The Wizard of the Sea/Chapter 6
OUT ON THE BAY.
In a general way Mont suspected Hoke Ummer, not of the dastardly trick he had played, but of playing the sneak and telling Moses Sparks.
"I'll get square," he said to Link and Carl.
Out in the fields he had picked up a dead snake, and he now resolved to make use of it in a truly original manner. As soon as it was time to retire that night Mont slipped upstairs and into the dormitory occupied by Hoke Ummer, Goul, and their chums.
He had the dead snake with him, and put the reptile in the bully's bed.
Five minutes later he was in his own room awaiting developments.
They were not long in coming.
A murmur of voices ended in a wild shriek of terror.
"A snake!" yelled Hoke. "It's in my bed! Save me! I'm a dead boy!"
His cry aroused everyone, and soon Nautical Hall was in a commotion.
"What's the matter with Hoke?"
"He's got 'em bad!"
"A snake!" roared the bully. "Take it away."
He ran out into the corridor, and soon a crowd began to collect.
In the meantime Mont slipped into the room and threw the dead reptile out of the window.
Captain Hooper tried to get at the bottom of the affair, but failed.
"You must have been dreaming, Ummer," he said at last, and sent all of the boys off to bed.
During the following week Nautical Hall was closed up, and the schoolboy cadets marched to the head of the bay.
Here they went into camp for a month, part of the time being spent on the bay and the ocean beyond in learning how to sail both large and small boats.
The sailing of the boats particularly interested Mont and Carl Barnaby. Link did not care very much for the water, for when the sea was rough he was inclined to grow seasick.
One day Mont and Carl obtained permission to hire a sloop at the town, and go out for an all-day cruise over the bay and back.
They took with them a young fellow from Nautical Hall named John Stumpton, a handy lad who generally went by the name of Stump. Since Mont had arrived at the Hall, Stump had taken to him greatly, and would do almost anything that Mont asked of him. Stump was also a great friend to Carl.
They sailed out of sight of the camp, and gradually crept up to a large excursion boat which was just leaving one of the docks of the town.
The steamboat was overcrowded, every deck being full of humanity bent on having a good time.
Some musicians were playing on the forward deck, and they drew quite close to hear what was going on.
Suddenly a cry of horror arose.
A young girl had been standing close to the rail on a camp chair at the bow of the boat.
It was Alice Moore.
As the steamboat swung around the girl lost her balance.
She tried to save herself, and, failing, pitched headlong into the water.
Our hero saw her go under the waves.
"She'll be struck by the paddle wheel," he yelled, and then, splash! he was overboard himself.
Bravely he struck out to save the maiden.
The order was given to back the steamboat.
The wheels churned up the water into a white foam, but still the momentum carried the large craft on.
In the meantime our hero came up and struck out valiantly for the girl, who was now going down for a second time.
"Save her! Save her!" shrieked Judge Moore, who was with his daughter.
Half a dozen life-preservers were thrown overboard, but none came to where the girl could reach them.
The judge wanted to join his daughter in the water.
Strong hands held him back.
"The young fellow will save her, judge."
"He's a true hero!"
Life-lines were thrown over, but even these did no good.
The steamboat swung around, but the run of the water washed the girl closer and closer to the paddle wheel.
She now came up a second time.
Should she sink again all would be over.
Mont was swimming with all the strength and skill at his command.
At last he was within a yard of the struggling girl.
The maiden threw up her hands and went under. As quick as a flash our hero dove down.
A second passed. Then up came our hero with the girl clinging to his shoulder.
But now the current was apparently too strong for both of them.
Carl and Stump heard the cry, and immediately put about in their sloop.
Mont was swimming along on his side.
The girl was too weak to support herself, and he was holding her up well out of the water.
It took the sloop but a moment to run up alongside of the pair.
Carl reached over and caught hold of the girl and placed her on deck.
In the meantime our hero caught hold of a rope thrown by the old boatman and pulled himself up.
A cheer arose from those on the excursion boat.
"She is safe now, sure!"
The girl was too exhausted to move, and Carl rubbed her hands and did what he could for her.
Stump ran up alongside of the steamboat, and a little later the girl was placed on board.
The judge clasped his child to his breast.
"Go ahead," said Mont in a low voice. "I don't want the crowd to stare at me."
"But the judge wants to thank you," began Carl; but our hero would not listen.
He was too modest, and made Stump actually run away from the excursion boat.
But five hundred people cheered Mont and waved their handkerchiefs.
And this was not the end of the matter.
The next day Judge Moore called at the camp, and insisted on presenting Mont with a gold watch and chain. With this gift came a sweet letter from Alice Moore which made our hero blush a good deal when he read it.
After this, nearly a week passed without special incident. Link was called home on account of the death of a relative, and Mont and Carl became closer chums than ever.
One day Hoke Ummer was caught abusing one of the small boys so greatly that the boy had to be placed under a doctor's care.
The boy's father had Hoke arrested. The case, however, never came to trial.
The consequence of the arrest was that the bully was dismissed from the school; and that was the last Mont saw of him.
"We are well rid of him," he said, and Carl and the others agreed with him.
One day Mont and Carl went out for an all-day cruise on the bay, taking John Stumpton with them.
When the two schoolboys started out with the hired lad they did not intend to remain away longer than sunset, and not one of them dreamed of the marvelous adventures in store for each ere he should be permitted to see his native land again.
