The Motor Boat Club off Long Island: or, A Daring Marine Game at Racing SpeedŮÍŗųŗÚŁ ÍŪŤ„ů ŠŚŮÔŽŗÚŪÓ
ďI Ė I Ė er Ė I canít quite see where we gain by that,Ē quaked the nervous financier.
ďKeep your eyes open, then,Ē begged Halstead, as he continued to watch the strangers. The boat, with its eight men, was coming across the waters as fast as four lusty rowers could send it. Hank performed a few more frantic rushes in and out of the engine room during the minutes that the boatís crew used in getting near the ďRocket.Ē
ďKeep off!Ē hailed Tom, mockingly, when the small boat was within three hundred feet.
No reply came from the boatís crew. They were sullenly silent. Halstead could see no signs of weapons among them. Suddenly the young skipper sprang to the speed-ahead deck control of the engine, giving it a whirl. Then, instantly, he laid hands on the wheel. The ďRocketĒ forged ahead once more, while angry oaths burst from the lips of the men in the small boat, almost alongside. But the motor boat shot on her way, leaving the small boatís crew helplessly in the lurch.
Giving a wide sweep to the helm, Tom brought about, heading straight for the distant schooner. Those in the small boat followed at only a fraction of the speed.
ďWhy, what are you up to, now?Ē demanded Eben Moddridge, his eyes wide and almost bulging.
ďGoing to board the schooner before that boatís crew has a chance to get back,Ē replied Captain Tom, his eyes gleaming brightly. ďIf Mr. Delavan is aboard weíll get him. There are only three men left on the schooner, and the ĎRocketísí crew numbers three.Ē
ďThere are four of us, you mean,Ē declared Moddridge, with a near-whoop. ďIf thereís to be any fighting, now, on Frank Delavanís account, youíll have to count me in!Ē
The shock of that sudden announcement almost had the effect of causing Tom Halstead to fall away from the wheel in sheer amazement.
HANK BUTTS DROPS SOMETHING
ďFINE and swift!Ē chuckled the young skipper, though he had not much faith that the nervous one would remain up to pitch, ďDonít forget that new idea of yours, Mr. Moddridge.Ē
ďI wonít,Ē promised the other, though his voice trembled a bit.
Under the young skipperís orders Joe and Hank brought up the grappling hooks and chains and made them fast in place at the starboard rail.
These chains, only a few feet long, ended in hooks that were intended to catch in the rail of another vessel, holding the two craft locked fast together.
ďBring me a wrench, and get one for Mr. Moddridge, too, Hank,Ē was Halsteadís next order. ďAlso, get one for yourself. Theyíre handy, if strangers try to get rough with you.Ē
Young Butts quickly obeyed, though his own wrench he dropped into a hip pocket. He came on deck bearing the same heavy hitching weight that had been shied at the boatís young skipper on the pier a few nights before.
ďLike that better, do you?Ē asked Tom, his gaze lighting on it as Hank sprang on deck.
ďWell, it might come handy,Ē replied the freckle-faced one, speculatively.
The three men left on the schooner had already hauled in their sheets and headed around in the effort to reach their own boatís crew.
But the ďRocketĒ ran swiftly up alongside.
ďYou keep away from us!Ē yelled the man at the schoonerís wheel.
ďDonít you believe it for a minute,Ē Captain Tom retorted. Joe and Hank were already at their stations with the grappling hooks.
ďYouíre acting like pirates, if you try to come aboard us,Ē shouted back the fellow at the schoonerís wheel.
ďA fine lot you are, to talk about piracy,Ē retorted Captain Halstead, ironically. Then, by a piece of neat steering, he ran the motor boat up so close alongside that she almost grazed the other vessel.
ďLet go the hooks!Ē he ordered. Hank and Joe threw the grapplers so that both made fast over the schoonerís rail. In the same instant Halstead shut off power. The schooner, if it remained under sail, could tow the ďRocketĒ now.
The instant that Joe Dawson and Hank Butts let go of the hooks they sprang to board the schooner. A sailor brandishing a belaying pin ran to intercept Hank, but that freckle-faced youth bounded to the sailing vesselís deck, bearing the hitching weight before him in both hands.
