Dave Porter on Cave Island: or, A Schoolboy's Mysterious Mission
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“I’m goin’ to try my luck along shore,” said Billy Dill, and started off with Dave, Phil, and Roger, to see if any fish or turtles could be located. They found the shore strewn with wreckage.
“Oh, Billy, can this be from our ship?” exclaimed Phil, in alarm.
“I don’t think so, lad. Looks to me like it had been in the water some days. I reckon it’s from the Emma Brower, or some other craft.”
In the wreckage they found the remains of several boxes and barrels. But the contents had become water-soaked or had sunk to the bottom of the sea; so there was nothing in the shape of food for them. They also came across the mainmast of the bark, with some of the stays still dragging around it.
“That will do for a pole, in case we wish to hoist a flag,” suggested the senator’s son.
They found neither fish nor turtles, and at last had to return to the campfire disappointed. There was next to nothing to eat for supper.
“Well, better luck in the morning,” said Captain Sanders, with an air of cheerfulness he did not feel. “As soon as this wind dies down our ship will come back, and then we’ll have all we want to eat.”
It was a long, dreary night that followed, and the boys were glad to behold the sun come up brightly in the morning. Dave was the first up, but his chums quickly followed, and all went down to the beach, to look for fish and also to see if the Golden Eagle was anywhere in sight.
This time they had better luck, so far as food was concerned. In a hollow they found over a score of fish that had been cast from the ocean by the breakers, and they also found a fine turtle that was pinned down by a fallen tree.
“That’s a new way to catch a turtle,” remarked Dave. “It’s a regular trap.”
“Turtle soup, yum! yum!” murmured Phil.
“And broiled fish, – all you want, too!” added Roger, smacking his lips.
When they got back to the camp they found that the fire had been renewed, and soon the appetizing odor of broiling fish filled the air. Then Captain Sanders and one of the castaway sailors came in from a walk in another direction, carrying an airtight canister, which, on being opened, was found to contain fancy crackers.
“There is a good deal of wreckage down on the beach,” said the captain. “We’ll inspect it after breakfast.”
Having eaten their fill of the fish and the crackers, and leaving Billy Dill and some of the others busy making turtle soup, the boys and Captain Sanders took another walk along the beach, to look over the wreckage and also see if they could sight the Golden Eagle, or locate Jasniff or Merwell.
“I hope we can find those two fellows,” said Dave. “I can stand this suspense no longer. I must know what has become of those jewels!”
CHAPTER XXIII – A STRANGE DISCOVERY
A half-mile was covered when, on turning a point of rocks, the boys and the captain came to a sandy cove. Here was more of the wreckage, and the whole party ran down to the beach to investigate.
Boxes, barrels, and bits of timber were strewn from one end of the cove to the other, and in the mass were a number of things of more or less value – timber, food, and some clothing.There was also a trunk, but it was open and empty.
“Look!” cried Dave, suddenly, and pointed to a small, black leather case, that rested on some of the wreckage.
“What is it?” queried Phil and Roger, in a breath.
Dave did not reply, for he was crawling over the wreckage with care. Soon he reached the spot where the black leather case rested, caught on a nail, and he picked it up. The clasp was undone and the case fell open, revealing the interior, which was lined with white plush.
“Empty!” murmured Dave, sadly. “Empty!” There was a groan in his voice as he uttered the word.
“What is it, Dave?” asked the senator’s son, although he and Phil guessed the truth.
“It’s the Carwith jewel-case,” was the answer. “The very case that Mr. Carwith left with Mr. Wadsworth!”
“Are you certain?” demanded Phil.
“Yes, for here is the name, ‘Ridgewood Osgood Carwith,’ stamped in gold on the top.”
“And empty,” murmured the captain. “This looks bad,” and he shook his head, thoughtfully.
“Maybe Jasniff and Merwell took the jewels from the case,” suggested Roger, hopefully.
“It is possible, Roger. But – but – I am afraid the jewels are at the bottom of the ocean,” answered Dave, and his face showed how downcast he felt.
“They might have taken the jewels and divided them between themselves,” said Phil. “Maybe they put them in money-belts, or something like that. They might think that the sailors would rob them, if they saw the case.”
“It’s possible, Phil, and I hope you are right,” answered our hero. But in his heart he was still afraid that the gems had gone to the bottom of the Atlantic.
“I think we had better climb to the top of yonder rise and take a look around the island,” said the captain. “For all we know, the Golden Eagle may be on the other side. I sincerely hope she has weathered the storm.”
Placing the jewel-case in a safe place between the rocks, the party commenced to climb the rise of ground the captain had pointed out. This was no easy task, since the rocks were rough and there were many openings, leading to the caves below.
