"Here is more of our clothing," came from Tom.
"Pick out all the things that are yours," said the captain. "And take the other things that are yours, too."
This was done, nobody paying any attention to Baxter's protests. When the Rovers had what there was of their things the captain turned to the bully.
"I've made up my mind about you," he said, speaking with great deliberation. "I am master here, and a judge and jury into the bargain. You can take your choice: Either sign articles as a foremast hand for the balance of the trip, or be locked up as a prisoner, on prison rations."
"Do you mean th—that?" gasped Baxter, turning pale.
"But the passage money Goes to the credit of these young fellows."
"It's an outrage!"
"No, it's simply justice, to my way of thinking. I'll give you until to-morrow to make up your mind what you will do."
This ended the talk with Dan Baxter. The captain said he wanted to see the Rover boys in the cabin, and they followed him to that place.
"Captain, I feel I must thank you for your fair way of managing this affair," said Dick, feeling that a few good words at this point would not go amiss. "I hope you treat Baxter as he deserves."
"I will try to do right," was Captain Blossom's answer. "But what I want to know now is, What do you intend to do with that money? It seems to me I should be paid something for keeping you on board."
"I have a proposition to make, captain. We will give you two hundred dollars if you will allow us to consider ourselves passengers. And by 'us' I mean the young ladies as well as ourselves."
"It's not very much."
"If we pay you that amount it will leave us but thirty dollars, hardly enough with which to cable home for more. Of course, when we get our money in Australia we will pay you whatever balance is due you,—and something besides for saving us."
This pleased Captain Blossom and he said he would accept the offer. The matter was discussed for half an hour, and it was decided that the boys should have two staterooms, the one occupied by Baxter and another next to that given over to the girls.
When Dora, Nellie, and Grace heard of the new arrangement that had been made they were highly pleased.
"I didn't want to see you do the work of a common sailor," said Dora to Dick.
"Oh, it wouldn't kill me," he returned lightly. "Even as it is, I'll give a hand if it is necessary."
"It's a wonder Captain Blossom took to your offer so quickly."
"He loves money, that's why, Dora. He would rather have that two hundred dollars than our services," and with this remark Dick hit the nail squarely on the head.
A BLOW IN THE DARKNESS
It would be hard to describe Dan Baxter's feelings after Captain Blossom and the Rover boys left him alone in his stateroom. At one instant he was fairly shaking with rage, and at the next quaking with fear over what the future might hold in store for him.
"They have got the best of me again!" he muttered, clenching his fists. "And after I felt sure I had escaped them. It must have been Fate that made Captain Blossom pick them up. Now I've either got to work as a common sailor or submit to being locked up in some dark, foul-smelling hole on the ship. And when we get to Australia, unless I watch my chance to skip out, they'll turn me over to the police."
He could not sleep that night for thinking over the situation and was up and dressed before daylight. Strolling on deck, he came face to face with Sam, who had come up to get the morning air.
"I suppose you think you have got the best of me," growled Baxter.
"It looks like it, doesn't it?" returned Sam briefly.
"The game isn't ended yet."
"No, but it will be when you land in prison, Baxter."
"I'll get square."
"You have promised to get square times without number—and you have failed every time."
"I won't fail the next time."
"Yes, you will. Wrong never yet triumphed over right."
"Oh, don't preach, Sam Rover."
"I am not preaching, I am simply trying to show you how foolish it is to do wrong. Why don't you turn over a new leaf?"
"Oh, such talk makes me sick!" growled the bully, and turned away.
A little while later Captain Blossom appeared and hunted up Dan Baxter, who sat in his state-room, packing up his few belongings.
"Well, have you decided on your course, young man?" demanded the master of the Golden Wave.
"Do you mean to lock me up if I refuse to become a sailor?" asked Dan Baxter,
"I do, and I won't argue with you, either. Is it yes or no?"
"I don't want to be locked up in some dark hole on your ship."
"Then you are willing to become a sailor?"
"I—er—I suppose so."
"Very well, you can remove your things to the forecastle. Jack Lesher, the first mate, will give you your bunk."
This was "adding insult to injury," as it is termed, so far as Baxter was concerned, for it will be remembered that it was Jack Lesher who had obtained the passage on the Golden Wave for the bully.
But Dan Baxter was given no chance to demur. Taking his traps he went on deck, where Jack Lesher met him, grinning in sickly fashion.
"So you are going to make a change, eh?" said the mate.
"You needn't laugh at me, if I am," growled Baxter.
"I shan't laugh, my boy. It's hard luck," said Lesher. "Come along."
He led the way to the forecastle and gave Baxter a bunk next to that occupied by old Jerry. Then he brought out an old suit of sailor's clothing and tossed it over.
"You've run in hard luck, boy," he said in a low voice, after he had made certain that nobody else was within hearing. "I am sorry for you."
"Really?" queried Dan Baxter, giving the mate a sharp look.
"Yes, I am, and if I can do anything to make it easy for you, count on me," went on Jack Lesher.
"I suppose taking that money and the other things was more of boy's sport than anything, eh?"
"That's the truth. I wanted to get square with those Rover boys. They are my bitter enemies. I didn't want the money."
Just then old Jerry came in and the conversation came to an end. But Baxter felt that he had a friend on board and this eased him a little. He did not know that the reason Jack Lesher liked him was because the first mate was a criminal himself and had once served a term in a Michigan jail for knocking down a passenger on a boat and robbing him of his pocketbook. As the old saying goes, "Birds of a feather flock together."
When the girls came on deck they found Baxter doing some of the work which Dick and Tom had been doing the morning before. At first they were inclined to laugh, but Dora stopped herself and her cousins.
"Don't let us laugh at him," she whispered. "It is hard enough for the poor fellow as it is."
"I am not going to notice him after this," said Nellie. "To me he shall be an entire stranger." And the others agreed to treat Dan Baxter in the same manner.
But the boys were not so considerate, and Tom laughed outright when he caught sight of Baxter swabbing up some dirt on the rear deck. This made the bully's passion arise on the instant and he caught up his bucket as if to throw it at Tom's head.
"Don't you dare, Baxter!" cried Tom. "If you do we'll have a red-hot war."
"I can lick you, Tom Rover!"
"Perhaps you can and perhaps you can't."
Baxter put up his fists, but on the approach of Dick and Sam he promptly retreated. But before he went he hissed in Tom's ear:
"You wait, and see what I do!"
"He had better keep his distance," said Dick. "If he doesn't, somebody will get hurt."
"I suppose it galls him to work," said Sam. "He always was rather lazy."
The day proved a nice one, and the Rover boys spent most of the time with the three girls, who were glad of their company once more.
All speculated on the question of what had become of the Tacoma, and of what the folks at home would think concerning their prolonged absence.
"I'd give a good deal to send a message home," said Dick.
"We must cable as soon as we reach shore," added Dora.
They saw but little of Dan Baxter during the day and nothing whatever of him the day following.
"He is trying to avoid us," said Sam. "Well, I am just as well satisfied."
Through old Jerry they learned that Baxter hated the work given to him and that he was being favored a little by the first mate.
"Tell ye what, I hate that mate," said Jerry. "He's got a wicked eye, and he drinks like a fish."
"I know he drinks," answered Tom. "I smelt the liquor in his breath."
They were now getting down into warmer latitudes and the next night proved unusually hot. It was dark with no stars shining, and the air was close, as if another storm was at hand.
"I can't sleep," said Tom, after rolling around in his berth for half an hour. "I'm going on deck." And he dressed himself and went up for some air. He walked forward and leaned over the rail, watching the waves as they slipped behind the noble ship.
Tom's coming on deck had been noticed by Dan Baxter, who sat on the side of the fore-castle, meditating on his troubles. As the bully saw the youth leaning over the rail, his face took on a look of bitter hatred.
"I'll teach him to laugh at me!" he muttered.
Gazing around he saw that nobody was within sight and then he arose to his feet. With a cat-like tread he came up behind Tom, who still looked at the waves, totally unconscious of danger.
Baxter's heart beat so loudly that he was afraid Tom would hear it. Again he looked around. Not a soul was near, and the gloom of the night was growing thicker.
"He'll laugh another way soon!" he muttered, and stepped closer.
His fist was raised to deliver a blow when Tom happened to straighten up and look around. He saw the form behind him and the upraised arm and leaped aside.
The blow missed its mark and Tom caught Baxter by the shoulder.
"What do you mean, Dan Baxter, by this attack?" he began, when the bully aimed another blow at him. This struck Tom full in the temple and partly dazed him. Then the two clenched awl fell heavily against the rail.
"I'll fix you!" panted Baxter, striking another blow as best he could, and then, as Tom struck him in return, he forced Tom's head against the rail with a thump. The blow made Tom see stars and he was more dazed than ever.
"Le—let up!" he gasped, but Baxter continued to crowd him against the rail, which at this point was very weak because of the collision with the steamer. Suddenly there was a snap and a crack and the rail gave way. Baxter leaped back in time to save himself from falling, but Tom could not help himself, and, with a wild cry, he went overboard!
