The Rover Boys on Land and Sea/Chapter 25
TRYING TO COME TO TERMS
As the mate went down the girls gave a scream, and even Tom and Sam looked at Dick in wonder. Never had any of them seen the eldest Rover so aroused.
"My lad, that was a hard blow," observed Captain Blossom, as Jack Lesher lay where he had fallen.
"Not half as hard as the blow he struck me," answered Dick.
"Not half as hard as thet chap hit me," put in old Jerry, and turning quickly he flew at Dan Baxter and bore him to the ground.
"Hi! hi! let up!" roared the bully. "Let up! Take him off!"
"I'll let up, when I'm done," panted old Jerry, and he gave him a thump in the cheek, another in the eye, and a third on the chin. "Now, then, Dan Baxter, see how you like that!" And then the old sailor arose once more.
"I'll—I'll——" began Baxter, in a terrible rage. "I'll——"
"Shut up, Baxter, until we hear what they have to say," put in Tom. "If you are not quiet, I'll give you a thumping on general principles."
"No more fighting," commanded Captain Blossom. "Dick Rover, tell us what happened on the wreck."
Dick told his story, and then all listened to what old Jerry had to say. In the meantime Jack Lesher arose unsteadily to his feet.
"Where is that boy?" he roared. "I'll fix him." And then he made a movement as if to draw his pistol, but discovered that the weapon had been taken from him.
"Who took my pistol?" he demanded.
"Be quiet, everybody," said Captain Blossom. "Lesher, there will be no shootng here, unless I have to make an example of somebody. You had no business to attack Dick Rover on the wreck, nor attack Jerry Tolman, either. It was a mean thing to do. If we are to remain on these islands together, we ought to keep friendly."
"I know my business," growled the mate.
"And I know mine, Lesher. Please remember that I am captain."
"And I am first mate."
"Your being first mate doesn't count with us," came from Tom.
"Not for a minute," added Dick. "If I had my own way, I'd pitch you out of this camp in double-quick order."
"And Dan Baxter with him," put in Sam.
"Why cannot both of them go and live with the other sailors who were saved?" asked Dora. "They could have their share of what is on the wreck."
"I see you don't care for their company," said Captain Blossom. "Well, I can't say that I blame you, miss. After this they shall keep their distance. They can either live on the wreck or build themselves their own house, and so can the other sailors who were saved."
"You are not my master!" cried Dan Baxter. "On these islands all are equal."
"That may be so, but you have got to let the others alone," answered Dick. "If you don't——"
"What will you do?"
"We'll punish you in a way you least expect."
After this there was a general talk which almost ended in another all-around row. But the Rovers and Captain Blossom were firm, and at last Dan Baxter and Jack Lesher said no more.
"We ought to remain on guard after this," said Dick to Tom, when they and Sam were alone. "I don't want to trust our enemies for a single moment."
And it was agreed that one or another should watch constantly.
The storm cleared away as suddenly as it had come, and the next morning the sun shone as brightly as ever.
When Baxter and Lesher came to breakfast both were sullen. The mate had wanted more liquor, but Captain Blossom had refused to give him more than a single glass.
"You had better return to the others at once," said the captain. "Tell them they can come over here, and then we will make arrangements as to how all hands shall live until some ship comes to take us away."
The Rovers suspected that Dan Baxter wished to remain behind, leaving the mate to go after the others. But Lesher would not go alone, and off they started at noon, each carrying a good supply of food with him, and also a pistol and some ammunition.
"I wish they weren't coming back," murmured Dora.
"I wish the same, Dora," said Dick. "But it can't be helped and we must make the best of it."
There was a general air of relief when the two had departed. Later on each told his or her story once more, and a general conversation ensued regarding the future.
"Lesher is not the man I thought he would be," said Captain Blossom. "If he insists on getting drunk he will surely cause us a good deal of trouble, and if I try to keep the liquor from him he will get ugly. More than that, he has several sailors with him who are old friends, and they like their liquor just as much as he does."
It was seen that the flag of distress was down, as already mentioned, and after Baxter and Lesher had departed, Tom and Dick set off to put the flag up once more.
The way was by no means easy, for the storm had washed the dirt and stones in all directions and the path was strewn with broken branches and torn-up bushes. On the way they picked up half a dozen dead birds and also saw three dead monkeys.
When the spot where the flag had been was reached they found the tree still standing. The halyard of the flag had snapped and the colors lay in a mass of bushes a hundred feet away.
To get to the bushes the boys had to leap over something of a gully. Tom took the leap in safety, but Sam went down out of sight.
"Help! help?" cried the youngest Rover.
Tom looked back, to see Sam's fingers clutching at some brushwood which grew at the edge of the gully. Then the hand disappeared and he heard a crashing far below, for though the gully was not wide, it was very deep.
"Sam! Sam!" he called. "Are you hurt?"
No answer came back, and much alarmed, Tom got on his knees and tried to look into the opening. At first he could see nothing, but when his eyes grew accustomed to the darkness, he made out the form of his brother lying on some broken brushwood which the storm had swept into the opening.
How to get down to Sam was a problem, and Tom was revolving the matter in his mind when Sam let out another cry.
"Are you hurt, Sam?"
"N—not much, but m—my wind was kno—knocked out of me."
"Can you climb up to the top?"
"Hardly, Tom, the sides are very steep, and—yes, there is a regular cave down here," went on Sam.
"Where does it lead to?"
"I don't know. It's on the south side of the opening."
Tom's curiosity was aroused, and bringing forth the new rape they had brought along for hoisting the flag, he tied one end to a tree and lowered himself to his brother's side. By this time Sam was on his feet and inspecting some scratches his left hand had received.
"Where is the cave, Sam?"
"There," and the youngest Rover pointed it out.
The opening was about two feet above the bottom of the gully. It was perhaps four feet in diameter, but appeared to grow larger within.
"If we had a torch we might investigate a bit," said Tom. "I'd like to know if the cave amounts to anything."
"It might have a pirate's treasure in it, eh?"
"Not likely, Sam. I don't believe it has ever been used. But if it was of good size it might prove handy for us at some time or another."
They looked around, and finding some dry brushwood made two rude torches. With these flaring brightly they entered the opening, the flooring of which was of rock and tolerably smooth.
"We could live in this cave, if it wasn't that the opening to it is in the gully," said Sam as they advanced.
"There may be another opening at the other end," said Tom. "It is certainly quite long."
They had advanced fully a hundred feet, and now found themselves in a chamber forty or fifty feet square. The ceiling was arched and so high that they could not touch it without jumping up.
"This is as good as a house," said Tom, "See how dry the flooring is. That proves that it is waterproof."
From the large chamber there were several passageways, all leading toward the bay.
"Which shall we investigate first?" asked Sam.
"Let us start at the right."
"All right, Tom; the right ought to be right," answered Sam lightly.
On they went once more, the flooring now sloping before them. Here there was considerable moisture, and they had to walk with care for fear of slipping down.
Suddenly a number of bats flew out of a hole nearby, dashing against the torches and against the boys themselves. The rush was so unexpected that each youth dropped his light and put up his hands to protect himself.
"Get out! Let me alone!" spluttered Sam.
"Whoop!" roared Tom. "Confound the bats anyway! Get along and let us alone!"
Lying on the flooring the torches soon went out, and in their efforts to protect themselves from the bats the boys rushed blindly down the passageway. Then of a sudden both slipped on the wet rocks, slid a distance of several yards, and went down and down, landing into a well-like opening with a loud splash!