The Rover Boys on Land and Sea/Chapter 8
FROM ONE SHIP TO ANOTHER
"We struck something!"
"What is the matter?"
"Are we going down?"
These and a score of other cries rang out on board the steamer. The thumping and bumping continued, followed by a crashing that could mean but one thing—that the ship was being splintered, and that her seams were being laid wide open.
As soon as possible the Rover boys slipped into some clothing and went on deck. They were quickly followed by the three girls, who clung tight to them in terror.
"Oh, Dick, this is the worst yet!" came from Dora. "What will be the end?"
"The Tacoma is sinking!" was the cry from out of the darkness.
"Are we really sinking?" gasped Nellie as she clutched Tom.
"Yes, we are," came from Sam. "Can't you feel the deck settling?"
They could, only too plainly, and in a minute more the water seemed to be running all around them. The cries continued, but it was so black they could see next to nothing.
What happened in the next few minutes the Rover boys could scarcely tell, afterward. An effort was made to get out a lifeboat, and it disappeared almost as soon as it left the side, carrying some sailors with it.
Then some red-fire blazed up, lighting up the tragic scene, and revealing a schooner standing close by the steamer. The sailing vessel had her bowsprit broken and part of her forward rail torn away.
"If we must die, let us die together!" said Dick, and they kept together as well as they could. Old Jerry was with them, and said he should do all he could for them. He had al ready passed around life-preservers, and these they put on with all possible speed.
Then followed a sudden plunge of the steamer and all found themselves in the waves of the ocean. They went down together, each holding the hand of somebody else. When they came up, Tom was close to a life-line thrown from the sailhjg vessel and this he clutched madly.
"Haul us in!" he yelled. "Haul us in!" And the line was pulled in with care, and after ten minutes of extreme peril the boys and the girls and Captain Jerry found themselves on board of the sailing vessel, which proved to be a large three-masted schooner.
All of our friends were so exhausted that they had to be carried to the cabin and here Dora and Grace fainted away completely, while Nellie was little better off. Tom had had his left arm bruised and Dick was suffering from an ugly scratch on the forehead. It was fully an hour before any of them felt like moving around.
In the meantime the two vessels had separated, and though red fire was burned twice after that, and rockets sent up, nothing more was seen or heard of the Tacoma or those left on board.
"But I don't think she went down," said Captain Jerry. "She was too well built for that." And he was right, as events proved. Much crippled the steamer two days later entered Honolulu harbor, where she was laid up for repairs.
Worn out completely by what they had passed through, the boys slept heavily for the rest of the night, not caring what ship they were on or where they were going. Everybody was busy with the wreckage, so they were left almost entirely to themselves.
Tom was the first to get up, and going on deck found that the storm had cleared away and that the sun was shining brightly. Without delay he halted a sailor who happened to be passing.
"What ship is this?" he questioned.
"Dis ship da Golden Wave," replied the sailor, who was a Norwegian.
"And where are you bound?"
"Da ship sail for Australia."
"Great Scott! Australia!" gasped Tom. "This is the worst yet."
"What's up, Tom?" asked Sam, who had followed his brother.
"This sailor tells me this ship is bound for Australia."
"Why, that is thousands of miles away!"
"I know it."
"If we go to Australia, we'll never get back."
"Not quite as bad as that, Sam. But we certainly don't want to go to Australia."
"Who is the captain?"
"Captain Blossom," replied the sailor.
"Where is he?"
The sailor said he would take them to the captain and did so. He proved to be a burly fellow with rather a sober-looking face.
"Got around at last, eh?" he said, eying Tom and Sam shrewdly.
"We have, and we must thank you for rescuing us," replied Tom.
"That's all right."
"One of your sailors tells me you are bound for Australia," put in Sam.
"He told you the truth."
"Won't you stop at some port in the Hawaiian Islands?"
"But you might put us off."
"Can't spare the time. As it is, this storm blew me away out of my course," answered Captain Blossom.
