Dave Porter on Cave Island: or, A Schoolboy's Mysterious Mission
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“I – I guess I’m seasick!” answered the senator’s son. “Gracious, how this old tub rolls!”
“Don’t call the Golden Eagle a tub!” returned Phil. “Say, can I do anything for you?” he went on sympathetically.
“Yes, tell Captain Sanders to keep the boat from rocking.”
“Better lie down again, Roger,” said Dave, entering the stateroom. “It’s a little better than standing up.”
“Oh, I – I guess I’m not so very ba-badly off,” gasped the sufferer. “But I do wish the storm was over.”
“We all wish that.”
But, instead of clearing away, the storm increased in violence, and by nine o’clock in the morning the wind was blowing close to a gale. Both the captain and the mate were on deck, and the former advised the boys and the other passengers to remain below. Two of the Englishmen were very seasick and found all manner of fault because of the storm.
“I’d never have come on this treasure hunt had I known I was to be so sick!” groaned one.
“What bloody luck!” said the other sick man. “All the pirates’ gold in the world is not worth it!”
“Stow it!” cried the man named Geswick. “You know you weren’t to mention what we were after.”
“Nobody can hear us, in this storm,” replied the first man who had spoken.
“Those boys might hear,” put in the fellow named Pardell.
“Oh, well, they are only boys. Besides, they’d not dare to follow us up to Cave Island – ”
“Hush, I tell you!” cried Geswick, savagely. “Do learn to keep your tongue quiet.” And then the men continued to talk in whispers.
Dave had been passing the staterooms of the Englishmen during this conversation and he could not help but hear what was said. When he rejoined his chums he told them of the talk.
“They must be on the hunt after pirates’ gold,” said Phil. “Well, they are not the first to do that kind of searching. Party after party has sailed down here for the same purpose.”
“Yes, and each party has been unsuccessful, so far as I know,” answered Dave.
“Perhaps they have some extra-good clew,” suggested Roger, trying to forget his seasickness.
“Perhaps,” returned Dave. “Well, if they can find any pirates’ gold on any of these islands they are welcome to it, so far as I am concerned. All I want to get hold of are the Carwith jewels.”
CHAPTER XIX – THE MISSING SHIP
“How much longer do you think this storm will last?”
It was Dave who asked this question, of Captain Sanders, when the latter came down to get a bite for breakfast. To get a regular meal, with the vessel pitching and tossing wildly, was out of the question.
“I don’t know, Dave,” was the grave answer. “I am hoping the wind will die down by sunset. But the storm may last several days.”
“Are we in any danger?” questioned Phil.
“There is always danger during a storm,” answered the master of the Golden Eagle. “But I hope to weather this blow without much trouble.”
“Can we be of any assistance?” went on our hero.
“No, boys.There is nothing you can do but keep yourselves from falling overboard. How is Roger?”
“A little better.”
“I heard that two of those Englishmen are pretty sick,” went on Captain Sanders, with a faint smile.
“It’s queer to me that they sailed with us. It’s not such a pleasant voyage.”
“I overheard a little of their talk,” answered Dave, and, knowing he could trust the captain, he related what had been said.
“Pirates’ gold, eh?” muttered the master of the ship. “Most of those yarns are fairy-stories. I’ve known expedition after expedition to be fitted out, to search for treasures said to be hidden by the old-time buccaneers, but I never saw a man yet who got even a smell of a treasure. Where were they going for it, Dave?”
“I don’t know. I think one of them mentioned Cave Island. Is there such a place?”
“There may be, although I never heard of it. Many of the islands in this part of the globe, being of volcanic origin, contain caves.”
“They must expect to get to Cave Island from Barbados.”
“More than likely,” answered the captain, and then hurried on deck again.
The storm continued for the remainder of the day, but by nightfall the wind commenced to die down, and by midnight the clouds had passed and the stars were shining brightly. In the morning the big sun came out of the sea to the east like a globe of fire.
