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HOME > Short Stories > The Sportman's Club Afloat > CHAPTER II. A SURPRISE.
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 The last time we saw Henry Chase he was sitting in the mouth of “The Kitchen”—that was the name given to the cave in which he had taken refuge after destroying the pirogue—with his axe in his hand, waiting to see what Coulte and Pierre, who had just disappeared down the gully, were going to do next. He had been holding a parley with his captors, and they, finding that he had fairly turned the tables on them, and that he was not to be frightened into surrendering himself into their hands again, had gone off to talk the matter over and decide upon some plan to capture the boy in his stronghold. Now that their vessel was cut to pieces, they had no means of leaving the island, and consequently they were prisoners there as well as Chase. He had this slight advantage of them, however: when the yacht arrived he would be set at liberty,[26] while they would in all probability be secured and sent off to jail, where they belonged. “I’ll pay them for interfering with me when I wasn’t troubling them,” chuckled Chase, highly elated over the clever manner in which he had outwitted his captors. “I think I have managed affairs pretty well. Now, if the yacht would only come, I should be all right. It is to Walter’s interest to assist me, if he only knew it; for I can tell him where Fred Craven is. But I can safely leave all that to Wilson. He is a friend worth having, and he will do all he can for me. What’s going on out there, I wonder?”
The sound that had attracted the boy’s attention was a scrambling among the bushes, accompanied by exclamations of anger and long-drawn whistles. The noise came down to him from the narrow crevice which extended to the top of the bluff, and from this Chase knew that Coulte and Pierre were ascending the rocks on the outside, and that they were having rather a difficult time of it. He wondered what they were going to do up there. They could not come down into the cave through the crevice, for it was so narrow that Fred Craven himself would have stuck fast in it. The boy took his[27] stand under the opening and listened. He heard the two men toiling up the almost perpendicular sides, and knew when they reached the summit. Then there was a sound of piling wood, followed by the concussion of flint and steel; and presently a feeble flame, which gradually increased in volume, shot up from the top of the bluff.
“That’s a signal,” thought Chase, with some uneasiness. “Who in the world is abroad on the Gulf, on a night like this, that is likely to be attracted by it? It must be the smuggling vessel, for I remember hearing Mr. Bell say that he should start for Cuba this very night. I pity Fred Craven, shut up in that dark hold, with his hands and feet tied. I’ve had a little experience in that line to-night, and I know how it feels.”
Chase seated himself on the floor of the cave, under the crevice, rested his head against the rocks, and set himself to watch the two men, whose movements he could distinctly see as they passed back and forth before the fire. In this position he went off into the land of dreams and slept for an hour, at the end of which time he awoke with a start, and a presentiment that some danger threatened him. He sprang to his feet, catching up his axe and looking[28] all around the cave; and as he did so, a dark form, which had been stealthily creeping toward him, stopped and stretched itself out flat on the rocks, just in time to escape his notice.
“Was it a dream?” muttered Chase, rubbing his eyes. “I thought some one had placed a pole against the bluff and climbed into the cave; but of course that couldn’t be, for Coulte and his son have no axe with which to cut a pole.”
The boy once more glanced suspiciously about his hiding-place, which, from some cause, seemed to be a great deal lighter now than it was when he went to sleep, and hurrying to the mouth looked down into the gully below. To his consternation, he found that the danger he had apprehended in his dream was threatening him in reality. A pole had been placed against the ledge at the entrance to the cave, and clinging to it was the figure of a man, who had ascended almost to the top. It was Pierre. How he had managed to possess himself of the pole was a question Chase asked himself, but which he could not stop to answer. His enemy was too near and time too precious for that.
“Hold on!” shouted Pierre, when he saw the boy swing his axe aloft.
“You had better hold on to something solid yourself,” replied Chase, “or you will go to the bottom of the ravine. You are as near to me as I care to have you come.”
The axe descended, true to its aim, and cutting into the pole at the point where it touched the ledge severed it in twain, and sent Pierre heels-over-head to the ground. When this had been done, and Chase’s excitement had abated so that he could look about him, he found that he had more than one enemy to contend with. He was astonished beyond measure at what he saw, and he knew now why “The Kitchen” was not as dark as it had been an hour before. The whole cove below him was brilliantly lighted up by a fire which had been kindled on the beach, and the most prominent object revealed to his gaze was a little schooner which was moored to the trees. The sight of her recalled most vividly to his mind the adventure of which he and Fred Craven had been the heroes. It was the Stella—the smuggling vessel. Her crew were gathered in a group at the bottom of the gully, and Chase’s attention had been so fully occupied with Pierre that he had not seen them. As he ran his eye over the group he saw that there was one man in it besides[30] Pierre who was anything but a stranger to him, and that was Mr. Bell, who stood a little apart from the others, with his tarpaulin drawn down over his forehead, and his arms buried to the elbows in the pockets of his pea-jacket. Remembering the uniform kindness and courtesy with which he and Wilson had been treated by that gentleman, while they were Bayard’s guests and sojourners under his roof Chase was almost on the point of appealing to him for protection; but checked himself when he recalled the scene that had transpired on board the Stella, when he and Fred Craven were discovered in the hold.
