"I've got an idea," said Marny. "Just before we came away old man Shular went down in the hold with a light to look for some certain brand of liquor we were carrying. He was more than half drunk, and he most likely dropped his lantern and set something on fire."
At the end of an hour and a half the flames had died down to the water's edge. A few small bits of wreckage continued to burn, and also a grove of trees and brushwood on the island. But before morning every bit of the fire was out, and only a heavy smoke showed where the Golden Wave had once rested.
No one had thought of retiring again, and sunrise found them all worn out, and anxious to know what was going to happen next.
"You can rest assured that some of them will be over here sooner or later," said Dick. "Now they have no place to shelter them, and no provisions, they will want us to help them out."
"What will you do, Dick?" asked Dora.
"That depends on Captain Blossom, Dora. Personally I want nothing to do with any of them."
"But some may be badly burnt, and they may need medicine and bandages," came from Nellie.
"We can send them whatever we can spare," said Tom. "But I object strongly to letting anybody come here."
It was decided to remain on guard during the day, and all were cautioned to keep within call of the house. The bay was scanned for the sight of a rowboat, but none put in an appearance.
"I'll wager that those who did escape are sorry they quarreled with us," said Sam.
"Especially Dan Baxter," answered Grace. "He'll find that living out in the woods isn't so pleasant as it looks."
By nightfall all grew anxious, and sat in front of the house to discuss the situation.
"It can't be possible that all on board were burnt up," said Dick. "That would be horrible."
"Oh, some must have escaped," answered Captain Blossom. "But they may be suffering from burns, or they may have no means of getting here. With the ship burnt up, and all the tools gone, it would be no easy matter to build even the roughest kind of a raft."
"What do you think about some of us rowing over to what is left of the wreck?" asked Sam.
"I was thinking of that. But, if we do that, we had better wait until to-morrow morning. You can't see much in the dark."
"If I thought anybody was dying for the want of aid, I'd go over," said Tom. "We all know what brutes Lesher and Baxter are. They wouldn't hesitate to go off and leave some of the others to die where they had fallen."
"I think Tom is right, and some of us ought to go over," said Dick.
"I'm willing to go," announced old Jerry. "We can move around like cats in the dark, so they won't know we are near until we tell 'em."
"You might take some medicines along, and some bandages," said Nellie.
"Take a bottle of sweet oil and some flour," put in Grace. "They are both good for burns."
The matter was talked over until midnight, and then it was settled that Dick, Tom, and old Jerry should take the largest rowboat and some bandages and medicines and row over to the vicinity of the fire. They were to land on the beach below what was left of the wreck and crawl through the bushes on a tour of discovery. If they found that they were not absolutely needed, they were to return without making their presence known to the mutineers and Dan Baxter.
The two boys and the old sailor were soon on the way. Care had been taken to wrap cloth around the oars where they slipped in the row-locks, so that the boat moved through the water, as noiselessly as a shadow.
Once out in the bay the boys and old Jerry, pulled with a will, and in less than half an hour the beach north of what was left of the wreck was gained. They approached with great caution.
"Do you see or hear anything?" whispered Tom.
"No," answered Dick, and then the rowboat grated on the sand, and all leaped ashore.
With their medicines and bandages in their pockets, and pistols in hand, they commenced to crawl through the bushes. Before long they came to a point from which they could look toward the wreck. All was dark and deserted and the air was filled with the smell of burnt wood and water.
"I don't see anybody, do you?" whispered Dick.
"Nary a soul in sight," answered old Jerry.
With equal care they moved around to the other side of the wreck, over a mass of burnt brushwood.
"Hark!" said Tom.
They listened, and, from a distance, made out a faint groan.
"That is somebody, and in great pain," said Dick. "Come on," and he led the way.
Around a pile of rocks they found a sailor. He was propped up against a tree, and was suffering from some burns on his legs and feet.
"Bostwick!" said old Jerry.
"Oh! oh! Help me!" groaned Bostwick piteously. "Give me a drink of water!"
"Where are the others?" asked Dick.
