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HOME > Classical Novels > Bill Bolton and the Flying Fish > Chapter II SURPRISED
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 Bill didn’t care to be thrust out of danger’s way by Osceola. He stepped into the open doorway, his revolver leveled. At the far end of the yacht’s salon, taking up the entire space across the rear wall, stood the couch. It was so low from the floor that he wondered not only how a human being could squeeze beneath it, but how Osceola could possibly have known that anyone was hidden there.  
“Come on! Get out of that!” growled the Seminole. “And come out feet first, or you’ll stop a bullet before you leave the floor.”
“Please don’t shoot!” cried a high-pitched, muffled voice. “I’m—I’m coming!”
A pair of rubber soled sneakers appeared from beneath the couch, soon followed by two stockinged legs. Then while the two friends stared in amazement a boy of possibly twelve years wriggled forth and got to his feet. He was a round-faced, red-headed youngster in khaki shorts and outing shirt, and across his nose and one side of his face he bore a great smudge of black coal-dust. He looked hot and badly rumpled, but did not appear to be frightened in the least; on the contrary, he was bursting with rage, and began to hold forth immediately.
“Look here, you!” he piped in his ridiculous treble, both hands thrust into trouser pockets and balancing on the balls of his feet against the roll of the ship. “What are you fellas doin’ here? Whose yacht do you think this is, anyway?”
Bill and Osceola broke into roars of laughter and holstered their automatics.
“That’s exactly what we want to know, young bantam-cock!” gasped Bill, when he could speak.
“Tell us all about it, bub,” seconded the chief. “We aren’t going to hurt you.”
For a full minute the boy stared at the two young men.
“Say!” he exploded. “You fellas don’t look like pirates!”
“Hijackers, then, or whatever you call ’em.”
“What do we look like?” asked Osceola, smiling.
The boy looked puzzled. “You came in a plane—I saw you land—but you talk like college men.”
“Remarkable perception—” The chief winked at Bill.
“Oh, quit your kiddin’—who are you guys, anyway?”
Bill shook his head. “Who are you, and what are you doing here?”
“I asked you first,” stubbornly insisted the youngster.
“All right, then,” laughed Bill. “My name is Bolton, and I’m ‘commonly known as Bill.’”
“A college man?”
“Midshipman at the Naval Academy.”
“You aren’t in uniform,” said the boy doubtfully. “How do you happen to be here?”
“Oh, I change my clothes occasionally. And this is my second class summer—I’m on leave. Anything else you’d like to know?”
“Well,” Bill drew a deep breath, “I was born an orphan at the age of five, and until I was ninety-seven I could only go upstairs backward with my hair parted on the side—”
“Raspberries!” flashed back redhead. “Come on, who’s the other fella? I’ll bet six bits his middle name is Mussolini!”
“The other fella, as you so elegantly put it, is Chief Osceola, Grand Sachem of the Seminole Nation and a senior at Carlisle. And incidentally, neither Chief Osceola nor myself permit grubby little schoolboys to get fresh when we’re around.” Bill shot out a long arm and gathered in the urchin. “Will you scalp him, Osceola?” he inquired solemnly. “Or shall I lay him across my knee and give him what he’s asking for? Stop wriggling, you young ruffian, or you’ll get a double dose!”
“Please, Mister Bolton—I didn’t mean to be fresh—really, I didn’t!” The youngster was all contrition now.
“Then snap out of it, and answer our questions!”
“I will, sir, I will—” he broke off and stared up at Bill, awe and amazement written on his round face. “Say!” he fairly shouted. “You must be the two guys I read about in the newspaper. The ones that busted up that gang of gunmen down in Florida a couple of weeks ago!”
“What of it?” Bill released him. “That doesn’t give you license to show off your bad manners, does it?”
“Gee whiz! And to think I was trying to get fresh with a couple of real men like you! I’m darned sorry—and I apologize, Mr. Bolton, and to you, too, Chief Osceola.”
“That’s all right, kid. No harm done,” laughed Osceola. “Quit stalling and tell us something about yourself.”
“Well, I’m Charlie Evans,” returned the boy, still awestruck at his discovery of their identity. “My father is C. B. Evans. We live in Boston, and this is our yacht, the Merrymaid.”
Bill walked over to the divan and sat down, while Osceola leaned against the arm of a chair. “Come over here, Charlie,” he invited, “and tell me how it happens that we find you alone on this yacht. Chief Osceola and I are on our way from Miami to New York. We sighted the Merrymaid adrift and evidently abandoned out here, so we naturally landed to investigate.”
