Chapter XVI. A Row on Shipboard
 

"Do you know, I think we are going on the wildest kind of a goose chase," said Tom, the next day, to his two brothers.

"Why?" questioned Sam.

"Because we are depending, in large part, on what Bahama Bill has to tell, he's the worst yarn spinner I ever ran across."

"It's true that he is a yam spinner," said Dick, "but behind it all father says he tells a pretty straight story of how the treasure was stolen and secreted on Treasure Isle."

"I want to see the island, and the treasure, too, before I'll believe one quarter of what that sailor says," replied Tom.

"Well, we'll soon know the truth of the matter," came from Sam. "If this good weather continues we ought to get to where we are going inside of ten days. Of course, if we are held up by fogs or storms it will take longer."

The boys, and the girls, too, for the matter of that, were greatly interested in the elegant steam yacht, and they took great pleasure in visiting every part of the vessel from bow to stem. Captain Barforth did all in his power to make all on board the Rainbow feel at home and whenever the boys visited the engine room they were met with a smile from Frank Norton.

But if they had friends on board there were also some persons they did not like. The first mate, whose name was Asa Carey, was a silent man who rarely had a pleasant word for anybody. He hated to have young folks around, and it was a mystery to the Rovers why he should occupy a position on a pleasure craft.

"He ought to be on a freight steamer," was Dick's comment--"some boat where he wouldn't meet anybody but those working under him. I can't understand how the captain can bear him for his first assistant."

"The owner of the steam yacht hired him," answered Mr. Rover. "I believe the captain does not like him any more than we do. But the mate does his duty faithfully, so the captain cannot find fault."

Another individual the boys did not like was Bill Bossermann, the assistant engineer. Bossermann was a burly German, with the blackest of hair and a heavy black beard and beady black eyes. He had a coarse voice and manners that put one in mind of a bull. Hans tried to get friendly with him, but soon gave it up.

"He vos von of dem fellers vot knows it all," explained Hans to his chums. "He makes some of dem, vot you call him--bolitical talks, yah. He dinks eferypotty should be so goot like eferypotty else, und chust so rich, too."

"Must be an Anarchist," said Tom. "He looks the part."

"Norton told me he was a first-class engineer," said Dick, "but when I asked him if he was a good fellow he merely shrugged his shoulders in answer."

One day the first mate was in command, the captain having gone below to study his charts and work out the ship's position. Tom had brought a baseball to the deck and was having a catch with Sam. The boys enjoyed the fun for quite a while and did not notice the mate near them.

"Can you throw it up over that rope?" asked Sam, pointing to a stay over his head.

"Sure thing!" cried Tom.

"Look out you don't throw it overboard."

"I'll take care," answered the fun-loving Rover, and launched the baseball high into the air. Just then the steam yacht gave a lurch, the ball hit the mainmast, and down it bounced squarely upon Asa Carey's head, knocking the mate's cap over his eyes and sending him staggering backwards.

"Hi, hi! you young rascals!" roared the mate. "What do you mean by such conduct?"

"Excuse me," replied Tom, humbly. "I didn't mean to hit you. It was an accident."

"I think you did it on purpose, you young villain!"

"It was an accident, Mr. Carey--and I'll thank you not to call me a rascal and a villain," went on Tom rather warmly.

"I'll call you what I please!"

"No, you won't."

"Yes, I will. I am in command here, and I won't have you throwing baseballs at me."

"I just told you it was an accident. If the yacht hadn't rolled just as I threw the ball it would not have hit you."

"Bah! I know boys, and you especially. You love to play tricks on everybody. But you can't play tricks on me." And as the mate spoke he stopped, picked up the rolling ball, and put it in his pocket.

"Are you going to keep that ball?" demanded Sam.

"I am."

"It is our ball."

"See here, Mr. Carey, we didn't mean to hit you, and we were only amusing ourselves catching," said Tom. "We have hired this yacht and we have a right to do as we please on board so long as we don't interfere with the running of the vessel. I want you to give us our ball back." And Tom stepped up and looked the mate squarely in the eyes.

"What! you dare to dictate to me!" roared the mate, and raised his hand as if to strike Tom. He thought the youth would retreat in fear, but Tom never budged.

"I am not trying to dictate, but I have rights as well as you. I want that ball."

"You can't have it."

"If you don't give it to me I shall report the matter to Captain Barforth."