“We don’t want another tumble,” remarked Roger to Dave.
“Hardly, Roger; once was enough.”
The sun had come out strongly, consequently the water was drying away rapidly. It was very warm, and the boys were glad that they had donned thin clothing on leaving the ship.
At last they reached the top of the rise and from that elevation were able to see all but the southern end of Cave Island, which was hidden by a growth of palms.
Not a ship of any kind was in sight, much to the captain’s disappointment.
“Must have had to sail away a good many miles,” said Dave.
“Either that, lad, or else the storm caused more or less trouble.”
From the elevation, all took a good look at every part of the island that could be seen. They saw several other rocky elevations and the entrances to caves innumerable.
“Tell you one thing,” remarked Phil. “If there was any truth in that story of a pirates’ treasure, the pirates would have plenty of places where to hide the hoard.”
“Humph! I don’t believe in the treasure and never will,” returned Roger. “If the treasure was ever here, you can make up your mind that somebody got hold of it long before this.”
“If those Englishmen came here, it is queer that we don’t see some trace of them,” said Captain Sanders.
“Maybe they are like Jasniff and Merwell, keeping out of sight,” ventured Dave.
“That may be true.”
“I think I see some figures moving down near the shore over there,” continued Roger, after another look around. “But they are so far off I am not sure. They may be animals.”
“They look like two men to me,” exclaimed Dave, after a long look. “What if they should be Jasniff and Merwell! Oh, let us walk there and make sure!”
“That’s a good, stiff walk,” answered Captain Sanders. “We can’t go from here very well – unless we want to climb over some rough rocks. It would be better to go down and follow the shore.”
“Then let us do that. It won’t do us any good to go back to where we left the others, now the ship isn’t in sight.”
But the captain demurred, and finally it was agreed to return to camp and start out for the other side of the island directly after dinner.
“Turtle soup for all hands!” announced Billy Dill, proudly. “Best ever made, too.”
“It certainly smells good,” answered Dave.
The turtle soup proved both palatable and nourishing, and, eaten with crackers, made a good meal.
“We’ll take some crackers and fish along,” said the captain, to the boys, when they were preparing to leave the camp again. “For there is no telling how soon we’ll get back. It may take us longer than we think to reach the other side of this island.”
“I’ve got a knapsack,” said one of the castaway sailors. “You can take that along, filled,” and so it was arranged. Dave carried his gun and the captain had a pistol.
“If there is any game, we’ll have a try for it,” said Dave. “Even a few plump birds would make fine eating.”
“Yes, or a rabbit or hare,” added Roger.
The party walked along the shore as far as they could go and then, coming to what appeared to be an old trail, took to that.
“What do you make of this path?” said Dave. “I had an idea the island was uninhabited.”
“It is supposed to be,” answered Captain Sanders. “But there is no reason why somebody shouldn’t live here.”
Presently they came to a fine spring of water. Near by lay an old rusty cup, and a little further on a broken bucket.
“Somebody has been here and that recently,” was Dave’s comment. “I hope we are on the trail of Merwell and Jasniff.”
They walked on a little further and then, of a sudden, Captain Sanders halted the boys and pointed up into one of the trees.
“Wild pigeons!” exclaimed Dave. “And hundreds of them! Shall I give them a couple of barrels, captain?”
“Might as well, lad. Wild pigeons are good eating, especially when you are hungry. Get as many of ’em as you can.”
Dave approached a little closer and took aim with care. Bang! went the shotgun, and a wild fluttering and flying followed. Bang! went the second barrel of the weapon, and then, as the smoke cleared away, the boys and the captain saw seven of the pigeons come down to the ground. Several others fluttered around and Phil caught one and wrung its neck, and Roger laid another low with a stick he had picked up.
“Fine shots, both of them,” declared Captain Sanders. “Now load up again, Dave, so as to be ready for anything else that shows up.”
“I am afraid I have scared the rest of the game,” declared our hero, and so it proved, for after that they saw nothing but some small birds.
They passed through a thick woods and then came rather unexpectedly to a wall of rocks, all of a hundred feet in height. At the base of the wall was an opening leading into a broad cave. Near the entrance was the remains of a campfire.
“Somebody has been here and that recently!” cried Phil, as he examined the embers.
“Must be Merwell and Jasniff!” cried Dave. “For if they were strangers they would come out and see what the shooting meant.”
“Shall we go into the cave, or continue on the way to the shore?” questioned the senator’s son.
“Oh, let us take a peep into the cave first,” cried Phil. “It looks as if it was inhabited.”
The others were willing, and lighting a firebrand that was handy, they entered the cavern. In front they found the opening to be broad and low, but in the rear the ceiling was much higher and there were several passageways leading in as many different directions.
