Chapter XXVIII. Found
 

Unaware of what was taking place on the deck of the Ramona, for they were far below its level in the Tartar, Cora, Belle, Bess and Inez looked anxiously aloft. They could hear a murmur of voices, but little else. It was nearly dark now, but Joe switched on the electrics in the motor boat, and aboard the steamer lights began to gleam.

"Well!" exclaimed Cora, with her usual spirit. "I'm not going to stay here and miss everything. I want to see mother just as much as Jack does."

She was as yet unaware, you see, of what the sailor had said to her brother.

"Where are you going?" asked Bess, as Cora started for the dangling accommodation ladder.

"Up there!" was the quick answer.

"Oh, Cora! Don't leave us!" begged Bess.

"Come along then," suggested Jack's practical sister.

"But it is so steep!" complained Bess, who was more "plump" than ever, due to the inactivity of the sea trip.

"It wont be any the less steep from waiting," spoke Cora, grimly, "and it'll soon be so dark that you'll likely fall off, if you try to go up. I'm going--mother must be up there, and so must your folks."

"Of course!" cried Belle. "Don't be a coward, Bess."

"I'm not, but--"

"I will help," said Inez, gently, as she glided up from the cabin. "Perhaps zere may be news of my father!"

She had been very patient all this while regarding news of her parent--very unselfish, for though the trip was partly undertaken to aid Senor Ralcanto, if possible, nothing as yet had been done toward this. All efforts had been bent toward getting news of Mrs. Kimball, and Mr. and Mrs. Robinson, and Inez had said nothing. Even now, she was willing to help others first.

"You're a dear," murmured Cora, her foot on the first step of the mounting ladder. "Oh, to think that all our worry is over now!" She had yet to learn what was in store for her and the others.

"Oh, I know I'll fall in!" cried Bess, as she essayed to go up.

"Don't be silly!" cautioned Cora. "Belle, you pull her from in front, and, Inez, you push. We've just got to get her up."

The Tartar was made fast by a rope tossed from the deck of the Ramona, and Joe and Slim Jim stood on deck, ready to execute any commands that might come from the young navigators. Cora and the other girls safely reached the deck of the steamer.

A carious sight confronted them.

Jack and Walter stood confronting, in the glare of several electric lights, the portly form of Senor Ramo, who seemed ill at ease. The members of the mutinous crew stood about, rather shame-facedly, it must be confessed. Lieutenant Walling wore an air of triumph. He had brought the criminals to the end of their rope.

"Jack! Where are they?" asked Cora, impulsively.

"They--they're not here," her brother answered.

"Not here? Then where are they? Oh, don't say they're--"

Cora's voice could not frame the words.

At this moment Inez caught sight of Senor Ramo. She was rather a timid girl, and her troubles and, tribulations had not made her any bolder, but now, at the sight of the man she believed had done, or who contemplated doing her father an injury, the Spanish maid's courage rushed to the fore.

Inez sprang forward and began to speak rapidly in Spanish. Cora, who had managed to pick up a few words, understood that Inez was making a spirited demand for the papers which she accused the fat man of having taken from her room. Over and over again she insisted on receiving them--here, now, at once, without delay!

So insistent was she that it looked, as though she meant to make a personal assault on-Senor Ramo, and take the papers from his ill-fitting frock coat.

"Whew!" whistled Walter, "that's going some, isn't it?"

"Walter! How can you?" remonstrated Cora. "At such a time, too!"

"Just can't help it!" he murmured. "He's getting his deserts all right."

Senor Ramo fairly backed away from the excited Inez, but she followed him to the very rail, where, as he could go no further, he made a stand, and continued to listen to her voluble talk.

"She certainly has some spirit," murmured lieutenant Walling to Cora. "Is that the fellow she suspects?" he asked, for he had been told the story of Inez.

"Yes," answered Cora. "But is my mother aboard? And Mr. and Mrs. Robinson?"

"They're not!" broke in Jack. "These scoundrels have put them ashore--somewhere!"

"Oh!" cried Bess and Belle in chorus.

"Where?" demanded practical Cora.

"I am going to institute an inquiry at once," said Lieutenant Walling. "I'll also have something to say to that fat Spaniard. Better tell your friend so," he suggested to the motor girls. "She might cause him to act hastily. He might do something desperate."

"She only wants some papers she thinks he has," said Jack, "and I guess she's going to get them," for Senor Ramo was putting his hand to his inside breast pocket.

"I'll soon straighten out this tangle," the lieutenant promised. "I'll have the ring-leaders locked up, and then we'll get at the bottom of the whole affair. I'd better send ashore for help, though. May I use your boat?"

"Certainly," answered Cora. She was keenly disappointed at not finding the lost ones aboard. She and the others had counted so much on this when they should have come up to the Ramona. Where could the passengers be?

Jim and Joe were sent, in the Tartar, to bring aboard representatives of the English government, Palm Island belonging to Great Britain. The munitinous crew had no spirit of resistance left. The erstwhile commander of the rebelling forces was locked in his stateroom, until Lieutenant Walling was reinforced, when others of the leaders were put in irons.

