Dave Porter on Cave Island/Chapter 22

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CHAPTER XXII


THE HURRICANE


"What direction did those fellows who ran away take?" asked Dave.

"That's the way they went," answered one of the sailors, pointing to some heavy undergrowth behind the camping-out spot.

"Where does that lead to, do you know?" asked the senator's son.

"Leads to a spring o' fresh water an' half a dozen big caves," was the reply.

"Caves?" queried Dave. "Then perhaps the fellows, who ran away, took to one of the caves."

"Like as not, messmate. Them two chaps have been explorin' them caves ever since we came ashore."

"Let us walk back and have a look," suggested our hero. "We may be able to give Phil and Captain Sanders some assistance."

Without further delay, the two boys left the camp of the castaways and hurried along a small trail through the bushes. They soon came to a rocky depression in the midst of which was a tiny spring. "That water looks good," exclaimed Dave. "Let us get a drink."

"Perhaps it is poisonous, Dave."

"If it was, I think those sailors would have warned us."

They found the water fairly cold and of a good flavor, and each drank his fill. Then Dave flashed the electric light around. Ahead they made out a series of rocks, with here and there a gloomy opening, leading to unknown depths.

"This is Cave Island and no mistake," was our hero's comment. "The place seems to be fairly honeycombed."

"Be careful that you don't go into a hole and drop out of sight," warned his chum.

They walked to the entrance of one of the caves and peered in. All was dark and silent. Then they went to the next cave. Here they caught a glimmer of light.

"Somebody is moving in here!" exclaimed Dave. "A man with a torch!"

They waited, and presently saw that two persons were approaching slowly, having to pick their way over the uneven rocks.

"They are the captain and Phil," cried Roger, and set up a faint call.

"Hello! Who is that?" answered the captain of the Golden Eagle.

"Dave and Roger!" cried Phil. "Oh, say," he added, eagerly, "we've seen Jasniff and Merwell!"

"So we suspected," answered Dave. "But you didn't catch them?"

"No, they got away from us," returned Captain Sanders.

"In this cave?" queried Roger.

"Yes."

"But if they are in here, we can get them sooner or later," put in Dave.

"No, my lad. There are several openings to these caves. We found one at the far end, and I reckon those rascals got away through it."

"Did you speak to them at all?" asked our hero.

"Didn't get time," answered Phil. "The minute they saw us they ran like frightened deer."

"Did they have any baggage, Phil?"

"Not that I could see. I rather fancied Jasniff had a small bundle under his coat, but I may have been mistaken."

"The sailors said they came ashore without baggage. Perhaps the jewels went down with the bark."

"Oh, I think they'd make an effort to save such costly gems—anybody would."

"Not if they were thoroughly scared," broke in Captain Sanders. "A person who is thoroughly scared forgets everything but to save his life."

"Then you haven't any idea where they went to?"

"No, lad. But I don't think they'll get off this island in a hurry."

There was nothing to do but to return to where the four sailors were encamped. Then the whole party proceeded to where Billy Dill and Smiley had been left.

"I don't think it will be safe to try to get through those breakers in the darkness," said Captain Sanders. "We may as well make ourselves comfortable until morning. We have plenty of grub on hand, so you fellows shall have your fill," he went on, to the castaways.

The sailors were glad enough to build another campfire, close to the landing-place, and here they were served with all the food and drink they wanted, which put them in good humor. They related the particulars of how the Emma Brower had gone down, and of how one boat after another had put off in the storm. It had been a time of great excitement, such as none of them were liable to ever forget.

The boys were worn out from their exertions and willing enough to rest. They fixed up some beds of boughs and were soon in the land of dreams. The sailors rested also, each, however, taking an hour at watching, by orders of Captain Sanders.

It was about five o'clock in the morning when Dave awoke, to find the wind blowing furiously. Two of the sailors were busy stamping out the campfire, for the burning brands were flying in all directions, threatening to set fire to the undergrowth.

"What's this?" he asked of Captain Sanders.

"No telling, lad," was the grave reply. "Looks like a pretty big blow."

"More like a hurricane!" snorted old Billy Dill. "The wind is growin' wuss each minit!"

"Draw that boat up into the bushes and fasten it well," ordered the captain. "We don't want to have it stove in or floated off by the breakers."

And the rowboat was carried to a place of safety.

"Where is the ship?" asked Roger.

"Slipped away when the blow came up," answered the captain. "An' I hope the mate knows enough to keep away," he added, gravely.

Soon it started to rain, first a few scattering drops and then a perfect deluge. The castaways spoke of a cave that was near by, and all hurried in that direction, taking the stores from the boat with them.

"How long will this last, do you think?" asked Phil, of the master of the Golden Eagle.

"No telling. Maybe only to-day, maybe several days."

"If it last several days, we'll have a time of it getting food," broke in the senator's son.

