"You don't mean you are going to turn him out," said the bully, in alarm.
"If he stays here he must behave himself."
"You forget that he was the first mate of the schooner, Dick Rover."
"We are not on the schooner now."
"No, but you are getting your living—or the largest part of it—from the schooner."
"What do you mean, Baxter?"
"I mean that it's the same as if you were on the schooner. And that being so, Mr. Lesher is the second in command here."
At this statement the girls looked alarmed, and even old Jerry's face showed his uneasiness. But Dick's face was full of contempt.
"Do you mean to say that thing "—pointing to the drunken mate—" that thing can command any of us? If you do, let me say right now that you are mistaken."
"We'll see about that later."
"This is our camp, and it is not for you, the mate, or anybody else to come here and dictate to us. If you try that, we'll send you off in double-quick order."
There was a pause, and Dick and old Jerry began to unload the things they had brought from the wreck. They had found a large cake of ice. But the coming of Baxter and Jack Lesher had taken away the pleasure of making lemonade and orange ice, and the lump was placed in some water to cool it for drinking purposes.
As soon as Grace could get the chance she told Dick of the way Dan Baxter had treated Dora. At once Dick's face took on a stern look that boded the bully no good.
"I'll have a talk with him and come to an understanding," said the eldest Rover, and strode out of the house and to where Baxter was walking up the beach, picking up fancy-colored sea-shells.
"Look here, Baxter, I want to have an understanding with you," he said, catching the bully by the arm.
"What do you want now?"
"I want you to promise to leave Dora Stanhope alone in the future."
"How I treat her is none of your business," blustered the bully.
"But it is my business, Baxter."
"See here, Dick Rover, I won't be bossed by you!" howled the tall youth. "You mind your own business."
"If you touch her again, there will be trouble."
"What will you do?"
"I'll give you the worst thrashing you ever had in your life."
"Two can play at that game."
"There will be only one in this game."
"Do you want to fight me?"
"I am perfectly willing," responded Dick recklessly. His anger was deep at that moment.
"All right then, come on!" howled Baxter savagely, and, squaring off, he aimed a blow at Dick's face.
The attack was so sudden that Dick could scarcely prepare for it, and though he dodged, Baxter's fist landed glancingly on his cheek.
"There you are, and here's another!" cried the bully, and his other fist shot out, catching Dick on the shoulder.
But now the oldest Rover was on his guard, and in a twinkle he let drive, taking Dan Baxter in the eye. It was a staggering blow, and made the bully gasp with pain. Then Dick followed it up by a crashing blow on the chin, which sent the bully reeling into the low water on the beach.
"Don't—don't run me into the ocean!" he spluttered, and, watching his chance, ran out of the water and up the beach.
But Dick was now thoroughly aroused, and he made after Baxter. When he got close enough, he put out his foot and sent the bully sprawling. Baxter came down on some rough sea-shells, cutting his face and hands in several places.
"Oh! oh!" he howled. "Stop it!"
"I will not stop it, Dan Baxter, until you promise to let Dora Stanhope and the other girls alone in the future. They want nothing to do with you, and you must keep your distance."
"I—I didn't hurt anybody."
"Do you promise to let them alone?"
Without replying, the bully staggered to his feet. The blood was running from his nose and from a cut on his chin, and both of his hands were also bleeding.
"Do you want to kill me, Dick Rover?"
"I want you to behave yourself. Come, now, are you going to promise?"
"What if I don't?"
"Then I'll give you the thrashing I promised."
"All right, I'm cornered, and can't help myself."
"Will you let the girls alone in the future?"
"Yes. If they don't want to be friends, I'm sure I can get along without them," answered Baxter sulkily.
"Very well; now see that you keep your promise. If you don't, I'll run you out of camp and never let you come near us again."
With these words Dick turned on his heel and walked away, leaving Baxter to wash his cuts and bruises in the ocean and otherwise care for them as best he could.
THE MATE TRIES TO TAKE COMMAND
The fight had taken place around a bend of the shore, so that it was not observed by old Jerry and the girls. But when Dick got back to camp Dora at once noticed that something unusual had happened.
"What is wrong, Dick?" she asked.
"Oh, nothing much, Dora. I merely made Dan Baxter promise to keep his distance in the future."
"Did you have a fight?"
"It didn't amount to much. He had to give in pretty quickly."
"Oh, Dick!" She caught his arm.
"I won't have him annoying you, or the others, Dora."
"You are so good!" she whispered.
Supper was ready, and they sat down, leaving Jack Lesher still in the hammock. They had nearly finished when Dan Baxter came shuffling along.
"Do you want some supper?" asked Dick. "If you do, come on."
"I don't want anything more to-night," growled the bully, and sat down beside Jack Lesher.
It was rather an uncomfortable evening. The thoughts of each of the party were busy. At the first opportunity Dick called old Jerry to one side.
"Jerry, we must watch those two fellows closely," he said.
"Right ye are, Dick."
"I am afraid Lesher will be ugly when he wakes up."
"More'n likely, lad—he always was on board ship. The drink gives him an awful temper."
"I am, going to put the liquor where he can't get it."
"He'll make ye give it to him."
"Will he? Just you wait and see," replied Dick firmly.
It was decided to let Lesher rest in the hammock all night. Baxter was given a cot in the living room of the house. Soon all had retired, and the camp was quiet for the night.
Dan Baxter was the first to stir in the morning. His cuts smarted so he could not sleep, and he walked out to bathe them and put on some salve Nellie had generously turned over to him. He found Jack Lesher stirring.
"Hullo!" grumbled the mate, sitting up and yawning. "Where am I?"
"Don't you know we struck camp?" answered Baxter.
"Oh, yes, I remember now. Got some good liquor, too. Where is that bottle?"
"You emptied it, Lesher."
"Did I? Too bad! I'll have to find another. Where are the girls?"
"Asleep in the house, and so are Dick Rover and old Jerry Tolman."
"What of Cap'n Blossom and them other Rover boys?"
"They are not expected back for several days."
"Humph! Say, I feel bad, I do. I must have something to brace me up."
"You'd better not disturb them, Lesher. They are mighty stiff-necked since they landed here."
"What do you mean?"
"They gave me to understand yesterday that they were going to run things to suit themselves. They are not going to let us interfere in anything."
"I like that!" The mate yawned again, rose, and stretched himself. "Baxter, do you know where they keep the liquor?"
"I'm bound to have what I want. Didn't it all come from the Golden Wave, and aint I the first mate of that craft?"
"To be sure you are, Lesher."
"They can't make me take a back seat," went on the mate. His head was still far from clear.
"I told them that you were second in command—Captain Blossom being first—but they wouldn't listen. They said they were on land, and you didn't count."
"Don't I count!" cried Jack Lesher, his blood-shot eyes taking on an ugly look. "I'll show 'em!"
Just then old Jerry came from the house. Jack Lesher staggered toward him.
"Ahoy there!" he called out.
"What do you want, Mr. Lesher?" questioned old Jerry, and touched his forelock.
"Bring me some liquor, and be quick about it."
"I haven't any liquor."
"I said I haven't any liquor."
"Aint there any more liquor ashore?"
"If there is, I don't know where it is."
"Then find out, and be quick about it, or I'll give you the rope's-end!" roared the unreasonable mate.
The loud talking aroused Dick, and he soon came out.
"What's the matter here?" he asked. "Oh, so you have woke up," he went on to Jack Lesher.
"Yes, I'm awake, Rover. And I want to know where the liquor has been placed."
"It's been placed where you won't get hold of it, Mr. Lesher."
"What! This to me!" yelled the mate, in fury. "To me, the first mate!"
"A first mate doesn't count for anything here. This is a private camp, and if you don't behave yourself we'll pitch you out of it."
"You—you—" Jack Lesher could not go on, and shook his fist in Dick's face.
"I told you what they intended to do," whispered Dan Baxter in Lesher's ear. "They have the upper hand and mean to keep it. But don't forget that we have nine sailors in our camp to back us up," he went on suggestively.
"Don't grow abusive, Mr. Lesher," said Dick as calmly as he could. "Just think the matter over. It may save a good deal of trouble."
"I don't have to think it over!" bellowed the mate. "During Cap'n Blossom's absence I am in command, just as much as if we were on the deck of the wreck over there. You were only passengers, but Jerry Tolman was a sailor, and he's under my command. I told him to bring me some liquor, and he has got to do it. If he won't obey, it's mutiny, just you remember that!" And he shook his finger warningly in old Jerry's face.
"I told ye I don't know where the liquor is," answered old Jerry doggedly.
"And he tells the truth," said Dick. "I put it away myself."
"Then I command you to bring it to me."
"I told you before your commands don't hold water here. Even old Jerry hasn't got to obey you. When the Golden Wave was abandoned that ended your authority. We have simply made Captain Blossom our leader because he acted fair and square. But we don't have to obey him if we don't want to."
"What of the nine sailors who are with me?"
