The Rover Boys on Land and Sea/Chapter 17
EXPLORING THE SEVEN ISLANDS
Another rainy spell, lasting three days, followed, but after that the sky cleared in a fashion which Captain Blossom thought betokened good weather for some time to come.
"We can now explore the seven islands and learn just what they contain," he said.
The question now arose as to who should go along and who should stay at home with the girls. Lots were cast, and by this it was de cided that the exploring party should consist of Captain Blossom, Sam, and Tom, leaving Dick and old Jerry with Dora, Nellie, and Grace.
It was decided that the exploring party should take the lightest of the rowboats and enough provisions to last for a week. Each was also provided with a pistol, and Captain Blossom carried a rifle in addition.
"If all goes well we will be back inside of four days," said the captain, when he and Tom and Sam were ready to depart "But if we are not back at that time do not worry until at least a week has gone by." And so it was arranged. It was also arranged that three shots fired in succession should be a signal that one party or the other was in trouble.
Tom and Sam were pleased over the prospect of going with the captain and they willingly took up the oars to row to the nearest island, which, as we already know, was close at hand. The boat was left on the beach and without delay the captain and the two boys plunged into the interior.
The island was small, with but a slight rise of ground in the center. It was of small importance and they soon came out on the ocean side, where there was a beach strewn with shells and with oysters scarcely fit to eat. The growth on this island was mostly of young palms and the captain was of the opinion that the ground was not many years old.
"This has been thrown up by an earthquake or a volcano," he said. "There is nothing here to interest us," and he turned back.
They already knew something of the island on which the wreck was located, but, nevertheless, made a trip across it and up the outward coast. Here they found a number of orange and lemon trees, and also a great quantity of tropical nuts and some spices. The lemons proved to be very refreshing, and Tom said he meant to come back some day and get a bagful for general use.
The next island was visited the next day, the party spending the night on the wreck. The passage to this island was rather a rough one, and they had all they could do to keep from having their provisions spilt overboard.
"It is a blessing that the sea is comparatively calm," said Captain Blossom. "Otherwise we could never make such a trip in a small boat."
This island was the largest of the group outside of the one on which the castaways had settled. It was almost square in shape and had a double hill with a tiny valley running between. In this valley the tropical growth was very dense, and the monkeys and birds were thicker than they had before seen them. There were also large quantities of blue and green parrots, filling the air with their cawing and screaming.
"This is a very nice island," said Tom, while they were resting under some calabash trees. "The wood is very valuable—indigo, rosewood, mahogany, and lots of others. And what a sweet smell!" And he drew in a long breath of satisfaction.
"It is certainly a lazy man's paradise," returned Sam. "A fellow need do next to nothing to feed and clothe himself here, and a house isn't absolutely necessary excepting when it storms real hard."
On this island they found numerous land crabs, some as large as their two hands, and many fierce-looking spiders, with long, hairy legs and bulging eyes. Ants were also numerous, and in one spot they located fifteen anthills, each as large as a big beehive. Insects of all sorts were numerous, and they had to continually slap at a specimen of red fly that annoyed them greatly.
"How those ants would like to get at our provisions," said Tom. "We can be thankful that we didn't locate here. Once they got at the stuff, they would eat us out of house and home."
After resting, and partaking of some of the food brought along, they continued their journey across the island.
The way was up one of the hills, and Tom was slightly in advance, when a noise ahead at tracted his attention.
"Something is there," he called out, as he came to a halt.
"What is it?" asked Sam.
"I don't know. Perhaps some wild animal, or else a snake."
BRINGING DOWN THE WILD GOATS.—P. 149.
"What did it sound like, Tom?"
"I can't describe it. Something like a snarl, I guess."
"Perhaps it was only a monkey."
All stopped to listen, but no sound reached their ears but the hum of insects and the chirping of some distant birds.
"I reckon I had best go first," said Captain Blossom, but he did not seem to relish the task.
Gun in hand, the captain advanced very cautiously. The boys came close behind him, each with his pistol ready for use.
Of a sudden there was a snarl with a strange "yow-yowing," and a great beast leaped up on all-fours directly in their path and darted through the bushes. The captain raised his gun and the boys their pistols, but before they could fire the beast had disappeared.
"What was it?" asked Sam, trembling with excitement.
"I give it up, unless it was a bear," said Tom.
"I think I know what it was," said the captain. "A big baboon or a gorilla."
"I guess you are right, captain," answered Tom. "I saw a gorilla in a menagerie, and it was exactly like that beast. But what a big fellow he was!"
"Gorillas are highly dangerous, especially when cornered," said Captain Blossom. He himself was more frightened than he cared to admit. "They have been known to carry a man off in their arms and bite him to death."
"Thanks, but I want no gorillas around me," declared Sam.
They waited several minutes before advancing again. But the gorilla had disappeared, nor did it show itself again during that trip on the island.
Half an hour brought them in sight of the sea shore once more. They were gazing at the sea when Tom happened to glance back, and on the hill behind them saw four goats standing in a bunch, looking at them in astonishment.
"Quick! out of sight!" he cried, and dragged the others behind some trees.
"What did you see?"
"Several goats. Perhaps, if we are careful, we can get a shot at them. Fresh goat meat won't go bad."
"What's the matter with capturing some of the goats and getting the milk?" came from Sam.
"You'll have a job catching wild goats," answered Captain Blossom. "They are as fleet of foot as deer."
It was decided to try two shots at the goats, providing they could get close enough. With care they plunged into the undergrowth and made their way back up the hillside until they thought they must be within fifty yards of the game.
"There they are!" cried Tom softly.
Bang! went the captain's gun, and crack! Tom fired immediately after. Two of the goats were hit, and one fell dead. The other staggered away with a broken foreleg.
"We must get that second fellow!" cried Sam, and rushed after the game. The goat tried to turn on him, but Sam hit the beast over the head with a club he carried. Two other blows finished the animal.
"That isn't bad," said the captain. "They both look to be young. They ought to make good eating."
"We are going to have no easy work of it, getting these animals down to the shore," said Tom.
"After we get them to the shore, what then?" questioned his brother. "We can't keep them in the boat all the time that we are exploring the other islands."
"We had best make a trip back to the house," answered Captain Blossom. "If the others heard the shots they'll be wondering what has happened; besides, a storm is coming up."
The captain said he would carry the smaller of the goats alone, leaving the two Rovers to carry the larger game between them. After a rest and another look around the vicinity, they started for the boat and reached it after a walk which almost exhausted every one of the party.
"I'll be glad enough to lay around our camp and rest for a day," announced Sam. "This task of exploring is not as easy as it looks."
A little later they were in the boat and rowing back to where they had left the others, little dreaming of the strange events that had happened in their absence.