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- The Boy Aviators' Treasure Quest - 20/34 -
among the water-front loungers of Galveston. The lad insisted on throwing a paper on board for "good luck," he said. Frank, who was out in the cockpit at the time re-stowing some cases of gasolene, threw the boy a coin and thought no more of the paper till, as they were discussing Ben's breakfast, he idly glanced over its front page.
"Mysterious Air-ship," was the heading that instantly caught his eye and caused him to set down his cup of coffee untasted. Reading the article he found even more matter to hold his attention. The item was dated Miami, Fla., and read as follows:
"Much curiosity has been excited here by the sudden appearance of a tent housing a huge air-ship. The aerial camp is located at a point several miles south of town. The tent is guarded by men armed with shotguns and no one is allowed to approach anywhere near it. The air-ship, however, has been seen at night taking flights seaward. So far, no explanation of the object of the air-ship's presence here has been vouchsafed by those interested in it. They are all strangers here and will not impart any information."
A few paragraphs further down another Miami despatch caught the eye. It was to the effect that "the Brigand, the yacht of Luther Barr, the New York and Newport millionaire, arrived here yesterday and anchored off shore. Mr. Barr is not a guest of any of our hotels, but is making his home aboard his palatial craft."
"Well, here's some news as is news," laughed Frank, handing the paper to the others. "It just goes to show that we are not any too previous in making a start. Now, if everybody's finished breakfast, I propose that we send our good-bye letters ashore and cast off for the Sargasso."
"The sooner the better," cried Harry, diving into his locker for a letter he had written the night before. The others also had their correspondence ready, so no time was lost in entrusting the mail to the same gamin who had thrown the paper on board and making final preparations for the start.
With the exception of the loafers on the wharf there was no one to look on, as the Bolo, with the Stars and Stripes bravely flying from her staff astern and the Golden Eagle's pennant attached to her bow, chugged out of the harbor and into the open Gulf.
"Off at last!" shouted Billy Barnes, from his seat on the top of the piled up cabin roof, as the shores of Galveston rapidly receded and finally became a mere blot. "If we don't have some dandy adventures before we get back call me a doodle bug."
All that day and the next the Bolo forged steadily onward over the purple waters of the Gulf. The boys set regular watches and things moved aboard the little craft man-of-war fashion from the start. Every night at sundown "colors" were made, that is, the flags were hauled down and the sunset gun fired with the tiny saluting cannon the little craft boasted. Then the red and green side-lights and the white bow-light were set in position. After supper in the cockpit under the awning--for it was far too warm to eat in the cabin--there would be songs and stories by Ben Stubbs and Bluewater Bill, who had been appointed navigating officer and first mate respectively, of the good ship Bolo.
On the morning of the second day out the boys were treated to a rare sea spectacle. There was a fair seaway, and the Bolo was plunging along through it as if she enjoyed it as much as the boys, when a cry from Billy, who had the lookout, aroused them all.
"Sail ho!--or rather, steamer ho!" hailed the amateur A. B.
"Where away?" thundered Bluewater Bill, who had the wheel, in true nautical style.
Billy was up a stump. What to reply he had no idea.
"It's off our bow," he hailed back; "but I don't know if you call it port or starboard."
Steadying himself by one of the foremast stays, Ben Stubbs sprang on to the cabin roof.
"Steamer on the port bow," he hailed, "looks like a Mallory liner."
And a Mallory liner it was.
As the boys drew nearer they gazed entranced at the fine spectacle the huge black hull made as she rushed through the rolling Gulf waters, her bow piling up a huge creamy wave as she cut her way. Her passengers lined her rail and waved madly at the tiny Bolo, rolling and plunging about in the waves that did not even rock the big liner. The boys for their part waved with all their might and Billy blew a blast on the foghorn.
"Aft there--aft and dip your colors!" shouted Bluewater Bill.