"We'll be pleased to give them their full share of what is on the wreck, and if they behave themselves they can build a camp right next to this one. But you must remember that we discovered the wreck first, and that Captain Blossom was the only man left on board."
"We'll see what the men have to say about this," growled Lesher. "Then you aint going to give me no liquor?"
"You can have one glass with your breakfast, and that is all. After this you can have the regulation ship's grog, with the other sailors. But getting drunk has got to be stopped, even if we have to dump all the liquor into the ocean."
By this time the girls had appeared on the scene, and the talk came to an end, Dick turning in to help get breakfast. Jack Lesher walked down to the beach, followed by Dan Baxter.
"You see, it is just as I told you," said Baxter. "They are going to ride right over us."
"They wouldn't ride over us if I had those other sailors here," growled the mate.
"Or if we were armed," went on the bully. "I tried to get hold of a pistol, but Dick Rover watches me like a cat watches a mouse."
"If we could get to the wreck we might arm ourselves," said Lesher. "Here is a boat; let us row over."
"I'm willing," answered the bully.
They walked to the boat, shoved it into the water, and leaped in. Just as Lesher picked up the oars Dick saw what they were doing.
"Stop!" he cried.
"What do you want?" growled the mate.
"Where are you going?"
"Over to the wreck."
"That is our business," put in Dan Baxter.
"You shan't go over there until Captain Blossom comes back."
"We'll go when we please," said Lesher, and started to row away.
"Come back, I say!" cried Dick, and, rushing into the house, he appeared with a shot-gun.
"What are you going to do, Dick Rover?" questioned Baxter in alarm.
"I am going to make you come back," was the oldest Rover's very quiet, but determined, answer.
THE ATTACK ON THE WRECK
The appearance of Dick with the shot-gun disturbed Jack Lesher quite as much as it did Dan Baxter, and the mate stopped rowing instantly.
"Hi! don't you fire at us!" he cried.
"Then come back here," said Dick.
"Haven't I a right to visit the wreck?"
"I am not sure that you have. Anyway, you must wait until Captain Blossom returns."
"It seems to me that you are carrying matters with a high hand, young fellow."
"Oh, Dick, be careful!" whispered Dora. "They may become desperate."
"Don't worry, Dora," he whispered in return. Unless I miss my guess, one is as big a coward as the other."
"I hope ye aint goin' too far, Dick," said old Jerry, in a low tone.
"Don't you intend to stand by me, Jerry?"
"To be sure I do; but the mate is the mate, ye know."
There was an uncertain pause all around.
"There is no harm in my visiting the wreck," growled Jack Lesher presently.
"Perhaps not, but you had better wait until Captain Blossom gets back."
"I only want to get some things that belong to me."
"And I want to get my extra clothes," said Baxter. "These are in rags, as you can see."
"Then wait until after breakfast and we'll all go over," said Dick, but he had scarcely spoken when he felt sorry for the words.
"Oh, Dick, don't trust yourself with them!" cautioned Dora.
"We want to hurry, for I want to go back to where I left the sailors before night," answered Lesher.
"Then we'll have breakfast at once."
Rather reluctantly the mate turned back to the shore and he and Baxter left the boat. Then the girls prepared breakfast with all haste. Lesher ate but little, but eagerly tossed off the glass of liquor Dick allowed him.
"Give me one more," he pleaded, but Dick was firm, and the mate stalked away muttering under his breath.
Before Dick entered the rowboat he called Jerry aside, and handed the old sailor a pistol.
"We had better go armed," he said. "Keep your eyes open, for they may try to play us a foul trick. And don't let Lesher talk you into obeying him. He has no authority whatever over you."
"All right, Dick, I'll stand by ye always from this minit on," said Jerry, and the compact was sealed by a handshake.
The girls came down to see them off, and Dora warned Dick again to be on guard. It was decided that Lesher and old Jerry should do the rowing. Baxter sat in the bow of the boat, and Dick in the stern.
The trip to the wreck was accomplished in almost utter silence. Everybody was busy with his thoughts. As they drew near Dick showed the mate where a ladder hung from the side, and as they drew close to this Baxter was the first to mount to the deck.
As Dick had surmised, Lesher's first hunt was for liquor, and he drank several glasses at a gulp. Then he began to roam around the wreck, noting the damage that had been done and the amount of stores still on board.
"Might float her, if the tide got extra high," he said. "Eleven men in our crowd and five in your own ought to be able to do something, surely."
"The captain says the ship is too deep in the sand," answered Dick briefly.
"Blossom don't know everything," growled the mate.
Both he and Baxter soon found some comfortable clothing, and put it on. Then they made up a bundle of things they said the other sailors needed.
When arming themselves, the Rovers and Captain Blossom had placed all of the remaining firearms in a stateroom and locked the door.
"What did you do with all of the guns and pistols?" asked Lesher presently, after looking in vain for them.
"They are packed away in a stateroom. Captain Blossom thought it wouldn't do to leave them lying loose. Some savages might come to the islands and steal them, and then we'd be in a bad hole."
"We've got to have some guns and pistols, Rover."
"Well, you can see the captain about that."
"I shan't wait. Which stateroom are they in?"
Dick would not tell the mate, and Lesher went around trying the various doors. Coming to one that was locked he burst it open with his shoulder.
Dick scarcely knew what to do, and while he was trying to make up his mind Jack Lesher secured a pistol and a rifle, and also a pistol for Dan Baxter. He would have taken more fire-arms, but Dick stopped him.
"That is enough," he said.
"I want some for the men," said the first mate.
"They can get pistols from Captain Blossom when they get here."
"Humph! You think you are in sole command, don't you?"
"I am not going to allow you to take away all the firearms that are here, Mr. Lesher."
The mate went into the pantry and secured another glass of liquor. Then he ordered old Jerry to take the bundle of clothing and put it in the rowboat.
"I've got some money on this schooner," he said. "I want to see if that's safe, or if you have stolen it."
"We haven't touched any money," answered Dick, his face flushing. "It would be of no use to us on these islands."
"You come with me while I take a look," said Lesher.
Behind his back he waved his hand for Baxter to follow. All three went below again, and into a stateroom the mate had occupied.
"The money was in that chest," said the mate. He threw open the lid. "It's gone!" he cried.
Interested for the moment, Dick bent forward to look in the chest. As he did so, Lesher suddenly hit him a savage blow over the head with the butt of a pistol. The blow was a heavy one, and Dick fell like a log to the floor.
"Oh!" came from Baxter. "Have you killed him?"
"No; only knocked the senses out of him," answered Lesher, bending over his victim.
"What did you do it for?"
"To teach him a lesson. He shan't boss me, Baxter. Come, help me put him in the brig, and be quick, before Jerry comes back."
They lifted up the insensible form and made their way to where the ship's brig was located, a dirty closet once used for oil and lanterns. Dick was thrown on the floor, and the mate shut the door on him and locked it.
"Now he can stay there for a day or two," he snarled. "Reckon it will teach him a lesson."
"What will you do with the sailor?"
Before Lesher could answer old Jerry appeared.
"Where is Dick Rover?" he asked.
"None of your business," growled Jack Lesher. "See here, Tolman, are you going to obey me after this?"
"I want to know where Dick is?" said old Jerry stubbornly.
"I put him in the brig to cool off. He's too hot-headed for his own good."
"You had no right to lock him up, Mr. Lesher. You must let him out at once."
"Git out of here, quick!" roared Lesher. "On deck, or I'll flog you well!"
"Ye won't tech me!" cried Jerry, his temper rising. "I aint under orders no more, mind that. Now you let him out, or I'll do it. You was a fool to lock him up in the first place."
He moved toward the brig, but Lesher caught him by the arm.
"Let's teach this chap a lesson, too!" came from Baxter, and, like a flash, he struck old Jerry in the back of the head. The first blow was followed by a second, and down went the tar, the blood oozing from one of his wounds.
"Don't hit him again!" cried Lesher hastily. "He's out already."
Baxter grew pale, thinking he had gone too far. But he soon discovered that Jerry still breathed, and then he felt relieved.
It was decided by the pair that they should place old Jerry beside Dick in the brig, and this was quickly done. Then they put into the prison a bucket of drinking water and a can of ship's biscuits, and another of baked beans.
"They won't starve on that," said Lesher. "And when they get out they'll understand that I am as much of a master here as anybody."
"It serves Dick Rover right," said Baxter. "He's the kind that ought to be kept under foot all the time."
A HEAVY TROPICAL STORM
"Those girls will ask some awkward questions, I reckon," said Jack Lesher, as the two prepared to leave the wreck.
"We had better not say too much," answered Baxter.
They were soon over the side and in the rowboat, which contained the bundle of clothing and a number of other articles. Then an idea struck the mate.
"Wait; I am going back," he said, and disappeared on the deck one more.
Dan Baxter imagined that Lesher had gone for more liquor. But he was mistaken. When the mate reappeared, he carried a box containing half a dozen pistols, two guns, and a quantity of ammunition.
"I am going to hide this in the woods on the other side of this island," he said. "The firearms may come in handy before long."