He had a twofold reason for not putting them ashore at or near Honolulu. It would not only take time, but it might also lead to questioning concerning the fate of the steamer, and he was afraid he would be hauled into some marine court for running into the Tacoma, for that was what he had done.
"Do you know anything about the steamer?" asked Sam.
"No, she got away from us in the darkness, after we hauled seven of you aboard."
"The steamer lost some of her crew," said Tom, shuddering. "Did you lose any men?"
"One sailor, and one of my passengers got hurt in the leg by the collision."
By this time Dick joined the party, followed by old Jerry and the three girls.
"Will the captain carry us away to Australia?" asked Dora, when the situation was explained.
"I suppose so," said Dick soberly. "If I had some money I might buy him off, but I haven't a dollar. What little I did have I left on board of the Tacoma."
The others were equally destitute, and when Captain Blossom heard of this his face grew dark. He was a close man, and his first mate, Jack Lesher, was no better.
"If you haven't any money, you'll have to work your passage," he growled. "I can't afford to carry you to Australia for nothing."
"Then let us off at some port in the Hawaiian Islands," said Tom.
"Can't do it, I told you," retorted Captain Blossom angrily. "And you'll either work while you are on board or starve."
"My, what a Tarter!" whispered Sam.
"Well, we'll work," said Dick. "But you must not force the young ladies to do any thing."
"I'm a sailor and will do my full share," said old Jerry. But he did not like the situation any better than did the Rovers.
The matter was talked over, and seeing that they were willing to work, Captain Blossom became a little milder in his manner. He said he would give the three girls one of the staterooms, but the boys and old Jerry would have to join the crew in the forecastle.
Fortunately the sailors on board the Golden Wave were a fairly clean lot, so the forecastle was not so dirty a place as it might otherwise have been. The boys did not like to be separated from the girls, however, and Dick called the girls aside to talk the matter over.
"I want to know if anything goes wrong," said he. "If there is the least thing out of the way, let us know at once," and the girls promised to keep their eyes open.
Once in the forecastle the boys were given three rough suits of clothes to wear while working. Then they were called out to work without delay, for the storm had left much to do on board the Golden Wave.
"We have only one passenger," said one of the sailors, in reply to a question from Tom. "He is a young fellow named Robert Brown. He was hurt during the storm, but I reckon he's all right now."
Tom was set to coiling some rope and Sam and Dick had to scrub down the deck. This was by no means an agreeable task, but nobody complained.
"We must take what comes," said Dick cheerfully. "So long as we get enough to eat and are not abused I shan't say a word."
The boys had been to work about an hour when Sam saw a young fellow limping around the other end of the deck. There was some thing strangely familiar about the party, and the youngest Rover drew closer to get a better look at him.
"Dan Baxter!" he cried in astonishment. "Dan Baxter!"
At this cry the person turned and his lower jaw dropped in equal astonishment.
"Who—er—where did you come from?" he stammered.
"So this is the vessel you shipped on?" went on Sam. And then he called out: "Dick! Tom! Come here."
For a brief instant Dan Baxter's face was a study. Then a crafty look came into his eyes and he drew himself up.
"Excuse me, but you have made a mistake in your man," he said coldly.
"What's that?" came from Sam in bewilderment.
"I am not the party you just named. My name is Robert Brown."
"It is?" came from the youngest Rover, "If that is so, you look exactly like somebody I know well."
By this time Dick and Tom came hurrying to the spot, followed by Dora, who happened to be on deck.
"Dan Baxter!" came from Tom and Dick simultaneously.
"He says he isn't Dan Baxter," said Sam.
"Isn't Dan Baxter? Why, Baxter, you fraud, what new wrinkle is this?" said Dick, catching him by the arm.
"Let go of me!" came fiercely from Baxter. "Let go, I say, or it will be the worse for you. You have made a mistake."
"No mistake about it," put in Tom. "He is Dan Baxter beyond a doubt."