"Gone! They left me to take care of myself. Oh, the wretches! Please help me; won't you, for the love of Heaven!"
"Yes, we will help you," answered Tom.
"You are certain they have all gone?" went on Dick, as he got out some oil and bandages, while Tom ran for water.
"Where did they go?"
"They went—oh, my legs and feet! How they smart! They went to the—the—house! Lesher said you must have set the ship on fire, and Baxter said the same. They—oh, what a pain! Please be careful!" Bostwick gulped down the water Tom gave him. "That is good."
"What did they say, Bostwick?" asked Dick, as he continued to work over the hurt man.
"They said they were going to pay you back. They all went armed; that is, all but me and Shular. Shular was burnt up. They said they were going to shoot you down on sight, and then run the house to suit themselves. I said—oh, the pain. I—I—how weak I am!"
And with those words the burnt sailor fell back in a dead faint.
THE DEFENSE OF THE CAVE—SAVED!
"He has fainted, poor fellow!" said Dick, as he bent over the unconscious form of Bostwick.
"We ought to git back to the house at once!" put in old Jerry. "We must warn the cap'n and the others of what Lesher and his crowd intend to do."
"That is true, but we can't leave this poor chap here. He might die for the want of care," came from Tom.
"We'll take him along," said Dick. "Come, lift him up."
As carefully as they could they lifted the unconscious form up and bore it to where the rowboat was lying. Soon all were on board, and while Tom did his best to revive Bostwick, Dick and old Jerry bent their back to the oars, pulling as they had seldom pulled before.
The beach in front of the house was almost gained when they heard a shot ring out, followed by several others.
"Just as I feared!" groaned Dick. "Lesher and the others have begun the attack!"
"Then we'll have to be careful how we land," said old Jerry. "If we aint, we may run right into 'em!"
There was no moon, but the stars shone brightly, so the beach line was dimly visible in the distance. Standing up in the bow, Tom saw a flash of fire from the jungle below the house, and heard the crack of a firearm. Then he saw some dark forms running along the beach.
"Our party is making for the cave!" he cried. "We had better turn in that direction."
Several other shots followed, but they could not tell if anybody was hit. In the distance several rum-crazed sailors were yelling like so many Indians.
Bostwick came to his senses just as the sand was reached.
"Whe—where am I?" he asked feebly. "Oh, my feet!"
"We have brought you with us, Bostwick," answered Dick. "Keep still, and we will do what we can for you."
As soon as possible they took the hurt man up, and all started for the entrance to the cave.
"Who goes there?" cried a voice out of the darkness.
"Is that you, Sam?" called back Dick.
"Dick! I am glad you are back. They attacked the house, and we are going to the cave to—"
"Yes, we know all about it, Sam. We have brought one of the sailors along. He is badly, burnt. Are the girls safe?"
"I guess so. We told them to go ahead," answered Sam.
Carrying Bostwick between them, Dick and old Jerry soon reached the cave, where they found the three girls standing in a group, each full of dread over what was occurring. Hardly had they gotten inside when Captain Blossom came up on a run, accompanied by Gibson and Marny.
"Back, are you?" he said. "I am glad to see it. But it may put you in a tight hole. Hullo, so you've got Bostwick with you, eh? Everybody get into the cave, just as quick as you can."
Once inside of the cave Captain Blossom commanded everybody to he silent. The hurt sailor was carried to the inner chamber, where a lantern was lit, for it would be impossible to see this light from outside. Then the girls set to work to make Bostwick comfortable.
"Has anybody been shot?" asked Tom.
"I got a bullet scratch on the arm," answered the captain. "And Marny got a few buck-shot in his shoulder. But neither of the hurts amount to anything."
"What do you think the mutineers will do next?"
"Ransack the house first," said Sam. "Oh, but they are a bad crowd! They came on like a lot of demons."
"Of course Baxter was with them."
"Yes, but he kept in the background, for fear, I suppose, of being shot."
With caution one after another left the mouth of the cave to look in the direction of the house. No one outside of their own party was visible.
Suddenly a glare lit up the scene, growing brighter each instant.
