Copyright
G. Harvey Ralphson.

Boy Scouts in Southern Waters online

. (page 10 of 13)
Online LibraryG. Harvey RalphsonBoy Scouts in Southern Waters → online text (page 10 of 13)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


vessels against their will and kept below until so far away that
swimming back would have been suicide."

"Why didn't they complain when they once got ashore?" asked Tom. "I
should go right to the American Consul at the port."

"Well, maybe they felt that if they did they would have had fair
treatment and maybe not. You know a captain of a vessel is king on board
his boat when they are at sea. He might log a man for mutiny and the
chap would be glad to run away from the vessel when he landed.

"It must be a tough life on those deep sea craft in spite of all the
fine stories we read. I don't want to go to sea."

"Right you are, Tom," cried Jack. "But look at the chap, he's headed
right in for us. I do believe he'll be on us in a minute."

"Sound the Klaxon a little," said Frank. "Maybe he'll sheer off. Why not
switch on the lights? He might see them."

Quickly this suggestion was followed. Not a moment too soon it seemed,
for the tug crew had evidently been watching the vessel they were towing
and had not noticed the Fortuna. A whirl of the spokes by the pilot
brought the tug on a course away from the motor boat, but the schooner
had headway enough so that she came right on. By the narrowest margin
she cleared the Fortuna.

The boys breathed easier as she slipped past them, her bulk looming
large beside the vessel they occupied.

"What was that?" asked Jack, holding up a hand for silence.

"I didn't hear anything," declared Tom. "What do you hear?"

"I thought I heard it, too," cried Frank. "The Bob White call."

"Where could it have come from? It must be that some of the men around
here use that whistle," Jack decided. "We've heard it before."

Although the boys discussed the matter thoroughly they could not decide
where the call could have been sent from and finally again composed
themselves for sleep, after extinguishing all but the riding or anchor
light gleaming at the head of their signal staff.

Morning was just breaking when they were again aroused. This time a tap
at a window brought Rowdy to attention and made Jack spring to his feet
in alarm. In a boat sat Doright, the negro.

"What do you want?" demanded Jack. "Can we do anything for you?"

"No sir, Boss, youall caint do nothin' for me," answered the negro,
rolling his eyes upward. "Mebbe youall kin do something for them
pardners of yourn! They done gone away."

"Gone away!" gasped Frank, now joining Jack. "Gone away!"

"Yaas, sir, Boss, dey done goned away on a ship named the 'Walkfast.' I
done holp Mister Pete put 'em on board."

"Where is this ship now?" demanded Frank crisply.

"She done lef' a hour or two ago," answered the negro. "If youall wants
to know where she gwine, go ax de man at de custom house."

"That's a sensible thing to do," declared Jack. "Take this fellow
aboard, while I go up to the custom house and find where the ship
Walkfast was bound for and if this chap is not lying, we'll take a
little cruise for an appetizer. Don't let him get away."

In a few minutes Jack came running back breathless. He made haste to get
aboard, signaling for the boys to hoist the anchor.

Not a second was lost in getting the Fortuna under way with her nose
pointed out to sea. After the engines had been set whirling Jack
recovered his breath and explained that the vessel had been the schooner
"Quickstep," that had so nearly wrecked the Fortuna. Her clearance was
for New York and she was heavily laden with lumber.

"We can make about three miles to his one," Jack explained. "We're about
three hours behind him so we ought to catch him in about an hour or so
from now unless he steers a course different from that taken by other
vessels. He's heading for the Dry Tortugas."

"Shall we boost the engines a little?" urged Tom.

"No; better let them go as they are," replied Jack. "Every machine has
what I'd call an 'economy notch.' Beyond that on either side more work
may be done, or less, but at the expense of straining the engines or
fuel or something. They're doing excellent work right now, so let's not
disturb them. It won't be long now."

The minutes seemed to drag like hours, however, to the boys. The glasses
were constantly used by Tom, who was perched on top of the pilot house,
sweeping the water for a trace of a sail.

"I see her," he shouted. "I mean Ship Ahoy. No, Sail Ho."

Directly the Fortuna overhauled the vessel they pursued.

"I want to speak to your captain," hailed Jack.

"Keep off, or I'll shoot," replied the mate at the rail.

"Bob, Bob White," came a whistle from the rigging.






CHAPTER XX

RESCUED AT SEA


"Bob, Bob White," replied Frank from the Fortuna. "Oh, there you are,
Charley. Thank God. Oh, come down and come aboard."