A CALL FROM THE STERN
For the instant after Tom slipped over the side of the Golden Wave, Dan Baxter was too dazed to do more than stare at the spot where he had last seen the boy with whom he had been struggling.
"Gone!" he muttered presently. "Gone!" he repeated and crouched back in the darkness.
The great beads of perspiration came to his brow as he heard rapid footsteps approaching. Would he be accused of sending Tom Rover to his death?
"What's the trouble?" came in the voice of Captain Blossom.
Instead of answering, Dan Baxter crept still further back. Then, watching his chance, he darted into the forecastle.
"Hullo, the rail is broken!" he heard the captain exclaim. "Bring a lantern here, quick!"
A sailor came running with a lantern, which lit up the narrow circle of the deck near the rail and part of the sea beyond.
"Somebody gave a cry," said the captain, to those who began to gather. "Looks to me as if the rail gave way and let somebody overboard."
"Tom Rover was on deck," came from old Jerry. "Do you reckon as how it was him?"
"I don't know. It was somebody, that's certain. Call all hands at once."
This was done, and Dan Baxter had to come out with the rest. He was pale and trembled so he could scarcely stand.
"All here," said Captain Blossom. "Must have been one of the Rover boys or one of the young ladies."
Word was passed along and soon Sam and Dick came rushing on deck.
"Tom is missing!" cried Sam.
"If that is so, I'm afraid, boys, you have seen the last of your brother," said Captain Blossom. He turned to his crew. "Do any of you know anything of this affair?"
There was a dead silence. Then he questioned the man at the wheel.
"Don't know a thing, cap'n," was the answer.
"It's queer. He must have pressed on the rail very hard.. Here are half a dozen nails torn from the wood."
While this talk was going on Dick and Sam had passed along the rail from the place of the accident to the stern.
"Perhaps he caught hold somewhere," said Sam, who was unwilling to believe that his brother had really perished.
They had just gained the stern and were looking over when a call came from out of the darkness.
"It's Tom!" screamed Dick in delight. "Tom, is that you?"
"Where are you?"
"Holding on to a rope. Help me quick. I—I can't hold on mu—much longer!"
"We'll help you," answered Dick.
Captain Blossom was called and more lanterns were lit, and then a Bengal light, and Tom was seen to be holding fast to a rope which had in some manner fallen overboard and become entangled in the rudder chain.
By the aid of the boat-hook the rope was hauled up and to the side of the Golden Wave. At the same time the sails were lowered, and then a rope ladder was thrown down. Dick descended to the edge of the waves, and, watching his chance, caught Tom by the collar of his coat. Then the brothers came slowly to the deck.
A cheer went up when it was found that Tom was safe once more, and Nellie Laning could not resist rushing forward and catching the wet youth in her arms. Tom was so exhausted he dropped on the nearest seat, and it was several minutes before he had recovered strength enough to speak.
"I would have been drowned had it not been for that rope," he said when questioned. "As I slid along the side of the ship the rope hit me in the face. I clutched it and clung fast for dear life. Then when I came up and swept astern I called as loudly as I could, but it seemed an age before anybody heard me."
"It was a narrow escape," said Dick. "You can thank a kind Providence that your life was spared."
"You must have leaned on the rail awfully hard," put in Nellie.
"Leaned on the rail?" repeated Tom. "It wasn't my fault that I went overboard. It was Dan Baxter's."
"Dan Baxter!" came from several.
"Exactly. He tackled me in the dark, and we had it hot and heavy for a minute. Then he crowded me on the rail, and it gave way. He jumped back and let me go overboard."
"The rascal! I'll settle with him!" cried Dick. "I'll teach him to keep his distance after this!"
He knew Baxter was still forward, and ran in that direction. The bully saw him coming and tried to hide in the forecastle, but Dick was too quick for him and hauled him back on the deck.
"Take that for shoving my brother overboard, you scoundrel!" he exclaimed, and hit Baxter a staggering blow straight between the eyes.
"Stop!" roared the bully, and struck out in return. But Dick dodged the blow, and then hit Baxter in the chin and on the nose. The elder Rover boy was excited, and hit with all of his force, and the bully measured his length on the deck.
"Good fer you!" cried old Jerry, who stood looking on. "That's the way to serve him, the sarpint!"
Slowly Baxter arose to his knees, and then his feet, where he stood glaring at Dick.
"Don't you hit me again!" he muttered.
"But I will," retorted Dick, and struck out once more. This time his fist landed on the bully's left eye, and once again Baxter went down, this time with a thud.
The sailors were collecting, and soon Jack Lesher rushed up. He stepped between Dick and the bully.
"Stop it!" he ordered harshly. "We don't allow fighting on board of this craft."
"I wasn't fighting," answered Dick coolly. "I was just teaching a rascal a lesson."
"It amounts to the same thing. If you have any fault to find tell the captain, or tell me."
"Well, I'll go to the captain, not you," retorted Dick.
"All right," growled the first mate. "But just remember you can't boss things when I'm around."
When Captain Blossom understood the situation he was thoroughly angry.
"Baxter certainly ought to be in prison," he said. "I'll clap him in the brig and feed him on bread and water for three days and see how he likes that."
"He ought not to be left at large," said Dora, with a shudder. "He may try to murder somebody next."
"We'll watch him after this," said the captain.
He kept his word about putting Baxter in the ship's jail. But through Lesher the bully, got much better fare than bread and water. Strange as it may seem, a warm friendship sprang up between the bully and the first mate.
"I aint got nothing against you, Baxter," said Jack Lesher. "When we get to Australia perhaps we can work together, eh?" and he closed one eye suggestively. Baxter had told him of his rich relative, and the mate thought there might be a chance to get money from Baxter. "He'd rather give me money than have me tell his relation what sort of a duck he is," said Lesher to himself.
After this incident the time passed pleasantly enough for over a week. When Baxter came from the brig he went to work without a word. Whenever he passed the Rovers or the girls he acted as if he did not know they were there, and they ignored him just as thoroughly. But the boys watched every move the bully made.
As mentioned before, Jack Lesher was a drinking man, and as the weather grew warmer the mate increased his potions until there was scarcely a day when he was thoroughly sober. Captain Blossom remonstrated with him, but this did little good.
"I'm attending to my duties," said Lesher. "And if I do that you can't expect more from me."
"I thought I hired a man that was sober," said Captain Blossom. "I won't place my vessel in charge of a man who gets drunk."
Yet he was not willing to do the mate's work, or put that work onto others, so Jack Lesher had to take his turn on deck, no matter in what condition.
"I must say I don't like that first mate at all," said Tom to Sam. "He is very friendly with Baxter."
"I have noticed that," replied the youngest Rover. "Such a friendship doesn't count in the mate's favor."
"Last night he was thoroughly drunk, and wasn't fit to command."
"Well, that is Captain Blossom's lookout. The captain can't be on deck all of the time."
Two nights after this talk Jack Lesher was again in command of the ship, Captain Blossom having retired after an unusually hard day.
It was hot and dark, and the air betokened a storm. The man at the wheel was following a course set by the captain, and the sailors whose watch was on deck lay around taking it as easy as they could.
The mate had been drinking but little in the afternoon, but before coming on deck he took several draughts of rum. He was in a partiallarly bad humor and ready to find fault with anybody or anything.
Some of the sails had been reefed, and these he ordered shaken out, although there was a stiff breeze blowing. Then he approached the man at the wheel and asked for the course.
"Southwest by south," was the answer.
"That aint right," growled the mate. "It should be south by west."
"The captain gave it to me southwest by south," answered the man.
"Don't talk back to me!" roared Jack Lesher. "I know the course as well as the captain. Make it south by west, or I'll flog you for disobeying orders."
"Aye, aye, sir," answered the man at the wheel, and the course was changed, for the sailor stood greatly in fear of the mate. Then the mate sent below for another drink of rum.
ANOTHER ACCIDENT AT SEA
It was four hours later, and Captain Blossom was just preparing to come on deck, when there, came a fearful shock which threw the Golden Wave back and over on her side.
"We have struck! We are on the rocks!" came a shrill cry from the deck, and immediately there was an uproar.
The Rover boys were thrown to the floor from their berths, and it was several seconds before they could realize what had happened.
"We have struck something, that is sure!" gasped Sam.
As quickly as they could they donned their clothing and made their way to the large state-room occupied by the girls.
"Oh, what a shock!" came from Nellie.
"Are you safe?" asked Tom.
"I am, but poor Grace struck her head on the wall, and is unconscious."
Without ceremony Tom picked up the unconscious girl, wrapped her in a blanket, and, aided by Sam, carried her to the deck, the others following. A minute later Grace revived.
On deck they found all in confusion. The bowsprit of the Golden Wave was gone, and also the main topmast, while a mass of the rigging littered the forecastle. It was also announced that the rudder was broken and the vessel was pounding helplessly on the rocks, with a big hole in the bow directly below the waterline.
"Who changed the course?" demanded Captain Blossom. "We should be fifty miles away from these rocks."