“What an island!” murmured Roger. “Why, one could spend a year in visiting all the caves!”
“It’s like a great, big sponge!” returned Phil. “Holes everywhere!”
“Take care that you don’t slip down into some opening!” warned Captain Sanders.
In one of the passages they came across the remains of a meal and also some empty bottles. Then Dave saw some bits of paper strewn over the rocky floor.
“What are they, Phil?” he asked, and then both commenced to pick the pieces up. Roger helped, while the captain held the firebrand.
“Well, of all things!” cried the shipowner’s son. “Now what do you make of this?”
“The chart!” cried Dave.
“What chart?” queried the master of the Golden Eagle.
“The treasure chart those four Englishmen had,” answered Dave. “Now what made them come here with it and tear it to pieces?”
“Hum!” mused the captain. “One of two things would make ’em do that, lad. Either they got the treasure and had no further use for the map, or else they found the whole thing was a fake and in their rage they tore the map to shreds.”
“They must have gotten the gold!” murmured Roger and Phil.
“No, I think they got fooled,” said Dave.
“The question is, if those Britishers were here, where did they go to?” asked the captain.
“Let us call,” suggested Dave. “They may be in some part of this cave where they couldn’t hear the shots from my gun.”
All called out several times, and listened intently for a reply.
“Hark! I hear something!” cried Roger. “Listen!”
They strained their ears, and from what appeared to be a great distance they heard a human voice. But what was said they could not make out.
“Too many echoes here,” declared the captain. “A fellow can’t tell where the cry comes from.”
“Well, let us investigate,” said our hero.
They moved forward and backward, up one passageway and down another, calling and listening. At times the voice seemed to be quite close, then it sounded further off than ever.
“This sure is a mystery!” declared Phil. “What do you make of it, Dave?”
“I am beginning to think the call came from somewhere overhead,” answered our hero. “Captain, see if you can flash a light on those rocks to the left of our heads.”
Captain Sanders did as requested, and presently all in the party saw another passageway, leading up from a series of rocks that formed something of a natural stairway. Up this they went, Dave leading the van. Then they came to a small opening between two rocks.
“Help! help!” came in a half-smothered voice. “Help, please. Don’t leave me here in the dark any longer!”
CHAPTER XXIV – JASNIFF AND MERWELL
“It’s a man!”
“One of the Englishmen!”
“You are right, lads,” came from Captain Sanders. “And see, he is bound hands and feet to the rocks!”
What the master of the Golden Eagle said was true, and as the firebrand was flashed on the scene, the chums could do little but stare in astonishment.
Lying on his back between the rocks was the Englishman named Giles Borden. Hands and feet were bound with a strong cord, which ran around a projection of the rocks in such a manner that the prisoner could scarcely move.
“Who tied you up?” questioned Dave, as he and Phil set to work to liberate the prisoner.
“Geswick, Pardell, and Rumney,” groaned the prisoner. “Oh, if only I had my hands on them!”
“Why did they do it?” asked Captain Sanders.
“They wanted to rob me – and they did rob me!” answered Giles Borden. “Oh, help me out of this wretched hole and give me a drink of water! I am dying from thirst!”
Not without difficulty the man was freed of the rope and helped to get out from between the rocks. Then Dave and Roger half carried him down to the cave proper. The crowd had a canteen of water and the man drank, eagerly.
“So your friends robbed you?” said Captain Sanders, curiously.
“Do not call them friends of mine!” returned Giles Borden. “They are not friends – they are vipers, wolves! Oh, if ever I meet them again at home I’ll soon have them in prison, or know the reason why!”
“Hadn’t you better tell us all about it?” went on the master of the Golden Eagle.
“Wait a minute!” cried Dave. “Do you suppose those men are anywhere near here?”
“I don’t know. They said they would be back, but they did not come.”
“They may have seen us and skipped out,” ventured the senator’s son.
“More than likely,” groaned Giles Borden. “Now that they have my money they won’t want to stay here. They’ll take passage on that ship as soon as she comes in and leave me to shift for myself.”
“Tell us your story, so we can understand what you are talking about,” said Captain Sanders.
In a disconnected manner the Englishman related his tale, pausing occasionally to take another drink of water. He said he was from London and had met Geswick, Pardell, and Rumney less than six months before. They had come to him with the story of a wonderful pirates’ treasure said to be hidden on Cave Island, and had asked him to finance an expedition in search of it.
“I had just fallen heir to five thousand pounds through the death of my father,” he went on, “and I was anxious to get the treasure, so I consented to pay the expenses of the trip, taking the three men along. They had the chart that you saw on shipboard and some other particulars, and they made me bring along a thousand pounds extra, stating that we might have to pay some natives well to get them to show us where the particular cave we were seeking was located.”