"A good idea," replied Baxter, and helped him place the case in a desirable spot, under some rocks, where the rain could not touch it.
"We are going to have a storm before long," said the mate, as they started to row back to the camp. "And if it is a heavy one we'll have to wait till it clears off before we rejoin the rest of our crowd."
The sky was growing dark, and by the time the beach in front of the house was gained the rain was falling.
"Where are Dick and, old Jerry?" asked Dora in quick alarm. She had noted long before that only Baxter and the mate were in the rowboat.
"They stayed behind on the wreck," answered Lesher. "Come, help get the bundles out of the wet," he added to his companion.
"Why did they stay?" asked Nellie.
"Don't ask me," growled Lesher.
He and Baxter took the bundle to the house and dumped it on the floor of the living room. Then they brought in the other things from the boat. By this time it was raining in torrents, and from a distance came the rumble of thunder and occasionally the faint flash of lightning.
Not wishing to remain out in the storm, the three girls came into the house.—"Dora was very much disturbed, and Nellie and Grace were also anxious.
"It is queer that Dick and old Jerry remained behind," whispered Dora to her cousins. "They were so anxious to protect us before."
"I cannot understand it, Dora," returned Nellie.
"There has been foul play somewhere," came from Grace.
"Oh, do you think—" Dora could not finish.
"See here!" burst in the voice of Jack Lesher. "We want some dinner. Don't be all day getting it for us."
The liquor he had imbibed was beginning to tell upon him.. He looked ugly, and the girls trembled before him.
"Dinner will be ready in a quarter of an hour," said Grace, who had been doing the cooking.
"All right." Lesher turned to the bully: "Baxter, join me in a glass of rum for luck."
"Thanks, I will," answered Dan Baxter, who did not particularly want the liquor, but did not dream of offending the mate.
Lesher produced a bottle he had brought away from the wreck, prepared two glasses of rum, and drank with great relish. Then he threw himself into a chair at the rude dining-table.
"I am the master here, and I want everybody to know it!" he exclaimed, banging his fist savagely.
"There is dinner," said Grace, and brought it in. "You can help yourself." And she went into the next room to join Nellie and Dora.
"Aint going to wait on us, eh?" grumbled Lesher, with a hiccough. "All right, my fine ladies. But I am master, don't you forget that!"
He began to eat leisurely, while Dan Baxter began to bolt his food. In the meantime the sky grew darker and the flashes of lightning more vivid. The girls were greatly frightened, and huddled together, while tears stood on Grace's cheeks.
"Oh, if only somebody was with us," sighed Nellie.
By the time Lesher and Baxter had finished eating the storm was on them in all of its violence. The wind shrieked and tore through the jungle behind them, and often they could hear some tall tree go down with a crash.
"This will tear our flag of distress to shreds," said Nellie. "And just when we need it so much, too!"
"I am thinking of the future as well as the present," said Dora. "What a rough time there will be if Lesher brings those other sailors here. Some of them were heavy drinkers like himself, and only two or three were Americans."
The storm had whipped the waters of the bay into a fury, and the rain was so thick that to see even the island on which the wreck rested was impossible.
"Dick can't come now," said Dora. "A boat on the bay would surely go down."
Having finished the meal, Lesher and Baxter sat down in the living room to smoke and to talk over the situation. The mate continued to drink, and half an hour later he fell asleep, sitting on the bench, and with his head on the table.
"The beast!" said Dora, as she peeped out at him. "Well, there is one satisfaction," she continued: "he cannot harm us while he is asleep."
"You girls better have your own dinner," called out Baxter. "I aint going to eat you up."
"We will get our dinner when we please," said Nellie, as she came out. "We are not afraid of you, Dan Baxter."
No more was said for a long time. The girls ate what little they wished and washed up the dishes. The rain still continued to fall in torrents, but the thunder and' lightning drifted away to the eastward.
Dora was the most anxious of the trio, and at every opportunity she tried to look through the driving rain toward the wreck.
"I'd give almost anything to know if Dick is safe," she murmured.
"Don't be discouraged, Dora," said Grace. "Perhaps he will return as soon as the storm is over."
The girls were huddled close to a window, looking out into the rain, when Dan Baxter threw aside the pipe he had been smoking and approached them.
"See here, girls," he said, "why can't we be friends? What is the use of being enemies in such a place as this?"
"Dan Baxter, we want you to keep your distance," said Nellie coldly.
"And if you do not, it will be the worse for you when the others come back," put in Grace.
"Humph! I reckon you think it is fine to ride such a high horse," sneered the bully. "What are you going to do when we bring the rest of the sailors over here? We'll be eleven to seven then."
"Never mind what we'll do," said Dora. "I would rather have the company of some of those sailors than your company."
"That is where you make a mistake. The sailors are all rough fellows, some of them worse than Jack Lesher. Now, if you are willing to count me as a friend, I'll stand by you when the crowd comes over."
"We don't want your friendship, Dan Baxter, so there!" cried Nellie. "We know your past, and we know that you cannot be trusted."
"Don't think I am as good as the Rovers, eh?"
"We all know that you are not," answered Grace.
"What have you done to Dick Rover?" questioned Dora. "He ought to be here long before this."
"Oh, I guess the storm is holding him back," said Baxter, shifting uneasily as she gazed earnestly into his eyes.
"If anything has happened to Dick, I shall hold you responsible," said Dora.
At that moment the fury of the storm cut off further talking. A sudden rush of wind had come up, whistling through the jungle and bringing down a palm close to the house with a crash. The fall of the tree made Baxter jump in alarm.
"The house is coming down!" he cried, and ran outside.
The wind made the waves in the bay rise higher and higher until they lashed furiously in all directions. Then came another downpour of rain, which caused the bully to seek shelter again.
"Hark!" said Nellie suddenly, and raised her hand for silence.
"What did you hear?" asked Grace.
"Somebody calling. Listen!"
All were silent once more, and just then the wind fell a little.
"I don't hear anything," said Dora.
But then followed a distant voice—two voices calling desperately:
"Help! help! Our boat is sinking! Help!"
WHAT HAPPENED ON THE BAY
To go back to Tom, Sam, and Captain Blossom at the time that they placed the two dead goats in their rowboat and prepared to return to the camp.
It was already raining by the time the shore of the bay was reached, and scarcely had they begun to row when the water came pouring down in torrents.
"Gracious! I must say I don't like this!" cried Tom. "The rain is running down my neck in a stream."
"I move we row into shore over yonder," said Sam, pointing up the coast. "There are some trees which will shelter both us and the boat nicely."
Captain Blossom was willing, and in a few minutes they were under the trees and wringing out their clothes as best they could.
"If I know anything about it, this storm is going to last for some time," said the captain, after a long look at the sky.
"Such a downfall as this can't last," said Sam. "Perhaps we can get home between showers."
It was dry under the trees for about half an hour, but then the water began to reach them once more, and they had to shift their position again.
This kept up for some time, until all were wet through and thoroughly uncomfortable, when Tom proposed that they start for home regardless of the storm.
"We can't get any wetter than we are," he declared. "And the sooner we reach the house the sooner we'll be able to change our clothes."
The others agreed, and when the worst of the lightning and thunder had passed they set off once more, two rowing and the third steering the boat and bailing out the water, which came in faster than was desirable.
"When it rains in the tropics, it rains," observed Tom. "Puts me in mind of that storm we met when we were in Africa. Do you remember, Sam?"
"Indeed, I do," answered his brother. "I thought we'd all be killed by the trees that fell in the jungle."
"Have you been in Africa?" came from Captain Blossom in astonishment.
"Yes," answered Tom. "Our father got lost there once, and we went in search of him," and he gave a few of the particulars, as already related in another volume of this series, entitled "The Rover Boys in the Jungle."
"Well, you boys have had some ups and downs," said the captain. "But I reckon you weren't cast away before like this."
"Not like this," answered Sam. "But we were left on a lonely island once in Lake Huron," and he related a few particulars of their exciting experiences with the Baxters while on the Great Lakes.
Another downpour of rain cut off the talking, and Tom was kept busy bailing out the row-boat. With three persons and the two dead goats the craft was pretty heavily loaded, and more than once the rising wind swept some water over the bow.
"I'd give a little to be ashore again," said Tom presently. "It seems to me that the rain is shutting out everything."
"We'll have to land again, lads," put in the captain, with a grave shake of his head. "This wind is growing worse. We don't want to be swamped."
They turned to what they thought must be the direction of the nearest shore, but though they pulled with might and main for nearly quarter of an hour no land appeared.
"We're mixed," cried Sam. "The storm has twisted us up."
By this time the wind was blowing a regular gale on the bay. It took off Tom's cap, and in a twinkle the headgear was out of sight.
"My cap's gone!" groaned the youth.
"The water is coming in over the bow!" came from Sam. "We will be swamped!"
"We must throw the goats overboard," said the captain, and overboard went the game, much to the boys' sorrow.
