The Rover Boys on Land and Sea/Chapter 14

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"What's wrong, lad?"

"A snake! It has wound itself around my legs!"

"Ye don't say!" gasped Captain Jerry, and then leaped down to the hollow. "Well, by gosh! Take that, ye beast!"

"That" was a blow aimed at the reptile's head with the sailor's stick. Old Jerry's aim was both swift and true and the head of the reptile received a blow which knocked out one eye and bruised its fang. But the body wound itself around Dick tighter than ever.

Fortunately the youth had not lost his wits completely, and as the neck of the reptile came up, he grasped it in his hand with the strongest grip he could command.

"Cut it—cut its head off!" he panted. "Get your pocket-knife!"

At once Captain Jerry dropped his stick and pulled out his jack-knife, a big affair, such as many old sailors carry. One pull opened the main blade, and then old Jerry started in to do as Dick had suggested. It was no easy job and the body of the snake squirmed and whipped in every direction, lashing each on the neck and the cheek. But the head came off at last and then they left the body where it fell, and leaped out of the way of further danger.

"A close shave, lad," said the old sailor, as he peered around for more snakes.

"I—I should sa—say it wa—was," panted Dick. He was deadly pale. "I—I thought it would strangle me sure!"

"If it had got around your neck, that is what would have happened. Reckon as how we had better git out o' this neighborhood, eh?"

"Yes, yes, let us go at once," and Dick started off once more.

After that both were very careful where they stepped and kept their eyes wide open for any new danger which might arise. So they went on until they came in sight of the seashore.

"We had better say nothing about the snake," said the eldest Rover. "It will only scare the girls to death."

"No, lad, you are wrong. We must warn them of danger. Otherwise they may run into it headlong."

All of the others were glad to have them back and plied them with questions.

"So there are seven islands," said Tom. "Well, as there are seven of us, that is one island apiece. I don't think we need complain," and his jolly manner made all laugh.

When Jerry told the story about the snake Dora set up a scream.

"Oh, Dick, if it had really strangled you!" she gasped. "You must be very, very careful in the future!"

"Yes, and you must be careful, too, Dora," he answered.

"There is a nice beach right around the edge of the island," said old Jerry. "So, when we want to visit the other islands, we can walk around on the sand. That is better than climbing the hill."

"But the beach doesn't run to the other islands, does it?" asked Sam.

"No, but we can carry our rowboat around with us, to that bay between the islands. There the water is smooth enough for anybody to row in."

"The six islands are shaped exactly like a ring," said Dick. "And this island is the big stone on top."

"As the island is uninhabited I suppose we'll have to settle down and build ourselves huts or something," came from Nellie.

"To be sure. We'll be regular Robinson Crusoes," answered Tom. "Why, I can tell you it will be jolly, when we get used to it."

"Where will we build our huts?" asked Sam.

"We can build them here, if we wish," replied Dick. "But I rather favor the side fronting the other islands."

"Yes, that's the best side," said Captain Jerry. "If we build here, a strong storm may knock our huts flat. That side is more sheltered and, consequently, safer. Besides, there is more fruit there, and I'm sure better fishing in the bay, and that's what counts, too."

"Of course it counts—since we must live on fruits, fish, and what birds and animals we manage to knock over," said Tom.

The boys had been fairly successful in hunting and fishing, having knocked over half a dozen birds and caught four fair-sized fish. Everything had been done to a turn over the camp-fire, and Dick and old Jerry did full justice to what was set before them—on some dried palm leaves Nellie had found. Their coffee they drank out of some cocoanut shells. They had no forks, but used sharp sticks instead, and the knives the boys carried in their pockets.

The weather continued fine and that night the moon shone as brightly as ever. The boys took a stroll on the beach to talk over their plans.

"I am sorry to say there is no telling how long we may have to stay here," said Dick. "It may be a day, a week, or for years."

