Chapter XXIV. Searchlight and Lantern
 

"One thing is in our favor," remarked Dick, as the day wore away and the distance between the two yachts seemed undiminished. "Even if we don't succeed in catching them before tonight we know where they are bound."

"Perhaps it might be as well to hang back!" burst in Tom. "If we remain in sight they won't land as intended."

"The thing of it is, they may change their plans, especially if they think your brother overheard their talk," put in the police sergeant. "My idea is, they'll keep right on down the coast until the darkness hides them from us. Then they'll try to sneak in some cove or river and abandon the boat."

"They'll have a job taking Dora Stanhope along," was Sam's remark. "I don't believe she'll go another step willingly."

"As if she has gone willingly!" said Dick.

"Well, I mean she'll be more on her guard than she was, and they'll have more of a job to make her go along."

Night settled down gradually and found every heart full of serious speculation. Dick was especially affected, for he had hoped to see Dora rescued hours before.

"Goodness only knows where they will take her by morning!" he groaned. "I'd give almost anything to be at her side!"

With the going down of the sun the wind died away and the sails of the Searchlight flapped idly to and fro.

"Now it's a waiting game," announced Martin Harris. "If we can't move neither can they."

"Just the same, the Flyaway is turning out to sea!" cried Tom. "Now what can that mean?"

"That may be only a blind," said Carter.

"No, they are afraid of drifting on the sands," answered the skipper of the Searchlight. "I reckon we'll have to turn out, too," and he changed the course of the yacht.

Darkness found both boats far out on the Atlantic and almost out of sight of each other.

"This is maddening!" cried Dick. "Can't we row, or do something?"

"Rowing wouldn't count much, I'm afraid," laughed Martin Harris. "But don't fret. Unless I am mistaken, we'll have a breeze before midnight."

"And they may be out of sight long before that time!"

"That's to be seen, lad. I'll watch the thing closely, for I'm as anxious to catch 'em as you are."

"I'd give a good deal for a small boat."

"So would I."

"I thought all yachts carried them."

"They do generally, but mine was stove in at a Catskill dock about a week ago and is being repaired."

"Here comes the wind!" shouted Sam, half an hour later, and when the Flyaway was almost out of sight. "Now, Harris, let us make the most of it."

"We will, and I hope there isn't too much of it," was the quick reply.

Soon the breeze struck them, and, as it came from shore, it hit the Searchlight first and drove her fairly close to the other yacht. But before anything could be said or done, the other craft also moved; and then the chase began as before.

"We're getting all we want now," announced Tom, as the wind grew heavier. "Just look how the yacht dips her nose into the brine!"

"We'll have to shorten sail before long," said Martin Harris. "If we don't, a sudden gust might make us lose our stick."

"I'd like to see the Flyaway lose her mast!" cried Tom. "It would just serve the Baxters right if they went to the bottom."'

"No, we don't want to see that yacht harmed," put in Dick quickly. "Remember, Dora is on board -- and that stolen fortune, too."

Swiftly both yachts flew on their outward course, the ocean growing more tempestuous each minute. The police officers viewed the turn of affairs with alarm.

"If it's not safe, let us turn back," whispered Carter.

"Don't get scared so soon," replied Harris, who overheard the remark. "I've been' in a worse blow than this, twice over."

The sails were reefed, and they continued on their course. The Flyaway was now but a shadow in the gloom, and presently even this died out.

"The chase is over," announced Harris with disgust. "Hang the luck anyhow!"

"What do you, mean?" demanded Dick.

"She's out of sight, and there is no telling now how she will turn."

"But she can't tack back in this wind."

"She can make a putty good try at it, lad."

"Not much of a one, lad. There is a little electric battery and light in the cabin, one that was used by a professor that I took out two years ago, when the yacht was built. He was interested in electricity and he made the light himself. I never used it, for I didn't understand how it worked."

"Let us look at the light; perhaps we can do something with it," said Dick.

"That's the talk," came from Tom. "Anything is better than holding your hands and doing nothing."

Martin Harris was willing, and led the way into the cabin. Battery and light were stored away in a couple of soap boxes, and the boys brought them out and set them on the cabin table.

"I think I can fix these up," said Dick, after a long examination. "The batteries are not in very good shape, but I think they will do. They are meant to work on the same plan as these new electric lights for bicycles, only they are, I reckon, more powerful."

"Well, do what you please with the machine," said Martin Harris. "In the meantime, I'll see what I can do with a lantern and a tin reflector. Sometimes you can see a white sail putty good with a tin reflector."

He hurried to the deck again, and Sam, who was not much interested in electricity, followed him. One of the best of the yacht's lanterns was polished up to the last degree, and they also polished the metal reflector until it shone like a newly coined silver piece.

"That's a good light!" cried Sam, when it was lit up. "Where will you place it?"

"Up at the top of the mast," answered the old sailor. "I'll show you."

It took some time to adjust the lantern just right, but this accomplished they found that they could see for a distance of a hundred yards or more.

"I see the sail!" announced Harris. "Don't you -- just over our port bow?"

"I see it," answered Sergeant Brown. "Not very far off either."

Without delay the course of the Searchlight was changed so that she was headed directly for the Flyaway.

"Keep off!" was the cry out of the darkness. "Keep off, or it will be the worse for you!"

"You may as well give up," shouted back the police sergeant. "You are bound to be caught sooner or later."

"We don't think go. If it comes to the worst, remember, we can do a heap of fighting."

"We can fight too," was the grim response.

"Dora! Dora! Are you safe?" shouted Sam, with all the strength of his youthful lungs.

"Save me!" came back the cry. "Don't let them carry me further away."

"We'll do our best, don't fear."

Dora wanted to say more, but was prevented from doing so by Mumps, who again hurried her below.

"You must lock her up," he said to Mrs. Goss, and once more the unhappy girl found herself a prisoner in the cabin.

She had hoped for much during the chase along shore, but now her heart sank like a lamp of lead and she burst into tears.

"No use of crying," said Mrs. Goss. "It won't help you a bit."

"I want to be free!" sobbed Dora. "Where will they take me?"

"Never mind; you just be quiet and wait."

"But you are running directly out into the ocean!"

"What of that?"

"I don't wish to go."

"You'll have to take what comes, as I told you before."

"Mrs. Goss, have you no pity, for me?"

"If I did have it wouldn't do you any good, Miss Dora. I've got to do as the men folks want me to do. If I don't they'll make --"

The woman did not finish what she was saying. A loud report rang out on deck, followed by the distant crash of glass. Then came a yell, followed by another report and more crashing of glassware.

"What can that mean?" burst out Dora, but instead of answering her, Mrs. Goss bounced out of the cabin, locking the door after her, and hurried to the deck.