“Of course!” exclaimed Steve. “That’s the idea!”
“What, starve?” asked Joe distastefully.
“No, you idiot, go out to the Adventurer and get some gasoline!”
“Sure!” agreed Ossie. “Only—just when we were getting dry at last—”
“What’s the matter with stripping,” asked Steve cheerfully, suiting action to word. “Is there a can or anything I can put it in, Ossie?”
“There’s a jug in the starboard locker. There’s about a pint of vinegar in it, but I guess we can sacrifice that.”
“Drink it, Steve, and save it,” suggested Perry.
The tide had retreated further by now and the bow of the cruiser was almost beyond the breakers and Steve’s journey was not difficult. When he got back, with the vinegar jug filled with gasoline hung around his neck, he reported the Adventurer waist-deep in water at the stern. “You fellows start the fire,” he said, “and I’ll go back and bring some grub ashore. There’s no reason for starving with food handy.”
Joe volunteered to accompany him, and, after disrobing and putting his damp clothes under a stone to keep them from blowing away, he and Steve plunged back into the water. Meanwhile success met the efforts of the firemen and soon a good-sized blaze was roaring in spite of wind and mist. They had located it as near the foot of the cliff as possible and, although the smoke made itself disagreeable by billowing out in their faces, it was thereby somewhat sheltered from the elements. Steve and Joe made three trips and brought back frying-pan, coffee-pot and smaller utensils, as well as provisions, and a half-hour later they were beginning a supplementary breakfast of bacon and coffee. And if anything in all the wide world, from the time of Noah to that of the Adventure Club, ever tasted sublime to a shipwrecked mariner it was that same bacon and coffee!
When they had finished, Phil’s watch—the only one of six which had neither run down for lack of winding or been incapacitated by immersion in salt water—gave the hour as twenty minutes past seven. Comforted by food and drink, they warmed themselves at the fire and waited for the tide to recede far enough to allow a survey of the Adventurer. The comfort was too much for Perry and he fell asleep with his feet almost in the embers and his head on a rock and slumbered emphatically. At last the line of breakers was well astern of the cruiser and the boys, leaving their stockings to dry by the fire and rolling their trousers up, began their investigation.
On the whole the Adventurer had so far come off easily. Her planks had been strained in several places, but there were no breaks. Steve, hanging over the stern, tried to get sight of the propeller but failed, as the sand had settled about it. Joe, wading out into the water, had better success when he investigated. He came up, dripping, with the welcome announcement that the blades were intact and that, so far as he could ascertain by feeling, the shaft was not bent. But things looked pretty dismal below-decks. The forward cabin was awash, as was the engine-well, and the after stateroom was knee-deep. They gathered on the bridge deck and held council.