At this threat the mate glared at Tom as if he wanted to eat the boy up.

"If I give you the ball you'll be throwing it at me again," he growled.

"I didn't throw it at you. But as for catching on the deck--I shall ask the captain if that is not allowable. I am quite sure it is, so long as we do no damage."

"Going to sneak behind the captain for protection, eh?" sneered Asa Carey. He did not like the outlook, for that very morning he had had some words with the commander of the steam yacht and had gotten the worst of it.

"I want that ball."

The mate glared at Tom for a moment and then threw the ball to him.

"All right, take your old ball," he muttered. "But you be mighty careful how you use it after this or you'll get into trouble," and with this the mate walked away.

"Are you going to speak to the captain?" asked Sam, in a low tone.

Tom thought for a moment.

"Perhaps it will be better to let it go, Sam. I don't want to stir up any more rows than are necessary. But after this I am going to keep my eye on that fellow."

But if the lads did not mention it to the captain they told their brother and their chums of it, and a long discussion followed.

"I noticed that the mate and the assistant engineer are quite thick," observed Fred. "It seems they were friends before they came aboard."

"And they are two of a kind," remarked Dick. "I feel free to say I do not like than at all."

It was growing warmer, and for the next few days the girls and the boys were content to take it easy under the awnings which had been spread over a portion of the deck. Once the lads amused themselves by fishing with a net and bait, but were not very successful. In the evening they usually sang or played games, and often Songbird would favor them with some of his poetry. For the most of the time Mrs. Stanhope and Mrs. Laning did fancywork.

"Captain says there is a storm coming up," announced Sam, one evening.

"Oh, dear! I hope it doesn't get very rough!" cried Mrs. Stanhope. "I detest a heavy storm at sea."

"Well, mamma, we'll have to expect some storms," said Dora.

"Oh, I shan't mind, if it doesn't thunder and lightning and blow too much."

But this storm was not of the thunder and lightning variety, nor did it blow to any extent. It grew damp and foggy, and then a mist came down over the ocean, shutting out the view upon every side. At once the engine of the steam yacht was slowed down, and a double lookout was stationed at the bow, while the whistle was blown at regular intervals.

"This isn't so pleasant," remarked Songbird, as he and Dick tramped along the deck in their raincoats. "Ugh! what a nasty night it is!"

"No poetry about this, is there, Songbird?" returned Dick, grimly.

"Hardly," said the poet, yet a few minutes later he began softly:

"A dreadful fog came out of the sea,
And made it as misty as it could be.
The deck was wet, the air was damp--"

"It was bad enough to give you a cramp!" finished up Tom, who had come up. "Beautiful weather for drying clothes or taking pictures," he went on. "By the way, I haven't used my new camera yet. I must get it out as soon as the sun shines again."

"And I must get out my camera," said Songbird. "I have a five by seven and I hope to take some very nice pictures when we get down among the islands."

"How do ye like this sea fog?" asked a voice at the boys' rear, and Bahama Bill appeared, wrapped in an oilskin jacket. "It puts me in mind of a fog I onct struck off the coast o' Lower Californy. We was in it fer four days an' it was so thick ye could cut it with a cheese knife. Why, sir, one day it got so thick the sailors went to the bow an' caught it in their hands, jess like that!" He made a grab at the air. "The captain had his little daughter aboard an' the gal went out on deck an' got lost an' we had to feel around in that fog nearly an hour afore we found her, an' then, sure as I'm a standin' here, she was next to drowned an' had to be treated jess like she had been under water."

"How long ago was that?" asked Tom, poking the other boys in the ribs.

"Seven years ago, this very summer."

"I thought so, Bill, for that very summer I was at Fort Nosuch, in Lower California. I remember that fog well. One of the walls of the fort had fallen down and the commander was afraid the desperadoes were going to attack him. So he had the soldiers go out, gather in the fog, and build another wall with it. It made a fine defence, in fact, it was simply out of sight," concluded the fun-loving Rover.

"Say, you--" began Bahama Bill. "You--er--you--say, I can't say another word, I can't! The idee o' building a wall o' fog! Why, say--"

What the old tar wanted to say, or wanted them to say, will never be known, for at that instant came a loud cry from the bow. Almost immediately came a crash, and the Rainbow quivered and backed. Then came another crash, and the old sailor and the boys were hurled flat on the deck.