Just as the sailor was about to close in with him Hank, almost as if by accident, dropped the heavy iron weight. It fell, just where he had intended it should, on the sailorís advanced left foot.
There was a roar of pain as the sailor doubled up and sat down on the deck. But Hank, who had sidestepped before the downward stroke with that belaying pin, now regained his weapon and straightened up, grinning.
ďSorry, matey,Ē observed Hank to the squatting sailor. ďBut didnít your father ever tell you that you oughtnít to run into anyone whoís carrying too much weight for his age.Ē
Joe, a heavy wrench in one hand, and fire in both eyes, had leaped forward to meet the other sailor half-way. But that fellow, though armed with a length of stout rope, knotted at the end, prudently retreated, snarling all the while.
Tom Halstead was followed by Eben Moddridge as the young skipper made his way aft to where the helmsman stood.
Hank, seeing that the sailor with the crushed foot was really out of the running, followed Halstead aft. Butts, holding his iron weight, perched himself on the cabin house, his feet dangling over the hatchway.
The helmsman had hastily made a few turns of rope fast around the wheel, to hold the vessel to its course. Now, his eyes glaring, he stepped in front of Halstead.
ďWhat on airth díye mean by these pirate tactics?Ē he bellowed.
ďKeep cool, and keep your distance,Ē ordered young Halstead, holding the wrench so that he could use it in a twinkling at need. ďYou have a friend of ours on board here. Where is he?Ē
ďThere ainít no one on board ícept you pirates and us three of the crew,Ē retorted the late helmsman. ďAnd you fellers ainít going to be aboard but a few seconds more.Ē
ďIf you wonít help me out, Iíll go below and search the cabin,Ē proposed Captain Tom.
Just as the helmsman sprang forward to intercept this move Joe darted between them, shoving the fellow back and threatening him with a wrench. The sailor who had first moved to engage Dawson was now stepping stealthily aft.
ďJorkins,Ē yelled the engaged helmsman, ďdonít you let no one go down that companionway. Stop it!Ē
ďYa-ah!Ē sneered Jorkins, sulkily. ďWith that feller balancing his ton of iron for a crack at my head?Ē
For Hank Butts had suddenly risen to a standing position on the cabin house roof, and was holding the hitching weight in a way that did not look remarkably peaceful.
Halstead sprang down the companionway. Moddridge started to follow, then turned, feeling that he might be wanted on deck. In his present excitement he actually forgot to be nervous.
Below were two staterooms and a small saloon. Captain Tom quickly explored these rooms, searching also the lockers and cupboards. Just as he was finishing he heard sounds of a tussle above, then a heavy fall. Like a flash the boy was on deck, fearing mischief. The troublesome helmsman had made a spring at Dawson, only to be tripped by that agile youth. Now Mr. Moddridge was seated on the helmsmanís chest, while Hank Butts had taken up a new post from which he could drop the weight, at need, upon the helmsmanís legs. The latter fellow, therefore, was now keeping quiet. Turning, Joe, wrench in readiness, had driven the other uninjured seaman forward. The fellow whom Hank had first encountered was limping about, though he did not look likely to cause any trouble.
One swift glance Halstead shot out over the water, at that small boat, still more than half a mile distant. Then the ďRocketísĒ young skipper ran forward, looking in at forecastle and galley. He even looked down into the water butts, but no Mr. Delavan was to be found.
ďI am afraid weíve boarded the wrong ship,Ē declared Mr. Moddridge, hesitatingly.
ďYeíll find out ye have, afore yeíre through with the law,Ē growled the prostrate and now prudent helmsman, from his ďbedĒ on the deck. ďBoarding a craft forcibly, on the high seas, is a crime.Ē
ďAw, be a good well, and run dry,Ē advised Hank.
There remained, now, only the holds to be investigated. Oppressed by the shortness of the time that was left to him, and fearing, also, that his guess had not been a good one, Tom Halstead sprang down the ladder into the forward hold. Here there was nothing beyond a miscellaneous cargo of supplies. The after hold was empty. With a white face Halstead reached the deck.