"The first mate made me change the course," said the man who had been at the wheel. "I told him you had said southwest by south, and he made it south by west."
"He don't know what he's talking about!" howled Jack Lesher. The shock had partly sobered him. "He was steering due south, and I told him to make it southwest by south."
But little more could be said on the point, for it was feared that the schooner would go down at any moment.
"We must man the boats," said the captain. "Bring up the provisions and the kegs of water, and be quick about it."
"Are we near land?" asked Dick.
"There should be some islands four or five miles south of this spot," answered Captain Blossom.
Now that there was danger of going down some of the sailors seemed to grow crazy. Half a dozen tumbled into one of the boats and began to lower it of their own accord.
"Stand back there!" shouted the captain. "The girls must go first."
"Not much!" shouted one of the sailors. "It's everybody for himself now!" And in a moment more the small boat had left the ship's side and disappeared in the darkness.
There were three other boats and the remaining sailors, along with the first mate and Dan Baxter, wanted to crowd into these. But Captain Blossom said he would shoot the first man who tried to row away without his orders. Then some provisions were put into the boats, and the captain divided the whole company among the three boats.
"Let us stay together, captain," pleaded Dick. "We can row."
"And what of the girls, Rover?"
"Let us go with the Rover boys," pleaded Dora, and Nellie and Grace said the same. Old Jerry also stood by his friends.
While this talk was going on there was a rush for two of the boats, and before Captain Blossom could do anything his men were off, taking Jack Lesher and Dan Baxter with them.
"You can go down with the ship!" cried Dan Baxter mockingly. An instant later the darkness hid the speaker from view.
"They have left us," cried Captain Blossom. "But, thank fortune, the best and largest boat is also left."
Some provisions had been tumbled into this boat, and a cask of water followed. Then the girls were placed on board, the Rover boys followed, and the captain and old Jerry came behind, to cut away. Down went the small boat into the mighty waves, and each of the boys caught up an oar.
"Pull!" roared Captain Blossom. "Pull for your lives!" And they did pull, two boys on one side, and Sam and old Jerry on the other. The girls huddled in the stern, expecting every moment to see the little craft turn bottom side up. They scraped along the side of the doomed ship, and then along some rocks. Captain Blossom was in the bow, peering ahead.
"To the left!" he yelled. "Quick!" And then came a shock, and the captain disappeared beneath the waves.
"The captain is gone!" screamed Dora, but she was hardly heard, for the ship was pounding on the rocks, and the spray was flying in all directions. The boys and old Jerry continued to pull, knowing not what else to do, and at last the spot was left behind and they found themselves on the bosom of the mighty Pacific, in the black darkness, out of sight of everything, with only the sounds of the wind and the waves filling their ears.
"Do you think we will ever get out of this alive?" asked Grace of Dora.
"Let us pray that we may all be spared," answered Dora, and they did pray, more earnestly than they had ever before prayed in their whole lives. It was a moment that put their faith to a supreme test.
The boys did not dare to stop rowing, and they kept on until their backs ached and their arms seemed ready to drop from their sockets.
"We had better take turns," said Dick, at last. "We can't keep this up all night.." And his suggestion was followed out, two, rowing at a time, for a space of fifteen or twenty minutes.
They thought they might see something of the other boats, but nothing came to view, and when they set up a shout at the top of their lungs, no answer came back.
"They have either gone down or else got out of this neighborhood," said Tom.
"It was too bad to lose Captain Blossom," said Sam. "He was not such a bad sort, after all."
It was not long after this that a mass of wreckage drifted past them. There was a bit of broken spar and some other woodwork, but no human being, and they let the wreckage go.
By looking at his watch Dick saw that it was three o'clock in the morning.
"It will be light in another couple of hours," he said. "If we can keep on top of the waves until then perhaps we can sight the islands the captain mentioned."
"I wish it was daylight now," sighed Nellie.
Fortunately a bundle of clothing had been brought along, and as the water was warm, nobody suffered much from the wetting received. Care was taken to keep the provisions as dry as possible, for there was no telling how long it would be before they would be able to get more.
Slowly the night dragged by, and, with the coming of morning, the wind went down, the storm passing to the northward.
"It is growing lighter," announced Dora. "The sunlight is beginning to, show over the rim of the sea."
Half an hour later the sun came up, like a great ball of fire from a bath in the ocean, capping the high waves with gold. As the light spread around them, Dick stood up on a seat and gazed eagerly in all directions.
"What do you see?" demanded the others.
"Nothing," he answered, with a sinking heart; "nothing but water on all sides of us."
"The islands—they must be somewhere!" cried Tom, and he, too, took a look, followed by the others. The last to look was old Jerry.
"Can't see much," said the old sailor slowly. "But I kind of reckon there's a dark spot directly southward."
"It must be one of the islands the captain mentioned!" exclaimed Dora.
"We might as well row in that direction," said Dick. "There is nothing else to do."
"It's queer what became of the other boats," said Sam.
Some of the provisions were brought forth and they ate sparingly, and drank a little of the water. Then the boys and old Jerry took up the oars once more and began to pull as nearly southward as they could make it, steering by the sun.
When the sun grew higher it became very warm, so that the rowers were glad enough to lay aside their jackets. By noon they reckoned that they had covered six or eight miles. One after another stood up on the seats to take a look around.
"Nothing in sight yet," said Dick, with a sorry shake of his head. "We must have been mistaken in that dark spot."
"What will you do now?" asked Grace. "The hot sun is beginning to make my head ache."
Sam's head also ached, but he said nothing. Nobody knew what to suggest.
"One thing is certain; we can't remain out on the bosom of the ocean," said Dick.
"Better continue to pull southward," came from old Jerry. "There are lots of islands down that way. The map is full of 'em."
"Yes, the map is full of them," answered Dick. "But a quarter of an inch on the map means a hundred miles or two in reality."
Yet it was decided to row on, trusting to luck to strike some island, either large or small. It was now fiercely hot, and all hands perspired freely.
By the end of the afternoon the boys were worn out, and had to give up rowing. The girls were dozing in the stern, having covered their heads with a thin shawl, stretched from one gunwale to another. Tom and Sam were dizzy from the glare of the sun on the water.
"Another day like this will set me crazy," said the youngest Rover. "I'd give ten dollars for a pair of blue goggles."
Old Jerry had been looking intently to the westward. Now he pointed in that direction.
"See that trail of smoke," he said. "Unless I am mistaken a steamship is sailing toward us!"
"A steamship!" cried Tom, and the words awoke the girls. "We must hail the vessel by all means."
"If she comes close enough," said Captain Jerry pointedly. "Don't be too hopeful, my lads. She may pass us by."
THE CRUSOES OF SEVEN ISLANDS
All on board of the rowboat watched the thin trail of smoke with interest.
"I believe it is going away from us," said Dora.
"No, it is coming closer," said Nellie.
"It is certainly moving to the northward," put in Sam.
A quarter of an hour went by and the smoke came only a little nearer.
"She is a big steamer," said Captain Jerry. "But she aint comin' jest this way."
"You are sure?" cried Tom.
"Yes, lad. It's too bad, but it can't be helped."
The old sailor was right; half an hour later the smoke had shifted, and after that it faded gradually from sight.
It was a heavy blow, after their expectations had been raised so high, and tears stood in the eyes of all of the girls, while the boys looked unusually sober.
What was to do next? All asked that question, yet it was only Captain Jerry who answered it.
"Let us pull southward," said he.
And they did so, although with hearts that were as heavy as lead in their bosoms.
Slowly the night came on. Shortly after the sun set the moon showed itself and the sky became studded with stars, the Southern Cross standing out boldly among them. The pale light made the bosom of the ocean glisten like silver.
"A beautiful night," said Dora. "But who can enjoy it when we do not know what to-morrow will bring forth," and she sighed deeply.
The boys and old Jerry continued to take turns at rowing, while the girls sank into fitful slumber.
Presently the old sailor raised his head.
"Listen!" he said, and they did so, and far away heard a strange booming.
"What's that?" questioned Sam.
"It's breakers!" cried Tom. "We must be near some coast!"
"The lad is right," came from Captain Jerry. "We are near an island, after all!"
Dick stood on a seat, and, as the boat rode to the top of a wave, took a look around.
"An island!" he cried. "Dead ahead!"
"Hurrah! We are saved!" ejaculated Sam. "What is the matter?" questioned Dora, rousing up, followed by the other girls.
"There is an island ahead."
"We must be careful how we approach the shore, lads," cautioned Jerry. "If we strike the rocks, it may cost us our lives. Perhaps we had better hold off until daylight."
"I see a stretch of sand!" came from Tom, who was standing up. "If we can reach that, we'll be all right."
Old Jerry took a careful look. The sand was there, true enough, but there were dangerous breakers between the boat and that shore.
"If you say so, we can run our chances," he said. "The young ladies must hold tight, and not mind a good ducking."
The force of the waves was now carrying them closer and closer to the breakers. Under old Jerry's directions the boys took a short, sharp stroke, keeping the rowboat straight up to the waves. The noise was like thunder, and soon the spray was flying all over them.
