The Rover Boys on Land and Sea/Chapter 13
THE CRUSOES OF SEVEN ISLANDS
All on board of the rowboat watched the thin trail of smoke with interest.
"I believe it is going away from us," said Dora.
"No, it is coming closer," said Nellie.
"It is certainly moving to the northward," put in Sam.
A quarter of an hour went by and the smoke came only a little nearer.
"She is a big steamer," said Captain Jerry. "But she aint comin' jest this way."
"You are sure?" cried Tom.
"Yes, lad. It's too bad, but it can't be helped."
The old sailor was right; half an hour later the smoke had shifted, and after that it faded gradually from sight.
It was a heavy blow, after their expectations had been raised so high, and tears stood in the eyes of all of the girls, while the boys looked unusually sober.
What was to do next? All asked that question, yet it was only Captain Jerry who answered it.
"Let us pull southward," said he.
And they did so, although with hearts that were as heavy as lead in their bosoms.
Slowly the night came on. Shortly after the sun set the moon showed itself and the sky became studded with stars, the Southern Cross standing out boldly among them. The pale light made the bosom of the ocean glisten like silver.
"A beautiful night," said Dora. "But who can enjoy it when we do not know what to-morrow will bring forth," and she sighed deeply.
The boys and old Jerry continued to take turns at rowing, while the girls sank into fitful slumber.
Presently the old sailor raised his head.
"Listen!" he said, and they did so, and far away heard a strange booming.
"What's that?" questioned Sam.
"It's breakers!" cried Tom. "We must be near some coast!"
"The lad is right," came from Captain Jerry. "We are near an island, after all!"
Dick stood on a seat, and, as the boat rode to the top of a wave, took a look around.
"An island!" he cried. "Dead ahead!"
"Hurrah! We are saved!" ejaculated Sam.
"What is the matter?" questioned Dora, rousing up, followed by the other girls.
"There is an island ahead."
"We must be careful how we approach the shore, lads," cautioned Jerry. "If we strike the rocks, it may cost us our lives. Perhaps we had better hold off until daylight."
"I see a stretch of sand!" came from Tom, who was standing up. "If we can reach that, we'll be all right."
Old Jerry took a careful look. The sand was there, true enough, but there were dangerous breakers between the boat and that shore.
"If you say so, we can run our chances," he said. "The young ladies must hold tight, and not mind a good ducking."
The force of the waves was now carrying them closer and closer to the breakers. Under old Jerry's directions the boys took a short, sharp stroke, keeping the rowboat straight up to the waves. The noise was like thunder, and soon the spray was flying all over them.
"Now pull!" cried Captain Jerry. "One, two, three! Hold tight, girls!" And away they went into the breakers. One wave dashed over the craft, but it was not swamped, and before another could hit them they darted up a swell and onto a long, sandy beach.
In a twinkle the old sailor was out, along with Dick, and, aided by another wave, they ran the boat well up the beach, out of the harm of the waves. It was a hard, struggle, and when it was over Dick sank down almost exhausted.
"Saved!" murmured Dora, as she leaped out on shore. "Thank Heaven!" And all of the others echoed the sentiment.
The empty boat was pulled up out of harm's way and chained fast to a palm tree growing near, and then the party of seven sat down to rest and to talk over the new condition of affairs. They were on a wild, tropical coast, with a long, sandy beach running to the ocean, and back of this a dense mass of tropical vegetation, including palms, plantains, cocoanuts, and date trees. Back of the heavy growth was a distant hill, standing out dimly in the moonlight.
"This looks like a regular Crusoe-like island," said Dora, as she gazed around. "There is not a sign of a habitation anywhere."
"A good many of the South Sea islands are not inhabited," said Dick, "The natives won't live on them because they are subject to volcano eruptions, earthquakes, and tidal waves."
"Well, I hope we don't have any of those things while we stay here," came from Nellie. "An earthquake would scare me almost to death."
"I do not see that we can do better than to stay right here for the rest of the night," said Tom. "I am too tired out to walk very far."
