- زمان مطالعه 54 دقیقه
- سطح سخت
دانلود اپلیکیشن «زیبوک»
این فصل را میتوانید به بهترین شکل و با امکانات عالی در اپلیکیشن «زیبوک» بخوانید
متن انگلیسی فصل
In the late afternoon Tony took the Napoli back to the suspected shore spot. Keeping well out from the breaking waves, he cruised along the cliff. The boys kept a sharp eye on the location of the tunnel. As the boat passed it they were just able to distinguish the narrow opening in the rocks.
“I won’t be able to go in there after a while,” Tony remarked. “The tide’s coming in. At high tide I’ll bet that tunnel is filled with water.”
Suddenly Tony swung his craft so hard to the right that the other boys lost their balance.
“Sorry, fellows,” he said. “Saw a log-oh!”
He shut off his engine in a flash and leaned over the gunwale. His companions picked themselves up and asked what had happened.
“Propeller started to foul up with some wire on that log.” Tony began to peel off his clothes. “Get me some pliers, will you?”Frank opened a locker and found a pair. Taking them, Tony dived overboard. A minute later he reappeared and climbed in. “I’m lucky,” he said. “Just plain lucky. Two seconds more and all that wire would have been wound around the prop and the log would have knocked it off.”
“Good night!” Chet exclaimed. “It would have been a long swim home.”
Joe slapped Tony on the back. “Good work, boy. I’d hate to see the Napoli out of commission.”
Chet and Frank hauled the log aboard, so it would not damage any other craft. “This is a fence post with barbed wire!” Chet said. “Wowee! It’s good you spotted that log, Tony.”
Tony dressed, then started the engine. He cruised around for more than an hour, but the boys saw no sign of life about the base of the cliff. They could see the Pollitt house, but to their amazement no lights appeared in it as twilight came.
“How much longer do you think we should stay out here?” Chet asked. “I’m getting hungry.”
“I have a few pretzels and a candy bar, but that’s not much for four of us,” Joe remarked.
“Aha!” crowed Tony. “I have a surprise for you! I stowed away a little food before we took off.” With that he pulled a paper bag from the locker and passed each boy a large sandwich, a piece of chocolate cake, and a bottle of lemon soda.
“You deserve a medal,” Chet remarked as he bit into a layer of ham and cheese.
“You sure do!” Frank agreed. “I think we should stay right here for a while and watch. It’s my guess the smugglers will be on the job tonight. Don’t forget that the Marco Polo is docking tomorrow morning.”
“I get it,” said Chet. “If she lays offshore or steams in slowly, it’ll give AH Singh a chance to drop the stolen drugs overboard to Snattman.”
“Correct,” said Frank.
Tony looked intently at the Hardys. “Is it your idea to keep Snattman from meeting Ali Singh? But what about your father? I thought we came out here to get a line on how to rescue him.”
The brothers exchanged glances, then Joe said, “Of course that’s our main purpose, but we hope that we can do both.”
Twilight deepened into darkness and lights could be seen here and there through the haze. The cliff was only a black smudge and the house above was still unlighted.
Suddenly the boys heard a muffled sound. Tony slowed the Napoli and they listened intently.
“Another motorboat,” Tony whispered.
The sound seemed to come from near the cliff. Straining their eyes in that direction, the four were at last able to distinguish a faint moving light.
“Can you head over that way, Tony?” Frank asked in a low voice. “And could you take a chance on turning off our lights?”
“Sure. Here goes. The wind’s blowing from the land, so our engine won’t be heard from the shore.”
The boys were tense with excitement as the Napoli moved slowly toward the light. As the boat creptnearer the cliff, they could barely distinguish the outline of a motorboat. The craft seemed to be making its way carefully out of the very face of the cliff.
“It must have come from that tunnel!” Joe whispered to Frank.
The Napoli went closer, in imminent danger of being discovered or of being washed ashore onto the rocks. Finally the other boat slowed to a crawl. Then came the faint clatter of oars and low voices. The motorboat had evidently met a row-boat.
The next moment, with an abrupt roar, the motorboat turned and raced out to sea at an ever-increasing rate of speed.
“Where can it be going?” said Tony, in amazement. “Out to meet the Marco Polo?”
“Probably,” Frank replied, “and we’d never catch it. I wonder where the rowboat’s going.”
The four boys waited in silence for several minutes. Then the rattle of oars came again. This time the sound was closer. The rowboat was coming toward them!
“What’ll we do now?” Tony asked.
“Turn off your engine,” Frank whispered. Tony complied.
Through the gloom suddenly came snatches of conversation from the rowboat. “-a hundred pounds-“
they heard a man say harshly, and then the rest of the sentence was lost. There was a lengthy murmur of voices, then, “I don’t know. It’s risky-“
The wind died down just then and two voices could be heard distinctly. “Ali Singh’s share-“ one man was saying.
“That’s right. We can’t forget him,” the gruff voice replied.
“I hope they get away all right.”
“What are you worryin’ about? Of course they’ll get away.”
“We’ve been spotted, you know.”
“It’s all your imagination. Nobody suspects.”
“Those boys at the house-“
“Just dumb kids. If they come nosin’ around again, we’ll knock ‘em on the head.”
