed his hold on Dick to make a grab for his injured leg.

"Let go, you beast!" yelled the man to whom Grit was still clinging. The man endeavored to kick the bulldog loose, but the intelligent animal knew his business. He let go, to avoid a savage kick, and made a spring for the rascal's throat. This was too much for the footpad. He quickly; thrust the young millionaire from him and staggered away, breaking into a run a moment later, and calling to his companion:

"Come on! I've had plenty!"

The other was glad enough to follow. Dick stumbled and fell, when the men released their hold, but recovered his balance after an effort. Grit, snarling and growling, started down the dark road after the men, splashing through muddy, puddles.

"Here, Grit! Come back!" yelled Dick. He did not want his pet shot, and he had no doubt but that the desperate characters would use their weapons on the valuable animal.

Breathing hard from his struggle the lad darted forward. The cool rain soon revived him sufficiently, so that his strength, which had been well-nigh spent in the contest, came back to him, and he was racing with all his speed through the storm and darkness. He wanted to see who the men were—to fathom the reason for their attack on him.

"Here, Grit! Grit!" he called. "Come back!"

The dog barked a protest, for he wanted to finish the work he had begun.

"Come back, Grit!" cried Dick again, and the dog knew there was disobeying that voice. With a menacing growl he turned and leaped joyously about his young master, now and then glancing in the direction which the men had taken, and sending a challenging bark toward them in the darkness.

"No use chasing them," murmured Dick, as he bent over to pat Grit, and felt to see if the dog had been injured. There seemed to be no cuts on him. The animal had been too quick for the men.

As for the youth he had been roughly handled, and his neck and arms were strained and bruised, while his clothing was disarranged. But he had suffered no harm, and a hasty search through his pockets convinced him that neither his watch nor money had been taken.

"Well, that's the first time hold-up men ever tackled me," murmured the young millionaire, as he walked back to the scene of the struggle, and picked up his umbrella. "I didn't know members of that profession cared to come to Hamilton Corners. I guess I'd better notify the police. It might be dangerous for other people, to have such scoundrels about."

Keeping a sharp lookout, lest the men return, but feeling pretty sure that they had had enough, Dick turned into a better-lighted street, and, going to the house of an acquaintance nearby, he called up the police station, and reported through the telephone his experience.

There was much wondering and excitement at headquarters, and the chief promised to send several officers to the scene of the outrage at once. Dick met them, but the search that resulted amounted to nothing. The men had disappeared, and even in daylight to hunt for them would have been difficult, to say nothing of a chase in the storm and darkness. The chief promised to have his men keep their eyes open the rest of that night, and the next day, for any suspicious characters, but none was seen.

Dick's friends, from whose house he had telephoned, wanted to hitch up the horse and drive him home, but he said he was so wet that a little more water would not hurt him.

Accordingly he walked, one of the few policemen of Hamilton Corners insisting on accompanying the lad. Dick said it wasn't necessary, as long as he had Grit with him, but the chief of police was taking no chances with the millionaire's son.

Of course, there was plenty of excitement when Dick reached his father's house, and told Mr. Hamilton, and the boys there, what had detained him.

"You certainly had a narrow escape!" said Mr. Hamilton, seriously. "Do you think they meant to rob you, Dick?"

"What else would they have attacked me for? Of course, it must have been that. But Grit and I were too quick for them."

"Could you see their faces?" asked Paul Drew.

"No, it was too dark."

"Then, you couldn't tell whether or not they were the same men you met before in New York, and who got you on board their yacht?" asked Henry Darby, for the wealthy youth had told of his experience on the Princess.

"No—I don't believe they were the same fellows," replied Dick, slowly. "They were ordinary highwaymen," but, though he said nothing about it, he was puzzled over a remark one of the men had made while holding him. It was when the footpad said: "We've got him! Where's the rig?"