"Yes, he'll come aboard," vociferated the mate in a coarse voice. He was
a brutal looking fellow, to whom the boys instantly took a violent
dislike. "He'll stay where he is and so will you."

With these words he drew from the pocket of his trousers a revolver of
old style, but of aspect fully as vicious as its owner. It was of large
calibre, and from the way in which the mate handled it he was evidently
familiar with its use.

But Jack was not to be daunted so easily. Stretching the truth a bit,
perhaps, he replied to the threat of the mate:

"Oh, well, if you feel like bucking the government, go ahead. I can't
sink you with this craft, or you'd be at the bottom in a jiffy. But you
know what it means to disobey orders of an officer."

At this the fellow perceptibly weakened. But because the members of the
crew had overheard his threats and feeling like so many cowardly bullies
do that he must make good his word, even though in the wrong, he again
shook the menacing revolver and shouted:

"You fellows keep off or I'll shoot. You can't steal my crew. I'm a
bucko mate, I am. You better sheer off."

"Drop that gun, you villain!" cried Charley Burnett, high up in the
schooner's rigging. At his words the mate turned.

Instantly a ringing voice from the Fortuna called out:

"Now I've got the drop on you! Let that gun go and tell the captain I
want to talk to him or I'll have to shoot."

Tom was perched on top of the Fortuna's pilot house with a rifle in his
hands, the muzzle pointed straight at the mate.

When the coward saw that he was indeed covered by a weapon in the hands
of a determined person, his grasp on his own means of offense loosened,
permitting the revolver to drop to the deck.

Seeing that he was for the time worsted he tried to cover his confusion
with a grin that was more of a snarl.

"Better send for your captain and be quick about it," cried Jack
impatiently. "We can't afford to burn up good gasolene chasing you. Move
quickly and it will be better for you."

Ungraciously the mate dispatched one of the hands to call the captain
who appeared on deck directly in a not very good humor.

When he saw the boys in their neat uniforms, however, and observed the
trim appearance of the craft alongside his own vessel, his manner
changed. He approached the rail and hailed:

"Launch, Ahoy! What can I do for you?"

"I must speak with you on important business, Captain."

"All right, sir. If you'll bear off a little, I'll heave to and you may
come aboard. I'm heavily laden and on short time, but I'll spare you a
few moments if you can be brief."

In a short time the schooner lay quietly upon the water, with the
Fortuna ranged alongside. Fenders had been put overboard by the
Fortuna's crew in order to protect the paint on the launch.

Jack was received by the captain, who met him with a smile and hearty
handshake of welcome. The situation was soon explained by Jack, who won
the captain's heart by his straightforward, manly appearance and by his
directness of speech.

"So we've got some of your chums who have been shanghaied?" queried the
captain, when Jack had finished his recital.

"It looks that way, Captain," Jack announced.

"Well, what are you going to do about it?" inquired the master of the
sailing vessel in a tone intended to be severe.

Jack was watching his new acquaintance closely and thought he detected
just the suspicion of a twinkle in the captain's eye.

"He's playing for time to try me out," thought the lad rapidly. "He
wants to see what I'll do in case of refusal."

Outwardly he gave no indication of what was in his mind, but appeared to
be pondering the situation deeply. At length he said:

"Captain, I'll have to leave it up to you. We want our chums who are
aboard your vessel. I don't know what the marine law is nor whether we'd
have a right to seize them by force if we were able. So I think I'd
better leave it to you. What shall we do, Captain?"

"Well, when you put it that way," replied the Captain, reaching for
Jack's hand and seizing it in a hearty grasp, "I think you'd better take
the lads and with them my apology. Will that do?"

"Captain, you're a brick," shouted Jack, forgetting for a moment in his
enthusiasm the difference in their rank. The next moment he was all
confusion over his breach of etiquette.

Laughing, the captain preceded him up the companion-way and called to
the mate. He then ordered the boys who had been shipped aboard the
"Quickstep," released and turned over to the captain of the Fortuna.
This was done much to the mate's disgust.

There need be no doubt as to the heartiness of the greetings that passed
between the separated members of the Beaver and Bob White Patrols once
they were united again. Introductions followed hastily.

As the "Quickstep" sailed away on her course again, the crew of the
Fortuna gathered on top of the cabin and waved a farewell, cheering
until they were hoarse. At length Jack called them below.

"How about some eats?" queried Tom. "I'm so empty I'd make a first rate
drum. I declare I haven't had anything to eat in weeks."