“I don’t like this rough stuff. It’s dangerous.”
“We’ve got to do it or we’ll end up in the pen. What’s the matter with you tonight? You’re nervous.”
“I’m worried. I’ve got a hunch we’d better clear out of here.”
“Clear out!” replied the other contemptuously. “Are you crazy? Why, this place is as safe as a church.”
The man laughed sardonically. “Haven’t we got all the squealers locked up? And tonight we make the big cleanup and get away.”“Well, maybe you’re right,” said the first man doubtfully. “But still-“
His voice died away as the boat entered the tunnel.
Joe grabbed Frank’s arm. “Did you hear that? All the squealers locked up? I’ll bet Dad’s one of them and he’s a prisoner somewhere around here.”
“And this is the hide-out of Snattman and the other smugglers he was after,” Frank added.
“I don’t like this,” Chet spoke up. “Let’s leave here and get the police.”
Frank shook his head. “It would take so long we might goof the whole thing. Tell you what. Joe and I will follow that rowboat through the tunnel!”
“On foot or swim. I don’t think it’s deep along the edges.”
“You mean Chet and I will wait here?” Tony asked.
“No,” Frank answered. “You two beat it back to Bayport and notify the Coast Guard. Tell them we’re on the track of smugglers and ask them to send some men here.”
“And tell them our suspicions about AH Singh and the Marco Polo,” Joe added. “They can radio the captain to keep an eye on him.”
“Okay,” said Tony. “I’ll do that. First I’ll put you ashore.”
“Don’t go too close or you’ll hit those rocks and wreck the boat,” Frank warned. “Joe and I can swim to shore. Then we’ll work around into the tunnel and see what we can find. If we do discover anything, we’ll wait at the entrance and show the men from the Coast Guard where to go when they get here.”
Tony edged the boat in as close to the dark shore as he dared without lights. Quickly Frank and Joe took off their slacks, T shirts, sweaters, and sneakers. They rolled them up, and with twine which Tony provided, tied the bundles on top of their heads. Then they slipped over the side into the water. The Napoli sped off.
Frank and Joe were only a few yards from the rocks and after a short swim emerged on the mainland.
“Well, here goes!” Joe whispered, heading for the tunnel.
The Secret Passage
CAUTIOUSLY Frank and Joe made their way across the slippery rocks. Suddenly there was a loud splash as Joe lost his footing.
“Are you all right?” Frank whispered, as he came up to where his brother was standing in the shallow water at the edge of the cliff.”Yes. For a moment I sure thought I’d sprained my ankle,” Joe replied tensely, “but it seems to be okay now.”
“Give me your hand,” Frank whispered and quickly pulled Joe back onto the rocks.
The Hardys had landed at a point some twenty-five yards from the tunnel opening, but the climb over the treacherous rocks was so difficult that the distance seemed much longer. It was very dark in the shadow of the steep cliff. The waves breaking against the rocks had a lonely and foreboding sound.
“Good night!” Joe muttered. “Aren’t we ever coming to that tunnel?”
“Take it easy,” Frank advised. “It can’t be much farther.”
“I hope Tony and Chet will hurry back with help,” Joe said. “This is a ticklish job.”
“If anybody’s on guard here, we’ll certainly be at a disadvantage,” Frank remarked in a barely audible tone. “Watch out!”
By this time they had reached the entrance to the tunnel. After a few cautious steps they discovered that the narrow piece of land between the water and the base of the cliff was covered by a thick growth of bushes.
Frank turned to Joe. “If we try to walk through all that stuff,” he whispered, “we’re sure to be heard. That is, if those men are in here some place.”
Joe grunted in agreement. “What shall we do?” Tentatively, Frank put one foot into the water from the rock on which he was standing.
“It isn’t deep,” he said. “I guess we can wade through.”
The boys hugged the wall and started off. Fortunately, the water came only to their knees because there was a shelf of rocks all the way along. The brothers’ hearts beat wildly. What would they find ahead of them? The boys had not heard a sound since entering the tunnel. It appeared that the men in the row-boat had gone on to some secret hiding place.
“I think I’ll risk my flashlight,” Frank said in a low voice as they reached the pond. “We can’t find out anything without it.”
He pulled one he always carried from its waterproof case and snapped it on. The yellow beam shone over the pond. There was no sign of the rowboat.
“How do you think those men got out of here?” Joe asked. “Do you suppose there’s another opening?”
Frank turned the flashlight onto the steep sides surrounding the water. “I don’t see any. My guess is that those men hid the boat some place. Let’s make a thorough search.”
Slowly the brothers began to walk around the edge of the pond, brushing aside the heavy growth and peering among the bushes. They had about given up in despair as they reached the section by the far wall of the tunnel. Then, as Frank beamed the flashlight over the thicket, he exclaimed hoarsely, “Look!”
“A door!” Joe whispered tensely.
The door had been so cleverly concealed that it would not have been seen in full daylight except at close quarters. The glare of the flashlight, however, brought the artificial screen of branches and leaves into sharp relief against the dark cliffside.”This explains it,” Joe said. “The men in the boat went through here. I wonder where it goes.”
