WIG-WAGGING A WARNING
Tom and Harry quickly followed their chum to the cabin, where their eyes were greeted by the sight of water rising above the floor of the forward compartment.
“She’s started a butt!” declared Tom with a tremor in his usually cheery voice. “She’s started a butt and we’ll have to beach her or she’ll sink right out here in the Gulf of Mexico!”
“No, she won’t!” snapped Harry. “Get the hand bilge pump going and I’ll start the power pump with the electric light engine!”
Quickly the directions were followed. Tom and Arnold speedily assailed the rising water with the hand pump, while Harry started the gasoline engine that operated their dynamo, connecting it to the power pump. Together the two agencies gained on the rising flood that threatened to swamp the sturdy Fortuna. Eagerly the boys plied the handle of the pump, keeping an eye upon the bilge.
Harry went about lifting floor boards and peering here and there in an effort to discover the source of the great leak.
“Ha!” he shouted from the after cabin. “Here’s the trouble! Come here, you fellows, and bear a hand. Get something to plug this hole in the Fortuna’s side. This is sheer murder!”
Trusting the power pump to keep abreast of the incoming water, Tom and Arnold deserted their post at the hand pump and sprang to assist their chum whose cries told them that something had been found.
The sight that met their eyes was a startling one.
Harry had removed the floor boards from the center of the cabin and was reaching down to the bilge. A spray of water squirted up into his face drenching him thoroughly.
“Get something to plug this hole!” he gasped. “I’m drowning!”
Looking about hastily for means to plug the hole, Tom offered a jacket he had picked up from the locker. Arnold seized a fid from another locker. Harry shut his eyes, turned his head side-wise and gasped for breath. Reaching out for the jacket he took it from the hand of his friend and tried to push it into the hole through which the water was pouring steadily. His efforts were fruitless.
“Here, take this,” urged Arnold. “This fid will plug a big hole and jam it tight, too. Is it a butt started?”
Harry took the fid from his chum. Quickly he inserted the pointed end into the hole he had been trying to cover with his hand.
“Give me a hammer or something to knock with and I’ll try to drive this into the hole. It’s not a butt, it’s an auger hole!”
“An auger hole?” both boys gasped in horror.
“An auger hole!” repeated Harry, his lips set and white. “Just a little more and we’d have been beyond all help. I think this idea of helping unfortunate castaways is getting to be a good thing.”
“Why, who on earth could have been so cold-blooded as to have bored a hole in our vessel?” cried Arnold. “Surely it wasn’t the man whose life we just saved a short time ago!”