The Motor Boat Club off Long Island: or, A Daring Marine Game at Racing Speedñêà÷àòü êíèãó áåñïëàòíî
“I – I – er – I can’t quite see where we gain by that,” quaked the nervous financier.
“Keep your eyes open, then,” 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 boat’s crew used in getting near the “Rocket.”
“Keep off!” hailed Tom, mockingly, when the small boat was within three hundred feet.
No reply came from the boat’s 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 “Rocket” 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 boat’s 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.
“Why, what are you up to, now?” demanded Eben Moddridge, his eyes wide and almost bulging.
“Going to board the schooner before that boat’s crew has a chance to get back,” replied Captain Tom, his eyes gleaming brightly. “If Mr. Delavan is aboard we’ll get him. There are only three men left on the schooner, and the ‘Rocket’s’ crew numbers three.”
“There are four of us, you mean,” declared Moddridge, with a near-whoop. “If there’s to be any fighting, now, on Frank Delavan’s account, you’ll have to count me in!”
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
“FINE and swift!” chuckled the young skipper, though he had not much faith that the nervous one would remain up to pitch, “Don’t forget that new idea of yours, Mr. Moddridge.”
“I won’t,” promised the other, though his voice trembled a bit.
Under the young skipper’s 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.
“Bring me a wrench, and get one for Mr. Moddridge, too, Hank,” was Halstead’s next order. “Also, get one for yourself. They’re handy, if strangers try to get rough with you.”
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 boat’s young skipper on the pier a few nights before.
“Like that better, do you?” asked Tom, his gaze lighting on it as Hank sprang on deck.
“Well, it might come handy,” 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 boat’s crew.
But the “Rocket” ran swiftly up alongside.
“You keep away from us!” yelled the man at the schooner’s wheel.
“Don’t you believe it for a minute,” Captain Tom retorted. Joe and Hank were already at their stations with the grappling hooks.
“You’re acting like pirates, if you try to come aboard us,” shouted back the fellow at the schooner’s wheel.
“A fine lot you are, to talk about piracy,” 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.
“Let go the hooks!” he ordered. Hank and Joe threw the grapplers so that both made fast over the schooner’s rail. In the same instant Halstead shut off power. The schooner, if it remained under sail, could tow the “Rocket” 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 vessel’s 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 sailor’s 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.
“Sorry, matey,” observed Hank to the squatting sailor. “But didn’t your father ever tell you that you oughtn’t to run into anyone who’s carrying too much weight for his age.”
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.
“What on airth d’ye mean by these pirate tactics?” he bellowed.
“Keep cool, and keep your distance,” ordered young Halstead, holding the wrench so that he could use it in a twinkling at need. “You have a friend of ours on board here. Where is he?”
“There ain’t no one on board ’cept you pirates and us three of the crew,” retorted the late helmsman. “And you fellers ain’t going to be aboard but a few seconds more.”
“If you won’t help me out, I’ll go below and search the cabin,” 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.
“Jorkins,” yelled the engaged helmsman, “don’t you let no one go down that companionway. Stop it!”
“Ya-ah!” sneered Jorkins, sulkily. “With that feller balancing his ton of iron for a crack at my head?”
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 helmsman’s chest, while Hank Butts had taken up a new post from which he could drop the weight, at need, upon the helmsman’s 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 “Rocket’s” 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.
“I am afraid we’ve boarded the wrong ship,” declared Mr. Moddridge, hesitatingly.
“Ye’ll find out ye have, afore ye’re through with the law,” growled the prostrate and now prudent helmsman, from his “bed” on the deck. “Boarding a craft forcibly, on the high seas, is a crime.”
“Aw, be a good well, and run dry,” 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.
“See here, my man,” Tom uttered hastily, turning to the sailor, “tell me just where to find the man that’s a prisoner on board, and, on behalf of Mr. Moddridge, I’ll offer you five hundred dollars in cash and a safe passage ashore on our boat.”
“There ain’t no one on this boat a prisoner, unless it’s us fellers of the crew,” returned the sailor, sulkily.
Yet, as he spoke, there was a cunning gleam in his eyes that made Halstead believe him to be lying.
“By gracious, there’s one place I overlooked,” 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.
“Oho! It’s hollow here,” 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 Tom’s nervous, ready, strong fingers, and —
There lay Francis Delavan!
“Good gracious! What have they done to him?” 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 Halstead’s first glimpse of his employer revealed that much.
There was a gag in Mr. Delavan’s mouth, but the startling signs were the purplish blue in his face and the queer, lifeless look in his partly-open eyes.
“Have they killed him? Is it spite work, or all part of their fearful plot?” 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
“WHATEVER you’re doing, old chap, hustle!” sounded Joe Dawson’s warning voice from the deck overhead “The boat’s getting uncomfortably near with its load of scoundrels!”
“I’ve found Mr. Delavan!” 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.
“Look out, Butts!” 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 scoundrel’s advanced foot, then jumped aside.
“You young villain!” roared the sullen helmsman, sinking to the deck, and reaching both hands out toward his injured foot.
“Much obliged,” said Hank meekly. But he had picked up his iron weight again, and, with it, he advanced upon the one able-bodied seaman left.
“Won’t you oblige me by aiming a blow of your fist at me!” Hank begged. “Then you’ll have your own troubles, and we can attend to our own business.”
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 Delavan’s face.