“Now we are going to have some warm weather,” remarked Billy Dill, and the old tar was right. As the sun mounted in the heavens it grew positively hot, until the boys had to go to their staterooms and don thinner clothing. With the departure of the storm, Roger’s seasickness left him, but the two Englishmen remained slightly unwell for some time longer.
“Phew! how warm it is!” remarked Phil. “And just think of it! – up at home they are having snow and ice!”
With the passing of the storm, the boys settled down as before. They saw but little of the Englishmen, especially of the pair who were sick. But one day something happened which came close to causing a crisis.
The boys were seated on the rear deck, talking over matters in general, when a strong puff of wind caused a sheet of paper to blow from somewhere ahead towards Dave. He reached out and caught the sheet just as it was about to go overboard.
“Hello, what’s this?” he cried, as he looked the sheet over. “Must be some sort of a chart.”
“It is,” answered Roger, gazing at the paper. “See, here is a spot marked Barbados, and another marked Cave Island, a little to the eastward.”
“Why, look what it says, up here!” cried Phil. “’Map of the Don Amorandos Treasure, buried in 1715.’ Say, do you think those Englishmen – ”
“Hi, you! Give me that map!” bawled a voice from near by, and with a very red face, the Englishman named Geswick bore down on the boys. “How dare you look at this?” he went on, as he snatched the sheet out of their hands and folded it up.
“We wanted to see what it was and whom it belonged to,” answered Dave, as calmly as he could.
“You had no right to look at it,” stormed Andrew Geswick. “That is private property.”
“Then why did you let it fall in our hands?” asked Phil.
“If it hadn’t been for Dave, it would have gone overboard,” put in Roger.
“Humph!” The man fell back a little. “Well, I am thankful for that. But you boys had no right to look at it,” he grumbled.
“Why, it’s only a chart, isn’t it?” asked the senator’s son, curiously.
“Never mind what it is!” answered Andrew Geswick, sharply. “Did you read what was on it?” he demanded, an instant later.
“We saw it was a chart,” answered Dave, and looked knowingly at his chums, to make them keep silent.
“It – er – it belongs to Mr. Pardell and he is very particular about it,” went on the Englishman. And then without another word he walked away.
“My, isn’t he sweet!” muttered Phil.
“Just as sweet as a can of sour milk,” answered the senator’s son. “Dave, I guess you wish you had allowed that map to blow overboard.”
“Not exactly that, Roger. But he might have been a little more thankful for saving something that he thinks so valuable.”
“Do you think there is anything in this treasure idea?” questioned Phil, after a pause.
“No, Phil. That is, there may be some lost treasure, secreted by the pirates and buccaneers of old, but I doubt if anybody will ever find it – excepting by accident.”
“If there was a treasure on this Cave Island, we might hunt for it,” went on the shipowner’s son.
“Phil, don’t let that bee get into your bonnet!” cried Roger. “Many a man has gone crazy looking for pirates’ gold. Better drop it, and think of how we are to round up Merwell and Jasniff.”
“Well, I’d like to go to Cave Island anyway,” said Phil. “We might – ” And then he stopped short, as he saw Geswick and Pardell near by. The Englishmen had been listening to part of the conversation.
“So you’d like to go to Cave Island, would you?” cried Andrew Geswick, his face red with rage. “You take my advice and keep away from that place!”
“Say, do you own that island?” demanded Phil, getting angry because of the other’s dictatorial manner.
“No, we don’t own the island. But we – ” Andrew Geswick stopped short as his companion plucked him by the sleeve. “Never mind, you keep away from it, that’s all,” he growled.
“We’ll go there if we want to,” called out Phil.
“If you do you may get into trouble,” called back Pardell. Then he and his companion disappeared in the direction of the cabin.
“They are touchy enough,” was Roger’s comment. “Phil, you had better drop Cave Island after this.”