"Oh, some ship is bound to pick us up some day," returned Tom. "And if we can find enough to live on in the meantime, what is the use of complaining? I am glad my life was spared."

"So am I, Tom."

"I would like to know what became of Dan Baxter," put in Sam. "Can it be possible that all of the rest perished?"

"Certainly it is possible, Sam. You know what a time we had of it."

"It is an awful death to die—in the midst of the ocean," and the youngest Rover shuddered.

"I agree with you," said Tom. "But I am more sorry for Captain Blossom than for Baxter."

"The wrecking of the ship was the fault of the mate. He was drunk," said Dick. "The man at the wheel was doing what was right until Jack Lesher came along."

"Well, I guess the mate went down with the rest."

"Look!" cried Sam, pointing to sea. "I see something dark on the water."

All gazed in the direction he pointed out and made out a mass of wreckage. They watched it steadily until the breakers cast it almost at their feet.

"Some wreckage from the ship!" cried Dick, on examination. "See, here is the name on some of the woodwork. I reckon the vessel went to pieces on the rocks."

The wreckage consisted mainly of broken spars and cordage. But there were also some boxes, which, on being opened, proved to contain provisions.

"It's not such a bad find, after all," said Tom. "I hope some more comes ashore."

But though they waited the best part of the night, nothing more came to view.

In the morning the boys felt tired and they did not rouse up until nearly noon. They found old Jerry at the beach, inspecting the wreckage.

"The ropes may come in handy," he said. "But the wood is of small account, since we have all we want already to hand."

It was decided to remain at the beach for the next day, to look for more wreckage. But none came in, and then they started in a body to skirt the shore around to the South Bay, as old Jerry called it. At first they thought to carry the boat around, but concluded to come back for that later.

It was a journey full of interest, for the sandy beach was dotted with many strange and beautiful sea-shells, and just back of the sand was the rich tropical growth already mentioned. The woods were full of monkeys and birds, and once Tom thought he caught sight of some goats or deer.

They reached an ideal spot fronting the little bay a little before noon, and then the girls were glad enough to sit down in the shade and rest. The bay was full of fish, and before long they had caught three of the finny tribe. Fruit was also to be had in plenty, and a spring of fresh water gushed from the rocks of the hill behind them.

"This is certainly a beautiful place." murmured Dora, as she gazed around. "Were it not for the folks at home worrying about us, I could spend quite some time here and enjoy it."

"Well, as our situation cannot be helped, let us make the best of it," said Dick cheerfully. "There is no use in being downhearted when we ought to be glad that we were saved."

Close to the rocks they found several trees growing in something of two circles, and they decided that these trees should form the corner posts of a double house or cabin.

"If we had an ax we might cut down some wood, but as it is we will have to use strong vines and cover the huts with palm leaves," said Captain Jerry.

The boys were soon at work, cutting the vines and gathering the palm leaves, and the girls assisted as well as they were able in fastening up the vine-ropes and binding in the leaves. It was slow work, yet by nightfall one half the house was complete and the other had the roof covered.

"Now, if rain comes, we can keep fairly dry," said Tom. It rained the very next day and they were glad enough to crowd into the completed part, while the rain came down in torrents. When the worst of the downpour was over the wind arose and it kept blowing fiercely all of the afternoon and the night.

"We can be thankful we are sheltered by the hill," said Sam. "Were we on the other side of the island, the wind would knock the hut flat and drench us in no time."

The storm kept all awake until early morning and when it went down they were glad to sink to rest. All slept soundly and it was not until ten o'clock, when the sun was struggling through the clouds, that Tom arose, to find the others still slumbering.

"I'll let them sleep," he said to himself. "They need it and there is no need for them to get up."

Stretching himself, he walked quietly from the hut and down to the beach. His first thought was to try to collect some wood, more or less dry, and start a fire.

Gazing across the bay to one of the other islands, he saw a sight which filled him with astonishment. There, on the beach of the island, lay the wreck of the Golden Wave.