Chapter XXVIII. A New Move of the Enemy
 

"Something is up."

It was Fred who spoke, only a few minutes after Songbird and the sailor in charge of the rowboat had left the side of the steam yacht. He addressed Hans.

"Vot you vos see?" asked the German youth.

"Look!"

Hans looked and beheld Walt Wingate on the deck, in earnest conversation with the mate. The deck hand was not handcuffed as he had been a short while before, when tramping the forward deck for air, by Captain Barforth's permission.

"Carey must haf daken dem handguffs off," said the German youth. "I ton't like dot. Maype dot Vingate make troubles, hey?"

The boys watched, and presently saw Bossermann come up and join the pair. Then Bossermann went below to the engine room. Shortly after this the yacht began to get up steam.

"We're moving!" cried Dora, as she came to the boys, accompanied by Nellie and Grace. "Oh, what does it mean?"

"I don't know," answered Fred.

"Can't you find out, Fred?" asked Nellie. "I am sure the captain said nothing about sailing before he went ashore."

"I'll find out--if the mate will tell me," answered Fred.

He walked over to where the mate stood, close to the wheelhouse, giving directions to the pilot of the Rainbow.

"Mr. Carey, where are we bound?" he asked, respectfully.

"Oh, just going to take a little sail around, to test the engine," was the apparent indifferent answer.

"Is the engine out of order?"

"Not exactly, but I thought it best to test the shaft. The assistant engineer thinks it is weak."

This was apparently a fair enough answer and Fred bowed and walked away. Then he went down the ladder leading to the engine room. He met Frank Norton coming up. There was a look of concern on the head engineer's honest face.

"Mr. Norton, is there anything wrong with the engine or the shaft?" asked Fred.

"Nothing the matter. Why?"

"Mr. Carey said there was, and he is taking a cruise around to test them--so he says."

"I don't understand it, Garrison. Everything 0.K."

"Are you in charge now?"

"No, this is my hour off. Bossermann is in charge. By the way, I see Powell went off after the others."

"Yes, and I wish the others were back," answered Fred. He hesitated a moment. "Mr. Norton, I believe you have been with Captain Barforth a long time and that you and he are old chums."

"That's right."

"Then I can trust you, can't I? It is something which concerns Captain Barforth and this vessel very much."

"Sure you can trust me."

Without hesitation, for he felt sure Norton was both honest and reliable, Fred told his story to the head engineer, who nodded many times during the recital.

"I see it," whispered Norton. "I suspected something was wrong. Carey and Bossermann are in some sort of a plot with this Wingate, who came on board solely to aid that Sid Merrick. I believe Carey is going off to meet Merrick and see if he can make a deal with him."

"That is what I think. How can we thwart him?"

"Better fire that gun, as a signal to those on shore, first of all. Then we'll see what the mate has to say."

Fred needed no urging and soon he brought up a shotgun from the cabin and discharged it--the signal heard by Songbird, as we already know. Scarcely had this been accomplished when Asa Carey rushed down upon him from the pilot house.

"Hi! what did you do that for?" roared the mate, in sudden anger.

"Just for fun," answered Fred, as coolly as he could, although his heart beat rapidly.

"For fun?"

"Yes. Haven't I a right to fire a gun if I want to?"

"I reckon that was some sort of a signal for those on shore."

"And supposing it was, what then, Mr. Carey?" Fred put the question boldly and looked the mate squarely in the eyes as he spoke.

"Why--er--it's most unusual. There was no need of a signal."

"I wanted them to know we were moving, that's all."

"Humph! There was no use of alarming them. We'll be back long before they want to come aboard again."

"In that case I'll have nothing more to say."

"Don't you believe it?"

"I'm bound to believe it, if you say so."

"Don't get impudent, young man!"

"I am not impudent, and you needn't get impudent either!" cried Fred, his anger rising. "You are in command here, but this boat is under charter and just now I represent the man who owns that charter. If you have got to cruise around to test the engine and shaft well and good, but if you are merely cruising around for the fun of it I say go back to where we came from--none of us want to do any cruising today."

At this plain speech the mate grew purple in the face. He raised his hand as if to strike the youth, but just then Aleck came on deck, carrying a pitcher of ice water in his hand.

"Stop dat! Don't yo' go fo' to hit dat boy!" cried the colored man. "If yo' do I'll fling dis watah pitcher at yo' head!"

"You shut up, you rascally nigger!" shouted the mate. "You have nothing to say here!"

"I'se got somet'ing to say if yo' hit Massa Fred," answered Aleck, and held the water pitcher as if ready to launch it at the mate's head.

There was a moment of excitement and several crowded around, but then the mate waved the crowd away.

"I shall report this to Captain Barforth as soon as he comes back," he said, and turning on his heel, he walked off. Fred went down into the cabin, and Aleck followed him. A few minutes later Norton joined the youth and the others, who had gathered to talk the matter over.

"We must be on the watch," said the chief engineer. "I am certain now that Carey is up to some game."

A long discussion followed, but nothing came of it. The steam yacht kept on its way and rounded the eastern point of Treasure Isle. Then it stood to the north westward.

"I hope he knows his course," said Norton, to the boys. "If he doesn't he stands a good chance of running us on some key or reef."

If the boys were excited, the girls and ladies were more so. Nobody knew exactly what to do, and each minute added to the general anxiety.

At last the vessel rounded another point of the isle and came in sight of the sea beyond. There in the distance was a steamer at rest on the waves, and Fred and Hans felt certain she must be the Josephine.

The two vessels were soon close together. As the Rainbow came up to the other craft, Walt Wingate went to the rail and shouted something through a megaphone which the mate loaned him. Immediately came back an answering cry, but the boys did not catch what was said.

"This is going pretty far," said Fred, to Frank Norton. "Don't you think I ought to step in and stop it?"

The chief engineer shrugged his shoulders.

"Carey is really in command and it might be called mutiny to do anything to stop him."

"But supposing he allows Wingate to go to that other ship.

"Well, if Wingate goes we'll be well rid of him."

"Of course that is true, but still--"

Fred did not finish for just then Asa Carey came up.

"I am going to visit that other steamer," he said, to the chief engineer. "I shall take that man Wingate along, and Bossermann is going, too. You can remain right here until I get back."

Norton nodded, but said nothing. The mate looked at Fred as if to say more, but then apparently changed his mind and hurried away. Soon a small boat was over the side and this was manned by the mate, Bossermann, Wingate and a sailor named Ulligan, a fellow noted for his laziness and untrustworthiness. Without delay the small boat set out for the Josephine.

"I don't like this at all," said Fred. "Those fellows mean mischief as sure as you are born!"

"I dink da vos hatch owid somedings mid dot Merrick," said Hans.

"Perhaps they are plotting to gain possession of this yacht," was Dora's comment. "They may bring over a crowd to take possession and make us prisoners!"

"If they try any game like that we'll fight," answered Fred.

"Dat's right!" cried Aleck. "We'll fight, an' fight mighty hard, too!"

"If only the Rovers were here," sighed Dora. "I am sure they would know exactly what to do."

"They may be having their own troubles on land," said Mrs. Stanhope. "Sid Merrick is a very bad man and will do all in his power to get that treasure in his possession."