In order to avoid detection, Frank extinguished his light before trying to open the door. He swung it open inch by inch, half expecting to find lights and people beyond. But there was only darkness. Luckily the door had made no noise. Frank turned on his light again.
Ahead was a watery passageway some ten feet wide and twenty-five feet long, with a ledge running along one side. At the end was a tiny wharf with a rowboat tied to a post.
“This is fantastic!” Joe whispered. “And it must have been here a long time. Do you suppose it’s connected with the Pollitt place?”
“If it is, it could mean old Mr. Pollitt was mixed up with the smugglers!” Frank answered. “Hey, do you suppose Snattman is his nephew?”
Excited over this possible new angle to the case, Frank and Joe stepped onto the ledge. They dressed, then quietly inched forward. Reaching the wharf, they looked about them as Frank beamed his flashlight on the walls.
“Hold it!” Joe whispered.
Directly ahead was a crude arch in the rock. Beyond it, the boys could see a steep flight of stone steps.
Their hearts pounded with excitement.
“We’ve found it!” Frank whispered. “This must be the secret passageway!”
“Yes,” Joe agreed, “and from the distance we’ve come I’d figure that we’re right underneath the house on the cliff.” “Let’s go up.”
The light cast strange shadows in the passage through the rocks. Water dripped from the walls. The boys tiptoed forward and stealthily began the ascent.
As they crept up the stairs, Frank flashed the light ahead of them. Shortly they could see that the steps ended at a heavy door. Its framework was set into the wall of rock. Above them was only a rocky ceiling.
When Frank and Joe reached the door, they hesitated. Both were thinking, “If we go through that door and find the gang of smugglers, we’ll never get out. But, on the other hand, we must find Dad!”
Frank stepped forward, pressed his ear against the door, and listened intently. There was not a sound beyond.
He turned off his light and looked carefully around the sides of the door to see if he could catch a glimmer of any illumination from the other side. There was only darkness.
“I guess there’s no one inside,” he said to Joe. “Let’s see if we can open it.”
Frank felt for the latch. The door did not move. “It must be locked,” he whispered.
“Try it again. Maybe it’s just stuck.”
Frank put his hand on the latch, this time also pushing the door with his shoulder. Suddenly, with a noise which echoed from wall to wall, the latch snapped and the door swung open.
Joe stepped forward, but Frank put out a restraining hand. “Wait!” he cautioned. “That noise may bringsomeone.”
Tensely, they stood alert for the slightest sound. But none came. Hopeful that there was no one in the area beyond, Frank switched on the flashlight.
The vivid beam cut the darkness and revealed a gloomy cave hewn out of the rock in the very center of the cliff. The boys wondered if it had been a natural cave. It was filled with boxes, bales, and packages distributed about the floor and piled against the walls.
“Smuggled goods!” Frank and Joe thought.
The fact that the majority of the boxes bore labels of foreign countries seemed to verify their suspicions.
Convinced that the cave was unoccupied, the boys stepped through the doorway and looked about for another door or opening. They saw none. Was this the end of the trail?
“But it couldn’t be,” the young sleuths thought. “Those men went some place.”
Bolts of beautiful silk had been tossed on top
of some of the bales. Valuable tapestries were also lying carelessly around. In one corner four boxes were piled on top of one another. Frank accidentally knocked the flashlight against one of these and it gave forth a hollow sound.
“It’s empty,” he whispered.
An idea struck him that perhaps these boxes had been piled up to conceal some passage leading out of the secret storeroom. He mentioned his suspicion to Joe.
“But how could the men pile the boxes up there after they went out?” his brother questioned.
“This gang is smart enough for anything. Let’s move these boxes away and maybe we’ll find out.”
Frank seized the topmost box. It was very light and he removed it from the pile without difficulty.
“I thought so!” Frank said with satisfaction. The flashlight had revealed the top of a door which had been hidden from view.
The boys lost no time in moving the other three boxes. Then Frank and Joe discovered how it was possible for the boxes to be piled up in such a position, in spite of the fact that the smugglers had left the cave and closed the door behind them.
Attached to the bottom of the door was a thin wooden platform that projected out over the floor of the cave and on this the boxes had been piled.
“Very clever,” Joe remarked. “Whenever any one leaves the cave and closes the door, the boxes swing in with the platform and it looks as though they were piled up on the floor.”
“Right. Well, let’s see where the door leads,” Frank proposed.
He snapped off his light and with utmost caution opened the door. It made no sound. Again there was darkness ahead.
“What a maze!” Frank whispered as he turned on his flash and beamed the light ahead.Another stone-lined passage with a flight of steps at the end!
Suddenly Frank stiffened and laid a warning hand on his brother’s arm. “Voices!” he said in a low tone and snapped off his light.
The boys listened intently. They could hear a man’s voice in the distance. Neither could distinguish what he was saying, for he was still too far away, but gradually the tones grew louder. Then, to the brothers’
alarm, they heard footsteps. Hastily they retreated into the secret cave.
“Quick! The door!” Frank urged.
They closed it quietly.
“Now the boxes. If those men come in here they’ll notice that the boxes have been moved!” He turned on the light but shielded it with his hand.
Swiftly Joe piled the empty boxes back onto the platform that projected from the bottom of the door. He worked as silently and quickly as possible, but could hear the footsteps drawing closer and closer.