"And I now I hope we can get some news," spoke Cora, when some sort of order had been brought out of the confusion, and the ship had been formally taken in charge by the authorities.

"You shall have all there is," promised Lieutenant Walling. "First, in regard to your parents," and he looked from Cora to the twins. "They are safe, so far as can be judged, though they may be in some distress."

"But where are they?" asked Cora, for Jack had found a chance to tell her that he had been informed they were put ashore.

"On Double Island," answered Lieutenant Walling. "They were made prisoners when the mutineers rose and seized the ship. They were locked in their cabins, so some of those who have confessed told me, and when the storm was over, they were treated fairly well. They were forced to remain on board while the plan of entering into the smuggling game was carried on. They tried to get ashore, or to send messages for help, but were frustrated.

"Then, finally, some of the crew began to grumble at the presence of the passengers. Food was running low, and a certain amount of care was required to prevent them from escaping. The upshot of it was that your parents were put ashore on Double Island, with a fairly good amount of food and other supplies."

"How long ago?"

"Where is a Double Island?"

"Can't we start and rescue them?"

"What of Inez's father?"

These questions were fairly rained on Lieutenant Walling, "One at a time, please," he said, as he gazed at the young people gathered about him in the cabin of the Ramona. "It was over a week ago that the passengers were put ashore on Double Island--there were only your parents," he added, glancing again from Cora to the twins. "All the others had departed in the small boats when it was feared that the Ramona was sinking. As to the location of Double Island--it is about two days' steaming from here. We certainly can, and will, rescue them, and as for the father of Miss Inez--well that is another matter. We shall have to see Senor Ramo. He seems to know something about the prisoner--at least Miss Inez thinks that does."

At that moment Inez came into the cabin. Whether she had been all this while "laying down the law," as Jack phrased it, to the Spaniard was not, for the present, disclosed. But she was greatly excited, and she flourished in her hand a package of documents.

"I have ze papairs!" she cried, exultantly. "Now my father will be free. Oh, Senorita you will help me--will you not--to go to Sea Horse Island and rescue him?"

"Of course," spoke Cora, in answer to this pleading. "My! but we have lots of work ahead of us!" and se sighed.

"But you are equal to it, my dear," said Bess.

"Oh, to see papa and mamma again!"

"And to think of them living on some lonely little island!" sighed her sister. "We can't get to them quickly enough!"

"You had better go ashore for the night," suggested Lieutenant Walling, "and we'll start early in the morning. I'll go with you--if you will let me," and he looked at Jack's sister.

"Of course," murmured Cora, blushing slightly.

"You'll need more gasoline perhaps, and other stores," the officer went on. "And the journey will be much easier made with a good morning's start."

So it was decided. Supper was served for the young people aboard the Ramona, by direction of the British officer who was put in charge. There was rather more room to move about than on the Tartar. After the meal--the merriest since the strange quest had begun--explanations were forthcoming.

"I want to know how Inez got those papers away from Ramo," said Walter, with a flash of admiration at the Spanish girl.

"Ah, Senor, it is no secret!" she laughed. "I said I knew he had zem, and if he did not gif 'em I would tear zem from his pocket!

"He gave zem to me," she finished, simply.

"Good for you!" cried Jack. "What became of him?"

"I believe he went ashore in a small boat," said the lieutenant. "I'm having him watched, though, for I think he had some hand in this smuggling. In fact, he may prove to be at the bottom of the whole business."

And so it turned out. Senor Ramo, while pretending to be a respectable Spanish coffee merchant, had been engaged secretly in smuggling. It was he who planned the mutiny on the Ramona for purposes of his own, though the storm gave him unexpected aid. He had joined the steamer later, after having stolen the papers from the room of Inez.

For it was Ramo who had taken them. His agents had sent him word that Inez had the means to free the political prisoner, and as this would have interfered with the plans of Ramo and his cronies, he determined to frustrate it. So, watching his chance, he took the papers and fled to join his mutinous and smuggling comrades. But the fates were against him. Later, it was learned that Ramo had tried, through agents in New York, to get the papers from the Spanish girl. And the tramp in Chelton was, undoubtedly, one of them.

Inez said Ramo explained to her that he intended to keep her father a prisoner only a short time longer. With Senor Ralcanto free, the plans of the smugglers would have been interfered with, for the father of Inez, and his party, stood for law and order.

"But now I free my father myself!" cried the Spanish girl, proudly. "No more do I wait for that fat one!"

So with the papers which would eventually release the Spanish prisoner, and well fitted out for the cruise to Double Island, the party once again set forth on her cruise.

"There the island is!" cried Lieutenant Walling, on the second day out. "And I think I can see a flag flying. Few ships pass this way, but, very likely, the refugees would try to call one."

And, a little later, as the Tartar came nearer, Cora, who was looking through the glasses, cried out:

"I can see them! They are on shore! There's mother, Jack! She's waving, though of course she doesn't know who we are. And I see your mother and father, girls! Oh, Bess--Belle--we've found them!"