"By the great boots!" ejaculated Captain Blossom. "They have set the house on fire!"
"That shows how crazy they are," declared Dick. "In their rage they are liable to do anything. Ten to one they get to fighting between themselves before this is over."
The house, being built of semi-green logs, burnt slowly. As it was consumed, they heard some of the sailors singing and yelling, and heard several pistol shots and a scream of pain.
"Some of them are coming now!" announced Sam, half an hour later.
"Everybody get back out of sight," cried Captain Blossom.
There was a wild scramble, and in the rush Tom tripped and fell. His foot struck a stone, which went rolling down to the mutineers' feet.
"Hi! hi! there they are!" came in a rough, thick voice.
"Where?" roared back the voice of Jack Lesher.
"Up there, among the rocks and bushes."
"Let's go after 'em!"
"Shoot 'em down, boys! They deserve it for burning up the ship!"
Up the rocks came the hard-drunken sailors, accompanied by Lesher, and with Dan Baxter in their rear.
"Back! back! All of you, stand back!" cried Captain Blossom. "Come a step nearer at your peril. We are all armed and ready to fire!"
At these words the sailors halted for a moment.
"Say, cap'n, why did you set the ship afire?" asked an unsteady voice.
"We had nothing to do with that," answered Captain Blossom. "We were all over on this island when the blaze started."
"It's a lie!" came in the voice of Lesher.
"Of course it's a lie," added Dan Baxter. "They did their best to burn every one of us up.
"It is the truth," cried Dick. "Now stand back, or we shall fire on you."
"Come on!" yelled Lesher, and fired a pistol at those near the mouth of the cave.
"If ever I get the chance to have you tried, every one of you shall be hung for mutiny and murder!" cried Captain Blossom, and then fired in return.
The bullet hit Dan Baxter in the arm, and he fell back with a shriek of pain.
"I am killed! I am killed!" he moaned, and ran down toward the beach.
Then came a volley from the mutineers, followed by one from those in the cave.
"Oh, what a close 'shave!" muttered Tom. A bullet had grazed his ear, cutting away one of his curly locks.
Lesher was wounded in the shoulder, and in a moment more of the mutineers ran off, feeling that they were at a disadvantage.
"They can see us out in the open, while we can't see them for the rocks and bushes," said one sailor. "Let us wait till morning "; and so it was decided.
Inside of the cave a council of war was held, and it was decided to block up the entrance fronting the bay with large rocks, leaving only two loopholes open, for watching and for possible shooting.
All of the wounded ones were cared for, and then a watch was set. In the meantime Bostwick was put at ease, and he told the particulars of what happened on the burning wreck, and how Lesher and Baxter had urged the mutineers to attack those at the house.
The remainder of the night wore away slowly. Nothing more was seen of the mutineers, who had retired to the jungle, drank more liquor, and gone to sleep, Baxter with them, moaning and groaning over his wound.
"I am going to take a look around," said Tom, early in the morning.
"A look around where?" asked Dick.
"From where we have the signal of distress. I don't believe any of the mutineers are in that vicinity."
"I'll go with you," put in Sam, and so it was decided.
It was an easy matter for the two boys to make their way to the gully entrance, and with great caution they climbed out of the opening and walked to where the flag of distress floated in the breeze. Not a sight of the mutineers or Dan Baxter was to be had in any direction.
"They are either sleeping, or else they are afraid we'll shoot at them if they show themselves," said Tom. And he added: "I am going to climb the tree and take a look around."
"Be careful," cautioned Sam; nevertheless, he went up the tall tree with his brother.
Once in the tree, directly under the flag, they took a careful look around the island and then out to sea.
"My gracious, Sam, look!" screamed Tom suddenly, and pointed out to the ocean.
"A ship! A ship!" ejaculated Sam.
"Yes, and do you see what kind of a ship it is? A warship, and an American warship at that!"
"Hurrah, Tom; we are saved!"
"Yes! yes! They are sailing this way. Our flag of distress has been seen! Hurrah!"
"We must tell the others right away."
