Copyright
G. Harvey Ralphson.

Boy Scouts in Southern Waters online

. (page 4 of 13)
Online LibraryG. Harvey RalphsonBoy Scouts in Southern Waters → online text (page 4 of 13)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


will be permitted. Justice may be necessary - no more."

A murmur of approval that ran around the little group showed that the
boys heartily favored Jack's sentiment in the matter.

Under cover of Tom's leveled automatic Wyckoff, for it was he, remained
passive while Jack searched his pockets, producing therefrom the missing
flashlight made to imitate an automatic pistol, a watch, a purse with
some coins inside, a vile smelling pipe with a pouch of tobacco, a
stubby lead pencil and a note book partly filled with figures and
memoranda. Apparently there was nothing of value.

"Aside from the flashlight and the real automatic pistol, I can't find
that he's taken anything of our property," Jack said when the search was
completed. "I guess we'd better return his own property to him. We don't
want his money and wouldn't use his pipe."

"Now let's tie him up!" Arnold suggested. "I think it would be wise to
sew him down to the sand. He's a slippery fellow."

"Good idea!" laughed Frank. "But tying is better all round."

"What shall we tie him with?" asked Tom. "I have nothing."

"Why, come to think of it," Harry put in, "how did you get ashore,
anyway? Last we knew of you, you were guarding the Fortuna."

"While you lads were up the beach after that horseshoe crab," explained
Tom, "I sat on the roof of the cabin with the glasses. I thought I saw a
figure stealing along in the shelter of those pines to the eastward of
this spot and after a while I made him out. The glasses showed that it
was our last visitor on board the Fortuna. So I knew he'd bear watching,
as they say, and I went below to get a gun for emergency. When I came
out again, he was real close, and I saw what he intended to do. I simply
started the engines, slipped the cable and ran the Fortuna high and dry
on shore, tumbled over the bow and arrived in time to checkmate his
little game. I'm glad, too!"

"So are we!" heartily agreed the boys with one accord.

"But what are we to do with this chap?" queried Jack. "It rather worries
me. He's apt to be a white elephant on our hands."

"It would serve him good and right," began Arnold, "and be only justice,
too, if we marooned him on this very island where he left Frank. I think
that's the best way out of the whole thing."

"Let's set the chap down by the fire," Tom suggested, "while we argue it
out. There's still a little raw edge on the wind."

Tom was right, and although the fog of the morning had gone, the air was
still damp and the wind from the Gulf was heavy with moisture that
chilled the boys when not in motion. Accordingly, following the lad's
suggestion, they directed their steps toward one of the fires kindled
earlier by Frank. There they seated themselves while Tom with one
automatic and Jack with another watched Wyckoff.

"Perhaps the prisoner at the bar may have a suggestion in the premises,"
ventured Frank. "We want to be square with you, Wyckoff, even if you
have treated us exceedingly unkind."

"I want you fellows to take your gear and go back north!" shouted
Wyckoff in an angry tone. "I'll fix you yet for this!"

"We have a right to be here," Jack put in, "so long as we don't harm
anyone. We are merely tourists out for a pleasure trip."

"You lie!" almost screamed Wyckoff. "You're after the Spanish Chest, but
you shall never have it! It belongs to me!"

In his excitement the prisoner almost forgot himself and shook his fist
at Jack threateningly, rising to his feet meanwhile.

"Sit down!" Tom's voice, although calm, carried a world of meaning to
the excited man whose glance toward Tom took in the unwavering blue
muzzle of the Weapon in his captor's hand.

"Suppose for the sake of argument that we were after this mythical chest
of treasure whose value has been without doubt multiplied many times in
the retailing of its story," Jack argued, "does that imply that we are
committing a crime against you? Have you any more claim on the chest
that you mention than we have?"

"Yes!" shouted the angry Wyckoff. "I am a lineal descendant from the
Spaniards who buried it. It is mine because it is in the family. I don't
know what word you educated Yankees would use, but it is mine because it
belonged to my father's father's father."

"I know," spoke up Arnold; "you mean you have inherited it?"

"Yes, that's it," agreed Wyckoff. "Besides that, you will never be able
to get the treasure. It is cursed to anyone but a person of Spanish
blood. I am part Spaniard and it is mine."

"Well, we might consider going back in the face of such argument," said
Frank, appearing to agree with Wyckoff, "but what did you do with my
chum? I won't go away and leave him, you know."

"Your partner and your boat are both safe," declared Wyckoff. "When we
know that you are ready to leave, we'll bring you all together again,
but not before. You'll never see him again otherwise."

