Tom Swift and His Wireless Message/Chapter 25
Down to where the small raft was moored ran Mr. Parker. He was followed by some of the others.
"We must put off at once!" he cried. "Half the island is gone! The other half may disappear any moment! The steamer can not get here on time, but if we put off they may pick us up, if we are not engulfed in the ocean. Help, everybody!"
Tom gave one more look at where his wireless station had been. It had totally disappeared, there being, at the spot, now but a sheer cliff, which went right down into the sea.
The women were in tears. The men, with pale faces, tried to calm them. Gradually the earthquake tremor passed away; but who could tell when another would come?
Captain Mentor, Mr. Hosbrook and the others were shoving out the small raft. They intended to get aboard, and paddle out to the larger one, which had been moored some distance away, in readiness for some such emergency as this.
"Come on!" cried Mr. Fenwick to Tom who was lingering behind. "Come on, ladies. We must all get aboard, or it may be too late!"
The small raft was afloat. Mrs. Anderson and Mrs. Nestor, weeping hysterically, waded out through the water to get aboard.
"Have we food?" cried Mr. Damon. "Bless my kitchen range! but I nearly forgot that."
"There isn't any food left to take," answered Mrs. Anderson.
"Shove off!" cried Captain Mentor.
At that instant a haze which had hung over the water, was blown to one side. The horizon suddenly cleared. Tom Swift looked up and gave a cry.
"The steamer! The steamer! The Cambaranian!" he shouted, pointing to it.
The others joined in his exclamations of joy, for there, rushing toward Earthquake Island was a great steamer, crowding on all speed!
"Saved! Saved!" cried Mrs. Nestor, sinking to her knees even in the water.
"It came just in time!" murmured Mr. Hosbrook.
"Now I can make my diamonds," whispered Mr. Jenks to Tom.
"Push off! Push off!" cried Mr. Parker. "The island will sink, soon!"
"I think we will be safer on the island than on the raft," declared Captain Mentor. "We had better land again."
They left the little raft, and stood on the shore of the island. Eagerly they watched the approach of the steamer. They could make out hands and handkerchiefs waving to them now. There was eager hope in every heart.
Suddenly, some distance out in the water, and near where the big raft was anchored, there was a curious upheaval of the ocean. It was as if a submarine mine had exploded! The sea swirled and foamed!
"It's a good thing we didn't go out there," observed Captain Mentor. "We would have been swamped, sure as guns."
Almost as he spoke the big raft was tossed high into the air, and fell back, breaking up. The castaways shuddered. Yet were they any safer on the island? They fancied they could feel the little part of it that remained trembling under their feet.
"The steamer is stopping!" cried Mr. Damon.
Surely enough the Cambaranian had slowed up. Was she not going to complete the rescue she had begun?
"She's going to launch her lifeboats," declared Captain Mentor. "Her commander dare not approach too close, not knowing the water. He might hit on a rock."
A moment later and two lifeboats were lowered, and, urged on by the sturdy arms of the sailors, they bounded over the waves. The sea seemed to be more and more agitated.
"It is the beginning of the end," murmured Mr. Parker. "The island will soon disappear."
"Will you be quiet?" demanded Mr. Damon, giving the scientist a nudge in the ribs.
The lifeboats were close at hand now.
"Are you all there?" shouted some one, evidently in command.
"All here," answered Tom.
"Then hurry aboard. There seems to be something going on in these waters—perhaps a submarine volcano eruption. We must get away in a hurry!"
The boats came in to the shelving beach. There was a little stretch of water between them and the sand. Through this the castaways waded, and soon they were grasped by the sailors and helped in. In the reaction of their worriment Mrs. Anderson and Mrs. Nestor were both weeping, but their tears were those of joy.
"Give way now, men!" cried the mate in charge of the boats. "We must get back to the ship!"
The sea was now swirling angrily, but the sailors, who had been in worse turmoils than this, rowed on steadily.
"We feared you would not get here in time," said Tom to the mate.
"We were under forced draught most of the way," was his answer. "Your wireless message came just in time. An hour later and our operator would have gone to bed."
The young inventor realized by what a narrow margin they had been rescued.
"The island will soon sink," predicted Mr. Parker, as they reached the steamer, and boarded her. Captain Valasquez, who was in command, warmly welcomed the castaways.
"We will hear your story later," he said. "Just now I want to get out of these dangerous waters."
He gave the order for full speed, and, as the Cambaranian got under way, Tom, and the others, standing on the deck, looked back at Earthquake Island.
Suddenly there sounded a dull, rumbling report. The whole ocean about the island seemed to upheave. There was a gigantic shower of spray, a sound like an explosion, and when the waters subsided the island had sunk from sight.
"I told you it would go," cried Mr. Parker, triumphantly, but the horror of it all—the horror of the fate that would have been theirs had they remained there an hour longer—held the castaways dumb. The scientist's honor of having correctly predicted the destruction of the island was an empty one.
The agitation of the sea rocked even the mighty Cambaranian and, had our friends been aboard the frail raft, they would surely have perished in the sea. As it was, they were safe—saved by Tom Swift's wireless message.
The steamer resumed her voyage, and the castaways told their story. Captain Valasquez refused to receive the large amount of money Mr. Hasbrook and Mr. Jenks would have paid him for the rescue, accepting only a sum he figured that he had lost by the delay, which was not a great deal. The castaways were given the best aboard the ship, and their stories were listened to by the other passengers with bated breath.
In due time they were landed in New York, and Mr. and Mrs. Nestor accompanied Tom to Shopton. Mr. Damon, with many blessings also accompanied them, going to his home in Waterfield. Later it was learned that the other boats from the Resolute had been picked up, and the sailors and guests were all saved.
Of course, as soon as our friends had been rescued by the steamer, the wireless operator aboard her, with whom Tom soon struck up an acquaintance, sent messages to the relatives of the castaways, apprising them of their safety.
And the joy of Mary Nestor, when she found that it was Tom who had saved her parents, can well be imagined. As for our hero, well, he was glad too—for Mary's sake.
"I won't forget my promise to you, Torn Swift," said Mr. Barcoe Jenks, as he parted from the young inventor, and what the promise was will be told in the next volume of this series, to be called: "Tom Swift Among the Diamond Makers; or, The Secret of Phantom Mountain." In that Tom is destined to have many more surprising adventures, as is also Mr. Damon, who learned new ways to call down blessings on himself and his possessions.
And now, for a time, we will take leave of the young inventor and also of his many friends, who never ceased to wonder over Tom Swift's skill with the wireless.