This lightened the craft a little, but still the waves swept over the gunwale, and now both Sam and Tom set to bailing, while the captain took both oars. Then came another blast of wind, worse than before.
"I see land!" cried Sam.
"We are going over!" yelled Tom, and the wind fairly whipped the words from his lips. Then came a mighty wave, and on the instant the rowboat was upset, and all three found themselves in the waters of the bay.
As they went under the same thought was in the mind of each: Were there any sharks around?
"Help! help!" cried Sam, as soon as he came up. "Our boat is sinking. Help!" And Tom soon joined in the cry. They had caught hold of the overturned boat, but the craft, for some reason, failed to support them.
Captain Blossom was close at hand, and he advised them to strike out for the shore.
"It's in this direction," he said, and led the way.
"I—I can't swim very far with my clothes on," gasped Sam, yet he struck out as best he could.
"Hullo! Who calls?" came a cry from the shore, and, looking up, they saw Dora standing there, with Nellie and Grace Laning close beside her.
"It's Tom and Sam!" cried Nellie.
"And Captain Blossom," added Grace.
"Perhaps we can throw them a rope," came from Dora, and she ran to get the article she had mentioned.
But by the time she returned the three swimmers had reached a point where they could touch bottom with their feet, and, watching for a favorable opportunity, they rushed ashore, almost into the arms of the girls.
"Oh, Tom, how glad I am that you are safe!" cried Nellie, while Grace caught hold of Sam and asked if he was all right.
"Yes, I am—am all right, but—but pretty well fagged out," gasped Sam.
"It was a close shave," said Captain Blossom. "And our guns are gone."
"We had two dead goats, too," put in Tom. "They went overboard first, and—goodness gracious—is that really Dan Baxter?"
"Dan Baxter!" ejaculated Sam, and even Captain Blossom stared in amazement.
"I see you've had a rough time of it," said Baxter, coming forward coolly. "How are you?"
He shook hands with Captain Blossom, while the Rover boys continued to stare at him.
"Are you alone?" asked the master of the Golden Wave.
"No, Jack Lesher is with me, and we left nine of the sailors on another island."
"Is that so? Where is Lesher now?"
"In the house, asleep."
"He is intoxicated," said Nellie. "We has been drinking ever since he put in an appearance."
"Humph! That's like Lesher," muttered the captain, and his brow darkened.
All moved toward the house, and entered to get out of the wet. The mate was still at the table, snoring loudly.
"Might as well let him sleep it off," said the captain. "But when he is sober I'll have a talk with him."
Wet clothing was changed for dry, and then the captain and the boys listened to what Baxter and the girls had to tell. The captain was glad to learn that so many of his men had been saved, and asked for the names.
"I don't care much about Peterson and McGlow," he said. "They are tough customers. I would rather have heard from Peabody, Dickson, and Fearwell. You don't know anything about them?"
"No," said Dan Baxter.
"This news about Dick and old Jerry worries me," said Tom.
"Dan Baxter, I think you know more than you care to tell," said Sam boldly.
The bully hardly knew how to reply. He could not now fall back on Jack Lesher for support, and he had thought to be on his way to rejoin the sailors ere this. The storm had upset all of his calculations. It had been a foolish movement to attack Dick and old Jerry, and it now looked as if he must suffer for it.
"Well—er—I don't mind telling you that Dick and the mate had something of a quarrel," he said hesitatingly.
"How did it end?" asked Tom.
"I can't say exactly."
"Why not? You were with Lesher at the time."
"No, I wasn't. He ordered me to get into the rowboat and wait for him while he went back to get a pistol or a gun. I heard loud talking on the deck of the schooner, and I knew a row was on. I was just going back to the deck when the mate came and leaped into the rowboat. He said the sailor and Dick were going to remain behind, and that we wouldn't wait any longer. Then we rowed over here."
"If that's the case I'll make Lesher tell us what happened," cried Tom, and shook the mate roughly. "Wake up here!" he cried. "Wake up and give an account of yourself!"
IN CLOSE QUARTERS
Slowly Dick came to his senses. He remembered little or nothing, and only knew that all was dark around him, and that his head was spinning like a top.
For several minutes he remained quiet, trying to collect his thoughts. Then he sat up and passed one hand slowly over his forehead.
"Oh, how my heed aches!" he murmured.
It was fully five minutes before he felt like moving around. Then he arose and took a step forward and stumbled over old Jerry's body.
"Oh!" he murmured, and felt of the body in the dark, "Who is this? Can it be Jerry?" he asked himself.
Then came a recollection of the cowardly attack. But what had followed was a blank, and he could not imagine where he was.
Dick remembered that he had a match safe in his pocket, and soon he made a light. By this he caught sight of a lantern in the brig and lit it. Then he bent over old Jerry, and saw that the sailor was still alive, but suffering from his treatment.
"He must have been attacked, too," murmured Dick. The bucket of water was at hand, And he took a drink and bathed Captain Jerry's forehead.
It was fully half an hour before the old sailor felt at all like himself. Both sat down to review the situation.
"The cowards!" said Dick. "What do you suppose they attacked us for?"
"Can't say as to that," replied old Jerry. "Perhaps Lesher wanted to show us he was master."
"He'll settle with me if I ever get out of this hole, Jerry. What place is this?"
"The lock-up of the Golden Wave. I think it used to be an oil room."
They gazed around them, and soon discovered the can of ship's biscuits and also the beans.
"They evidently meant to keep us prisoners for some time," said Dick. "Hark, what is that?"
Both listened, and made out the sounds of distant thunder and heard the patter of rain on the deck.
"A storm is brewing," said old Jerry. "It sounds as if it was putty heavy, too."
They tried the door to the brig, but found it locked and bolted. In vain Dick kicked against it, and shoved with his shoulder. It refused to budge.
"This looks as if we'd have to stay here—at least for the present," said Dick, with a sigh. "I must say I don't like the prospect."
"How long do ye calculate we've been here, lad?"
"There is no telling, unless by my watch." But when he looked at the timepiece, he found that it had stopped.
They ate some of the biscuits and drank some water and rested for a while longer. Outside the wind blew furiously and they heard the rain and the waves dash in all directions. Then some water came trickling in slowly, at one corner.
"It seems to me as if the wreck was shifting," cried Dick presently.
"It won't shift very far in this bed o' sand, lad. But she may break up and go to pieces," added old Jerry.
"If she goes down, we'll be drowned like rats in a trap," said Dick. "We must get out somehow."
They talked the matter over and began a systematic examination of their prison. The four walls were solid and so was the ceiling above them.
"The flooring has a couple of loose planks in it," announced. Dick. "If we can get them up, where will the opening lead to?"
"The forward hold, lad, and that is now half full of sand and water."
"Never mind, I'm going to get the planks up if I can."
With his head still aching Dick set to work and old Jerry helped him. It was no easy matter to shift the heavy planking, but after a while they got one plank up and then used this as a pry to bring up the second.
A dark hole was revealed, covered at the bottom with water. Then Dick took the lantern and let himself down cautiously.
"The water is only about a foot deep," he announced. "I'm going to make a search around with the lantern."
"Hold on, I'll go with ye," cried old Jerry, and came down with a splash.
With great caution they moved around the hold, wading through sand and water, and climbing over boxes, barrels, and crates.
"What a mixture of cargo," said Dick. "And what a pity so much of it is going to ruin," and he pointed to some valuable mining machinery which was rusting in the salt water.
Fortunately old Jerry had been in the hold before the Golden Wave was wrecked, so he knew something of the surroundings. He led the way to some boxes directly beneath the forward hatch.
"I don't reckon the hatch is fastened down," he said. "An' if it aint we may be able to shove it up by standing one box on top of another."
This was tried, and after much difficulty the hatch was thrown to one side, and they crawled to the deck of the schooner.
"I'm glad I am out of that!" ejaculated Dick. "But how it's raining! Let us go to the cabin for shelter."
Once in the cabin they proceeded to make themselves as comfortable as the state of affairs permitted.
"With no boat it is going to be no easy matter getting back to the house," said Dick. He was much worried concerning the girls.
"We'll have to stay here until the storm is over," said old Jerry.
But Dick demurred and at last it was decided to try getting to the house by journeying from one island to the next.
This was a dangerous proceeding, as we already know. They had to build themselves a small raft and carry this from one crossing to the next.
By the time the last crossing was made the storm was clearing and the day was drawing to a close.
"We had best not show ourselves until we are sure how the land lays," said Dick, as they came up the beach.
Captain Jerry thought this good advice and they proceeded with caution until they came in sight of the house. Then Dick set up a shout.
"Tom, Sam, and Captain Blossom are back! Hurrah!"
"They look as if they were having a row with Baxter and the mate," came from old Jerry.
A row certainly was in progress, and as they came closer they heard Tom talking.
"Yes, Lesher, I want to know all about this quarrel with my brother Dick. I am sure he was not in the wrong."
"See here, I know my own business," the mate growled. "You shut up and leave me alone."
"We won't leave you alone," came from Sam. "We want to know the truth."
