Tom Swift and His Motor-Boat/Chapter 11
A QUICK RUN
"Where are you?" cried Tom. "Are you hurt? Where are you?"
Uttering these words after he had hurried into the woods a short distance, the young inventor paused for an answer. At first he could hear nothing but the drip of water from the branches of the trees; then, as he listened intently, he became aware of a groan not far away.
"Where are you?" cried the lad again. "I've come to help you. Where are you?"
He had lost what little fear he had had at first, that it might be one of the unscrupulous gang, and came to the conclusion that he might safely offer to help.
Once more the groan sounded and it was followed by a faint voice speaking:
"Here I am, under the big oak tree. Oh, whoever you are, help me quickly! I'm bleeding to death!"
With the sound of the voice to guide him, Tom swung around. The appeal had come from the left and, looking in that direction, he saw, through the mist, a large oak tree. Leaping over the underbrush toward it he caught sight of the wounded man at its foot. Beside him lay a gun and there was a wound in the man's right arm.
"Who shot you?" cried Tom, hurrying to the side of the man. "Was it some of those patent thieves?" Then, realizing that a stranger would know nothing of the men who had stolen the model, Tom prepared to change the form of his question. But, before he had an opportunity to do this, the man, whose eyes were closed, opened them, and, as he got a better sight of his face, Tom uttered a cry.
"Why, it's Mr. Duncan!" exclaimed the lad. He had recognized the rich hunter, whom he had first met in the woods that spring shortly after Happy Harry, the tramp, had disabled Tom's motor-cycle. "Mr. Duncan," the young inventor repeated, "how did you get shot?"
"Is that you, Tom Swift?" asked the gunner. "Help me, please. I must stop this bleeding in my arm. I'll tell you about it afterward. Wind something around it tight—your handkerchief will do."
The man sighed weakly and his eyes closed again. The lad saw the blood spurting from an ugly wound.
"I must make a tourniquet," the youth exclaimed. "That will check the bleeding until I can get him to a doctor."
With Tom to think was to act. He took out his knife and cut off Mr. Duncan's sleeves below the injury, slashing through coat and shirts. Then he saw that part of a charge of shot had torn away some of the large muscular development of the upper arm. The hunter seemed to have fainted and the youth worked quickly. Tying his handkerchief above the wound and inserting a small stone under the cloth, so that the pebble would press on the main artery, Tom put a stick in the handkerchief and began to twist it. This had the effect of tightening the linen around the arm, and in a few seconds the lad was glad to see that the blood had stopped spurting out with every beat of the heart. Giving the tourniquet a few more twists to completely stop the flow of blood, Tom fastened the stick-lever in place by a bit of string.
"That's—that's better," murmured Mr. Duncan. "Now if you can go for a doctor——" he had to pause for breath.
"I'll not leave you here alone while I go for a doctor," declared Tom. "I have my motor-boat on the lake. Do you think I could get you down to it and take you home?"
"Perhaps—maybe. I'll be stronger in a moment, now that the bleeding has stopped. But not—not home—frighten my wife, Take me to the sanitarium if you can—sanitarium up the lake, a few miles from here."
The unfortunate man, who had tried to sit upright, had to lean back against the tree again. Tom understood what he meant in spite of the broken sentences. Mr. Duncan did not want to be taken home in the condition he was then in, for fear of alarming his wife. He wanted to be taken to the sanitarium, and Tom knew where this was, a well-known resort for the treatment of various diseases and surgical cases. It was about five miles away and on the opposite shore of the lake.
"Water—a drink!" murmured Mr. Duncan.
Seeing that his patient would be all right, for a few minutes at least, Tom hurried to his motorboat, got a cup and, filling it with water from a jug he carried, he hastened with it to the hunter. The fluid revived the man wonderfully and now that the bleeding had almost completely stopped, Mr. Duncan was much stronger.
"Do you think you can get to the boat, if I help you?" asked Tom.
"Yes, I believe so. To think of meeting you again, and under such circumstances! It is providential."
"Did some one shoot you?" inquired Tom, who could not get out of his head the notion of the men who had once assaulted him.