“I’ll not ask favors of a smuggler—an outlaw,” thought Chase, tightening his grasp on his trusty axe. “It would be of no use, for it was through him that I was brought to this island.”
“Look here, young gentleman,” said a short, red-whiskered man, stepping out from among his companions, after holding a short consultation with Mr. Bell, “we want you.”
“I can easily believe that,” answered Chase. “I know too much to be allowed to remain at large, don’t I? I don’t want you, however.”
“We’ve got business with you,” continued the[31] red-whiskered man, who was the commander of the Stella, “and you had better listen to reason before we use force. drop that axe and come down here.”
“I think I see myself doing it. I’d look nice, surrendering myself into your hands, to be shut up in that dark hole with poor Fred Craven, carried to Cuba and shipped off to Mexico, under a Spanish sea-captain, wouldn’t I? There’s a good deal of reason in that, isn’t there now? I’ll fight as long as I can swing this axe.”
“But that will do you no good,” replied the captain, “for you are surrounded and can’t escape. Where is Coulte?” he added, in an impatient undertone, to the men who stood about him.
“Surrounded!” thought Chase. He glanced quickly behind him, but could see nothing except the darkness that filled the cave, and that was something of which he was not afraid. “I’ll have friends here before long,” he added, aloud, “and until they arrive, I can hold you all at bay. I will knock down the poles as fast as you put them up.”
“Where is Coulte, I wonder?” said the master of the smuggling vessel, again. “Why isn’t he[32] doing something? I could have captured him a dozen times.”
These words reached the boy’s ear, and the significant, earnest tone in which they were uttered, aroused his suspicions, and made him believe that perhaps the old Frenchman was up to something that might interest him. It might be that his enemies had discovered some secret passage-way leading into his stronghold, and had sent Coulte around to attack him in the rear. Alarmed at the thought, Chase no longer kept his back turned toward the cave, but stood in such a position that he could watch the farther end of “The Kitchen” and the men below at the same time.
A long silence followed the boy’s bold avowal of his determination to stand his ground, during which time a whispered consultation was carried on by Mr. Bell, Pierre, and the captain of the schooner. When it was ended, the former led the way toward the beach, followed by all the vessel’s company. Chase watched them until they disappeared among the bushes that lined the banks of the gully, and when they came out again and took their stand about the fire, he seated himself on the ledge at the[33] entrance of the cave, and waited with no little uneasiness to see what they would do next.
“I know now what that fire on the bluff was for,” thought he. “It was a signal to the smugglers, and they saw it and ran in here while I was asleep. They came very near capturing me, too—in a minute more Pierre would have been in the cave. I can’t expect to fight a whole ship’s company, and of course I must give in, sooner or later; but I will hold out as long as I can.”
Chase finished his soliloquy with an exclamation, and jumped to his feet in great excitement. A thrill of hope shot through his breast when he saw the Banner come suddenly into view from behind the point, and dart into the cove; but it quickly gave away to a feeling of intense alarm. His long-expected reinforcements had arrived at last, but would they be able to render him the assistance he had hoped and longed for? Would they not rather bring themselves into serious trouble by running directly into the power of the smugglers? Forgetful of himself, and thinking only of the welfare of Walter and his companions, Chase dropped his axe and began shouting and waving his arms about his head to attract their attention.
“Get away from here!” he cried. “That vessel is the smuggler, and Fred Craven is a prisoner on board of her.”
Walter heard the words of warning and so did all of his crew; but they came too late. The yacht was already beyond control. When her captain picked himself up from the deck where the shock of the collision had thrown him, and looked around to see where he was, he found the Banner’s fore-rigging foul of the wreck of the schooner’s bowsprit, and her stern almost high and dry, and jammed in among the bushes and trees on the bank. Escape from such a situation was simply impossible. He glanced at the cave where he had seen Chase but he had disappeared; then he looked at his crew, whose faces were white with alarm; and finally he turned his attention to the smugglers who were gathered about the fire. He could not discover anything in their personal appearance, or the expression of their faces, calculated to allay the fears which Chase’s words had aroused in his mind. They were a hard-looking lot—just such men as one would expect to see engaged in such business.
