The Rover Boys on Land and Sea/Chapter 23

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To go back to Tom, Sam, and Captain Blossom at the time that they placed the two dead goats in their rowboat and prepared to return to the camp.

It was already raining by the time the shore of the bay was reached, and scarcely had they begun to row when the water came pouring down in torrents.

"Gracious! I must say I don't like this!" cried Tom. "The rain is running down my neck in a stream."

"I move we row into shore over yonder," said Sam, pointing up the coast. "There are some trees which will shelter both us and the boat nicely."

Captain Blossom was willing, and in a few minutes they were under the trees and wringing out their clothes as best they could.

"If I know anything about it, this storm is going to last for some time," said the captain, after a long look at the sky.

"Such a downfall as this can't last," said Sam. "Perhaps we can get home between showers."

It was dry under the trees for about half an hour, but then the water began to reach them once more, and they had to shift their position again.

This kept up for some time, until all were wet through and thoroughly uncomfortable, when Tom proposed that they start for home regardless of the storm.

"We can't get any wetter than we are," he declared. "And the sooner we reach the house the sooner we'll be able to change our clothes."

The others agreed, and when the worst of the lightning and thunder had passed they set off once more, two rowing and the third steering the boat and bailing out the water, which came in faster than was desirable.

"When it rains in the tropics, it rains," observed Tom. "Puts me in mind of that storm we met when we were in Africa. Do you remember, Sam?"

"Indeed, I do," answered his brother. "I thought we'd all be killed by the trees that fell in the jungle."

"Have you been in Africa?" came from Captain Blossom in astonishment.

"Yes," answered Tom. "Our father got lost there once, and we went in search of him," and he gave a few of the particulars, as already related in another volume of this series, entitled "The Rover Boys in the Jungle."

"Well, you boys have had some ups and downs," said the captain. "But I reckon you weren't cast away before like this."

"Not like this," answered Sam. "But we were left on a lonely island once in Lake Huron," and he related a few particulars of their exciting experiences with the Baxters while on the Great Lakes.

Another downpour of rain cut off the talking, and Tom was kept busy bailing out the rowboat. With three persons and the two dead goats the craft was pretty heavily loaded, and more than once the rising wind swept some water over the bow.

"I'd give a little to be ashore again," said Tom presently. "It seems to me that the rain is shutting out everything."

"We'll have to land again, lads," put in the captain, with a grave shake of his head. "This wind is growing worse. We don't want to be swamped."

They turned to what they thought must be the direction of the nearest shore, but though they pulled with might and main for nearly quarter of an hour no land appeared.

"We're mixed," cried Sam. "The storm has twisted us up."

By this time the wind was blowing a regular gale on the bay. It took off Tom's cap, and in a twinkle the headgear was out of sight.

"My cap's gone!" groaned the youth.

"The water is coming in over the bow!" came from Sam. "We will be swamped!"

"We must throw the goats overboard," said the captain, and overboard went the game, much to the boys' sorrow.

This lightened the craft a little, but still the waves swept over the gunwale, and now both Sam and Tom set to bailing, while the captain took both oars. Then came another blast of wind, worse than before.

"I see land!" cried Sam.

"We are going over!" yelled Tom, and the wind fairly whipped the words from his lips. Then came a mighty wave, and on the instant the rowboat was upset, and all three found themselves in the waters of the bay.

As they went under the same thought was in the mind of each: Were there any sharks around?

"Help! help!" cried Sam, as soon as he came up. "Our boat is sinking. Help!" And Tom soon joined in the cry. They had caught held of the overturned boat, but the craft, for some reason, failed to support them.

Captain Blossom was close at hand, and he advised them to strike out for the shore. "It's in this direction," he said, and led the way.

"I—I can't swim very far with my clothes on," gasped Sam, yet he struck out as best he could.

"Hullo! Who calls?" came a cry from the shore, and, looking up, they saw Dora standing there, with Nellie and Grace Laning close beside her.

"It's Tom and Sam!" cried Nellie.

"And Captain Blossom," added Grace.

"Perhaps we can throw them a rope," came from Dora, and she ran to get the article she had mentioned.

But by the time she returned the three swimmers had reached a point where they could touch bottom with their feet, and, watching for a favorable opportunity, they rushed ashore, almost into the arms of the girls.

"Oh, Tom, how glad I am that you are safe!" cried Nellie, while Grace caught hold of Sam and asked if he was all right.

"Yes, I am—am all right, but—but pretty well fagged out," gasped Sam.

"It was a close shave," said Captain Blossom. "And our guns are gone."

"We had two dead goats, too," put in Tom. "They went overboard first, and—goodness gracious—is that really Dan Baxter?"

"Dan Baxter!" ejaculated Sam, and even Captain Blossom stared in amazement.

"I see you've had a rough time of it," said Baxter, coming forward coolly. "How are you?"

He shook hands with Captain Blossom, while the Rover boys continued to stare at him.

"Are you alone?" asked the master of the Golden Wave.

"No, Jack Lesher is with me, and we left nine of the sailors on another island."

"Is that so? Where is Lesher now?"

"In the house, asleep."

"He is intoxicated," said Nellie. "He has been drinking ever since he put in an appearance."

"Humph! That's like Lesher," muttered the captain, and his brow darkened.

All moved toward the house, and entered to get out of the wet. The mate was still at the table, snoring loudly.

"Might as well let him sleep it off," said the captain. "But when he is sober I'll have a talk with him."

Wet clothing was changed for dry, and then the captain and the boys listened to what Baxter and the girls had to tell. The captain was glad to learn that so many of his men had been saved, and asked for the names.

"I don't care much about Peterson and McGlow," he said. "They are tough customers. I would rather have heard from Peabody, Dickson, and Fearwell. You don't know anything about them?"

"No," said Dan Baxter.

"This news about Dick and old Jerry worries me," said Tom.

"Dan Baxter, I think you know more than you care to tell," said Sam boldly.

The bully hardly knew how to reply. He could not now fall back on Jack Lesher for support, and he had thought to be on his way to rejoin the sailors ere this. The storm had upset all of his calculations. It had been a foolish movement to attack Dick and old Jerry, and it now looked as if he must suffer for it.

"Well—er—I don't mind telling you that Dick and the mate had something of a quarrel," he said hesitatingly.

"How did it end?" asked Tom.

"I can't say exactly."

"Why not? You were with Lesher at the time."

"No, I wasn't. He ordered me to get into the rowboat and wait for him while he went back to get a pistol or a gun. I heard loud talking on the deck of the schooner, and I knew a row was on. I was just going back to the deck when the mate came and leaped into the rowboat. He said the sailor and Dick were going to remain behind, and that we wouldn't wait any longer. Then we rowed over here."

"If that's the case I'll make Lesher tell us what happened," cried Tom, and shook the mate roughly. "Wake up here!" he cried. "Wake up and give an account of yourself!"