"Yes, tell us the truth, Lesher," said Captain Blossom sternly.
"All against me, aint you?"
"We want the truth," answered Tom.
"Well, if you must have it, all right. He got cheeky and hit me on the head with an oar. Then I hit back and knocked him down. Then he got mad and so did Jerry Tolman, and both refused to come back in the boat with Baxter and me."
"I'll wager you started to boss things," said Sam. "Dick doesn't raise a row without just cause."
"Good for Sam," murmured Dick.
"Your brother was entirely to blame," grunted the mate. He was still far from sober.
"Jack Lesher, you tell what is not so," said Dick loudly, and joined the group, followed by old Jerry.
Had a bombshell exploded, Lesher and Baxter would not have been more astonished. Then stared at the newcomers as if they were ghosts.
"How—er—how did you get here?" stammered Baxter, while the mate continued to stare, in open-mouthed astonishment.
"That is our affair," responded Dick. He strode up to Lesher. "You miserable villain. How dare you say that I was to blame when you attacked me without warning? Take that for what you did."
And hauling off, Dick hit the mate a fair and square blow in the nose which sent Lesher flat on his back.
TRYING TO COME TO TERMS
As the mate went down the girls gave a scream, and even Tom and Sam looked at Dick in wonder. Never had any of them seen the eldest Rover so aroused.
"My lad, that was a hard blow," observed Captain Blossom, as Jack Lesher lay where he had fallen.
"Not half as hard as the blow he struck me," answered Dick.
"Not hard as hard as thet chap hit me," put in old Jerry, and turning quickly he flew at Dan Baxter and bore him to the ground.
"Hi! hi! let up!" roared the bully. "Let up! Take him off!"
"I'll let up, when I'm done," panted old Jerry, and he gave him a thump in the cheek, another in the eye, and a third on the chin. "Now, then, Dan Baxter, see how you like that!" And then the old sailor arose once more.
"I'll—I'll—" began Baxter, in a terrible rage. "I'll—"
"Shut up, Baxter, until we hear what they have to say," put in Tom. "If you are not quiet, I'll give you a thumping on general principles."
"No more fighting," commanded Captain Blossom. "Dick Rover, tell us what happened on the wreck."
Dick told his story, and then all listened to what old Jerry had to say. In the meantime Jack Lesher arose unsteadily to his feet.
"Where is that boy?" he roared. "I'll fix him." And then he made a movement as if to draw his pistol, but discovered that the weapon had been taken from him.
"Who took my pistol?" he demanded.
"Be quiet, everybody," said Captain Blossom. "Lesher, there will be no shootng here, unless I have to make an example of somebody. You had no business to attack Dick Rover on the wreck, nor attack Jerry Tolman, either. It was a mean thing to do. If we are to remain on these islands together, we ought to keep friendly."
"I know my business," growled the mate.
"And I know mine, Lesher. Please remember that I am captain."
"And I am first mate."
"Your being first mate doesn't count with us," came from Tom.
"Not for a minute," added Dick. "If I had my own way, I'd pitch you out of this camp in double-quick order."
"And Dan Baxter with him," put in Sam.
"Why cannot both of them go and live with the other sailors who were saved?" asked Dora. "They could have their share of what is on the wreck."
"I see you don't care for their company," said Captain Blossom. "Well, I can't say that I blame you, miss. After this they shall keep their distance. They can either live on the wreck or build themselves their own house, and so can the other sailors who were saved."
"You are not my master!" cried Dan Baxter. "On these islands all are equal."
"That may be so, but you have got to let the others alone," answered Dick. "If you don't—"
"What will you do?"
"We'll punish you in a way you least expect."
After this there was a general talk which almost ended in another all-around row. But the Rovers and Captain Blossom were firm, and at last Dan Baxter and Jack Lesher said no more.
"We ought to remain on guard after this," said Dick to Tom, when they and Sam were alone. "I don't want to trust our enemies for a single moment."
And it was agreed that one or another should watch constantly.
The storm cleared away as suddenly as it had come, and the next morning the sun shone as brightly as ever.
When Baxter and Lesher came to breakfast both were sullen. The mate had wanted more liquor, but Captain Blossom had refused to give him more than a single glass.
"You had better return to the others at once," said the captain. "Tell them they can come over here, and then we will make arrangements as to how all hands shall live until some ship comes to take us away."
The Rovers suspected that Dan Baxter wished to remain behind, leaving the mate to go after the others. But Lesher would not go alone, and off they started at noon, each carrying a good supply of food with him, and also a pistol and some ammunition.
"I wish they weren't coming back," murmured Dora.
"I wish the same, Dora," said Dick. "But it can't be helped and we must make the best of it."
There was a general air of relief when the two had departed. Later on each told his or her story once more, and a general conversation ensued regarding the future.
"Lesher is not the man I thought he would, be," said Captain Blossom. "If he insists on getting drunk he will surely cause us a good deal of trouble, and if I try to keep the liquor from him he will get ugly. More than that, he has several sailors with him who are old friends, and they like their liquor just as much as he does."
It was seen that the flag of distress was down, as already mentioned, and after Baxter and Lesher had departed, Tom and Dick set off to put the flag up once more.
The way was by no means easy, for the storm had washed the dirt and stones in all directions and the path was strewn with broken branches and torn-up bushes. On the way they picked up hard a dozen dead birds and also saw three dead monkeys.
When the spot where the flag had been was reached they found the tree still standing. The halyard of the flag had snapped and the colors lay in a mass of bushes a hundred feet away.
To get to the bushes the boys had to leap over something of a gully. Tom took the leap in safety, but Sam went down out of sight.
"Help! help!" cried the youngest Rover.
Tom looked back, to see Sam's fingers clutching at some brushwood which grew at the edge of the gully. Then the hand disappeared and he heard a crashing far below, for though the gully was not wide, it was very deep.
"Sam! Sam!" he called. "Are you hurt?"
No answer came back, and much alarmed, Tom got on his knees and tried to look into the opening. At first he could see nothing, but when his eyes grew accustomed to the darkness, he made out the form of his brother lying on some broken brushwood which the storm had swept into the opening.
How to get down to Sam was a problem, and Tom was revolving the matter in his mind when Sam let out another cry.
"Are you hurt, Sam?"
"N—not much, but m—my wind was kno—knocked out of me."
"Can you climb up to the top?"
"Hardly, Tom, the sides are very steep, and—yes, there is a regular cave down here," went on Sam.
"Where does it lead to?"
"I don't know. It's on the south side of the opening."
Tom's curiosity was aroused, and bringing forth the new rope they had brought along for hoisting the flag, he tied one end to a tree and lowered himself to his brother's side. By this time Sam was on his feet and inspecting some scratches his left hand had received.
"Where is the cave, Sam?"
"There," and the youngest Rover pointed it out.
The opening was about two feet above the bottom of the gully. It was perhaps four feet in diameter, but appeared to grow larger within.
"If we had a torch we might investigate a bit," said Tom. "I'd like to know if the cave amounts to anything."
"It might have a pirate's treasure in it, eh?"
"Not likely, Sam. I don't believe it has ever been used. But if it was of good size it might prove handy for us at some time or another."
They looked around, and finding some dry brushwood made two rude torches. With these flaring brightly they entered the opening, the flooring of which was of rock and tolerably smooth.
"We could live in this cave, if it wasn't that the opening to it is in the gully," said Sam as they advanced.
"There may be another opening at the other end," said Tom. "It is certainly quite long."
They had advanced fully a hundred feet, and now found themselves in a chamber forty or fifty feet square. The ceiling was arched and so high that they could not touch it without jumping up.
"This is as good as a house," said Tom. "See how dry the flooring is. That proves that it is waterproof."
From the large chamber there were several passageways, all leading toward the bay.
"Which shall we investigate first?" asked Sam.
"Let us start at the right."
"All right, Tom; the right ought to be right," answered Sam lightly.
On they went once more, the flooring now sloping before them. Here there was considerable moisture, and they had to walk with care for fear of slipping down.
Suddenly a number of bats flew out of a hole nearby, dashing against the torches and against the boys themselves. The rush was so unexpected that each youth dropped his light and put up his hands to protect himself.
"Get out! Let me alone!" spluttered Sam.
"Whoop!" roared Tom. "Confound the bats anyway! Get along and let us alone!"
Lying on the flooring the torches soon went out, and in their efforts to protect themselves from the bats the boys rushed blindly down the passageway. Then of a sudden both slipped on the wet rocks, slid a distance of several yards, and went down and down, landing into a well-like opening with a loud splash!
THE CAVE ON THE ISLAND
"Are you safe?"
"Yes, but I wasn't looking for such a cold bath as this."
"I guess we must have fallen into a regular well of spring water."
"Never mind what we are in. The question is, how are we to get out?"
"Can you touch the top of the opening?"
"Neither can I."
Luckily the two boys could touch the bottom of the hole, so they were in no danger of drowning. They were in water up to their waists and calculated they had dropped a distance of two or three yards. All was pitch dark around them and as silent as a tomb, save for some water which trickled close at hand. The bats had departed, leaving them to their fate.