"Why, what would happen to him?" questioned Frank in amazement.

Wyckoff drew his thumb across his throat with a suggestive move.

The boys shuddered as they grasped the significance of his meaning.
Their glances, met and instinctively they shrank away from the prisoner,
who seemed to enjoy their discomfiture immensely.

"I've heard great tales about this treasure chest since I came down
here," stated Frank at last. "What is this I hear about the one who
discovers the chest having to keep very quiet while he's digging? Is
there anything at all in that story or not?"

"It is said," stated Wyckoff, "that the one for whom the treasure is
destined must not utter a word while digging for it. Also, he must come
with clean hands. You understand what I mean? That is why you boys are
yet alive. My hands have not yet been - "

"Well, if they have not," interrupted Tom indignantly, "it is no fault
of your own, old chap. You surely tried your level best to put the
Fortuna and her crew under the water. Take it from me!"

"And yet he raves about his clean hands, the dirty scoundrel!" cried
Harry. "Why, if we were only afloat, we'd make him walk a plank!"

"That reminds me," Tom put in. "The Fortuna lies on the beach unless
she's worked herself loose, and it may be some job to get her off."

"Suppose you stay here and mount guard over the prisoner," suggested
Jack, "while we go back and look after the vessel. We'll return when
we've gotten everything ship shape and Bristol fashion."

"Suits me fine!" declared Tom. "And I hope this angelic prisoner tries
to escape while you're gone! That would be fine!"

"Tom, you're bloodthirsty, I believe!" laughed Jack indulgently. "I know
the provocation is severe, but remember that you're a Boy Scout."

"You wouldn't leave me on this island, would you?" inquired Wyckoff when
the boys had departed for the boat. "That would be cruel."

"But you marooned Frank here, didn't you?" asked Tom angrily. "Why would
it be any worse for you than for him? Tell me that."

"I told the men to leave him provisions and matches. I have no matches
nor provisions. I cannot make a fire with sticks, as he did," replied
the prisoner in an humble and whining tone intended to placate.

"Well," Tom considered, "we might leave you some matches and some grub.
You could find plenty of wood hereabouts, couldn't you?"

"There's plenty of wood here if one could work it up," replied Wyckoff.
"The storms have washed ashore thousands of pieces of planks and timbers
of all sorts. Why, once I came out to one of the islands and found a
fine boat washed ashore by a storm. It was perfectly sound and tight,
too. There's plenty of timber here to make one rich if he could only
salvage it and get it to market."

"Then if we leave you a box of matches and some canned goods," Tom
argued, "you'd be a lot better off than Frank was."

A shout from the direction of the Fortuna indicated that something was
taking place there. Wyckoff glanced hastily in that direction. Tom's
first impulse was to look that way, also, but his training stood him in
good stead. By a magnificent effort of will he kept his eyes fastened on
the prisoner, who stared intently toward the Fortuna as if fascinated by
what he saw. Thus they sat for a moment or two. Then Tom regained his
composure. Wyckoff glanced out of the corner of his eye narrowly at his
guard. Tom laughed.

"You didn't want the provisions badly enough to wait for them, did you,
you old fox?" he taunted. "You wanted me to look away for a minute and
then you'd have gone looking for provisions alone."

"You do me an injustice, lad," replied Wyckoff meekly.

"All right; I apologize; but the gun is in working order just the same,
and don't you forget it. It's still on the job."

Wyckoff's glance was baleful and full of venom as he controlled himself
with a visible effort. Hatred seemed to ooze from him as he sat quiet
very much against his will.

Another shout from the boat gave with its note of triumph a message that
the boys were meeting success in their efforts to get the Fortuna off
the beach. Wyckoff looked intently that way.

"Ha!" he ejaculated. "They're fetching it! Good boys!"

In spite of his resolve to keep his eyes on the prisoner, Tom's gaze
wandered for an instant to the sight viewed by Wyckoff.

That instant seemed to be the object of the outlaw's vigil.

The boys on the Fortuna had, by dint of great exertion, managed to work
the yacht from her resting place on the beach where Tom had driven her
in his mad race to rescue them a short time previously. Because of the
short distance traveled, the momentum of the boat had not been
sufficient to drive her far up on the beach, so it was not a difficult
matter to get her afloat again. The powerful motors tugged and pulled
and at last they were again afloat, but minus their anchor.

Frank offered to dive for it, and, divesting himself of his clothing,
went overboard in the clear water of the little bight where the anchor
and cable could be seen lying on the bottom.