"Now pull!" cried Captain Jerry. "One, two, three! Hold tight, girls!" And away they went into the breakers. One wave dashed over the craft, but it was not swamped, and before another could hit them they darted up a swell and onto a long, sandy beach.
In a twinkle the old sailor was out, along with Dick, and, aided by another wave, they ran the boat well up the beach, out of the harm of the waves. It was a hard struggle, and when it was over Dick sank down almost exhausted.
"Saved!" murmured Dora, as she leaped out on shore. "Thank Heaven!" And all of the others echoed the sentiment.
The empty boat was pulled up out of harm's way and chained fast to a palm tree growing near, and then the party of seven sat down to rest and to talk over the new condition of affairs. They were on a wild, tropical coast, with a long, sandy beach running to the ocean, and back of this a dense mass of tropical vegetation, including palms, plantains, cocoanuts, and date trees. Back of the heavy growth was a distant hill, standing out dimly in the moonlight.
"This looks like a regular Crusoe-like island," said Dora, as she gazed around. "There is not a sign of a habitation anywhere."
"A good many of the South Sea islands are not inhabited," said Dick. "The natives won't live on them because they are subject to volcano eruptions, earthquakes, and tidal waves."
"Well, I hope we don't have any of those things while we stay here," came from Nellie. "An earthquake would scare me almost to death."
"I do not see that we can do better than to stay right here for the rest of the night," said Tom. "I am too tired out to walk very, far."
It was decided to follow Tom's advice, and all made themselves as comfortable as circumstances permitted. They had some matches in a waterproof safe, and soon a camp-fire was started, at which they dried some of their garments. Then, after eating some of the provisions that were left, they laid down to rest. Strange as it may seem all slept soundly until sunrise, and nothing came to disturb them.
When the girls arose they found the boys and Captain Jerry already preparing breakfast. On the shore Tom, had found some oysters and shell-fish, and these were baking. Among the provisions were a little tea and coffee, and old Jerry had made a pot of coffee, which did one good to smell. Sam had brought down some cocoanuts from a nearby tree, and also found some ripe bananas.
"We won't starve' to death here, that's certain," said Dick, when they all sat down to eat. "The island is full of good things. If I had a gun I could bring down lots of birds, and monkeys, too."
"I don't think I'd care to eat a monkey," said Grace. "But I wouldn't mind eating birds."
"There must be plenty of fish here, too," said Tom. "In fact I saw some sporting in the waters of a little bay up the coast."
"Shall we go up and down the coast after breakfast?" asked Sam.
"My advice is to climb yonder hill and take a squint around," came from Captain Jerry.
"That's a splendid idea, providing we can get to the tap," said Dick.
"There is no use of all of us going, lad. You can go with me while the rest stay here."
"What shall we do in the meantime?" asked Sam.
"Better try your hand at fishin', lad, and see if you can knock some birds over with sticks and stones. If ye get anything, let the girls cook us somethin', for we'll be powerful hungry by the time we get back."
Half an hour later Captain Jerry and Dick set out. Each carried a few ship's biscuits and also a heavy stick which had been cut in the thickets. Each wished he had a gun or a pistol, but those articles were not to be had.
The climb up the hill was by no means an easy one. The rocks were rough and in many spots the jungle of brush and vines was so thick that to get through was next to impossible. It was very warm, and they had to stop often to cool off and catch their breath.
"I don't wonder that people in hot countries move slowly," said Dick. "I feel more like resting than doing anything else."
It was almost noon when they came in sight of the top of the hill. There were still some rough rocks to climb, and these they had to ascend by means of some vines that grew handy.
"What a magnificent view!" cried Dick.
It certainly was magnificent. Looking back in the direction they had come they could see the Pacific Ocean, glittering in the bright sun-light and stretching miles and miles out of sight.
The island they were on looked to be about half a mile in diameter. Northward, eastward, and westward was the ocean, but to the southward was a circlet of six islands, having a stretch of calm water between them. Between some of the islands the water was very shallow, while elsewhere it looked deep.
"Seven islands in all," said old Jerry. "And not a sign of a house or hut anywhere."
"We are the Crusoes of Seven Islands," said Dick. "But do you really believe they are uninhabited?"
"Do ye see any signs of life, lad?"
"I must say I do not. It's queer, too, for I rather imagined one at least of the other boats had reached this place."
"I thought the same. But it looks now as if they all went to Davy Jones's locker, eh?"
"It certainly does look that way."
From the top of the hill they took a careful survey of the situation. The elevation was in the very center of the island. Down toward the other islands the slope was more abrupt than it was in the direction from which they had come.
"We can take a look at those other islands later on," said old Jerry. "Reckon as how we have done enough for one day. If we don't git back soon, they'll become anxious about us."
"I wish we had a flag," said Dick. "Here is a tall tree. We could chop away the top branches and hang up a signal of distress. If we did that, perhaps some ship would come this way and rescue us."
"Right ye are, lad, but it aint many ships come this way. They are afraid o' the rocks we run on."
Having looked around once more, to "git the lay o' the land," as Captain Jerry expressed it, they started to descend the hill. This proved as difficult as climbing up had been.
Dick went in advance, and was half-way down when he stepped on a loose stick and went rolling into a perfect network of vines and brushwood.
"Are ye hurt?" sang out old Jerry.
"No—not much!" answered the eldest Rover. "But my wind—Oh, goodness gracious!"
Dick broke off short, and small wonder. As 'he arose from the hole into which he had tumbled, a hissing sound caught his ears. Then up came the head of a snake at least eight feet long, and in a twinkle the reptile had wound itself around the boy's lower limbs!
SETTLING DOWN ON THE ISLAND
"What's wrong, lad?"
"A snake! It has wound itself around my legs!"
"Ye don't say!" gasped Captain Jerry, and then leaped down to the hollow. "Well, by gosh! Take that, ye beast!"
"That" was a blow aimed at the reptile's head with the sailor's stick. Old Jerry's aim was both swift and true and the head of the reptile received a blow which knocked out one eye and bruised its fang. But the body wound itself around Dick tighter than ever.
Fortunately the youth had not lost his wits completely, and as the neck of the reptile came up, he grasped it in his hand with the strongest grip he could command.
"Cut it—cut its head off!" he panted. "Get your pocket-knife!"
At once Captain Jerry dropped his stick and pulled out his jack-knife, a big affair, such as many old sailors carry. One pull opened the main blade, and then old Jerry started in to do as Dick had suggested. It was no easy job and the body of the snake squirmed and whipped in every direction, lashing each on the neck and the cheek. But the head came off at last and then they left the body where it fell, and leaped out of the way of further danger.
"A close shave, lad," said the old sailor, as he peered around for more snakes.
"I—I should sa—say it wa—was," panted Dick. He was deadly pale. "I—I thought it would strangle me sure!"
"If it had got around your neck, that is what would have happened. Reckon as how we had better git out o' this neighborhood, eh?"
"Yes, yes, let us go at once," and Dick started off once more.
After that both were very careful where they stepped and kept their eyes wide open for any new danger which might arise. So they went on until they came in sight of the seashore.
"We had better say nothing about the snake," said the eldest Rover. "It will only scare the girls to death."
"No, lad, you are wrong. We must warn them of danger. Otherwise they may run into it headlong."
All of the others were glad to have them back and plied them with questions.
"So there are seven islands," said Tom. "Well, as there are seven of us, that is one island apiece. I don't think we need complain," and his jolly manner made all laugh.
When Jerry told the story about the snake Dora set up a scream.
"Oh, Dick, if it had really strangled you!" she gasped. "You must be very, very careful in the future!"
"Yes, and you must be careful, too, Dora," he answered.
"There is a nice beach right around the edge of the island," said old Jerry. "So, when we want to visit the other islands, we can walk around on the sand. That is better than climbing the hill."
"But the beach doesn't run to the other islands, does it?" asked Sam.
"No, but we can carry our rowboat around with us, to that bay between the islands. There the water is smooth enough for anybody to row in."
"The six islands are shaped exactly like a ring," said Dick. "And this island is the big stone on top."
"As the island is uninhabited I suppose we'll have to settle down and build ourselves huts or something," came from Nellie.
"To be sure. We'll be regular Robinson Crusoes," answered Tom. "Why, I can tell you it will be jolly, when we get used to it."
"Where will we build our huts?" asked Sam.
"We can build them here, if we wish," replied Dick. "But I rather favor the side fronting the other islands."
"Yes, that's the best side," said Captain Jerry. "If we build here, a strong storm may knock our huts flat. That side is more sheltered and, consequently, safer. Besides, there is more fruit there, and I'm sure better fishing in the bay, and that's what counts, too."
"Of course it counts—since we must live on fruits, fish, and what birds and animals we manage to knock over," said Tom.
The boys had been fairly successful in hunting and fishing, having knocked over half a dozen birds and caught four fair-sized fish. Everything had been done to a turn over the camp-fire, and Dick and old Jerry did full justice to what was set before them—on some dried palm leaves Nellie had found. Their coffee they drank out of some cocoanut shells. They had no forks, but used sharp sticks instead, and the knives the boys carried in their pockets.
