Dave Porter on Cave Island/Chapter 29

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CHAPTER XXIX


A CHASE ON THE OCEAN


It took the best part of the afternoon and evening to get the whole party together again, and send word to the mate of the Golden Eagle to bring the vessel around to that side of Cave Island. And while this was being done the hurts Captain Sanders and Smiley had received were cared for as well as the means at hand permitted.

The captain and the wounded sailor had a long story to tell, of how they had followed the three rascally Englishmen and Nick Jasniff, and how the latter had made a compact with the others, so that they would take him with them when they left the island.

"The Englishmen were a bit afraid of the captain of the Aurora," said Captain Sanders, " and we overheard them discuss the situation. They knew the captain would want to know what had become of the fourth man he had left here. At last they resolved to try a trick, but they weren't sure it would work. But evidently it did, for the schooner has sailed."

"What was that trick?" asked Dave.

"It seems that when Mr. Borden was on the Aurora he had a headache from the sun and wore smoked glasses. Is that right, sir?"

"It is," answered Giles Borden. "The glare on the waves was beastly, and I wore the smoked glasses all day long."

"Well, the rascals planned to have Jasniff impersonate Mr. Borden. One of them, Geswick, exchanged coats and caps with him, and lent him a pair of smoked glasses, and he was to tie up his cheeks and pretend to be suffering from toothache, and keep to his stateroom as much as possible during the trip."

"Oh, what a thing to do—impersonate me!" roared Giles Borden, in a rage. "Just wait till I confront him!"

"Yes, you'll have to wait," put in Phil, dryly.

"Did you find out where they were going to sail to?" asked Dave, eagerly.

"To San Juan, on the island of Porto Rico. But they may make some stops on the way."

"San Juan," mused Roger. "That's a good many miles from here. Perhaps the Golden Eagle can catch the Aurora before she gets there."

"If they went to San Juan direct I'd advise waiting till they got in that harbor before I'd do anything," said Captain Sanders.

"Why?" asked the boys.

"Because it is one thing to stop them on the high seas and another to stop them in United States waters. Remember, Porto Rico is now a part of Uncle Sam's domain."

"Yes, I'd rather go at them there than on the high seas," answered Dave. "But they mustn't get away again, no matter where we have to tackle them," he added, determinedly.

It was impossible to transfer those ashore to the Golden Eagle during the darkness, because of the danger in the breakers, so they had to wait until daylight before departing.

Among those to go were, of course, the sailors who had come ashore from the wreck of the Emma Brower. Captain Sanders told them they could remain on the island if they wished, but they set up an immediate protest.

"It's not a fit place for any man," said one of the tars. "There is very little game and not much fruit, and one is continually in danger of falling into a hole or a cave. I'll go to Porto Rico gladly, and so will my mates, and we'll work our passage, if you're willing."

"All right," said Captain Sanders. "But you'll not have much to do, as we have about all the hands we need."

When aboard the ship, the captain and the boys listened to the story the mate had to tell. Then they learned that the storm had blown the Golden Eagle many miles from Cave Island, and in trying to avoid some of the keys of another island, the vessel had lost the top of one of the masts and the rudder had been damaged. This had necessitated much delay, which accounted for the non-appearance of the vessel when expected.

While making repairs, the vessel had been passed by a tramp steamer bound for Trinidad. The captain of the steamer had asked if he could be of assistance, and after being told no, had given the information that he had picked up three rowboat loads of passengers and crew from the ill-fated Emma Brower. It may be mentioned here that another boat load from the same vessel managed to reach another island in that vicinity, and in the end it was learned that the going down of the bark was unattended with the loss of a single life.

With so many on board, the accommodations on the Golden Eagle were somewhat crowded. The sailors went with Billy Dill into the forecastle, while Giles Borden was asked to share Captain Sanders' stateroom. What to do with Link Merwell became a question. In one sense he was a prisoner, yet Dave hated to treat him as such.

"There is the extra pantry," said Captain Sanders. "We can clean that out and put in a cot, and he can use that," and so it was arranged, much to the relief of all of the boys. The pantry had a grating, opening on the main way, so it made a fairly comfortable stateroom, although rather hot.

"Well, I suppose I've got to take my medicine, when we get back," grumbled Link Merwell, when given his quarters.

"What else could you expect?" returned Dave. "If this was my affair alone. Link, I might let you go, now you have given up the jewels. But what is to be done is for Mr. Wadsworth and the authorities to say."

Merwell had confessed that he and Jasniff had taken the skates and other things at Squirrel Island, and told where they had been left, in a barn along the river, and how they might be recovered. He had also admitted impersonating Dave on several occasions and ordering goods in our hero's name, and doing other mean things of which he had been suspected, and said he was heartily sorry for his actions.

Soon the Golden Eagle was ready for the departure from Cave Island. As the sails were hoisted the boys gathered on deck to take a last look at the remarkable spot.