Finally the topmost box was in place.
“Out the other door!” Frank hissed into Joe’s ear.
They sped across the floor of the cave toward the door opening onto the stairs they had recently ascended. But hardly had they reached it before they heard a rattle at the latch of the door on the opposite side of the cave.
“We haven’t time,” Frank whispered. “Hide!”
The beam of the flashlight revealed a number of boxes close to the door. On top of these someone had thrown a heavy bolt of silk, the folds of which hung down to the floor. The brothers scrambled swiftly behind the boxes, pressing themselves close against the wall. They had just enough time to hide and switch out Frank’s light before they heard the other door open.
“There’s a bunch of drugs in that shipment that came in three weeks ago,” they heard a husky voice say.
“We’ll take it upstairs. Burke says he can get rid of it for us right away. No use leaving it down here. Got to make room for the new shipment.”
“Right,” the Hardys heard someone else reply. “Anything else to go up?”
“No. I’ll switch on the light.”
There was a click, and suddenly the cave was flooded with light. It had been wired for electricity.
Frank and Joe crouched in their hiding place, holding their breaths in terror. Would they be discovered?
Footsteps slowly approached the boxes behind which they were concealed!
CHAPTER XIIIA Startling Discovery
FRANK AND JOE tried to crowd themselves into the smallest space possible as the men came nearer to their hiding place. The electric light bulb hanging from the center of the ceiling cast such a strong illumination over the cave that the boys felt certain they would be discovered.
The boxes were placed a small distance apart, and only the fact that folds of silk hung down over the open spaces between the boxes prevented the boys from being seen immediately. However, through a crack in one of the crates, the Hardys could just make out two husky-looking figures.
“Here’s some o’ that Japanese silk,” the boys heard one of the men say. “I’d better take a bolt of that up too. Burke said he could place some more of it.”
Instantly the same thought ran through both the brothers’ minds. If the man picked up the silk, they would surely be found!
“Don’t be crazy!” the other man objected. “You know you won’t get any credit for pushin’ a sale. Why break your arm luggin’ all that stuff upstairs?”
“Well,” the first man explained in a whining tone, “I thought maybe we could get rid of some more of this swag and make ourselves a little extra dough.”
“Naw,” his companion snarled. “I can tell you ain’t been with this gang long. You never get any thanks around here for thinkin’. If Burke don’t take the extra stuff, the boss’ll make you bring it all the way down again.”
“Maybe you’re right.”
“Sure I’m right! My idea for the rest of us in this gang is to do just what Snattman tells us to and no more.”
“You got somethin’ there, Bud. Okay. We’ll just take up the package of drugs and leave the rest.”
To the boys’ relief the men turned away and went over to the other side of the room. Frank and Joe did not dare peer out, but they could hear the sound of boxes being shifted.
Then came the words, “All set. I’ve got the packages. Let’s go!”
The switch was snapped and the cave was plunged into darkness. The Hardys began to breathe normally again. The door to the corridor closed and faintly the boys could detect the men’s footsteps as they ascended the stairs at the end of it.
When they had died away completely, Frank switched on the flashlight. “Wow!” he said, giving a tremendous sigh of relief. “That was a close call! I sure thought they had us.”
“Me too,” Joe agreed. “We wouldn’t have had a chance with that pair. Looked like a couple of wrestlers.”
“Do we dare follow them?”
“You bet. I’d say we’ve solved the smuggling mystery, but we’ve still got to find out if they’re holding Dad,” Joe said grimly.
“We’ll have to watch our step even more carefully. We don’t want to walk right into the whole ring ofsmugglers,” Frank reminded him.
“Right. I don’t crave anything worse than what we’ve just gone through,” said Joe. “I thought I’d die of suspense while that pair was in here.”
They crossed the room, opened the door, and started up the dark passageway. Presently they were confronted by the flight of steps. Part way up there was a landing, then more steps with a door at the top.
“I’ll go first,” Frank offered. “Stick close behind me. I think I’ll keep the flash off.”
“That’s right,” Joe agreed. “Snattman might have a guard at the top and there’s no use advertising our presence.”
Step by step, the boys crept upward in the inky blackness. Then they found themselves on a crude landing of planks. Carefully they felt their way along the side of the rock wall until they reached the next flight of steps.
Here the brothers stopped again to listen. Silence.
“So far, so good,” Frank whispered. “But somehow I don’t like this whole thing. I have a feeling we’re walking into a trap.”
“We can’t quit now,” Joe answered. “But I admit I’m scared.”
Still groping in the dark, the boys climbed up and up until they were nearly winded.
“Where are we?” Joe panted. “I feel as if I’ve been climbing stairs for an hour!”
“Me too,” Frank agreed. “The cliff doesn’t look this high from the outside.”
They rested a minute, then continued their journey. Groping around, they finally reached another door.
Frank hunted for the door handle. Finding it, he turned the knob ever so slightly to find out if the door was locked.
“I can open it,” Frank said in Joe’s ear, “but we’d better wait a few minutes.”
“Every second is vital if Dad’s a prisoner,” Joe objected.
Frank was about to accede to his brother’s urging when both boys heard footsteps on the other side of the door. A chill ran down their spines.