“Now I’ll tell you what’s a fact,” whispered Perk, as the crew of the Banner gathered about the[35] captain on the quarter-deck; “did you hear what Chase said? We know where Featherweight is now, don’t we?”
“Yes, and we shall probably see the inside of his prison in less than five minutes,” observed Eugene. “Or else the smugglers will put us ashore and destroy our yacht, so that we can’t leave the island until we are taken off.”
“I don’t see what in the world keeps the tug and the revenue-cutter,” said Walter, anxiously. “They ought to have beaten us here, and unless they arrive very soon we shall be in serious trouble. What brought that schooner to the island, any how?”
“That is easily accounted for,” returned Wilson, “Pierre is a member of the gang, as you are aware, and his friends probably knew that he was here, and stopped to take him off. Having brought their vessel into the cove, of course they must stay here until the wind goes down.”
“Well, if they are going to do anything with us I wish they would be in a hurry about it,” said Bab. “I don’t like to be kept in suspense.”
The young sailors once more directed their attention to the smugglers, and told one another that they did not act much like men who made it a point to[36] secure everybody who knew anything of their secret. They did not seem to be surprised at the yacht’s sudden appearance, but it was easy enough to see that they were angry at the rough manner in which she had treated their vessel. Her commander had shouted out several orders to Walter as the Banner came dashing into the cove, but as the young captain could not pay attention to both him and Chase at the same moment, the orders had not been heard. When the little vessel swung around into the bushes, the master of the schooner sprang upon the deck of his own craft, followed by his crew.
“That beats all the lubberly handling of a yacht I ever saw in my life, and I’ve seen a good deal of it,” said the red-whiskered captain, angrily. “Do you want the whole Gulf to turn your vessel in?”
“You’re a lubber yourself,” retorted Walter, who, although he considered himself a prisoner in hands of the smugglers, was not the one to listen tamely to any imputation cast upon his seamanship. “I can handle a craft of this size as well as anybody.”
“I don’t see it,” answered the master of the schooner. “My vessel is larger than yours, and I[37] brought her in here without smashing everything in pieces.”
“That may be. But the way was clear, and you came in under entirely different circumstances.”
“Well, if you will bear a hand over there we will clear away this wreck. I want to go out again as soon as this wind goes down.”
Wondering why the captain of the smugglers did not tell them that they were his prisoners, Walter and his crew went to work with the schooner’s company, and by the aid of hatchets, handspikes, and a line made fast to a tree on the bank, succeeded in getting the little vessels apart; after which the Banner was hauled out into deep water and turned about in readiness to sail out of the cove. Walter took care, however, to work his vessel close in to the bank, in order to leave plenty of room for the tug and the revenue cutter when they came in. How closely he watched the entrance to the cove, and how impatiently he awaited their arrival!
While the crew of the schooner was engaged in repairing the wreck of the bowsprit, Walter and his men were setting things to rights on board the yacht, wondering exceedingly all the while. They did not understand the matter at all. Pierre and[38] Coulte had brought Chase to the island, intending to leave him to starve, freeze, or be taken off as fate or luck might decree, and all because he had learned something they did not want him to know. Fred Craven was a prisoner on board the very vessel that now lay alongside them, and that proved that he knew something about the smugglers also. Now, if the band had taken two boys captive because they had discovered their secret, and they did not think it safe to allow them to be at liberty, what was the reason they did not make an effort to secure the crew of the Banner? These were the points that Walter and his men were turning over in their minds, and the questions they propounded to one another, but not one of them could find an answer to them.
“Perhaps they think we might resist, and that we are too strong to be successfully attacked,” said Eugene, at length.
“Hardly that, I imagine,” laughed Walter. “Five boys would not be a mouthful for ten grown men.”
“I say, fellows,” exclaimed Bab, “what has become of Chase all of a sudden?”
“That’s so!” cried all the crew in a breath, stopping[39] their work and looking up at the bluffs above them. “Where is he?”
“The first and last I saw of him he was standing in the mouth of ‘The Kitchen,’” continued Bab. “Where could he have gone, and why doesn’t he come back and talk to us? Was he still a prisoner, or had he succeeded in escaping?”
“Well—I—declare, fellows,” whispered Eugene, in great excitement, pointing to a gentleman dressed in broadcloth, who was lying beside the fire with his hat over his eyes, as if fast asleep, “if that isn’t Mr. Bell I never saw him before.”