"This is cave-investigating with a vengeance," said Tom, with something like a shiver.
"Never mind, Tom, we won't die of thirst anyway."
"Do you think this is a laughing matter, Sam?"
"No, I don't. I'd give a good deal to be out of this hole and out of the cave also."
"I've got an idea. Let me climb on your shoulders and see if I can reach the top that way."
Sam was willing, and soon Tom was balancing himself as best he could. He felt around with care, Sam moving from point to point as directed.
"Here is a sharp rock; I think I can pull myself up on that," said Tom. He tried with all of his strength and went up off Sam's shoulders. Then the youngest Rover heard him crawling around the wet flooring carefully.
When Tom felt fairly safe he brought out his waterproof match safe and lit a match. Then one of the torches was picked up and he lit that, but kept it partly sheltered, fearing another attack from the bats.
By the aid of the torch, Sam was able to reach a sharp rock quite low down in the well hole, and when Tom gave him a hand he came up with ease. Both saw that the passage ended at the hole and hurried back to the main chamber of the cave.
"That's the time that right was not right," said Sam, wringing the water from his trousers, while Tom did the same. "Let us try the left after this."
"I trust we don't get left by it," added Sam.
The passageway was small and winding, but fairly level. There were several sharp rocks to pass and then Tom gave a cry.
"I see a light ahead!"
"It must be an opening, Tam."
"Exactly what I think."
Both hurried forward. As they did this, the opening appeared to grow larger and they saw a number of bushes ahead of them. They pushed these aside and saw beyond a clear stretch of the bay and to the northward the house they had built. The opening was twenty or thirty feet above the beach and hidden in the rocks and bushes.
"This is a short cut to the beach from the flagstaff," said Sam. "I wish we had put up the flag. Then we could carry the news of the cave to the others."
"Let us hurry back, Sam. It won't take so very long to put up the flag, with the tree still standing."
When they reached the gully they were careful that no further mishaps should befall them. Having picked up the flag they hoisted it once more, stars down, and then went back through the cave to the beach.
As they had imagined, the others were greatly interested in the news. All left the house and visited the place. The girls did not go any further than the main chamber, but the captain, Dick, and old Jerry made a complete investigation, taking care not to fall into the well-hole or any other unsafe place.
"As the boys say, this cave may come in very handy some time," said Captain Blossom. "In case of a very heavy wind storm it would be a good place for shelter."
"Why couldn't the sailors, Lesher, and Baxter live here?" asked Dick. "We don't want them, and it will save them the trouble of building a house, in case they don't want to live on the wreck."
"No, I advise that we tell them nothing about the cave," said Tom. "If we should have a fight and get the worst of it, we could hide here and they wouldn't be able to find us very readily."
"Do you think it will get as far as that?" asked Dora, and her face showed she was much disturbed.
"I hope not, Dora," said Dick. "But you must remember that we have had some pretty sharp quarrels already."
"I think Tom is right," came from Sam. "We'll not tell the others anything about the cave. If they don't want to live on the wreck, they can build a house or two, just as we did."
On returning to the shore of the bay, Captain Blossom and Tom went on a hunt along the beach and presently discovered the rowboat that had overturned with them during the storm.
The craft was but little damaged and they soon had it mended, and then the captain brought it around to the anchorage in front of the house.
"I wonder when Baxter and Lesher will arrive with the sailors?" said Nellie.
"Not before to-morrow night," answered Tom.
"Then do you know what I would do if I were you?" went on the girl.
"I'd bring some stores away from the wreck and hide them in the cave. If you did that, it might save us a good deal of trouble. For all we know, that mate might try to take command and refuse to let us get anything more from the ship."
"Do you think he'd do that while Captain Blossom was around?" came from Grace.
"Oh, he might do anything when he is half full of liquor," answered Tom. "I think Nellie is right. I'll talk it over with the others."
Tom lost no time in the matter, and Dick, Sam, and old Jerry agreed that Nellie's idea was very good. Captain Blossom shrugged his shoulders and looked ugly.
"Jack Lesher shall not take the command from me," he said. "If he tries it, he'll find himself in the biggest kind of a row."
"But you must admit that there is grave danger," said Dick.
"Yes, I admit that."
"Then you are willing that we shall hide the stores?"
"If you want to."
"Won't you help us, Captain Blossom? Of course, we recognize the fact that those things belong to you, since you remained on the ship up to the time she struck the island."
This speech pleased the captain, and he said he would help them willingly.
Without delay the two rowboats and the raft were called into commission, and an hour later the men and boys were hard at work transferring goods from the wreck to the beach in front of the cave. Five trips were made back and forth, the boats and the raft bringing over each, time as much as could be conveniently floated.
By the time the last trip was made and the goods piled on the beach and covered with a large tarpaulin, it was dark and all were utterly worn out by their labors. The girls had prepared an extra good supper, and of this they ate heartily and then sat around a little while, when they went to bed.
At the beginning the castaways had kept guard during the night, but of late this had been done away with, everybody being satisfied that no harm could befall them during the darkness.
But as the doorway to the house was an open one it had been considered the duty of one or the other to sleep directly in the opening. This was Dick's night, and the eldest Rover lay there sleeping soundly until about two in the morning.
By this time the moon had disappeared and the stars were partly hidden by some clouds. The night was quiet, save for the hum of insects in the jungle back of the house and the soft lap-lap of the waves on the beach of the bay.
Suddenly Dick awoke with a start. He sat bolt upright, wondering what had brought him to his senses so quickly. He listened intently, but nothing unusual greeted his ears.
"I must have been dreaming, or something," he thought. "But is queer I should be so wide.. awake."
At first he was on the point of lying down again, but then concluded to get up and get a drink of water.
He arose to his feet and stood in the open doorway, gazing into the darkness. The faint light of a few stars shone in the waters of the bay, and between the waters and himself he presently saw a dark form stealing along, close to the ground.
What could that be? Was it something real or only a shadow? Dick rubbed his eyes and peered out more sharply than ever. It was not a shadow, but a real form, slowly moving around to the rear of the house.
"An animal, or else a man crawling along," said Dick to himself, and reached for his gun, which stood close at hand. Then he made up his mind to investigate, and stepped outside of the doorway for that purpose.
A FIGHT WITH A WILD BEAST
As Dick stepped out of the house, gun in hand, the form disappeared behind a small clump of bushes growing not fifty feet away.
"It's gone," he said to himself, but waited patiently, with his gun ready for use.
The clouds were increasing, making it darker than ever. Almost holding his breath, the youth took several steps forward. Then he waited again.
At last the form reappeared, crouched lower than ever, so that it was almost hidden by the rocks and low brushwood leading to the jungle. At first Dick imagined the beast, or whatever it was, was going to retreat to the timber, but soon it appeared to turn back, as if to make another semicircle, this time around to the rear of the house.
It must be admitted that Dick's heart thumped madly in his breast. The gun was raised and he kept his finger on the trigger. But he did not dare to shoot until he was certain of the object of his aim.
"I don't want to kill anybody," he reasoned. And he thought of a story he had once read of a hunter shooting his companion who had got the nightmare and was crawling around in his sleep. For all he knew, it might be Sam or Tom, or one of the others.
But now came a sound which was not to be mistaken. It was a low, savage growl, followed by the rustling of a bushy tail among the brushwood. It was a wild animal, and it was getting ready to make a leap for the boy!
Taking aim as best he could, Dick pulled the trigger. Bang! went the firearm, and a snarl of pain and rage rang out. Then the beast made its leap, striking Dick in the breast and knocking him over.
"Hullo! what's the row?" The cry came from old Jerry, who had been sleeping next to Dick. "Who fired that shot?"
"Help!" answered Dick. "A wild beast has attacked me."
"A wild beast!" came from several throats at once.
"Let me get a shot," came from Tom, as he bounced out of the house, pistol in hand, followed by Sam and Captain Blossom.
By this time Dick had gotten to his knees and was trying to fight off the animal which had fastened its teeth in the youth's trouser leg, for the boys slept with part of their garments on them.
"Shoot him! Hit him over the head with a club!" screamed the eldest Rover. He expected every moment to have the beast fly at his throat, and he knew that that would be his death.
Old Jerry turned back to get a pistol or a club. As he did this Tom rushed past him and up to Dick's side. Taking a hasty aim, Tom discharged the pistol twice.
Another growl rang out and the beast dropped back, shot through the foreshoulder and the neck. Then Tom let drive once more and the beast fell forward, shot through the left front leg.
"Good for you, Tom!" cried Dick, as he arose.
"What is it?" came from Captain Blossom, as he appeared with a shotgun. A shot from this finished the beast and it rolled over and over in its death agonies, and Sam finished it with a blow on the head with a big club.
By this time the girls were crowding outside, having clothed themselves with whatever was handiest. Torches were lit, and a ship's lantern, and all went to examine the creature.
"It looks like a tiger," declared Tom. "Only it is not quite so large."