“Shall we run?” Joe said fearfully.
“It wouldn’t do us any good. Listen!”
There came a queer shuffling sound and a sigh from somewhere beyond the door. That was all.
“Someone’s in there,” Frank breathed. Joe nodded in the darkness.
The boys did not know what to do. The gang might have posted a sentry. If there was only one, the Hardys might be able to jump the man and disarm him. However, they probably could not do it without making some noise and attracting the attention of the rest of the smugglers.
Frank and Joe gritted their teeth. They couldn’t give up now!As they were trying to decide how to proceed, the situation took an unexpected turn. A door slammed in the distance. Then came the murmur of voices and the sound of advancing footsteps.
“This nonsense has gone far enough,” a man said angrily. “He’ll write that note at once, or I’ll know the reason why.”
The boys started. The voice was that of the man who had ordered them to leave the pond during the afternoon.
“That’s right, chief!” another voice spoke up.
“Make him do as you say and get the heat off us until we’ve got all the loot moved.”
“If he doesn’t write it, he’ll never get out of here alive,” the first man promised coldly.
Instantly Frank and Joe thought of the note their mother had received. Was the man these smugglers were talking about their father? Or was he someone else-maybe Jones, who was to be forced to obey them or perhaps lose his life?
The speakers went a short distance beyond the door behind which Frank and Joe were standing. Then they heard the click of a switch. A faint beam of yellow light shone beneath the door. The brothers figured there was a corridor beyond and three or four men had entered a room opening from it.
“Well, I see you’re still here,” said the man who had been addressed as chief. “You’ll find this an easier place to get into than out of.”
A weary voice answered him. The tones were low, so the boys pressed closer to the door. But try as they might, they could not distinguish the words.
“You’re a prisoner here and you’ll stay here until you die unless you write that note.”
Again the weary voice spoke, but the tones were still so indistinct that the boys could not hear the answer.
“You won’t write it, eh? We’ll see what we can do to persuade you.”
“Let him go hungry for a few days. That’ll persuade him!” put in one of the other men. This brought a hoarse laugh from his companions.
“You’ll be hungry enough if you don’t write that letter,” the chief agreed. “Are you going to write it?”
“No,” the boys barely heard the prisoner answer.
The chief said sourly, “You’ve got too much on us. We can’t afford to let you go now. But if you write that letter, we’ll leave you some food, so that you won’t starve. You’ll break out eventually, but not in time to do us any harm. Well, what do you say? Want some food?”
There was no reply from the prisoner.
“Give his arm a little twist,” suggested one of the smugglers.
At this the Hardys’ blood boiled with rage. Their first impulse was to fling open the door and rush to the aid of the person who was being tormented. But they realized they were helpless against so many men.
Their only hope lay in the arrival of the Coast Guard men, but they might come too late!”Chief, shall I give this guy the works?” one of the smugglers asked.
“No,” the leader answered quickly. “None of that rough stuff. We’ll do it the easy way-starvation. I’m giving him one more chance. He can write that note now or we’ll leave him here to starve when we make our getaway.”
Still there was no reply.
To Frank’s and Joe’s ears came a scraping sound as if a chair was being moved forward.
“You won’t talk, eh?” The leader’s voice grew ugly.
There was a pause of a few seconds, then suddenly he shouted, “Write that note, Hardy, or you’ll be sorry-as sure as my name’s Snattman!”
JOE gave a start. “It is Dad!” he whispered hoarsely. “He found the smugglers’ hide-out!”
Frank nudged his brother warningly. “Not so loud.”
The boys’ worst fears were realized-their” father was not only a prisoner of the smugglers, but also his life was being threatened!
“Write that note!” Snattman demanded.
“I won’t write it,” Fenton Hardy replied in a weak but clear voice.
The chief persisted. “You heard what I said. Write it or be left here to starve.”
“You’ll change your mind in a day or two. You think you’re hungry now, but wait until we cut off your food entirely. Then you’ll see. You’ll be ready to sell your soul for a drop of water or a crumb to eat.”
“I won’t write it.”
“Look here, Hardy. We’re not asking very much. All we want you to do is write to your wife that you’re safe and tell her to call off the police and those kids of yours. They’re too nosy.”
“Sooner or later someone is going to trace me here,” came Mr. Hardy’s faint reply. “And when they do, I can tell them enough to send you to prison for the rest of your life.”
There was a sudden commotion in the room and two or three of the smugglers began talking at once.
“You’re crazy!” shouted Snattman, but there was a hint of uneasiness in his voice. “You don’t know anything about me!”
“I know enough to have you sent up for attempted murder. And you’re about to try it again.”“You’re too smart, Hardy. That’s all the more reason why you’re not going to get out of here until we’ve gone. And if you don’t co-operate you’ll never make it. Our next big shipment’s coming through tonight, and then we’re skipping the country. If you write that letter, you’ll live. If you don’t, it’s curtains for you!”
Frank and Joe were shaken by the dire threats. But they must decide whether to go for help, or stay and risk capture and try to rescue their father.
“You can’t scare me, Snattman,” the detective said. “I have a feeling your time is up. You’re never going to get that big shipment.”
The detective’s voice seemed a little stronger, the boys felt.