Here the young skipper beheld Joe and the seaman whom his chum was holding at bay.
ďSee here, my man,Ē Tom uttered hastily, turning to the sailor, ďtell me just where to find the man thatís a prisoner on board, and, on behalf of Mr. Moddridge, Iíll offer you five hundred dollars in cash and a safe passage ashore on our boat.Ē
ďThere ainít no one on this boat a prisoner, unless itís us fellers of the crew,Ē returned the sailor, sulkily.
Yet, as he spoke, there was a cunning gleam in his eyes that made Halstead believe him to be lying.
ďBy gracious, thereís one place I overlooked,Ē ejaculated Captain Halstead, turning from the seaman and heading again for the hold ladder. Down he went, as fast as he could travel. With the wrench he tapped along the floor.
ďOho! Itís hollow here,Ē muttered the young skipper, halting in the middle of the fore hold, right over the keel. His keen eyes moved fast as he looked for some indication of unfastened planking. Finding one crack that looked suspicious, he pried in an edge of the wrench. The plank yielded, came up in Tomís nervous, ready, strong fingers, and ó
There lay Francis Delavan!
ďGood gracious! What have they done to him?Ē gasped the young motor boat skipper.
The Wall Street man lay on his back, his arms under him, as though tied behind him.
The plank he was holding fell to one side as Tom Halsteadís first glimpse of his employer revealed that much.
There was a gag in Mr. Delavanís mouth, but the startling signs were the purplish blue in his face and the queer, lifeless look in his partly-open eyes.
ďHave they killed him? Is it spite work, or all part of their fearful plot?Ē shuddered Tom Halstead.
Then, his heart pounding against his ribs at a fearful rate, the boy bent down to rest an inquiring hand on that unnatural-looking face.
THE JEST THAT BECAME GRIM EARNEST
ďWHATEVER youíre doing, old chap, hustle!Ē sounded Joe Dawsonís warning voice from the deck overhead ďThe boatís getting uncomfortably near with its load of scoundrels!Ē
ďIíve found Mr. Delavan!Ē Halstead shouted up.
Upon receiving that startling information Dawson, for the moment, forgot all caution, darting forward. The sullen helmsman seized upon the opportunity to shake himself free of Mr. Moddridge, for Hank Butts, too, forgot himself long enough to turn and run a few steps.
ďLook out, Butts!Ē called the alarmed Mr. Moddridge.
Hank wheeled about just in time to find the sullen helmsman coming face to face with him.
There was time to do but just one thing, and Hank did it. Leaning toward his would-be assailant, Butts dropped the weight squarely across the toes of the scoundrelís advanced foot, then jumped aside.
ďYou young villain!Ē roared the sullen helmsman, sinking to the deck, and reaching both hands out toward his injured foot.
ďMuch obliged,Ē said Hank meekly. But he had picked up his iron weight again, and, with it, he advanced upon the one able-bodied seaman left.
ďWonít you oblige me by aiming a blow of your fist at me!Ē Hank begged. ďThen youíll have your own troubles, and we can attend to our own business.Ē
But this sailor, who was the least courageous of the three, retreated aft, using some explosive language as he went.
Joe, in the meantime, had gained the fore hatchway, and stood looking down with the keenest interest at his chum, one of whose hands rested on Francis Delavanís face.
ďI think heís alive,Ē Halstead reported, feverishly, ďfor thereís still quite a bit of warmth to his skin. But,Ē sniffing, ďIím sure he was chloroformed when the scoundrels saw us coming, for I can smell it here. Joe, hustle down a rope.Ē
Dawson turned, snatching up the nearest bit of cordage that would serve. Tom, with nervous haste, but tying good, seamanlike knots, made one end of the rope secure under his employerís shoulders.
ďNow, Iím coming up. Be ready to give a strong hand on the haul,Ē called the young skipper.
Eben Moddridge also had both hands on the rope by the time that Halstead stepped up on deck. A hard, quick haul, and they had the financier on deck.
From out on the water, close at hand, came an ugly roar. In a hurried glance over the rail the young captain saw the boatís crew not more than two hundred yards away.