The weather continued fine and that night the moon shone as brightly as ever. The boys took a stroll on the beach to talk over their plans.
"I am sorry to say there is no telling how long we may have to stay here," said Dick. "It may be a day, a week, or for years."
"Oh, some ship is bound to pick us up some day," returned Tom. "And if we can find enough to live on in the meantime, what is the use of complaining? I am glad my life was spared."
"So am I, Tom."
"I would like to know what became of Dan Baxter," put in Sam. "Can it be possible that all of the rest perished?"
"Certainly it is possible, Sam. You know what a time we had of it."
"It is an awful death to die—in the midst of the ocean," and the youngest Rover shuddered.
"I agree with you," said Tom. "But I am more sorry for Captain Blossom than for Baxter."
"The wrecking of the ship was the fault of the mate. He was drunk," said Dick. "The man at the wheel was doing what was right until Jack Lesher came along."
"Well, I guess the mate went down with the rest."
"Look!" cried Sam, pointing to sea. "I see something dark on the water."
All gazed in the direction he pointed out and made out a mass of wreckage. They watched it steadily until the breakers cast it almost at their feet.
"Some wreckage from the ship!" cried Dick, on examination. "See, here is the name on some of the woodwork. I reckon the vessel went to pieces on the rocks."
The wreckage consisted mainly of broken spars and cordage. But there were also some boxes, which, on being opened, proved to contain provisions.
"It's not such a bad find, after all," said Tom. "I hope some more comes ashore." But though they waited the best part of the night, nothing more came to view.
In the morning the boys felt tired and they did not rouse up until nearly noon. They found old Jerry at the beach, inspecting the wreckage.
"The ropes may come in handy," he said. "But the wood is of small account, since' we have all we want already to hand."
It was decided to remain at the beach for the next day, to look for more wreckage. But none came in, and then they started in a body to skirt the shore around to the South Bay, as old Jerry called it. At first they thought to carry the boat around, but concluded to come back for that later.
It was a journey full of interest, for the sandy beach was dotted with many strange and beautiful seashells, and just back of the sand was the rich tropical growth already mentioned. The woods were full of monkeys and birds, and once Tom thought he caught sight of some goats or deer.
They reached an ideal spot fronting the little bay a little before noon, and then the girls were glad enough to sit down in the shade and rest. The bay was full of fish, and before long they had caught three of the finny tribe. Fruit was also to be had in plenty, and a spring of fresh water gushed from the rocks of the hill behind them.
"This is certainly a beautiful place," murmured Dora, as she gazed around. "Were it not for the folks at home worrying about us, I could spend quite some time here and enjoy it."
"Well, as our situation cannot be helped, let us make the best of it," said Dick cheerfully. "There is no use in being downhearted when we ought to be glad that we were saved."
Close to the rocks they found several trees growing in something of two circles, and they decided that these trees should form the corner posts of a double house or cabin.
"If we had an ax we might cut down some wood, but as it is we will have to use strong vines and cover the huts with palm leaves," said Captain Jerry.
The boys were soon at work, cutting the vines and gathering the palm leaves, and the girls assisted as well as they were able in fastening up the vine-ropes and binding in the leaves. It was slow work, yet by nightfall one half the house was complete and the other had the roof covered.
"Now, if rain comes, we can keep fairly dry," said Tom.
It rained the very next day and they were glad enough to crowd into the completed part, while the rain came down in torrents. When the worst of the downpour was over the wind arose and it kept blowing fiercely all of the afternoon and the night.
"We can be thankful we are sheltered by the hill," said Sam. "Were we on the other side of the island, the wind would knock the hut flat and drench us in no time."
The storm kept all awake until early morning and when it went down they were glad to sink to rest. All slept soundly and it was not until ten o'clock, when the sun was struggling through the clouds, that Tom arose, to find the others still slumbering.
"I'll let them sleep," he said to himself "They need it and there is no need for them get to up."
Stretching himself, he walked quietly from the hut and down to the beach. His first thought was to try to collect some wood, more or less dry, and start a fire.
Gazing across the bay to one of the other islands, he saw a sight which filled him with astonishment. There, on the beach of the island, lay the wreck of the Golden Wave.
ANOTHER CASTAWAY BROUGHT TO LIGHT
"The Golden Wave! Hurrah!"
Tom could not resist setting up a shout when he saw the familiar hull of the schooner, resting quietly on the beach of an island on the other side of the bay.
The cry awoke Sam, Dick, and old Jerry, and they came running out to learn what it meant.
"The schooner!" came from Sam. "How did that get there?"
"The storm must have driven her off the rocks and into this bay," answered Dick. "She didn't go down, after all."
"It's a fine thing for us," put in Captain Jerry, his broad face beaming with pleasure. "Now we can have all the provisions we want, and clothing and guns, and if we can anchor the wreck in some way, we can live on her just as comfortably as in a house at home."
The excited talking brought the girls out one after another, and they were equally pleased over the stroke of good fortune.
"She seems to be cast up pretty high on the sand," said old Jerry. "But even so, the sooner we get to her the better, or the sea may carry her off."
"I am ready to go now," said Tom. "But how are we to get to that island? It's a pity we didn't bring our boat around."
"There are two islands of the circle in between," came from Sam. "Why can't we swim from one to the next and get around that way?"
"We can try it, lad. But we want to be careful. There may be sharks around in these parts."
"Oh, don't let the sharks eat you up!" cried Grace.
"We'll keep our eyes open, never fear," said Dick.
A vote was taken, and it was decided that Sam should remain with the girls, to protect them in case of unexpected danger, while Tom, Dick, and old Jerry should make their way as best they could to the wreck.
The old sailor and the two boys were soon off. They tramped down the beach a short distance and then reached a coral reef leading to the next island. Here the water was not over a foot and a half deep, and as clear as crystal, so the passage to Island No. 2, as Tom named it, was comparatively easy.
The second island crossed they followed the shore around until they came opposite to the island upon which the wreck rested. Here there was a channel sixty or eighty feet wide and of unknown depth, the channel through which the wreck had most likely entered the bay. The water here was by no means smooth and Captain Jerry shook his head doubtfully.
"It won't be no easy swim," he said. "Reckon as how I'll try it first."
"I can get over easily enough," said Dick, and threw off part of his clothing and his shoes. He was soon in the water and striking out boldly, and the others followed.
Short as was the distance, the swim was as hard as any of them looked for, and when they reached the other side of the channel all were out of breath and had to rest for a moment.
"It's a good thing no shark happened to be near," said Tom. "The monster would certainly have had us at his mercy."
When they reached the wreck they found the stern well out of the water. The Golden Wave lay partly on her left side and it was a comparatively easy matter to, gain the deck.
The masts were gone and there was a big hole in the bow, but otherwise the craft had suffered little damage. Why she had not sunk was a mystery until, later on, old Jerry discovered that some of the cargo, consisting of flat cases, had got wedged into the break, thus cutting off a large portion of the leak.
"We can anchor her without trouble," said the old sailor. "And perhaps straighten her up too, so the deck won't be so slanty. Then she'll be a reg'lar hotel for all hands."
"Let us go below and see how things are down there," said Dick, and he at once led the way.
At that instant a loud sneeze reached their ears, causing Dick to pause on the companion way. Looking into the cabin he saw a man standing there, partly dressed.
"Captain Blossom!" he ejaculated. "Is it really you or your ghost?"
"Dick Rover!" cried the master of the schooner. "Then you weren't drowned, after all?"
"No, captain. But—but how did you escape?"
"Is it really Captain Blossom?" came from Tom, and he rushed down into the cabin, followed by old Jerry. All shook hands, and the face of the captain showed his pleasure over the meeting.
"So you all escaped and are here," he said. "I am downright glad to know it. What of the others?"
"We don't know what became of the other boats," answered Dick.
"Saw nothing at all?"
"Not a thing."
The captain shook his head sorrowfully.
"But how did you escape?" asked Dick again.
"That is a short story, lad. When I went overboard from the rowboat, I caught hold of some of the wreckage from the schooner. This was still fast to the deck, and by hauling myself in I soon got on board again. As I had no boat, I remained on board, for I soon saw that the schooner would not go down immediately. At daylight the ship left the rocks and drifted around on the ocean until the wind came up last night, when we struck this island and got beached, as you see. I was worn out with watching, and as soon as I found the boat was safe from sinking I went to bed, and slept soundly until I heard you three tramping around the deck."
"We are stopping over on yonder island," said Tom, when all went on deck, and he pointed in the direction. "See, Sam and the girls are waving to us. Let us wave in return, and stand apart, so they can see that there are four of us."
They did as the youngest Rover advised and soon saw that they were seen. Then Captain Blossom held up his spyglass.
"I reckon they will know who I am by that," he said, and he was right, for Sam told the girls that the fourth man was Captain Blossom beyond a doubt.
"How is your stock of provisions?" asked old Jerry. "We are getting just a bit tired of living on birds and fish. And we want a gun or a pistol with which to protect ourselves."
