The Rover Boys on Land and Sea/Chapter 26
THE CAVE ON THE ISLAND
"Are you safe?"
"Yes, but I wasn't looking for such a cold bath as this."
"I guess we must have fallen into a regular well of spring water."
"Never mind what we are in. The question is, how are we to get out?"
"Can you touch the top of the opening?"
"Neither can I."
Luckily the two boys could touch the bottom of the hole, so they were in no danger of drowning. They were in water up to their waists and calculated they had dropped a distance of two or three yards. All was pitch dark around them and as silent as a tomb, save for some water which trickled close at hand. The bats had departed, leaving them to their fate.
"This is cave-investigating with a vengeance," said Tom, with something like a shiver.
"Never mind, Tom, we won't die of thirst anyway."
"Do you think this is a laughing matter, Sam?"
"No, I don't. I'd give a good deal to be out of this hole and out of the cave also."
"I've got an idea. Let me climb on your shoulders and see if I can reach the top. that way."
Sam was willing, and soon Tom was balancing himself as best he could. He felt around with care, Sam moving from point to point as directed.
"Here is a sharp rock; I think I can pull myself up on that," said Tom. He tried with all of his strength and went up off Sam's shoulders. Then the youngest Rover heard him crawling around the wet flooring carefully.
When Tom felt fairly safe he brought out his water-proof match safe and lit a match. Then one of the torches was picked up and he lit that, but kept it partly sheltered, fearing another at tack from the bats.
By the aid of the torch, Sam was able to reach a sharp rock quite low down in the well hole, and when Tom gave him a hand he came up with ease. Both saw that the passage ended at the hole and hurried back to the main chamber of the cave.
"That's the time that right was not right," said Sam, wringing the water from his trousers, while Tom did the same. "Let us try the left after this."
"I trust we don't get left by it," added Sam.
The passageway was small and winding, but fairly level. There were several sharp rocks to pass and then Tom gave a cry.
"I see a light ahead!"
"It must be an opening, Tom."
"Exactly what I think."
Both hurried forward. As they did this, the opening appeared to grow larger and they saw a number of bushes ahead of them. They pushed these aside and saw beyond a clear stretch of the bay and to the northward the house they had built. The opening was twenty or thirty feet above the beach and hidden in the rocks and bushes.
"This is a short cut to the beach from the flagstaff," said Sam. "I wish we had put up the flag. Then we could carry the news of the cave to the others."
"Let us hurry back, Sam. It won't take so very long to put up the flag, with the tree still standing."
When they reached the gully they were careful that no further mishaps should befall them. Having picked up the flag they hoisted it once more, stars down, and then went back through the cave to the beach.
As they had imagined, the others were greatly interested in the news. All left the house and visited the place. The girls did not go any further than the main chamber, but the captain, Dick, and old Jerry made a complete investigation, taking care not to fall into the well-hole or any other unsafe place.
"As the boys say, this cave may come in very handy some time," said Captain Blossom. "In case of a very heavy wind storm it would be a good place for shelter."
"Why couldn't the sailors, Lesher, and Baxter live here?" asked Dick. "We don't want them, and it will save them the trouble of building a house, in case they don't want to live on the wreck."
"No, I advise that we tell them nothing about the cave," said Tom. "If we should have a fight and get the worst of it, we could hide here and they wouldn't be able to find us very readily."
"Do you think it will get as far as that?" asked Dora, and her face showed she was much disturbed.
"I hope not, Dora," said Dick. "But you must remember that we have had some pretty sharp quarrels already."
"I think Tom is right," came from Sam. "We'll not tell the others anything about the cave. If they don't want to live on the wreck, they can build a house or two, just as we did."
On returning to the shore of the bay, Captain Blossom and Tom went on a hunt along the beach and presently discovered the rowboat that had overturned with them during the storm.
The craft was but little damaged and they soon had it mended, and then the captain brought it around to the anchorage in front of the house.
"I wonder when Baxter and Lesher will arrive with the sailors?" said Nellie.
"Not before to-morrow night," answered Tom.
"Then do you know what I would do if I were you?" went on the girl.
"I'd bring some stores away from the wreck and hide them in the cave. If you did that, it might save us a good deal of trouble. For all we know, that mate might try to take command and refuse to let us get anything more from the ship."
"Do you think he'd do that while Captain Blossom was around?" came from Grace.
"Oh, he might do anything when he is half full of liquor," answered Tom. "I think Nellie is right. I'll talk it over with the others."
Tom lost no time in the matter, and Dick, Sam, and old Jerry agreed that Nellie's idea was very good. Captain Blossom shrugged his shoulders and looked ugly.
"Jack Lesher shall not take the command from me," he said. "If he tries it, he'll find himself in the biggest kind of a row."
"But you must admit that there is grave danger," said Dick.
"Yes, I admit that."
"Then you are willing that we shall hide the stores?"
"If you want to."
"Won't you help us, Captain Blossom? Of course, we recognize the fact that those things belong to you, since you remained on the ship up to the time she struck the island."
This speech pleased the captain, and he said he would help them willingly.
Without delay the two rowboats and the raft were called into commission, and an hour later the men and boys were hard at work transfer ring goods from the wreck to the beach in front of the cave. Five trips were made back and forth, the boats and the raft bringing over each time as much as could be conveniently floated.
By the time the last trip was made and the goods piled on the beach and covered with a large tarpaulin, it was dark and all were utterly worn out by their labors. The girls had prepared an extra good supper, and of this they ate heartily and then sat around a little while, when they went to bed.
At the beginning the castaways had kept guard during the night, but of late this had been done away with, everybody being satisfied that no harm could befall them during the darkness.
But as the doorway to the house was an open one it had been considered the duty of one or the other to sleep directly in the opening. This was Dick's night, and the eldest Rover lay there sleeping soundly until about two in the morning.
By this time the moon had disappeared and the stars were partly hidden by some clouds. The night was quiet, save for the hum of insects in the jungle back of the house and the soft laplap of the waves on the beach of the bay.
Suddenly Dick awoke with a start. He sat bolt upright, wondering what had brought him to his senses so quickly. He listened intently, but nothing unusual greeted his ears.
"I must have been dreaming, or something," he thought. "But is queer I should be so wide-awake."
At first he was on the point of lying down again, but then concluded to get up and get a drink of water.
He arose to his feet and stood in the open door way, gazing into the darkness. The faint light of a few stars shone in the waters of the bay, and between the waters and himself he presently saw a dark form stealing along, close to the ground.
What could that be? Was it something real or only a shadow? Dick rubbed his eyes and peered out more sharply than ever. It was not a shadow, but a real form, slowly moving around to the rear of the house.
"An animal, or else a man crawling along," said Dick to himself, and reached for his gun, which stood close at hand. Then he made up his mind to investigate, and stepped outside of the doorway for that purpose.