The Rover Boys on Land and Sea/Chapter 24
IN CLOSE QUARTERS
Slowly Dick came to his senses. He remembered little or nothing, and only knew that all was dark around him, and that his head was spinning like a top.
For several minutes he remained quiet, trying to collect his thoughts. Then he sat up andone hand slowly over his forehead.
"Oh, how my head aches!" he murmured.
It was fully five minutes before he felt like moving around. Then he arose and took a step forward and stumbled over old Jerry's body.
"Oh!" he murmured, and felt of the body in the dark. "Who is this? Can it be Jerry?" he asked himself.
Then came a recollection of the cowardly attack. But what had followed was a blank, and he could not imagine where he was.
Dick remembered that he had a match safe in his pocket, and soon he made a light. By this he caught sight of a lantern in the brig and lit it. Then he bent over old Jerry, and saw that the sailor was still alive, but suffering from his treatment.
"He must have been attacked, too," murmured Dick. The bucket of water was at hand, and he took a drink and bathed Captain Jerry's forehead.
It was fully half an hour before the old sailor felt at all like himself. Both sat down to review the situation.
"The cowards!" said Dick. "What do you suppose they attacked us for?"
"Can't say as to that," replied old Jerry. "Perhaps Lesher wanted to show us he was master."
"He'll settle with me if I ever get out of this hole, Jerry. What place is this?"
"The lock-up of the Golden Wave. I think it used to be an oil room."
They gazed around them, and soon discovered the can of ship's biscuits and also the beans.
"They evidently meant to keep us prisoners for some time," said Dick. "Hark, what is that?"
Both listened, and made out the sounds of distant thunder and heard the patter of rain on the deck.
"A storm is brewing," said old Jerry. "It sounds as if it was putty heavy, too."
They tried the door to the brig, but found it locked and bolted. In vain Dick kicked against it, and shoved with his shoulder. It re fused to budge.
"This looks as if we'd have to stay here—at least for the present," said Dick, with a. sigh. "I must say I don't like the prospect."
"How long do ye calculate we've been here, lad?"
"There is no telling, unless by my watch." But when he looked at the timepiece, he found that it had stopped.
They ate some of the biscuits and drank some water and rested for a while longer. Outside the wind blew furiously and they heard the rain and the waves dash in all directions. Then some water came trickling in slowly, at one corner.
"It seems to me as if the wreck was shifting," cried Dick presently.
"It won't shift very far in this bed o' sand, lad. But she may break up and go to pieces," added old Jerry.
"If she goes down, we'll be drowned like rats in a trap," said Dick. "We must get out somehow."
They talked the matter over and began a systematic examination of their prison. The four walls were solid and so was the ceiling above them.
"The flooring has a couple of loose planks in it," announced Dick. "If we can get them up, where will the opening lead to?"
"The forward hold, lad, and that is now half full of sand and water."
"Never mind, I'm going to get the planks up if I can."
With his head still aching Dick set to work and old Jerry helped him. It was no easy matter to shift the heavy planking, but after a while they got one plank up and then used this as a pry to bring up the second.
A dark hole was revealed, covered at the bottom with water. Then Dick took the lantern and let himself down cautiously.
"The water is only about a foot deep," he announced. "I'm going to make a search around with the lantern."
"Hold on, I'll go with ye," cried old Jerry, and came down with a splash.
With great caution they moved around the hold, wading through sand and water, and climbing over boxes, barrels, and crates.
"What a mixture of cargo," said Dick. "And what a pity so much of it is going to ruin," and he pointed to some valuable mining machinery which was rusting in the salt water.
Fortunately old Jerry had been in the hold before the Golden Wave was wrecked, so he knew something of the surroundings. He led the way to some boxes directly beneath the forward hatch.
"I don't reckon the hatch is fastened down," he said. "An' if it aint we may be able to shove it up by standing one box on top of an other."
This was tried, and after much difficulty the hatch was thrown to one side, and they crawled to the deck of the schooner.
"I'm glad I am out of that!" ejaculated Dick. "But how it's raining! Let us go to the cabin for shelter."
Once in the cabin they proceeded to make themselves as comfortable as the state of affairs permitted.
"With no boat it is going to be no easy matter getting back to the house," said Dick. He was much worried concerning the girls.
"We'll have to stay here until the storm is over," said old Jerry.
But Dick demurred and at last it was decided to try getting to the house by journeying from one island to the next.
This was a dangerous proceeding, as we already know. They had to build themselves a small raft and carry this from one crossing to the next.
By the time the last crossing was made the storm was clearing and the day was drawing to a close.
"We had best not show ourselves until we are sure how the land lays," said Dick, as they came up the beach.
Captain Jerry thought this good advice and they proceeded with caution until they came in sight of the house. Then Dick set up a shout.
"Tom, Sam, and Captain Blossom are back! Hurrah!"
"They look as if they were having a row with Baxter and the mate," came from old Jerry.
A row certainly was in progress, and as they came closer they heard Tom talking.
"Yes, Lesher, I want to know all about this quarrel with my brother Dick. I am sure he was not in the wrong."
"See here, I know my own business," the mate growled. "You shut up and leave me alone."
"We won't leave you alone," came from Sam. "We want to know the truth."
"Yes, tell us the truth, Lesher," said Captain Blossom sternly.
"All against me, aint you?"
"We want the truth," answered Tom.
"Well, if you must have it, all right. He got cheeky and hit me on the head with an oar. Then I hit back and knocked him down. Then he got mad and so did Jerry Tolman, and both refused to come back in the boat with Baxter and me."
"I'll wager you started to boss things," said Sam. "Dick doesn't raise a row without just cause."
"Good for Sam," murmured Dick.
"Your brother was entirely to blame," grunted the mate. He was still far from sober.
"Jack Lesher, you tell what is not so," said Dick loudly, and joined the group, followed by, old Jerry.
Had a bombshell exploded, Lesher and Baxter would not have been more astonished. They stared at the newcomers as if they were ghosts.
"How—er—how did you get here?" stammered Baxter, while the mate continued to stare, in open-mouthed astonishment.
"That is our affair," responded Dick. He strode up to Lesher. "You miserable villain. How dare you say that I was to blame when you attacked me without warning? Take that for what you did."
And hauling off, Dick hit the mate a fair and square blow in the nose which sent Lesher flat on his back.