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- The Rover Boys on the Great Lakes - 2/37 -
"Oh! we'll run along all right," came from Tom. "Don't get scared before you are hurt." He looked at his watch. "Half-past five! I didn't think it was so late."
"It will be dark before long," said Dick. "Perhaps the blow will go down with the setting of the sun."
"We'll never know when the sun sets--excepting by the almanac," murmured Sam. "It's as black as ink already, over to the westward."
To keep up his courage Tom Rover began to whistle, but soon the sound was drowned out by the high piping of the wind, as it tore over the deck and through the rigging of the _Swallow_. They were certainly in for a storm, and a heavy one at that.
It was the middle of July, and the Rover boys had journeyed from Valley Brook, their country home, to Buffalo, a week before, for a six-weeks' outing upon the Great Lakes previous to their returning to Putnam Hall for the fall and winter term. Their thrilling adventures in Colorado, as told in "The Rover Boys Out West," had taxed them severely, and their father, Mr. Anderson Rover, felt that they needed the recreation. At first he had wished them to remain at the farm, and so had their Uncle Randolph Rover and their motherly Aunt Martha, but this had been voted "too slow" by the three brothers, and it was decided that they should go to Buffalo, charter a small yacht, and do as they pleased until the opening of school.
"Only please keep out of danger," had been Mr. Rover's pleading words. "You have been in peril enough." And the boys had promised to do their best, little dreaming of the many adventures and dangers ahead.
The boys knew very little about the lakes, and at the last moment had invited Larry Colby, an old schoolmate, to accompany them on the outing. Larry had spent two summers on Lake Huron and Lake Superior, and knew both bodies of water fairly well. But the lad could not come on at once, and so had sent word that he would join the party at Sandusky, some time later. Larry's father was rich, so the expense of traveling counted for nothing.
With the boys, however, went one individual with whom all our old readers are well acquainted. This was Alexander Pop, the colored man who had once been a waiter at Putnam Hall, and who was now a servant to the Rovers in general and the three boys in particular. The boys had done much in the past for Aleck, as they called him, and Pop was so greatly attached to the youths that he was ready at all times to do anything they desired.
"I dun lub dem Rober boys, aint no ust ter talk," Pop would say. "Dem is de most up-to-date boys in de world, dat's wot, and da did dis yeah niggah a good turn wot he aint forgittin' in a hurry, too." What that good turn was has already been related in full in "The Rover Boys in the Jungle." Pop was now installed on board the _Swallow_ as cook and general helper, a position he was well fitted to fill.
The boys had laid out a grand trip, and one which certainly promised a good deal of pleasure. The first stop was to be at Cleveland, and from that city they were to go to Sandusky, and then up the lake and through the Detroit River to Detroit. Here a short stay was to be made, and then the journey was to be resumed through Lake St. Clair and the St. Clair River to Lake Huron. Once on Lake Huron they expected to skirt the eastern coast of Michigan, stopping whenever they pleased, and thus gradually make their way to Whitefish Bay and Lake Superior. What they would do when Lake Superior was reached would depend upon how much time was left for the outing.
The _Swallow_ was a well-built, sturdy craft, fifty feet long and correspondingly broad of beam. She had been constructed for a pleasure boat and had all of the latest improvements. She belonged to a rich man of Buffalo, who had known the Rovers for years. The rich man was now traveling in Europe, and had been only too glad to charter the yacht for a period of six weeks. When the Rover boys were through with her she was to be placed in charge of the rich man's boatman, who was to take her back to Buffalo.
The start on Lake Erie had been full of pleasure. The yacht had a good supply of provisions on board, and everybody was in the best of spirits. Aleck Pop had brought along his banjo, and on the first evening out had given them half a dozen plantation songs, for he was a good singer as well as player. On the day following the breeze had died away and they had all gone fishing, with fair success. This was the third day out, and since noon the wind had been blowing at a lively rate, helping them to make good time on their course toward Cleveland. Now the wind was blowing little short of a gale, and the sky was growing blacker each instant.
"We are in for it, beyond a doubt," said Dick, with a serious shake of his head.
Every inch of canvas had been taken in, yet the _Swallow_ spun along before the wind rapidly, ever and anon dipping her bow deeply into the white-caps, which now showed themselves upon all sides.
"Here she comes!" burst out Tom suddenly. "Hold hard, everybody!"
And then the storm burst upon them in all of its fury--a storm which lasted all night, and one which the Rover boys never forgot.
THE DISAPPEARANCE OF DICK.
"Oh, my, but this is a corker!"
It was Tom who uttered the words, half an hour after he had cautioned everybody to hold fast. He was standing at the wheel, helping Dick to make the _Swallow_ keep her bow up to the waves, which rolled fiercely on every side of the craft. He cried out at the top of his lungs, yet his elder brother understood him with difficulty.
"I wish we were out of it," returned Dick. "Did Sam go below, as I ordered?"
"What of Aleck?"
"He is in the galley, trying to keep his dishes from being smashed to bits. He is scared, I can tell you, and said he was sure we were going to the bottom."
"If I was sure of the course I would steer for shore, Tom. I'm afraid myself that this is going to be more than we bargained for."
"Pooh, Dick! We've been in as bad a storm before, and you know it."
"But not on Lake Erie. This lake has a reputation for turning out some nasty ones, that do tremendous damage. Light up, will you?--or we may be smashing into some other boat before we know it."
"I will, if you can hold the wheel alone."
"I can get along for a few minutes. But it's enough to pull a fellow's arms out by the sockets," concluded Dick.
With extreme caution, for the deck was as wet and slippery as it was unsteady, Tom made his way to the tiny cabin of the yacht. Here he found Sam lighting the ship's lanterns, four in number.
"I thought you'd be wanting them," said the youngest Rover. "Is it letting up, do you think?"
"No; if anything, it is growing worse."
"Don't you want me to help on deck? I hate to stay down here alone."
"You can do nothing, Sam. Dick and I are tending the wheel, and there is nothing else to be done."
"I might go on the lookout. You can't watch very well from the stern," added the youngest Rover, who did not relish being kept back by his older brothers.
"We can watch good enough. Stay here--it's safer. If the yacht should swing around--Great Scott!"
Tom Rover broke off short, and with good reason. A strange creaking and cracking sound had reached his ears, followed by a bump and a jar which nearly pitched him headlong. Sam was thrown down on his back.
"Something is wrong!" burst out Sam, as soon as he could speak. "We must have struck something."
Tom did not answer, for the reason that he was already on his way to the deck, with a lantern slung in the crook of his right elbow. Sam followed with another lantern, leaving the remaining ones wildly swinging on the hooks in the cabin's ceiling.
The cry came from out of the darkness, somewhere in the wake of the _Swallow_; a cry cut partly short by the piping gale. With his heart thumping violently, Tom leaped over the deck toward the wheel.
"Dick! What is the matter?"
"Help!" repeated the voice, but now further off than ever. Then Tom made a discovery which thrilled him with horror.
The position at the wheel was vacant! Dick was gone!
"Dick! Dick! Where are you!" he shouted hoarsely. "Dick!"
"Help!" came more faintly. The cry was repeated several times, but nothing more reached Tom's ears nor the hearing of his younger brother, who was now beside him, his round face as pale as death itself.
"Dick's overboard!" The words came from both, and each looked at the other in consternation.
Both held up their lanterns, the glasses of which were speedily covered with flying spray. The lanterns made a small semicircle of light at the stern, but Dick was beyond that circle and could not be seen.
"Take the wheel--I'll get a life-preserver!" said Tom, and ran for the article he had mentioned.
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