The shout of triumph voiced by the boys when the Fortuna floated free
was echoed when Frank came to the surface after having bent on the line
he carried to the end of the chain cable. He was nearly breathless when
he reached the surface, but willing hands pulled him over the stern of
the rowboat in which the boys had searched for the lost anchor. Soon he
recovered his wind.

Peace seemed never to reign for long in the Fortuna. Scarcely had the
boys shouted in victory over the recovery of the anchor than they heard
a shot from the shore. Harry, from his position on the pilot house,
gesticulated and pointed inland in a frenzy.






CHAPTER VIII

JACK STRICKEN BY A BULLET


"What's up now?" cried Jack from the rowboat.

"That villain has shot Tom and is running away across the island!" cried
Arnold from his position. "Tom's lying on the sand!"

"Great Double-Barreled Wiggle-Headed Pollywogs!" ejaculated Harry.
"Excuse my French, but this is too much. If he's killed Tom, I'll resign
from the Boy Scouts for a few minutes. I will so!"

"Pull for the shore, boys!" urged Jack. "Get into your clothes, Frank!"
And then, before either of his orders could be obeyed, he seized the
oars and pulled the boat with lusty strokes toward the beach, intent on
capturing the outlaw if possible. Great sobs escaped him as he worked
manfully at the oars.

Each boy at that moment was mentally blaming himself for the tragedy he
was sure would await their arrival at the scene of the campfire. Each
one felt that he should have remained to guard the captive outlaw who
was so evidently desperate because of his situation.

But Jack's exertions were unnecessary. Before the rowboat reached the
sand, a flash of white had appeared over the bows of the Fortuna, a
great splash of water gave evidence of a heavy body launched from the
deck, and a commotion betokened a swimmer in action.

"Good old boy!" cried Frank with a sob in his throat.

"That never was Arnold!" cried Harry aghast at the thought of his chum
venturing into the water alone on such a quest.

"Not on your life!" Jack protested. "That was our one and only. Old
Rowdy is on the job with both feet. He's going ashore for business, too.
I believe that dog actually knows things!"

"Heaven help that poor wretch if Rowdy gets to him first!" cried Harry.
"Rowdy has more enthusiasm than caution, and he's apt to get rough. I
wouldn't be surprised to find Wyckoff all strung around the island in
small pieces when we get there."

In a short time the nose of the rowboat grounded on the beach.

The three boys leaped out and raced quickly to their fallen chum. Tom
was struggling to rise from his prone position. Far across the sands the
fleeing figure of the outlaw was being rapidly overtaken by the enraged
bulldog, who sensed the situation and who apparently was determined to
overtake and punish the escaped prisoner.

"Are you hurt, Tom?" queried Jack in a shaking tone.

"I guess so," Tom replied in a dazed manner. "No, I don't think I am,"
he corrected himself. "That is," he continued, "I don't know just what
happened. I heard you cry out, and as I turned to look, the explosion
took place. What happened, anyway?"

"From the look of your jaw, Wyckoff must have landed a sweeping kick
just where the knockout nerve is located," explained Frank.

"Try to shut your teeth," suggested Harry. "If you can shut your teeth
all right, nothing serious is to be feared."

Tom made the effort, but winced with pain. A grimace stole over his
countenance and his hand went up to the injured jaw.

"That hurts, doesn't it?" solicitously inquired Jack.

"Not much," bravely protested Tom. "The most trouble is that I can shut
the front teeth, but the back ones don't seem to meet by half an inch or
more. The jaw must be dislocated."

In spite of their sympathy the boys could not restrain a laugh.

"I guess that if your front teeth come together your back ones meet,"
Jack assured the injured boy. "Let's look for Wyckoff."

"You mean let's look for Wyckoff's remains!" Harry tried to put in, but
he was stopped by a gesture from Frank.

"Let's not make it any more horrible than it is. That man is desperate
and I'm afraid of him," he whispered as they helped Tom to his feet and
started away in the direction taken by the outlaw.

"I can't see him anywhere," Harry asserted. "I'll bet Rowdy has eaten
him up body, boots and breeches. Serve him right, too!"

"We're the bloodthirsty bunch!" declared Jack. "It must be some quality
in the atmosphere down here. This is the old region infested by Captain
Kidd and his buccaneers. They must have left something in the way of a
piratical germ in the atmosphere."

"Maybe so, but I'd like to find that dog just now," stoutly declared
Harry. "He's had one big meal even if the quality was poor."

"Follow his tracks," suggested Frank. "That's easy in this sand. See,
here they go. My word, but he was taking long jumps."