Then had followed the trip to Florida and the one to Barbados. At the latter island a schooner had been chartered to take them to Cave Island, where they were landed on the eastern shore. The schooner was to come back for the Englishmen a week later.
“As soon as the treasure hunt began I suspected that I was being hoaxed,” continued Giles Borden. “For all I knew, we were alone on the island. We found several huts, but they were all deserted. We visited a score of caves, but saw nothing that looked like a treasure. Then, one afternoon, Geswick asked me about the extra thousand pounds I was carrying. I grew suspicious and tried to hide the money between the rocks. The three caught me at it and pounced on the money like a pack of wolves. Then, when I remonstrated, they laughed at me, and told me to keep quiet, that they were going to run matters to suit themselves.”
“They must have intended to rob you from the start,” said Dave.
“You are right, and I was a fool to trust them. As soon as they had my money, one of them, Rumney, tore up the chart and threw the pieces in my face. That angered me so greatly that I struck him with my fist, knocking him down. Then the three leaped on me and made me a prisoner, binding me with the rope. I tried my best to get away, but could not. That was at night. In the morning they went off, saying they would come back later and give me something to eat. But that is the last I have seen or heard of them.”
“If we hadn’t found you, you might have starved to death,” murmured Captain Sanders. “They ought to be punished heavily for this – and for robbing you!”
The Englishman was glad enough to get something to eat, and then said he felt much stronger.
“But what brings you to this island?” he questioned, while partaking of the food.
“We are after a pair of criminals,” answered Dave, as the others looked at him, not knowing what to say. “Two young fellows who ran away with some valuable jewels. I suppose you saw nothing of them.”
“No, as I said before, we saw nobody.”
“They are on this island.”
“Then I hope you catch them. And I hope you’ll aid me in catching those other scamps.”
“We’ll certainly do that,” answered Captain Sanders.
A little later the whole party left the cave, and Giles Borden pointed out a number of other caves he had visited.
“The island is full of them,” declared the Englishman. “And one has to be careful, for fear of falling into a hole at every step.”
The middle of the afternoon found the party once more at the water’s edge. They had seen no trace of Jasniff and Merwell, or of the rascally Englishmen. All were tired out and content to rest for a little while.
“Looks like a wild goose chase, doesn’t it, Dave?” remarked Roger.
“Oh, you mustn’t grow discouraged so quickly, Roger,” was Dave’s answer. “Unless Jasniff and Merwell have a chance to leave this island we’ll be sure to locate them, sooner or later. What I am worried about mostly is the question: Have they the jewels or did the gems go to the bottom of the ocean?”
“Yes, that’s the most important question of all.”
“It will be poor consolation to catch Jasniff and Merwell and not get the jewels,” put in Phil. “I reckon, Dave, you’d rather have it the other way around – get the jewels and miss Jasniff and Merwell.”
“Indeed, yes, Phil.”
“In case we don’t – ” began the senator’s son, and then stopped short. He had seen Captain Sanders leap up and start inland.
“What did you see, Captain?” asked Dave.
“I saw somebody looking at us, from behind yonder trees!” cried the master of the Golden Eagle.
“One of the Englishmen?” queried Phil.
“No, it was somebody younger – looked a little like that picture of Link Merwell!”
“Come on – after them!” cried Dave, and started on a run in the direction the captain indicated.
All were soon on the way, climbing over some rough rocks at first and then crashing through the heavy undergrowth. Then they entered a forest of tropical trees and vines.
“I see them!” exclaimed Dave, after several hundred feet had been covered. “Jasniff and Merwell as sure as you live! Stop! Stop, I tell you!” he called out.
“You keep back, Dave Porter!” yelled Nick Jasniff in return. “Keep back, or it will be the worse for you!”
“Jasniff, you had better surrender!” cried Roger.
“We’ll be sure to get you sooner or later!” added Phil.
“You’ll never catch me!” answered the other. “Now keep back, or maybe somebody will get shot.”
“Do you think he’ll shoot?” asked Captain Sanders, in some alarm, while Giles Borden stopped short.
“Possibly,” answered Dave. “But I am going after him anyway,” he added sturdily. “I came here to catch those rascals and I am going to do it.”
“And I am with you,” said Phil, promptly.
“Scare ’em with your gun, Dave,” suggested the senator’s son.
“I will,” was our hero’s reply, and he brought the weapon to the front. “I’ve got a gun, Jasniff!” he called out. “You had better stop! And you had better stop too, Merwell!”
“Don’t yo-you shoot at us!” screamed Link Merwell, in sudden terror. And then he ran with all speed for the nearest trees and dove out of sight. The next instant Jasniff disappeared, likewise.
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