“I think he’s alive,” Halstead reported, feverishly, “for there’s still quite a bit of warmth to his skin. But,” sniffing, “I’m sure he was chloroformed when the scoundrels saw us coming, for I can smell it here. Joe, hustle down a rope.”
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 employer’s shoulders.
“Now, I’m coming up. Be ready to give a strong hand on the haul,” 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 boat’s crew not more than two hundred yards away.
“Pick Mr. Delavan up. Over the rail with him,” called the young skipper. “Seconds now are as good as hours later!”
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.
“Wait a second,” directed Tom, releasing his hold on the senseless body as they rested it against the schooner’s rail. Leaping over to the motor boat’s deck, he turned like a flash.
“Now, pass Mr. Delavan over carefully,” he ordered.
“And you get in and help,” 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.
“Hank, throw off the hook astern – lively!” 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 “Rocket’s” hull. Hank, having brought the after grappling hook aboard, rushed to port, poising his hitching weight over his head.
“It’s a headache for one of you, if you get alongside,” 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 “Rocket’s” deck, with the odds all against the Delavan forces.
With that timely start, however, Joe Dawson left the boat’s crew nothing to do but to board their own vessel. The motor boat glided easily away.
“Keep the wheel, Joe,” called Captain Tom. “Now, 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.”
“Er – er – hadn’t we better take Frank below to a berth?” inquired Mr. Moddridge.
“No,” replied young Captain Halstead, decisively. “Mr. 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. We’ll pump-handle Mr. Delavan, and see if we can’t start more air into his lungs.”
Then, looking up, Captain Tom inquired:
“Joe, what’s the matter with our speed?”
“I just can’t help it,” grinned Dawson. “I’m 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.”
Captain Tom and Hank continued their pump-handling until Francis Delavan’s eyes fluttered more widely open, the bluish color began to leave his cheeks, and his chest started to rise and fall gently.
“He’s coming around all right,” cheered Halstead. “And he’s naturally as strong as a horse. His vitality will pull him out of this.”
“The schooner has put about and is following us,” called Joe.
“Let ’em,” muttered Halstead, glancing up and astern. “I wish they’d follow us until we meet the police boat at New York. But don’t let ’em get too infernally close, Joe. Something might happen to us. If our motor stopped, where would we be then?”
Joe Dawson laughed easily as the “Rocket” stole lazily over the waters, her speed just a trifle faster than the sailing vessel’s.
In a very few minutes more Francis Delavan’s eyes took on a look of returning intelligence. His lips parted as he murmured, weakly:
“Thank you – boys.”
“And now you’re all right, sir,” cried Tom Halstead, gleefully. “All you’ve 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?”
Apparently Eben Moddridge didn’t 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 boat’s owner from pitching forward.
“Now, old fellow, you’d better kick up more speed,” advised Halstead, stepping over beside his chum. “You know, we’ve got to make the coast in record time, for several fortunes are hanging on our speed.”
Bending forward, Dawson swung the speed control wheel around generously. The “Rocket” forged ahead through the water.
“This will leave the schooner hull-down before we’ve burned much gasoline,” smiled Halstead. “Hullo, there they go about again. They realize the point, and have left off the chase.”
Joe still had the wheel, but he turned to look.
The “Rocket” was more than a mile away from the schooner when a jarring thump shook the motor boat.
In an instant Joe Dawson’s 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.
“Hank, take the wheel. The engine might start again,” called Tom Halstead, barely pausing in his chase after Joe, as the former jumped down into the engine room.
“What on earth has happened?” gasped Eben Moddridge, but there was on one to pay him heed.
For a few moments the two white-faced chums looked over the “Rocket’s” powerful engine together. Then their eyes met as Halstead’s lips framed the startled words:
“Joe, my boy, it’s 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!”
THE MOTOR THAT WOULDN’T “MOTE”
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 anyone’s mind of his full recovery.
“How – how’s the stock market?” he ventured at last to ask.
“Don’t know, sir,” retorted Butts. “Neither does anyone else. We’ve got you and the engine to fix. When you’re both going fine, then we’ll try to find more time to talk.”
Mr. Delavan smiled, good-humoredly, but next inquired:
“How do you happen – to be aboard the ‘Rocket!’”
“Walked aboard,” admitted Hank. “Had to sir. Nobody ever took the trouble to shanghai me.”
Joe, in the meantime, made two or three frantic efforts to make the motor “mote,” though without success.
“It’s all on account of this valve,” Dawson explained to his chum, pointing. “I knew it wouldn’t last forever, but the last time I inspected it, it looked all right.”
“You’ve another valve in the repair chest that will fit,” replied Tom. “And, in goodness’ name, hurry up. I’ll help you.”
“One more try at this old valve, for a few miles anyway,” cried Dawson, desperately. “Tom, the new valve is just a shade too large at the screw-thread end. It’ll take a few desperate minutes to make it fit.”
By the time he had finished speaking the young engineer was industriously engaged in forcing in packing around the worn old valve.
“Hank,” Captain Tom roared from the companionway, “shake out that solitary sail and hoist it. Get all the speed you can out of it.”
No one had thought of the sail up to this moment. It wasn’t much of a sail. Rigged to the single signal mast of the “Rocket,” 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 friend’s chair.
What Hank Butts didn’t know about motors he made up by his knowledge of sailing craft He handled the “Rocket” 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 “Rocket” was making barely four under her small spread.ñêà÷àòü êíèãó áåñïëàòíî
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