ďPick Mr. Delavan up. Over the rail with him,Ē called the young skipper. ďSeconds now are as good as hours later!Ē
Between them the three bore the heavy form of the Wall Street magnate. Moddridge, though not strong, could, under the stress of excitement, carry his few pounds.
As they reached the rail with their human burden, the sullen helmsman rose, hobbling, despite the pain in his foot. He snatched up a marlinespike to hurl at the rescuers, but a warning yell from Hank made him drop it harmlessly to the deck.
ďWait a second,Ē directed Tom, releasing his hold on the senseless body as they rested it against the schoonerís rail. Leaping over to the motor boatís deck, he turned like a flash.
ďNow, pass Mr. Delavan over carefully,Ē he ordered.
ďAnd you get in and help,Ē commanded Hank, poising his weight so as to menace the seaman he was watching.
Butts looked so wholly ready and handy with that hitching weight that the seaman sprang to obey.
The instant that Francis Delavan rested flat on the deck of his own craft Captain Halstead leaped forward to one of the grappling hooks.
ďHank, throw off the hook astern Ė lively!Ē he shouted.
Joe Dawson had darted to the wheel, starting the speed and giving the steering wheel a half turn to port. Nor was the young engineer a second too soon, for the small boat, with its eight rough-looking fellows, almost grazed the port side of the ďRocketísĒ hull. Hank, having brought the after grappling hook aboard, rushed to port, poising his hitching weight over his head.
ďItís a headache for one of you, if you get alongside,Ē declared Butts. Nevertheless, the boat-steerer attempted to reach the motor boat. Had Joe been ten seconds later in starting there must have been a hand-to-hand fight on the ďRocketísĒ deck, with the odds all against the Delavan forces.
With that timely start, however, Joe Dawson left the boatís crew nothing to do but to board their own vessel. The motor boat glided easily away.
ďKeep the wheel, Joe,Ē called Captain Tom. ďNow, Hank, lay by and lend a hand in trying to bring Mr. Delavan around. First, off with the cords that bind him, and out with the gag.Ē
ďEr Ė er Ė hadnít we better take Frank below to a berth?Ē inquired Mr. Moddridge.
ďNo,Ē replied young Captain Halstead, decisively. ďMr. Delavan has been chloroformed, and almost had his breath shut off by that trick. We must keep him in the open air. Mr. Moddridge, kneel behind your friend, and support him in a sitting position. Hank, get around on the other side and take hold of the left forearm and wrist. Weíll pump-handle Mr. Delavan, and see if we canít start more air into his lungs.Ē
Then, looking up, Captain Tom inquired:
ďJoe, whatís the matter with our speed?Ē
ďI just canít help it,Ē grinned Dawson. ďIím running slowly just to tantalize that rascally crew back there. It makes them want to dance and swear to see us going so slowly, and yet to know that, if we want to, we can run away from them like an express train.Ē
Captain Tom and Hank continued their pump-handling until Francis Delavanís eyes fluttered more widely open, the bluish color began to leave his cheeks, and his chest started to rise and fall gently.
ďHeís coming around all right,Ē cheered Halstead. ďAnd heís naturally as strong as a horse. His vitality will pull him out of this.Ē
ďThe schooner has put about and is following us,Ē called Joe.
ďLet íem,Ē muttered Halstead, glancing up and astern. ďI wish theyíd follow us until we meet the police boat at New York. But donít let íem get too infernally close, Joe. Something might happen to us. If our motor stopped, where would we be then?Ē
Joe Dawson laughed easily as the ďRocketĒ stole lazily over the waters, her speed just a trifle faster than the sailing vesselís.
In a very few minutes more Francis Delavanís eyes took on a look of returning intelligence. His lips parted as he murmured, weakly:
ďThank you Ė boys.Ē
ďAnd now youíre all right, sir,Ē cried Tom Halstead, gleefully. ďAll youíve got to do is to keep on breathing as deeply as you can. Mr. Moddridge, is your strength equal to bringing up an arm-chair from the after deck?Ē
Apparently Eben Moddridge didnít even pause to wonder about his strength. He ran nimbly aft, then came struggling under his armful. He deposited the chair where the young skipper indicated. They raised Mr. Delavan to a seat, Hank stationing himself in front of the chair to keep the boatís owner from pitching forward.
