The Ocean Wireless Boys on the Atlantic
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The prostrate figure of Mr. Jukes, who had been sedulously attended by the sailors, stirred lightly and he gave a moan. Suddenly he sat bolt upright.
The sight of him gave Jack a shock. Was this bedraggled, pallid, soot-smeared scarecrow the once pompous and lordly head of the Titan Steamship Company’s activities?
Yes, it was Mr. Jukes, sure enough. He sat up and asked in a hoarse, husky voice:
“He’s in the other boat, Mr. Jukes,” said one of the sailors soothingly. “He’s all right.”
“Yes, but where is the other boat? What boat is this?”
“By a strange coincidence, Mr. Jukes,” said Jack, “it is one of the boats from your tanker, the Ajax. Don’t you know me, Jack Ready? I picked up your wireless call for aid.”
“Oh yes, yes, I know you now,” said the magnate dully. “But my boy Tom, where is he? I want him.”
Some of the men were whispering.
“What’s that I hear?” said Mr. Jukes, turning quickly on them. “Tom adrift? Adrift in that boat? Look for him. Find him, I tell you. Oh, Tom, my boy! my boy! I didn’t mean to desert you!”
Jack patted him on the shoulder as he might have a companion in misfortune. Gone now was the lordly, magnificent air of the head of the steamship combine. Mr. Jukes was simply a sorrowing parent, crushed by his misfortunes.
But in a minute his old domineering manner came back.
“You are in my employ, every one of you!” he shouted. “Find my boy!”
Mr. Brown shook his head.
“It’s almost dark, sir, and you yourself are badly in need of attention.”
“What, you will abandon him?” shouted the magnate.
The unfortunate mate looked sorely puzzled.
“It would be useless to look for him now, sir,” he said. “To-morrow, perhaps, by daylight.”
“To-morrow,” groaned Mr. Jukes.
“Don’t worry, sir. He’ll turn up all right,” said Mr. Brown consolingly.
“Oh, if I could only think so!” burst out the man of millions. “But to think of my boy, my Tom, out on this desolate sea! Lost in an open boat! How shall I ever face his mother?”
“He’ll be all right, sir,” was all that the mate could repeat.
“If we don’t pick them up, some other ship will,” added Jack.
It was a hard lesson that Mr. Jukes was learning. He was finding out that money cannot buy everything. All his millions were as dross to him at that moment.
“How can I face my friends?” he muttered presently. “I am saved and Tom is gone! How can I explain to his mother? Oh, if it had only been me in his place!”
Then suddenly his rage turned on Jack.
“You boy! You, whom I tried to help! Why are you here and my boy gone? How is it you are safe and sound, and my son is lost?”
“I’m as sorry as I can be, Mr. Jukes,” said Jack. “If there was anything I could do, I’d do it gladly, and you know it.”
“Bah-h-h-h-h!” was the contemptuous reply.
But Jack kept his temper.
“I’d stay out here a week, sir,” he said, “if that would do any good.”
But the half-crazed man only snarled at him and sat silent, till the welcome sight of the Ajax’s rockets and flares showed them that they were nearing the ship.
A JOYOUS REUNION
The Ajax was almost ready to proceed when the boat joined her.The repairs had been made with even more success than the captain had dared to hope.
When, therefore, Mr. Jukes informed him tremulously that he was not to leave the vicinity till they found some trace of Tom Jukes, he did not receive the orders with the best grace in the world. But, of course, there was nothing for it but to obey.
Perhaps, too, the captain, who was a father himself, felt a sort of sympathy for Mr. Jukes, although he did not believe for an instant that Tom was in any danger.
Mr. Jukes passed a sorry night, and the next morning, haggard and gray, he was up and about early. He came up to where Jack was leaning against the rail.
“So it’s you, is it?” he said, in a softened tone. “I’m sorry I spoke as I did last night, but I was almost beside myself with grief. You cannot understand how this thing is preying on me.”
“I do understand, Mr. Jukes,” said Jack earnestly; “and as for being sorry about the way you spoke of me, I don’t blame you one bit.”
The strangely softened magnate sighed and his tired eyes swept the sea.
“We must not leave here till we get some news of Tom,” he said.
Then he fell to pacing the deck, while Jack went back to his wireless.
Suddenly he picked up a message.
“Ajax! Ajax! Ajax!” buzzed the instrument.
Jack sent a replying message and then came this:
“This is the Caronia. We were in communication with you yesterday. We’ve picked up a shipwrecked crew and – ”
“What!” volleyed back Jack’s key.
“What’s the matter, are you crazy? Don’t butt in when I’m giving you the news. Where are your manners?”
“Oh, stop that and get on!” sputtered Jack’s key.
“Well, you must have got out of bed the wrong side this morning!” came the reply. “I said that we had picked up a shipwrecked crew. They want to go aboard some vessel for New York, so I called you up. We’ll pass you pretty soon now.”
“Was there a boy among them?” asked Jack.
“Yes. Name, Tom Jukes, son of the old millionaire. Why?”
“Because his father is on this ship!”
“For the love of Mike!”
“Yes; have you got a clear wire?”
“All clear now.”
“Then send for Tom. Let him speak to his father. The old man is almost unbalanced over his loss.”
“Nothing easier than that.”
And so it came about that, ten minutes later, Tom’s greetings came to Jack through the air, while Mr. Jukes, with tear-filled eyes and a heart full of thankfulness, stood in the wireless room of the Ajax and dictated his answering messages.
He was a changed man from that instant, but he could hardly keep his patience till the Caronia came up and the transfer of the castaways was made. The drifting boat of the Halcyon had been picked up early that morning by the liner, after her crew had become hopelessly lost and bewildered.
What a meeting that was! And when the father and son had finished wringing each others’ hands, it was Jack’s turn. Tom Jukes declared that if it had not been for the wireless, he might at that very moment have been on the Caronia bound for Liverpool, and it might have been weeks before he and his father were reunited.
“I suppose we can go ahead now, sir?” said Captain Braceworth, poking his head into the wireless room where the joyous reunion had taken place.
“Yes, captain. And, by the way, I want the names of those men you sent to the rescue. There’s something handsome coming to them. As for this lad,” smiling at Jack, “he’s too proud to accept a gift.”
“I know one he wouldn’t mind,” said Tom roguishly.
“And what’s that?” asked his father, patting the lad’s hand.
“A better job on a bigger ship.”
Jack’s eyes danced. Mr. Jukes smiled.
“Well, we shall see what we shall see,” he said; “but, if I do anything like that, it will be on condition that you go along with him. He wouldn’t have anything to do with you on land. Perhaps he will on the ocean.”
“And I can learn wireless?” asked Tom.
“If Ready, here, will teach you. I’m convinced now that it is one of the seven modern wonders of the world. Look at what it has done for us! And I’m going to see that the lad who worked it isn’t neglected.”
Mr. Jukes was as good as his word. When the injured Ajax came into port ten days later, Jack’s reward came.
But what it was and how he carried out the additional responsibilities imposed upon him by his new work must be saved for the telling in the next volume of this series, which will be called: “The Ocean Wireless Boys and the Lost Liner.”
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