"Rubber," shouted Harry. "Stretch it. You mustn't fib."

"Well, I mean it seems that long," declared Tom. "Who'll be the cook?
Shall we run slowly until breakfast is ready?"

"That's a good idea," Jack answered. "Let's run under a check until
breakfast is over, then we'll make good time straight for Biloxi."

"Hurray, we're homeward bound," shouted Tom. "Hurray again!"

"Shower bath first," cried Arnold, dragging out the hose.

What a glorious morning that was. Doright laughed until he could laugh
no more to see the antics of the boys who took turns holding the hose on
each other. The sun was just up clear of the horizon ushering in a day
that promised to be beautiful. Only a slight swell was running on the
Gulf giving the boys an excellent opportunity for a shower bath on deck.
They availed themselves of the opportunity and frolicked about to their
heart's content.

At length the boys produced the brushes and proceeded to scrub the
Fortuna until she shone - as Tom put it - "like a new bottle."

Jack volunteered to act as cook, drafting Arnold to assist because of
the extra number of mouths to be fed. Doright stayed about the
kitchenette, taking in every detail of the splendidly equipped boat. To
his eyes, unaccustomed to anything of the sort, the vessel was splendid
beyond compare. He was charmed.

Presently breakfast was served. All did ample justice to the shrimps,
sweet potatoes and chicken gumbo that Jack had prepared. The excellence
of the coffee was remarked by all.

At length the boys, having eaten their fill, spread the remains of the
breakfast for Doright. He had been serving as the boys ate.

"If there isn't enough breakfast for you. Doright, we'll make some
pancakes for you," Jack offered in a friendly tone.

"Thankee, Boss. Ah guess there's more'n Ah kin eat," protested Doright.
"Ah haint no heavy eater, nohow. Ah just lunches."

Leaving the negro to satisfy his appetite and wash the dishes, the boys
repaired to the pilot house for a conference. There detailed
explanations of all that had happened since Harry and Arnold left for a
fishing trip were made, while Frank Evans and Charley Burnett told their
story of the incidents in which they had been concerned.

"I'm puzzled over two things," stated Jack at length.

"What are they?" queried Arnold. "Ask me, I can tell you."

"First, I'm puzzled over the sudden turn of front in Doright."

"That's a fact," was Tom's rejoinder. "He has turned his coat mighty
sudden. I wonder what caused him to do it. Let's ask him."

This was no sooner proposed than it met with instant favor. Doright was
called from his labor to join the meeting.

"Doright," Jack began in a kindly tone. "We have had reason to believe
that you were opposed to us in times past. We knew that you were working
against us and that you helped make prisoners of these lads here. Now
what we want to know is, why should you turn about and tell us when they
were just being put out of the way?"

Breathlessly the boys all leaned forward to catch the story.

"Well, sir, Boss, hit's jess like this here," began Doright. "Mah name's
Doright Abraham Jefferson Davis Canaan. Ah fergit the rest. Ever sense
Ah was little Ah been told by mah mammy to do right - Doright! Dat's mah
name and Ah tries to do right."

"Thanks," smiled Jack. "Now tell me why you changed so."

"Well, sir, Boss, Ah jest seen that these yere boys wuzn't no men. Ah
wuz willin' to let Lopez take the boys and shet 'em up an' all that. But
when hit come to puttin' of 'em aboard a bucko schooner, Ah says to
mahse'f, Ah says: 'Doright, dat haint right.'"

"Yes, and what then? Why didn't you take them off the ship?"

"She done gone. So Ah jest says to Mister Pete - dat's Lopez - Ah says,
'Mr. Pete,' Ah says, 'youall better git them boys back,' an' Mr. Pete he
done fotch me a clip over the haid with his'n gun an' Ah specs Ah got a
bump right there now. 'Course Ah done hit Mr. Pete then and so Ah come
on down to see youall. Mr. Pete he won't come to for a long time. Don't
no-body come to for for a long time when Ah hits 'em. Ah don't know mah
own strength dey tells me."

"So, that was it, eh?" observed Frank. "Conscience got to hurting a
little and we owe the presence of this united band of Boy Scouts to our
friend Doright. Boys, I move three cheers for Doright! Give them real
heartily now, as if you meant it."

The ringing cheers went echoing across the waters of the Gulf, bringing
a grin to Doright's black face. He scarcely caught the entire meaning of
this tribute, but he sensed the import of it.

"I think we'd better give Doright a little souvenir," Frank suggested.
"Doright, what would you like to have best of all?"