ďNow, old fellow, youíd better kick up more speed,Ē advised Halstead, stepping over beside his chum. ďYou know, weíve got to make the coast in record time, for several fortunes are hanging on our speed.Ē
Bending forward, Dawson swung the speed control wheel around generously. The ďRocketĒ forged ahead through the water.
ďThis will leave the schooner hull-down before weíve burned much gasoline,Ē smiled Halstead. ďHullo, there they go about again. They realize the point, and have left off the chase.Ē
Joe still had the wheel, but he turned to look.
The ďRocketĒ was more than a mile away from the schooner when a jarring thump shook the motor boat.
In an instant Joe Dawsonís face went white. His chum looked scarcely less startled. The extra vibration ceased almost as soon as it was felt, for the engine had stopped running.
ďHank, take the wheel. The engine might start again,Ē called Tom Halstead, barely pausing in his chase after Joe, as the former jumped down into the engine room.
ďWhat on earth has happened?Ē gasped Eben Moddridge, but there was on one to pay him heed.
For a few moments the two white-faced chums looked over the ďRocketísĒ powerful engine together. Then their eyes met as Halsteadís lips framed the startled words:
ďJoe, my boy, itís one thing to play at broken-down engine, but the reality, at a time like this, is simply awful! This time the engine is truly out of business!Ē
THE MOTOR THAT WOULDNíT ďMOTEĒ
IT was Eben Moddridge who, marine glass in hand, now devoted the most attention to the schooner, which was once more in full chase.
Francis Delavan was now doing so well that there was no doubt in anyoneís mind of his full recovery.
ďHow Ė howís the stock market?Ē he ventured at last to ask.
ďDonít know, sir,Ē retorted Butts. ďNeither does anyone else. Weíve got you and the engine to fix. When youíre both going fine, then weíll try to find more time to talk.Ē
Mr. Delavan smiled, good-humoredly, but next inquired:
ďHow do you happen Ė to be aboard the ĎRocket!íĒ
ďWalked aboard,Ē admitted Hank. ďHad to sir. Nobody ever took the trouble to shanghai me.Ē
Joe, in the meantime, made two or three frantic efforts to make the motor ďmote,Ē though without success.
ďItís all on account of this valve,Ē Dawson explained to his chum, pointing. ďI knew it wouldnít last forever, but the last time I inspected it, it looked all right.Ē
ďYouíve another valve in the repair chest that will fit,Ē replied Tom. ďAnd, in goodnessí name, hurry up. Iíll help you.Ē
ďOne more try at this old valve, for a few miles anyway,Ē cried Dawson, desperately. ďTom, the new valve is just a shade too large at the screw-thread end. Itíll take a few desperate minutes to make it fit.Ē
By the time he had finished speaking the young engineer was industriously engaged in forcing in packing around the worn old valve.
ďHank,Ē Captain Tom roared from the companionway, ďshake out that solitary sail and hoist it. Get all the speed you can out of it.Ē
No one had thought of the sail up to this moment. It wasnít much of a sail. Rigged to the single signal mast of the ďRocket,Ē the sail was intended only to enable the boat to reach port if ever the engine should give out.
Butts, with an exclamation of disgust at not having thought of the canvas before, ran forward. Almost before he stopped running, his fingers were at work on the knots that held the canvas furled. In surprisingly quick time this Long Island boy had the sail hoisted, set, and was back at the wheel.
Eben Moddridge, without waiting to be called, had taken his place as attendant by the side of his friendís chair.
What Hank Butts didnít know about motors he made up by his knowledge of sailing craft He handled the ďRocketĒ now as though she were a catboat, watching the fill of her canvas and making the most out of the steady light breeze that was blowing.
As he steered, Hank looked back often at the schooner. That craft, with all canvas hung out, was coming along at something like seven knots. The ďRocketĒ was making barely four under her small spread.ŮÍŗųŗÚŁ ÍŪŤ„ů ŠŚŮÔŽŗÚŪÓ
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