"He left in such a hurry that he didn't take my automatic," declared
Tom. "I guess when he hit me or kicked me I must have closed on the
trigger and started the thing going. He left without waiting to take the
gun away from me. I'm glad of that, too."

"I see him!" joyfully shouted Frank, who was slightly in the lead. "Here
he is, and Rowdy is mounting guard. Good old dog."

It was even as Frank had said. Rowdy had overtaken the fleeing villain
and brought him to earth. Now he was walking about the prostrate form,
occasionally stepping in and taking a nip at an arm or a leg. Wyckoff,
thoroughly cowed, was begging and whining at a great rate. At the
approach of the boys he begged piteously.

"Let him get up, Rowdy!" commanded Jack. "Now, Wyckoff," he ordered when
the dog had permitted that worthy to regain his feet, "You 'bout face
and back to the campfire on the double quick. It's getting toward
evening and we can't lay around here all night waiting on you. We want
you for a little while yet."

Wyckoff's appeals for mercy were piteous. All the way to the campfire he
begged that the boys would show him mercy, but no response was made.
Rowdy trotted along beside the outlaw with a satisfied air. Now and
again he would look up at Wyckoff's face and then make as if to take a
bite of the man's leg. At such times Wyckoff would involuntarily quicken
his gait until cautioned by Jack to go more steadily. This was very hard
for him to do, for he was frightened.

"Frank," Tom asked when the little party arrived at the fire, "did you
see anything of a boat on shore here during your visit?"

"Come to think of it, I certainly did," replied Frank. "It is a dandy,
too. I had made up my mind to try to drag it to the water and row to the
mainland if no one came soon, but your arrival drove all thoughts of it
from me. It is back here just a short distance."

"Wyckoff was telling me that boats were sometimes washed ashore on these
islands. That reminded me of it. I wonder if it wouldn't be a good idea
to ask Mr. Wyckoff to drag the boat to the water for us. He's been very
obliging and I don't want to overwork him without paying him for his
trouble," Tom added sarcastically.

"Hurray!" shouted Jack. "The very thing! And that may replace the one we
brought from Mobile and gave to that other fellow, - what was his name? I
never was much of a hand to remember names."

"I know - Carlos de Sneakodorus Madero!" announced Harry.

"Well, he got a boat from us, and it's only right we get one from his
boss," asserted Tom. "Did you know your hired man stole our boat?" he
inquired, turning to Wyckoff, who looked very humble.

"No, sir," replied that worthy. "I know the young fellow, but he is not
hired by me. I don't know what you mean about his stealing your boat. I
never told him to do such a thing!"

"All right; you've got a story coming, then. You just ask him when you
see him again. He'll tell you," was Tom's information.

"Lead us to the boat, Frank," requested Jack. "Mr. Wyckoff seems to be
just crazy to help us launch the rowboat."

Frank led the way to where a pile of great timbers and plank had been
cast up by the angry waters during a recent storm. There, resting on top
of the heap of lumber and timbers, was a fine skiff apparently sound and
whole. By some curious freak of the storm it had been gently deposited
there and left to rest while great ships had been sorely wrenched and
even wrecked. The boys lost no time in removing the skiff with Wyckoff's
help. To drag it along the yielding sand was a harder task. All were
thoroughly winded when at last the skiff floated in the waters of the
bight where lay the yacht.

"Whew!" panted Frank. "That's a big job for five. I'm glad I didn't
tackle it alone. I certainly would have been tired."

"Let's leave Rowdy to guard Wyckoff while we get things in good shape on
board and then we'll leave Wyckoff here!" suggested Tom in an aside to
Jack. "I think we'd better leave him some grub, too. It wouldn't be
right to just turn him adrift here alone."

"What, after he kicked you like that?" inquired Jack.

"Yes," Tom replied. "A Boy Scout never holds a grudge."

"Good for you, Tom!" cried Jack, extending his hand to meet Tom's in a
hearty grip. "Those sentiments make me glad that you are a member of the
Beaver Patrol. I wish they were all like that!"

No time was lost in preparing the boats for the proposed trip to the
mainland. The afternoon was well spent and the boys were tired and
hungry. Their day had been a most strenuous one.

Arnold was already preparing coffee and pancakes in the kitchenette when
the boys arrived with the newly discovered skiff.

"We'd better get the anchor aboard," suggested Harry, "and then hoist
the steel rowboat into her chocks and lash her fast. The skiff we can
tow behind us as we did the other if it's agreeable."