“Gee, that was fine of you!” Charlie curled up on the couch beside him. “But you see, I can’t very well tell you what happened, because I don’t know!”
“You don’t know?” Osceola’s voice sounded rather gruff.
“Look here, Charlie,” cut in Bill. “This is a serious matter. We’ve got to be on our way soon. You are wasting our time and your own.”
Charlie flushed. “I ain’t kidding you, Mr. Bolton, really I’m not.”
“But there must have been a crew and passengers aboard this ship. Do you mean to say that they disappeared into thin air and you don’t know why or how?”
“Yes, sir, I do. You see, I went below to the trunk room after breakfast. When I came on deck again, there wasn’t a soul in sight. I searched the yacht, but you fellas are the first people I’ve seen since I came up on deck.”
“I reckon you’d better start at the beginning,” said Osceola. “I’ll ask questions and you answer them. And maybe we’ll be able to get somewhere. Suppose you tell us where this yacht was going and who were aboard her at breakfast time?”
“That’s easy,” returned young Evans. “We were out of Boston, bound for Savannah. Dad had business there, so he took Mother and me and Uncle Arthur along. Uncle Arthur is Mother’s brother, you know. The four of us had breakfast together at eight o’clock, and—”
“Woa, not so fast. I suppose somebody skippered this boat?”
“That’s right. Captain Ridley is skipper. I forgot to say that he had breakfast with us, too. And we carry a pretty big crew. I can’t tell you how many without counting them, but I know all their names.”
Osceola smiled at the boy’s earnestness. “Never mind the crew, now. What happened after breakfast? I take it everything was running as usual up to that time?”
“Yes, that’s right, chief. Well, you see, after breakfast, I wanted to practice that slow drop Harold Lane told me about. You see, I pitch on our team. So I asked Uncle Arthur if he would catch for me. He said he would, so we went out on deck—but say—Uncle Arthur can’t catch for nuts! He muffed the very first ball, and it went overboard—”
“You shouldn’t pitch balls,” interrupted Bill. “Strikes are what make a pitcher.”
“Who’s kidding now?” said Charlie delightedly.
“Say,” Osceola broke in, “I’m cross examining this witness. Don’t listen to him Charlie. What did you do after the ball was lost?”
“I went into my cabin, but I couldn’t find another one there. Then I remembered that I had one in my trunk—so I went below to get it. Well, when I got the trunk open, I got interested in some things I found that I didn’t know I’d brought with me—and I guess I stayed down there for some time.”
“About how long, do you think?”
“Oh, something over an hour, maybe. I came across a book I like, and got to reading it.”
“Did you know the ship had stopped moving?”
“Of course, but that was nothing. I mean, father often has her stopped on a hot day, and goes overboard for a swim. I do, too, and so does Uncle Arthur.”
“I see—and when you came upstairs again—”
“One says topside or above on shipboard,” suggested Bill, winking at Charlie.
“O-and likewise-K,” replied Osceola. “Not that it has a thing to do with the matter in hand. Now, Charlie, when you came—on deck, you found that everybody had vanished—that you were alone on board?”
“Yes, sir. And believe me but I was some scared! I went all over the ship, but even the cat had gone. And, well—I guess you men won’t tell on a fella—I came in here, and I guess I cried some—” He ended shame-facedly.
“Of course you did! I would probably have done the same thing in your place!” Bill encouraged him.
Charlie looked relieved. “Gee whiz, but it was lonesome!” he exploded. “I hung round a bit, didn’t know just what to do. Then I thought of sending out a call for help. I know the International Morse Code. But when I got to the radio room—someone had put the darn thing on the fritz. Wouldn’t that jar yuh!”
“Pretty tough!” agreed Bill. “What next?”
“Well, I kind of nosed around. Thought Dad or Mother might have left a note or something for me. I couldn’t find anything, though. Gosh, it was so quiet! Then I made myself a couple of sandwiches and ate half a plum cake I found in the pantry, and felt better.
“After that, I hunted some more, but it wasn’t any use. I heard your plane about that time. I didn’t know who you were, of course, so I decided I’d better lay low until I could size up what kind of guys you were. Oh, Mr. Bolton—can’t you find Mother and Dad for me?” Charlie’s voice broke suddenly and he sounded very much like a lost small boy.
Just then Osceola raised a warning hand. “Listen!”
There came a rush of feet on deck. Before the three in the salon could reach for revolvers, men with leveled rifles appeared at every porthole.
“Stick ’em up and keep ’em there!” cracked a voice from the open doorway, and a man in the smart white uniform of a ship’s officer strode into the room.

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