"Rig—that is, horse and carriage," murmured Dick to himself. "I wonder why highwaymen wanted a rig? Unless," he added slowly, "they had an idea of carrying me off. But that's nonsense. Maybe I misunderstood them." But the more he thought about it and puzzled over it, the more it worried him, until he put the matter out of his mind and devoted his time to getting ready for the yachting trip.

No further trace was found of the footpads next day, and, though the Hamilton Corners police made inquiries in nearby towns, no suspicious characters were reported as being about.

Mr. Hamilton was worried, and considered a scheme of having a private detective guard his son, for he knew that many unscrupulous scoundrels had designs on wealthy lads. But Dick called the plan off.

"I'll soon be at sea, dad," he said, "and I guess with Grit on board, and the fellows I'm going to take along we can stand off a small army of holdup men."

"All right," agreed the millionaire, "but I'll feel easier when you are out of sight of land."

Dick had a telegram from Captain Barton, saying that the Albatross was only waiting the command to hoist anchor and start, and on the receipt of this the lad decided they would leave for New York the next day, as he had been delayed getting his outfit together, and Henry Darby wanted to close an important transaction in old iron before he went away.

As Dick, Frank Bender, Paul Drew and Henry Darby were being driven down to the depot in Dick's auto, to take a train for the metropolis, two lads, standing on a street corner, observed the happy quartette.

"There they go," observed Guy Fletcher, a town lad whose father was quite well off. "There they go, and I wish I was going off on a trip like that myself."

"Not with Dick Hamilton," added Simon Scardale, who was Guy's crony. The two lads had no friendly feelings toward the young millionaire, and, indeed, Simon had once tried to make Dick lose considerable money. "Dick Hamilton hasn't much use for us, nor we for him, Guy. I wouldn't care if his yacht sunk at sea."

"I don't know's I would, either, though I wouldn't want any one to get drowned. But, come on, and I'll shoot you a game of pool."

"Can't. I'm dead broke."

"I'll pay for it," offered Guy, as Dick's auto swung around a corner and as the two lads, who were rather inclined to a "sporty" life, turned to seek a pool "parlor," they were confronted by an elderly man, with a small tuft of white whiskers on his chin, which moved up and down as he talked.

"Was that Dick Hamilton who just passed?" asked the old man.

"Sure," replied Simon, flippantly. "Do you know him?"

"I guess I ought to, I'm his uncle," was the answer. "But I couldn't see very good, 'cause the sun was in my eyes. Now, didn't I hear you say you didn't care whether or not his yacht sunk."

"Oh, we were only fooling," spoke Guy, with an uneasy laugh, thinking he was to be called to account for the remark.

"Oh, you needn't worry," returned Ezra Larabee, quickly. "I just happened to hear what you said, and it occurred to me that perhaps you two lads, who, I believe, are acquainted with my nephew, would like to earn a little money easily. Would you?"

"Would we? Well, I should lose a gold tooth if we wouldn't, old sport!" exclaimed Simon, slangily. "What's the game?"

"Suppose you come with me," answered Mr. Larabee, and he looked around hastily to see if he was observed before leading the two ill-favored lads down a quiet street.

Meanwhile, Dick and his friends continued on in the auto. They stopped at the bank where Mr. Hamilton had his private office, to say good-by, and half an hour later were speeding toward New York in a fast express. Grit was in the baggage car, but he cried and whined so mournfully, because he was out of Dick's sight, that his master had to go forward from the parlor coach to pay frequent visits to his pet.

Arriving at the big city, the young millionaire piloted his friends to the same hotel where he had stopped before, and they were assigned to a suite of connecting rooms. Dick then sent for Tim Muldoon, the newsboy, who shortly appeared, resplendent in a new suit, and looking quite different than when he first came under his friend's notice, as a ragged "fresh-air kid."

The young owner of the Albatross had sent word to Captain Barton that he was in town, and would shortly come aboard, and Dick asked that the yacht be in readiness for putting to sea at once.