Doright considered deeply, scratching his head meanwhile. At length he
looked up with a smile spreading across his face.

"Ah reckon I'd like best to jes' cook an' clean upon this here boat. She
sure am a fine boat and Ah wouldn't be in the way a littlest bit. Ah
could sleep down in here by the engines or on deck."

"All right, Doright," answered Jack. "We'll have to consider the matter
a while. We'll let you know later. You may go now."

After the negro's disappearance toward the cabin, the boys again
gathered about Jack, eager for the next development.

"After Doright's lucid explanation, I think we have reduced our troubles
to just one," he announced in a tone of finality.

"Just one trouble on earth," shouted Harry. "Oh my!"

"And what, pray, might that be?" queried Frank.

"That is just the question of whether or not there really is a treasure
and if there is whether or not it is getatable, and whether Wyckoff and
Lopez and their gang of rascals will make us the trouble they have been
trying to make if we endeavor to get the chest."

"Well," speculated Charley, "if there isn't a treasure, there might just
as well be one for Wyckoff and Lopez and their gang believe there is
one, and they're ready to fight to the last breath to get it."

"They're surely scrappers," Arnold announced. "We know that."

"Yes," agreed Harry, "they're scrappers from the very word."

"Look at what we've had to contend with before we fairly start."

"What I'm worried about," Jack announced, "is that although Lawyer Geyer
gives minute instructions about everything else he doesn't give any
information as to the site of the chest. The fort must have been an acre
or so in extent, yet he doesn't say whether it was buried in this corner
or that, or out near the wood shed or what."

"We'll have to dig it all up," laughingly declared Frank.

"I can fix that," boasted Harry. "I know exactly the spot where we
should turn the first shovelful of earth."






CHAPTER XXI

A FRIEND AND AN ENEMY


"Yes, you know all about this business," scorned Arnold. "I'll wager you
were there when the stuff was buried."

"No I wasn't there, but I know where to dig just the same. I can tell
you within two feet of where the chest was planted."

"Harry," Jack said soberly, "this is getting to be almost too serious a
matter to joke about. If you have any information that would be of help
to us, let's have it, but don't joke us."

"I'm not joking," bridled Harry. "I've got some information that I
believe to be pretty near the exact thing we're looking for. I got it
from a man who wouldn't have parted with it for his right hand if he'd
known about it, so I think it is all right."

"Where did you get it and what does it look like?"

"I got it in the cabin in the woods that was burned down. When Lopez
left us that time to go for Wyckoff in order to have his captives
appraised and disposed of, I remembered that I had seen him just before
supper step over to a chest in the corner of the room. He unlocked the
chest, took an envelope from his pocket, put it in the chest and dropped
the lid. It was a spring lock for he didn't lock it again, but tried it
to see if it was fast."

"So, of course, you picked the lock and stole his time card."

"Wait, Tom," cautioned Jack. "Let Harry finish his story."

"So, of course," went on Harry, "when we were getting loose I forgot all
about the paper until the place was afire. Arnold went out of the cabin
and I was at his heels, but remembered the envelope. I wanted that badly
just then, so I snatched up a great piece of firewood and with a few
blows shattered the top of the chest. It had a tray that was nearly
empty except for the thing I sought. There it lay, ready for me to take.
So, of course, I took it. I stuffed it inside my jacket while we climbed
out and then in the darkness I put it into an inside pocket where it has
been ever since. Lopez forgot to search us very diligently or he would
surely have discovered it."

"What does it look like and do you think it has any information we could
use?" inquired Jack, intensely interested.

"I don't know what the thing inside is made of," answered Harry
producing the article. "It looks like leather of a peculiar kind and on
it are black marks. If it were not for one thing, I'd have passed it up
entirely. Over in the corner are the words - 'Biloxi Bayou.' Then the
rest was as clear as mud."

"Let's take a look at it," requested Arnold. "We all want to see what
it's like. If it was left by a Spaniard, it's no use to us, for we can't
read Spanish and when Harry says he read it, I can't believe he knows
what he's talking about. He can't read Spanish."

"I can read this all right," protested Harry, "and so can you. It's very
simple. Here's a mark and there's a mark and that's all."

He now spread the chart open above the binnacle so that the boys all
might look at it. As he had said, it was a piece of soft Spanish leather
left white by the dyer but now yellowed and darkened somewhat with age.
In rather uneven lines were traced roughly the location of certain
objects intended obviously to be trees. Certain of these were ranged in
line like the range lights used by mariners when entering or leaving a
harbor. At a spot where two lines of ranges crossed, which was evidently
near the water's edge, was a rough sketch of a box. Evidently no words
were needed.