“I’ll talk about it as much as I please,” grumbled the shipowner’s son. “Those fellows make me tired. They act as if they owned the earth!”
Sunday was a quiet day on shipboard. The Englishmen did not show themselves excepting at meals, and the boys were content to leave them severely alone. They told Captain Sanders of the chart and of the talk that had occurred.
“Let them alone, lads,” said the commander of the Golden Eagle. “I’ll venture to say that sooner or later they’ll find out they are on a wild goose chase.”
“The only one that seems to be anyway nice is the fellow named Giles Borden,” said Dave. “He is rather quiet. The other fellow, Rumney, is almost as bad as Geswick and Pardell.”
“So I’ve noticed, Dave. And the queer part of it is, Borden paid for the passages. He appears to be the only one with money.”
“Maybe he is backing the expedition,” suggested Roger.
“I’m sorry for him if he is,” answered the captain.
The Bahama Islands had been passed, and now they were in the vicinity of Porto Rico. Then commenced the trip southward, through the Lesser Antilles.
“This is the spot for active volcanoes,” observed Phil. “Don’t you remember how the Island of Martinique suffered?”
“Oh, don’t speak of volcanoes!” cried Roger. “I have no use for them – or for earthquakes either.”
“There must be hundreds of islands around here,” observed Dave. “The charts are full of them.”
“That must make navigation difficult,” came from Phil.
“Oh, I reckon Captain Sanders knows what he is about.”
“Wonder how soon we’ll run into the harbor at Bridgetown?” mused the shipowner’s son, the place he mentioned being the main seaport of Barbados.
“Inside of three days, I hope, Phil,” answered our hero.
“Merwell and Jasniff must be there by this time.”
“It’s more than likely – unless something happened to delay them,” returned Dave.
At last came the day when they sighted Barbados and ran into the harbor of Bridgetown. The place was a picturesque one, but the boys had just then no time to view the scenery or the shipping. As soon as it could be accomplished, they went ashore, and Captain Sanders went with them, leaving his vessel in charge of the first mate.
“You may have trouble with those two rascals, if you find them,” said the commander of the Golden Eagle. “I’ll be on deck to help you all I can.”
“Shall we go to the hotel first?” questioned Roger.
“Might as well,” answered Phil. “They’d strike for the hotel first thing, after a sea trip like that. Maybe they were both seasick.”
“I hope they were – it would serve them right,” growled the senator’s son.
Dave and the captain were willing, and a little later walked into the Royal George Hotel. Here the boys looked at the register, but found no names that they could recognize. Then Dave brought out his photographs of Merwell and Jasniff and showed them to the hotel proprietor and his clerk.
“Nobody here that looks like either of them,” said the proprietor, while his clerk also shook his head.
“They came in on the Emma Brower,” said Captain Sanders.
“The Emma Brower!” cried the hotel man. “Is she in?”
“Why, I suppose so,” and now the commander of the Golden Eagle showed his surprise.
“She wasn’t in last night, and the agents were a bit worried about her. I know the agents personally, you see.”
“Then maybe she isn’t in yet!” cried Dave. “Let us go down to the docks and find out about this.”
They lost no time in visiting the docks and the shipping offices. There they learned that nothing had been heard of the Emma Brower since the vessel had left Jacksonville.
“We must have passed her on the way!” cried Dave, to Captain Sanders. “Could we do that?”
“Perhaps, since we only had half a cargo, Dave. Besides, maybe that vessel was damaged by the storm.”
“I wonder how soon she will get in?” mused Roger.
At this the captain shrugged his shoulders.
“It is impossible to say. I’ve known a ship to be a week and sometimes nearly a month overdue. And I’ve known a ship to drop out altogether,” he added, soberly.
“Oh, don’t say you think she has gone down!” cried Dave, in alarm.
“Let us hope not, Dave.”