"The Golden Wave has enough provisions to last this party a year," answered the captain. "We haven't anything very fine, but we have plenty of flour, dried beans, salt and smoked meats, and a good many cases of canned vegetables, as well as sugar, tea, coffee, salt, and pepper. With fresh fish and some game we'll be able to live as well here as if we were on shore,—that is, if we can find fresh water."
"We have all the fresh water we want,—on the large island," said Tom. "And lots of tropical fruit—cocoanuts, bananas, and the like."
"If we are going to live on the ship, we'll have to bring fresh water over from the other island in a cask," said Dick. "That will not be very handy."
"Can't we move the wreck over?" came from Tom.
"No, lad," answered Captain Blossom. "She is here to stay until her timbers rot. But if we wish, we can move some of the provisions ashore. There are the parts of a rowboat below, and I reckon I am carpenter enough to put the parts together in a day or two."
"We have a boat on the north beach," said old Jerry; "we can bring it around."
"To do that, we'll have to swim the channel again," came from Dick. "And I must say I don't like that."
"Let us make a raft," cried Tom. "There must be plenty of material on board of the schooner for that."
"There certainly is," answered Captain Blossom. "Come, we can make a raft in less than an hour."
All set to work, and in a short space of time they had the material together. Ropes and spikes were there a-plenty, and as Captain Blossom laid out one stick and another, the boys and old Jerry either nailed or tied them together. A board flooring was placed on top of the spars and then the whole affair was dumped into the bay with a loud splash. It floated very well, with the flooring a good ten inches above the surface of the water, and as the raft was nearly twenty feet long by ten wide, it was capable of carrying considerable weight.
"That's better than a boat," said Dick. "We can pile a good deal more stuff on it."
"Let us get on and paddle to where we left the others," said Tom. "They will be anxious to learn the news."
Captain Blossom was willing, and they took with them a variety of provisions and also some extra clothing and some firearms. Then the raft was moved to where the boys had left part of their own clothing when they had started to swim the channel.
The coming of the big raft and its passengers to the shore where the cabin was located was greeted with shouts of joy from Sam and the three girls.
"Hurrah for the captain of the Golden Wave!" cried Sam, swinging his cap in the air. "We are very glad to see you safe and sound."
"And I am glad to see you," answered Captain Blossom, as he leaped ashore and grasped one and another by the hand. "Last night I was thinking I would be a lonely castaway; now I find I shall have plenty of company."
"We have brought along some provisions," put in Tom. "And in honor of this reunion, and also in honor of the fact that the Golden 'Wave has not been sunk, I move we invite the girls to get us up a regular feast. I think all bands deserve it."
"Second the motion!" cried Sam.
"All right, we'll cook you anything you want," said Nellie. "That is, if you will supply the things."
"I will," answered Tom. Then he scratched his head. "Well, by gracious!"
"What's the trouble, Tom?" asked Grace. "Did you forget to bring along some sugar?"
"Worse than that. I brought along all sorts of good things to eat, and not a single knife, fork, spoon, or dish outside of some cooking utensils."
"Oh, dear!" burst out Dora. "It will be a sorry feast if we haven't anything to eat from!"
"I'll go back for the dishes," replied Tom promptly. "Sam, do you want to visit the wreck? We can go and come by the time the things are cooked."
"To be sure I'll go," said Sam; and in a few minutes more the two boys were off on the clumsy raft.
SAM AND THE SHARK
"The Golden Wave looks like an old friend," said Sam as they paddled across the smooth waters of the bay.
"Her coming here is the finest thing that could have happened," answered his brother. "I didn't want to say anything before, but if she hadn't come what would we have done for clothing and for eating? We couldn't live on fish all the time, and one can do mighty little hunting without a gun."
"We would have had to set traps, Tom, and dig pitfalls for larger game. But I admit it would have been hard work, and I fancy a suit of goatskins, like Robinson Crusoe wore, wouldn't be half as comfortable as a suit of clothes such as I am wearing."
"If we could only float the schooner and sail away to some nearby port."
"There is no port' within three hundred miles of us, so the captain says."
Soon the boys were halfway across the bay. But moving the big raft was a laborious task, and they were glad enough to sit down and rest for a few minutes.
"There is no use of our hurrying," said Tom. "Our time is our own in this out-of-the-way place, and as we have next to nothing to do we want to make what little work there is last us."
"Like a lazy man working by the day," laughed Sam. "I'm afraid I can't work that way. When I have something to do I'm not content until it is done."
"Are you hot, Sam? Here is something to cool you off."
As Tom spoke he playfully scooped up a handful of water and threw it at his brother.
Soon the two boys were having lots of sport, throwing handfuls of the salty water at each other. Then Sam made a motion as if he was going to push Tom overboard with his paddle.
"Hi! none of that!" cried Tom. "I don't mind a wetting by retail, but I don't want it by wholesale."
He continued to throw water at Sam and the youngest Rover tried to dodge. The raft began to rock, and of a sudden Sam lost his balance and went into the bay with a splash.
Tom set up a laugh, for it was a comical sight, and it had been Sam's own fault that he went overboard. But then Tom's laughter came to an end as he saw the form of a shark moving swiftly toward the spot.
"A shark! a shark!" he screamed. "Sam, get on board, quick! A shark is after you!"
Sam had gone far down beneath the surface and he did not reappear at once. Then he came up spluttering.
"Gosh! I didn't want a bath! Tom, you—"
"Hurry and get aboard, Sam! A shark is after you!"
Sam was about ten feet from the raft, and running to the spot nearest to him, Tom held out the end of his paddle.
"A shark?" gasped the youngest Rover.
"Yes! yes! Catch the end of the paddle!"
Sam made a frantic effort to do so. In the meantime the shark came closer and Tom could see his enormous mouth and sharp teeth clearly. His blood turned to ice in his veins.
Sam made a clutch at the paddle, missed it, and disappeared once more from sight. The shark rushed to the spot and turned in dismay, and driven to desperation, Tom hit the monster over the head with the paddle. Then the shark disappeared also.
The next few seconds were full of agony for poor Tom. He gazed in all directions for Sam, and for the shark, but neither one nor the other was to be seen.
"He must have caught Sam under the water!" he muttered. "Oh, Sam, what an awful death to die!"
A slight noise at the upper end of the raft disturbed him. He turned swiftly, to see a wet hand glide over the woodwork. He made a leap and clutched the hand, and then Sam's head appeared. He gave a frantic yank, and both lay on the flooring of the raft. Sam was saved.
"The shark!" gasped Tom, when he could speak. "Did it—it—bite you?"
"No, but it grazed my shoulder," answered Sam. "If I had not dived down, I would have lost an arm at the very least."
When they felt able they looked around, but the shark had disappeared.
"That settles it," said Tom. "We must be careful and keep out of this water in the future. If we want to bathe, we will have to build a pool."
During the remainder of the trip to the wreck both were careful not to run the slightest chance of falling overboard.
"Not such a very lovely place to live in, after all," said Tom. "Snakes on land and sharks in the water, ugh!" And Sam agreed with him.
Once on the wreck it was an easy thing to obtain the dishes and the knives, forks and spoons, and also some other things they thought they might require. They also brought away another gun, loading it up before leaving the ship.
"Now, if Mr. Shark comes around again, we can give him a dose of buckshot," said' Tom.
But the shark did not appear, excepting at a great distance.
When Sam. told his story all congratulated him on his narrow escape.
"Tom is right," said old Jerry. "Ye mustn't do no bathin' in the bay. We can fix two pools, one for the ladies and one for ourselves, and make another pool for fish, and another for turtles, if we can find any."
The girls had cooked a splendid meal, and soon the table was set on a big flat rock lying near the beach. All sat down and Captain Blossom asked a blessing, and then they all fell to with vigor, for all were hungry.
"The salt air gives one an appetite," said Dick.
The meal lasted the best part of an hour, for, as Tom said, there was no use of hurrying. As they ate, and for some time afterward, they discussed their situation and tried to arrange plans for the future.
It was decided that first of all Dick and old Jerry should climb to the top of the hill, taking with them an ax and a flag and some halyards, and fasten the flag to the top of the tree, stars down, as a signal of distress. Then the whole party was to assist in bringing from the wreck as much building material as was necessary to construct a comfortable dwelling of three large rooms, one for the girls, one for the boys and men, and one as a general living room. A store-house was also to be built, in which could be stored such provisions as were brought away from the wreck from time to time. Then they could live on shore or on the ship, as they pleased.
The following day was Sunday and all rested. The girls thought there should be some sort of religious exercises and all went to the wreck, where Captain Blossom read some chapters from the Bible and the others sang hymns.
The week to follow was a busy one and the time slipped by rapidly. A visit was paid to the hilltop and the flag raised, and Tom and old Jerry also went to the north shore and brought around the rowboat beached there. In the meantime Captain Blossom put together the rowboat parts stored on the Golden Wave, so they now had two boats and the raft for service across the bay and to other points on the water.