"I should say it was a California puma," came from old Jerry. "He's a bad one, too."
"I think they call them jaguars out here," said Dick. "They all belong to the same family, you know. Some old American hunters would call it a painter."
"Never mind what it is," said Dora, with a shudder. "I am thankful that it is dead."
"You can be thankful that it didn't chew Dick up," added Tom. "He was in a tight corner, I can tell you that."
"I didn't want to shoot until I was certain of what I was shooting at," answered Dick. "Then, just as I fired, the beast leaped for me. If I hadn't wounded it, it would have had me by the throat sure. But my shot kind of made it fall back, and it caught me by the trouser leg."
"Are you sure you are not hurt, lad?" asked the captain.
"Not hurt in the least," answered Dick, and all were thankful that this was so.
The animal was dragged close to the cabin. It measured about five feet in length, regardless of the tail, and was of a dull yellowish color. Its teeth were long and sharp, and its face had a fierce, blood-thirsty look about it that made all the girls shiver.
"I must confess that I am surprised to find such a beast on these islands," said Captain Blossom. "Usually they are to be found only on the mainland or on large islands."
"What I am wondering is, are there any more around?" came from Sam.
"If there are, we'll have to be careful how we move around," put in old Jerry. "I don't want any of 'em to leap out at me from behind a rock."
"We'll have to be on the watch," said Tom. "I'm sure I don't want to furnish any tropical tiger cat with a square meal."
"Oh, Tom, how awful to even mention it!" cried Nellie.
"I think I know a way to keep 'em away from the house at night," said old Jerry.
"How?" questioned several.
"Keep a camp-fire burning close to the door. All wild animals hate a fire."
"Jerry is right," said Captain Blossom. "We'll do it after this."
"What shall we do with the beast?" asked Dick. "I don't think it is good to eat."
"Save the skin," said Dora. "That will surely make an elegant rug."
"Leave the carcass until morning," said Captain Blossom. "We must get some more sleep if we want to go to work to-morrow."
"To-day, you mean," said Tom, looking at his watch. "It is already three o'clock."
A camp-fire was lit and then all but Jerry retired, it being agreed that the old sailor was to turn in once more when the others arose for breakfast. All but Dick slept soundly, but even the eldest Rover was benefited by the additional rest.
The first work in the morning was to skin the wild beast. This was rather a difficult task since no one had had any experience, outside of the Rover boys, on small game. Old Jerry said he would try a steak cut from the best part of the the animal, but when he did he said it was too tough to eat. Then the carcass was dragged away and flung into a hole between the rocks.
After breakfast, the men and boys began in earnest to place the stores brought to the beach in the cave. It was hard work getting the boxes and barrels up the incline to the mouth of the cave, and the work took until the middle of the afternoon. Once at the entrance, the stores were speedily shifted to the chamber previously mentioned, and covered again with the tarpaulin. With the stores were placed a cask of fresh water, some dry pine torches and a box of matches. Captain Blossom left a gun and some ammunition in the cave, and the Rover boys added two pistols and a couple of swords taken from the ship.
"Now we will re-arrange the entrance to the cave as it was before," said Dick. "Then the sailors will never suspect what we have done."
By sunset the work was over and all hands were back at the house, taking it easy. Supper was ready, but they waited hard an hour, thinking that Baxter, Lesher, and their party would put in an appearance at any moment.
"I reckon they aren't coming just yet," said Captain Blossom, at length. "Let us wait no longer."
"I'm willing," said Tom. The extra work had sharpened his appetite wonderfully.
The evening passed quietly and soon one after another retired. As agreed, the camp-fire was left burning, and each took his turn at remaining on guard.
In the morning it was Dora who made an announcement that startled all of them. The girl had taken Captain Blossom's spyglass and was looking across the bay in the direction of the wreck.
"There are men on board of the Golden Wave" she announced. "I can see them quite plainly."
"Men on board of the wreck!" cried Dick. "Are you sure, Dora?"
"Look for yourself, Dick."
The youth did so and saw that Dora was right. Half a dozen figures could be seen walking to and fro.
"Who are they?" asked Tom. "Lesher and his crowd?"
"That I can't make out," answered Dick, and handed over the glass to his brother.
All could see the men on the wreck, but at such a distance it was impossible to make out any faces.
"Maybe they are savages," came from Grace.
"No, they are dressed like white people," said Captain Blossom..
"Perhaps another ship has come in!" ejaculated Tom. "If it has, we are saved!"
"I don't see any other ship," said old Jerry.
"It may be on the other side of yonder island," came from Sam.
"The best thing we can do is to row over and investigate," said Captain Blossom. "If another ship has come in, the captain may claim that wreck and everything on board."
A hasty breakfast was prepared and eaten, and it was agreed that the captain, Dick, and old Jerry should row over to the wreck in the best of the boats. The three were soon on the way, wondering whom they were to meet and what sort of a reception would be tendered to them.
THE MATE SHOWS HIS HAND
Captain Blossom had taken the spyglass along, and as they drew closer to the wreck he gazed long and earnestly at the men walking the deck of the Golden Wave.
"They are my crew," he announced at last. "And they are in tatters."
"They must have had a hard time of it since you were cast ashore," said Dick.
"Unless I am mistaken, not a one of them is sober," went on the captain. "They are cutting up like a band of wild Indians."
Before long they were within hailing distance of those on the wreck. Then a voice from the rail hailed them.
"Ahoy!" answered the captain.
"What do you want?" demanded the sailor on the wreck. He could scarcely talk straight.
"We want to come on board."
"Sorry, cap'n, but I can't let you come aboard," answered the sailor, with something of a hiccough.
"Can't let me come aboard?" repeated the captain. "Why not?"
"Cause it's ag'in orders."
"Captain Lesher!" ejaculated Captain Blossom indignantly. "How long has he been a captain?"
"We made him cap'n yesterday."
"That's right," put in another sailor. "We 'lected him unan—nan— nan'mously; yes, sir, unan—nan—nan'mously."
"You are drunk, Bostwick."
"No, sir, aint drunk at all.—Lesher, he's drunk—but he's cap'n all the same."
"That's right," put in a third sailor. "Hurrah for Captain Lesher and the rum he let us have!"
"Got to keep off, I tell you," went on Bostwick. "If you don't, we have—er—we have strict orders to fire on you, yes, sir."
"To fire on us!" cried Dick.—"Do you mean to say you would fire on us?"
"Now, see here, don't you put in your oar," said a fourth sailor. "You don't count with us. It's the cap'n that was we're talkin' to."
"I am captain still," said Captain Blossom firmly. "If you don't want to obey me, you must leave the ship."
"Aint going to leave no ship!" was the cry. "She belongs to us. You keep off!"
"Yes, yes, keep off!" added the others on the deck.
"The ship is mine," said the captain. "If you refuse to let me come on board—"
At that moment two other figures appeared on deck.
"Dan Baxter and Jack Lesher!" murmured Dick.
"Captain Blossom, you had better keep your distance," said Lesher in a voice that showed he was just getting over a spell of drunkenness.
"So you too refuse to let me come on board?"
"I do. The boys have made me their captain, and as such I am bound to look after their interests. I have told them what you proposed to do, and they don't intend to stand it."
"Didn't I tell you we'd get square?" put in Dan Baxter, his evil face glowing with triumph. "We have all that is on board, and we mean to keep everything."
"This is mutiny!" stormed Captain Blossom.
"Call it what you please," answered Lesher recklessly. "I reckon I and the boys know what we are doing!"
"That's right!" cried the half-drunken sailors. "Hurrah for Cap'n Lesher. He's a man after our own hearts!"
"Supposing I demand to be let on board?" went on Captain Blossom.
"Don't ye go, cap'n," whispered old Jerry. "They are in jest a fit mood to kill ye. The rum has put the Old Nick in 'em."
"You can't come on board, and that settles it," roared Jack Lesher, drawing a pistol. "Keep your distance."
"Yes, keep your distance," added Baxter, and also showed a firearm.
"This is a fine way to treat us, after what we did for you," said Dick. "But, wait, Baxter, the end is not yet."
"Bah! I am not afraid," said the bully. "These men are all my friends, and we know exactly what we are doing."
"Do you expect to remain on the wreck?" asked the captain, after a moment of silence.
"That is our business," answered Lesher.
"I think you will find that you are making a great mistake, men, to follow Lesher when you ought to follow me. I have always treated you fairly, and—"
"Hi! none of that!" roared the mate. "We won't listen to it."
"The men shall listen, if they will. I
"Say another word and I'll fire!" cried the mate, and pointed his pistol at Captain Blossom's head.
"Do-do you mean that?" asked the captain, in as steady a voice as he could command.
"Of course he means it," said Dan Baxter. "He isn't a fool. We are all going to stand by him, too," he added.
"That's right," came from part of the crew. Dick noticed that a few of the others looked doubtful.
"I mean it, and I want you to leave right now," stormed Jack Lesher. "I'll give you one minute in which to turn your boat around," and he pulled out his watch.