Both slid down the tree with all haste. As they reached the bottom a gun boomed out across the waves.
"That is to let us know that our signal has been seen," said Tom. "Won't the others be delighted when they know a ship, an American ship at that, is so close at hand!"
As quickly as they could they reentered the cave and ran to where they had left the others.
The good news spread like lightning.
"A ship! an American warship is coming!" was the cry.
"Oh, how thankful I am," came from Dora.
"What shall we do next?" asked Nellie, with tears of joy streaming down her cheeks.
"We'll go to the shore and meet the small boat that is sent in," answered Captain Blossom.
Without delay he set out, accompanied by Dick and old Jerry, leaving the others to defend the cave during his absence.
It was nearly two hours before he returned.
"The ship is the cruiser Jefferson," he said. "She is bound for Honolulu, to await orders. The captain says he will take us on board willingly, and he will do what he can to help us bring those other fellows to justice."
"Hurrah!" cried Tom. "If that is so, then our troubles as castaways are over."
"And we are not sorry," said Grace. "Not a bit sorry."
And all of the others agreed with her.
A few words more and I will bring to a close this story of the Rover boys' adventures on land and sea.
The captain of the warship was true to his word, and before nightfall all who had been in the cave were safe on board of the Jefferson. Those who were wounded or hurt were given the best of medical attention, and everybody was made comfortable.
"What attracted me to the islands was the bright reflection in the sky when the wreck was burnt," said the captain of the cruiser. "I thought perhaps that a volcano had become active. But at daybreak we saw nothing unusual, and were about to turn away when the lookout discovered your flag of distress."
"What will you do about the mutineers and Dan Baxter?" asked Dick.
"We'll bring them to justice, if we can, lad."
When a visit was paid to the burnt house nobody was in sight. But in the woods nearby a wounded sailor was discovered. He was badly hurt, and, though given every care, died two days later while on shipboard.
"You'll have a job finding Lesher, Baxter, and the others," he said, when being attended. "They said they wouldn't give in to anybody, and when they learned the warship was here they rowed away in a boat for one of the other islands, They'll hide away until after you are gone."
"If that's the case, let them stay here," said Captain Blossom. "It will be punishment enough for them to live here without any stores."
"They may find those at the cave," said Tom.
"Even so, those stores won't last forever," said Dick. "Yes, they will be punished enough, for there is no telling when another ship will stop here and take them away."
"More than likely they'll have to remain here a year or two," said Captain Blossom.
Everything of value was taken to the warship, and twenty-four hours later the Jefferson steamed away on her journey to the Hawaiian Islands.
"How glad mother will be to learn that I am safe!" said Dora to Dick.
"It will be good news to all of our folks," answered Dick. "They will welcome us as from the grave."
"I hope we can get a steamer directly from Honolulu to San Francisco," said Tom. "Our little vacation has proved unusually long."
"Do you think that we will ever see Dan Baxter again?" questioned Sam.
"I hardly think so," said Dick. "After what has happened he will not dare to show his face again." But Dan Baxter did show himself, and what he did to harm the Rover boys in the future will be told in another volume of this series, entitled "The Rover Boys in Camp; or The Rivals of Pine Island," in which we shall meet many of our old friends again. It may be as well to mention here that Baxter and two sailors escaped from the seven islands just one week after our friends left it. The others, including Jack Lesher, lost their lives while in a quarrel over the last bottle of rum which the mate had brought with him from the burning wreck. Their taking off was an awful example of the evils of intemperance.
It was soon seen that Bostwick was not seriously burnt, and before the trip to Honolulu was over he was able to sit up and to walk a little. The wounds of those who had been shot proved slight.
"We are well out of that adventure," said Tom one evening, as the Rover boys and the girls sat on the deck in the starlight. "And I don't know as I want to go through anything like it again."
"All I am thinking of is home, sweet home," said Sam.
"Just what was in my mind," answered Dick. "How father and Uncle Randolph and Aunt Martha will welcome us!"
"Let us sing," put in Dora, and in a moment more all were singing the first verse of "Home, Sweet Home"; and here let us bid them good-by.