"Now," said our hero to his friends at the hotel, "I have to go see Mr. Blake, the lawyer, and then I guess I'm done with business for a while. I want to ask his advice about locating those Cuban relatives of my mother."

"Guess I'd better go along with you," suggested Tim. "You might be held up again, and I know almost every detective in New York. I could signal to one in a jiffy for you, and we'd have bully fun arrestin' the fellows. It'd make a corkin' story. Shall I come?"

"Oh, it's hardly necessary," objected the rich youth, but Tim insisted on it, and went with his friend in the taxicab.

However, nothing happened, and after stating the case about the missing relatives to the lawyer, and listening to Mr. Blake's advice, Dick put in his pocket a letter the attorney had given him. It was addressed to Don Ferdinand Hondora, a Havana lawyer.

"He will give you any assistance in his power, in locating the Valdez family," said Mr. Blake, as he bade his young client good-by.

"Now, then, for the Albatross!" cried Dick, as he returned to the hotel and greeted his chums.

But there was still a delay, for every one wanted to purchase several articles, forgotten in the departing rush, and this required visits to a number of stores. But finalty, with their trunks and suitcases well packed, the crowd of happy lads entered a big auto which Dick hired, and were soon at the dock, where they took a motorboat out to Dick's steam yacht.

"Welcome on board!" cried Captain Barton, cordially, as the youthful millionaire and his party mounted the accommodation ladder, while tHe blue flag at the masthead fluttered down, indicating the presence on the yacht of the boat's owner. "We're all ready and waiting for you, and the tide is just on the turn." Grit had already leaped on deck, and, at a word from his master, made friends with the commander.

"Is Widdy here?" asked Dick, looking about for a sight of the old seaman.

"He is," replied Captain Barton, "and I've made him honorary second mate, at your suggestion."

"Oh, yes; there he is," cried Dick, waving his hand toward the grizzled sea dog, who stumped about near the ship's bell, as proud as the proverbial peacock to be thus recognized by the millionaire skipper.

"Now, fellows, make yourselves right to home," invited their host. "We're going to live here quite a while, and I hope you find everything comfortable."

"If we don't it'll be our fault," observed Tim Muldoon, looking about with awe, for the yacht was handsomely fitted up.

"What's the matter, Henry?" asked Dick, noting the young iron merchant staring about him, in rather a dazed fashion.

"Oh, I was just wondering how much old scrap iron I'd have to sell to buy a boat like this," was the answer, and Dick laughed.

The anchor was hoisted to the musical clank-clank of the winches. The accommodation ladder was slung up alongside, and with a hoarse blast from her whistle the Albatross slowly swung around with the outgoing tide. From her funnel there poured black smoke, and from the steam pipe there spouted a jet of white vapor. Under her stern the water was churned to foam, and a white "bone" appeared at her sharp bow.

"We're off!" cried the young captain, gaily.

"Three cheers for Skipper Hamilton and his steam yacht!" yelled Paul Drew.

"Cut it out!" ordered Dick, turning red. "You can cheer the boat, but not me."

But his companions did not heed, and sent out their ringing cries. Commanders on other vessels nearby heard, and, thinking a gay party was starting off on a cruise, saluted the Albatross with the regulation three blasts of their whistles, to which Captain Barton responded, so that the progress down the bay was somewhat in the nature of an ovation, as other craft, following suit, also rendered homage.

Down through the Narrows steamed the fine yacht, gathering speed; out past Forts Wadsworth and Lafayette, threading her way along the buoyed channel, passing Coney Island on the left, swinging out more to sea as Atlantic Highlands was sighted, and then, pushing across the nose of Sandy Hook, the Albatross flew on toward the deep ocean.

"We're off!" cried Dick again, as he leaned over the rail and watched the blue water. "Off for Cuba, and all sorts of adventures, fellows."

There were more adventures in store for the young millionaire and his chums than they ever imagined.