"Might as well go back," whispered old Jerry. "You can't reason with a lot of half-drunken men."
"Very well, we'll go back," said Captain Blossom loudly. "But, remember, you haven't seen the end of this affair."
"And remember another thing," added Dick, in an equally loud voice: "Don't any of you dare to come anywhere near our house. If you do, you'll be sorry for it."
Then the three turned the boat around and rowed slowly back whence they had come.
"The rascals!" muttered Captain Blossom, when they were out of hearing. "Lesher and Baxter have poisoned the minds of the crew against me, and have bought over the men with liquor."
"It's a mighty good thing ye put them stores in the cave," came from old Jerry. "If ye hadn't we'd be a-wantin' a good many things in a few days."
"That is true," answered Dick. "Dora told me they must have another barrel of flour by day after to-morrow."
"How many at the cave?"
"Well, it certainly was a good job done," said the captain. "But it makes me boil to think they want to keep me off my own ship. On the ocean that would be mutiny, and I could hang every mother's son of them from the yardarm for it."
"Lesher must have told 'em some putty strong stories," said old Jerry. "Otherwise the men wouldn't be so dead set ag'in ye, cap'n."
"No doubt he made out the strongest possible case."
"I wonder if they will stick to the wreck all the time," said Dick. "They'll find it mighty hot when the sun shines."
"Oh, they'll most likely take some of the things ashore, and set up a camp nearby, Rover."
"We'll have to watch them closely."
"I agree with you. Now we have two kinds of enemies—beasts and men," and the captain laughed bitterly.
The others were gathered on the shore awaiting their return, and they listened attentively to what was told them.
"Oh, Lesher wanted to be leader, you could see that right off," declared Tom. "And Baxter will do anything to make it disagreeable for us boys," he continued.
"Well, there is one satisfaction," said Nellie. "We haven't Baxter with us."
"If only a ship would stop here and take us away!" sighed Dora. To her it seemed like an age since they had landed on the seven islands.
"After this we must keep a regular guard," announced Dick. "Unless we do that, somebody may play us foul when we least expect it."
Slowly the day wore away. By the aid of the spyglass they could see the sailors still on the deck of the wreck. Nobody appeared to go ashore.
That night it fell to Sam's lot to be on guard from nine to ten o'clock. The camp-fire was left burning brightly, and the youngest Rover sat near it on a log, a gun in his lap.
"No wild beast shall surprise me," he told himself, and kept his eyes on the jungle back of the house.
His time for guard duty had almost come to an end when a noise down on the beach attracted his attention. By the faint light he made out a raft, which had just come in, bearing the figures of two sailors.
"Stop!" he called out. "Do not come closer at your peril!"
"Don't shoot!" called back one of the sailors. "Don't shoot! We mean no harm."
Sam had backed up toward the house, and now he called to those within. He was soon joined by Captain Blossom, Dick, and several of the others.
"Who is it?" asked the captain, as he came forth, pistol in hand.
"Two of the sailors from the wreck, I think."
"Don't shoot us, captain," called one of the men. "We are unarmed and want to talk with you."
"They are Gibson and Marny," said Captain Blossom. "They were generally pretty good sort of fellows. I reckon we have nothing to fear from them."
"Are you alone?" called out Dick.
"Then come up to the fire. But mind, no treachery."
"We don't wonder at your being on guard," said the sailor named Gibson, a tall, thin Yankee. "The others treated you like so many dogs."
"We have deserted Lesher," put in Marny. "We came over here on the raft to see if you wouldn't take us in."
"Were you alone?" asked Captain Blossom.
"No, we had Hackenhaven with us. But he fell overboard just after we left the wreck, and the sharks caught him," answered Gibson, with a bitter shake of his face.
"What did Lesher say to your leaving?" asked Tom.
"He didn't know it until after we were a hundred yards or more from the wreck. You see, he and the others were drinking in the cabin, so we got away without much trouble," answered Marny. "They might have shot at us, but it was too dark for them. We had a hard pull to get over here, and when poor Hackenhaven was gobbled up both of us felt bad, I can tell you."
It was now seen that both sailors were almost exhausted, and Captain Blossom allowed them to rest, while Dick prepared a pot of coffee. While they were drinking, Gibson told them the particulars of how the mate had made himself leader of the sailors now left on the wreck.
THE BURNING OF THE WRECK
"When Lesher and Baxter got back to where they left us they were very bitter against you," began Gibson. "They told us that you had tried to make them work like niggers, fixing up this house. They said that they wanted to come right back and bring us here, but you wouldn't let them go until the house was finished."
"Which is not true, as all of us here know," said Captain Blossom.
"Lesher also said that you were angry at us for leaving the ship before the rest, and that you had said you would have us all tried for mutiny the first chance you got. Baxter said the same, and also told us that you were going to dump all the rum and other liquor into the ocean, so that the mate and none of the others could get a drop of it while they stayed on the islands."
"I didn't say that, but I did say that Lesher Shouldn't have all he wanted," replied the captain.
"This sort of talk made most of the sailors wild," went on Gibson. "Then Lesher made a speech to them, and they voted to stick by him through thick and thin and not let you rule them. He promised them all the liquor they wanted, and told them that if they stuck by him the whole lot could swear in court that they had found the wreck deserted, so that they could get whatever was coming in the way of salvage. Then he handed around some liquor he had brought along, and some pistols, and most of them said they would stick to him, as I said before."
"What about going directly to the wreck?" asked Tom.
"That was Baxter's idea, and it wasn't thought of until we were on our way to this spot. Baxter said that if we captured the ship we would have you at our mercy, for sooner or later your provisions would run out, and you'd be begging for something to eat."
"The scoundrel!" cried Dick. "So he thought to starve us into submission, eh? Well, he shan't do it."
"I said I didn't think it would be fair on the young ladies," continued Gibson. "But he told me he'd take care of the girls after he had brought you to your knees."
"He'll never take care of me!" cried Dora.
"Nor me!" came from Nellie.
"I'd rather die than leave this place in Dan Baxter's company," added Grace.
"Captain, I want you to understand that Gibson and I didn't agree to what they wanted to do," came from Marny. "But we were overruled, and we had to hold our tongues for fear of being knocked down or shot."
"Do you want to join our crowd?" asked Dick bluntly.
"We do, and if you'll take us in we'll promise to stand by you to the end, no matter what comes. We know they've got the best of it—having the ship's stores—but we don't care for that. They are a drunken, good-for-nothing crowd, and we are done with them."
"All right, men, I think we can trust you," said Captain Blossom. "It's a pity that Hackenhaven was lost overboard and eat up by the sharks. We could rather have spared Lesher."
"Or Dan Baxter," observed Tom.
"With three gone they have but eight men left on the wreck," said Sam. "And we now number seven men and three ladies. If we stand our ground, I can't see as we have much to fear from them."
"It will be all right so long as they keep their distance," said Captain Blossom. "But if they come over here in a body when they are half full of drink, there is sure to be a row and probably some shooting. Still, we needn't try to meet trouble halfway."
The sailors gave some more of the details of their doings while in Lesher's company, and then they were provided with additional clothing, and each was given a pistol and some ammunition. Nothing was said to them about the cave or the provisions stored there, Captain Blossom deeming it best to wait and make sure if they were to be thoroughly trusted.
"You see," said he, "they may be straight enough, or they may be spies sent by Lesher to find out just what we propose to do."
"They look honest," said Dick. "I should trust them."
The long pull on the bay had worn the two sailors out, and they were soon sleeping soundly. The girls followed, and then the boys started to turn in.
Sam had just gone to rest, and Tom was following, when Dick, who had stepped out on the beach, uttered a cry.
"What's up?" asked Captain Blossom.
"Look toward the wreck. What does that light mean?"
The captain looked, and then ran for his spy-glass.
"The Golden Wave is afire!" he exclaimed. "That light is coming up out of the cabin!"
"The wreck is on fire!" shouted Tom, and this cry brought everybody out once more.
With remarkable rapidity the light grew brighter, until the heavens and the entire bay were lit up by the conflagration. There was a strong wind blowing, which carried the sparks to the jungle back of the ship. Listening intently, they could occasionally hear the roaring and crackling of the flames.
"The ship is doomed, that is certain," said Sam. "I wonder if all who were on board escaped?"
"The fire has caught in the brushwood on the shore," announced Captain Blossom, who had continued to use the spyglass.
"Can you see any of the men moving around?" questioned Dora.
"I thought I saw one or two, but I am not certain. Most of the men must have escaped, but if they were drunk, as Gibson says, perhaps some have been caught like rats in a trap."
The flames continued to roar upward, and toward the island back of the ship, for over an hour. During that time they heard two dull explosions, caused by some barrels of chemicals catching fire. The second explosion sent the bits of burning wood and rigging flying in all directions.
"That will leave the mutineers without a home and without stores," said old Jerry. "They're in a poor fix now."
"I'd like to know how the fire started," said the captain. "Can you explain it?" he went on, to Gibson and Marny.