"No, I shot myself," answered Mr. Duncan as he got to his feet with Tom's help. "I was out with my gun, practicing just as I was that day when I met you in the woods. I stooped down to crawl under a bush and the weapon went off, the muzzle being close against my arm. I can't understand how it happened. I fell down and called for help. Then I guess I must have fainted, but I came to when I heard you talking to me. I shouldn't have come out to-day as it is so wet, but I had some new shot shells I wished to try in order to test them before the hunting season. But if I can get to the sanitarium, I will be well taken care of. I know one of the doctors there."
With Tom leading him and acting as a sort of support, the journey to the motor-boat was slowly made. Making as comfortable a bed as possible out of the seat cushions, Tom assisted Mr. Duncan to it, and then starting the engine he sent his boat out from shore at half speed, as the fog was still thick and he did not want to run upon a rock.
"Do you know where the sanitarium is?" asked the wounded hunter.
"About," answered Tom a little doubtfully, "but I'm afraid it's going to be hard to locate it in this fog."
"There's a compass in my coat pocket," said Mr. Duncan. "Take it out and I'll tell you how to steer. You ought to carry a compass if you're going to be a sailor."
Tom was beginning to think so himself and wondered that he had not thought of it before. He found the one the hunter had, and placing it on the seat near him, he carefully listened to the wounded man's directions. Tom easily comprehended and soon had the boat headed in the proper direction. After that it was comparatively easy to keep on the right course, even in the fog.
But there was another danger, however, and this was that he might run into another boat. True, there were not many on Lake Carlopa, but there were some, and one of the few motor-boats might be out in spite of the bad weather.
"Guess I'll not run at full speed," decided Tom. "I wouldn't like to crash into the Red Streak. We'd both sink."
So he did not run his motor at the limit and sat at the steering-wheel, peering ahead into the fog for the first sight of another craft.
He turned to look at Mr. Duncan and was alarmed at the pallor of his face. The man's eyes were closed and he was breathing in a peculiar manner.
"Mr. Duncan," cried Tom, "are you worse?"
There was no answer. Leaving the helm for a moment, Tom bent over the injured hunter. A glance showed him what had happened. The tourniquet had slipped and the wound was bleeding again. Tom quickly shut off the motor, so that he might give his whole attention to the work of tightening the handkerchief. But something seemed to be wrong. No matter how tightly he twisted the stick the blood did not stop flowing. The lad was frightened. In a short time the man would bleed to death.
"I've got to get him to the sanitarium in record time!" exclaimed Tom. "Fog or no fog, I've got to run at full speed! I've got to chance it!"
Making the bandage as tight as he could and fastening it in place, the young inventor sprang to the motor and set it in motion. Then he went to the wheel. In a few minutes the Arrow, was speeding through the water as it had never done before, except when it had raced the Red Streak. "If I hit anything—good-by!" thought Tom grimly. His hands were tense on the rim of the steering-wheel and he was ready in an instant to reverse the motor as he sat there straining his eyes to see through the curtain of mist that hung over the lake. Now and then he glanced at the compass, to keep on the right course, and from time to time he looked at Mr. Duncan. The hunter was still unconscious.
How Tom accomplished that trip he hardly remembered afterward. Through the fog he shot, expecting any moment to crash into some other boat. He did pass a rowing craft in which sat a lone fisherman. The lad was upon him in an instant, but a turn of the wheel sent the Arrow safely past, and the startled fisherman, whose frail craft was set to rocking violently by the swell from the motor-boat, sent an objecting cry through the fog after Tom. But the youth did not reply. On and on he raced, getting the last atom of power from his motor.
He feared Mr. Duncan would be dead when he arrived, but when he saw the dock of the sanitarium looming up out of the mist and shut off the power to slowly run up to it, he placed his hand on the wounded man's heart and found it still beating.
"He's alive, anyhow," thought the youth, and then his craft bumped up against the bulkhead and a man in the boathouse on the dock was sent on the run for a physician.
Mr. Duncan was quickly taken up to the sanitarium on a stretcher and Tom followed.
"You must have made a record run," observed one of the physicians a little while afterward, when Tom was telling of his trip while waiting in the office to hear the report on the hunter's condition.
"I guess I did," muttered the young inventor, "only I didn't think so at the time. It seemed as if we were only crawling along."