“I suppose she would,” replied Steve dubiously, his hand hesitating on the wheel, “but finding her and getting her are two mighty different things, Perry. If we could get her she’d be a nice prize, I guess, for lumber’s worth real money these days, and although she isn’t very big it’s safe to say she’s got quite a bunch of it on her, below deck and above. I guess that lumber is what kept her afloat, from the looks of the hull.”
“Let’s see what we can do,” said Han. “Someone will find her and—”
“It might as well be us,” added Perry enthusiastically. “Couldn’t we tow her, Steve!”
“Tow her! Gee, she’d follow about as easily as a brick house!”
“But if we both pulled—”
“Well”—Steve cast an appraising eye at the weather—“I’m game to try it if the rest of you say so. Full steam ahead, Mr. Chapman!”
ON BOARD THE CATSPAW
Steve communicated the project to those aboard the Follow Me which had now drawn up as near as she dared, and there followed a moment of blank amazement aboard the smaller boat. But discussion there was brief, and almost at once Harry Corwin raised his megaphone again and bellowed across:
“Go to it! What do you want us to do, Steve?”
“Nothing yet,” was the answer. “We’re going to board her first and see how she looks. If we take on the job we’ll want your heaviest cable.”
Harry signalled assent. By this time they were within a hundred yards of the derelict, and, with engines just moving, they tossed about on the long swells and had a better look at the schooner. She was about eighty feet long, with a beam of probably twenty-two, and displaced approximately a hundred tons. She was square-sterned and blunt-nosed, evidently built for capacity rather than speed. Her name, in gold letters on the bow, was quite distinct: Catspaw. Later, when they rounded her stern, they saw that her home port was Norfolk. Her cargo, or at least so much of it as was above deck, consisted of rough pine boards, and every available foot of space was occupied with it. The deck-house was all but hidden. The mainmast dragged by a tangle of ropes aft of the starboard beam and was acting as a sort of sea-anchor. For the rest, her lumber-piled deck was swept clean save for a splintered gaff that had become wedged in the boards. Her hull had been painted black, but not very recently, and a dingy white streak led along the side.
The two cruisers worked cautiously around to the leeward side of the Catspaw, the Adventurer’s tender was dropped over and Steve, Joe and Han climbed in. Boarding in that sea was no child’s work, for the big swells, which slammed into and sometimes over the schooner without much effect, tossed the dingey high in air. But by rowing hard at first and then taking advantage of the quieter water near the schooner they at last reached the old black hull in safety and, while Han managed the boat-hook, the other two scrambled aboard.