The start was made in a fair breeze, and it looked so nice overhead that Mont proposed they take a short run directly into the ocean.
"All right—I'll go you," answered Carl slangily, and away they skimmed.
By noon they were almost out of sight of land, and while they were eating the repast Stump had prepared Carl proposed that they turn back.
This was hardly accomplished when it suddenly grew dark, and they found themselves caught in a squall.
"By gracious! I didn't bargain for this!" cried Carl. "If we don't take care, we'll go to the bottom!"
"Don't worry—yet," answered Mont. "I guess we'll get back all right."
Blacker and blacker grew the sky, until absolutely nothing could be seen. Every sail was closely reefed, and the boys strained their eyes to pierce the gloom which hung over them.
Suddenly Stump set up a yell.
"Look out; there is a ship!"
He got no further. A large form loomed up in the darkness. There was one grinding, smashing crash, and then came a shock that split the light-built sloop from stem to stern.
All of the boys were hurled into the boiling sea. But none was hurt; and, coming to the surface, all struggled to cling to the wreckage floating about, meanwhile crying loudly for help.
When they were picked up they were thoroughly exhausted, and Carl lost his senses completely.
The ship that had run them down was the Golden Cross. The captain's name was Savage, and he was bound for the Bermudas.
He refused to stop anywhere to put the boys off, saying he had not the time to do so.
In reality he was afraid he would be brought to account for wrecking the sloop.
He would not believe that Mont and Carl were rich, and that their parents would willingly pay him for any trouble he might take on their behalf.
"I'll keep 'em on board and make 'em work their passage," he said to his mate, a mean chap by the name of Slog. "We are rather short of hands."
A night's rest did wonders for the boys.
By morning the storm cleared off, and the Golden Cross proceeded swiftly on her way, favored by a good breeze.
Mont found himself in the ill-smelling forecastle. He was awfully hungry, and the first thing he did was to make his way to the cook's galley. The cook smiled as Mont appeared. "Got around, eh?" he said. "Good for you. I thought you would be sick for the rest of the trip after such an adventure."
"I am pretty tough," answered Mont.
"You look a bit like a sailor."
"Oh, I know a thing or two about the water," replied Mont modestly. "But tell me," he went on, "what sort of a captain have you?"
"Oh, he's a caution, and so is Slog, the first mate," laughed the cook. "The captain is the toughest man this line of ships ever had."
"Humph! That's not encouraging," mused our hero. "Why do the owners keep him?"
"Because he's clever. He may be out in all weather, but he's never lost a ship."
"This seems like an old tub," observed Mont, looking around him.
"Yes, she isn't worth much. She pitches and tosses in a gale awful. It's the oldest ship the firm's got."
"Is it insured?"
"Yes. I know the insurance is very heavy, and it wouldn't be a bad job for the owners if she went down," replied the cook.
"Bad job for us, though," remarked Mont. "I don't want to be drowned."
"Have you had any breakfast?" asked the cook good-naturedly.
"Not a bit."
"I don't expect the regular hands will give you a chance of getting much. There's Sam Holly and Jerry Dabble. One's a bully and the other's a sneak."
"I haven't seen them yet."
"Fight shy of both of them. They're no good. They'll make you and your chums do all the work, now you've come on board."
"I'll bet a dollar they won't get a stroke of work out of me," returned Mont decidedly.
"Well, you're a plucky lad," exclaimed the cook admiringly, "and from your size and looks I should think you could box."
"Just a little bit," answered Mont smilingly.
"The captain favors Jerry Dabble, and listens to all he says. He's a regular sneak. You look out for him."
"Will you have a bit of breakfast along with me? I can give you a nice bit I've cut off the skipper's ham and a couple of eggs."
"I'm with you," said Mont readily, "and I'll return your kindness on the first opportunity."
In a moment our hero was supplied with a good breakfast, which was washed down with a cup of coffee.
The sea was rather high, although the wind had gone down.
It was not difficult to perceive, when Mont came to examine her, that the ship was a very old one and had seen her best days.
Mont thought a trip to the Bermudas would be very nice, but at the same time he did not mean to be the captain's slave, or the first mate's either.
He had not shipped with them, and they could not legally make him work, though he did not mind lending a hand if he was asked in a friendly manner.
His mother would pay for his passage if she was asked.
The officers evidently took him, Carl, and Stump to be three sons of fishermen, and had made up their minds to treat them accordingly.
When he left the galley, Mont went to where the regular hands slept and messed, and where he and his companions had slept.
There was a great outcry as he came in.
"Leave off, I say," Carl was exclaiming; "I won't have it. Two of you onto me at once isn't fair."
In a moment Mont was there. He found the two young men, Sam Holly and Jerry Dabble, standing over his chum with two ropes' ends, with which they were hitting him.
"What are you licking him for?" asked Mont, his eyes flashing.
"Because he won't get the breakfast," said Holly.
"He's not your servant—why should he?"
"He'll have to do it, or you will," said Sam the bully, setting his arms akimbo and staring impudently at Mont.
"My good fellow," said the latter, "don't you make any error. Neither my friend nor myself means to do anything on board this ship unless we're asked civilly."
Jerry Dabble laughed. "You're a fool to talk that way!" he roared.
Mont immediately gave him a cuff on the ears which sent him rolling over a bunk.