"We'll watch out for fish and turtles," said Billy Dill. "Nothin' like turtles when you are good an' hungry."

"That's true," answered Dave. He had not forgotten the big turtle the old tar had managed to catch down on one of the islands in the South Seas.

Soon it was raining so hard that but little could be seen beyond the entrance to the cave. The wind moaned and shrieked throughout the cavern, which happened to have several entrances. Once it became so strong that it almost lifted the boys from their feet. The rain drove in at times, and they had to get into a split in the rocks to keep dry.

"Hark! what was that?" cried Roger, during a lull in the wind.

"I heard thunder; that's all," answered Phil.

"I think a tree must have been struck by lightning," answered Captain Sanders. "The lightning is getting pretty fierce," he added, as a brilliant illumination filled the cavern.

"Wonder where Jasniff and Merwell are?" whispered Phil, to his chums, "I'll wager this storm scares 'em half to death."

"Yes, and those four Englishmen," added Dave. "Don't forget that they were coming to this island."

Slowly the hours of the morning dragged by. There was no let-up in the hurricane, for such it really proved to be. The wind blew strongly all the time, but occasionally would come a heavy blast that fairly made the island tremble. The lightning had died away somewhat, but now and then would come a great flash, followed by a crash and rumble that would echo and reecho among the rocks.

"Just look at the ocean!" cried Dave, as he and his chums walked to one corner of the entrance to gaze out.

"The waves seem to be mountain-high," returned Phil. "You wouldn't think it possible a ship could live on such a sea."

"Well, it is mighty dangerous, Phil; you know that as well as I do."

"I hope the Golden Eagle weathers the storm."

"We all hope that."

Dinner was a rather scanty meal, cooked with great difficulty in a hollow of the rocks. The smoke from the fire rolled and swirled in all directions, nearly blinding everybody. But the repast was better than nothing, and nobody grumbled.

By nightfall the rain ceased. But the wind was almost as strong as ever, and when those in the cave ventured outside they had to be on guard, for fear a flying tree-branch would come down on their heads.

Captain Sanders was much worried over the safety of his vessel, but he did not let on to the boys, since it would have done no good. But the lads understood, and they, too, were more or less alarmed, remembering the fate that had overtaken the Emma Brower in a storm that had been no worse than the present one.

With so much rain driving in, the cave was a damp place, and the boys were glad enough to go outside. They looked for wood that might be easily dried, and after much difficulty, succeeded in starting up a new campfire, around which the whole crowd gathered.

"I'm goin' to try my luck along shore," said Billy Dill, and started off with Dave, Phil, and Roger, to see if any fish or turtles could be located. They found the shore strewn with wreckage.

"Oh, Billy, can this be from our ship?" exclaimed Phil, in alarm.

"I don't think so, lad. Looks to me like it had been in the water some days. I reckon it's from the Emma Brower, or some other craft."

In the wreckage they found the remains of several boxes and barrels. But the contents had become water-soaked or had sunk to the bottom of the sea; so there was nothing in the shape of food for them. They also came across the mast of the bark, with some of the stays still dragging around it.

"That will do for a pole, in case we wish to hoist a flag," suggested the senator's son.

They found neither fish nor turtles, and at last had to return to the campfire disappointed. There was next to nothing to eat for supper.

"Well, better luck in the morning," said Captain Sanders, with an air of cheerfulness he did not feel. "As soon as this wind dies down our ship will come back, and then we'll have all we want to eat."

It was a long, dreary night that followed, and the boys were glad to behold the sun come up brightly in the morning. Dave was the first up, but his chums quickly followed, and all went down to the beach, to look for fish and also to see if the Golden Eagle was anywhere in sight.

This time they had better luck, so far as food was concerned. In a hollow they found over a score of fish that had been cast from the ocean by the breakers, and they also found a fine turtle that was pinned down by a fallen tree.

"That's a new way to catch a turtle," remarked Dave. "It's a regular trap."

"Turtle soup, yum! yum!" murmured Phil.

"And broiled fish,—all you want, too!" added Roger, smacking his lips.

When they got back to the camp they found that the fire had been renewed, and soon the appetizing odor of broiling fish filled the air. Then Captain Sanders and one of the castaway sailors came in from a walk in another direction, carrying an airtight canister, which, on being opened, was found to contain fancy crackers.

"There is a good deal of wreckage down on the beach," said the captain. "We'll inspect it after breakfast."

Having eaten their fill of the fish and the crackers, and leaving Billy Dill and some of the others busy making turtle soup, the boys and Captain Sanders took another walk along the beach, to look over the wreckage and also see if they could sight the Golden Eagle, or locate Jasniff or Merwell.

"I hope we can find those two fellows," said Dave. "I can stand this suspense no longer. I must know what has become of those jewels!"