Snattman laughed. “I thought you were smart, but you’re playing a losing game, I warn you. And how about your family? Are you doing them a service by being so stubborn?”
There was silence for a while. Then Fenton Hardy answered slowly:
“My wife and boys would rather know that I died doing my duty than have me come back to them as a protector of smugglers and criminals.”
“You have a very high sense of duty,” sneered Snattman. “But you’ll change your mind. Are you thirsty?”
There was no reply.
“Are you hungry?”
Still no answer.
“You know you are. And it’ll be worse. You’ll die of thirst and starvation unless you write that note.”
“I’ll never write it.”
“All right. Come on, men. We’ll leave him to himself for a while and give him time to think about it.”
Frank squeezed Joe’s arm in relief and exhilaration. There was still a chance to save their father!
Footsteps echoed as Snattman and the others left the room and walked through the corridor. Finally the sounds died away and a door slammed.
Joe made a move toward the door, but Frank held him back. “We’d better wait a minute,” he cautioned.
“They may have left someone on guard.”
The boys stood still, listening intently. But there were no further sounds from beyond the door. At length, satisfied that his father had indeed been left alone, Frank felt for the knob.
Noiselessly he opened the door about an inch, then peered into the corridor which was dimly lighted from one overhead bulb. There was no sign of a guard.
Three doors opened from the corridor-two on the opposite side from where the brothers were Standing and another at the end.
The passage was floored with planks and had a beamed ceiling like a cellar. Frank and Joe quickly figured where their father was and sped across the planks to the room. They pushed open the door of the almost dark room and peered inside. There was a crude table and several chairs. In one corner stood a small cot. On it lay Fenton Hardy. He was bound hand and foot to the bed-and so tightly trussed that hewas unable to move more than a few inches in any direction. He was flat on his back, staring up at the ceiling of his prison. On a chair beside the cot was a sheet of paper and a pencil, evidently the materials for the letter Snattman had demanded he write.
“Dad!” Frank and Joe cried softly.
The detective had not heard the door open, but now he looked at his sons in amazement and relief.
“You’re here!” he whispered. “Thank goodness!”
The boys were shocked at the change in their father’s appearance. Normally a rugged-looking man, Fenton Hardy now was thin and pale. His cheeks were sunken and his eyes listless.
“We’ll have you out of here in a minute,” Frank whispered.
“Hurry!” the detective begged. “Those demons may be back any minute!”
Frank pulled out his pocketknife and began to work at the ropes that bound his father. But the knife was not very sharp and the bonds were thick.
Joe discovered that he did not have his knife with him. “It probably slipped out of my pocket when we undressed on the Napoli,” he said.
“Mine’s gone too,” Mr. Hardy told them. “Snattman took everything I had in my pockets, including concentrated emergency rations. Have you anything sweet with you?”
Joe pulled out the candy bar from his pocket and held it, so Mr. Hardy could take a large bite of the quick-energy food. Meanwhile, his eyes roamed over the room in search of something sharp which he might use to help Frank with the ropes. He saw nothing.
Mr. Hardy finished the candy bar, bite by bite. Now Joe started to help Frank by trying to untie the knots. But they were tight and he found it almost impossible to loosen them.
Minutes passed. Frank hacked at the ropes, but the dull blade made little progress. Joe worked at the obstinate knots. Fenton Hardy could give no assistance. All were silent. The only sound was the heavy breathing of the boys and the scraping of the knife against the ropes.
At last Frank was able to saw through one of the bonds and the detective’s feet were free. His son pulled the ropes away and began to work on the ones that bound his father’s arms. As he reached over with the knife there came a sound that sent a feeling of terror through the Hardys.
It was a heavy footstep beyond the corridor door. Someone was coming back!
Frank worked desperately with the knife, but the ropes still held stubbornly. The dull blade seemed to make almost no impression. But at last a few strands parted. Finally, with Fenton Hardy making a mighty effort and Joe clawing at the rope with his fingers, it snapped.
The detective was free!
But the footfalls of the approaching smuggler came closer.
“Quick!” Frank whispered, as he flung the ropes aside.
“I-I can’t hurry!” Mr. Hardy gasped. “I’ve been tied up so long my feet and legs are numb.”
“But we’ve got to hurry, Dad!” Frank said excitedly. “See if you can stand up.”“I’ll-I’ll do my best,” his father replied, as the boys rubbed his legs vigorously to restore full circulation.
“We must run before those crooks come!” Joe said tensely.
Fenton Hardy got to his feet as hastily as he could. But when he stood up, the detective staggered and would have fallen if Frank had not taken his arm. He was so weak from hunger that a wave of dizziness had come over him. He gave his head a quick shake and the feeling passed.
“All right. Let’s go,” he said, clinging to both boys for support.
The three hastened out the door of the room and across the corridor to the cave. As they entered it, Mr.
Hardy’s knees buckled. In desperation his sons picked him up.
“You go on,” he whispered. “Leave me here.”
“I’m sure all of us can make it,” Joe said bravely.
They reached the far door, but the delay had been costly. Just as Frank opened it, clicking off his flashlight, the corridor door was flung open and the ceiling light snapped on.