"I see it all as plain as day," declared Arnold. "This old chap selected
a spot at the intersection of two ranges using big trees - maybe live
oaks - then he dug a hole and buried the chest. It is right where the
tide comes up so no one would think of looking there for it! He was a
wise old chap."

"Then we'll have to go there when the tide's out."

"No, I don't think so. I have another idea," Jack put in, "but it's so
foolish that we better forget it. Anyhow, I believe the fellow tried to
say that the box was buried just at the high water mark."

"All right, let it go at that," returned Harry. "If the box is there and
the trees are there, that's all we want. We can get it."

"If Wyckoff and his gang don't get there first."

"What I want to know," Charley spoke up, "is what makes this line and
the others, too, so uneven. They are soaked right into the leather and
looks as if the ink hadn't run evenly."

"Frank," queried Jack, "what do you make of it?"

"I'd hate to say right out," Frank answered, "but it looks to me like
the old Don had run out of ink and used a little red ink from the arm of
one of his trusty followers. A little hot water would set it and turn it
black so it would never fade."

"That's horrible," shuddered Tom. "I don't like to think of such a
thing. It makes me shivery all over just to think of it."

"Well, we'll get over to Biloxi as soon as we can and look over the
ground. When we think we've located the treasure, we'll just shove a
spade into the sand and up'll come the dollars."

"Sure, Tom, you've got it all doped out to a dot."

"Where are we now? Seems we ought to be nearly to Biloxi by this time.
We've been hitting up a pretty good pace."

"We've got a long ways to go yet. There's Pascagoula over there on the
starboard side now. We ran some little distance to the east."

"Sail ho," sung out Charley who was keeping a lookout from the top of
the pilot house. "I see a man in a row boat."

"Where away?" asked Jack.

"Almost dead ahead! He's not rowing very hard."

"How shall I head to pick him up?" Jack questioned.

"Just a trifle to starboard. There. Steady as she goes."

In a short time the Fortuna driven by her powerful engines came up to
the rowboat. As the boys approached the lone occupant of the skiff all
were eager to see who it might be.

"Some early morning fisherman," ventured Arnold.

"He isn't fishing," declared Harry. "He's resting on his oars."

Harry now mounted to the pilot house roof and took the glasses.

"I know that chap," he cried. "Better starboard your helm and go to port
of him. We don't want to get any closer to that chap."

"Who is it, Harry?" asked Jack.

"Little Simple Simon Sorefooted Carlos Madero at your service."

"He got run over once by getting in the way of this vessel. I wonder if
he's trying it again," mused Jack, holding the Fortuna on her course.
"We've got crew enough now so that we can mount guard over him day and
night if we want to. Let's pick him up and see what he knows. We can
easily tow his skiff along."

"Sure! Let's pick up a shark or two! Let's explode some dynamite in the
cabin. Let's drill holes in the ship. Let's anything."

"Now don't get sarcastic, if you please. Madero didn't do all those
things. He tried something once and didn't make it work."

"Yes, and he got a sore foot, too! He's out here for more."

Answering the hail from the Fortuna, Madero, for it was he, asked to be
taken aboard. He seemed weak and unable to help himself. When his
condition became apparent the boys were all sympathy. They quickly
helped him over the rail and then took his boat in tow.

"What's on your mind, Madero?" laughed Jack. "How are you?"

"I want first of all to tell you fellows how sorry I am I ever did
anything to harm you. I believed that you were some terrible creatures
come down here to rob and pillage and torture the natives. I had been
told by Wyckoff that if you caught me alone you would not hesitate to
kill me. He made me believe I was doing something creditable when I
attempted to destroy your boat."

"Well, that's all right, Madero. We forgive you."

"And I want to say that I came aboard your boat the other night to
finish what Wyckoff and I both had failed to do earlier. When you boys
were so kind to me after my accident I hadn't the heart to hurt you. I
returned to Wyckoff and refused to do any more. He then had me taken
back into the country and put into the chain gang where the negro
criminals are worked on the public highways."

"The brute," exclaimed the boys almost in chorus.

"And when I made a trifling mistake," went on Carlos, "the foreman had
me stretched over a log and whipped like an animal. My back has been


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 10 12 13

Online LibraryG. Harvey RalphsonBoy Scouts in Southern Waters → online text (page 10 of 13)