The Banner’s crew gazed long and earnestly at the prostrate man (if they had been a little nearer to him they would have seen that his eyes were wide open, and that he was closely watching every move they made from under the brim of his hat), and the whispered decision of each was that it was Mr. Bell. They knew him, in spite of his pea-jacket and tarpaulin. Was he a smuggler? He must be or else he would not have been there. He must be their leader, too, for a man like Mr. Bell would never occupy a subordinate position among those rough fellows. The young captain and his crew were utterly confounded by this new discovery. The[40] mysteries surrounding them seemed to deepen every moment.
“What did I say, yesterday, when Walter finished reading that article in the paper?” asked Perk, after a long pause. “Didn’t I tell you that if we had got into a fight with Bayard and his crowd, we would have whipped three of the relatives of the ringleader of the band?”
“Well, what’s to be done?” asked Eugene. “We don’t want to sit here inactive, while Chase is up in that cave, and Fred Craven a prisoner on board the schooner. One may be in need of help, the other certainly is, and we ought to bestir ourselves. Suggest something, somebody.”
“Let us act as though we suspected nothing wrong, and go ashore and make some inquiries of Mr. Bell concerning Chase and the pirogue,” said Walter. “We’re here, we can’t get away as long as this gale continues, and we might as well put a bold face on the matter.”
“That’s the idea. Shall somebody stay on board to keep an eye on the deserters?”
“I hardly think it will be necessary. They’ll not be able to work their way out of the hold before we return.”
“But the smugglers might take possession of the vessel.”
“If that is their intention, our presence or absence will make no difference to them. They can take the yacht now as easily as they could if we were ashore.”
Walter’s suggestion being approved by the crew, they sprang over the rail, and walking around the cove—the Banner was moored at the bank opposite the fire—came up to the place where Mr. Bell was lying. He started up at the sound of their footsteps, and rubbing his eyes as if just aroused from a sound sleep, said pleasantly:
“You young gentlemen must be very fond of yachting, to venture out on a night like this. Did you come in here to get out of reach of the wind?”
“No, sir,” replied Walter. “We expected to find Henry Chase on the island.”
“And he is somewhere about here, too,” exclaimed Wilson. “We saw him standing in the mouth of ‘The Kitchen,’ not fifteen minutes ago.”
“The Kitchen!” echoed Mr. Bell, raising himself on his elbow and looking up at the cave in question. “Why, how could he get up there, and[42] we know nothing about it? We’ve been here more than an hour.”
“Haven’t you seen him?” asked Walter.
“But you must have heard him shouting to us when we came into the cove.”
“Why no, I did not,” replied Mr. Bell, with an air of surprise. “In the first place, what object could he have in visiting the island, alone, on a night like this? And in the next, how could he come here without a boat?”
“There ought to be a boat somewhere about here,” said Walter, while his companions looked wonderingly at one another, “because Pierre and Coulte brought him over here in a pirogue.”
It now seemed Mr. Bell’s turn to be astonished. He looked hard at Walter, as if trying to make up his mind whether or not he was really in earnest, and then a sneering smile settled on his face; and stretching himself out on his blanket again he pulled his hat over his eyes, remarking as he did so:
“All I have to say is, that Chase was a blockhead to let them do it.”
“Now just listen to me a minute, Mr. Bell, and[43] I’ll tell you what’s a fact,” said Perk, earnestly. “He couldn’t help it, for he was tied hard and fast.”
The gentleman lifted his hat from his eyes, gazed at Perk a moment, smiled again, and said: “Humph!”
“I know it is so,” insisted Perk, “because I saw him and had hold of him. I had hold of Coulte too; and if I get my hands on him again to-night, he won’t escape so easily.”
“What object could the old Frenchman and his son have had in tying Chase hand and foot, and taking him to sea in a dugout?”
“Their object was to get him out of the way,” said Walter. “Chase knows that Coulte’s two sons belong to a gang of smugglers, and they wanted to put him where he would have no opportunity to communicate his discovery to anybody.”
“Smugglers!” repeated the gentleman, in a tone of voice that was exceedingly aggravating. “Smugglers about Bellville? Humph.”
“Yes sir, smugglers,” answered Wilson, with a good deal of spirit. “And we have evidence that you will perhaps put some faith in—the word of your own son.”
“O, I am not disputing you, young gentlemen,” said Mr. Bell, settling his hands under his head, and crossing his feet as if he were preparing to go to sleep. “I simply say that your story looks to me rather unreasonable; and I would not advise you to repeat it in the village for fear of getting yourselves into trouble. I have not seen Pierre, or Coulte, or Chase to-night. Perhaps the captain has, or some of his men, although it is hardly probable. As I am somewhat wearied with my day’s work, I hope you will allow me to go to sleep.”
“Certainly, sir,” said Walter. “Pardon us for disturbing you.”
So saying, the young commander of the Banner turned on his heel and walked off, followed by his crew.

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