"Right-o!" sung out Tom, who had nearly forgotten his swollen jaw under
the excitement of the moment. "I see the oar we tied onto the line that
Frank fastened to the cable. It's right over there."

In a short time the anchor was brought aboard and lashed fast. The
rowboat was slung into place and made secure, and nothing remained but
the disposing of Wyckoff to occupy the boys at the island.

"How about it, Wyckoff?" called Harry from the deck of the Fortuna; "do
you want some grub, or can you rustle for yourself?"

A torrent of abuse was the outlaw's reply.

"Watch out or I'll sic my little dog onto you!" warned Harry.

"Let's not aggravate him any more than we have to," cautioned Jack.
"Take him some grub and throw it onto the beach. Then be quick about
getting back, for it's getting late. It's three bells now!"

Harry rowed ashore with some canned beans, meats and blueberries.

Keeping at a respectful distance from the shore he tossed the cans to a
position where they could easily be recovered by the outlaw. He whistled
to Rowdy, who came aboard the skiff with a rush, and then pulled for the
Fortuna with a lusty stroke.

Scarcely was he well aboard before Jack at the switchboard had started
the engines and the Fortuna pointed her nose away from Petit Bois Island
and headed for the mainland.

Frank was lost in wonder and admiration as the boys showed him about the
Fortuna. He exclaimed over the conveniences and went into raptures over
the kitchenette and washroom.

"We cooked on a furnace on the Spray," he said regretfully. "Here you've
the gasoline and electric coils. Electric lights and electric stoves and
electric starter on the engines. It is fine!"

"What's a furnace?" inquired Arnold eagerly.

"It's a sort of a bucket made of fire clay," answered Frank. "It has a
division about half way down. Charcoal is put in on top and lighted and
the draft comes up through a hole in the side. The natives and negroes
down here use them quite extensively. They don't like iron stoves and
ranges because they don't know how to use them."

"Let's see if Wyckoff is keeping up his campfire," suggested Harry.
"I'll wager he's too excited to even think about supper."

When the boys reached the deck they saw Wyckoff capering and dancing
about on the beach wildly. He was waving his arms in an evident effort
to attract attention. A schooner was approaching from the west.

"Yacht aho-o-oy!" came a faint hail across the water.

Jack at the wheel held a steady course and reached a hand toward the
switchboard. His lips were tightly closed. Again the hail came across
the tumbling waters, but no reply was made.

A shot rang out from the schooner. The boys could see the bullet
ricochet from wave to wave and pass in front of the Fortuna.

Another shot was fired. Glass tinkled. Jack fell to the floor.






CHAPTER IX

A NIGHT ATTACK


"Oh, Jack!" cried Tom, stooping over the boy lying prone upon the pilot
house floor. "Oh, Jack, speak to me!"

Unguided by a hand at the wheel, the Fortuna fell off into the trough of
the sea and began to roll broadside on. Another shot came from the
schooner, but it went wild. The boys crowded about the form of their
fallen chum and tried to lift him to his feet. Frank was the first to
give attention to the boat.

"They're gaining on us!" he cried. "Which switch controls the power?
Let's get away from here before they kill us all!"

"Those levers in the center of the board," directed Harry, "govern the
spark and fuel. Someone get the wheel. Steer due northwest for a while
until we get straightened out!"

Frank whirled the spokes of the wheel rapidly and brought the Fortuna up
to her course, while Harry quickly operated the switches that gave new
impetus to the engines. Soon the Fortuna was cleaving the waves at full
speed. Clouds of spray were thrown far aside as she mounted the crest,
and every plunge into the trough brought a torrent of water over her
bows. Her graceful lines offered little resistance to her progress. She
leaped forward like a thing of life, rapidly leaving the schooner far
astern.

Another shot was fired from the pursuer, but fell far astern of the
flying motor boat. Apparently those aboard the sailing vessel realized
the hopelessness of further effort, for they turned and headed back for
the island so recently left by the boys.

No sooner had the Fortuna been put under full speed than, leaving Frank
at the wheel, the others carried Jack into the cabin, where he was laid
upon a bunk. Swiftly Tom tore away his jacket and shirt, exposing a
chest with well-developed muscles standing out prominently. The strong,
lithe figure of the boy gave striking evidence of the beneficial result
of constant and well-directed physical exercise. Just now he lay limp
and inert.

"Where is he hit?" queried Harry, appearing with restoratives from the


1 2 4 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13

Online LibraryG. Harvey RalphsonBoy Scouts in Southern Waters → online text (page 4 of 13)