Building the house was by no means an easy task, but the Rover boys thought it more fun than work, especially with the girls to look on, and by the end of the second week the building looked quite presentable. When the two bedrooms were finished, some berths were brought over from the wreck, along with bed-clothing, and also some furniture for the living apartment. Outside the latter room a large porch was built, where they might eat and rest when the weather was fine. Not to run the risk of burning down the building in a high wind, it was decided that the cooking should be done in a shed some distance away, in the shelter of the rocks and handy to the spring.
"Who is going to be the cook?" asked Dick. "It won't be fair to put it off on one person."
"We have decided to take turns," said Dora. "Each one will be the main cook for a day at a time, with the others to help, and to wash the dishes. We are going to do all the housework, too, so you men folks can hunt and fish, and make garden if you will, to your hearts' content."
"What a lazy time we will have of it," laughed Dick.
"Captain Blossom says that as soon as we are settled we can explore all of the seven islands. Who knows we may find out something of importance," came from Tom, who stood near.
"Cannibals, for instance," put in Sam.
"Oh, do you really think there are any cannibals here?" asked Grace.
"I believe he is fooling," said Nellie. "He only wants to scare us!" And she tossed her pretty head.
"Perhaps we'll stir up some lions or tigers," said Tom.
"Or an elephant," added Dick. "But I don't think we will. My opinion is that these islands have nothing on them but birds, monkeys, small game, and snakes."
"You've forgotten one thing," said Dora, with an odd smile.
EXPLORING THE SEVEN ISLANDS
Another rainy spell, lasting three days, followed, but after that the sky cleared in a fashion which Captain Blossom thought betokened good weather for some time to come.
"We can now explore the seven islands and learn just what they contain," he said.
The question now arose as to who should go along and who should stay at home with the girls. Lots were cast, and by this it was decided that the exploring party should consist of Captain Blossom, Sam, and Tom, leaving Dick and old Jerry with Dora, Nellie, and Grace.
It was decided that the exploring party should take the lightest of the rowboats and enough provisions to last for a week. Each was also provided with a pistol, and Captain Blossom carried a rifle in addition.
"If all goes well we will be back inside of four days," said the captain, when he and Tom and Sam were ready to depart. "But if we are not back at that time do not worry until at least a week has gone by." And so it was arranged. It was also arranged that three shots fired in succession should be a signal that one party or the other was in trouble.
Tom and Sam were pleased over the prospect of going with the captain and they willingly took up the oars to row to the nearest island, which, as we already know, was close at hand. The boat was left on the beach and without delay the captain and the two boys plunged into the interior.
The island was small, with but a slight rise of ground in the center. It was of small importance and they soon came out on the ocean side, where there was a beach strewn with shells and with oysters scarcely fit to eat. The growth on this island was mostly of young palms and the captain was of the opinion that the ground was not many years old.
"This has been thrown up by an earthquake or a volcano," he said. "There is nothing here to interest us," and he turned back.
They already knew something of the island on which the wreck was located, but, nevertheless, made a trip across it and up the outward coast. Here they found a number of orange and lemon trees, and also a great quantity of tropical nuts and some spices. The lemons proved to be very refreshing, and Tom said he meant to come back some day and get a bagful for general use.
The next island was visited the next day, the party spending the night on the wreck. The passage to this island was rather a rough one, and they had all they could do to keep from having their provisions spilt overboard.
"It is a blessing that the sea is comparatively calm," said Captain Blossom. "Otherwise we could never make such a trip in a small boat."
This island was the largest of the group outside of the one on which the castaways had settled. It was almost square in shape and had a double hill with a tiny valley running between. In this valley the tropical growth was very dense, and the monkeys and birds were thicker than they had before seen them. There were also large quantities of blue and green parrots, filling the air with their cawing and screaming.
"This is a very nice island," said Tom, while they were resting under some calabash trees. "The wood is very valuable—indigo, rosewood, mahogany, and lots of others. And what a sweet smell!" And he drew in a long breath of satisfaction.
"It is certainly a lazy man's paradise," re-turned Sam. "A fellow need do next to nothing to feed and clothe himself here, and a house isn't absolutely necessary excepting when it storms real hard."
On this island they found numerous land crabs, some as large as their two hands, and many fierce-looking spiders, with long, hairy legs and bulging eyes. Ants were also numerous, and in one spot they located fifteen anthills, each as large as a big beehive. Insects of all sorts were numerous, and they had to continually slap at a specimen of red fly that annoyed them greatly.
"How those ants would like to get at our provisions," said Tom. "We can be thankful that we didn't locate here. Once they got at the stuff, they would eat us out of house and home."
After resting, and partaking of some of the food brought along, they continued their journey across the island.
The way was up one of the hills, and Tom was slightly in advance, when a noise ahead attracted his attention.
"Something is there," he called out, as he came to a halt.
"What is it?" asked Sam.
"I don't know. Perhaps some wild animal, or else a snake."
"Go slow there," cautioned Captain Blossom, coming up. "We don't want to run into unnecessary danger."
"What did it sound like, Tom?"
"I can't describe it. Something like a snarl, I guess."
"Perhaps it was only a monkey."
All stopped to listen, but no, sound reached their ears but the hum of insects and the chirping of some distant birds.
"I reckon I had best go first," said Captain Blossom, but he did not seem to relish the task.
Gun in hand, the captain advanced very cautiously. The boys came close behind him, each with his pistol ready for use.
Of a sudden there was a snarl with a strange "yow-yawing," and a great beast leaped up on all-fours directly in their path and darted through the bushes. The captain raised his gun and the boys their pistols, but before they could fire the beast had disappeared.
"What was it?" asked Sam, trembling with excitement.
"I give it up, unless it was a bear," said Tom.
"I think I know what it was," said the captain. "A big baboon or a gorilla."
"I guess you are right, captain," answered Tom. "I saw a gorilla in a menagerie, and it was exactly like that beast. But what a big fellow he was!"
"Gorillas are highly dangerous, especially when cornered," said Captain Blossom. He himself was more frightened than he cared to admit. "They have been known to carry a man off in their arms and bite him to death."
"Thanks, but I want no gorillas around me," declared Sam.
They waited several minutes before advancing again. But the gorilla had disappeared, nor did it show itself again during that trip on the island.
Half an hour brought them in sight of the seashore once more. They were gazing at the sea when Tom happened to glance back, and on the hill behind them saw four goats standing in a bunch, looking at them in astonishment.
"Quick! out of sight!" he cried, and dragged the others behind some trees.
"What did you see?"
"Several goats. Perhaps, if we are careful, we can get a shot at them. Fresh goat meat won't go bad."
"What's the matter with capturing some of the goats and getting the milk?" came from Sam.
"You'll have a job catching wild goats," answered Captain Blossom. "They are as fleet of foot as deer."
It was decided to try two shots at the goats, providing they could get close enough. With care they plunged into the undergrowth and made their way back up the hillside until they thought they must be within fifty yards of the game.
"There they are!" cried Tom softly.
Bang! went the captain's gun, and crack! Tom fired immediately after. Two of the goats were hit, and one fell dead. The other staggered away with a broken foreleg.
"We must get that second fellow!" cried Sam, and rushed after the game. The goat tried to turn on him, but Sam hit the beast over the head with a club he carried. Two other blows finished the animal.
"That isn't bad," said the captain. "They both look to be young. They ought to make good eating."
"We are going to have no easy work of it, getting these animals down to the shore," said Tom.
"After we get them to the shore, what then?" questioned his brother. "We can't keep them in the boat all the time that we are exploring the other islands."
"We had best make a trip back to the house," answered Captain Blossom. "If the others heard the shots they'll be wondering what has happened; besides, a storm is coming up."
The captain said he would carry the smaller of the goats alone, leaving the two Rovers to carry the larger game between them. After a rest and another look around the vicinity, they started for the boat and reached it after a walk which almost exhausted every one of the party.
"I'll be glad enough to lay around our camp and rest for a day," announced Sam. "This task of exploring is not as easy as it looks."
A little later they were in the boat and rowing back to where they had left the others, little dreaming of the strange events that had happened in their absence.
It had been decided by the castaways to enlarge one of the rooms of the house, and as soon as the captain, Tom, and Sam had departed on their exploring tour, Dick and old Jerry set to work to cut down the posts necessary for the building.
While this was going on the three girls were by no means idle. There were meals to get, dishes to wash, and it had been found that outdoor life was very rough on clothing, so there was a good bit of sewing and darning to be done. Fortunately all of the girls were handy with a needle, so that a rent in a coat or a dress received immediate attention.
"Now you must make the alteration in the house very nice," said Dora to Dick. "Remember, we want a regular Queen Anne building, with round bay windows, and—"
"And inlaid floors," finished Dick, "not to mention steam heat, and—"
"Mercy on us!" burst in Grace. "Don't mention steam heat in this climate."
"Of course we want hot and cold water in the kitchen," put in Nellie. "What sort of a mansion would it be without hot and cold water,—and a dumb waiter from the cellar, too," and then all began to laugh.
"I know what I should like," said Dora, after a pause. "That would be a refrigerator."