"It is really and truly Cave Island," declared Dave. "I don't believe any other place in the world is so full of caves and holes!"

"I am glad the volcanoes didn't get busy while we were there," remarked the shipowner's son.

"So am I," added Roger. "The caves and holes were bad enough, without adding other perils."

"Dave, do you think we'll catch that schooner?" went on Phil, after a pause, during which the boys watched the ship drawing away from the island.

"I sincerely hope so," was the serious reply. "If we don't, and Jasniff gets away, this mission down here will have proved almost a failure."

"Then you think Jasniff has the most of the jewels?"

"Yes. If you'll remember, the jewels that were taken were valued at about seventy-five thousand dollars. Well, I have looked at the jewels I got from Link, and so has Mr. Borden, who knows something about gems, and we have come to the conclusion that those Link turned over to me are not worth over fifteen thousand dollars. That means that Jasniff has about sixty thousand dollars' worth."

"Isn't that like Jasniff!" cried the senator's son. "Always wanted the big end of everything! It's a wonder he and Link didn't quarrel before."

"They did quarrel, and Link wanted to leave him several times, but didn't dare, for Jasniff threatened to expose him. In one way, I am sorry for Link,—but, of course, he had no right to commit such a deed."

After Cave Island was left in the distance, Captain Sanders had a long conference with Giles Borden concerning the Englishmen who had robbed him. Later a general talk took place between the pair and the boys.

"I am afraid we'll have to trust to luck to catch the Aurora or locate her," said the captain, finally. "She may go to San Juan and she may go elsewhere."

"If we pass any other vessels, can't we ask if they saw the schooner?" ventured Dave.

"Certainly."

The day went by and also the next. Link Merwell kept to himself, only speaking when addressed. He felt his position keenly, and would no doubt have given a great deal if he could have cleared himself. He was learning that the way of the transgressor is hard.

On the third day, early in the morning, they passed a big barkentine bound for South American ports. Greetings were exchanged, and Captain Sanders asked concerning the Aurora.

"Yes, we met her," was the reply. "Yesterday, about two bells in the afternoon watch."

"Did she say where she was bound?"

"Bound for San Juan, Porto Rico."

"Direct?"

"Yes. She was going to stop elsewhere, but the captain allowed he'd make straight for San Juan," added the captain of the barkentine, through the megaphone he was using. Then, after a few words more, the two vessels separated.

"It's San Juan sure!" cried Dave. "From what Mr. Borden and Billy Dill say of Captain Hunker he would not tell a falsehood. I guess the best thing we can do is to sail for that port."

"I think so myself," returned Captain Sanders.

The chase was now a definite one, and Dave felt much relieved. He wondered if they would be able to overtake the Aurora before Porto Rico was reached.

"We can do that with ease," answered Captain Sanders when questioned. "But even so, she may not stick to just the course we take, and we may pass her in the night. So don't worry if we don't see or hear anything before San Juan is reached."

"I'll try not to worry," answered our hero. Yet he could not help it, for so much depended on the successful outcome of his mission. He knew that those at home must be in deep distress, and he could picture the anxiety of Mr. Wadsworth and his wife and Jessie, and also the anxiety of his own folks.

"Oh, we've got to catch Jasniff and get back those jewels!" he told himself. "We've simply got to do it! I won't give up, if I have to follow him around the world!"

It had been warm, but now the weather changed and a strong breeze made living far more comfortable. The breeze was favorable to sailing, and the Golden Eagle plowed the deep at a good rate of speed. Many of the islands of the Lesser Antilles were passed, and some truly dangerous reefs, and then the course was straight for the harbor of San Juan, on the northeastern coast of Porto Rico.

They had seen nothing so far of the Aurora, but on the afternoon of the last day out they were passed by a freight steamer from the south and received word that the schooner was not far away and making for San Juan.

"I guess we had better go right in and get the authorities to take hold," said Captain Sanders. "This is no matter for us to handle, now we are in United States waters once more."

Dave agreed; and as soon as possible they entered the harbor and went ashore. It was an easy matter to notify the harbor police, and inside of two hours half a dozen officers of the law were detailed to make the necessary arrests. Dave and Giles Borden and Captain Sanders went with them, leaving Phil, Roger, and the others aboard the Golden Eagle.

The patrol boat of the harbor police had to remain on the watch all night and half the next morning before the Aurora was sighted.

"There she is!" cried Dave, at last, and Giles Borden echoed the words. Then the patrol boat lost no time in steaming alongside of the schooner.

"Hello, what's wanted?" demanded Captain Hunker, as he saw the officers of the law.

"We'll come aboard, captain," said the officer in charge.

"What's the matter?"

"We are after four of your passengers."

At that moment somebody appeared near the rail, to learn what the shouting meant. It was Nick Jasniff. He gazed at the officers of the law and then at Dave. As he recognized our hero his face fell and he looked totally dumfounded.