The Boy Scouts of the Air at Cape Peril/Chapter 12
THE CAPE PERIL LIGHT IS OUT
"Look, look," he had cried as the two scouts stood aghast. "The Cape Peril light is out!"
The lads' hearts almost stopped beating as they stared wildly into the gloom at the dark curtain of the horizon against which, by the faint glow of the few stars peeping through the clouds, the lighthouse was faintly outlined in shadow. The din and hullabaloo of wind and waves, struggling like two fiends, heightened the horror of the mystery.
"He's—he's dead!" stuttered out Cat, with an exclamation, as Cap'n Buffum's prediction flashed on his mind.
Turner appeared to give no heed to his words.
"And look, look there!" The man thrust a finger out towards the sea.
In the distance a rocket was showering the sky with a cluster of bursting stars. Then, the pall of darkness settled once more.
"Good—night!" shrilled Jimmy, trembling with anxiety. "What—what's that mean?"
"A ship in distress—on the shoals, maybe—that's what it means."
"It's the yacht," gasped Cat all in a breath. "I bet it's the yacht."
"Can't be! Watch! Look there! Look there! Look!"
Another fiery cluster burst and fell.
With an agitated countenance and quickly beating heart, Turner stood for a moment or two longer staring into the gloom, his wits working violently.
The brief pause seemed an eternity to the boys.
"We can't walk and we can't swim, that's sure," muttered the man. "Buffum must have been taken sick. No, that's off. The light was going—and would have kept on—Great heaven!" he thought aloud. "Of all the cold-blooded villainy! Some devil's put it out!"
Turner halted and frowned.
He paced up and down a couple of minutes longer. Then, evidently a plan had suggested itself to his mind, for he turned short around and started for the door.
"What you going to do?" Cat called after him.
"Show you later," flashed the reply. "One of you go and haul Luke out. You go, Jimmy. You follow me, Miller."
So saying, Turner dashed into the house, took time to snatch up an electric flash-light, then rushed through the kitchen to a rear shed, leaving Jimmy the job of resurrecting Luke, asleep in his shoes and half his clothes, on a cot in the closet-room adjoining the kitchen.
Reaching the shed- Turner seized a great can of kerosene.
"Is that oil?" asked the mystified Miller, who had made the best use of his legs to keep on his leader's heels.
"What's that for? Not going to set the house afire?" was the boy's excited query.
"Don't ask fool questions," snapped the other. "Stop talking and work. Grab up that tow—there—there in the corner, cram it in that basket—that one—and come on. Here, stick this axe on top when you're done."
Turner held the light impatiently while Cat, his mind in a whirl, pressed in as much tow as the basket would hold and then thrust the axe under the receptacle's handle.
"Now, come on!"
As Turner passed the closet, he reinforced Jimmy's desperate efforts to bring the mulatto to full consciousness. Finally, the cook came forth, rolling his eyes about in his coffee-colored face. At sight of the oil can, he faltered and fell into a state of agitation, looking for all the world like a fish out of the water, gasping for breath. Clearly his suspicions ran along with those Cat had expressed.
"Lighthouse light out. Going to set a shack up the beach on fire," blurted Turner to relieve the suspense. "Here, take that basket." He pointed to a huge one in the pantry. "And you and Jimmy pile in it every magazine and newspaper in sight; then clamp the lid on, and make the best time you know how up to that old Thompson cottage. You understand? Lightning quick. And lock the door after you when you come out."
Luke, now completely awake and consoled by the news that the roof was not to be burned over his head, grabbed up the basket, hurried into the living room, and assisted Jimmy in creating a small hurricane as the two bustled and scrambled about, harvesting the papers.
"Now—double quick!" was Turner's order to Miller.
Man and boy hurried out into the wind and darkness, and, guided by the rays of the flashlight, made for the trail back of the sandhills. The stiff wind behind them aided their speed as they struck into the path, and it took but a short time to reach the ramshackle cottage. Windowless and doorless it stood, a flimsy skeleton. How it had so long resisted being swept away entirely seemed little short of a miracle.
At the entrance, Turner set down his burden, and, seizing the axe, set to work slashing at the decaying weather-boarding that splintered like tinder under his efforts. By the time Luke and Jimmy arrived panting, a considerable pile of kindling had accumulated.
In a few minutes more paper, tow and wood heaped near the central partition was saturated with the contents of the can, and, on the application of a match, burst into sputtering and crackling flames. Fanned by the full sweep of the wind, the blaze soon had the partition wall in its embrace.
"Burn, for heaven's sake, burn quick!" Turner exhorted the fire.
Before many moments had passed, his eager wish was gratified. The flames rose high above the smoke, licking up the dry, mouldering wood. It was merely the question of a short time before the whole building would be in flames—one huge, roaring bonfire.
"Now," shouted Turner, his duty here discharged. "That'll help a little while and may save a ship. Here, let's beat it."
He had already moved off, and, with his back to the blaze, was scanning the ocean eagerly. Seeing nothing, he started off at a trot, axe in one hand and flash-light in the other. The boys and Luke tried to keep pace, the mulatto in a state of superstitious tremor at the whole proceedings.
"This come o' them boys diggin' up them bones befo' their time," was his conclusion.
At a high point of the way, Turner halted for a moment and gazed seaward.
"Thank heaven!" he exclaimed, seizing Miller's arm and directing his attention to a quick succession of rockets. "That means they've seen the light and got their bearings. Thank God!"
A little later the same signal appeared once more.
"See! see!" Turner shouted against the wind. "No mistake. It's all right. Now they can haul off and keep from being pounded to pieces. We've saved 'em. Thank God! "
"Going to Cape Peril?" asked Cat, as they jogged on again.
"Straight as I can make it," was the answer. "If I have to fight a whirlwind to get there."
"Don't you s'pose some of the fishermen have gone over?" suggested Jimmy, hopefully.
"Not counting on anything. More than likely they're all sound asleep and haven't seen a thing. I'm not taking any chances. Something's happened to Buffum and my business is to see what it is."
Until the party reached Seagulls' Nest nothing more was said, for, with heads down and running against the blast, talking was difficult.
"Now," said Turner with decision, as they reached the house. "I'm going to cross Herring in the seaplane, and I want one fellow to help me. Jimmy's the smallest and the speediest and I'm not going to get in any danger—if I can help it."
"Going to let me go?" said Jimmy with ready eagerness. "Me?"
"Why not me, too?" demanded Cat almost angrily.
"No time for arguing," snapped Turner as he hurried about providing himself with some necessary articles, Cat pleading at his heels. "You and Luke stay tight in this house. There may be crooks around. When you see a light in the Cape Peril lighthouse window, then you'll know we're there and all's O. K."
A few minutes later, Turner and Jimmy, equipped for their hazardous expedition, had dashed from the house, leaving Cat disconsolate and Luke only too delighted to be able to return once more in peace to his slumbers.