"If we had the ice," finished Nellie. "Dick, isn't there any ice on board of the Golden Wave?"
"By Jove! I think there is," cried the oldest Rover boy. "I never once thought of it before."
"If there is, I wish you'd bring some the next time you go over. We have lemons, and we could make delicious lemonade."
"And we could make orange ice, too," put in Grace. "I know there was an ice-cream freezer on board of the ship. It was in the cook's galley."
Old Jerry was coming to the house with a small tree he had cut down, and Dick sounded him about the ice.
"To be sure there was ice, several tons of it," said Jerry. "It was stowed away near the bow. I don't believe it's all melted, either."
"I'm going over to see," cried Dick. "We've got plenty of lemons and sugar; and lemonade, not to mention orange ice, would just strike the spot in this awfully hot weather."
But as it was now noon, with the sun directly overhead, Dick decided to remain in the shade until four or five o'clock. Dinner was had, and then the work of enlarging the house went on as before.
At half-past four Dick got out the rowboat and started for the wreck. He had first thought to go alone, but old Jerry wanted to pick out certain tools needed for the house-building, as well as hunt for a keg of nails, and the two decided to go together, going and coming as quickly as possible.
"You won't be afraid to be alone, will you?" asked Dick, of the girls.
"Not if you hurry," answered Nellie. "But don't stay away after dark."
Left to themselves, the three girls swept up the chips the builders had left and started up the camp-fire. Then they tidied up the house generally, and soon set about preparing the supper.
Dora was at the spring getting a pail of water when a sound on the rocks nearby caused her to look around in wonder. To her amazement Dan Baxter stood there, staring at her in open-mouthed astonishment.
"Dan Baxter!" she gasped. "Where in the world did you come from?"
For a moment the bully did not answer, so great was his amazement. Dora noted that he was dirty and unkempt, and that his clothing was almost in rags.
"Is it you, Dora Stanhope?" came slowly from the fellow's lips. "Is it really you?"
"Yes," she answered.
"How did you get here? Are you alone?" went on Baxter, coming closer. And then before she could answer, he added: "Got anything to eat?"
At the last question she looked at him more closely, and saw that he appeared half starved. She pitied him despite his character.
"Yes, we have plenty to eat," she said.
"Then give me something at once," he cried. "Give me something at once!"
"Come with me."
There was now a crashing in the bushes back of Dan Baxter, and in a second more Jack Lesher appeared on the scene. He too was haggard and dirty, and his eyes were much blood-shot, the result of living almost entirely on liquor for several days after being wrecked on the islands.
"Well, is it possible!" cried the mate of the Golden Wave.
"They've got lots to eat," muttered Dan Baxter. "I'm going to have something to fill me up before I start to talk."
"How many more of you are here?" asked Dora, in something of dismay.
"We came along alone," said Baxter. "Show us that grub."
Dora led the way to the camp-fire, where Nellie and Grace were also surprised at the unexpected visitors. Some food was brought forth, and both Baxter and Lesher ate like two famished wolves.
"Got any liquor?" questioned the mate, casting his eyes toward the house.
"We have a little," answered Nellie, for Captain Blossom had brought over several bottles from the wreck.
"Bring it out."
When the liquor was brought Jack Lesher took a long draught and then handed the bottle to Dan Baxter.
"That's the stuff!" cried the mate, with a sly wink at Dora. "Better than eatin,' twice over," and he took another drink.
The manner of the two newcomers was not at all pleasing to the girls, and they were sorry that none of the men folks were at hand. They asked the pair to tell their story, and Baxter spoke up, while Lesher applied himself to the bottle.
"We floated around the ocean for several days," said the bully. "One sailor went crazy from the sunshine and leaped overboard, and was drowned. Then a heavy wind came up and drove the boat, in the night, onto an island close to this one. We were cast ashore with hardly any provisions, and two of the sailors were sick. We had to live on fish, birds, and fruit, and we've had a hard lot of it, I can tell you that. Yesterday Lesher and I resolved to explore this island, thinking that perhaps some of the wreckage from the schooner had washed ashore here. We came over in the afternoon and tramped along the north shore until it grew dark, but without finding anything. We slept at the shore last night, and this morning started to go over the hill back there. But the snakes chased us off, and then we came around over some rough rocks, where both of us got our clothing torn. We thought we saw a flag up there somewhere, but we weren't sure."
"Yes, we have a signal of distress up there," answered Dora. She hardly knew how best to reply.
"Who is here?"
"Captain Blossom, old Jerry Tolman, and the three Rover boys. Old Jerry and Dick have just gone over to the wreck en an errand. The others have gone on an exploring tour among the islands, which are seven in number."
"Got the wreck, have yer!" came in almost a grunt from Jack Lesher. "Sure enough!" He staggered down to the beach. "Don't see why you stay here when you might be aboard of her."
"It is cooler here," answered Nellie.
"How many sailors were saved?" asked Grace.
"Nine were saved, besides Lesher and myself," answered Dan Baxter. "You see, we picked up some of the men from one of the other boats."
"Then your party numbers eleven in all," said Dora.
"Yes," came from Jack Lesher. "An' I am the cap'n of the lot," and he bobbed his head in satisfaction. He had partaken of just enough liquor to make him foolish.
"I wish Dick and old Jerry would come back," whispered Grace to Dora. "I do not like Mr. Lesher at all."
"I never liked him," replied Dora. "When he gets intoxicated he is a bad fellow to deal with."
"Reckon we'll make ourselves comfortable here," said Lesher, staggering to a hammock Dick had put up for the girls to rest in. He pitched into the hammock, carrying a bottle of liquor with him. Another drink was taken, and soon he was fast asleep, snoring loudly.
HOT WORDS AND BLOWS
"What a shame!" said Nellie, pointing to the slumbering mate.
"That shows what liquor will do," came from Dora.
"Oh, you mustn't blame him too much," returned Dan Baxter, who also liked the taste of the liquor. "Remember that we have been living a dog's life since we came on shore, while you have been living on the best the ship affords."
"I wouldn't touch liquor if I was starving!" cried Grace.
"And neither would the Rover boys," added Dora.
"Oh, you think the Rover boys are regular saints!" grumbled the bully. "You don't know what they would do behind your back."
"If they said they wouldn't drink they wouldn't," cried Nellie, her eyes flashing. "We can trust them every time."
"I suppose the Rover boys run this place to suit themselves," went on Baxter, eying the house and the general appearance of the camp sharply.
"We all run it together," came from Grace.
"Isn't Captain Blossom, in command?"
"After a fashion, yes. We haven't tried to decide that point yet. Have you a leader in your camp?"
"Not much of a one. Lesher is leader when he is sober. Of course we'll all come over here, now we've found you and the wreck," went on Dan Baxter.
"But why should you come here?" asked Dora, not at all pleased by the prospect. "We can let you have your share of what's on board of the schooner."
"Don't want me here, eh?"
"I don't care for all of those rough sailors."
"Well, they are Captain Blossom's men, you mustn't forget that."
"I suppose that is true," and Dora sighed. With the coming of the sailors she was certain the camp would not be as pleasant as formerly.
"I don't think you ought to be down on me, Dora," continued Dan Baxter, after a pause. "I always liked you, and you know it."
"Thank you for nothing," she replied coldly.
"I'm just as good a fellow as Dick Rover," went on the bully, and laid his hand on the girl's shoulder.
"Don't touch me, Dan Baxter!" she cried.
"I won't hurt you. Come, let us be friends. Surely you don't want any enemies here, where there are only a handful of us, all told."
"I want you to leave me alone."
She tried to move away from him, but he caught her by the arm and tried to hold her hands. Grace and Nellie were out of sight, the one having gone into the house for some dishes, and the other to the spring for some water.
"Say that you'll be friends, and I'll let you go," he said, drawing her closer.
"I won't be friends with you, Dan Baxter, so there!" she cried. "Now let me go!" And she tried to push him away.
"You—you little cat!" he cried, and then, as she let out a loud cry, he let go of her. "What a little fool you are!" And he walked away to the trees, and threw himself down to rest.
Red in the face and ready to cry, Dora ran into the house. Grace looked at her in wonder.
"What is the trouble, Dora?"
"Did Dan Baxter try to—to—"
"He wants to be—be friends!" sobbed Dora. "He held my hand so I couldn't get away. Oh, how I despise him!"
"Just wait till Dick comes back; he'll make Baxter mind his own business."
"Oh, don't tell him, Grace."
"But I shall, Dora. Baxter has got to keep his distance. I hate him myself, and so does Nellie."
"I wish he and Mr. Lesher had kept their distance."
"Do you think they will really come here—I mean all of the sailors?"
"More than likely."
The girls continued their work, and for the time being Dan Baxter kept his distance. Jack Lesher continued to snore away in the hammock, nor did he rouse up when Dick and old Jerry returned.
"Dan Baxter!" cried Dick, as he leaped from the rowboat. "Where did you come from?" And then the story of the newcomers had to be told over again.
Dick eyed Jack Lesher with open disgust. "A man who will act like that has no welcome in our camp," he said to Baxter.