The day passed, and also the next and the next. The cargo of the Golden Eagle was unloaded, and the Englishmen, who had been passengers, left for parts unknown. As each day slipped by, Dave grew more serious. What if the Emma Brower had gone down, carrying Merwell, Jasniff, and the Carwith jewels with her?
CHAPTER XX – LANDING ON CAVE ISLAND
At the end of a week Dave was more worried than ever. Each day he and his chums went down to the shipping offices and each day returned to the hotel disappointed. Not a word had been heard concerning the missing vessel and those on board.
The Golden Eagle was all ready to sail on her return trip to the United States, but Phil told Captain Sanders to wait.
“Perhaps we’ll hear to-day,” he said, and this was repeated day after day.
It was very warm and the boys were glad they had brought along some thin clothing. They scarcely knew what to do with themselves, and Dave was particularly sober.
“I suppose Mr. Wadsworth and the rest are waiting to hear from me,” he said to his chums. “But what is the use of sending a message when I haven’t anything to say?”
Another Sunday passed, and on Monday the boys visited the Golden Eagle, and then went with Captain Sanders to the nearest shipping office.
“Something is going on!” cried the senator’s son, as he noticed an unusual crowd congregated. “Must be news of some sort.”
“Let us find out what it is!” returned our hero, quickly.
“The Emma Brower has been heard from,” said a man, standing near. “That’s the vessel that was missing, don’t you know,” he added.
“What of her?” asked Dave.
“Went down in that terrible storm we had about ten days ago.”
“Down!” gasped all of the boys, while Captain Sanders looked the concern he felt.
“So they say. I do not know the particulars,” went on the man as he walked away.
It did not take the boys and the captain long to get into the shipping office and there they learned as many of the particulars as were known. A tramp steamer from Porto Rico had come in bringing word that she had sighted portions of a wreck while out at sea, and an investigation proved the same to belong to the Emma Brower. A portion of a small boat had been picked up, but nothing had been seen of sailors or passengers.
“Where was this?” questioned Dave, when he could get the chance.
“The captain of the steamer says about two miles west of Cave Island.”
“Cave Island!” cried Phil. “Why, that is where those Englishmen were going to hunt for that pirates’ treasure.”
“Two miles from Cave Island,” mused our hero. “If the Emma Brower went down, perhaps those in some of the small boats got to that place.”
“Perhaps,” answered Captain Sanders.
The boys and the captain remained at the shipping office for an hour, getting all the details possible concerning the wreck, including the exact latitude and longitude where the vessel was supposed to have gone down.
“Let us sail for that spot and see if we can discover anything,” suggested Dave, as the party came away. “We may find some of those in the small boats.”
“Just what I was going to suggest,” said Phil.
“Well, it’s up to you, Phil, to say what we shall do,” answered Captain Sanders. “Your father sent me word that I was to look to you for orders – that is, within reasonable limits, – and I know you won’t be unreasonable.”
“Well, we want to get back to the United States, anyway,” said Roger. “And this would be on our way.”
“How soon can you get ready for the trip?” asked our hero, of the master of the Golden Eagle.
“We are all provisioned, so it won’t take but a few hours,” was the reply.
“Then let us sail to-day.”
“You don’t want to wait for more word?” asked Roger.
“No, Roger; I don’t think it will do any good,” answered our hero.
The matter was discussed at the hotel, and a little later the boys paid their bill and had their baggage taken to the ship. In the meantime Captain Sanders had prepared for the trip, and two hours later the Golden Eagle was moving out of the harbor of Bridgetown.
“How long will it take us to run to that spot where they think the ship went down?” asked Phil.
“Not more than a day and a half – it depends somewhat on the wind,” answered Captain Sanders.
The boys tried to settle themselves, but this was impossible. Dave could not keep still, and paced the deck by the hour, or scanned the bosom of the ocean with the marine glasses Captain Sanders loaned him.