Ben Stubbs scrambled to the stern and dipped the flag again and again as the big black craft rushed on, without, however, noticing the courtesy of the small boat. As she sped by the boys spied her name, Brazos, in big gilt letters on her stern.
"I wish we could go as fast as that," remarked Billy, as the big steamer rapidly dwindled and finally passed out of sight, leaving only a black pall of smoke to show that she had passed.
"We are doing well enough," remarked Bluewater Bill, gazing back at the Bolo's wake.
"What are we making, do you judge?" asked Frank.
"Ten knots easily," replied the sailor, squinting at the white line of foam astern.
"Pretty good for this little craft," remarked Ben Stubbs, "though you can't always judge by the wake. I remember when I was on the old Dolphin brigantine in the China Sea. One morning we all of a sudden noticed a most termendous wake ahind us. It was running like a mill-race. I peeked over the side and it was fair whooping along.
"Why, we must be going twenty miles an hour," says the skipper; "queer we can't feel any motion."
"Well, boys, to make a long story short, we was that way for three days and never moved a foot. You see, it was one of them queer currents, and the pace it streaked by made it look as though we was going ahead when, shiver my top-gallants, if we wasn't standing still, the wind being just strong enough to keep us going forward at the same pace the current drew us back--what do you think of that?"
The boys didn't know what to think, and said so, but Bluewater Bill winked at them with a portentous eye and merely said:
"That reminds me, shipmate, of what happened when I was aboard the Flying Scud off Madagascar. If so be you don't mind, I'll spin you the yarn.
"One night it comes on to blow most tremenjous, and by morning we finds we was in one of them circular storms. Wall, mates, the wind blew all around us, but we didn't move at all. At eight bells the pig-pen fetched loose and them porkers got caught in the wind and whisked off the deck by the hurricane. As I've said, it was a circular storm and them poor porkers jest kep a goin' roun' and roun' and roun' the ship all that day. It was night afore the wind died down, and then, by a freak, it reversed and blew 'em all back again; but they was so dizzy that for a week they ran round the deck in circles and when we wanted pork it was no trick at all to catch a hog. All you had to do was to find out how he was revolving and then get in his way,--what do you think of that?"
"That you are exaggerating, William," said Ben, in a tone of reproof.
"Wall, if wind and tide can hold a ship still; wind alone can give a bunch of hogs a merry-go-round, can't it?" rejoined Bill.
"It can, but it don't," was Ben's reply.
"Ah, but you never sailed off the coast of Madagascar, did yer?" demanded Bill.
"No, I can't say as I ever did," replied Ben.
"Wall, then," triumphantly cried Bill, "you don't know what a pesky wind that Madagascar one is."
How long this argument, which the boys listened to with some amusement, might have gone on is hard to say, probably all night, if Ben had not suddenly cut it short by springing to his feet with an exclamation:
"Come on, shipmates!" he exclaimed, "stop gamming and get a move on and snug down this yer awning if you don't want to lose it. Billy, you open the self-baling scuppers in the cockpit, my lad, and Lathrop and Harry, you get out forward and double lash all that top hamper."
"Why, Ben, what's the matter?" asked Frank, "the sea is just as smooth as it has been all day and the sun is shining."
"Well, it won't be in a half an hour," replied the old salt, pointing southward. "See that cloud?"
He indicated a tiny purplish bit of vapor floating against the distant blue like an argosy. "There's wind in that cloud or my name's not Ben Stubbs," he concluded.
Bluewater Bill nodded his assent.
"Mor'n a capful, too," he said grimly.
Even as the two old salts exchanged glances the cloud seemed to grow, as if by magic, and by the time the awning was snugged home and lashed and everything had been hauled taut in preparation for the blow, the whole heavens were overcast with a sullen gray veil, and the sea began to rise with a low moaning sound that presaged what Ben Stubbs termed "a bad blow."
IN DIRE PERIL.
"Get that thar dory aboard," was Ben's next order to the boys, who
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