Open main menu

CHAPTER XX.


THE RANSACKING OF THE BAGGAGE.


"For gracious sake!"

Those were the words which left my lips as I gazed around at what looked to me to be a total wreckage of our outfits. Then as in a dream I picked up one of my undergarments and started to fold it up, at the same time noticing the heavy mark of a dirty shoe print upon it.

Inside of half a minute I was scuttling for the upper deck and to where I had left Dan and Oliver.

"Fellows, come downstairs, quick!"

"What's up, Mark?"

"Come down and see," I returned, and led the way with both at my heels.

"What's this, a cyclone?" burst from Oliver. He caught up his fine alligator-skin bag. "Ripped open with a knife," he added, as he turned up the cut.

"And mine is cut, too," came from Dan.

"Mine has been broken open—the frame was too tough for the knife," I added. "And every article hauled out and scattered on the floor. What does it mean?"

"Mean?" repeated Oliver. "I reckon it means robbery. Just look and see what you have lost."

At once all of us began a rapid examination of the goods strewn over the floor, the washstand, and the berths.

"My wallet is gone!" groaned Dan.

"So is mine gone," I burst out.

"Everything I had seems to be here," said Oliver. "How much did you lose?"

"I had fifty dollars," came from Dan.

"And I had sixty," I added. "This is a clear case of robbery and nothing less. We must report to the captain at once—before anybody has a chance to leave the steamer."

I ran off to find the captain. He was in the pilot house, conversing with the man at the wheel, and he listened in open-mouthed astonishment to what I had to say.

"This is extraordinary!" he cried. "I've never had such a thing happen for eight years. Yes, you are quite right; we must find the guilty party by all means, even if I have to search every man, woman, and child on the ship, and every nook and corner in the bargain."

He ran to the stateroom with me. When we got there we found Oliver walking up and down nervously, while Dan looked the picture of despair.

"It's gone!" came from Oliver.

"Gone—what, your money?"

"Worse!"

"Worse? How?"

"The map—description, everything, the original and the tracing. Between this and what Merkin took I haven't a thing left by which to trace the tre——" He stopped short as he noticed the captain watching him. "Oh, but this is—is simply awful!"

"Something else of value gone?" queried Captain Steingard.

"Yes, some papers of importance—papers locating a certain parcel of land."

"Humph! Well, perhaps you can duplicate them."

"It's impossible, sir."

"Then we'll have to find them—and the money, too. It's extraordinary! extraordinary! Never had it happen before; never, sir!"

The captain was as excited as everybody, and quickly called in several other officers and the head porter, who called in some other men and two girls under him. In the end all the hands were searched, but nothing was found. Presently, however, one of the deck hands returned, carrying my wallet and that belonging to Dan. Both were empty.

"Found them on the forward deck behind a coil of rope," he explained. "It looked to me like somebody had tried to throw them overboard and the wind had carried them back."

"That's not unlikely," said Oliver. "You didn't see anything of a flat, red leather case?"

"No, sir—and I looked around good, thinking I might find some of the money," continued the deck hand.

"Was there anybody on duty down here while the vessel was leaving the bay?" I asked.

"The head porter might have been around," answered Captain Steingard. "I will call him again." And he did so.

"I wasn't down here just at that time," said the head porter. "I was down before we left and about half an hour later. I had the after cabin to look to."

"Did you see anybody around while you were down here?" queried Oliver.

"I saw several ladies and two or three children. I don't believe, though, that they had anything to do with the robbery."

"Anybody else?"

The head porter scratched his head.

"There was a man coming down the stairs as I went up—not the first, but the second time—the man who took Stateroom No. 7."

"Who is he?" asked Dan.

"I don't know who he is. He was a tall, dark-looking man. He must be on deck or somewhere around."

"That was all?"

"Yes."

"You are certain?"

"I am."

"Then let us find the man who had Stateroom No. 7," said Oliver, with quiet determination. "You know him by sight?"

"Oh, yes!" and after a few words more the head porter hurried off, and Oliver went with him, leaving the captain, Dan, and me to conduct the search in another direction.

In half an hour Oliver came back.

"Well?" I asked.

"Can't find him."

"You looked all over the boat?"

"Yes."

"Why not look in his stateroom?" suggested Dan.

"Of course we did look there—and he's gone, bag and baggage."

"He had some baggage there?" asked the captain.

"A black valise, so the porter says."

"Did that man sign for the stateroom?" I put in.

"To be sure. Everybody down here signed."

"Let us look at the register then," said Dan, and all of us hurried off to the office. The register was produced, and in a heavy hand we found written the name, "José Luis, San Francisco," and after this, in the clerk's hand, "Stateroom No. 7."

"José Luis," I murmured, as I read the name. "He must be a Spaniard or Italian."

Dan and Oliver were studying the handwriting with interest. Suddenly Dan looked at his chum and both gave a cry.

"It's his writing!" cried Oliver.

"Whose writing?" I asked.

"Ramon Delverez'!"

"What!" I gasped.

"I feel certain Oliver is right," put in Dan. "I saw that hand on a lot of documents in Manila that Delverez had written."

"But how could he be on board?" I asked. "We left him behind."

"He overheard our talk—maybe he is following us," declared Dan. "He always was for following up a good thing."

"It must be true," sighed Oliver. "And now he has our money and, what is worse, those papers."

"If he stole the things he must still be on this steamer," I said. "Let us make another hunt for him."

My suggestion was carried out, and the hunt lasted until nightfall. But nothing came of it. Needless to say that that night Stateroom No. 7 was without a tenant.

Luckily we had had the bulk of our funds on our persons, so the loss of the money was not as crippling as it might otherwise have been. The porter was very kind, and through him one of the women on board sewed up our bags.

"We shall hold the steamship company responsible for our loss," said Oliver to Captain Steingard.

"We can't be responsible," was the lofty reply.

"Well, you will be," was my chum's sharp response, and seeing he could not intimidate us, the captain began to talk sense, and made a note of the robbery. Long after the steamship company started to settle up, but then it was found unnecessary to do so, for reasons which will appear in a later chapter.