It was decided to follow Tom's advice, and all made themselves as comfortable as circumstances permitted. They had some matches in a waterproof safe, and soon a camp-fire was started, at which they dried some of their garments. Then, after eating some of the provisions that were left, they laid down to rest. Strange as it may seem all slept soundly until sunrise, and nothing came to disturb them.
When the girls arose they found the boys and Captain Jerry already preparing breakfast. On the shore Tom had found some oysters and shellfish, and these were baking. Among the provisions were a little tea and coffee, and old Jerry had made a pot of coffee, which did one good to smell. Sam had brought down some cocoanuts from a nearby tree, and also found some ripe bananas.
"We won't starve to death here, that's certain," said Dick, when they all sat down to eat. "The island is full of good things. If I had a gun I could bring down lots of birds, and monkeys, too."
"I don't think I'd care to eat a monkey," said Grace. "But I wouldn't mind eating birds."
"There must be plenty of fish here, too," said Tom. "In fact I saw some sporting in the waters of a little bay up the coast."
"Shall we go up and down the coast after breakfast?" asked Sam.
"My advice is to climb yonder hill and take a squint around," came from Captain Jerry.
"That's a splendid idea, providing we can get to the top," said Dick.
"There is no use of all of us going, lad. You can go with me while the rest stay here."
"What shall we do in the meantime?" asked Sam.
"Better try your hand at fishin', lad, and see if you can knock some birds over with sticks and stones. If ye get anything, let the girls cook us somethin', for we'll be powerful hungry; by the time we get back."
Half an hour later Captain Jerry and Dick set out. Each carried a few ship's biscuits and also a heavy stick which had been cut in the thickets. Each wished he had a gun or a pistol, but those articles were not to be had.
The climb up the hill was by no means an easy one. The rocks were rough and in many spots the jungle of brush and vines was so thick that to get through was next to impossible. It was very warm, and they had to stop often to cool off and catch their breath.
"I don't wonder that people in hot countries move slowly," said Dick. "I feel more like resting than doing anything else."
It was almost noon when they came in sight of the top of the hill. There were still some rough rocks to climb, and these they had to ascend by means of some vines that grew handy.
"What a magnificent view!" cried Dick.
It certainly was magnificent. Looking back in the direction they had come they could see the Pacific Ocean, glittering in the bright sun light and stretching miles and miles out of sight. The island they were on looked to be about half a mile in diameter. Northward, eastward, and westward was the ocean, but to the southward was a circlet of six islands, having a stretch of calm water between them. Between some of the islands the water was very shallow, while elsewhere it looked deep.
"Seven islands in all," said old Jerry. "And not a sign of a house or hut anywhere.""We are the Crusoes of Seven Islands," said
IN THE MIDDLE OF THE PACIFIC.—P. 110.
"Do ye see any signs of life, lad?"
"I must say I do not. It's queer, too, for I rather imagined one at least of the other boats had reached this place."
"I thought the same. But it looks now as if they all went to Davy Jones's locker, eh?"
"It certainly does look that way."
From the top of the hill they took a careful survey of the situation. The elevation was in the very center of the island. Down toward the other islands the slope was more abrupt than it was in the direction from which they had come.
"We can take a look at those other islands later on," said old Jerry. "Reckon as how we have done enough for one day. If we don't git back soon, they'll become anxious about us."
"I wish we had a flag," said Dick. "Here is a tall tree. We could chop away the top branches and hang up a signal of distress. If we did that, perhaps some ship would come this way and rescue us."
"Right ye are, lad, but it aint many ships come this way. They are afraid o' the rocks we run on."
Having looked around once more, to "git the lay o' the land," as Captain Jerry expressed it, they started to descend the hill. This proved as difficult as climbing up had been.
Dick went in advance, and was half-way down when he stepped on a loose stick and went rolling into a perfect network of vines and brushwood.
"Are ye hurt?" sang out old Jerry.
"No—not much!" answered the eldest Rover. "But my wind—Oh, goodness gracious!"
Dick broke off short, and small wonder. As he arose from the hole into which he had tumbled, a hissing sound caught his ears. Then up came the head of a snake at least eight feet long, and in a twinkle the reptile had wound itself around the boy's lower limbs!