Only once came a thrill of excitement. A bit of wreckage was sighted and the ship sailed toward it. It was a yardarm, and to it were lashed a cask and several boxes, one of the latter bearing the name Emma Brower. Not a sign of a human being could be seen.
“If a man was on that wreckage the storm tore him loose,” said Captain Sanders.
“How terrible!” whispered Roger.
“And think of it, it may have been Merwell, or Jasniff, or both of them!” returned Phil.
On the following day they reached the latitude and longitude as given by the captain of the tramp steamer. In that vicinity they saw some smaller wreckage, but nothing of importance.
“Cave Island is two miles east of here,” said Captain Sanders.
“Any other islands around?” asked Dave.
“Nothing within fifteen or twenty miles.”
“Then, if the crew and passengers took to the small boats, wouldn’t they be likely to steer for Cave Island?”
“I think so, – that is, if the storm let ’em do so. It might be the wind would force ’em the other way. But I think it would be a wise move to sail for Cave Island and take a look around. The one trouble is, so I learned at Barbados, the island hasn’t any sort of harbor. We’ll have to lay-to outside and go ashore in a small boat.”
“Perhaps it won’t be necessary to go ashore,” said Roger.
“Oh, it can be done easily enough.”
The bow of the Golden Eagle was turned eastward. They ran slowly, all hands keeping their eyes open for more signs of the wreck.
Presently they came in sight of the reef outside of Cave Island. It formed a large horseshoe, and beyond was the island itself, long, low, and irregular, the shore fringed with tropical trees and bushes and the center rocky and barren.
“This ain’t no easy place to land,” said Billy Dill to Dave, as the sails were lowered and the ship was brought about. “If them critters from the wreck got here in their small boats in the dark they must have had a fierce time o’ it!”
“I don’t see a sign of a boat anywhere,” said Dave, as he swept the reef and the shore with the glasses. “And not a sign of a human being either,” he added, with a sinking heart.
“That’s queer, too, lad, if they came here. Fust thing I’d think about, if I was wrecked, would be to put up a signal o’ distress.”
It was growing dark, yet Dave and his chums were anxious to go ashore, to see if they could discover anything concerning those who had been wrecked, so Captain Sanders ordered out the largest of the small boats.
“I’ll go with you,” he said. “And we can take Billy Dill and Smiley.”
“We had better take some things along – in case we remain ashore all night,” said Dave.
“To be sure. And we’ll go armed, lad – no telling what may turn up.”
“Any wild animals here?” questioned the senator’s son.
“I don’t know, but I don’t think so – that is, not large ones. You’ll find rabbits maybe, and any number of birds.”
Soon the small boat was ready to go ashore. Billy Dill and the other sailor, Smiley, were at the oars, while Captain Sanders was in the stern, to steer and give directions.
“If it starts to blow better move off a bit,” said the captain to the mate. “No use in taking chances around these reefs.”
“I’ll watch out,” was the answer. “I know just what a blow down here means, and I’ll keep her off.”
“Do you think we’ll have another storm?” asked Dave.
“Can’t tell about that, lad. Sometimes a storm comes up pretty quick in these parts.”
Soon the small boat was close to the breakers. The water boiled and foamed on every side, and it must be confessed that Roger was somewhat scared. Dave and Phil did not mind, although wishing it was over.
“To starboard, hard!” shouted the captain, when the first of the breakers was encountered. “Now ease off, lads! Lively now, and hard! Starboard again! Keep it up! There, straight ahead! Bend to it, bend I tell you! A little more to starboard – not too much! There, now we are out of it!” And in a moment more the small boat was out of the breakers and riding into a tiny cove, where there was a stretch of sand, dotted with palms. The two sailors were all but exhausted and glad enough to rest up and allow the boat to drift ashore.
“So this is Cave Island?” remarked Dave, as he hopped out on the sand, followed by his chums. “Well, it doesn’t look much different from the other islands in this portion of the globe.”
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