Frank and Joe had a confused glimpse of the dark man whom they had seen at the pond that afternoon.
Snattman! Two rough-looking companions crowded in behind him.
“What’s going on here?” Snattman exclaimed, apparently not recognizing the group for a moment.
“It’s the Hardys I” one of the other men cried out.
The fleeing trio started down the steps but got no farther than the landing when the smugglers appeared at the stairway and rushed down after them.
“Stop!” cried Snattman, jumping down the last three steps and whipping an automatic from his hip pocket. The place was flooded with light.
As Snattman drew closer, Frank crouched for a spring, then leaped directly at the smuggler. He struck at the man’s wrist and the revolver flew out of his grasp. It skidded across the landing and clattered down the steps. Frank closed in on the man. Snattman had been taken completely by surprise. Before he could defend himself, Frank forced him against the wall.
Joe, in the meantime, with a swift uppercut had kayoed one of the other men. And Mr. Hardy, whose strength had partially returned, was battling the third as best he could.
But at this moment the boys saw their father’s adversary dodge to the wall and press a button. In an instant an alarm bell sounded in the corridor. Within seconds a new group of Snattman’s gang appeared.
As some held drawn revolvers, others overpowered the three Hardys.
In the face of the guns, father and sons were forced to surrender and return to the room where Mr.
Hardy had been held captive before.
Within five minutes Fenton Hardy was bound again to the cot, while Frank and Joe, trussed up and unable to move, were tied to two chairs.CHAPTER XV
SNATTMAN, once he had recovered from his first consternation and surprise at finding the Hardy boys in the underground room, was in high good humor. He turned to his men.
“Just in time,” he gloated, rubbing his hands together in satisfaction. “If we hadn’t come here when we did, they’d have all escaped!”
The Hardy boys were silent, sick with despair. They had been sure they were going to succeed in rescuing their father and now the three of them were prisoners of the smuggling gang.
“What are we goin’ to do with these guys?” asked one of the men.
The voice sounded familiar to the boys and they looked up. They were not surprised to see that the man was the red-haired one they had met at the
Pollitt place when Frank had discovered his father’s cap.
“Do with them?” Snattman mused. “That’s a problem. We’ve got three on our hands now instead of one.
Best thing is to leave them all here and lock the door.”
“And put gags in their traps,” suggested a burly companion.
Red objected. “As long as the Hardys are around here, they’re dangerous. They almost got away this time.”
“Well, what do you suggest?”
“We ought to do what I wanted to do with the old man in the first place,” Red declared doggedly.
“You mean get rid of them?” Snattman asked thoughtfully.
“Sure. All of them!”
“Well-“ Snattman gazed at Mr. Hardy with a sinister look.
“I should think you have enough on your conscience already, Snattman!” the detective exclaimed. “I don’t expect you to let me go,” he added bitterly. “But release my boys. They haven’t done anything but try to rescue their father. You’d do the same thing yourself.”
“Oh yeah?” Snattman sneered. “Don’t bother yourself about my conscience. Nobody-but nobody ever stands in my way.
“As to letting these boys go, what kind of a fool do you take me for?” Snattman shouted. “If you three are such buddies, you ought to enjoy starving together.”
The smuggler laughed uproariously at what he considered a very funny remark.
Frank’s and Joe’s minds were racing with ideas. One thing stood out clearly. Snattman had said the Hardys almost escaped. This meant that no one was guarding the secret entrance!
“If we can only hold out a while,” they thought, “the Coast Guard will arrive. There’ll be nobody to stop them from coming up here.”Then, suddenly, a shocking possibility occurred to the boys. Suppose the Coast Guard could not find the camouflaged door opening from the pond!
During the conversation four of the smugglers had been whispering among themselves in the corridor.
One of them now stepped into the room and faced Snattman.
“I’d like a word with you, chief,” he began.
“What is it now?” The smuggler’s voice was surly.
“It’s about what’s to be done with the Hardys, now that we’ve got ‘em,” the man said hesitantly. “It’s your business what you do to people who make it tough for you when you’re on your own. But not in our gang. We’re in this for our take
out of the smugglin’, and we won’t stand for too much rough stuff.”
“That’s right!” one of the other men spoke up.
“Is that so?” Snattman’s upper lip curled. “You guys are gettin’ awful righteous all of a sudden, aren’t you?
Look out or I’ll dump the lot of you!”
“Oh, no, you won’t,” replied the first man who had addressed him. “We’re partners in this deal and we’re goin’ to have our full share of what comes in. We ain’t riskin’ our lives for love, you know.”
“We’ve got another idea about what to do with these three prisoners,” a third smuggler spoke up. “I think it’s a good one.”
“What is it?” Snattman asked impatiently.
“We’ve been talkin’ about Ali Singh.”
Frank and Joe started and listened intently.
“What about him?” Snattman prodded his assistant.
“Turn the prisoners over to him. He’s got a friend named Foster who’s captain of a boat sailin’ to the Far East tonight. Put the Hardys on board that ship,” the first smuggler urged.
Snattman looked thoughtful. The idea seemed to catch his fancy.
“Not bad,” he muttered. “I hadn’t thought of Ali Singh. Yes, he’d take care of them. They’d never get back here.” He smiled grimly.
“From what he told me about that friend of his, the captain’d probably dump the Hardys overboard before they got very far out,” the man went on smugly. “Seems like he don’t feed passengers if he can get rid of ‘em!”
“All the better. We wouldn’t be responsible.”
“Leave them to AH Singh.” Red chuckled evilly. “He’ll attend to them.”
Snattman walked over to the cot and looked down at Mr. Hardy. “It’s too bad your boys had to come barging in here,” he said. “Now the three of you will have to take a little ocean voyage.” He laughed.
“You’ll never get to the Coast Guard to tell your story.”The detective was silent. He knew further attempts at persuasion would be useless.
“Well,” said Snattman, “haven’t you anything to say?”
“Nothing. Do as you wish with me. But let the boys go.”
“We’ll stick with you, Dad,” said Frank quickly.
“Of course!” Joe added.
“You sure will,” Snattman declared. “I’m not going to let one of you have the chance of getting back to Bayport with your story.”
The ringleader of the smugglers stood in the center of the room for a while, contemplating his captives with a bitter smile. Then he turned suddenly on his heel.
“Well, they’re safe enough,” he told Red. “We have that business with Burke to take care of. Come on, men, load Burke’s truck. If any policemen come along and find it in the lane we’ll be done for.”
“How about them?” asked Red, motioning to the Hardys. “Shouldn’t they be guarded?”
“They’re tied up tight.” Snattman gave a short laugh. “But I guess we’d better leave one guard, anyway.
Malloy, you stay here and keep watch.”
Malloy, a surly, truculent fellow in overalls and a ragged sweater, nodded and sat down on a box near the door. This arrangement seemed to satisfy Snattman. After warning Malloy not to fall asleep on the job and to see to it that the prisoners did not escape, he left the room. He was followed by Red and the other smugglers.
A heavy silence fell over the room after the departure of the men. Malloy crouched gloomily on the box, gazing blankly at the floor. The butt of a revolver projected from his hip pocket.
Frank strained against the ropes that bound him to the chair. But the smugglers had done their task well.
He could scarcely budge.
“We’ll never get out of this,” he told himself ruefully.
Joe was usually optimistic but this time his spirits failed him. “We’re in a tough spot,” he thought. “It looks as if we’ll all be on that ship by morning.”
To lighten their spirits the Hardys began to talk, hoping against hope to distract the guard and perhaps overpower him.
“Shut up, you guys!” Malloy growled. “Quit your talking or I’ll make it hot for you!” He tapped his revolver suggestively.
After that, a melancholy silence fell among the prisoners. All were downhearted. It looked as if their fate truly were sealed.
CHAPTER XVIQuick Work
IN DESPAIR the boys glanced over at their father on the cot. To their surprise they saw that he was smiling.
Frank was about to ask him what he had found amusing about their predicament when his father shook his head in warning. He looked over at the guard.
Malloy was not watching the prisoners. He sat staring at the floor. Occasionally his head would fall forward, then he would jerk it back as he struggled to keep awake.
“Snattman sure made a poor selection when he chose Malloy as guard,” the boys thought.
Several times the burly man straightened up, stretched his arms, and rubbed his eyes. But when he settled down again, his head began to nod.
In the meantime, the boys noticed their father struggling with his bonds. To their amazement he did not seem to be so tightly bound as they had thought. Both of them tried moving but could not budge an inch.
The boys exchanged glances, both realizing what had happened. “Dad resorted to an old trick!” Frank told himself, and Joe was silently fuming, “Why didn’t we think of it?”
Mr. Hardy had profited by his previous experience. When the smugglers had seized the detective and tied him to the cot for the second time, he had used a device frequently employed by magicians and professional “escape artists” who boast that they can release themselves from tightly tied ropes and strait jackets.
The detective had expanded his chest and flexed his muscles. He had also kept his arms as far away from his sides as he could without being noticed. In this way, when he relaxed, the ropes did not bind him as securely as his captors intended.
“Oh, why were Frank and I so dumb!” Joe again chided himself.
Frank bit his lip in utter disgust at not having remembered the trick. “But then”-he eased his conscience-“Dad didn’t think of it the first time, either.”
Mr. Hardy had discovered that the rope binding his right wrist to the cot had a slight slack in it. He began trying to work the rope loose. This took a long time and the rough strands rubbed his wrist raw. But at last he managed to slide his right hand free.
“Hurray!” Frank almost shouted. He glanced at the guard. Malloy appeared to be sound asleep. “Hope he’ll stay that way until we can escape,” Frank wished fervently.
He and Joe watched their father in amazement, as they saw him grope for one of the knots. The detective fumbled at it for a while. It was slow work with only his one hand free. But the boys knew from his satisfied expression that the smugglers in their haste apparently had not tied the knots as firmly as they should have.
At this instant the guard suddenly lifted his head, and Mr. Hardy quickly laid his free hand back on the cot. He closed his eyes as if sleeping and his sons followed his example. But opening their lids a slit, they watched the smuggler carefully.
The guard grunted. “They’re okay,” he mumbled. Once more he tried to stay awake but found it impossible. Little by little his head sagged until his chin rested on his chest. Deep, regular breathing toldthe prisoners he was asleep.
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